I don’t really think there’s any more I need to add. Click to get to the source on Flickr.
My iGoogle led me to this CNN article about parents checking their kids’ texts for drug messages: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/26/kids.drugs.text/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn.
Reading through the article both creeped me out (I had very nice non-invasive parents, but then again, I never did any sort of drugs or drank at all in high school. What? That’s a good thing.) and got me thinking about dictionaries. The whole text on CNN is about parents using online texting dictionaries to figure out what the messages on their kids phone mean. People submit their translations/definitions to http://www.noslang.com/, and then people can look it up and crack the code.
Of course, if kids doing illicit activities figure out their parents are looking these things up, they would probably change their codes. Also, how are parents looking at these messages? Are they looking at online chat logs or stealing phones to look at text message histories? I have no idea.
However, what got me thinking is the user generated content of the dictionary sites out on the web today. It’s classic Web 2.0. The user generation means that the dictionary knows as much as the people using it. This can be great if people with knowledge update and monitor the sites (it may not be a dictionary, but wikipedia comes to mind!!) Or it can be something where people vote up or down on definitions like: http://www.urbandictionary.com/. Sometimes this means that weird phrases are explained and defined and sometimes it means that people say really harsh things about certain people. (Don’t believe me? Look up Tiger Woods or any reality TV star…)
The beauty of it all is how current these online dictionaries are. While the Oxford English Dictionary does update their words to include the latest slang (don’t we all remember the year they added “jiggy”?), their update only comes out once a year and only after a word has been proven to have widespread use. So when a friend said he was bringing a “turducken” to a potluck three years ago, I would have had to wait until this August to see have it defined in the OED, but Urban Dictionary knew then.
With the original article, given the nature of texting, the only way parents could monitor their kids’ language is through an online source because of the constant flux of meaning. Nowhere else would be updated fast enough. Now, the ethical dilemma is how those resources are used- are these parents of 10 year olds on crack or just nosy parents of 18 year olds who want to control their kids’ lives? That, of course, is not up to me. However, these sites might have been useful for my mom, at least, when she first tried out AIM. The common adult misconception that LOL meant Lots of Love caused me to LOL (defined by common vernacular.)
Here is a link to an excellent article about how libraries are the enablers of the American dream(s): http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/22-6.
I found the article inspiring because it shows how people are using libraries in record numbers to attain books, knowledge, internet access, job searches, resume help, and a whole host of other things. I also found the article a bit depressing because despite all of these wonderful services, library budgets are still being cut to the point where the libraries are laying off people, cutting their hours, or shutting down entirely- which might be the case in Camden, NJ.
It’s hard. The economy is not making life easy on anyone, and public officials are having to make some tough decisions. But there comes a point when a library budget can’t be cut anymore without significantly reducing the amount of public good that library (or library system) does every day.
Anyway, just some things to think about.
A seemingly constant debate both online and in the “real world” is which books are for boys and which books are for girls. This debate often hinges on the issue that seems to be- most boys won’t read books by or about girls. A famous example of this is J.K. Rowling whose actual name is Jo(anne) Rowling, no middle name. Many sources, including her wikipedia page, say that she or her publisher changed her name so that boys would not be turned off that a woman wrote the Harry Potter series. Of course, by the time Harry took the world by storm, everyone was reading it, regardless of the gender of the author.
However, many female authors have similar issues or at least discuss gender fairly regularly. Maureen Johnson (a YA author with all female main characters) has had several discussions on her twitter accountabout #genderinYA. She has been asked, “Why do you only write books for girls?” To which she responded, “I write books for EVERYONE.” She has also discussed the phenomenon in great length in twitter posts, asking why books about girls should only be for girls while books about boys are for everyone. Someone responded by bring up the Madonna song “What it Feels Like for a Girl”- discussing the song’s claim that girls can be like boys because it is acceptable to be a boy while the reverse is not true because girls are perceived as worth less than boys.
Justine Larbalestier wrote an excellent blog post about this subject: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/06/12/theyre-just-girl-books-who-cares/ She discusses how books by female authors get lumped together as “women’s fiction” and even people working toward a solution have trouble treating books by women as simply books.
And amidst all this controversy, you get posts that talk about the recent surge in YA female characters as a bad thing: http://hannahmosk.blogspot.com/2010/07/boy-problem.html In her blog post, Hannah Moskowitz discusses how boys don’t read YA fiction. She talks about how boys are turned off by YA fiction because they are stereotyped into various roles and then the characters are sanitized to eliminate strong, real males. She discusses how this was done to empower girls. She says, “Boys in YA are rubber walls for our 3D female characters to bounce off of. They’re props for girls to throw around to show that they’re the stronger sex. And I get that we need to empower girls, people. I get it. But how many books about girls do we need before we can consider that a job well done?”
Tamora Pierce (who helped a nerdy little librarian-to-be find some inner strength with her amazing female characters) wrote a direct response: http://tammypierce.livejournal.com/40594.html. She disputes many of the facts on the previous blog, but what really sticks with me is this quote:
“But make no mistake about it: there are still more books for guys out there than there are for girls. It’s fine that people write guy heroes. But please don’t knock those of us who know that being a girl, and a woman, is a lifelong fight, on the shelves and off. This debate comes up every ten years or so in publishing circles, and that it’s important not to work on the guys at the expense of the girls. Both need heroes, and both need books.”
And I think that’s a great moral for all of us. Both boys and girls need to be empowered, and while it would be great if every person felt comfortable reading a book about other genders, everyone still needs a hero that’s like them. A hero that can show that it is OK, even desirable, to be whatever they are. It shouldn’t be Girls vs. Boys (not to mention people that don’t fit into standard categories); it should be simply YA. How to get there? Well, that’s a blog post for another day.