New Technologies in 2014


As 2014 rolled in, Isaac Asimov was briefly in the news. In 1964 he wrote an article for the New York Times speculating on what technological advances would have been made by 2014.* For a few days in January many of his ideas were bouncing around on both old and new media. It’s interesting to compare what he sort of got right (Wi-Fi, Skype, flat screen TV, clunky robots driven by artificial intelligence) with what was a little off–target (the workplace so automated that endemic boredom would be a major problem).

50 years on from Asimov’s predictions, and as I roll through my personal half-century, here are my observations about what is more immediately on the horizon for information professionals.

On the research and development side, watch out for anything involving Web Science, Informatics, Digital Humanities, Semantic Technologies, Altmetrics and User Experience (UX). You’ll find particularly interesting ongoing commentaries coming from names like Wendy Bell (University of Southampton), Simon Tanner (King’s College London) and Serge Abiteboul (INRIA). The Open Data Institute, WSTNet, W3C and the Web Observatory are outfits worth keeping an eye on.

New roles appearing have some familiar words and some less familiar combinations attached, but Digital and Data are common themes. Digital Curation and Digital Asset Management have been with us for a while, and variations on these continue to come through, with Digital Licensing and Repositories in various forms being significant growth areas. It’s worth exploring the implications of Data in all its contexts – Big Data, Metadata, Microdata, Data Mining and Open Data, and on the Archives and Records Management side, Data Provenance and Data Transparency.

On the front-line many people are still adapting to austerity measures in the workplace and the impact of changing organisational structures and objectives. In the face of this, it’s more important than ever to focus on how your specific targets and strategies can be effectively delivered using existing and new technologies.

A very timely joint SLA/FT report came out last autumn The Evolving Value of Information Management. Anyone interested in how to progress in the present climate should read this report. It confronts the “Google Syndrome” head on, emphasising that we as information professionals must make it a priority to prove to our colleagues and customers that we can access or teach them to access more information than they can do in isolation without our support.

Here are some top tips from the SLA report for keeping on top of the technical game. Maintain the high quality and robustness of the information you supply. Ensure that information is delivered in a timely manner. Keep up with the latest sources – don’t let your customers get ahead of you. Integrate technology with the information you provide, whether this is through ensuring local databases are updated, or taking advantage of the ever-increasing use of mobile and hand-held devices. Above all, become adept at translating your technical knowledge into value, and always be ready to demonstrate and communicate your value to your colleagues and customers.

We’re seeing a healthy and exciting recruitment market emerging here at SHR.  With tongue-(only just)- in-cheek, I’m more than happy to endorse Asimov’s closing words: “the most somber speculation I can make about A.D.2014 is that … the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”

*Isaac Asimov, “Visit to the World's Fair of 2014”, New York Times, August 16, 1964.


– Donald Lickley

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