Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

By kgallag8


On Saturday, March 18th, 2017 I had the privilege of observing and helping my colleague, Digital Services Librarian of the School of Visual Arts Library, Phoebe Stein, lead an event—the “Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon @svalibrary.”  This event was in coordination with a series of events, over a week’s time, presented by the SVA Library called ‘RESIST!’ and a satellite event of the international Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon—an event that has been going on since 2014 and that was just one of over 280 events worldwide that take place every March.

Art + Feminism is an organization focused on the inclusion of women artists in Wikipedia articles.  Since the Wikimedia Foundation—a charitable, nonprofit, organization dedicated to “encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free, multilingual, educational content, and to providing the full content [of] wiki-based projects to the public free of charge[i] ”—found that less than 13% of its contributors identity as female, Art + Feminism made an initiative to help expand the representation of women—and LBGTQ persons—as Wikipedia authors, and to edit and correct the existing articles involving the art of women/LBGTQ persons.  A large group of: librarians, professors, artists, students, and art workers/lovers “committed to contributing specific knowledge” to the Wikipedia articles involving women in art: Art + Feminism explains themselves as a community of people with “different perspectives and practices but [who] share the belief that art is fundamental to thriving societies and [who] strive to make visible the lives and work of underrepresented artists.”  Patrons of the event were encouraged to sign in, in order to ensure Art + Feminism get the funding from the Wikimedia Foundation.

Phoebe gave a PowerPoint presentation about how to navigate and explore the vast world of Wikipedia, followed by hands-on practicing and guiding for the participants.  She went over the basics of: how to create a Wikipedia account with a unique username; how to edit, comment, and start conversations about preexisting Wikipedia articles; how to find articles that have been flagged as ‘in need of assistance’; and how to create your own articles.  The presentation and training sessions were offered twice throughout the day, as well as options of things to work on based on your constraint for the allotted time—ranging from 1 hour or less (set up Wikipedia user page and make some simple edits to existing pages), to 2-4 hours (create a new article).

Phoebe’s presentation began with suggestions of what a novice Wikipedia user’s first actions should be; the most important being to engage in conversation with the Wikipedia community and to read articles before you begin editing or writing your own.  She stressed the importance of having a neutral point of view when editing/writing and notability, as well as the issue of conflicts of interest (not to partake in editing or creating articles that are somehow affiliated with your personal life, such as: places you have worked for, organizations you donate to, etc.).

In regards to notability, Phoebe urged the patrons to use secondary sources for citations, as primary sources are often frowned upon within the Wikipedia community.  A creditable Wikipedia article will always have multiple sources, independent sources, quotes, and all of its citations in the same format.  Sources must also be published and available to the public.  Phoebe suggests patrons utilize ‘Wikipedia Teahouse’, a “friendly place to help new editors become accustomed to Wikipedia culture, ask questions, and develop community relationships.[ii]

A link to the handout given, and helpful outside sources such as video tutorials and ways to navigate around Wikipedia to get the answers you need as a contributor, and online training sessions from Art + Feminism were also made available.  Phoebe remarked that “most anything that you want to do can be found by searching Wikipedia itself,” meaning that if you need help regarding articles, go to ‘Wikipedia: Your First Article’, and if you want to learn more about Wikipedia’s sandbox, navigate yourself to: ‘Wikipedia: About The Sandbox’.

Phoebe’s presentation gave concise, easily understood guidance and was conducted in a casual, yet professional way.  Observing and assisting her in this event ensued thoughts in me of: how I would conduct an event in a Library on my own; the way people responded to certain design aspects in the PowerPoint; what was retained by the patrons, and what needed to be reiterated after the presentation.  There was an odd occurrence that not many SVA students showed up to this event, and that most of the patrons had heard about it from an outside source.  The demographic present was widely women over the age of 50.  Towards the end of the day, two Wikipedia volunteers were available to help us with instructing the patrons further.

“Wikipedia Volunteers” are people who dedicate a significant amount of time to editing and creating articles on Wikipedia.  These are people of all sorts: retirees, professors, teenagers, etc. and have “proved themselves” to be reliable based on their history on the website.  When looking for a creditable writer on Wikipedia, it is important to check how many articles they have written and contributed to, their user history, and if anything they have participated in editing/writing has been flagged as incorrect or biased information.  Wikipedia has created algorithms called ‘bots’ to “flag and queue articles for quality and revision.[iii]” The realization that some Wikipedia users are merely using the resource to vandalize articles has forced the site to create these algorithms and survey articles more carefully, especially as Wikipedia becomes more creditable in the intellectual community as a source—currently the fifth most visited website in the world.[iv]

“Wikipedia thrives only as long as legions of volunteer editors practice protocol labor as they learn and share conventions for structuring different kinds of pages and writing encyclopedic forms of prose. iii”


The Wikipedia gender gap is not a new concept, and I, personally have always been told by Art Professors that one of the most useless, incorrect topics on Wikipedia is Art History.  This, in conjunction with the underrepresentation of women artists on the site, creates a larger problem that many people are attending to.

In 2016, Art History Professor, Jamie Ratliff of the University of Minnesota Duluth created an assignment for her students to each conduct research on a Latin American female artist and create a Wikipedia page on the person.[v]  Events and activities in this nature are going on throughout the country and the world as more people become aware of the gender gap.  In a CBC news March 2017 interview with Alexandra Bischoff, program coordinator of the Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver, Bischoff said that “many accomplished female artists [were] notably absent from the platform.[vi]

In her presentation, Phoebe used the juxtaposition of the Wikipedia articles “Baseball Card” and “Doll” as an example of another type of underrepresentation of women present on the website.  In this example we must regard ‘doll’ as something feminine and ‘baseball card’ as something masculine—though this is not always the case.  It was clear that the baseball card article had received much more attention than the doll article.  “Baseball” contains about 5,400 words and 9 ‘see also’ links; while “Doll” has roughly 2,850 words, zero ‘see also’ links, and a significantly smaller table of contents.  *Though it is amazing that since this event (not yet 2 weeks ago), the ‘doll’ article has been very much bulked up.  Hopefully this is in part from Phoebe’s mention of the issue.

“The organizers of Art+Feminism are deeply disturbed by the sheer amount of fake news on social media, and its influence on the recent US election. We believe this makes our work even more pressing. Now more than ever we must gather together to improve Wikipedia and affirm work of women, people of color, immigrants, [and] the LGBTQIA+ community and other marginalized peoples.i”

The work that was put into this event by Librarian, Phoebe Stein was impressive: reaching out to work with Art + Feminism, creating and lecturing on her presentation, and helping the patrons after the fact to do justice to the cause.  I was happy to help out, and excited to learn new information about Wikipedia, and about the work being done by the community for women artist representation on Wikipedia.  As the world becomes more aware and active in women’s rights, the work that Art + Feminism will surely act as a catalyst to serve as a valuable protocol of activism, intellectual aide, and feminism as Wikipedia—and the internet—continue to  expand.





[i] “Art + Feminism.” Art + Feminism. Art + Feminism, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.0

[ii] “About.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

[iii] Downey, Greg. “Making media work: Time, space, identity, and labor in the analysis of information and communication infrastructures.” Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality, and society (2014): 141-66.

[iv] Alcantara, Chris. “Wikipedia Editors Are Essentially Writing the Election Guide Millions of Voters Will Read.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 27 Oct. 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

[v] Lawler, Christa. “BYO-Laptop: Wiki Edit-A-Thon for Arts & Equality Kicks Off…” Duluth News Tribune. Duluth News Tribune, 05 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

[vi] News, CBC. “Women Get Far Less Recognition on Wikipedia than Men, and a Group of Artists Is Tired of It.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.


“Doll.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

“Baseball Card: Revision History.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

Encore. “Arts + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon Scheded for Saturday at UMF.” Sun Journal. Sun Journal, 20 Mar. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

White, Alan. “12 Spectacular Acts Of Wikipedia Vandalism.” BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed, 2 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

“RESIST! AN EVENT SERIES PRESENTED BY SVA LIBRARY.” Blog post. Kaleidoscope RSS. School of Visual Arts Library, 28 Feb. 2017. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

“Kaleidoscope Blogs.” SVA Library Main Page. School of Visual Arts Library, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.


Kelsey Gallagher, Information Professionals LIS651 Thursdays 3-6, Spring 2017

Renewed Respect for Story-Time: Shadowing My BFF

By tylerdnns

Preparation work for this blog assignment was actually great fun. For starters, it admittedly wasn’t work. Secondly, the intersectionality and general coolness of the place I chose freed it from any tedium. For this assignment, I got to follow and observe the work of my best friend, Mr. Seth Persons, a librarian at the MET. Seth works at both the Thomas J. Watson Library, an art history and research-geared space for college age-patrons and also the Nolen library, which is more oriented toward the general public.

For membership at the Watson Library, the requirements are minimal. There’s the age-restriction, but any photo or student ID will get you in. The Nolen Library is even more inclusive—anyone can get a membership.

During my brief visit, I got to observe first-hand both the excitement and minutiae that Seth gets to experience everyday–both as a desk librarian at Nolen and a systems librarian/all-around tech wizard at Watson. Seth wore many hats throughout the day, and in him I saw all the versatility and mental acumen that the job really requires. It was exhausting and intimidating, both to his credit.

Libraries from my childhood often felt authoritative. Whenever I went into one, the atmosphere could feel stifling and almost judgmental. I felt out-of-place — as if a stern figure was always seconds away from pointing a finger and forbidding the most minor of infractions. But the libraries where Seth works aren’t related to those horror setting from my childhood. They were much more open and less restrictive. Since I am an aspiring picture book author/illustrator, I was especially interested in the Nolen library, which is 1/3 picture books and is noted for a story-time for ages 3-5 every morning. There is also a story–time for aged 5-8 in the evenings. I didn’t see young people scared to talk there. That was cool. It wasn’t a repressive place, by any stretch.

There was a welcoming atmosphere in the Nolen Library that was mirrored by the staff. Which is amazing, given how busy these librarians often are—given the multitude of varied pressures and stresses that I witnessed them experience in just my short time there.

It wasn’t a particularly busy day. I wanted to chose a low-key time, so the library wasn’t packed with story-time listeners and parents and nannies, etc. I chose a time when I wouldn’t be impeding my friend from doing his work. As I often hear about the emotional duress that being a public servant can bring on, this was really the only thing that made sense.

As I toured the stacks at the Nolen Library, Seth told me about a particularly eventful story-time that’d recently happened in the very room. I am aware, as I wrote, of how stressful it can be to be any librarian. This story and Seth’s descriptions related to it made me respect fully the emotional demands placed on anyone running a story-time, be it a children’s librarian, a volunteer, or any staff member.

Managing a library, especially a story-time, seems akin to being a ring-leader in a circus. You don’t just manage the little ones, commanding respect, but maintaining a balance that doesn’t turn you into a jerk. That’s one level. But, according to Seth, it’s also managing parents. Managing nannies. Managing volunteers. Making sure the kids don’t idly destroy the legitimate artworks on display near them. All of this during story-time.

But story-time doesn’t swallow the Nolen Library completely, despite picture books being so large a part of their collection. While story-time was happening on that particular day, a group of high-schoolers were also having class in the library.

The library is never a static place and different groups often have to be managed at the same time. But a librarian like Seth also has to contend with a lot of behind-the-scenes technology stuff. In addition to having to fix the circulation desk scanner like every single say, he is also responsible for devices that I wouldn’t even begin to know how to approach, much less turn on, much less operate correctly.

The day left me with a renewed admiration for librarians, volunteers, and everyone involved in any large story-time ever. These people manage so much stress, both for other people externally and also for themselves internally, and are so infrequently lauded for it. People like my best friend, in my humble opinion, are literal unsung superheroes.

After our observance, me and Seth at chicken salad for lunch. I looked at art when he had to go back to work. It was a great experience and day.

Democratic Student Participation at Olin College at METRO Conference 2017

By ktidwell

     At the Metropolitan New York Library Council’s annual conference on January 11, 2017, the two keynote sessions were both about libraries’ physical spaces, a theme perhaps influenced by METRO’s own move to, and plans for, a new location. Along with new spaces, all of the featured libraries talked about new technology- from large flatbed scanners, digital vinyl cutters, 3-D printers, photo stations, to interactive design stations- and the ways in which the spaces and their contents could be aligned to promote user participation and a sense of ownership. The final keynote from Jeff Goldenson of Olin College of Engineering credited the administrative transfer of decision-making to students and student access to shared property with the library’s success in engaging learning in their new space. While Olin Library’s experiment in democratizing decision-making worked for its institution, the presentation caused consternation among some audience members who expressed concern that Olin’s relative abundance of financial resources and small user population was a palliative and privileged measure for implementing democratic theory in libraries.

     The final keynote from Goldenson about the small liberal arts school’s campus library was a visually lush multi-media presentation about student engagement and the physical and technological improvements made to the space. Olin is an engineering college. The library, led by Goldenson, made itself central to campus life by becoming a sandbox to a volunteer group of students who were empowered by permission and access to funds to act on what they felt the library needed to become a useful resource to campus. For Olin this looked like a special collection of lendable power tools, a vinyl sticker cutter and student’s self-made labels for shelves, a hydroponic garden in a bookshelf, a free pour-over coffee bar, and bookshelves on rolling casters. For all its technological trappings, however, Olin library’s success was founded on its group of volunteer students, OWL, or Olin Workshop on the Library, who made decisions in a democratic manner. In a critical overview of democratic theory in library and information science, Democratic theory in LIS: toward an emendation, John Buschman reviews writings by Sheldon Wolin, Jürgen Habermas, and Amy Gutmann and generalizes that “democracy is not a specific thing to be attained (like a possession or a perfected structure), but rather a process that enables – even requires – debate about its meaning, limits, and problems in order to realize authentic collective democratic action.” By inviting students into the library as decision makers, Olin college created an evolutionary system that began to address problems as they presented themselves and to act on new ideas as they arose.

     The library also saw its student population as a network: students in OWL began taking input from students not directly involved in the library and highlighting them in meetings. As a student volunteer group, these contributions were made out of a love for collaborative creation. Yochai Benkler writes about this kind of non-capital motivation 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, where he says that “nonmarket collaborations can be better at motivating effort and can allow creative people to work on information projects more efficiently than would traditional market mechanisms and corporations.” Though Benkler was talking specifically about networking over computers, his ideas apply here too. One of the reasons Benkler saw computer networks as a counter to the “industrial information economy” was the relatively low resource threshold to access free information and low cost or free access to tools of creation. In Olin Library’s case, allocation of budget to student-driven projects made resources available to be used collaboratively, in conjunction with the library’s core resource- information in digital and physical formats. The library encourages late-night student meet ups with no staff supervision- sending a message that the administration trusts and will minimally regulate student resource use. Students who build structures for the library are encouraged to share their plans, and photo stations are sometimes used to create shared art projects. In some ways, this seems to be a physical expression of the kind of collaboration that evolved during the “emergence of the networked information economy.”

     During the Q&A after Goldenson’s presentation, a jarring question drew both surprise and nodding heads. A public librarian raised his hand and asked: “What was your presentation about?” After the hour-long talk, the question seemed on the surface obtuse. Yet by the reactions of several in the crowd, it was implying a deeper divide in how people in the room understood the very purpose of a library. In a room of librarians from institutions of varying resources, those on the lower-resourced end were visibly uneasy about advancements in Democratic participation in libraries expressed as stream of new, and expensive, technical acquisitions. While Olin’s budget mimicked some of the freedoms of the internet for its students alone by allowing them a say in resources allocation and a freedom of use, it still falls under a critique of liberal arts education from Sheldon Wolin in his 2000 essay, Political Theory: From Vocation to Invocation, as quoted by John Buschman in Democratic theory in LIS:

“The ’virtual university’ tailored to the needs of a technologically driven society is gaining support […] it offers the hope, mainly illusory, that by a severely practical curriculum its students can climb the wall separating the [classes]. When scrutinized according to such measures as costeffectiveness… and productivity, the ideals of the humanistic liberal arts education cannot survive, except as an appendage to the culture industry or as a Potemkin village where the sons and daughters of the rich … receive a polish unobtainable elsewhere.”

When METRO participants from institutions with fewer resources assessed Olin’s demonstration of collaborative possibilities, many saw it as an unobtainable goal, and possibly even undesirable one. Even if Olin’s students are not exclusively “sons and daughters of the rich,” its exclusivity and high funding allow it smooth democratic operation within its prescribed world, where entry to its resources is guarded by restrictive school admissions, and where its pool of contributors is circumscribed. To some other librarians, the freedoms described at Olin looked haphazard and unscalable, and a contribution to democratic library involvement that did not meaningfully expand on democratic behavior in libraries at large.

     One of Olin Library’s greatest assets was a voluntary transfer of some governing power from administrators to a network of students. John Buschman asks in Democratic theory and LIS, “Can […] a library support intellectual freedom for its community without practicing it as a workplace?” The Olin Library cannot provide a complete answer to this question; its case study offers only the opposite, that yes, at least one library can support intellectual freedom while practicing it as a workplace.

     This question was tested in the negative at Long Island University when faculty, including librarians, were locked out for twelve days by the administration in a preemptive response to possible strikes over union contract negotiations. In a different session at METRO, Emily Drabinski and Aliqe Geraci detailed how the faculty organized with support from the well-organized library union, additional support from students, other unions, and professional associations. In a quote from the New York Times, Drabinski says, “We made a really clear statement that you can’t run a university without faculty and without students.” This was just one example of a library where empowerment of collective decision making- in this case faculty contract negotiations- was met with administrative absolutism. While Olin was successful in taking advantage of its assets to improve library experience for its specific patrons, the mixed reaction from the community of librarians at the METRO conference demonstrated a need for an acknowledgement of broader issues facing democratic theory and the library field at large when highlighting the success of an unusual institution.


Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press.

Bromwich, J. E., & Robbins, L. (2016, September 14). Faculty Lockout at L.I.U.-Brooklyn Ends With Contract Agreement. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Buschman, J. (2007). Democratic Theory in LIS: Toward an Emendation. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 1483–1496.

Wolin, S. S. (2000) . Political Theory: From Vocation to Invocation. In J. A. Frank & J. Tambornino (Eds.), Vocations of Political Theory (pp. 3-22) . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Protected: Lost (and Found) Cultural Figures

By nramauta

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A Critical Look Into Archivist Ethics

By alexvndra.ja

Archivists, according to Schwartz & Cook, “wield power over the shape and direction of historical scholarship, collective memory, and national identity over how we know ourselves as individuals, group and societies.” Based on their freedom to keep or discard records, our cultural heritage is thus molded from the remnants of these social memories. Despite their constant denial of this power, their authority influences generations beyond our time.


When authority like this is disregarded and unnoticed, it becomes detrimental to serving public interest when used to uphold private interests such as political power. The concept of neutrality in the archivist’s profession is subject to much speculation.  The “truth,” then, becomes a questionably delicate issue. In order to maintain public trust and to settle conflicts, professional standards had to be established.


In 1980, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) produced their first draft of Core Values and Code of Ethics. The role of the archivist was a transferal role from the National Archivist’s Code of Ethics published in 1955. The 1955 code presented the archivist as having a “moral obligation to society to preserve evidence of how things actually happened.” The 1980 code focused on the “professional responsibility” with its purpose to “resolve problems arising from conflict of interest.” This implied that public interest and participation were growing. The archivists had to acknowledge and cater to the public good.


The SAA code was revised in 1992, 2005, and finally in 2011. It is currently comprised of 11 Core Values and 7 Code of Ethics principles. While having guidelines like these may be beneficial, there are problematic loopholes that still need to be addressed.


The first principle emphasizes that Professional Relationships must be maintained. The archivists are called to uphold a moral and professional relationship with fellow archivists, their institutions, creators, contributors and users involved in the process.


The second, Judgment, is controversial but defines the very nature of the profession. It states that archivist use “professional judgment” when dealing with the entire process of historical and heritage preservation. There is obscene power the archivist holds over judgment of value. Caswell states that “assignation of value is the greatest expression of archival power.” Archivists deny the presence of biases, as their profession advocates objectivity and neutrality- a state Jensen ascertains is impossible. He expounds that being neutral is passive acceptance of the present therefore it cannot exist. There is no neutral ground and the only remedy is to acknowledge the reality-that the non-existence of neutrality is the source of conflicts and hinders us from growing. Archivists keep what they feel is relevant to whatever their own view of reality is. Humans are naturally selective based on their own world view. Therefore, there will always be a lack of exercising professional judgment appraising or giving value to records.


The third (Authenticity) and fourth (Security and Protection) principles go hand-in-hand when talking about digital preservation. Today’s information overload exacerbates the struggle to digitally preserve records. The problem first lies in what we choose to preserve. Cloonan asks, “Do we preserve just the information in a document or the physical object itself?” Because digital files are easily modified, or even deleted, she continues “digital texts are neither final or finite. The experience of using digital documents will be different with each new generation.” The experience of using digital documents will be different with each new generation.” This is true. Digital media files, their hardware, and software have limited lifespans. Dalbello recommends data migration-it being the popular choice of preserving data. One of the remedies she suggests is through the production of emulators. Emulators mirror the original hardware and software but make them accessible and usable in the future versions. Cloonan, however, argues that “When cultural remnants are placed into a contemporary context, something new is created.” Therefore, the authenticity, when transferring records, is taken away. Preservation, according to her, is a paradox. Anything taken out of its original place, time or context is naturally altered and therefore not authentic.


The fifth principle is Access and Use. Archives should be easily accessible, open and transparent. However, the privatization of some archives limits the public’s access historically significant files. Rosenwig contests the privatization of such institutions. Private corporations have taken over archives which should be public because it serves public interest. The government has restricted power over regulating the archives.


The sixth principle is Privacy. It states that “Archivists recognize that Privacy is sanctioned by law…Archivists promote the respectful use of culturally sensitive materials in their care by encouraging researchers to consult with communities of origin, recognizing that privacy has both legal and cultural dimensions.” The question is if this take on privacy serves the public good. An example would be Hillary Clinton’s emails. Legally, illegally obtained “evidence” is not permissible in court. Thousands of controversial emails were illegally exposed and faced public scrutiny. It should not be archived in order to protect privacy laws. However, the contents are significant and serve public interest. Should the archivists add the emails to the archive? Given that it was a big volume of communication, archivists would still have to use their judgment to nit pick what to archive therefore not taking in the whole context.


The last principle is Trust. All the issues and controversies stated have shaken public trust to a certain degree. Caswell asserts that archivists should concede to the presence of bias and encourage participation with the public. This allows for open communication and forums, giving the public a more active participatory role in the process.


Since codes of ethics are not laws, they are not subject to legal sanctions. The extent of their enforcement varies from each institution with no standardized procedure. In the event of legal violation, how is accountability determined? How are penalties imposed? This area is still a shade of grey as the SAA states “The current code is aspirational.. SAA does not have the means to enforce a code of ethics.”


Although they serve as good guiding principles, there are still so many gaps to be filled. We must not only circumscribe the missing pieces, but create a process to efficiently enforce them.


Jensen, R. (2006). The myth of the neutral professional. Electronic Magazine of Multicultural Education, 8(2), 1-9. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Rosenzweig, R. (2003). Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era. The American Historical Review, 108(3), 735-762. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from .

Caswell, M. “The Archive” is Not An Archives: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies. Reconstruction, 16(1) from

Dalbello, Marija. (2009). “Digital Cultural Heritage: Concepts, Projects, and Emerging Constructions of Heritage.” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) conference, 25-30 May, 2009 from

Cloonan, M. (April 2001). W(H)ITHER Preservation? The Library Quarterly. 71(2), 231-242. Retrieved February 21, 2017 from                                               

Schwartz, J. & Cook, T. (2002). 2. 1-19. Retrieved February 20, 2017 from

Thompson, Rachel E. (Rachel Elizabeth), “Deserving of trust: ethics in the American Archival profession” (2011). WWU Masters Thesis Collection. Paper 160. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from

Cline, S. (1989). The Development of Ethics in Archival Practice. American Archivist. 52. 64-71. Retrieved February 22, 2017 from


I Want To Believe: ‘Illegal Alien’ as Dropped Subject Heading?

By tylerdnns

When the word “alien” is used to classify an individual, it is inaccurate, silly, and downright disrespectful. On one hand, it brings to mind science fiction fodder from the 1950—bulbous heads with tubular arms bearing “We come in peace” banners. It’s disrespectful, obviously, because it reduces a human being, no better than you or I, to this cheap, cartoon visual.

The history of the term begins unexpectedly. This now-offensive term was once used to supplant a much more offensive one.

In the 70s, “a group of Chicano UCLA students […] suggest[ed] the [LA Times] use the term illegal alien. They were responding to an editorial in the publication whose title referred to people who’d crossed illegally from Mexico as wetbacks.” So for a period, the term was a politically correct answer to what now seems like an archaic and particularly nasty slur (that reputable newspapers would publish without a thought)

So in the 80’s, when politicians like Ronald Reagan were using the term, it didn’t strike people as offensive as it does now. According to NPR, it wasn’t until the 90’s that the phrase started becoming associated with bigotry. Despite this current understanding that the term is outdated, it is prominently linked to political, right-wing rhetoric.

Politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump coupling the words “illegal alien” with the word “criminal,” (NPR) as an antecedent or vice-versa. They are essentially labeling a voiceless people in a way that the people themselves don’t determine.

The current political climate in which the term “illegal alien” has an insidious relevancy is interesting when compared to the Peet article. It describes the avenues and roadblocks a Dartmouth student navigated in her quest to remove “illegal alien” as a subject heading with the Library of Congress. While researching, the student noticed that many inflammatory readings about non-citizens were found under the heading “illegal alien.”

The student took her concerns with the heading to a rights group for the undocumented students at Dartmouth. From there, the bipartisan group took the student’s concerns to librarians at Dartmouth. The librarians advised that the group would have to take it up with the Library of Congress directly. What follows was a description that, frankly, painted the Library of Congress as an impenetrable and hierarchical force at best. On the more extreme side, an absolute, perhaps harsher interpretation might cast LC as sometimes-protector of the hegemony.

After six grueling months of waiting, the Library of Congress finally got back to Dartmouth students, denying the change. The LC memo stated that the terms “illegal alien” and “undocumented immigrant” were not interchangeable. In their eyes, the connotation for each phrase was different.

Then, after what seems like relatively small pressure from ALA and civil rights groups, the Library of Congress relented. They changed the heading to “non-citizen”…for three months, at least. After that short span, Republicans (specifically) tried to stop this.

One Republican senator from Tennessee (neighbor to my own home state, Alabama) even went so far as to say the name-change would cost taxpayers frivolously, and therefore would not have been worth pursuing. As if using more thoughtful words wouldn’t lead to a more uniform, thoughtful community benefiting everyone…

The bill was ultimately passed, then denied, and is now currently up in limbo. The end of the Library Journal article is optimistic. It highlights the enterprising Dartmouth student, a former undocumented individual who is now a modern incarnation of civil rights hero. The article champions individuals like her, and as readers we are implicitly encouraged to follow suit.

Despite the bill not passing by the time of the article’s publication, the work done by the students was still necessary. The publicity generated by their efforts makes “illegal alien” seem even more antediluvian and backwards, further discourages thoughtful people (most of us, in my opinion) from using it. Any publicity, if it encourages less usage of this word, will paint researchers who use this tag as insensitive, pressuring everyone to use it less in every capacity, unless trying to incite (like insensitive, topical politicians of the day). In short, I don’t think anyone who matters is going to be using this term.

Both words in the label “illegal alien” are propaganda. “Illegal” implies criminal activity even when none occured. “Alien” is a particularly cartoonish way of saying an object doesn’t belong. It is not just propaganda, but it is immoral propaganda.

This reminded me of the struggles for more apt representation (or representation at all) in the Library of Congress subject headings outlined in the Drabinski readings. “Lesbian” finally got validation from LC as a subject heading in 1976. The dynamics of power, of literally waiting for the hegemony to realize that a disrespect is taking place, and then waiting on them to care enough to change it, is relevant in the Dartmouth case as well. When a dominant class is put in charge of defining a less-influential other, they are only going to approach this task with the limited understanding they bring to the table.

The Drabinski article was about how people are limited by their biases, whether they realize it or not. Even when the defenders of these inaccurate subject headings are in the wrong, they often don’t seem to realize or spend too much time defending instead of just realizing the new for something new and more respectful. If harmful language can exist in libraries, those hallowed places idealized by Madison and Jefferson, then what hope is there for the drastically more-chaotic spaces outside of it?

Above all else, we just have to ask people and understand what they feel comfortable being called. Why is that so hard?

Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 83(2), 94-111. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

Greene, D. (2015, August 19). The Evolution Of The Immigration Term: Alien. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

Peet, L. (2016). LC Drops “Illegal Alien” Subject Heading. Library Journal, 141(11), 12-13.

The Internet Archive is Moving to Canada: Publicity Stunt or Reasonable Decision

By adifigl2

On December 7, 2015, Donald Trump spoke to a crowd at the U.S.S. Yorktown in South Carolina, “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet, and we have to do something. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people…about, maybe in certain areas, closing the internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech! Freedom of speech! These are foolish people…We’ve got to do something with the internet.” He insisted that ISIS recruitment of “impressionable youth” through the internet was severe enough to warrant limitations in access and availability (Vicens, 2016)

While his statements were not necessarily based on extensive research or even a rudimentary understanding of how the internet works, his flippant response towards the limitation and restricted access of information struck many information freedom activists and professionals as worrisome.

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, was one of the first to speak out after Trump’s election in November. On November 29th he issued a statement on the Internet Archive blog stating that Trump’s election “was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change…[I]t means preparing for a Web that may face greater restrictions.” Kahle explained that the Internet Archive had been working to create a partial backup in Canada (they currently have additional backups in Alexandria and Amsterdam), but after the election made the decision to make the Canadian archive a full backup of their database, essentially creating a second hub for the archive. This duplicate is often called a “mirror” and is a platform that many websites use to ensure a backup and evade censorship (Johnson, 2016).

Kahle’s response to the election and announcement of their move elicited responses from Rachel Maddow¹, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and nearly every major news outlet. A once obscure website became a hot button topic of discussion seemingly overnight.

I wanted to understand their reasoning behind the move, obviously it makes sense to continue the work that they had already been doing in Canada by advancing the project further, but why Canada?

Canadian laws regarding access to online information and access to the web are very similar to those in the United States. The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) was passed in 2001 under certain limitations, and more comprehensively in 2004 (Wilson). This act implements certain restrictions on the storing of personal information by large corporations and was originally developed to encourage consumer online shopping.

In 2015, Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, was passed in Canada which gave government greater access to citizens’ web based data, and allowed for that information to be used to target potential terrorists (Mendhelson, 2016). While the new president, Justin Trudeau, has promised to repeal a large portion of the more problematic elements of the bill, the restrictions and allowance for government access is very similar to the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 which was passed in the United States (NIST).

While Canada does offer fewer restrictions than the United States in some areas, it has greater limitations on content, and as recently as 2005 internet providers had the ability to block certain IP addresses without any legal ramifications or modifications to laws to prevent it happening again (CBC News, 2005).

The Freedom House non-profit published “Freedom on the Net 2016”, which discusses various countries’ current laws and standings on internet accessibility and freedom of web based information. It rates countries based on three attributes; obstacles to access, limitations on content, and violations of user rights. Canada rates 16 out of 100, and the United States rates 18 out of 100. Canada rated lower than the United States in “violation of user rights”, but higher on their “limitations of content”. Meaning that they are more apt to protect their citizens rights and information on the internet than the US, but that they in turn restrict more information than the US. Ultimately, both countries rate relatively low and similar. The countries that rate best (lowest) on their scale include Estonia and Iceland, both 6 out of 100 significantly lower than both the US and Canada(Mendhelson, 2016).

Ultimately, the regulations and laws surrounding internet and information accessibility do not differ greatly between the United States and Canada. Each have positives and negatives, each are constantly being modified and circumnavigated to appease whoever needs whatever information. The similarities still beg the question, why are they creating an additional copy there? Although it is reasonable to be cautious of storing information in the United States considering our current political climate, it is important to recognize that the same restriction and obliteration of information could rapidly occur in Canada if their political climate were to change. While I do agree that “lots of copies keep stuff safe”, I think it is important to consider where those copies are being stored, especially when taking into account the amount of time and funding that it takes to create those additional copies. It might be paying off for the Internet Archive to draw attention to work that they are currently doing by using it as a means t0 take a stand against the administration, but to praise their decision might be hasty. As purveyors of a world of digital born content, the Internet Archive now holds the weight of responsibility for that information, and in the long run it makes more sense to focus efforts on the creation of more stable copies in countries that are better known for their unrestrictive information laws.


CBC News. (2005, July 24). Telus cuts subscriber access to pro-union website. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Johnson, A. (2016, November 29). Internet Archive, web’s warehouse, creating Trump-era copy in Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Kahle, B. (2016, November 29). Help Us Keep the Archive Free, Accessible, and Reader Private. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Mendehlson, A., & Reed, L. (2016). Freedom on the Net 2016. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

NIST. FISMA Background. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Vicens, A. (2016, December 10). The coolest thing on the internet is moving to Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

Wilson, P., & Fekete, M. (2011). Privacy Law in Canada. Doing Business in Canada. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from

“Fancy Pictures” and the Ethics of Documentary Photography

By kgallag8

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In Methodology Matters: Doing Research in the Behavioral and Social Sciences, Joseph McGrath regards ‘doing research’ as “…the systematic use of some set of theoretical and empirical tools to try to increase our understanding of some set of phenomena or events.”  Mark Neville’s conversations with David Campany in his new book, Fancy Pictures, are an exemplary case of McGrath’s definition.  The book chronicles Neville’s ‘documentarian’ photography projects from 2004 to 2016 in which he immerses himself in an environment, be it a small working-class town of Scotland in The Port of Glasgow; the Helmand Province of Afghanistan in The Helmand Work; or the Lloyds of London and the London Metal Exchange in Here is London.  For our purposes, I will focus my time on The Port of Glasgow project from 2004.

“I physically go into communities and, over time, I negotiate some kind of performance from the people I’m with.” –Mark Neville

In applying my knowledge from Methodology Matters and The Ethics of Fieldwork (a publication of PERCS) to this photography book, I found Mark Neville to be a mastermind of the game in his The Port of Glasgow project.  He and David Campany discuss the issue of photography commodifying people and ways in which to “interrupt or subvert that commoditization of people and their bodies.3

As a photographer working primarily on grants and residencies—at the time—, Mark Neville applied and was awarded a grant of £106,000 ($132,076) for a public art project in the west coast of Scotland.  Neville had preconceptions of what his project was to become: “[an] expensive coffee-table book of social documentary photography” and it appeared to him that a book like this “[would not be] aimed at the kinds of people who were in the pictures… there was a real contradiction, a hierarchy, exploitation.”  So Neville decided instead to make his final publications available only to those living in the community, and to have an open relationship with the people being photographed in regards to: how they wanted to be portrayed, what they were okay with publicly showing, and what events Mark was allowed to attend (i.e.: parties, church services).

This method of research would most likely be described by Joseph McGrath as a ‘field study’—meaning that “the researcher sets out to make direct observations of ‘natural’, ongoing systems, while disturbing those systems as little as possible.1”—although, the fact that Neville invites his subjects to comment on the way they are portrayed may skew some lines in the exact definition.  I would consider this type of work to be extremely ethical, based on The Ethics of Fieldwork and my own biases of ethical behavior.  In production of this book, Neville was highly open with his subjects, gaining the trust of the community for the two years it took to complete the project.  He answered the question “Are there ways we can gain the information we need without hiding our purposes? 2” with a ‘yes, of course!’ as he laid everything out on the table before and during production, field work, and research.

In going about his project this way, Mark thought he would “avoid stereotypes and assumptions [as well as] alienating [his] participants. 2” , but that was not the case with all of the Glasgow residents.  Although many were proud and excited about the high production value and the solidity of the book—some even going to lengths of emailing Mark about their enthusiasm—others were not as happy.  The residents of ‘Robert Street’ saw the book as too representative of the Catholic pubs and clubs in the town and that there were not enough depictions of the Protestant culture; these people collectively decided to burn their copies of the books in the streets.

“I literally got a call from the fire station telling me a pile of my books was on fire.3” –Mark Neville

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A January 2004 article from The Greenock Telegraph interviews Nursery teacher, Claire Scott on her feelings of the publication and the negative repercussions she believes it may have on how the town sees itself but also how the rest of the world will see them.  Scott believes the publication to have negative stereotypes of what “people expect [Glasgow] to be like… ‘A dirty wee Port’” and regards Neville as “an outsider looking in with a prejudiced view before he started.”

“We have to live here after his lens is gone.” –Claire Scott

So the question arises: ‘Can researchers conduct adequate analysis that serves the initial question(s) of their study, in a way that makes the subject feel comfortable during, and content with the results after?’

The Ethics of Fieldwork brings up similar questions: How do we record (or do we record) the discoveries within a community that the community itself does not know or recognize in a systematic way?; How can we show out participants as whole people while still focusing on key elements of their lives?; How do we establish rapport within the community we are studying?; Is it possible to be seen by your subjects as anything more than an outsider?

Indeed there are ways of getting around these preconceptions: learning local norms of conduct, making the subjects feel that they are in control of the situations—or that ‘you need them more than they need you’, learning local concerns in regards to the project, and above all: being truthful to your subjects.  Neville’s primary mistake may have been sheer hubris—that he did not realize he was alienating his subjects by indirectly defining them as exotic or exemplified of their environment, while forgetting to check if there were any embarrassing revelations from the people being portrayed.  He may have taken the necessary steps to try to conduct an ethical research project, but he must’ve overlooked something, somewhere.

It could also be true that it is inevitable you are always going to offend someone—that no matter how hard an individual tries to report clear, concise, unbiased information, there will always be at least one person that will disagree with the content and message of the work.  McGrath regards the research process as “…at heart, a social enterprise resting on consensus. 1” But can we all ever really be in general agreement?  The answer is quite confidently, ‘no’, as we can see—on a societal level—in cultural reviews of books and movies, trends of fashion, what our taxes should go towards, climate change, etc.  No matter how convincing, accurate, or honest the reporting and information may be, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. 4

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1 Mcgrath, Joseph E. “METHODOLOGY MATTERS: DOING RESEARCH IN THE BEHAVIORAL and SOCIAL SCIENCES.” Readings in Human–Computer Interaction(1994): 152-69. Web.

2 “The Ethics of Fieldwork.” Elon University 34.5 (1993): 2. Http:// PERCS: The Program for Ethnographic Research & Community Studies, Web. 18 Feb. 2017.

3 Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. Print.

4 Lydgate, John. “A Quote by John Lydgate.” Goodreads. Good Reads, 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.


Neville, Mark.  View from the Ropeworks Building. 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 24. Print.

Neville, Mark.  Betty at Port Glasgow Town Hall Xmas Party. 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 13. Print.

The Greenock Telegraph. January 12 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 13. Print.

“The first email response to Port Glasgow from a Portonian. 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 13. Print.

Neville, Mark.  Boys at Devol. 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 1. Print.

Neville, Mark.  Ancient Order of the Hibernian Social Club (Donna). 2004. Neville, Mark, and David Campany. Mark Neville: Fancy Pictures. Göttingen: Steidl, 2016. 25. Print.


Kelsey Gallagher, Information Professionals LIS651 Thursdays 3-6, Spring 2017

An Unspoken Prescription for our Information Elites

By evolow

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the first day of the Avant Museology Symposium at the Brooklyn Museum. It was an experience my wife and I went into with little foreknowledge of the contents. We knew that the general subject matter would relate to the future of curation and exhibition design. I knew that the most inscrutable (least scrutable?) Art History department lecturer from my undergrad alma mater would be in attendance, and I knew there would be some famous curators there. All fuzzy notions. The event happened to fall three days after the United States unexpectedly elected Donald Trump as its next President, and the firmly liberal or left wing audience and speakers at the symposium had not recovered from the initial shock of that upset. In his opening remarks, artist and founder of e-flux (the organization responsible for the symposium) Anton Vidokle quipped that his friends were “depressed and catatonic.” There was indeed a feeling of catatonia or paralysis in the air.

A lecture by critic Boris Groys provided a retreat into the high-minded world of modern art theory, considering the question of whether museums provide art with too much protection or too little, calling up in the process the ghosts of Kasimir Malevich, Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, and perhaps most of all Walter Benjamin.

Then the Americans took the stage. Or rather, two Americans and one Briton, though the effect of sudden westernization after two thoroughly Russian speakers was jarring. Brooklyn Museum Director Anne Pasternak and Chief Curator Nancy Spector sat on either side of artist Liam Gillick and discussed the (by their admission) confounding results of a 2008 group show at the Guggenheim Museum curated by Spector and featuring Gillick. The show, titled theanyspacewhatever, was a bold decision on Spector’s part to give over the space of the Guggenheim entirely to a group of ten critically acclaimed contemporary artists, with the idea that they collectively would transform the space in ways that challenge the dictates of the institution. Flipping through a slideshow of installation pieces, Gillick and Spector conceded that the exhibition lapsed into a collection of individual works rather than the grand collaborative statement originally intended. There was a wistful, unmoored feeling in the air as these three very established art world figures discussed further curatorial adventures, all the while projecting the feeling that they wanted to burst the bubble of their status and do something. The preview for the panel in the symposium program does indeed use the words “outreach” and “progressive,” but the three speakers, clad all in black and seated onstage on chic modern chairs, appeared comically distant from the America that had a few days earlier so startled and dismayed them. Between them and me lay three rows of mostly unclaimed reserved chairs. The audience, of course, appeared uniformly academic and/or artistic, skewed heavily toward age groups under 30 and over 50. The conversation lurched closer to the present political situation when the panelists called for questions from the audience. I almost spoke up, but held my tongue, cowed by the presence of my inscrutable old Modern Art professor and the knowledge of my own plainspokenness amidst all this abstraction.

The alien atmosphere reasserted itself with the ascent of famed Swiss curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist to the podium. Rail thin, the smartest dressed of all, he delivered his prewritten lecture at high speed with head bowed and a thick, not-quite-German accent.

I left the symposium stimulated and happy, but with the firm conviction that the star curators and critics I’d seen on stage could not be further removed from the benighted America they wished to reach out to. They might indeed be actively repellant. It made me sad to realize this, that for all their intellect this critical upper crust could not reach into the center, that they must in fact recuse themselves.

I thought of the election, the moral failure of the liberal elite, the wealthy centrists to blame, and the wealthy people I encounter every day at my fancy restaurant job. Then I realized a directive for the intellectual, artistic class.

My restaurant is owned by a charismatic, creative semi-celebrity chef, married to an artist and friends with the likes of Laurie Anderson and Paloma Picasso. Yesterday, Camille Pissarro’s great-grandson tipped me $10 for fetching his coat. The balance of the customer base, those who aren’t members of the creative elite, is made up of financiers, dentists, and attorneys. They don’t perform academic or creative work, but they are all too glad to express their appreciation of creative and unusual cooking. If they can claim a friendship with the aforementioned chef, even better. My realization is that these people, the plutocrats who so disproportionately dictate society’s course, rely upon the creative elite for validation. They desperately need the friendship, approval, or at least output of the creatively blessed to give their lives texture and meaning. They need to know that when they left this or that Ivy to pursue a JD or MBA, they did not somehow lose out to their friends and classmates who got MFAs instead. They must beat back the encroaching darkness of intellectual oblivion and moral bankruptcy. My recommendation to their more enlightened validators, then, is simply to wield that influence. Withhold validation. Nudge your moneyed acquaintances left, or let them suffer.

On the way home from the symposium, I found my confidence growing, wishing I had spoken up earlier. I decided to take my notes home and send an encouraging, clarifying email to Spector, Pasternak, and Gillick. Then I found that none of their email addresses are publicly available. The end.

Intelligence Machines

By jasonz

I watched a TED Talk presentation by Kevin Kelly, an executive editor of the Wired magazine, on how AI can bring on a second Industrial Revolution. The presentation analyzes the various stages of human evolution and discusses how artificial intelligence would become the center of the next phase of our technological evolution.

In his presentation, Kevin Kelly points out computing devices are derived from physics and nature despite all the wonderful things that they have done for us in the recent years,. Modern computing devices operate on nothing more than wires and switches. Computer programs simply make recurring patterns based on sets of instructions given by humans. As a result, regardless of directions of technological development, technology has tendencies. Kelly compares tendencies of technology to the movement of raindrops, while the movement may be erratic, the general direction is downward. Similar to raindrops, the general direction of modern technologies can be predicted despite the complexities behind them.

Kelly points out artificial intelligence will be the major area of research and development in the next stage of our technology cycle. Research and development effort in this cycle will be focused on making computer programs smarter and more intelligent instead of just softwares that help us perform repetitive tasks. He coins this next stage of technology cycle “cognification”. To exemplify the idea of “cognification”, Kelly brought up Google’s AlphaGo, the computer program known famously for defeating the world’s Go champion. Kelly also brought up Deepmind, another Google’s computer program that is capable of learning how to play video game.

Kelly points out our idea of artificial intelligence is generally misguided. We tend to think of artificial intelligence as analogous to a single music note that has only one attribute: loudness. He sees artificial intelligence is a symphony of different music notes in which deductive reasoning, spatial reasoning, memories all have roles in defining intelligence. As we change arrangement of “notes”, artificial intelligence can help us in different ways. For example, GPS device is capable of pinpointing our location because we program it to be good at spatial reasoning. Search engine is good at finding information because we program it to be good at deductive reasoning. As technology evolves so does the need to create different arrangement of “notes” to meet our other computing needs.

The presentation concluded with an analysis of the stages of human evolution. Kelly predicts that we are at the verge of next stage of technological evolution in which artificial intelligence, like steam power in the Industrial Revolution, would change the way we live. Machines would take on new meanings. Computer programs would become more than just productivity applications. While artificial intelligence may set us up for a future in which many jobs would be replaced by machines, it cannot do it easily without the help of humans. The rise of artificial intelligence would also engender new jobs and opportunities. We can take advantage of these opportunities by learning, understanding and embracing artificial intelligence.

While I do agree with Kevin Kelly’s prediction that research and development effort will directed to creating smarter and more intelligent technology, I think the word “intelligence” can be overused these days in describing the future of machines. According to Wikipedia, “intelligence” can be defined “in many different ways including as one’s capacity for logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, planning, creativity and problem solving. It can be more generally described as the ability to perceive information, and to retain it as knowledge to be applied towards adaptive behaviors within an environment or context” Kevin Kelly’s vision on artificial intelligence reminds me of Phoebe Senger’s article that tries to give machines cultural identities. In “Practices for a machine culture” Senger points out that “the hope is that rather than forcing humans to interface with machines, those machines may learn to interface with us, to present themselves in such a way that they do not drain us of our humanity, but instead themselves become humanized” While machines that are capable of learning and problem-solving are on the horizon, we still have a long way to go in bringing other aspects of intelligence such as emotional knowledge, self-aware, and creativity to “intelligent” machines using just wires and switches.

I agree with Kelly that our understanding of artificial intelligence is limited. We are often sold on the idea of “intelligent machine” but we don’t understand the tremendous amount of effort involved in creating it. Even with advances made in AI architecture in the recent decade (“Why Deep Learning Is Suddenly Changing Your Life”) and the progress in natural language recognition using computer softwares (“Introduction to Natural Language Processing”) I think there is a long way for artificial intelligence to revolutionize our lives. Considering frequency of the words “artificial intelligence” appear in science journals and technology web blogs, I have yet to see any noticeable way “intelligent” machines are impacting our lives. Given the vast amount of resources tech companies like Google and Apple have poured in AI research (“Google Opens New AI Lab And Invests $3.4M in Montreal-Based AI Research”) and considering the fact that bots in video games have been learning our moves and beating us again and again in boss fight for many years, Google’s AI learning how to play video game and AlphaGo defeating the world’s Go champion isn’t all that impressive. Again, as someone, who is not involved in AI research, I am most likely underestimating the effort involved.

As an avid follower of emerging technology and fan of science fictions, I am always looking forward to an Utopia in which robots can provide assistance and answer to our need in meaningful ways. For this reason, I recently purchased a Google Home device, a Google product that represents Google’s latest attempt in bringing artificial intelligence to our homes. While the product is marketed to be the portal to Google’s most advanced AI platform. There is very little it can do other than playing music at the command of your voice and giving you generic answers to general questions. If Google Home embodies our vision of future artificial intelligence, then there is a lot more work to be done. In conclusion, while I am more inclined to Kelly’s hopeful vision over techno pessimists’ view of artificial intelligence, I think we need to educate ourselves about complexities and technical challenge of artificial intelligence before judging its potential.

Sengers (2000), “Practices for a machine culture: a case study of integrating cultural theory and artificial intelligence”

Roger Parloff, “Why Deep Learning Is Suddenly Changing Your Life” Web, Sept 28, 2016

Matt Kiser, “Introduction to Natural Language Processing” Web, Aug 11, 2016

Darrell Etherington, “Google Opens New AI Lab And Invests $3.4M in Montreal-Based AI Research”, Nov 21, 2016

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