The Most Basic Interface

Here at DUX we are often concerned with the interface the user is presented with.  Usually, this involves the on-screen interface presented in a web browser.  However, we should also consider that the user is usually interacting with that interface via a primary physical interface (i.e. a mouse and keyboard).  With that in mind, exploring “non-traditional” computer interfaces and hardware can open up new ways of thinking about how users interact with our designs.

Alternative interface methods range from the expected to the bizarre.  Touch screens have been around for quite a while, and are something most users are familiar with now.  These generally offer faster interaction for simple tasks, however are less suitable for more complicated tasks.

Mouse and keyboard is the tried and true method for interfacing with the computer, but what about innovative versions of this hardware? 

Ergonomic designs are intended to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries.  The Safe Keyboard takes this to a new level by placing the most often used portion of the keyboard perpendicular to the desk.  Are ergonomic keyboards a more effective way for users to interact with the computer?  Probably not, but it might be as effective, while being safer.

The mouse is the other staple for human-computer interaction.  Touch pad mice appear both for laptops and desktop PCs.   While this technology isn’t new, it has become more ubiquitous as well as more responsive.

Of course, budget constraints lead to a lot of these “gadgets” being out of reach for libraries to have for every workstation.  The standard mouse and keyboard provide a cost-effective common ground that virtually every user is familiar with.  That said, there is some merit for considering alternatives to the most basic interface all our users are presented with.

Games and Libraries – Bridging the Gap

Games have been a part of libraries for years now.  Whether it is analog board games (chess, checkers) or modern video games such as Playstation or Wii, libraries have been using games to attract attention — and potential users.

During my stint as a Young Adult librarian at a small public library, setting up video games was always a way to draw a crowd.  Whether it was a Wii, Rockband, or DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) gaming days at the library were always sure to bring in the teens.

Blogs and websites such as gamesinlibraries.org and the Gaming Wiki for Libraries provide up-to-date details and instructions on how to integrate gaming at libraries.  Many libraries, particularly college campus libraries, circulate video games and even gaming consoles like they would any other materials.  Games have proven themselves as both a way to attract users as well as serve as meaningful items worth circulating in their own right.

But here’s the problem.

Up until this point, games have been used largely to “bait and switch.”  “Hey kids, come to the library, play some games, and now check out these books.”  “Did you know you can check out games at the library?  Well you can also check out books while you’re here!”  While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, there is a definite lack of integration.  Even when games are incorporated into circulation, they largely serve to attract users to other materials available.

With the explosion of mobile app use, of course mobile app gaming has come part and parcel along with it.  The question has been, how do libraries get involved in mobile apps.  I think there is a big opportunity for libraries to marry their friendship with gaming and their need to become more mobile.

And more importantly this could provide a medium to really bridge the gap between library resources and games.  There is definite potential for mobile apps that incorporate library resources in game form.  The most successful libraries will be those that can use gaming to have users actually use their other resources in integrated and meaningful ways.

 

SOPA and Libraries

While it may seem the threat of SOPA and its ugly cousin PIPA are over, there is still a long road ahead.  While the media blitz that occurred around the end of January(which many major web companies such as Google, Reddit and Firefox were a part of) may have crippled the initiative, the push to have tighter control over digital copyrights is not over.

So what does this mean for libraries?  How would these bills, or ones like it, affect what libraries can offer their patrons?

Several librarians and library related organizations have written about the issue, generally in protest:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/12/how-sopa-affects-students-and-educators

http://www.librarian.net/stax/3778/getting-serious-about-sopa-what-librarians-need-to-do/

http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/01/copyright/dpla-syracuse-library-blogs-take-part-in-sopapipa-protest/

From a practical stand-point, SOPA could be, and probably would be, bad for libraries.  This is particularly true if libraries are dependent upon open educational resources.  These resources risk being shut down if they are thought to contain any material protected by copyright without the explicit consent of the author.

SOPA also poses a more theoretical, or even ideological risk to libraries.  As stated in the ALA code of ethics (http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics) article II, librarians should “resist all efforts to censor library resources.”

The broad reach or SOPA and PIPA threaten libraries on both a practical and ethical level.  These are important factors to consider when determining what role libraries and librarians should take regarding this issue.