(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.
#Libraries and Social Media Pt. 2: Metadata Production and Privacy*
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.
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.
*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.
#Libraries and Social Media Pt 1: Identity
By Jesse A Lambertson
In Hal Niedzviecki’s book, The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors, Niedzviecki analyzes the current mode of SOCIAL media and use of assorted web 2.0 technologies as not simply directed toward gathering information and learning – the rhetoric constantly used to justify one’s use of these applications – but are used instead to create a form of identity. He asserts his point on the notion every SOCIAL user and web 2-0 content producer believes their lives are as important as everyone else involved in the media. He suggests the response to that feeling is not only to build “connections” to others for learning and sharing about oneself in order to feel on equal ground, but rather the use of SOCIAL and web 2.0 technologies creates the existence of one’s self in that universe. What you see in SOCIAL and web 2.0 sharing-applications IS what you get. Interesting premise.
For a time, let’s suggest his point is spot-on. If that is the case, how might we turn this paradigm toward the now ubiquitous use by libraries of SOCIAL technologies ranging from branded blog platforms, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter to WordPress (to name a few)? I don’t know if we can make a final argument about SOCIAL technologies and its use by libraries of all kinds – academic, digital, public, research and special. My goal is not to draw attention to any library on any one point or example, just to strike attention to the idea being ruminated upon in this post. I don’t want to step on any toes of course. I just think this is a topic of study that has not gotten enough attention yet across library types.
My disclaimer: My views do not represent those of my employer’s, they are my own. Also, there are so many variations on SOCIAL media use, please fill in my blanks and accidental omissions with your own observations and don’t be afraid to show them to me here in the reply field or on my favourite of the SOCIAL platforms, Twitter.
Academic libraries are not all research libraries. Nor are they necessarily special libraries such as archives, image collections, map collections, medical libraries and law libraries. But what I see in my observations is that all of these libraries tend toward the same SOCIAL media and web 2.0 use. Some academic libraries use their SOCIAL profiles to directly state in yet another medium what they think they want to look like to their users; some use these applications to produce a quick information dissemination mode as students carry their mobile devices with them and can learn about events or alerts; some seem to want to create an “easy” web 2.0 alternative to walking in the library at all; some use web 2.0 technologies to promote content in OTHER web 2.0 platforms (such as Twitter to blog, or Blog to website); some run a live feed of their SOCIAL media on their normal websites; some use these technologies to draw attention to regional factors that may affect library use or resources; some link to other libraries’ resources, say within a library consortium, that they feel would be relevant to certain “followers” of their SOCIAL media feeds; many use web 2.0 technology as a form of sensational news (in lieu of having a “broadcast station” always on; some use these technologies as a reflection of the Learning Commons model they’ve adopted in the library brick and mortar spaces; and some use these assorted technologies in an advocacy capacity.
Academic libraries have realized, without stating so directly, their use and dissemination of information and trivia via web 2.0 tools straddles a contradiction of sorts. The first is that much information spread must be overseen by someone who has been entrusted by the institution to spread said info. We call this “vetting.” In this we find institutions determined to control what they “look like” to the outside world – this is their attempt to control their identity in SOCIAL media and web 2.0 platforms (in addition to the trusty website and library specific tools that have been there for years already). The other side of the contradiction straddling is the notion of dialog friendliness, trying to promote something that looks like connection and conversation in these consumer products used by not simply high level researchers and graduate students with narrow abstract goals in their use of the these libraries. I don’t have an answer for this contradiction. But it seems to be a slight unbridgeable gap between the affectation of “everyday” conversation marketed with use of web 2.0 technologies and the maintained image of the image engaged in that conversation with those technologies.
This contradiction is particularly interesting because academic libraries are increasingly jumping on the “big data” bandwagon by producing data on their own in the form of metrics and use statistics. One of the features not evident to those who may read or follow SOCIAL media produced on behalf of these libraries is that as information professionals look at all the numbers associated with access, use and other features, libraries are wont to also track, not users, but whether use of all of these applications increases traffic, use, connections etc. The truth is that a great deal of the data produced by these technologies is owned by the companies that produce these platforms. The other item worthy of note relative to this contradiction is that even as libraries jump on the SOCIAL/web 2.0 bandwagon, they are also the site where many technologies are used that take much time to learn and that contain links to articles, e-formats and databases unavailable just because an interested party “follows” their Facebook page or Twitter feed. I talk about this notion a little more below as it relates to digital libraries. The point here is that even as these web 2.0 technologies are used in greater numbers, the very quality of the academic library where students and researchers check out subject monographs, read subscribed articles for papers on a diverse array of topics, and find other media just for fun, is steeped in nuanced faceted search levels, intellectually created subject access, tags, owned catalog records, archival items in hazmat controlled vaults and experts (subject librarians) who will in fact aid in quicker and more efficient deeper research pathways. I am not saying these features cannot be combined with web 2.0 applications, but it is not their strength to aid in such goals. So when we say ask where a particular library is using some form of SOCIAL media, we might also consider what that really says about the identity of the institution in question.
Some digital libraries are not libraries per se, but are abstract organizations that act as advocacy units for digital libraries. I am thinking specifically of the Digital Library Federation. But some of these, such as the World Digital Library, is a specific library with connections to other larger organizations. I mention this because how SOCIAL applications are used by these groups is not always used with the strict attention to their own interests, but of those organizations that have funded or invested resources. So sometimes, information dissemination pushed out on SOCIAL applications gets pushed again by other organizations with vested interests of their own. I am not saying this is at all a bad thing. I simply draw attention to it because whatever identity or status one SOCIAL or web 2.0 application may enjoy is slightly changed with this realization. Others use web 2.0 applications to draw attention to new campaigns or digitization efforts.
The odd thing about digital libraries, which makes one think they exist on the open web for easy and free access, is that even though these efforts are taking place, and one would really want to tell interested parties about them, the collections being promoted are not always available in any way other than subscription. I am not using this post to get into issues of publishers, embargoes on copyrighted publications or open access, I have already commented upon these topics and I will continue to learn more over time. Subscription is not inherently a bad thing, But digital libraries are not always accessible on the open web. In fact, it is precisely the definition of the term, “access,” commonly used now with regard to getting information and research resources which sees its clearest use in digital libraries because “access” feels like a technical term (access codes, access granted etc) not necessarily related to simply seeing art, seeing manuscripts or reading books even though the OED defines it as, “To obtain, acquire; to get hold of.” The comedy of this is that even if resources are freely available on the internet, it is actually made possible by a series of access codes through control systems that allow your device (mobile, laptop or desktop) to communicate to the servers at the digital library and retrieve the items you have requested either via database query or URL request.
When digital libraries use web 2.0 applications, much of these harder issues related to information gathering and dissemination are hidden from view by the very fact that MANY web 2.0 applications are themselves being given to users free of monetary charge – this applies to many blogging applications (even WordPress has a free edition of its full code that can be hosted by anyone without using WordPress’s servers used for their more controlled themed platforms), Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and even Reddit. Thus, in terms of what identity is being indirectly postulated in instances of web 2.0 application use, the question is thrown into a bit of disarray. One of this factors which does fit, however, is the obvious and direct connection between lots of technologies being used to produce digital content (“born digital” we sometimes call it), its storage, preservation, visual representation and then retrieval. These are attributes that affect library identity because of the very technologies being used.
Public libraries may not have long lists of special collections nor widely available digitized objects; but they do have something in their favour regarding the use of SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies – they are a tax supported organization run by civil servants (even if they are trained librarians). And as a result, their user base comes from quite diverse subsets of the population – much are tax payers themselves and can use pretty much every item in their collections. And to tack on a little side note, most of these freely available web 2.o technologies are embraced on a mass scale by users from every ethnicity, economic tier and educational achievement – precisely the population that makes use of services and resources at the public library. But let me not make the mistake that web 2.0 technologies, which make use of the web and digital infrastructure are the same in their nature as the identity of public libraries. They are not. The data and metadata produced by many SOCIAL applications on the web and used on the ever increasing number of mobile devices is used for profit, bought and sold, by many different interests out there. It is not clear this data is really collected in order to further democracy or to help people learn or to get jobs – these are some of the reasons public libraries are used. And libraries are operated as a public service by tax paying citizens and sometimes fund by the federal government and philanthropic persons or organizations. So when we remark that public libraries are using freely available web technologies, SOCIAL media platforms and other like applications, we are trying to connect one institution, a non-profit, with another institution, that of the companies with clearly stated monetary reasons for their being – that of increasing profits for their shareholders (and sometimes their employees). The irony of this of course is that many employees of these companies also pay taxes and turn right around and use their local public library.
Public libraries have many different uses for SOCIAL media and applications such as blogs etc. For instance, some libraries have added them as an afterthought because it’s “what’s happening” (this will be the case with some libraries in all categories); some have dedicated staff who produce, program, code and add content as part of their job description; some use these applications to have informal “chats” with followers; some use them as open “help” boxes where library users can send in their concerns with issues such as the catalog being down or a technical glitch in a transition from one interface to another; some use them to promote events that are national in scope but which libraries have gotten involved with (I am thinking about the annual NanoWrimo); some draw out collection spotlights of all the formats they carry (the good thing about this is that every collection item highlighted in a web 2.0 platform can theoretically then be used by every follower who has read about it); and some prefer to use the technologies in a formal way, more like a press release of an event or something. There are all kinds of ways Public Libraries use SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies. But this is sort of fascinating because the style can vary much from public library to public library even though public libraries’ mission statements remain fairly consistent.
Collections vary too according to local usage and budget restraints. Public libraries are, after all, a tax funded feature of the local government –city, county or state. Maybe the patron usage of SOCIAL media is what then determines the usage by the library. But what does this say about the identity of public libraries as an institution? This is where the line between users and the library becomes blurry. I will have to exit this section with these questions in mind.
The question was opened about what identity was produced by libraries of all kinds using SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies in a culture increasingly dominated by them. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration if the question is worth anything. I am not saying my original premise is even true, just that there may be something to it. I may take up this topic again in the future.
Please don’t hesitate to reply in the field below or “chat” about it on Twitter.
Thank you for reading.
*There are a couple instances of words that have an extra “u” in them. I just like the English spelling and find it easy to type by default.