Shako Club: how a box lunch made me cry

Here’s the lunch box I received today from Shako Club.

11743007_10153394032260734_6053153501424641400_nI applied to receive a bento box a couple of months ago. The application process was a slightly odd questionnaire that I had some trouble answering. I don’t often get songs stuck in my head and it’s hard to pick my absolute favourite story from my childhood. We were told that our bento contents would be determined by the answers to this questionnaire.

The theme of land, sea, mountains is represented here with:

– top left (land) – chicken karaage, half a boiled egg on lettuce with 2 perfect crunchy cucumber sticks underneath

– top right (sea) red bean jelly made with kanten with a sansho leaves and a wee piece of candied ginger. there was a sliced strawberry hidden under the paper cup that held the jelly.

red bean jelly with ginger and shanso leaves on top that look like a flower

– bottom right (mountain) – veggie gyoza made with okara and spinach goma-ae

– bottom left  – rice with umeboshi

It’s in a gorgeous handmade maple box that’s been oiled with a cute Shako Club stamp on the bottom.

handmade maple bento box

Shako Club stamp

I sat down and Tazuko and I introduced ourselves to each other. There was also a translator who I didn’t introduce myself to until halfway through, which I feel was a bit rude of me. Tazuko talked a little bit about the process that they went through to make the bentos and then invited me to take the lid off and look. She explained the different ingredients and elements of this gorgeous lunch box. I was already familiar with the Japanese ingredients: okara (byproduct of making tofu), sansho leaves and kanten (agar agar).

Tazuko explaining the contents of the lunch box

She asked me if I liked Japanese food and I explained that I’m half Japanese and love Japanese food. I told her that karaage is my favourite and that I have really fond memories of the Japanese food that my Grandma used to make when we would visit each summer. Tazuko told me more about her history. She was born between Osaka and Nara in the mountains, and during the war their family fled their home to Yokohama.

She talked about the Japanese Canadian internment and the impact that WWII had on many Japanese and Japanese Canadian people. She talked about only having rice and umeboshi for lunch when she was a kid. I know how poor Japan was after the war and that for many people this is all they could afford, but hearing this truth from someone I had just met was really emotional for me. I was so touched about how much someone I had just met was sharing about their life with me, a complete stranger. I was also overcome with how lucky and privileged I am right now. I was blinking back tears then I really started crying, which didn’t seem to phase her or the translator. I forgot this cultural difference. In Japan it’s generally not seen as embarrassing to cry when you are extremely moved. In Canada I find that we don’t know what to do when people cry. We are generally uncomfortable with tears and “negative” emotions.

We chatted a bit more and I learned that she came to Canada 40 years ago and married a Nisei Japanese man. I was curious if she had kids but didn’t want to pry, so I didn’t ask.

We were asked to bring something small to gift back to the person we received the lunch box from. In my questionnaire I said that one of my hobbies is gardening. I ended up with a bunch of volunteer purple shiso plants in my community garden plot. I repotted one of these and brought one of the first cloves of garlic I had ever grown this past year. After all, who doesn’t like garlic? Also from living in Japan I know that gifts that can be consumed are often better. Tazuko and I chatted a bit about the connection between the umeboshi in the bento and the purple shies that I gave her—purple shiso is what gives umeboshi it’s colour.

We chatted a bit more. I took a few pictures of Tazuko and the bento she had made and then Cindy Mochizuki came by and said that Tazuko is her mom. Cindy is the artist responsible for this project and someone I’ve been getting to know better over the past year. It was awesome to find out that this amazing woman is her mom. If I had asked if she had kids earlier in the conversation I would have learned this.

I biked down to the seawall and enjoyed my lunch box and was reflecting on some relationships with work colleagues over the past month. I’ve delighted in a bunch of work relationships shifting to be more open and honest where other people have demonstrated courage in sharing stuff about themselves including: mental illness, learning disabilities, gender identity, sexuality, neurodiversity and personal insecurities that are incongruent with how I see them professionally. All of these people didn’t need to disclose these things about themselves but it made it easier for me to understand how they operate and gave me a glimpse of what they might be going through. To me these are acts of courage because they involve unpacking stigma and shame which is a revolutionary act that gives us all a little more room to breathe freely.

Handwritten note: "Dear Tara, I hope you enjoy this 'Bento box' lunch. Best wishes for a bright and wonderful future!! Tazuko"

Learn more about Cindy Mochizuki’s Shako Club project

Asshattery: a comparision between University of Guelph and LibLime

Image of Inigo Montoya with "OPEN, i DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS" in  bold white font on top

Recently there has been a kerfuffle over the University of Guelph trademarking “open ed”, and rightfully so. This is asshat behaviour. Clint LaLonde describes some of the changes that BCcampus will need to make.

First, it’s an ironic move as the open education movement, like many other open movements (open source, open access, open data, open government) seek to remove barriers to collaboration and sharing. Second, it doesn’t appear that University of Guelph actually does much open ed work. As Brian Lamb and others have mentioned there is no mention on their website of open education projects like open textbooks, open pedagogies, and open access. Third,  as Clint LaLonde writes BCcampus hosted the Open Ed conference in Vancouver in 2009, so there is documented use before University of Guelph started their trademark claim.

This reminds me of something that happened with an open source library software project. Koha, the first open source integrated library system, was developed in New Zealand. The word “koha” means gift in Māori. In 2009 LibLime, an American software vendor tried to obtain the trademark for Koha in New Zealand. Thankfully LibLime lost in 2013. The Koha free software community entrusted TE Horowhenua Trust (the home library that funded the initial development in 1999) with the trademark for New Zealand nd the European Union.  Unfortunately koha.org is owned by LibLime and koha-community.org is the free software website. This can be confusing for people who don’t know the backstory.

These legal battles are expensive, time consuming and on an individual level very stressful. Clint writes that BCcampus has been trying to resolve this for 6 months. The Koha case took 4 years. Dealing with these legal cases took time, money and emotional energy that was diverted from the open projects that are creating a new model of doing things.

I love working in open communities. I love the unlikely creative collaborations that happen. I love working with people with similar politics but completely different backgrounds towards making libraries, education and heck, society as a whole, a better place. I’d hate to see new initiatives be bogged down in creating foundations and ensuring protection of their shared intellectual property, instead of working together to make something new, innovative and beautiful.

There’s got to be a better way to do things.

Clint Lalonde’s post On Using OpenEd: An Opprotunity

 

This was posted on Clint’s blog clintlalonde.net on June 1, 2015. The original URL is: http://clintlalonde.net/2015/06/01/on-using-opened-an-opportunity/

For the past 6 months my organization BCcampus has been in a dispute with the University of Guelph over our use of this:

Current BCcampus Open Education logo
Current BCcampus Open Education logo

Like many of you, we have always used the term OpenEd as a short form way of saying Open Education. It’s a term that is familiar to anyone working in the field of open education. In our community, many of us host forums andevents using the term OpenEd. Around the world, people write blog posts,create websites, and host conferences using the term OpenEd. Our global community uses the term OpenEd interchangeably with Open Education to mean a series of educational practices and processes built on a foundation of collaboration and sharing.

BCcampus has been working with higher education institutions in British Columbia for over a decade on open education initiatives, so when it came time to redesign our main open education website (open.bccampus.ca), it was only natural that we would gravitate to the term that many people in BC and beyond associate with us: OpenEd. Our graphic designer, Barb Murphy, developed this logo in the fall of 2013 and, at the end of November, 2013, we launched our new website with our new OpenEd logo. We thought nothing of it and went along our merry way chugging along on the BC Open Textbook Project.

Little did we know that, on December 18, 2013, the University of Guelph trademarked OpenEd.

Last fall, we received an email from UGuelph asking us to stop using OpenEd. At first, we thought it was a joke. Someone trademarking OpenEd? Anyone involved in the open education community would realize how ridiculous that sounds. But after numerous emails, it became apparent that they were, indeed, serious about wanting us to stop using OpenEd.

We went back and forth with Guelph until it became apparent that they were not going to give up on their trademark claim, but for the cost of their legal paperwork to write up a permission contract ($500), they would allow us to use the term in perpetuity to describe any open education activities in BC that we were associated with.

We considered the offer, and thought it a fair request from Guelph. They didn’t ask us for a licensing fee. The would give us the rights to use the mark for basically the cost of their lawyers writing up the contract. $500 is not a lot of money.

But then we thought about the rest of the open education community in Canada and how they will not be able to use the term unless they negotiate with Guelph as well. And we thought that, if we agreed to the terms, we would be legitimizing their claim to a term that runs against the very ethos of what we practice. We decided we couldn’t do it.

Then we thought perhaps we should fight and win the mark back? Wrestle the trademark from Guelph and then turn around and release the trademark with a CC0 license for the entire community to use (even Guelph). We thought we could prove our prior use, not only based on the fact that we started using the logo on our new website weeks before their claim was finalized in December of 2013, but going back even further to the 2009 OpenEd conference BCcampus sponsored at UBC in Vancouver where a wordmark very similar to what Guelph has trademarked was first used.

The 2009 Open Education Conference Logo. The conference was at UBC and sponsored by BCcampus
The 2009 Open Education Conference Logo. The conference was at UBC and sponsored by BCcampus

But after speaking with a lawyer, we discovered that the best we could do is win prior use rights for BCcampus, which would be good for BCcampus, but lousy for the entire open education community.

So in the end,  we have decided to change. We are currently working on dropping the term OpenEd from our logo and replacing it with the words Open Education.

This will not be cheap for us. The redesign is simple, but that BCcampus OpenEd mark is used in many places. Most notably, we now have to redo the covers for close to 90 textbooks in our open textbook collection as that OpenEd mark appears on the cover of every book.

Each cover on every open textbook in our collection needs to be changed
Each cover on every open textbook in our collection needs to be changed

And then once the cover is changed, we need to update 3 different websites where that cover might be used. Plus, we have created a ton of additional material that has the mark OpenEd on it that will now need to be scrapped.

In my mind, however, this is the right move. If BCcampus pays even a modest fee, then we accept that it is ok to copyright and trademark something that, I believe, should rightly belong to the community. Given my own personal values around openness and sharing of resources, it’s a bargain I did not want to make. And it doesn’t make sense to fight a battle that will win a victory for BCcampus, but not for the wider open education community. It would feel less than hollow.

So, we change.

The opportunity. If you are from Guelph and are reading this, there is another alternative. You have the trademark to the OpenEd mark. You control the IP. You can always choose to release the mark with a Creative Commons license and show the wider open education community that you understand the community and the open values that drive our work in education everyday. You can be a leader here by taking the simple act of licensing your mark with a CC license and releasing it to the community for everyone to use.

Update June2, 2015:  Trademarks and copyright are different ways to protect intellectual property, and the suggestion I made in the post is probably too simplistic a wish as CC licenses are meant to alleviate copyright, not trademark, restrictions (h/t to David Wiley for pointing me to this distinction).  However, it appears that the two can co-exist and you can openly license and protect trademarks at the same time, as this document from Creative Commons on trademarks & copyright suggests.

May conferences

I’m a bit of a nervous public speaker. Most people assume that because of my personality or pink hair that I’m really comfortable presenting in front of a group of people. Those people also assume I like rollercoasters. This is not true.

Instead of feeling a sense of dread I’m feeling pretty excited about these upcoming presentations. I’m going to be talking about work that I feel really passionate about and co-presenting with some of my favourite colleagues means that there’s support and that I need to be prepared well ahead of time.

BCLA conference, May 20-22

  • I’ll be on a panel Small Changes, Big Impact: New and Affordable Solutions for Document Delivery where I’ll be talking about the process of figuring out what you need software to do and how to look beyond library software vendors to meet your needs. I will reference Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks and talk about workflows.
  • Co-presenting with Amanda Coolidge, Manager, Open Education at BCcampus Can I actually Use It? Testing Open Textbooks for Accessibility where we’ll be talking about the user testing we did with the open textbooks and the toolkit we wrote with Sue Doner, Instructional Designer at Camosun College.
  • I’ll be one of many on the Oh Glorious Failures! Lightning Talks on How to Succeed Through Failure. We know that valuable learning happens through failure but many librarians are reluctant to share our professional failures. I’m going to talk about something I messed up in the open textbooks user testing focus group.

CAUCUSS conference, May 24-27

This will be my first time attending CAUCUSS, the national conference for student services folks in post-secondary. I’m really looking forward to meeting disability service folks from across Canada as well as attending a session on universal design for learning.

  • I’m also looking forward to co-presenting Alternate Formats 101 with Heidi Nygard from UBC’s Access and Diversity, Crane Library. Both of our organizations have  a long history of producing alternate formats and we’re going to go through how the similarities and differences in how we produce various alternate formats: accessible PDF, e-text, mp3, DAISY, Large Print and how we deal with pesky things like tables, math formulas and image descriptions. We’re going to sneak in some stuff about core library values and protecting user rights.

Open Textbook Summit, May 28-29

  • This will be the first time Amanda, Sue and I will present together in person. We’re doing a 30 minute session on the user testing and we’ll be co-presenting with one of the students who did the testing, Shruti Shravah. This project was the highlight of my last year of work: collaborating with Amanda and Sue was the best thing, the students were amazing, and I’m proud of the process and outcome. I’m super excited about this talk.

BC open textbook Accessibility Toolkit: generosity as a process

cover of Accessibility Toolkit

Last week we published The BC Open Textbook Accessibility Toolkit. I’m really excited and proud of the work that we did and am moved by how generous people have been with us.

Since last fall I’ve been working with Amanda Coolidge (BCcampus) and Sue Doner (Camosun College) to figure out how to make the open textbooks produced in BC accessible from the start.  This toolkit was published using Pressbooks, a publishing plugin for WordPress. It is licensed with the same Creative Commons license as the rest of the open textbooks (CC-BY). This whole project has been a fantastic learning experience and it’s been a complete joy to experience so much generosity from other colleagues.

We worked with students with print disabilities to user test some existing open textbooks for accessibility. I rarely get to work face-to-face with students. It was such a pleasure to work with this group of well-prepared, generous and hardworking students.

Initially we were stumped about how to  get faculty, who would be writing open textbooks, to care about print disabled students who may be using their books. Serendipitously  I came across this awesome excerpt from Sarah Horton and Whitney Queensbury’s book A Web For Everyone. User personas seemed like the way to explain some of the different types of user groups. A blind student is likely using different software, and possibly different hardware than a student with a learning disability. Personas seemed like a useful tool to create empathy and explain why faculty should write alt text descriptions for their images.

Instead of rethinking these from the beginning Amanda suggested contacting them to see if their work was licensed under a Creative Commons license that would allow us to reuse and remix their work. They emailed me back in 5 minutes and gave their permission for us to reuse and repurpose their work. They also gave us permission to use the illustrations that Tom Biby did for their book. These illustrations are up on Flickr and clearly licensed with a CC-BY license.

While I’ve worked on open source software projects this is the first time I worked on an open content project. It is deeply satisfying for me when people share their work and encourage others to build upon it. Not only did this save us time but their generosity and enthusiasm gave us a boost. We were complete novices: none of us had done any user testing before. Sarah and Whitney’s quick responses were really encouraging.

This is the first version and we intend to improve it. We already know that we’d like to add some screenshots of ZoomText and we need to provide better information on how to make formulas and equations accessible. It’s difficult for me to put work out that’s not 100% perfect and complete but other people’s generosity have helped me to relax.

I let our alternate format partners across Canada know about this toolkit. Within 24 hours of publishing this our partner organization in Ontario offered to translate it into French. They had also started working on a similar project and loved our approach. So instead of writing their own toolkit they will use use or adapt ours.  As it’s licensed under a CC-BY license they didn’t even need to ask us to use it or translate it.

Thank you to Mary Burgess at BCcampus who identified accessibility as a priority for the BC open textbook project.

Thank you to Bob Minnery at AERO for the offer of a French translation.

Thank you to Sarah Horton and Whitney Queensbury for your generosity and enthusiasm. I really feel like we got to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Thank you to the students who we worked with. This was an awesome collaboration.

Thank you to Amanda Coolidge and Sue Doner for being such amazing collaborators. I love how we get stuff done together.

Intellectual Freedom Beyond Books

I was invited to speak on a panel with three other speakers:  Christopher Kevlahan, Branch Head, Joe Fortes – Vancouver Public Library,  Miriam Moses, Acquisitions Manager, Burnaby Public Library, and Greg Mackie, Assistant Professor, UBC Department of English.

I think that libraries do a great job of promoting Freedom to Read Week with events and book displays, but could be doing a better job in advocating for intellectual freedom in the digital realm.

Public library examples

I spoke about how Fraser Valley Regional Library filters all their internet, how Vancouver Public Library changed their internet use policy to single out “sexually explicit images”, and how most public library internet policies don’t appear to have been updated since the 90s.

Bibliocommons is a product that has beautiful and well designed interface that used by a lot of public libraries to sit over their public facing catalogues. It is a huge improvement over the traditional OPAC interface, I like that there’s a small social component, with user tagging and comments, as well. However, Bibliocommons allows patrons to flag content for: Coarse Language, Violence, Sexual Content, Frightening or Intense Scenes, or Other. This functionality that allows users to flag titles for sexual content or course language is not in line with our core value of intellectual freedom.

Devon Greyson, a local health librarian-researcher and PhD candidate said on BCLA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s email list:

Perhaps the issue is a difference in the understanding of what is “viewpoint neutral.” From an IF standpoint, suggesting categories of concern is non-neutral. Deciding that sex, violence, scary and rude are the primary reasons one should/would be setting a notice to warn other users is non-neutral. Why not racism, sexism, homophobia & classism as the categories with sex, violence & swearing considered “other”?

Academic library example

I also talked about the Feminist Porn Archive, a SSHRC funded research project at York University. Before the panel I chatted with Lisa Sloniowski  who was really generous sharing some of the hypothetical issues that she imagines the project might encounter. She wondered if campus IT, the university’s legal department or university administration might be more conservative than the library. What would happen if they digitized porn and hosted it on university servers? Would they need to have a login screen in front of their project website?

This session was recorded and I’d love to hear your thoughts. How can libraries support or defend intellectual freedom online?

Developing a culture of consent at code4lib

two letterpressed greeting cards, left one "yes way", right one "no way"

I love code4lib. code4lib is not a formal organization, it’s more of a loose collective of folks. The culture is very DIY. If you see something that needs doing someone needs to step up and do it. I love that part of our culture is reflecting on our culture and thinking of ways to improve it. At this year’s conference we made some improvements on our culture.

Galen Charlton kicked this discussion off with an email on the code4lib list by suggesting we institute a policy like the Evergreen conference (which was informed by work done by The Ada Initiative) where “consent be explicitly given to be photographed or recorded”.

Kudos to the local organizing committee for moving quickly (like just over 3 hours from Galen’s initial email). They purchased coloured lanyards to indicate to participants views on being photographed: red means don’t photograph me, yellow means ask me before photographing me, and green means go ahead and photograph me. This is an elegant and simple solution.

Over the past few years streaming the conference presentations has become standard as is publishing these videos to the web after the conference. This is awesome and important—not everyone can travel to attend the conference. This allows us to learn faster and build better things. I suggested that it was time to explicitly obtain speaker’s consent to stream their presentation and archive the video online.

At first I was disheartened by some of comments on the list :

  • “This needs to be opt out, not opt in.”
  • “An Opt-Out policy would be more workable for presenters.”
  • “requiring explicit permission from presenters is overly burdensome for the (streaming) crew that is struggling to get the recordings”
  • i enjoy taking candid photos of people at the conference and no one seems to mind
  • “my old Hippy soul cringes at unnecessary paperwork. A consent form means nothing. Situations change. Even a well-intended agreement sometimes needs to be reneged on.”

The lack of understanding about informed consent means a few things about the code4lib community:

  1. there’s a lack of connection to feminist organizing that has a long history of collective organizing and consent
  2.  the laissez-faire approach to consent (opt-out) centres male privilege
  3. this community still has work to do around rape culture. 

It was awesome to get support from the Programming Committee, the local organizers and some individuals. We managed to update the consent form we used for Access to be specific to code4lib and get it out to speakers in just over a week. Ranti quickly stepped up and volunteered to help me obtain consent forms from all of the speakers. As this is a single stream conference there were only 39 people so it wasn’t that much work to do. 

Here’s the consent form we used.  A few people couldn’t agree to the copyright bits, so they crossed that part out. I’m sure this form will evolve to become better.

At code4lib 2015 in Portland it was the first time we were explicit about consent. The colour coded lanyards and speaker consent forms are an important part of building a culture of consent.

Thanks to my smart friend Eli Manning (not the football player) for giving me feedback on this.

The Library Juice Press Handbook of Intellectual Freedom

cover art of book

Ahhhh! It’s done!

This project  took over 7 years and went through a few big iterations. I was just finishing  library school when it started and learned a lot from the other advisory board members. I appreciate how the much more experienced folks on the advisory board helped bring me up to speed on issues I was less familiar with. I also valued how people treated me as a peer, even though I was just a student.

It was published this spring but my copy just arrived in the mail. Here’s the page about the book on the Library Juice Press site, and here’s where you can order a copy on Amazon.

Porn in the library

At the  Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium the program session I was the most excited about was Porn in the library.  There were 3 presentations in this panel exploring this theme.

First,  Joan Beaudoin and Elaine Ménard presented  The P Project: Scope Notes and Literary Warrant Required! Their study looked at 22 websites that are aggregators of free porn clips.  Most of these sites were in English, but a few were in French.  Ménard acknowledged that it is risky and sometimes uncomfortable to study porn in the academy. They looked at the terminology used to describe porn videos, specifically the categories available to access porn  videos. They described their coding manual which outlined    various metadata facets (activity, age, cinematography, company/producers, age, ethnicity, gender, genre, illustration/cartoon, individual/stars, instruction, number of individuals, objects, physical characteristics, role, setting, sexual orientation). I learned that xhamster has scope notes for their various categories (mouseover the lightbulb icon to see).

While I appreciate that Beaudoin and Ménard  are taking a risk to look at porn, I think they made the mistake of using very clinical language to legitimize and sanitize their work. I’m curious why they are so interested in porn, but realize that it might be too risky for them to situate themselves in their research.

It didn’t seem like they understood the difference between production company websites and free aggregator sites. Production company sites  have very robust and high quality metadata and excellent information architecture. Free aggregator sites that have variable quality metadata and likely  have a business model that is based on ads or referring users to the main production company websites. Porn is, after all, a content business, and most porn companies are  invested in making their content findable, and making it easy for the user to find more content with the same performers, same genre, or by the same director.

Beaudoin and Ménard  expressed  disappointment that porn companies didn’t want to participate in their study. As these two researchers don’t seem to understand the porn industry or have relationships with individuals I don’t think it’s surprising at all. For them to successfully build on this line of inquiry I think they need to have some skin in the game and clearly articulate what they offer their research subjects in exchange for building their own academic capital.

It was awesome to have a quick Twitter conversation with Jiz Lee and Chris Lowrance, the web manager  for feminist porn company Pink and White productions,  about how sometimes the terms a consumer might be looking for is prioritized over the  performers’ own gender identity.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.40.34 PMUpdate: @FetishMovieBlog responded to Jiz and Chris to say that this was an unintentional error that had been corrected. Jiz’s performer entry doesn’t have a gender listed and I also noticed that their race is listed as hapa, another non-binary category.

Jiz Lee is genderqueer porn performer and uses the pronouns they/them and is sometimes misgendreed by mainstream porn and by feminist porn. I am a huge fan of their work.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.36.55 PMI think this is the same issue that Amber Billy, Emily Drabinski and K.R. Roberto raise in their paper What’s gender got to do with it? A critique of RDA rule 9.7. They argue that it is regressive for a cataloguer to assign a binary gender value to an author. In both these cases someone (porn company or consumer, or cataloguer) is assigning gender to someone else (porn performer or content creator). This process can be disrespectful, offensive, inaccurate and highlights a power dynamic where the consumer’s (porn viewer or researcher/student/librarian) desires/politics/needs/worldview is put above someone’s own identity.

Next, Lisa Sloniowski and Bobby Noble. presented Fisting the Library: Feminist Porn and Academic Libraries  (which is the best paper title ever).  I’ve been really excited their SSHRC funded porn archive research. This research project has become more of a conceptional project, rather than building a brick and mortar porn archive. Bobby talked about the challenging process of getting his porn studies class going at York University. Lisa talked they initially hoped to start a porn collection as part of York University Library’s main collection, not as a reading room or a marginal collection. Lisa spoke about the challenges of drafting a collection development policy and some of the labour issues, presumably about staff who were uncomfortable with porn having to order, catalogue, process and circulate porn. They also talked about the Feminist Porn Awards and second  feminist porn conference that took place before the Feminist Porn Awards last year.

Finally,  Emily Lawrence and Richard Fry presented  Pornography, Bomb Building and Good Intentions: What would it take for an internet filter to work?  They presented a philosophical argument against internet filters. They argued that for a filter to not overblock and underblock it would need to be mind reading and fortune telling. A filter would need to be able to read an individual’s mind and note factors like the person viewing, their values, their mood, etc and be fortune telling by knowing exactly what information that the user was seeking   before they looked at it. I’ve been thinking about internet filtering a lot lately, because of Vancouver Public Library’s recent policy change that forbids “sexually explicit images”. I was hoping to get a new or deeper understanding on filtering but was disappointed.

This colloquium was really exciting for me. The conversations  that people on the porn in the library panel were having are discussions I haven’t heard elsewhere in librarianship.  I look forward to talking about porn in the library more.

Digesting the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium

Most of the conferences I go to are technology ones that are focused on practical applications and knowledge sharing on how we have solved specific technical problems or figured out new, more efficient ways to do old things. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a conference that’s about broader ideas and a much longer time since I’ve been to an academic conference. This was outside my comfort zone and it was an extremely worthwhile experience.

I was unbelievably excited to see the program for the first Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies colloquium. Also, as Emily Drabinski and Lisa Sloniowski  were involved, so I knew it was going to be great.

There were 100 attendees. I’d estimate that library and information studies professors and PhD students made up 50%, library school  grad students made up 25%, and the other 25% of us were practioners, who work almost exclusively in academic settings. The conference participants had the best selection of glasses, and I was inspired to document some of them.

The program was great and I had a very hard time picking which of the 3 streams I wanted to attend. A few people scampered between rooms to catch papers in different streams. Program highlights for me was the panel on porn in the library and the panel on gender and content. My thoughts on the porn in the library panel became a bit long, so I’ll post those tomorrow.

In my opinion it was a shame that most of the presenters defaulted to a traditional academic style of conference presentation, that is, they stood at the front of the room and read their papers to the audience without making much eye contact. For me the language was sometimes unnecessarily dense and that many of the theoretical concepts discussed would’ve been more successful if expressed in plain English.

I was also disappointed that there wasn’t a plan to post the papers online. Lisa explained to me that for those librarians and scholars in a university environment publications are important to tenure and promotion. Conference presentations count, but not as much as peer reviewed publications, which don’t count as much as book publications. I know there’s a plan in the works for a edition of Library Trends that will be published in 2 years. Also, I know from the interest on Twitter that there are many people who weren’t able to travel to Toronto and attend in person who are very hungry to read these papers. For the technology conferences I go to it is standard to share as much as possible: to livestream the conference, to archive the Twitter stream, and to post presentations online and made code public too. I hope that most of the presenters will figure out a way to share their work openly without it costing them in academic prestige. There’s got to be a way to do this.

There was a really magical feeling at this first colloquium on gender and sexuality in LIS. Everyone brought their smarts, ideas and generous spirits. I think a lot of us have been starved for this kind of environment, engagement and community.

My brain, heart and sinuses are full. I’m exhausted and heading home to Vancouver. This one day of connections and ideas will keep me going for another year. Kudos to the organizers Emily Drabinski, Patrick Keilty and Litwin Books for organizing this. I’m hungry for more.