Tuesday, May 25, 2010



A cyborg: “a flesh-and-blood human enhanced with tiny embedded computers, a man-machine hybrid with billions of microscopic nanobots coursing through his bloodstream” (Pg 1).

This is Ray Kurzweil’s dream, and his belief of the future. That humans and machines will morph together to create a new super-species. He calls this time ‘The Singularity,’ a time where technology will be so far advanced that robots will come to be superior to humans. Such a time is feared by most, but Kurzweil is excited, and is looking after his body carefully so when the day comes, he’s be able to live forever in silicon.

How does this related to cultural institutions? Of course, everything is related! This predicted convergence of human and machine will change everything. It is hard to anticipate the changes which may be made in the future by such technological advances, but there are two possible general outcomes. Either cultural institutions will advance with technology, or it will be dominated by it and disappear (or transform into something new). The latter, more pessimistic of the two, is the view of the future we had adopted for our wiki and podcast. We envisioned a thousand years from now everything is online, is electronic, is somewhat second hand.

This morbid prediction comes from the what Kurzweil calls “‘the law of accelerating returns,’ which holds that technology does not advance in a linear fashion but rather at an exponential rate” (Pg 4). While this may not be a vision of how we exactly see the future, it is definitely a possible one. What it depends upon is the development of ‘machine ethics’, not only in how intelligent machines act with and towards humans, but in how humans use and act towards machines.

LYONS, D. 2009. I, Robot. Newsweek, 153.

Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us
Bill Joy

Joy has a similar vision of the future as what is projected in the podcast. That what we know as humanity will end, and cultural institutions along with it. (Will super intelligent robots want/need/understand cultural institutions? Will they even have culture?). It is impossible to guess how such robots may behave, and so is impossible to predict such a future where humans are subservient to machines.

A very plausible future, Joy suggests, is one where humans become increasingly lazy, or dependent on machines, because it is no longer necessary to do any work themselves. While cultural institutions such as Universities and Libraries (or variants of these) may still exist, for their necessary in giving humans knowledge, it is possibly theatres and galleries will not because of this decrease human drive. Of course, what is being transmitted to us is that robots will make our lives so much easier and give us more free time to spend on the arts. It is impossible to make an accurate judgement, one can really only wait until it happen.

Joy explains Moravec’s view that humans are in grave danger of extinction at the hands of machines, and this is the future we imagined for our podcast. Speaking in the past tense, a robotic voice guides you (you, possible a robot) through the electronic site of cultural institutions. There is one institutions remaining, that being one which holds archives of all the now destroyed human institutions. The high rate of technological developments and convergence has squeezed them all out, pushing them all into one, tiny, stagnant space. The guide is not nostalgic about the past, rather viewing it as a novelty to show other robots.

In creating this dystopian future, “we [were] driven, instead, by our habits, our desires, our economic system, and our competitive need to know” (Pg 20). Such factors drive our cultural institutions. But do these also drive intelligent machines? Without a consciousness (though one might possibly be learned), would robots even think of taking power from humans? Again, questions without answers, only theoretical solutions. And what we have presented in our wiki and podcast is one of the worst possible imaginings (short of destroying the world), this future where robots dominate humans, where cultural institutions which make our society so rich are now gone.

While, at least, it is not the future I believe will occur, it is still a possibility and again, what is most important is ethics in ensuring that we do not go too far with technology and destroy ourselves. I would definitely disagree with Joy who sees that “the only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge” (Pg 20). I believe that we can push further forward, as long as we are mindful of what is important and worth protecting - and to me, most of all this means cultural institutions.

JOY, B. 2000. Why The Future Doesn't Need Us. Wired, 8.

New Theatre Interview Questions

1. What is your role within the Theatre?

2. How do you see the New Theatre's role within, and relationship with the local community?

4. What percentage of ticket sales go towards theatre upkeep? Or is the theatre run primarily on donations?

5. Has technology changed the way New Theatre (or performances within it) operates? Do you see it as positive, negative change or a combination of both?

6. If there is a change, is in internal or external i.e is the change a reaction to what technological advances are, or do you attempt to stay ahead of the change?

7. Who decides what performances will be put on?

8. What happens to a performance if it doesn't generate enough income?

These questions were directed towards Luke Rodgers, the Theatre Manager, who promptly replied once I sent an enquiry about sending him some questions, but once they were sent through, did not reply again.

What does this mean?
Did he not think the questions were appropriate? Did he not want to answer them? Did he not have enough time to answer them?

Whatever the reason, I am disappointed...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Site Visit: New Theatre

When we went to visit the New Theatre, it was closed. It only opens for shows, and for its Kids Club events held on occassional weekends throughout the year. As a cultural institution, then, the New Theatre is not readily available to the community - despite the fact that it is and always has been community-run. Irony!

We did however notice a little sign on one of the noticeboards: an 'access savings here' sign. These signs are like the little paper enemies of UTS students, for they benefit University of Sydney students with their access cards. The New Theatre isn't the only one that offers discounts to Univeristy of Sydney students, though. Other cultural institutions such as Dendy cinemas also have special offers for access cardholders.

Even though we were not able to fully explore the site on this particular day, we have visited the New Theatre before. I went to see King Lear there in year 12, as it was one of the HSC texts. Indeed, each year the New Theatre chooses its playbill according to the HSC English and Drama syllabus as part of its education program. Major productions, staged readings and a Brecht workshop are all offered to students and their teachers.

Library of the Future

The UTS Library has its own youtube channel, which it uses to post intructional videos related to the library. For example, there are videos to help users with the self service loans machine, the reserve collection, with book rooms etc.


The UTS Library also held a competition called Lib:DigiStory. The competition required contestants to create a short presentation that tells the story of the Library of the Future. The prize? $1,000 and the chance to shape the Library of the Future.

UTS Blake Library: the Staff of the Future

This is a great video made by some employees of the UTS Blake Library about what they think of the 'Library of the Future' - the UTS Library which is to be opened in 2015.

Site Visit: UTS Blake Library

The UTS Blake Library emphasis its huge online presence throughout the library. During our site visit, we found much evidence of this, such as in the photographs below. Pamphlets are offered for all of the different faculties, detailing how to find "your way online". You are also able to access catalogues, ejournals and databases from any computer, anywhere, thus almost eradicating the need to visit the library completely. Of course, when borrowing an actual book, you have to go to the library, but every other service provided is also available online. You can even ask a librarian for help online via email and even instant messaging.

The library installed a 'WallWisher' in late 2009, which acts as a digital suggestion board. It's located in the main stairwell on ground level. Basically it's a massive widescreen TV with a keyboard, and you can type in any suggestions or constructive (hopefully) criticims that come to mind. The library's staff reviews each and every one of these, answering questions raised and taking all comments into consideration. This is just one part of what the library's website terms the site's "ongoing improvement process". Users of the library were also surveyed in 2008, and the results page is named "You asked, we delivered". Emma posted these results earlier, which show just how much value the UTS Blake Library places on improving and as technology improves and as users expectations of the site's sevices increase.

An interesting thing we noticed during our site visit was the different levels of the UTS Blake Library, and how significant the choice in structuring these and deciding what went where was. For example, the International Cultural and New Centre is located on level four whilst the Australian Culture Lounge is located on the fifth floor. We found this, let's say, 'intriguing'. It certainly seems in character with UTS as a whole to value the international over the national, and we felt this was a great example of where both the univeristy's and the library's main interest lies.

The Baya Ng'ara Nura, which in the language of the Eora Nation means "read, listen hear think, place", is a space designed for Indigenous students to study and learn together and with other students. At least, this is what the UTS library's website says. On the day of our visit, however, the space was one of the few deserted areas in the building. There is also an exhibition being held at the moment, called 'Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney's Georges River' . This exhibition is based on research from the book by Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow, and it basically consists of a series of photos. It's interesting to note that the UTS Blake Library uses its space in such a diverse way, hosting an exhibition like a museum would. Especially an exhibition concerning the Indigenous people and history of the land, considering that UTS generally doesn't place any focus whatsoever on the past. At UTS and its Blake Library, progress is key and so the recognition of 'Australian' history is an interesting choice.

The UTS Blake Library also has a number of displays throughout the building which, like the Rivers and Resilience exhibition, are almost museum-like and thus kind of out of place. One way the library has found to integrate these 'exhibitions' with the university itself, which I think is pretty great, is to display students work. We found a display of digital cameras made by students in a Designer Image class. Not only was this interesting to see and read about, it was relevant to the UTS Blake Library. By this I mean it didn't feel like an attempt to be 'international' or 'national', but a university library. After all, a university library is undoubtedly a cultural institution.

Finally, we came upon a room during our Blake Library visit. We didn't go in the room, because people were working in there and we did not wish to disrupt the users of the library. However, we did take a picture of what really interested us about this room. There was a wall, with the words "This wall is usufructuary* Feel free to express amd write your ideas." painted artistically across the top. The wall, though, was completely blank apart from these words. Why?

First off, I had to look up what usufructuary means. According to dictionary.com, usufuctuary is a noun derived from Roman and Civil Law, meaning the right of enjoying all advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of thing not being destroyed or injured. So maybe this wall is saying to the UTS Blake Library users "sharing is caring, kids". Or perhaps it is commenting on the concept of copyright? Telling us to write our ideas, read others ideas, and learn from the experience certainly concerns the idea of intellectual property. And yet, nobody's written, read or learnt. What does this say about the UTS Library and its users?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Reluctant Actor

A snapshot of what it is like inside the New Theatre and Marie, a member and performer of the theatre

Marie Armstrong is an active member of one of Australia's oldest continuously performing theatres in the country -"New Theatre" in Newtown. Marie joined "New Theatre" at the age of 19 and has an uninterrupted association for over 60 years. Marie was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal and the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her voluntary work at New Theatre. Marie's contribution has been on a variety of levels from acting, directing, choreography, drama and dance tutor. Her inspiring lifelong contribution gives a passionate insight into the relationship between "Politics & the Arts". Produced by Jamie McMechan Maritime Union of Australia Film Unit. http://www.mua.org.au

UTS Library Organisational Chart

Or: flow of power?

Change Caused by UTS Library 2008 Survey


eResources, Supersearch and journal databases

You liked... being able to access these tools from wherever they are and how good the resources are.

You asked for

We delivered

More full text articles

We added full text links from the Library Catalogue to over 40,000 online serial titles.

A simpler search mechanism for Supersearch

The new Catalogue - more Google-like searching across the Library's extensive resources. Find Databases was introduced at the start of 2009 as a simple search and browse tool for easily locating relevant databases.

A way around embargos

We negotiate the best and most immediate access possible but are sometimes hampered by the policies of publishers and/or scholarly societies.

Computers and Associated Services

You liked...having computers and library services and resources in one spot.

You asked for

We delivered

Faster/more up to date computers

We replaced all Library computers with higher spec machines in 2008.

More computers

64 new computers were added in 2008.

More powerpoints and dedicated laptop areas

In 2008, levels 2, 3, 4 and 5 had additional power points and seating areas installed for laptop users.

Better wireless

Wireless was extended and upgraded throughout the City Campus (Blake Library) in 2008 and has been implemented at Kuring-gai Campus Library.

Computers limited to study purposes (no games!)

We expect all our Library patrons to be responsible, to make appropriate use of our facilities and be considerate of others. We encourage and will continue to promote self-responsibility in our students, but if you see resources being inappropriately used, please notify a staff member.

Specific software requests (powerpoint, photoshop, quickpoint)

The Library passes on requests for software to the central IT Department, who are responsible for this on all public machines across the University.


You asked for

We delivered

More Google-like searching

The new Catalogue.

Information Skills and Other Training

You liked...well run workshops that are great resources

You asked for

We delivered

More and improved training in searching for material and using specific programs like endnote and refworks

  • Introduced classes in Advanced searching of Google & Google scholar.
  • RSS use classes introduced.
  • Extended orientation program into first two weeks of each semester.
  • Infoskills Bank holds videos demonstrating the use of all major databases and catalogue.

No assumptions about existing knowledge

Extended orientation program into first two weeks of each semester

Loans and Fines

You liked...reliable and efficient interlibrary loans

You asked for

We delivered

Lower fines

Fines must be at a level that encourages prompt return of materials required by others. We have to find the most equitable solution to all problems and our primary goal with fines is to ensure materials are available to all Library clients.
Fines page provides information on how to avoid being affected by fines.

A change to recalls on loans

Recalls allow loans to be longer while enabling others to obtain needed materials. Again, we need to look for the most equitable solution.

Longer loan periods

Loan periods try to balance the needs of current borrowers with those of others - easy renewal online or by phone allows loans to be extended when the materials are not required by others.

More polite reminders about overdue items

The wording of reminders has been revised and is now much friendlier! We have also added SMS notices to help you remember about your overdue materials, which has had very positive feedback!

Self check out on every floor

New check out machines on every floor.

Ability to browse closed reserve

Open Reserve arrives this October! You can browse freely through all the material held in this collection.

Open Hours

You liked...the extended opening hours

You asked for

We delivered

Longer opening hours during exams

The current building is not set up for a restricted area/services to be set up for longer opening hours (and we don't have the budget to extend over the whole Library).

24x7 access

This is under consideration for the Library of the Future to open on Broadway in about 2015

Photocopying and Printing

You asked for

We delivered

Cheaper, free or quota printing

Prices of printing and copying held constant 2007-2009 in spite of rising costs.

More reliable machines

New machines installed in 2008.

Double sided printing

Double sided printing now the default!.

Printers and copiers on every floor

Machines have been available on upper floors of Blake Library from early 2008.

Physical Resource Items

You liked...some felt that overall we have a good physical resources (books, journals, audio, visual) collection

You asked for

We delivered

Resources on the shelves where they should be

Collections have been sorted more logically and we conduct more regular checking. Our recent (September 09) Materials Availability Survey indicates an improvement in this area.

More up to date resources

26,421 new books and audiovisual items were added in 2008 plus e books and journals.

Undamaged resources

Damaged resources are repaired or replaced as soon as they are identified. The problem lies with those who thoughtlessly mutilate resources required by others. Let a staff member know if you see inappropriate use of resources, or bring damaged resources to one of the service desks.

Better signage to help you find resources

New wayfinding signage; new online information detailing where resources are held; online Library tours

Physical Space

You liked...the changes as a result of the renovations on levels 4 and 5

You asked for

We delivered

More space

The City Campus (Blake Library) was significantly extended at the beginning of 2008. We are now working on the Library of the Future.

Less noise

The Library offers a variety of spaces from those which are vibrant, active and sometimes noisy to Silent Study Rooms and quiet areas (eg level 5 in the Blake Library). The Kuring-gai Campus Library is about to undergo changes that will better manage noise levels there.

Better air conditioning

The air conditioning systems at the Blake Library has been replaced.

More welcoming and comfortable spaces

Study spaces in the Blake Library have all been upgraded; work at Kuring-gai Campus Library is underway.

More considerate mobile phone use

We expect our Library users to be mature and to respect their colleagues. We will continue to work on campaigns to promote self-responsibility.

Able to eat and drink in the Library

You can now bring food and drinks into the Library. See Guidelines: Food & Drink in the Library

Cleaner toilets

Toilets are cleaned several times a day and spot cleaning is available when problems are reported; new signage encourages cleanliness. Please continue to let staff know if there is a problem.

Better security once in the Library

We are unaware of security problems within the Library - any incidents or concerns should be reported to Security or Library staff immediately!

Closer location to your faculty

Sadly, we can't satisfy everyone! We're very close to Law and Business and stumbling distance to DAB. When the new Library is built, we will be at the 'heart' of the University campus.

Better signage

We have installed new signage throughout the Library - wayfinding as well as shelving locations and help points.

More group study areas

We plan to provide more in the new Library. Existing spaces were improved in 2008 with the renovations to levels 4 and 5. Kuring-gai Campus Library is under going refurbishment work which will introduce more group study areas.

More monitoring of silent areas by Library staff

Silent areas are clearly marked: it is your right to insist that others respect them. Again, we will continue to promote self-responsibility amongst our students.

Security Gates

You liked...that they give you more security in the Library

You asked for

We delivered

More flexibility/understanding when you forget your card or want to bring a non-UTS friend into the Library

We expect Security staff to be pleasant and helpful but our limited facilities can't be extended to friends. Drop them off at a coffee shop nearby and pick them up when you have the resources you need!
Children in your custody are a different matter and will of course be admitted under your care.


You liked...that we are friendly, helpful, polite, supportive, knowledgeable, courteous...

You asked for

We delivered

Something to be done about the staff who were rude or inefficient

All frontline staff have had a customer service training refresher; please inform us of any difficulties through our feedback channels.

The Survey Tool

You liked...that we took the time to ask you what you think

You asked for

We delivered

A less ambiguous, better designed, shorter survey

In 2010, we intend to trial a different survey tool, which should address these concerns.

And finally (and interestingly)

You asked for...information on how to build a death star*.

We delivered...well, David Litting, the intergalactic Librarian on duty at the time delivered...a BONUS+ search (do it yourself to see what you can get).

Then his colleagues got on board the falcon and found death star blueprints and the book: Star Wars Blueprints: The Ultimate Collection. Which we then purchased. To ensure equal access for all our Star Wars fans, we may need to put this in our 7 Day Loan Collection!

* This request came through our MEEBO Live Chat service (Instant Messaging). Check it out at Students > Need help? Ask a Librarian if you can't find something you are looking for.

UTS Library 2008 Survey Results



773 undergraduates responded to the survey. The average perceived performance for core and local questions was 6.54 based on a scale from 1-9.

Overall the results indicated that UTS:Library staff are seen as knowledgeable and helpful. The results indicated that the Library should focus on improvements in technology services that assist with finding information, as well as improvements in the physical environment, for example more quiet and inspiring spaces.

Average general satisfaction of respondents with library services was 6.67, based on a scale from 1-9. Average satisfaction with information literacy outcomes was 6.22, based on a scale from 1-9. The results indicated that helping students stay abreast of developments in their field(s) of interest is an important focus for the Library.


477 postgraduates responded to the survey. Overall perceived performance for core and local questions was 6.53 based on a scale from 1-9.

Overall the results indicated that UTS:Library staff are seen as knowledgeable, courteous, responsive and helpful. The results indicated that the Library should focus on improvements in access to electronic resources and tools for finding information as well as improvements to the physical environment - most importantly quiet space for individual work.

Average general satisfaction with library services was 6.67 based on a scale from 1-9 and the average for general satisfaction in regards to information literacy outcomes was 6.32 based on a scale from 1-9. The results indicated that helping students to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy information is an important area of focus.

Academic staff

127 academic staff responded to the survey. Overall perceived performance for core and local questions was 6.61 based on a scale from 1-9.

Overall the results indicated that the Library had strengths in instilling confidence and being courteous and caring towards academic staff. Focus areas for improvement that were indicated by the results include technology services and availability of electronic resources.

Average general satisfaction with library services was 6.90 based on a scale from 1-9 and the average for general satisfaction in regards to information literacy outcomes was 6.37 based on a scale from 1-9. The results indicated that helping students to distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy information is an important area of focus.

General Staff

47 general staff responded to the survey. Overall perceived performance for core and local questions was 6.91 based on a scale from 1-9.

Results from the survey indicate that the UTS Libraries strengths are that Library staff are seen as knowledgeable and dependable. The results indicated that general staff would like to see improved access to electronic resources and print/electronic journal collections.

Average general satisfaction with Library services was 7.15 on a scale from 1-9 and the average for general satisfaction in regards to information literacy outcomes was 6.00. Areas for improvement indicated by the results include: helping staff distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy information and providing staff with information skills.

New Media and Cultural Institutions

Note that often I have adapted what the author is talking about to the idea of a cultural institution because it is relevant and media businesses, content, platforms and audiences operate and exist within cultural institutions

An analysis of New Media, New Audiences (Chapter 18 of The Media and communications in Australia)

Fiona Martin

Interactivity with Audiences

As new media develops it influences what cultural institutions will present to an audience and will in turn, change how audiences use/visit cultural institutions. As media is becoming more interactive, say for instance an artwork which, through technology changes or moves when an audience member moves through or views it, audience behaviour changes. In the example given the behaviour change is quite positive, a user is very excited that what he/she does changes what is seen, and that the artist has anticipated them. There can, however, be negative change. An example would be a user becoming overwhelmed with new technologies and have not yet themselves adapted, for instance if some of a libraries recourses are now online and the user is not familiar with the environment.

New media can also “reconfigure audience relations, in time, place and space, challenging the confines of old media production” (Pg 319). This can occur with a galleries virtual tour, or a universities virtual classrooms. Audiences do not need to be present in the space to experience and gain from it, they may also not need to witness an event as it happens. This transforms cultural institutions into something else, or something more, by being able to be experienced elsewhere and possibly, by a greater audience. New media can strengthen the cultural institution by spreading further throughout a culture.

Consumers and Commodities

There is an opposing side to this, however. Because new media can attract niche markets, a group of people who favour technology centred exhibitions over more traditional painting forms. Some people who are fond of, or work in other areas, like painting, may even come to resent these new forms. Perhaps they see that less skill is required, that only concept is necessary. (While I might agree somewhat, I might want to remind these people of artists like Duchamp and his ‘ready mades’. Perhaps, though, he is resented by them too). While this article mentions the dilemmas which advertisers face, I would argue this extends to curators, theatre owners, directors, artists, librarians, teachers who all need to strike a balance between new media and ‘old’ media content, so as to please all audiences.


This section of the article discusses primarily online forums which are relevant to today’s cultural institutions because most of them, if not all have an online presence even have their own forums. UTS would be an example of this who has discussion boards within subjects on UTSOnline where students can discuss assessments, share tips, ask questions, find help etc. While the article claims that ‘community’ is not fostered within such forums the benefits lie in the ability to share information quickly and easily.

Creativity and Control

This is of vital importance to cultural institutions, from what students can access due to copyright laws in library and at the university and what is put on show/display at theatres and galleries. As it is noted by Martin, Lessig’s (2004) belief is that copyright law regulates all forms of non-commercial innovation and creativity and has the potential to “restrict us from building on the digital creativity of others” (Page 326). It is also mentioned that some institutions are establishing rights of things which not even yet been created. If such a thing continues it is likely to get out of hand and artists who create for such institutions will not be able to do anything without it being taken away from them or being locked to a specific use.

Analysis of New Media Worlds? Challenges of Convergence

Virginia Nightingale

“Beyond its technological dimension, convergence both precipitates and is accelerated or slows by the social, cultural, managerial and structural responses of media industries, meadia users and media audiences to digitisation” (Page 20). In the same way change in cultural institutions (due to convergence) is accelerated and slowed by responses by the same people and industries. Nightingale points out that convergence is felt the most in three areas:

  1. How media structures must adapt
  2. How content changes
  3. How audience change

In the case of cultural institutions, convergence causes change by:

  1. Creating new platforms for content to appear, instead of just galleries/shelves it is online
  2. The way artists/authors may create changes because of the new medias available to them and those they are aware may change their content. As well as content being created by audiences/users
  3. The audience has a greater level of interactivity and influence over the content and structures

Nightingale also believes that instead of convergence causing a homogenous culture, it will actually produce the opposite. There will be an increase of media platforms, devices and activities. This can be further applied to institutions in that more will be formed because of all of these new platforms, devices and activities. However there is not a clear vision of how traditional media will fit this and how it will need to be developed in order to support new media and exist alongside it. Because of digitisation, institutions need to readjust how they operate and redinie themselves in the new media age. This process is called deconstruction (Evans and Wurster, 2000, pg. 39).

What is currently happening for traditional medias and institutions is they are enhancing themselves by providing and online presence. However, this presence only offers a link to what is happening in the ‘real’ space and is not necessarily a solution. On the positive side of this online presence, Nightingale adds, is that the reach of media of such cultural institutions is widening because the audience isn’t limited to a specific time or place.