Tag Archives: libraries

A Good American

Surveillance, Self-Censorship and Social Justice

This week I took part in a panel discussion and Q&A following the screening of the film A Good American, which tells the story of individuals involved in the development of the ThinThread surveillance programme in the USA and how it was killed off by the NSA in favour of the more expensive, intrusive and ineffective Trailblazer programme. The film was incredibly interesting and educational, and I’d seriously recommend giving it a watch if you can. As someone relatively new to issues around mass surveillance, I thought the film provided a really easy to follow and engaging history and insight into the technology of why and how mass surveillance functions, and the implications for people’s privacy.

We were also honoured to be joined by Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders, as well as Bill Binney, a former NSA Technical Director, and Kirk Wiebe, a former NSA Senior Analyst. Bill and Kirk featured heavily in the film itself and were two of the key individuals behind the ThinThread programme. Being able to ask them questions and hear their views on the UK and the implications of the Investigatory Powers Act was a real privilege, albeit in a very worrying context.

I was asked to talk about the implications of mass surveillance on freedom of expression and access to information, as well as the role of libraries and librarians in helping people protect their privacy. For once, I wrote a rough script! I’ve posted it below.

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David McMenemy and I are currently working with Nik and Scottish PEN on a study of Scottish writers’ conceptions of surveillance and its potential impact on freedom of expression. This is a follow-up study to a survey conducted by American PEN and PEN International in other countries. PEN American Center (2013) says:

We know—historically, from writers and intellectuals in the Soviet Bloc, and contemporaneously from writers, thinkers, and artists in China, Iran, and elsewhere—that aggressive surveillance regimes limit discourse and distort the flow of information and ideas. But what about the new democratic surveillance states?

PEN’s original study gave participants the chance to discuss their concerns around surveillance, and the significant themes included writers’ self-censorship and fear that their communications would bring harm to themselves, their friends, and their sources.

They found that writers are self-censoring their work and their online activity due to their fears that commenting on, researching, or writing about certain issues will cause them harm. For example, writers reported self-censoring on subjects including military affairs, the Middle East North Africa region, mass incarceration, drug policies, pornography, the Occupy movement, the study of certain languages, and criticism of the U.S. government.

The fear of surveillance—and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers — has prompted writers to change their behaviour in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information.

For example, significant numbers have:

  • Curtailed or avoided social media activities,
  • Deliberately avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations,
  • Avoided writing or speaking about a particular topic,
  • Refrained from conducting internet searches or visiting websites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious,
  • Taken extra steps to disguise or cover their digital footprints, or
  • Declined opportunities to meet or speak to people who might be deemed security threats by the government.

We have replicated this study in the Scottish context, and an initial look at the results shows very similar findings. We are seeing that writers are following news stories about government surveillance efforts within the UK, are worried about current levels of government surveillance of Britons, and have concerns about corporate and government surveillance.

The behaviour being described by writers, about the steps they are taking to protect themselves from becoming victims of the surveillance state, in many cases takes the form of self-censorship. They are simply not engaging with areas of intellectual and public life that they otherwise would do.

Implications of self-censorship

One troubling aspect of self-censorship is that it is impossible to know what contributions to society are being lost because of it. PEN (2013) raises the important issue that “we will never know what books or articles may have been written that would have shaped the world’s thinking on a particular topic if they are not written because potential authors are afraid that their work would invite retribution”. We know that many writers, academics and members of society more widely, are hesitant to communicate their thoughts because of rational concerns around surveillance.

This has implications not only for culture, but for social justice and human rights.

Social justice and human rights

From a social justice perspective, surveillance creates a panoptical environment in which people’s sense of being watched affects their everyday lives. People respond differently to these circumstances; some feeling more secure and safe, and others much less so. We simply do not know enough about the psychological impacts of living under highly surveilled circumstances to anticipate what impact it will have on people throughout the course of their lives. We do know that members of minority groups are more likely to be surveilled (Renderos 2016), thereby adding to the existing conditions of relative disadvantage and increased systemic violence and oppression. As Malkia Cyril states, “lawful democratic activism is being monitored illegally without a warrant” and encryption technologies offer vulnerable groups such as people of colour, immigrants, welfare recipients and political activists who challenge the status quo, the ability to more safely exercise their democratic rights (Renderos 2016).

Resistance

Avoiding mass surveillance is not a simple case of opting out of using certain resources. Even people using the most secure tools that offer protection against surveillance of content (what is being said) cannot protect themselves fully from being surveilled at the level of metadata (when/where/to whom it is being said – which in itself provides a lot of detail about what may have been said). Additionally, many people feel like they can’t avoid engaging with insecure means of communication that the majority of their networks and wider society are engaging with, if they want to avoid marginalisation. However, many people simply do not comprehend the extent of surveillance made possible by these technologies – they do not know the extent of the surveillance they are subject to. Whereas many of the participants in our self-censorship and surveillance survey described their awareness and the steps they have taken to increase their security, writers are largely a relatively privileged group. Members of society more widely do not have the benefits and knowledge that many of us do have.

I think we therefore need to teach the public about surveillance – both to help raise awareness of the fallacy that “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” (Coustick-Deal 2015) and help people to resist it, through challenging policies and laws as well as equipping themselves with the skills and resources to protect their privacy. There is an increasing interest in this work from librarians who want to help their users protect their online security in terms of both corporate and state surveillance. Scottish PEN has been working with the US-based Library Freedom Project to develop a toolkit for libraries so they can advise users on the software and practices they can employ to protect themselves. Libraries and groups like the Open Rights Group and Radical Librarians Collective have held cryptoparties to help people with their ‘privacy checklists’ around encryption and other actions they can take.

We need to do more than this, however. As educators, librarians need to resist policies and interventions such as the Prevent initiative, which asks university and school staff to watch out for the ‘potential radicalisation’ of the students in their institutions. The Government has implemented training on how to spot ‘radical ideologies’ (including Islamic extremism and anti-capitalist agendas) and legally binds them to report these to the authorities who then have the right to question their friends and family, seize any and all academic work by the suspected student, and investigate other aspects of their public and private lives. For example, a student at Staffordshire University on their Terrorism, Crime and Global Security course was questioned by university security after being reported by library staff for being seen reading a book about terrorism, in the library. He subsequently withdrew from his course. This is one of many accounts of actions that Ali Milani (2016) describes as “creating and propagating a narrative of suspicion around an entire community”.

With the rise of the surveillance state, these events are going to become more common, and have more of an impact on people’s rights to education, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Even without the explicit removal of these rights, the oppressive systems of surveillance we are increasingly encountering will have extremely negative impacts on the universal rights of those who most need them.

References

Coustick-Deal, R. (2015). Responding to “Nothing to hide, Nothing to fear”. https://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2015/responding-to-nothing-to-hide-nothing-to-fear

Milani, A. (2016). Dear Owen Smith – Backing the Racist Prevent Strategy Won’t Win You This Election, It’ll Lose Labour Votes. Huffington Post Blog, 12th August 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ali-milani/owen-smith-prevent-strategy_b_11468406.html

PEN American Center (2013). Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor.  https://pen.org/sites/default/files/Chilling%20Effects_PEN%20American.pdf

Renderos, S. (2016). To the next POTUS: For communities of colour, encryption is a civil right. TechCrunch, 6th May 2016. https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/06/to-the-next-potus-for-communities-of-color-encryption-is-a-civil-right/?utm_content=bufferc64aa&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Tucker, I. Ellis, D. and Harper, D. (2016) Experiencing the ‘surveillance society’. The psychologist, 29, pp.682-685. https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-29/september/experiencing-surveillance-society

[Image: Still from A Good American, Slingshot Films]

2014-05-10 18.41.50

Radical Librarians Collective (Part Four): Libraries and Youth

Part Four of a series of posts on the Radical Librarians’ Collective event that took place on 10th May 2014 at the London Action Resource Centre in Whitechapel, London.

This post is about the Libraries and Youth session pitched by Erin.

This is the mindmap for the session (click on the image for full size), which was really interesting and I found very useful for getting an insight into how youth work can contribute to an understanding of the role of libraries and library workers in relation to young people.

libraries and youth mindmap

Are youths using libraries?

One of the first things we talked about was whether or not young people are making use of libraries. The answer, of course, is not simple. Some are, some aren’t. Some do a lot of the time, some only when they have assignments. Some only visit the library in the school holidays. Some borrow books, but a lot only use the computers. Some don’t use it for work at all and use it as a social space. Some of the main questions raised in relation to this were:

  • How do we address the ‘drop-off’ that happens when children reach a certain age? Is it a habit we can get them to form?
  • Do we need to address it, and should we? Do libraries have anything to offer that they don’t already get elsewhere?
  • How do we reflect usage in statistics if they aren’t borrowing books?

Why aren’t they using libraries?

Young people don’t use libraries for a lot of reasons, and some of them relate to library practice. It’s important to acknowledge that young people aren’t a homogeneous group, but have different desires and needs, and there are intersectional issues such as disability which need to be considered. There are also tensions between groups in communities which can discourage library use. We talked about the ways use by young people is discouraged in our practice; there are often no dedicated children’s or young people’s librarians within library services. Another big problem identified was floor-walking – the staff hate it and the users hate it. There are particular issues relating to young people, such as potential embarrassment about being approached by a member of staff, especially if they’re looking for materials about something they might not want anyone to know about, such as sexual health information, resources about sexuality, or other information relating to sensitive areas of their everyday life.

‘Problem behaviour’

We also talked about dealing with the antagonistic relationship young people and libraries/library workers often have, including ‘problem behaviour’ and how to establish relationships with younger users so we can challenge it. We talked about how authoritarian librarians can and should be, how this can create resistance from young people, and how it’s difficult to work out relationships when staff don’t have experience of developing pastoral skills. There are some serious issues to consider, such as aggressive behaviour (and the possession of weapons) which can be very scary for staff to deal with.

What is the role of libraries/librarians?

Another topic we discussed was the tension between libraries as a public space (which are of value for young people to use because they are often the only place available where people aren’t expected to spend money) and the ways in which libraries may be expected to fill in gaps in welfare which may only serve to mask problems such as a lack of public resources.

How can we encourage use?

Some really good ideas came out of the discussion about how we can encourage library use on a practical level. For example, although it’s hard to establish and maintain the right lines of rules and regulations, it can be effective to make sure when you have to enforce rules (like ‘no sitting on each others’ laps!) to tell whoever it is doing something wrong that “I like you and you’re welcome here BUT…this is not acceptable”. We also talked about relaxing rules wherever possible, including internet filtering, which is rubbish and ineffective anyway. The idea of makerspaces was also brought up, which ties into the ideas about working out what the role of libraries actually is and whether diversification/over-diversification is an opportunity or a terrible mistake…

What’s youth work got to do with it?

I found Erin’s insights from youth work really valuable, particularly ideas about the voluntary principle and how it has to be the young person’s choice to engage with an activity or a youth worker. A suggestion about how to encourage young people to use the libraries was for local authorities to hire a dedicated youth worker to bring groups into the library and work with the library to run events, programmes and generally help young people to get an idea about how libraries can be really useful for study and leisure. Another idea was to develop youth steering groups, which as well as helping libraries to develop their services to be geared towards young people in ways they’d actually want to engage with, also provides those involved with an example of the democratic process and experience of engaging with local civic activities. Being brought into libraries through a youth work context can also help young people to establish and think about appropriate boundaries in different contexts and build relationships.

 

 

 

censorship

Challenging Censorship in Scottish Libraries

Just a brief post to plug an event being run by my supervisor David McMenemy at the end of April. Although its focus is on Scottish libraries, the talks will be of interest and relevance to a UK-wide audience and we’re hoping that there’ll be some good discussions.

Challenging Censorship in Scottish Libraries
Towards a Collaborative Solution

Tuesday, 30th April 2013 (5:30 pm – 8:30 pm)
Venue: SIPBS Hamnett Wing
Room: 112-114

Research by the University of Strathclyde has highlighted issues around censorship in public and school libraries in Scotland that affect provision of both paper and digital services.  Evidence suggests that an over-riding factor is the lack of a coordinated national policy approach to censorship issues in libraries.

This event will present the evidence, consider professional ethical codes and practitioner experiences, and aims to propose workable solutions to take forward collaboratively after the session.

Who should attend?

  • Library and information professionals
  • Authors
  • Publishing professionals
  • Students and researchers in library and information science or freedom of expression 

Benefits of attending

  • Open a debate in the sector on this hot topic
  • Build relationships with University of Strathclyde researchers
  • Build relationships with future funding partners
  • Promote collaboration between practitioners
  • Promote freedom of expression

Contact

T: +44 (0)141 548 3045

The event is free to attend and you can register online through the event page.

One Year In

A very overdue update on what I’ve been up to!

I’ve reached the one year mark in the PhD process and although there’s a very long way to go with a lot of hard work ahead, apparently I’m on track! My research topic’s altered slightly and become more specific, from the role of public libraries in supporting and encouraging democratic engagement, to the ways critical information literacy instruction can enable people to have political agency, which isn’t all that different in the ultimate goal of contributing to a stronger democracy, but is significantly different that I’ve got to connect the dots and make it clear that it does connect to the original proposal somehow.

So, I submitted a written report on my progress so far and where I’m going next, and yesterday I gave a presentation to my supervisors and another member of the department, who made really helpful recommendations and suggestions. It really wasn’t as terrifying or stressful as I was expecting! It was a positive experience and has re-enthused me after a bit of a difficult winter. I have a lot of work to do still, but this is where I am so far:

In terms of presenting on my work and library-related things, I’ve had some great opportunities in the last year, most of which I’ve already written about. Here’s the presentation I gave at the SHARP Conference in Dublin, and updated and gave to some Masters students in the department a couple of weeks ago:

What’s next? My fieldwork starts in April, so I’ve got to get my methodology up to scratch before then, I’d like to make more progress on my literature review and I’ve got a couple of papers to write for the LILAC and Umbrella conferences, both of which I’m really looking forward to. The LILAC paper will focus mainly on my methods/methodology and what I’m aiming towards, and the Umbrella paper is a discussion of professional issues regarding the responsibilities of library and information workers to engage with substantive, political issues in information literacy education. I’ve applied to present at another couple of conferences and I’m going to try for an ESRC internship for the summer/autumn.

LIS DREaM Workshop 3: Edinburgh

Last week I attended the last of three workshops in the LIS DREaM series, in Edinburgh (I’ve also reported on workshops one and two). The sessions were all informative, and some were of particular interest as potential research methods for my PhD.

Repertory Grids

I found the session on repertory grids particularly useful. The repertory grid (RG) is an interviewing technique that enables the researcher to elicit “both the conceptual content embodied in an individual’s mental model and the relationships which exist among these concepts” (Latta and Swigger, 1992). This is something I’m going to investigate further because a lot of the reading I’ve been doing around political behaviour and how people conceptualise politics highlight the issue that politics is a very personal topic. In addition, people’s attitudes and behaviours are not always rational or directly influenced by knowledge, and are often influenced by heuristics or rules of thumb.

I want to talk to teenagers about their attitudes towards politics and participation, and what political issues they think are important to them, rather than assuming that I know what matters to young people. In order to do that properly, and talk about issues that are actually relevant, I need to be able to identify and define those topics. The use of repertory grids as a scoping tool prior to in-depth interviews seems like a good way of doing this. Dr. Turner pointed out that using a method like this with cards and scraps of paper is a very unthreatening way of getting a lot of information out of people, and I think this will be a benefit when talking about such a personal and potentially emotionally-charged issue.

I can also use my findings to identify any possible trends and groupings of concepts when the data from the grids is turned into chart form. Dr. Turner recommended Repgrid for this, but there’s also an open source alternative. OpenRepGrid – this is an add-on to R, which is free statistical computing software. I’d never heard of R until a Researcher’s Digest session in my department a few weeks ago, and I’ve never used statistical software before, so at some point in the future I’m going to have to acquaint myself with it. I imagine bucket-loads of coffee will be required.

This week I’m reading about the use of RGs in Information Science, including the following journal articles:

  • Birdi, B. (2011). ‘Investigating fiction reader characteristics using personal construct theory’. Aslib Proceedings, 63 (2/3), pp.275-294.
  • Crudge, S.E. & Johnson, F.C. (2004). ‘Using the information seeker to elicit construct models for search engine evaluation’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55 (9), pp.794-806. 
  • Latta, G.F. & Swigger, K. (1992). ‘Validation of the Repertory Grid for Use in Modeling Knowledge’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 43 (2), p.115.
  • Madigan, D. et al. (1995). ‘Repertory hypergrids for large-scale hypermedia linking’. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, pp.465-481.
  • McKnight, C. (2000). ‘The personal construction of information space’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51 (8), pp.730-733.
  • Mengshoel, O.J. (1995). ‘A reformulation technique and tool for knowledge interchange during knowledge acquisition’. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, pp.177-212.
  • Oppenheim, C., Stenson, J. & Wilson, R.M.S. (2003). ‘Studies on Information as an Asset II: Repertory Grid’. Journal of Information Science, 29 (5), pp.419-432.
  • Potthoff, J.K. et al. (2000). ‘An Evaluation of Patron Perceptions of Library Space Using the Role Repertory Grid Procedure’. College and Research Libraries, 61 (3), pp.191-203.
  • Rugg, G. & McGeorge, P. (2005). ‘The sorting techniques: a tutorial paper on card sorts, picture sorts and item sorts’. Expert Systems, 22 (3), pp.94-107.
  • Whyte, G., Bytheway, A. & Edwards, C. (1997). ‘Understanding user perceptions of information systems success’. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 6 (1), pp.35-68.

Discussions about research and practice

Much as the sessions were all interesting introductions to different research methods, I found that the conversations snuck in between talks were also of great value (and wish we’d had time for more). Along with the final session of the day – impact snakes and ladders – I found that some issues I have about the ‘state of the profession’ and current goings on are shared with others. For the final session we were split into groups and asked to answer some questions, then join with another group to share our responses, which roughly lined up with one another. My group, full-time PhD researchers, was paired with the group of public library workers.

The questions we were asked to answer were these:

  1. To what extent do you consider that it is a PhD student’s responsibility to ensure that their PhD study has impact?
  2. What strategies have members of your group developed to ensure that your PhD project is having/has impact?
  3. Are there any particular difficulties with ensuring that your project has impact when you are a PhD student?

And the public librarians were asked these:

LIS researchers would like to complete projects to support librarians in delivering their services.
a) What do researchers need to do to make this happen?
b) Are there any particular difficulties for public librarians in accessing and using LIS research? How could these be addressed?

We were asked to discuss issues of relationships between research and practice and come up with recommendations about how to improve communication and getting research into practice etc. The usual suggestions came up, including ‘continuous discourse’, ‘networking events’ and ‘communicating with each other’. This is all well and good, and I appreciate the value of events such as the LIS DREaM Project and the work that goes into them, but I think the issues we have go far deeper than putting researchers and a few interested practitioners in a room with each other. No amount of that will solve the underlying systemic issues that exist within higher levels of the profession, and stem from a lack of appreciation of the values and principles of public libraries and the point of academic research.

This isn’t something new and is an ongoing problem. A number of our ‘solutions’, ironically, were things that used to exist. And quite frankly, it’s a crime that they don’t any more. Public Library Journal, for example, was the only UK journal that published the kind of research that’s actually useful and potentially implementable by practitioners. And without consultation or notice, CILIP killed it.

We suggested publishing research that promoted improvement and innovation in library services, and demonstrated the value of libraries to society. If only there was some kind of government department that ‘got’ that kind of thing. It could maybe include related services…museums, and archives, perhaps. We could call it the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. What’s that, we had one? Oh, the coalition government got rid of it? Bummer.

A number of us also felt quite strongly that although high-quality research is being conducted in academic departments across the UK, its impact is severely limited if those in control within library services find it inconvenient to listen and respond to the results in a meaningful way. This is if researchers can even get access to library services to research within in the first place, which for various reasons can be incredibly difficult.

Thanks to Hazel and everyone involved in the workshop for another useful and thought-provoking day.

SHARP Conference, Dublin

I’m going to be speaking at the SHARP Conference in Dublin at the end of June, with Professor Claire Squires and my supervisor David McMenemy. In fact, we’re lucky enough (?) to be the very first session on the very first day of the conference. The programme is available here.

Our bit is about this:

The Fight for Libraries: 21st Century Advocacy, Austerity and Alliance

  • David McMenemy (University of Strathclyde) Losing the library faith? The public library ethos in an era of austerity
  • Lauren Smith (University of Strathclyde) Advocating for libraries in an era of cuts
  • Claire Squires (University of Stirling) Uneasy Alliances: Libraries and the UK Book Trade in the 21st Century

I’m really excited to be presenting for the first time as a PhD researcher (although what I’ll be talking about isn’t within the remit of my research and is based on my experiences and what I’ve learnt over the last couple of years as an activist/advocate/interested party) and it looks like a really varied programme with an audience who might not usually be exposed to library and information science research and goings on, which is always a good thing. I’m a bit disappointed that I’ll be missing Alistair Black’s session, which will be happening at the same time as mine, but I’m looking forward to the rest of my time there.

Here’s a bit of blurb about the conference:

The 20th Annual SHARP Conference
The Battle for Books
26-29 June 2012
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

“In a city like Dublin, which has been home to Swift, Wilde and Joyce one
naturally thinks of ‘The Battle for Books’ in terms of censorship,
constraint and restraint. This major international conference will address
these topics but will also consider the concept of ‘the battle for books’ as
broadly as possible.

More than 180 papers will be presented at the conference. Keynote speakers
include Professor Ann Blair (Harvard), Professor Germaine Warkentin (Toronto),
Professor Nicholas Cronk (Oxford), Professor Claire Connolly (Cardiff),
Professor James Raven (Essex), and Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS.

This conference will bring the leading practitioners in the field of ‘book
history’ from around the world to Dublin, a city which has recently been
designed as a UNESCO City of Literature.

If you are interested in books, and the cultural, social and economic
conditions in which books are produced and consumed, you should not miss this
conference.”

AHRC Justice Symposium

I’m going to be submitting a position paper to the AHRC Justice Symposium that’s being held at the University of Stirling on Saturday 28th April. I think it’s a really good opportunity for Computer and Information Science researchers to make contact and share ideas with researchers in  other disciplines, as well as being good practice for presenting in an academic environment, so I thought I’d share the details in case there are other Strathclyde or Stirling students who’d like to get involved.

Any Strathclyde/Stirling students wishing to participate in the event should email  graeme.t.brown@strath.ac.uk by no later than Friday 30th March for a booking form, and ensure that they provide a brief outline of the intended topic and content of the position paper to be presented.

Students and staff from Strathclyde will be able to take advantage of free transport from campus to the symposium and lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day, again free of charge.

The purpose of the event is to bring together researchers and students from Strathclyde and Stirling in intellectual debate and discussion, and to mark the establishment of the Consortium agreement that now exists between our universities.  As you may know, the Consortium has attracted significant financial support in the form of studentships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

There will be two main elements to the symposium. In the morning, staff and students will gather to hear a keynote address from Chris Mullin, the author, journalist and former MP who served as a minister in three departments of British government and was chairman of the Home Affairs select committee. Chris Mullin’s books include three highly acclaimed volumes of diaries, “A View from the Foothills”, “Decline and Fall”, and “A Walk-On Part”, along with the novel “A Very British Coup”, which was made into an award-winning television series. His “Error of Judgement – the truth about the Birmingham Bombings” led to the correction of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history, and was made into a drama documentary by Granada Television.

After lunch, delegates will be able to attend round-table discussions on the theme of Justice as it relates to their specific subject area, be that History, Literature, Creative Writing, Publishing Studies, Journalism, or Archives and Information Sciences.

The CIS strand of the BGP Consortium Symposium invites staff and students from Strathclyde and Stirling universities, who are working in CIS related areas, to present position papers of no more than 10 minutes on a CIS specific topic that is closely related to the overarching symposium theme of justice. Due to time constraints the number of presentations will be limited to four.

The structure of the CIS specific event is designed to break down into two broad sections. The first section will consist of the position paper presentations. This will be followed by a discussion session that relates the specific topics covered within each of the presentations to broader issues within the justice theme that are relevant to the CIS discipline.

The justice theme of the BGP Consortium symposium is particularly relevant to the CIS discipline and can be approached from multiple perspectives.  It is not the intention here to produce an exhaustive or exclusive list of topics that participants may discuss, but a range of potential topics are offered below that that may or may not be taken up by participants.

Social Justice

  • The public financing of public libraries and information services; the nature and consequences of privatisation of public libraries and information services and the consequences of specific treaties such as GATS.
  • The extent, nature and consequences of neoliberal and neoconservative policies on publicly funded information services.
  • Information poverty and the digital divide(s). This could be related to other broad concepts such as equity of access and information literacy or more specific areas such as the way individuals access healthcare information or political knowledge to engage with democratic processes (or the role information providers play in providing this information).

Censorship and bias

  • An examination of the way information was/is provided under totalitarian regimes: can social media undermine certain aspects of state sponsored censorship?
  • What are the implications of search engines censoring results and in the case of Google, closing certain AdSense accounts?
  • The extent and effects of self-censorship: what were the effects (actual or potential) of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1998, which stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”, on library collection policies.
  • What are the effects of internet filtering software on the ability of public library users to search for information online?

Citizen Involvement

  • What impact is the ‘guerrilla librarian’ movement on social justice having and can the profession learn from it?
  • What role did social media and citizen journalism play in the Arab Spring uprisings?
  • Does unmediated content delivery on the internet constitute a fairer platform for discussion or are the traditional publishing avenues still necessary to ensure provenance and reliability?

Legislation and Privacy

  • Does Freedom of Information legislation make public bodies more accountable and improve social justice?
  • In what way has legislation such as the PATRIOT Act in the United States had an impact upon data mining and data protection?

View over Airthrey Loch, University of Stirling (cc Astacus on flickr)