Bits and Pieces: Libraries gave us power… Civilization/Despot, Sean Hughes and the (indirect) link between Buffy and the 2000 US Presidential Election January 26, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, The Left.
I happened to visit the Central Library a week or two back, the first time in a month or so. And a fairly unwelcome surprise greeted me there. Instead of the previous desk just beyond the entrance there were now four self-service kiosks. Kiosks makes them sound grander than they are. They’re essentially free standing machines with a screen and a large platform on which one places the book to be returned or loaned. The platform is able to read a chip on the book, indeed when I used one simply by placing three books on it simultaneously it was able to read them all correctly. Handy, but…
I asked one of the staff what they thought, and they were remarkably positive. They particularly liked the fact they took pressure off the people working at the desks at lunchtime. And they told me that they were encouraging people to use them.
I’m no Luddite, and I can see how at lunchtimes these would be a real plus for people trying to get in and get out quickly, but hard to feel that this isn’t another step towards automation of public services. It’s not that they don’t need people, a library by its nature requires people to collate, stack, order and so on. But…
Anyhow, here’s a link to a photograph of said kiosks, and an article from the Telegraph from a while back which wouldn’t make one optimistic about the future. Does anyone know how widespread the introduction of these machines actually is?
Oh yeah. And one last thing. I got a printed out receipt telling me what books I’d withdrawn and when they were due. Again handy but…oddly cold and with more than a whiff of the transactional.
Speaking of books, many years ago I read Iain Banks thriller Complicity. And a pretty good read it was too. Anyhow, this would have been bout 1994 or 1995, and there was a description of a computer game in it called Despot which the protagonist plays addictively. It sounded at the time like a boosted up version of Sid Meier’s Civilization which I have to admit to being addicted to too, at least in its first and second incarnation, with better graphics and more interactivity. In the book one runs a civilisation competing with others, but it’s a bit more than that. It seems that the player can become engaged directly in battles, and in one scene the protagonist playing it sees his capital city and Senate (IIRC) is in chaos and climbs into a flyer, flys across the country and… well, let’s just say it sounded great. Immersive.
Seems, though, that I’m not the only one who was taken by the game. There’s links about it across the net where people who are curious have tried to see if there was a real world analogue.
Naturally enough on the Iain Banks forum, but then here and here and there was even a fairly academic tome on Bank’s works which referenced it, reproduced in part on googlebooks which I couldn’t find again.
Even now the actual Civilization series hasn’t quite reached that stage of engagement.
An interview with Sean Hughes in the Irish Times has some interesting stuff in it. He’s given up on a lot of contemporary comedy because as he sees it too conventional, and there’s something in that. I don’t dislike Michael McIntyre, but one can see the limitations of that approach. Or indeed many of the approaches. Certainly the world he describes of agents demanding new comics should essentially offer a conveyer belt comic ‘product’ is pretty grim though I wonder was it always thus?
Anyway, I liked this bit in particular.
Inspiration comes from elsewhere. He mentions TOY, a psychedelic rock band from London. He thinks a reaction to conservatism will happen in music first – “it needs a bunch of punks basically to start a cultural revolution” – and he sees the art world as being increasingly vibrant.
Perhaps he’s got a point there though it sounds a bit like whistling in the dark, for where is this cultural revolution going to come from (though I like TOY too).
Finally, over Christmas I managed to get hold of an HBO film based around the 2000 US election, and in particular the goings on in Florida. It’s called Recount and I’ve yet to see it, though it’s got a good cast. But here’s an odd one. Who wrote it? Why, according to various sources, one Danny Strong, who some will know better from a certain vampire themed television series of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Why yes, it’s Jonathan.
Sadly no libertarian reference or link this weekend. Apologies.