Month: February 2014

Requesting Comments on USA FREEDOM Act

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USAFreedomActAdvocayIMAGEaccessed20Feb2014

(Image courtesy of Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin’s 5th District <accessed 20 Feb 2014>)

I am formally requesting personal or “official” comments and responses to The USA FREEDOM Act.

The USA FREEDOM Act states it would install oversight on FISA, data collection and, hopefully, NSLs.

Please leave comments here, e-mail jesse (at) meta21st.com or chat at Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

 

 

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#Metadata Production and Privacy in Libraries

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#Libraries and Social Media Pt. 2: Metadata Production and Privacy*

(A Thought-in-Progress)

By Jesse A Lambertson

Social Media Applications

In a previous post, I tried to gather my thoughts on the state of library-use of SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies and applications. There are so many in use I did not feel the need to list all of them in that post, just draw attention to their existence within the system and flow of information organization from different type of libraries.

I produced a list here (where you can find the link to download my reference sheet) of major and minor OSNs (Online Social Networks) platforms and their statements on either advertising structure, their mining of user-data and privacy. Obviously, these platforms and applications are used in a much wider context than libraries and cultural heritage institutions. In my search around the internet in English, I found a lot of applications that I’d never heard of before. I am positive other countries and other languages have developed their own.  I would be happy to receive information on any SOCIAL platforms from around the world or any others I missed in my collecting. If you find any, please e-mail the links to jesse (at) meta21st.com or reply below. Thank you much.

These applications are mostly free (in certain versions) to their users – though most also have advertisements either built into the applications from their creation or from other more traditional modes such as pay-per-advertisement models which promote or push that promoted content toward the top of a feed, add it to a video, add it to a certain page etc. This is not a bad thing. When people get together and invest in their ideas, they do so often with the intent to make money. The model now, across some investment areas, is to offer free tools and applications which are paid for either by direct advertising or the selling of metadata and some user data to clearinghouses that deal in such a thing. Many people have commented on this fact as being the most profitable feature of SOCIAL media applications and web 2.0 technologies. I won’t compile those articles here, but this is an area for future information collection.

Libraries

American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) (librarians are well versed in the use of acronyms) has made several statements and resolutions on one’s use of a library with freedom to pursue all angles of ideas and that their freedom to pursue such ideas should be protected from unwarranted surveillance by polices and routines designed to hide user data from anyone other than the library user and the librarians who assist and provide reference services. This last part is mostly out of necessity because librarians work in libraries (of course). The ALA OIF has made statements viewable here and here on the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) justified by the USA PATRIOT Act and its renewal/reauthorization in which they do not deny the use, theoretically, of NSLs, but rather that the Letters are submitted only with very specific evidentiary requirements.  The ALA OIF states, “WHEREAS, the ALA is committed to preserving the privacy rights of all persons in the United States, especially library users and library employees…” I mention this statement, and link to the ALA OIF, not to rage against NSLs, but to get the conversation into the open about privacy and one’s use of the library. Issues of national security NSLs and governmental control/collection of user data in libraries a connected but separate topic – one I have touched upon here in this draft-like student whitepaper from University of Illinois’ DSpace digital repository.

Conflict of Interests

I see a conflict of interest inherent in the system right now with regards to increased traffic on ISNs, user-generated content and library’s encouragement of new media. All media is new when it comes out, but we love our terms. Everyone must categorize and provide schema for knowledge. This is why we like libraries – to put forth tools and thinking processes on how to work our way through the ever increasing subject areas and specializations. But categories and organization models have been in-use in libraries, both special and public, for a long time now and won’t go away with the internet. In fact, talk to any coder and page designer and you will hear about the increased use of tags, keywords and indexing – all of which fall under various definitions of use, value and debate themselves – depending on trends and context. Much of this has to do with the context of machine read information systems. But this context is precisely the point here. My context is libraries and their seemingly complete embrace of digital tools encouraging library users to “connect,” “engage,” and “interact.”

The very nature of these words changes in the internet age. No problems here. Words change. Have doubts about that? Head on down to your local library and access their subscription to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) – which you will need to do because that dictionary, the gold standard of English usage and its history, is only available via subscription and is no longer available in print. Once a user has gotten access to a digital tool, there are records of these connections and usage metadata. Some of this will never be escaped for the reason that libraries also need to exhibit their use and tools like the OED use that to market their value. This fact might be conundrum. But one thing about subscription databases is that they are making money by subscription models instead of simply by collecting data by users of free applications and selling that data through the clearinghouses I mentioned above. As the “market” model gathers more and more steam in areas where it was not the regime, we could easily see an uptick in data collection, sharing policies and privacy issues. Time will tell.

But from the point of view of library users and OSNs, most libraries sign off on ALA’s privacy statements (the ones I linked to above) by joining ALA’s membership ranks. These privacy policies in current popular discussion are dealing mostly with NSLs, now the NSA, Section 215 of the USA PATIOT Act and new variants of Total Information Awareness. But I see a slightly more insidious context developing in this current context. OSN’s make no bones about their advertising and their corporate for-profit structure and legal status. Good thing too. When someone starts a business, they want to do with it what it takes to make the most profit from it they are able to make. Carry onward. But libraries are not structured with this legal and declared ideology. If anything, there is one statement after another with the intent to show libraries exist to allow for the move into a different direction. But these same libraries advocate the embrace of OSNs and web 2.0 applications to accomplish the goals I mentioned above, engagement, connection and interactivity. Except, the very use of these technologies now monetizes personal activity online, shreds even thinner the demarcation of privacy between person and their intellectual pursuits and moves that data to more and more interested parties way outside of any one OSN or library “interactive” instance. The ALA has information about usage of OSNs here – including a PPT here which highlights some of these points.

I see this single point and its as yet un-elucidated sub-points as a major conflict of interest for library usage and patron visits. And there are so many reasons to go to libraries. Not all those need to be marked in databanks and sold.

Please take heed. More will come on this in the future.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*All links and sources associated with this post were rechecked as of 07 February 2014.

If anyone wants to converse on this topic, don’t hesitate to e-mail me above or submit your information below.

The Almost-Book Whole-Review of Mad as Hell

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“The Almost Book – A Review of Dave Itzkoff’s Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies”*

Dave Itzkoff. Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies.

Times Books.  NY, NY: Henry Holt and Company, 2014. ISBN: 9780805095692

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times, writes for their Arts Beat Blog and contributes as a culture reporter, pulls together the topics he usually writes about and delivers an extremely pleasurable item in his new, Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies. He is not at all unfamiliar with popular formats such as film and television. The star, rather the protagonist of Itzkoff’s book, is the screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, who wrote the screenplay for Network (1976) and previously wrote for popular television programs in his day. Itzkoff uses this background to base his book as he starts in the past, sections the book from about 2 years before Network and ends it not too long afterwards…sort of…

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If I could imagine a container or a shape I felt while reading for the text in this book, it would be a flat road. For example, it took a long while to gather actors to play some of the major roles. There were tensions and expectations around each one. Faye Dunaway, the talent that she is, was not without her troubled baggage before and after the film. Specifically, the character of Howard Beale, the “prophet” of the film who does all the screaming in the role and then eventually gets co-opted into the very system he wanted to undermine was played by Peter Finch who died the year after the film’s release at the young age of sixty. This character is polarizing in his anger and in his profanity.

But if this character is as important to the critical position in the film, and stands-in for the frustration felt by the screenwriter, Paddy Chayefsky, why should there not be a better direction of the narrative in the book surrounding him? I think there should be. Instead, the book moves along in sections not obviously arranged for dramatic purposes. The stress Chayefsky and the producer closest to him, Howard Gottfried, felt as they sent the script around the globe and did not find anyone for a while should somehow be represented better in the book itself as a form. Yes it’s history. But history is writing and that should show. Instead, Itzkoff’s choice, or maybe the publisher, is to include a slew of sections with bolded text that transition from one to another with no regard to dramatic structure created via chapter breaks. If editing in film is used to create and manipulate drama, breaking a book into better chapter sections can be thought of as an analog.

Instead, while Chayefsky and Gottfried close in on their best picks to play important characters such as Howard Beale, Itzkoff engages in constant sublimation, for example, by opening that last section when Finch is picked to play Beale by simply opening with the words, “Since the Spring…” a full double-space away from the previous section which opened with the words, “On September 24, 1975…” on the picking of William Holden for another major part. The style of these “chapters” reads like a personal diary by someone with little stake in the outcome. The meaningful actor/director choices put together for a film that would go on to win several academy awards are all locked up in a vague title section called, “A Great Deal of Bullshit.” I assume these were words Chayefsky expressed about and through the process of finding each player for the film. But the words themselves do not have much meaning. It is a hard choice though – book titling. It might be interesting to do research into the trends and changes in book and chapter titles for which this little review could be a footnote. I only suggest that a book on such a dramatic persona as Chayefsky make his life’s central work of art find a style and structure that better represents that persona.

According to the book’s narrative, after Network won its awards, Peter Finch died and every other player in the film went onward to other dreams. Chayefsky set to work on a screenplay for another film I like called Altered States (1980). He wanted Sidney Lumet to direct this film, but Lumet had already made other commitments. As a result, Ken Russell, the artist (slightly avant-garde) director of such works as The Devils (1971) and the cult music-crossover film, Tommy (1975) starring Pete Townsend from the English band, The Who, took over the reins and experienced what everyone has who worked with Chayefsky on a film, the locking of bullhorns over control of what happens with a film after a screenwriter has agreed to sign his or her writing over to a crew making a film from it. Chayefsky disagreed with Russell on a number of points. He did not appreciate the set structure and the approach Russell used at all. But it was not in Russell’s contract to be directed by the screenwriter. Russell did not back down. Eventually Chayefsky left the set and never set foot on it again.

In fact, Altered States was the last film he wrote before he died in August 1981. But it is with this section that alters the state for Chayefsky in film that the direction and purpose for Itzkoff’s book truly comes together. During the work for Altered States, which Chayefsky was “selling” as a Jekyll and Hyde novel first, one man, Chayesfsky, gets a lucrative film deal for what would become Altered States, the other man, Chayefsky (note the very subtle difference in the two), gets kicked of the set of that same film and returns to his office in NYC and does not produce another thing for the rest of his life – a life that was to end before the next year was over. It is not clear which was the angry monster and which was the man who created the monster. Even though Itzkoff’s anecdotes are fun to read and historically accurate, they do not themselves direct one toward an emotional catharsis one should expect from a book that revolves around heavy expression, an “angry” driven writer and the film that would make him the most famous.

The section just after the ending of Paddy Chayefsky’s death, however, marks the real catharsis for the book. It is here where Itzkoff collects a series of stinging anecdotes about the state of media today and what it’s like to work in the movie business. He quotes director/actor Ben Affleck who says anyone can still get his or her movie made as long as one if committed enough to it all the way through. He references contemporary stars such as Kieth Olbermann and their statements that Network can be read as a vision for the future (now) in that drama and increasingly niche programming has trumped “hard news.” We won’t bring up the other aspect of this debate, that one between televised news programming and newspapers. The issue has become central to programming on cable, satellite and what is left of the networks – news was considered a public service surrounded by lighter advertisement-filled content such as shows and other dramatic works. These times have changed according to the book. Everything must conform to the bottom line. It is with this examination of the sell-out method of contemporary media that Paddy Chayefsky’s rage can still be directed. As a result, it is precisely here that Dave Itzkoff’’s book comes together as a whole object, a whole history.

Dave Itzkoff’s Mad as Hell: The Making of Network and the Fateful Vision of the Angriest Man in Movies, finds itself mostly unified at the end. It brings together the person Paddy Chayefsky and his most famous character into a more defined purpose.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*A variant of this review has also been published at LibraryThing as part of Early Reviewers.

Library Journal Review of Tastemaker

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My newest review for Library Journal’s Book Verdict has been published in their February 01, 2014 issue.

The review examines Edward White’s new biographical writing, The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern America, on Carl Van Vechten, NYC novelist and arts promoter.

Tastemaker.cover

(please click on the above image to see the review site)

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

Social Media Data Collection and Sharing

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I drew together a short reference document called, Social Media Advertisement/Data Collection & Sharing Reference, in which I pulled links to advertising, data collection and data sharing statements from manor and minor OSNs (Online Social Networks). The intent, as I write in the document, is “… to be a reference with annotations and links to major and minor OSNs (Online Social Networks). It brings together, with minimum summary, published information from each OSN’s statements on advertising structure, terms of service/use and privacy policies…”

Please DOWNLOAD the document, Social Media Advertisement/Data Collection & Sharing Reference here.

I created it under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This means it can be used in many ways as long as proper attribution is given for any derivative works that are made from it.

Thank you for reading and for your interest.

Jesse L.