Event Wrap Up: Digital Literacy Reconsidered

On Tuesday, 4th February, at UTS in Sydney, a Meetup was held by UTS Engage to reconsider the concept of digital literacy.  There were two speakers – Heidi Julien, Professor of Information Science at the University at Buffalo; and Amelia Johns, Senior Lecturer in Digital and Social Media at UTS Sydney.

Heidi Julien reflected on the huge importance placed on digital literacy, that it doesn’t really warrant.  UNESCO have stated that information and digital literacy “contributes to sustainable world peace”. The burden of world peace is one that is now placed on the shoulders of educators and librarians! This burden is often reinforced by librarians who make lofty claims about the importance of digital literacy and see themselves as the gatekeepers of digital literacy, while frequently not having experience or expertise in teaching.

Information seeking processes are situational, social and embodied as part of a dynamic process.  People believe what they have been brought up to believe, not always remembering where they got their information, and so their internal biases are difficult to overcome.  Social conformity also impacts our search processes and so while information/digital literacy is important, it’s insufficient on its own as a basis for widespread change.

Digital literacy is increasingly important for most careers, and so is an important part of our lives but it’s not a magic bullet that will fix social and economic inequity.  Ultimately Ms Julien had a lot of challenges and questions for us but not a lot of answers.

Amelia Johns spoke second, presenting research findings on misinformation and hate speech on social media, looking specifically into social media output surrounding the recent bushfires.

Digital literacy was added to the primary and high school curriculum to equip students with tech skills, but then social issues like trolling and online bullying were added to the curriculum under the guise of digital citizenship as an example of another social issue teachers are charged with fixing.  The challenge is that research has shown that trolling is done by digitally literate people; these highly digital literate people use their skills to promote hate speech and misinformation to create “information disorder”. They don’t share misinformation because they believe it’s true, they share it to get attention.

Ms Johns then went on to discuss preliminary findings from their research which suggested that those who did not believe in the #ClimateEmergency provided links from less respected sources.

Dana Boyd’s article “You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You? and Ted Talk “What Hath We Wrought” were given as suggested “further reading” as was the new book “Why We’re Polarised” by Ezra Klein.

Finally, we had a Q&A session which was recorded here.

To read another summary of this event head to LinkedIn.

Event Wrap Up: Talk, Collaborate and Listen!

On Wednesday 30th October, ALIA SNGG NSW held a workshop called Talk, Collaborate and Listen, run by Sally Turbitt. This was a replay of her popular workshop from NLS9 in Adelaide earlier this year.

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During the workshop, participants were encouraged to think about their personal values, and we began this process by looking at Sally’s own values list, and then brainstorming other values that could go on such a list.

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Participants had time to work on their own lists and discuss their values with other participants, and the final lists (although always works in progress) will help them find the positions that are right for them.

The next key part of the workshop was collaboration.  Participants created a list of questions they had about the GLAMR industry and we collaborated together with ideas as to the answers to those questions or where the answers could be found. Sally also shared some tips she gleaned through a Twitter discussion, which anyone can benefit from, even if they weren’t able to attend the workshop.IMG_1407.JPG

Participants came away from the event feeling empowered to move forward in their GLAMR careers and build professional networks.

Event Wrap Up: GLAMSLAM19

by Liz Parnell.

GLAMSLAM19 was an incredible gathering of minds from within, and outside, the GLAM sector. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people I’ve met before, and meet new people in the sector.

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We were challenged to use our GLAM Power to support the planet and reduce climate change, we examined the idea of value, and were treated to 20+ lightning talks from a wide range of people. My favourite lightning talks were about how to work with Indigenous collections and Indigenous communities, especially as a non-Indigenous person.

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The final part of the program involved us splitting into “GLAMJAMS” – small groups that would chat about a chosen topic. The table I joined discussed the future of the catalogue. Our conclusions were – metadata is essential and without it our catalogues are useless. We need to create quality metadata, metadata that acknowledges we cannot fathom all the ways our patrons will want to use our collections, but for that we need funding/budget support. We’d also like to see evidence that the collections are being used.

Personally, I was most interested in the topics which touched on cataloguing, metadata and Indigenous issues – which was a lot. Added to that was my personal exploration of the venue – the State Library of NSW – examining realia on display, the accompanying catalogue record and the card catalogues that are still present in the Mitchell Reading Room.

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To hear what others thought of GLAMSLAM19, checkout the Twitter hashtag, #GLAMSLAM19

Event Wrap Up: ALIA Information Online 2019

Last month, I had the incredible experience of volunteering at the ALIA Information Online conference.

Monday was a quiet day. My first workshop was a classroom technology session that involved 3D printing, playing with robots, iPads and VR (virtual reality). The workshop was interesting and it exposed me to some classroom tech options I hadn’t experienced before.

Four blue robots (that each look like four spheres) are on a psychedelic carpet

The conference kicked into full gear on Tuesday. After a site induction we got to sit in on the first keynote from Genevieve Bell about AI (artificial intelligence). I did miss the beginning but really enjoyed her keynote.  She talked about how AI destroys the potential for “serendipitous discovery”. For example, Spotify will recommend more of the same music that you already like, while GPS focuses us on the destination, rather than the journey and the interesting places we pass.  She also explored the concept of what it means for computers to make art – with examples of music and visual art created by computers.  One of the most interesting things she explored was the bias of algorithms, which I have read a little about.  She shared a story about how Kodachrome film was developed, using “model people” (ie people who looked “ideal”) and used that as a benchmark for how to make those people look the best on this film.  Of course, they used only white people.  As a consequence, Sidney Poitier was always sweating profusely on set because they had to have so many spotlights on him for the film to be able to properly capture his facial expressions.  Another example of algorithmic bias is automatic doors set to look for people of a certain height, meaning both particularly tall and particularly short people struggle to get the doors to open for them.  The final message from this keynote was “Build the future you want to live in.  You never do it alone.”

Genevieve Bell

Another Monday keynote I enjoyed was Mike Jones‘ keynote on the unrealised potential of digital collections, which I have talked about in another post. The talk started with the history of cataloguing, and I learned a lot, including that early card catalogues used the back of playing cards (where the back was blank) as a way of standardising the size of the cards in the catalogue.  We traipsed through history, to the modern website of museums and libraries, where entries often resemble a digitised card catalogue, rather than tapping into the potential of hyperlinking and tagging. A great quote from this session (from a guy called Ted Nelson) was “Everything is deeply intertwingled”.  The Tate in the UK does a good job of showing the potential of how we can better catalogue items for users.  The challenge was “What if I told you there is no shelf?” – could we have a non-hierarchical structure for libraries?  Mike Jones left us with this thought – what if we thought of knowledge as the flow of a river, and how would digital collections change if we thought about knowledge in this way?

This is the metadata of a computer held by London Science Museum. It tells you about the physical object but no mention of the backstory that this is the computer Tim Berners Lee programmed the world wide web on

This is the metadata of a computer held by London Science Museum. It tells you about the physical object but no mention of the backstory that this is the computer Tim Berners Lee programmed the world wide web on.

Other highlights of Monday were getting to hear some of the shorter talks.  I learned about the “renovations” of the Trove website. It was great to hear more about one of my favourite library projects – a new logo is coming along with a pile of improvements. 

I also went to a talk called Tinker time, which was about digital literacy for adults. Library staff engaged in their own digital literacy projects to develop their skills and were given space to make mistakes, with the emphasis being on the process and the learning rather than on the finished product.

Tuesday began with a keynote from the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Carla’s keynote (via videolink) was warm, fuzzy and encouraging. Rather than challenging and inspiring. However, I did feel like it was a good balance to have something warm like that.  

Possibly the most memorable workshop at InfoOnline was Five senses of GLAMR. We explored how algorithms turned paintings into sound. How libraries, galleries and museums can improve the experience for their blind and low vision patrons, experienced VR (virtual reality). We also discussed the role of scent and tasted the future of food – insects. It was truly a workshop that needed to be experienced, rather than something I can disseminate in detail.  

We did learn about a really interesting service called Aira, which is a subscription service for blind people. Aira allows an operator to see through smart glasses or a smartphone camera where the vision impaired person is and what is around them. This allows the operator to give them a verbal description of the location.  Libraries, galleries and museums can subscribe to with a geofence. This allows vision impaired people to access Aira for free while they are on the premises, so they can more fully participate in exhibits and exhibitions.  

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The highlight of Thursday, for me, was the strong Indigenous content.  We began the day with a keynote from Terri Janke who talked about Indigenous language and culture in the context of Indigenous Culture and Intellectual Property (ICIP). Even though this isn’t often recognised in copyright laws.  For example, Tasmanian Aboriginal Languages were put onto Wikipedia without consultation with Indigenous communities.  She talked about how to involve Indigenous communities respectfully, particularly through a program called True Tracks, that she has developed. This involves treating Indigenous communities with respect, giving them a right to self-determination and seeking consent and consultation early in the process. Not as an afterthought.

Following this I heard Sophie Herbert talk about a modification of the Harvard referencing system she developed (now endorsed by the University of Technology, Sydney), which acknowledges the country from which Indigenous authors come. It also lists undocumented authors or contributors as “uncredited” rather than the former “unknown”.  The use of “uncredited” puts the onus back on the knowledge gatherer because they didn’t bother to note down the contributor. Rather than suggesting that they were not known.  I also enjoyed hearing Marcus Hughes from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) speak about Indigenous knowledge. Marcus explained that in Indigenous knowledge everything is linked. Unlike the Western view of knowledge where everything is in “silos”.  He also talked about how that worked out in practice when Aunty Bonita Mabo donated Uncle Eddie Mabo’s shirts to the MAAS, and how the Mabo family retains ownership of these artefacts. Even though MAAS is charged of taking care of them and displaying them.

Marcus Hughes stands behind a podium, talking

Other highlights of the week for me were volunteering on the registration desk and getting to greet people and answer their questions; talking to exhibitors (who had masses of freebies); and the delicious food.  I got to meet so many people – many of whom I knew as a Twitter handle.  Kyla, Jane, Hugh, Mel, Nic. Also a shout out to Mylee who was very generous with her time and sharing her experiences of being on the ALIA Info Online 2019 Committee. 

My favourite vendor display

I have lots of ideas for ALIA National 2020, which I am on the Program Committee for!