12 March 2013

Migrated to malbooth.com

I've migrated this blog to malbooth.com on WordPress. I'll be posting on it there from now on.
I hope to catch up with you over there. Mal

21 February 2013

Doing what is right, or following Aaron Swartz' example

Please watch this lecture by Lawrence Lessig on Aaron's Laws - Law and Justice in the Digital Age.

It is a really moving address about our obligation to try to do what is right for humanity.
It is about the need to reform dumb law.
It is about how we can honour Aaron's legacy.
It is about Aaron's form of civil disobedience and whether he actually caused any real harm.
It is about celebrating his hacking activity to advance the public good.
It addresses Aaron's pursuit of social justice and his fight against corruption.
It is about the absurdity of our continuous promotion of the knowledge elite who have privileged access to publicly funded research through their membership of "elite institutions".
It is about publishers selling access to research that is funded by governments.
And it is also about those who have not so much access to this knowledge.
It is about Aaron's Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
It is about whether Aaron's crime was to hoard vast amounts of research material that he downloaded from JSTOR at MIT; or whether he wanted to use it for research purposes; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the Third World; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the whole world.
It is about what real harm can be cause by computer crime in cyber-space.
It is about a government bullying an individual and playing the example justice game in their disproportionate response to his "crimes".
It is about what we should do under unjust laws when the remedy is worse than the evil (apologies to Henry David Thoreau).
It is about recognising the cause of corruption and fixing the system.
And it is about fixing the obliviousness of our daily lives when we work within such systems and laws.

19 February 2013

Researchers & social media

In early February I was asked to participate in a discussion on the use of social media by researchers for our 2013 Research Week. I was joined by @jennaprice and we mostly agreed with each other. Mostly ...

I based my talking points on the content of two presentations that I have uploaded to SlideShare. They are among the most popular of my 30 or so uploads and here is the most recent version: Make me famous with social media

For those who prefer the most recent discussion, here are a few words based on the rough notes that I used.

I started by saying that I recognise the ephemeral nature of almost all social media posts. I am not really sure that any institutions needs to try to record all of it. A lot of it is complete rubbish and quite meaningless without the context of time, place and others participating in the same conversation or open discussion. As Clay Shirky has said though, it does represent a connective tissue that fuses both public and personal media and that is what makes it so significant, at least in our time. For researchers it can assist in connections, communication, the provision of sometimes instant feedback or responses, increased reach and in finding your own "voice". One of social media's key and perhaps most valuable characteristics is that it allows and encourages us to share; it helps facilitate altruism and that is a real benefit (as long as it lasts).

So, if we take a quick look at three key platforms as an example for researchers and what they can do with them:

  • TWITTER - helps with connections, asking for help, news, "voice", sharing and searching.
  • ACADEMIA.EDU - basically Facebook for academics (without the ads). It is not as well used here as it seems to be in the US, but has huge potential to facilitate better academic social networks. (Jenna didn't agree with me on this one.)
  • BLOGS - allow you to test ideas and to share, practice, ideate and form or contribute tio various communities of research practice.
My tips and advice for researchers who want to use social media:

  • Start with your own community
  • Keep it in perspective (see the note above re the ephemeral nature of social media and social networks)
  • Listen (it is a two way street, not simply a public broadcast media)
  • Engage - I doubt you'll fully realise the potential benefits by just lurking
  • Play, fail, learn - most social networks are very forgiving
  • Respect others and their acknowledge their generosity
  • Be real - I'm not at all a fan of anonymity on the social web
  • Be careful how much you reveal about yourself and your long term research (Jenna reminded us that most researchers, like journalists like to be the first to publish)
  • Don't feed the trolls!
  • Be patient - it isn't always instantaneous and not everyone is always connected and always paying attention
Finally I said that for some researchers in a highly competitive market for research funding that social media can lead to the creation of a higher public profile (which then needs some management). This might be combined with sharing (via Open Acces publication), clever use of social networks and altmetrics to deliver crowd-funding for your research.

15 February 2013

Sketch-notes - Swing is the Soul of the Groove

Dick Rijken keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013
Dick Rijken's keynote Swing is the Soul of the Groove was one that I arranged, so again, maybe I am biased here, but I loved it. It seemed to me at least that the whole week flowed into his final keynote and he nicely wrapped up many of the main themes. He stressed culture over the vogue words: creativity and innovation. He illustrated his points with visual and musical storytelling and I was in two minds as to whether I should just watch of try to record some thoughts and reminders.

It was fantastic to hear someone of his standing reminding us of the importance of things like ambiguity, not knowing or understanding, romanticism, aestheticism, experimentation and trusting our intuition. All are hard to tie down, to justify or to measure quantitatively, but in the end are they not some of the things that distinguish us from robots or automatons? And certainly I think they are critical to our sector. For too long I think we've been obsessed with making things more efficient, more specialised, less connected and easily measured. We need to rediscover the underlying meaning in what we do. As Dick said, an artistic mentality can be very helpful to us in finding that meaning and in truly understanding what we are supposed to be doing.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Dick last week and to present a workshop with him last Friday. Not only did I learn a great deal from him, I was stimulated and energised by the many discussions we had.

Sketch-notes - Pirate Party

Anna Troberg keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013
Anna Troberg leads the Swedish Pirate Party and she gave us very strong encouragement to raise hell about quite a few issues. We are "too passive and too nice!". She sees information and culture as wealth and reminded us that we have a key role in preserving access to them. Anna said that culture always finds a way forward, but outdated Copyright law needed reform as it now served to block cultural flow and even to hide cultural assets.

So what are we all waiting for? Let's raise some hell!

Sketch-notes - social media in public libraries

Kathleen Smeaton's study
ALIA Information Online 2013

Sketch-notes - NBN and libraries

Warren Cheatham
ALIA Information Online 2013
This was an interactive awareness-raising session led by Warren Cheatham from Townsville. It showed us the librarian as advocate for government programs and how to assist in understanding. He encouraged debate about many of the differing perceptions of something many of us simply do not fully understand and I think he also got us to think about its potential for libraries (if it isn't killed with a stick by a different governing party). Thanks Warren.

One thing Warren and I discussed was the potential of the NBN to provide a catalyst that unites the whole Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector on a new path towards cultural digital collaboration. This is an area in which Australia is sadly lacking and perhaps the power of the NBN could bring our sector together.