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If we want to visualize a future drawing upon library mashups—combinations of data from different sources into a newly created tool for training-teaching-learning and many other purposes—we could do worse than to view a few of the search engines which are incorporating mashup technology into the way they display search results.
Jill Tinsley, an MLIS candidate from the University of Arizona, was among the presenters at the California Academic & Research Libraries North Information Technology (CARL North IT) Interest Group workshop “Mashup the Library” late last month at Santa Clara University, and her one-hour overview of “Information Visualization Using Mashups and Web 2.0 Tools” nearly inundated us with possibilities. (The PowerPoint slides, which were previously used for a New Media Consortium (NMC) presentation in February 2008, can be found at the bottom of an NMC page under the heading “Attachments” and provide fodder for hours of exploration on the topic.)
Starting with Grokker.com, she led us into a world of searching which currently draws from Yahoo!, Wikipedia, and Amazon.com to provide information on a wide variety of topics. Although the results can be viewed in a text-based “Outline” format, the fun begins when we choose the “Map View” format. The “map” is actually a large circle taking up about half of a screen, and includes smaller circles of interrelated topics; searching for the term “mashups” itself, for example, gives the large circle of the mashup universe, and smaller circles labeled “new application,” web applications, “music mashups,” and several others. If we choose to focus on music mashups, we click on the music mashup circle to view a new, larger circle with links within that category. By drilling down further into that visual display by clicking on new links, we continue until we find what we want or we zoom back out to the previous visual maps.
An entirely different display comes up through oSkope, which can be set to search Yahoo!, flickr, YouTube, and a few other sites we can select before proceeding. The results are displayed as a series of full-color thumbnail images, and we can manipulate the displays by choosing from several options on the screen. Placing the cursor on an image quickly brings up information about where the link will take the us and displays user tags which have been attached to that site.
The lesson here for teacher-trainer-learners is fairly obvious: if we want to display more visually interesting searches while engaged in workplace learning and performance, we can incorporate Grokker, oSkope, and many of the other tools which are quickly becoming available to us.
For further exploration: Online recordings of a dozen sessions presented during the NMC Symposium on Mashups held April 1 -3, 2008 are available, as are resources on nmcpedia. CARL North IT plans to post recordings of the “Mashup the Library” program. One other new development: another interesting example of mashups went live several days after the CARL North IT conference, in the form of the cuil search engine; it’s well worth exploring and has one the cleanest displays I’ve seen in online search results.

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