NASIG 2013: Knowledge and Dignity in the Era of Big Data

CC BY 2.0 2013-06-10
“Big Data” by JD Hancock

Speaker: Siva Vaidhyanathan

Don’t try to write a book about fast moving subjects.

He was trying to capture the nature of our relationship to Google. It provides us with a services that are easy to use, fairly dependable, and well designed. However, that level of success can breed hubris. He was interested in how this drives the company to its audacious goals.

It strikes him that what Google claims to be doing is what librarians have been doing for hundreds of years already. He found himself turning to the core practices of librarians as a guideline for assessing Google.

Why is Google interested in so much stuff? What is the payoff to organizing the world’s information and making it accessible?

Big data is not a phrase that they use much, but the notion is there. More and faster equals better. Google is in the prediction/advertising business. The Google books project is their attempt to reverse engineer the sentence. Knowing how sentences work, they can simulate how to interpret and create sentences, which would be a simulation of artificial intelligence.

The NSA’s deals that give them a backdoor to our data services creates data insecurity, because if they can get in, so can the bad guys. Google keeps data about us (and has to turn it over when asked) because it benefits their business model, unlike libraries who don’t keep patron records in order to protect their privacy.

Big data means more than a lot of data. It means that we have so many instruments to gather data, cheap/ubiquitous cameras and microphones, GPS devices that we carry with us, credit card records, and more. All of these ways of creating feed into huge servers that can store the data with powerful algorithms that can analyze it. Despite all of this, there is no policy surrounding this, nor conversations about best ways to manage this in light of the impact on personal privacy. There is no incentive to curb big data activities.

Scientists are generally trained to understand that correlation is not causation. We seem to be happy enough to draw pictures with correlation and move on to the next one. With big data, it is far too easy to stop at correlation. This is a potentially dangerous way of understanding human phenomenon. We are autonomous people.

The panopticon was supposed to keep prisoners from misbehaving because they assumed they were always being watched. Foucault described the modern state in the 1970s as the panopticon. However, at this point, it doesn’t quite match. We have a cryptopticon, because we aren’t allowed to know when we are being watched. It wants us to be on our worst behavior. How can we inject transparency and objectivism into this cryptopticon?

Those who can manipulate the system will, but those who don’t know how or that it is happening will be negatively impacted. If bad credit can get you on the no-fly list, what else may be happening to people who make poor choices in one aspect of their lives that they don’t know will impact other aspects? There is no longer anonymity in our stupidity. Everything we do, or nearly so, is online. Mistakes of teenagers will have an impact on their adult lives in ways we’ve never experienced before. Our inability to forget renders us incapable of looking at things in context.

Mo Data, Mo Problems

NASIG 2013: Libraries and Mobile Technologies in the Age of the Visible College

“This morning’s audience, seen from the lectern.” by Bryan Alexander

Speaker: Bryan Alexander

NITLE does a lot of research for liberal arts undergraduate type schools. One of the things that he does is publish a monthly newsletter covering trends in higher education, which may be worth paying some attention to (Future Trends). He is not a librarian, but he is a library fanboy.

What is mobile computing doing to the world, and what will it do in the future?

Things have changed rapidly in recent years. We’ve gone from needing telephone rooms at hotels to having phones in every pocket. The icon for computing has gone from desktop to laptop to anything/nothing — computing is all around us in many forms now. The PC is still a useful tool, but there are now so many other devices to do so many other things.

Smartphones are everywhere now, in many forms. We use them for content delivery and capture, and to interact with others through social tools. Over half of Americans now have a smartphone, with less than 10% remaining who have no cell phone, according to Pew. The mobile phone is now the primary communication device for the world. Think about this when you are developing publishing platforms.

The success of the Kindle laid the groundwork for the iPad. Netbooks/laptops now range in size and function.

Clickers are used extensively in the classroom, with great success. They can be used for feedback as well as prompting discussion. They are slowly shifting to using phones instead of separate devices.

Smartpens capture written content digitally as you write them, and you can record audio at the same time. One professor annotates notes on scripts while his students perform, and then provides them with the audio.

Marker-based augmented reality fumbled for a while in the US, but is starting to pick up in popularity. Now that more people have smartphones, QR codes are more prevalent.

The mouse and keyboard have been around since the 1960s, and they are being dramatically impacted by recent changes in technology. Touch screens (i.e. iPad), handhelds (i.e. WII), and nothing (i.e. Kinect).

If the federal government is using it, it is no longer bleeding edge. Ebooks have been around for a long time, in all sorts of formats. Some of the advantages of ebooks include ease of correcting errors, flexible presentation (i.e. font size), and a faster publication cycle. Some disadvantages include DRM, cost, and distribution by libraries.

Gaming has had a huge impact in the past few years. The median age of gamers is 35 or so. The industry size is comparable to music, and has impacts on hardware, software, interfaces, and other industries. There is a large and growing diversity of platforms, topics, genres, niches, and players.

Mobile devices let us make more microcontent (photo, video clip, text file), which leads to the problem of archiving all this stuff. These devices allow us to cover the world with a secondary layer of information. We love connecting with people, and rather than separating us, technology has allowed us to do that even more (except when we focus on our devices more than the people in front of us).

We’re now in a world of information on demand, although it’s not universal. Coverage is spreading, and the gaps are getting smaller.

When it comes to technology, Americans are either utopian or dystopian in our reactions. We’re not living in a middle ground very often. There are some things we don’t understand about our devices, such as multitasking and how that impacts our brain. There is also a generational divide, with our children being more immersed in technology than we are, and having different norms about using devices in social and professional settings.

The ARIS engine allows academics to build games with learning outcomes.

Augmented reality takes data and pins it down to the real world. It’s the inverse of virtual reality. Libraries are going to be the AR engine of the future. Some examples of AR include museum tours, GPS navigators, and location services (Yelp, Foursqure). Beyond that, there are applications that provide data overlaying images of what you point your phone at, such as real estate information and annotations. Google Goggles tries to provide information about objects based on images taken by a mobile device. You could have a virtual art gallery physically tied to a spot, but only displayed when viewed with an app on your phone.

Imagine what the world will be like transformed by the technology he’s been talking about.

1. Phantom Learning: Schools are rare and less needed. The number of people physically enrolled in schools has gone down. Learning on demand is now the thing. Institutions exist to supplement content (adjuncts), and libraries are the media production sites. Students are used to online classes, and un-augmented locations are weird.

II. Open World: Open content is the norm and is very web-centric. Global conversations increase, with more access and more creativity. Print publishers are nearly gone, authorship is mysterious, tons of malware, and privacy is fictitious. The internet has always been open and has never been about money. Identities have always been fictional.

III. Silo World: Most information is experienced in vertical stacks. Open content is almost like public access TV. Intellectual property intensifies, and campuses reorganize around the silos. Students identify with brands and think of “open” as radical and old-fashioned.

ER&L 2013: Courage of Our Connections

“Hanging On” by Nic C

Speaker: Rachel Frick, Digital Library Federation

Sees herself as a community builder for the greater benefit of the profession as a whole.

There is a lot going on in libraries, and it can be overwhelming. At the same time, it’s an exciting time to be a librarian. If we embrace the challenge of the change and see the opportunities, we will be okay.

We are at “the incunabula period of the digital age.” -T. Scott Plutchak

The network changes everything. See also: Networked by Lee Raine & Barry Wellman

This can be good, or it can be bad (see also: Google Buzz). We have the opportunity to reach beyond our home institutions to have a broader impact.

Data has many different facets. We are talking about data-driven decision making, research data, data curation, linked (open) data, and library collections as data.

When we started digitizing our collections, we had a very library/museum portal view that was very proscribed. The DPLA wanted to avoid this, letting folks pull data through APIs and display it however they want. When we start freeing our stuff from the containers, we start seeing some new research questions and scholarship.

“Local collections are the dark matter of a linked data world.” -Susan Hildreth, Director of IMLS

Catalog and pay attention to the unique things that are at your institution. We need original catalogers back. This is the golden age for catalogers. We need to reinvent the way we process the hard and difficult things to describe. It’s about the services, not the stuff.

If the car was developed in the library, it would have been called the e-horse. Please don’t hire a data curation librarian or eresearch librarian or … data and local content is everyone’s job. The silos have to come down in our services, too. By silo-ing off the jobs, we’re not harnessing the power of the network.

Print-based societies needed the buildings, but in the digital society, it’s more about the connections. We should talk about what librarians do, not what libraries do. Do we want to serve our buildings or serve our communities? We cannot allow the care and feeding of our buildings to define us. The mission is what defines us.

Our mission is greater than our job. “Our mission is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” (R. David Lankes) If this isn’t why you show up every day, then maybe it’s time to reassess your life and career choice.

We are a community, with permeable borders, and room at the table for everyone. But, this causes a lot of fear and anxiety, and can raise the spectre of the snark. This is detrimental to open community development.

Snark: “I really wish the DPLA would do ___.”
Frick: “The DPLA is you! Show up!”

If we come with our 10lb hammer to smack down every new idea, we will not be able to move forward.

Vulnerability is “the courage to show up and allow ourselves to be seen.” (Dr. Brene Brown) Be open to feedback — it is a function of respect. Admitting a vulnerability builds strength and trust, and a culture of shared struggle/experience.

We need to hang out with not the usual suspects. If this is the 10th time in a row that you’ve attended a particular conference, maybe you need to try something new. We need to think of librarianship outside of our normal communities.

The hacker epistemology says to adopt a problem-solving mindset, and the truth is what works. Our “always” of doing things will not translate to the networked world. The #ideadrop house was a wild success. People wanted to share their ideas with librarians!

Jason Griffey created the library boxes — small hard drives with wifi capability that allow anyone to access and download the content. They put them everywhere at SXSW — pedicabs, volunteers carrying them around, etc.

How do you communicate your ideas to people outside of your community?

In this world of networked individualism, our success is up to us. We have to have a personal responsibility to the longevity and success of our profession. This golden moment for librarianship is brief, so we have to act now. Be engaged. Be there.

How do you lead? Leadership is not being an AUL or head of a department. We lead by example, no matter where you are.

The stuff that’s easy to count really isn’t important. We need to have a national holiday from performance metrics.

Dare a little. Be more open. Take more risks, even if they’re small. Be easy on yourself.

ER&L 2013: Overcoming Librarian Resistance to Adopting Discovery Tools — A Focus on Information Literacy Opportunities

“X-Factor” by Andy Rennie

Speaker: Stefanie Buck (Oregon State University)

It’s safe to say that discovery products have not received a positive response from the librarians who are expected to use them. We always talk about the users, and we forget that librarians are users, and are probably in them more than the typical freshman. They are new, and new things can be scary.

OSU has Summon, which they brought up in 2010. She thinks that even though this is mostly about her experience with Summon, it can be applied to other discovery tools and libraries. They had a federated search from 2003-2010, but toward the latter years, librarians had stopped teaching it, so when discovery services came along, they went that way.

Initially, librarians had a negative view of the one search box because of their negative experience with federated searching. Through the process of the implementation, they gathered feedback from the librarians, and the librarians were hopeful that this might live up to the promise that federated search did not. They also surveyed librarians outside of OSU, and found a broad range from love it to not over my dead body, but most lived in the middle, where it depended on the context.

Most librarians think they will use a discovery tool in teaching lower division undergraduates, but it depends if it’s appropriate or not. The promise of a discovery tool is that librarians don’t have to spend so much time teaching different tools, so they could spend more time talking about evaluating sources and the iterative process of research. Some think they actually will do that, but for now, they have simply added the discovery tool to the mix.

Participation in the implementation process is key for getting folks on board. When librarians are told “you must,” it doesn’t go over very well. Providing training and instruction is essential. There might be some negative feedback from the students until they get used to it, and librarians need to be prepared for that. Librarians need to understand how it works and where the limitations fall. Don’t underestimate the abilities of librarians to work around you.

These tools are always changing. Make sure that folks know that it has improved if they don’t like it at first. Make fun (and useful) tools, and that the librarians know how to create scoped tools that they can use for specific courses. If you have a “not over my dead body,” team teaching might be a good approach to show them that it could be useful.

Speaker: Leslie Moyo & Tracy Gilmore (Virginia Tech)

Initially there were mixed perceptions, but more are starting to incorporate it into their instruction. With so many products out there, we really need to move away from teaching all of them and spending more time on good research/search skills.

Students “get” discovery services faster if it is introduced as the Google of library stuff.

Move away from teaching sources and towards teaching the process. Enhance the power of boolean searching with faceted searching. Shift from deliberate format searching (book, article, etc.) toward mixed format results that are most relevant to the search.