system restore

I was invited to speak to members of PALNI, an organization that has developed an interesting model for “deep collaboration” among libraries at private colleges in Indiana. Here’s the text (also available as a pdf).

system restore (title)Thanks so much for inviting me to speak to you today. Full confession: I have never watched an entire episode of CSI Anywhere. I turned an episode on years ago but just couldn’t get over the fact that people who do forensic work for police investigations aren’t actually detectives and that few investigations use all that science because it’s too expensive. In fact, I’m such a feminist killjoy that it bugs me that we pretend we have scientists on hand to solve crimes when there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in evidence rooms across the country because DNA testing is too expensive and so many police organizations would rather spend the money on facial recognition systems and predictive policing schemes than on actual crime victims. Which is actually kind of related to what I want to talk about today.

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from schooled skepticism to informed trust

trust sign

Mike Caulfield has written a handy (and free!) classroom-ready book about fact-checking and provides useful case studies for students and anyone who wants to fine-tune their bullshit detector. Also, he has explained why simply studying a document for clues (a checklist approach) doesn’t work and four moves you can make instead: corroborate, trace the story’s origin, confirm (aka “read laterally”), and don’t get stuck in a rabbit hole (“circle back”). I have to also give a tip of the hat to Marc Meola who made a very similar point back in 2004, though we didn’t need it quite so badly back then.

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why we can have nice things

I was super excited to speak at a symposium at Metro, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, which organizes some wonderful programs for librarians and other cultural workers in the city. The theme was Libraries in the Context of Capitalism and it drew participants from all over and from different lines of work. Two days of really informative and thoughtful talks about publishing, teaching, labor conditions in libraries and other cultural institutions, the metaphors we use, labor issues, how to organize, the ways homeless folks innovate in library spaces set up for tech entrepreneurs . . . lots of great stuff. Here’s what I said how we got our core values and why we should apply them to wider information systems. (There’s also a PDF version.)

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2017 top ten plus

I have posted my top ten crime fiction books of the year for a long time here and at a previous WordPress.com site. I figured I would carry on the tradition, adding in some other books that stuck with me and linking to the reviews I wrote at Reviewing the Evidence for most of them. You can find a more-or-less complete list of books I’ve read at LibraryThing.

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the black box problem

locked boxReposted from Inside Higher Ed;  image courtesy of Dan Lingard.

There’s another fascinating study out from the Stanford History Education Group, the folks who studied high school and college students’ capacity to figure out what news is fake, finding that they don’t really know how to do that. Turns out – surprise! – trained historians don’t really know how to do that, either. Historians tend to focus on critiquing textual evidence, unlike trained fact checkers who immediately confirm and corroborate with other sources, something the report calls “reading laterally.” No doubt historians would have gotten the answers eventually, but on a timed test, close reading didn’t work as well as lateral reading. We rely too much on training and trust.

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the things we forget

anti-war protest, 1070Reposted from Inside Higher Ed; photo of a protest, 1970, courtesy of the Library of Congress via Washington Area Spark.

We’ve been watching the new documentary series on the Vietnam War, which is excellent but also exhausting and upsetting and full of sparks of memory: Oh, that guy! I remember him. Wait, this thing is about to happen. Look how skinny those soldiers are, carrying all that equipment, just like those guys we knew. It also fills in gaps in memory. I never knew much about the Vietnamese experience. I didn’t realize how many Americans were opposed to the anti-war movement, even after the Kent State killings. A poll at the time found over half of Americans thought the dead students had it coming. I suppose that included the two students shot dead at Jackson State University eleven days later, though they didn’t get as much attention.

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summer time

to doI’m sitting in a mostly dark room on a summer night watching lightning flare in the distance. This is a good thing; it’s too dry and rain would be welcome, even if it comes with some weather drama. Normally it would still be light in the sky at 9:00 pm, one of the things I love about northern summers. But lighting shimmering behind dark clouds is worth the view.

The summer solstice is past and days are already growing shorter and though my summer’s less than half over that childhood dread is inevitable. It’s almost over! Which is odd because I was invariably bored, but it was my boredom to do whatever I wanted with. Childhood doesn’t work that way anymore, but I still feel a weird clutch of panic. Almost over! So much I still want to do!

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fahrenheit 404

Battle For The Net Video Bumper from FFTF on Vimeo.

This essay is reprinted from Inside Higher Ed.

We have always been at war with the Internet. No, I’m not talking about trolls or flamewars but efforts to keep this globally interconnected digital space a place where freedom can thrive. What that freedom looks like, of course, is endlessly debatable. There’s the problem of the digital divide, the cultural factors that can make the internet friendly or hostile, and the fact that the values underpinning sentiments like John Perry Barlow’s libertarian Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace do not guarantee its citizens will act with wisdom or justice. Throw in mass surveillance and cybercrime and the fact that setting up your home router is just about as defeating as running your VHS system was thirty years ago. It’s complicated, but net neutrality is a foundational feature of the internet that we should preserve – and it’s under threat yet again.

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how not to fight terrorism

it was a pleasure to burn

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey Fairchild

I suppose it’s inevitable, given that information-driven tech-centered global corporations dominate the list of Big Rich Companies, that information systems play a significant role in 21st century terrorism. ISIS has famously made effective use of social media platforms for recruitment purposes. So have white nationalists and neo-Nazis. The responses have been fumbling, partly because the job of moderating messages that globally flow by the billions is difficult and partly because that flow is the current that produces power and money for these companies. Our devices and platforms want to seize and retain our attention and categorize our passions; building in methods to check the flow adds cost and conflicts with their very design. So that’s one thing: our most powerful information channels today are unprecedented in their usefulness for creating global connections among people who seek people who feel the same anger – and in their design-driven capacity for fanning those flames.

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