an interview and an article

It was a pleasure to do an interview with Jill Emery for her column “Heard on the Net” in The Charleston Advisor. She sent Peggy Glahn, Program Director, Reveal Digital, and I the same set of questions around developing the theme of balance of discovery and respect with primary resources.

I was also surprised to be mentioned in an article by Kritika Agarwal titled “Doing Right Online: Archivists Shape an Ethics for the Digital Age” in Perspectives on History in The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association. This thoughtful article mentions some awesome archivists and librarians and some really exciting projects, like Bergis Jules and Documenting the Now, Michelle Caswell and the South Asian American Digital Archive, and Kim Christen Withey and Mukurtu.

My day to day work as a librarian is more about accessibility and workflows, so it’s been energizing and satisfying to think about broader ethical and policy issues.

concerns about Reveal Digital’s statement about On Our Backs

This is my third post about Reveal Digital and On Our Backs. The first post in March outlines my objections with this content being put online. The second post has some contributor agreements I found in the Cornell’s Rare Books and Manuscripts collection and the notes from my talk at code4libNYS.


About a month ago Reveal Digital decided to temporarily take down the On Our Backs (OOB) content. I was happy to hear about this. However I’ve got several concerns about their public statement (PDF). First, I’m concerned that citing Greenberg v. National Geographic Society foreshadows that they are going to disregard contributor agreements and concerns and put the whole collection online. Second, I’m concerned that minors accessing porn is listed ahead of contributor privacy issues and that reflects Reveal Digital’s priorities. Finally, I’m glad that Reveal Digital has broadened their idea of community consultation from financial stakeholders to include publishers, contributors, libraries, archives, researchers, and others, however I’m still worried about whose voices will be centered in these discussions.

Copyright

According to Reveal Digital the Greenberg v. National Geographic Society ruling says gives them “the legal right to create a faithful digital reproduction of the publication, without the need to obtain permissions from individual contributors”. ARL has a summary of this case and a 5 page brief written by Ben Grilliot, who was a legal intern for ARL at the time. I’m far from being an expert on US Copyright Law but I understand this to mean that if Reveal Digital digitizes the entire run of OOB without making any changes it doesn’t matter that contributor agreements has limitations. Even if this is legal, it is not ethical.

The ARL summary says “The Copyright Act is “media-neutral,” and libraries believe that it should allow publishers to take advantage of new technologies to preserve and distribute creative works to the public.” I spoke to 3 people who modelled for OOB and none of them consented to have their photos appear online (PDF). As librarians we can’t uncritically fight for access to information, we need to take a more nuanced approach.

Porn

I’m puzzled by “minors accessing sexually explicit content” as the first reason Reveal Digital listed.  I can understand that this might be a liability issue, but it’s not difficult to find porn on the internet, especially porn that is more explicit and hard core than the images in OOB. I’m confused by this. Reveal Digital describes OOB as filling “an important hole in the feminist digital canon and is an essential artifact of the ‘feminist sex wars'” so for me this is an unexpected reason. Their statement says that they need a window of time to make the necessary software upgrades to solve this issue. I’m disappointed that this reason is given ahead of contributor privacy.

Privacy

I was really happy to read how Reveal Digital articulates the importance of contributor privacy:

On the more complex issue of contributor privacy, Reveal Digital has come to share the concerns expressed by a few contributors and others around the digitization of OOB and the potential impact it might have on contributor privacy. While we feel that OOB carries an important voice that should be preserved and studied, we also feel that the privacy wishes of individual contributors should have an opportunity to be voiced and honored.

I feel like the above statement shows that they really heard and understood the concerns that many of the contributors and I had.

Community consultation

I’m thrilled to read that Reveal Digital intends to consult with various communities including “publishers, contributors, libraries, archives, researchers, and others”.

Often when people talk about consultations they mention a need to balance interests. We reject that libraries are neutral, so we need to extend that understanding to community consultation processes like these. Contributors, especially many models, could have their lives damaged by this. Researchers seek to gain prestige, grants, tenure and promotion from access to this collection and don’t stand to lose much, if anything. Different communities have a different stake in these decisions. Also, these groups aren’t homogeneous–it’s likely that some contributors will want this content online, some will be OK with some parts, and others will not any of it online. I hope that centering contributor voices is something that Reveal Digital will build into their consultation plan.

This isn’t the first digitization process that has needed community consultation. We can learn from the consultation process that took place around the digitization of the book Moko: or Maori tattooing or around the digitization of the second wave feminist periodical Spare Rib in the UK (thanks Michelle Moravec for telling me about this). Academic libraries can also learn from how public libraries build relationships with communities.

update on On Our Backs and Reveal Digital

In March I wrote a post outlining the ethical issues of Reveal Digital digitizing On Our Backs, a lesbian porn magazine. Last week I spoke at code4lib NYS and shared examples of where libraries have digitized materials where they really shouldn’t have. My slides are online, and here’s a PDF of the slides with notes. Also: Jenna Freedman and I co-hosted a #critlib discussion on digitization ethics.

Susie Bright’s papers in Cornell’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Collection

A couple of weeks before code4lib NYS, I learned that Cornell has Susie Bright’s papers, which include some of the administrative records for On Our Backs. When I was at Cornell I visited the Rare Book and Manuscripts Collection and looked through this amazing collection. The first book of erotica I ever bought was Herotica, edited by Susie Bright, so it was especially amazing to see her papers. It was so exciting to see photo negatives or photos of images that became iconic for lesbians either in On Our Backs, or on the covers of other books. While the wave of nostalgia was fun, the purpose of my visit was to see if the contracts with the contributors were in the administrative papers.

I hit the jackpot when found a thin folder labelled Contributors Agreements. All of them weren’t there, but there were many contracts where the content creators did not sign over all rights to the magazine. Here are three examples.

This contributor contract from 1991 is for “one-time rights only”.

agreement1

This contributor contract from 1988 is for “1st time N.A. serial rights”. In this context N.A. means North American. 

agreement2

This contributor’s contract from 1985 is “for the period of one year, beginning 1.1.86”. 

agreement3

Copyright and digitizing On Our Backs

Initially I thought that Reveal Digital had proper copyright clearances to put this content online. In addition to the above contributors contract examples, I talked to someone who modeled for On Our Backs (see slides 9 to 11 for model quotes) who said there was an agreement with the editor that the photo shoot would never appear online. These things make me wonder if the perceived current rights holder of this defunct magazine actually had the rights to grant to Reveal Digital to put this content online.

I’m still puzzled by Reveal Digital’s choice for a Creative Commons attribution (CC-BY) license. One of the former models describes how inappropriate this license is, and more worrisome as the lack of her consent in making this content available online.

People can cut up my body and make a collage. My professional and personal life can be high jacked. These are uses I never intended and still don’t want.

Response from Reveal Digital

Last week I spoke with Peggy Glahn, Program Director and part of the leadership team at Reveal Digital. She updated me on some Reveal Digital’s response to my critiques.

Takedown policy and proceedures

Peggy informed me that they had a takedown request and will be redacting some content and with their workflow it takes about 3 weeks to make those changes. She also said that they’ll be posting their takedown policy and process on their website but that there are technical challenges with their digital collections platform. It shouldn’t be difficult to link to a HTML page with the takedown policy, procedures and contact information. I’m not sure why this is a technical challenge. In the meantime, people can email Tech.Support@revealdigital.com with takedown requests. Reveal Digital will “assess each request on a case-by-case basis”.

Not removing this collection

I am really disappointed to hear that Reveal Digital does not have plans to take down this entire collection. Peggy spoke about a need to balance the rights of people accessing this collection and individual people’s right to privacy. It was nice to hear that they recognized that lesbian porn from the 80s and 90s differs from historical newspapers, both in content and in relative age. However by putting both types of collections on the web in the same way it feels like this is a shallow understanding of the differences.

Peggy mentioned that Reveal Digital had consulted the community and made the decision to leave this collection online. I asked who the community was in this case and she answered that the community was the libraries who are funding this initiative. This is an overly narrow definition of community, which is basically the fiscal stakeholders (thanks Christina Harlow for this phrase). If you work at one of these institutions, I’d love to hear what the consultation process looked like.

Community consultation is critical

As this is porn from the lesbian community in the 80s and 90s it is important that these people are consulted about their wishes and desires. Like most communities, I don’t think the lesbian and queer women’s community has ever agreed on anything, but it’s important that this consultation takes place. It’s also important to centre the voices of the queer women whose asses are literally on the page and respect their right to keep this content offline. I don’t have quick or simple solutions on how this can happen, but this is the responsibility that one takes on when you do a digitization project like this.

Learning from the best practices of digitizing traditional knowledge

The smart folks behind the Murkutu project, and Local Contexts (including the Traditional Knowledge labels) are leading the way in digitizing content in culturally appropriate and ethical ways. Reveal Digital could look at the thoughtful work that’s going on around the ethics of digitizing traditional knowledge as a blueprint for providing the right kind of access to the right people. The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre has also put a thoughtful paper outlining the consultation process and project outcomes how they to digitized the historic text Moko; or Maori tattooing.

After talking to several models who appeared in On Our Backs a common thread was that they did not consent to have their bodies online and that this posed a risk to their careers. Keeping this collection online is an act of institutional violence against the queer women who do not want this extremely personal information about themselves to so easily accessible online.

Librarians–we need to do better.

digitization: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

I learned this week that Reveal Digital has digitized On Our Backs (OOB), a lesbian porn magazine that ran from 1984-2004. This is a part of the Independent Voices collection that “chronicles the transformative decades of the 60s, 70s and 80s through the lens of an independent alternative press.” For a split second I was really excited — porn that was nostalgic for me was online! Then I quickly thought about friends who appeared in this magazine before the internet existed. I am deeply concerned that this kind of exposure could be personally or professionally harmful for them.

While Reveal Digital went through the proper steps to get permission from the copyright holder, there are ethical issues with digitizing collections like this. Consenting to a porn shoot that would be in a queer print magazine is a different thing to consenting to have your porn shoot be available online. I’m disappointed in my profession. Librarians have let down the queer community by digitizing On Our Backs.

Why is this collection different?

The nature of this content makes it different from digitizing textual content or non-pornographic images. We think about porn differently than other types of content.

Most of the OOB run was published before the internet existed. Consenting to appear in a limited run print publication is very different than consenting to have one’s sexualized image be freely available on the internet. These two things are completely different. Who in the early 90s could imagine what the internet would look like in 2016?

In talking to some queer pornographers, I’ve learned that some of their former models are now elementary school teachers, clergy, professors, child care workers, lawyers, mechanics, health care professionals, bus drivers and librarians. We live and work in a society that is homophobic and not sex positive. Librarians have an ethical obligation to steward this content with care for both the object and with care for the people involved in producing it.

How could this be different?

Reveal Digital does not have a clear takedown policy on their website. A takedown policy describes the mechanism for someone to request that digital content be taken off a website or digital collection. Hathi’s Trust’s takedown policy is a good example of a policy around copyright. When I spoke to Peggy Glahn, Program Director for Reveal Digital she explained there isn’t a formal takedown policy. Someone could contact the rights holder (the magazine publisher, the photographer, or the person who owns the copyright to the content) and have them make the takedown request to Reveal Digital. Even for librarians it’s sometimes tricky to track down the copyright holder of a magazine that’s not being published anymore. By being stewards of this digital content I believe that Reveal Digital has an ethical obligation to make this process clearer.

I noticed that not all issues are available online. Peggy Glahn said that they digitized copies from Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture at Duke University and Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections at Northwestern University but they are still missing many of the later issues. More issues should not be digitized until formal ethical guidelines have been written. This process should include consultation with people who appeared in OOB.

There are ways to improve access to the content through metadata initiatives. I’m really, really excited by Bobby Noble and Lisa Sloniowski‘s proposed project exploring linked data in relation to Derrida and feminism. I’ve loved hearing how Lisa’s project has shifted from a physical or digital archive of feminist porn to a linked data project documenting the various relationships between different people. I think the current iteration avoids dodgy ethics while exploring new ways of thinking about the content and people through linked data. Another example of this is Sarah Mann’s index of the first 10 years of OOB for the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archive.

We need to have an in depth discussion about the ethics of digitization in libraries. The Zine librarian’s Code of Ethics is the best discussion of these issues that I’ve read. There two ideas that are relevant to my concerns are about consent and balancing interests between access to the collection and respect for individuals.

Whenever possible, it is important to give creators the right of refusal if they do not wish their work to be highly visible.

Because of the often highly personal content of zines, creators may object to having their material being publicly accessible. Zinesters (especially those who created zines before the Internet era) typically create their work without thought to their work ending up in institutions or being read by large numbers of people. To some, exposure to a wider audience is exciting, but others may find it unwelcome. For example, a zinester who wrote about questioning their sexuality as a young person in a zine distributed to their friends may object to having that material available to patrons in a library, or a particular zinester, as a countercultural creator, may object to having their zine in a government or academic institution.

Consent is a key feminist and legal concept. Digitizing a feminist porn publication without consideration for the right to be forgotten is unethical.

The Zine librarian’s Code of Ethics does a great job of articulating the tension that sometimes exists between making content available and the safety and privacy of the content creators:

To echo our preamble, zines are “often weird, ephemeral, magical, dangerous, and emotional.” Dangerous to whom, one might ask? It likely depends on whom one asks, but in the age of the Internet, at least one prospectively endangered population are zinesters themselves. Librarians and archivists should consider that making zines discoverable on the Web or in local catalogs and databases could have impacts on creators – anything from mild embarrassment to the divulging of dangerous personal information.

Zine librarians/archivists should strive to make zines as discoverable as possible while also respecting the safety and privacy of their creators.

I’ve heard similar concerns with lack of care by universities when digitizing traditional Indigenous knowledge without adequate consultation, policies or understanding of cultural protocols. I want to learn more about Indigenous intellectual property, especially in Canada. It’s been a few years since I’ve looked at Mukurtu, a digital collection platform that was built in collaboration with Indigenous groups to reflect and support cultural protocols. Perhaps queers and other marginalized groups can learn from Indigenous communities about how to create culturally appropriate digital collections.

Librarians need to take more care with the ethical issues, that go far beyond simple copyright clearances, when digitizing and putting content online.

NOPE-sevier

Bitmoji of Tara holding up a sign that says "NO"

This morning I received an email asking me to peer review a book proposal for Chandos Publishing, the Library and Information Studies imprint of Elsevier. Initially I thought it was spam because of some sloppy punctuation and the “Dr. Robertson” salutation.

When other people pointed out that this likely wasn’t spam my ego was flattered for a few minutes and I considered it. I was momentarily confused–would participating in Elsevier’s book publishing process be evil? Isn’t it different from their predatory pricing models with libraries and roadblocks to sharing research more broadly? I have a lot to learn about scholarly publishing, but decided that I’m not going to contribute my labour to a company that are jerks to librarians, researchers and libraries.

Here’s some links I found useful:

Amy Buckland’s pledge to support open access

Mita Williams pointed me to The Cost of Knowledge petition, which I also encourage you to sign.

using Pop Up Archive to help create a transcript

I had the pleasure of being on Circulating Ideas with Steve Thomas. We talked about a bunch of things including open textbooks, accessibility, alternate formats, and being a systems librarian. He’s a great host and an interesting person to chat with. The interview went up last week.

Without a transcript a podcast isn’t accessible to Deaf and some Hard of Hearing people. It felt strange to be talking about accessibility and universal design and have it be in an audio-only format. So I decided to produce a transcript.

I heard the folks from Pop Up Archive present at code4lib in Portland. Pop Up Archive makes sound searchable using speech-to-text technology. Their clients are mostly public radio broadcasters who are looking to make their sound archives searchable. I remember thinking at code4lib that this could be an interesting tool to help make politics more accessible and transparent. For example, transcripts could be made available fairly quickly after a municipal committee (or provincial or federal committee) met.  The transcript is almost the byproduct of this process.

I was curious how it could be used to produce a transcript. I was also curious about how accurate the machine transcript was, as well as how long it would take me to clean up. First, you upload the sound file. Next, you can add metadata about the file you uploaded. Then Pop Up Archive processes your sound file. The machine transcript takes as long as your file is, in my case 39 minutes, to process. The machine transcript was about 80% accurate. Finally you can edit the machine transcript on their platform. It took me about 2 hours to clean up a 39 minute interview.

Continue reading using Pop Up Archive to help create a transcript

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 and events 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.

Continue reading Clint Lalonde’s post On Using OpenEd: An Opprotunity

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.

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?