Butch, Cassie, and the SXSW Kid
While at South By Southwest in Austin this year, I did a crazy thing and signed up for a 10-minute session with a SXSW Mentor. I did it on a lark because I figured, at the very least, I could get another contact out of it. I picked the guy with the most interesting job, and, after choking down a free hot dog, I hopped in a “Catch-a-Chevy” and took off for the inconveniently located Holiday Inn. The guy with the interesting job is named Butch Lazorchak, and he works as a Digital Archivist for the Library of Congress. Pretty sweet, right? Well, I thought so anyway. Butch and I touched on a pretty wide variety of things during our 20 minutes together (I got a bonus session because the guy before me didn’t show up) but we mainly talked about the future of Flash, the potential for a new app and technology called Aurasma, and how the Library of Congress is trying to preserve fragments of society and culture at a glacier (ahem, governmental) pace.
I glazed over the current big debate on whether or not Flash is “dying” or if it’s just getting redefined and relocated to a niche market, and he assured me that it was dying. I don’t agree with him there, though - Flash is far too useful as a quick animation platform, and is uniquely positioned as one of the few object-oriented platforms who’s projects can be shoved directly on the web. And it takes only a bit of skill in coding to produce a pretty slick looking project, to boot. I think it’s just being redefined as a tool for banner ads, quick animation, prototypes, and non-internet digital interaction (like you might see in future gas pumps or washing machines). Besides, the people who are truly Flash designers have spent way too much time and effort learning and investing in the thing to let it completely die.
When we got to the part where we discussed how the Library of Congress knows what it has catalogued, I asked him if he had ever heard of Aurasma. He hadn’t, and I explained how it was this really cool new app that let you “see” an image with your smartphone or device and that image would trigger an animation or video clip which you would then view on your phone or device. The device tracks the flat image of the photo no matter if it turns or tilts or moves further toward or away from the camera. It’s really very cool. I started to go into what I had seen from the team that came and spoke to us at Elon - how architects could design a 3D scale of their design, look at it through Aurasma, and actually pull out floors to look at individually. I mean, the possibilities for this app, for this technology, are endless. I’m sure Butch called a halt when he noticed the slightly maniacal glint in my eyes. He reminded me he was working for the government and that they were still trying to make the move from card catalogue to digital. He did write the name of the app down and promised to look into it. I started to get excited again. I mean, the Library of Congress is huge! I don’t even know if they know all the great stuff they’ve got. But imagine walking down a row of books so old and venerable you can’t even read the title on the spine, and being able to hold an iPad up to the cover to discover what’s inside. It could be so much more than a jacket or a back cover summary. And just when I was getting a full head of steam, the lady came in and said our time was up… It was sad. But Butch and I exchanged business cards and he looked at me and said, “Have you ever thought about a career in government?”
I mean, yeah, I’ve thought about running for Senate or Vice President, but not seriously. And whoever thinks of all the other entities when considering a career in government? The Library of Congress? Doesn’t really pop up on the job-radar. But think of the opportunities - The Smithsonian Museums, the Department of the Treasury, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the Federal Reserve Bank, all these departments are trying to either preserve all this amazing stuff or else they’re trying to promote their public image. Digital interaction is the new standard. The Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta has a game that kids can play to learn about how bank loans work, and you can bet it cost oodles of money. There are whole warehouses around the country that just have endless archival footage and documents just waiting for someone to come along and slap it digital. We are uniquely positioned to do exactly this sort of work, if we have the guts to stand up and say, “I know what to do.” Job opportunities in or for government are endless, I think. We are at an age of exponential government growth, and it seems prudent to maybe take advantage of it.