Social(ly aware) Networking

valessiobrito_Plate_Computer_Privacy

You may recall that I posted a couple weeks ago about Caitlin Seida and her experience with a personal image of her going viral. I wrote that her story serves as a lesson to all of us who maintain presences online.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. I do make a concerted effort to actively manage my privacy settings online. And beyond this, I truly believe in the importance of not posting anything online that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with everyone seeing.

That said, I think that many who are social online have been scared to the point of silence. That fear of being judged, or even bullied, can be extremely oppressive. And it’s not easy to put yourself “out there”. But in my opinion, social networking should be based on sharing and communicating, rather than fear. I think that access to the Internet and to community websites and services should allow us to connect to one another on a more personal level, if we so choose. As such, I am an advocate for socially-aware networking.

In my opinion, many of the same rules apply online as in real life regarding privacy, safety and acceptable behaviour. It seems almost natural to feel a sense of invincibility or displacement while sitting behind a screen. But the people who access this information are real, and their responses can have consequences.

As Bilbo Baggins once said, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

One way or another, if we interact on a daily basis, we will learn some surprising things about each other. So in the spirit of this, I’ve compiled a picture list of 5 (potentially nerdy) things I like to do that you might not know about if we have yet to meet.

538395_3596467398390_1404560947_n

I draw in my spare time.

246877_224285267581874_189265_n

I cosplay. Here I am dressed as Quistis Trepe from the game Final Fantasy VII at a local charity event.

sd

I collect cameos. I like how each face is different and has its own expression and personality.

1006025_10201646868961575_80647531_n

I think I have the largest My Little Pony collection in Ontario. I’ve been collecting since I was two. I deal 1980s toys on eBay as a side project.

dfsd

I made some home-made bath products and loved how they turned out. I want to learn how to make more things like this.

I am an artistic type, who is reasonably self-aware and a mild extrovert. I enjoy sharing and posting online and I value others’ perspectives. And while I do believe in maintaining privacy settings online for the purposes of safety, I am not afraid to link to my Facebook address publicly. I would not post content there, or anywhere else online, that I would consider private knowledge. In a world where terms of service and privacy settings change like fashion trends, this seems like the only method that consistently works.

But as for my home address, well, that’s another story.
If you would like to connect with me on Facebook, I can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/mallorykaustin

Book Review: the da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Image
Turning to the first page of the Da Vinci Code, I saw these words in bold italics: “FACT: all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”

One of the most commercially successful novels of all time, Dan Brown’s mystery-thriller has been translated into 42 languages and has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. The novel has been marketed to society as one of the most controversial texts concerning art and religion of all time- despite the fact that it is a work of fiction.

In the story, a prominent curator of the Louvre is found murdered, and a respected professor of “religious symbology”, Robert Langdon, is called in to solve the mystery of the curator’s death. The narrative, though written in third person, is cast mainly from Robert Langdon’s perspective. Thus, the reader is capitulated into a highly controlled, believable theoretical space, and their ability to negotiate their own reading of the art is lessened. The intended hegemonic reading of this book is that the protagonist’s interpretation of art is the only credible or plausible one.

Robert Langdon is apparently a professor of “religious symbology” at Harvard University… But wait. A quick search reveals that Harvard offers no class by such a name! Ahem… anyway. In the book, Robert is described as a “veritable Harrison Ford in tweed” (Page 9). In fact, much like Indiana Jones, Robert is a talented academic who just so happens to be able to execute epic action sequences. It’s like his PhD enables him to dodge bullets at close range while simultaneously solving intricate cryptograms. 

The only people who challenge Robert Langdon’s scholarly authority on Leonardo da Vinci’s art are religious fanatics. The most diabolical of them is Silas, an albino, and a monk of the conservative Catholic Group Opus Dei. He is a tragic character who suffered in poverty and exile until being welcomed into the extremist Catholic cult. His unwavering devotion to the cult, combined with his poor eyesight, signify blindness to the reader. This extends to his inability to see the hidden messages in Leonardo’s art. Just as Langdon’s taste classifies him as a connoisseur, Silas’ lack of regard for art classifies him as barbaric and completely ignorant to the world around him.

Image There seem to be two main theories in this book that engage with Leonardo’s art. The first is that the Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait of Leonardo in drag. As cool as that would be, this idea has been widely refuted by scholars, as the painting has been attributed to a woman of the time. But this emphasizes how Brown has re-appropriated Leonardo, as both a historical person and an artist, to suit his thematic agenda. Referring to Leonardo as a “flamboyant homosexual” (page 45) is just plain derogatory. Regardless of the artist’s sexual orientation, this orientation-based stereotyping and lack of historical basis is pretty unfortunate.

Image

The second claim made is that the character to Jesus’ right in the Last Supper is not the Apostle John, but rather, Mary Magdalene. He claims that the lack of a chalice on the table and the feminine features of the character signify that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were actually married. Anyone with some knowledge of Renaissance art can tell you that a frequent way of depicting John was to show him as a beardless youth.

Imagethe Last Supper by Franciabigio (1514).

Also, why does the mass market book provide no images of the artwork? It interrupts the natural flow of the work of fiction to pause and search images online or in other books. The book is suspiciously set up so that we have to rely wholly on Brown’s “facts”.

One of the most abundant items of support for this book is that it is a splendid page-turner. And I agree. It reads like an action movie. There are 454 pages, and 101 chapters. That’s about 4.5 pages, on average, per chapter! I was ten chapters in before I finished my first cup of tea.

Stephen King once called this novel the “intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese”. That pretty much sums it up for me. It is almost universally digestible, is quick, convenient and enjoyable. It pre-supposes (maybe relies on?) the average reader having a limited grasp of art history. Too bad for me, I studied it for four years in university.

Perhaps this novel represents a good opportunity for us to begin to understand the value of a more active, negotiated reading.

And maybe it’s time we started eating more fettuccine alfredo.

Rating: 2.5/5 (It passes because it passes the time).

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cheers to Caitlin Seida

Caitlin Seida is one brave woman. If you don’t know of her, you really should.

On October 23rd of this year, I came across a great article written by her: “My Embarrassing Picture Went Viral.”

Quick recap- This unflattering image of this beautiful lady had gone viral after she posted it to her own Facebook page:
ImageBut rather than bear the shaming, ridiculing and cruelty of many strangers in silence, Caitlin fought back.

Not only did she speak out, but she did so with an eloquence and grace that I both admire and aspire to. In the face of being called a “fridge raider” by complete strangers, to whom she owed nothing (at best), her response was patient, articulate and pro-active.

She was having a great time that night dressed up as powerful female action hero Lara Croft. Caitlin also has medical conditions which prevent her from maintaining a healthy weight.

So how exactly did Caitlin control the damage done by her image going viral?

  • She examined and restricted her Facebook sharing settings
  • She searched through Facebook’s “like” function to discover who was sharing the images. Interestingly, she was able to attach real names on some of the most offensive commentators. When she confronted these people, the response was generally surprise. Most were shocked that a stranger could see their activities on public pages and track them down, regardless of privacy settings.
  • She issued hundreds of copyright violation notices to have the image removed. She writes that “it was tedious, like pulling weeds out of the planet’s largest garden”.
  • She accepted that this image has spread so much that it will never truly go away, which in part was why she decided to post an article on Salon.com about her experience. In doing so, she re-claimed the image and shared it on her own terms.
  • She now speaks out against mocking viral images.
  • She did a pin-up photo shoot with a photographer friend (she looks stellar in it, by the way).

Caitin’s story serves as a lesson to all of us who maintain a presence online, and also to those who repost and share viral images.

Three cheers for Caitlin. I hope she continues to write and cosplay for years to come.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

the Library Landscape

I recently wrote a paper on changing organizational contexts in the library world, and it got me thinking in metaphors.

I’ve been visiting the same forest for many years. Over the course of time, I have noticed changes in the landscape of the woods, some subtle, but some significant. Fallen trees compost into rich soil, making room for new growth. Animal populations grow and decline, invasive beetles lay waste to certain plant species, and so on. The community changes.

Check out my slideshow of 35 mm images I took of my favourite forest in different seasons:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think that succession in nature seems to bear some resemblance to how the landscape of the library evolves.

And juxtaposing the present with the past contextualizes the world that we operate inside of as information professionals.

In this video from 1947, the occupation of “librarian” as a whole is discussed. The narrator first asks us “Have you a real love of books?” and “Do you like people, and do they like you?” Though the term “books” should unquestionably now extend to “information”, these are two important questions that remain valid for aspiring librarians today.

Well, I mean, you don’t have to like everyone in the world in order to be a librarian. For example, I may not adore the guy who runs my local post office, and has mandated himself to keep all my parcels. He may be consistently rude and dismissive. He may not agree that the face on my I.D. is, in fact, my own. But I still believe that most postal workers are, in general, pretty nice. And that maybe this one has been having a bad day (or a series of them).

And if he ever wanders up to my reference desk looking for a book recommendation, I’ll happily to help him out, and hopefully brighten his day with some good reading material.

So, having “soft skills” like communication, initiative, enthusiasm and innovation really do remain vital to many of our jobs in 2013. And I’d argue that the current socio-economic climate makes it all the more imperative that we information professionals maintain a noticeable presence in society.

But what about the “must love books” part?

Well, the constitution of public library collections has changed considerably in recent years. While we still lend books, the share of non-print items, such as e-books, has tripled in the past ten years. Also, more demand for public access to computers has resulted in their numbers doubling since 2003 (American Library Association 2013).

This huge shift in the way people access and consume information continues to have vast implications for information professionals. But the idea remains, that the power of ideas, of imagination and knowledge, must be recorded, preserved, promoted and used to inspire generations yet to come.

And so as the landscape and scenery of the library changes, and new demands are placed on us, we can add “adaptability” and “resilience” to the list.

Tagged , , , , ,

Freedom of Speech Concerns at Western University

images

It was only my first day of grad school, and I was already sick of reading e-mails.

“Is this going to be more spam?” I sighed while refreshing my inbox. But the message that appeared caught my eye. It was entitled “Freedom of Speech and Assembly” and it was from the Acting Dean of the Faculty of Information and Media Sciences. The information conveyed in the message contents was a second-hand account of a group of student demonstrators. The protesters were handing out pamphlets to students at O-Week on September 4th, when they were supposedly asked to leave by Campus Police.

As someone who values freedom of speech, I was horrified and have been following the story ever since.

I have been thinking about information rights and policy, and wondering what factors came into play here. I’ve been wondering what judgment calls were made here by authorities, particularly regarding students’ rights to transmit potentially significant information. And I have been thinking about the nature of this information, how it has manifested, and what the repercussions of these physical expressions have been.

Braman (1989:239) describes information as a potentially constitutive force, meaning that it can change and mould elements within society. She argues that policymakers should consider it their responsibility to judge whether certain information presents a constitutive force, or if it can be considered a commodity.

Has the university deemed that its students’ awareness of rising tuition fees and corporate involvement is unnecessary? Should the sanctity of the apparently euphoric O-Week be “shielded” from this kind of discourse?

As Western has released no official statement, and officials have merely said that students were asked to move, the information regarding their position remains obscure.

However, a current FIMS student named Jordan Coop has posted an entry on the website for OPENWIDE, which is self-described as “FIMS’ Alternative Publication”. The article, entitled “O-Week to Activists: Your Presence is Not Welcome Here“, includes photographic data of the protest, a first-hand account of what happened, and even a link to the pamphlet the students distributed.

The pamphlets were distributed personally to (mostly first-year) students who were going about their O-Week activities. Turner (2010:5) argues that people prefer to talk to others when seeking and using information. In accordance with this, the demonstrators claimed that their interactions were largely positive and the students quite receptive. Coop writes that they had some rewarding discussions with students, many of whom indicated that they were also frustrated with the rising costs of tuition. Their efforts to inform were largely successful that night.

That is, until the protestors were told to leave by Campus Police.

Turner says that memory is social, rather than individual. Shared experiences, ideas, and language constructs result from constitutive information. Thus, what can be described as social fact is a form of information, categorized in that way because  consensus has been reached to do so. I can’t help but wonder what Western University’s policymakers would do if more students chose to march together on this, or any topic that contradicts the university’s corporate strategies.

I came into this program interested in recording and preserving local history, but it looks like I might leave it as an activist.

SOME FURTHER READING ON THIS SERIOUS ISSUE:

http://www.fims.uwo.ca/about/news/news_items/13-09-20/Freedom_of_speech_and_assembly.aspx

http://www.westerngazette.ca/2013/09/26/western-usc-fail-on-free-speech/

Works Cited

  • Braman, S. (1989). Defining information: An approach for policymakers. Telecommunications Policy, 13(3), 233-242.
  • Buckland, M. (1991). Information as thing. Journal of the American Society of Information Science, 42(5), 351-360.
  • Coop, J. (September 4, 2013). O-Week to Activists: Your Presence is Not Welcome Here. In OPENWIDE. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://openwidezine.com/2013/09/04/o-week-to-activists-your-presence-is-not-welcome-here/.
  • Turner, D. (2010). Orally-based information. Journal of Documentation, 66(3), 370-383.
Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.