Professional Development

Steve at NASIG 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013 12:24 pm

The 2013 NASIG Conference was held in Buffalo, New York, from June 6th to 9th. I flew in two days early so I could attend an all-day Executive Board meeting on the 5th, in my role as incoming Vice President. It was nice to be back on the Board and get into the issues facing NASIG, although I can’t really talk about what we discussed (confidentiality and all that).

As for the conference content, the opening and closing Vision Sessions were particularly interesting and formed neat bookends (Derrik did a great job describing Megan Oakleaf’s Vision Session on the second day). First up was Bryan Alexander, of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). Alexander described how computer interfaces have changed dramatically and how they have grown in ubiquity. He talked about how the use of computer technology to reach out to the public has grown so much that even the government is using computers to communicate in unprecedented ways (in a funny coincidence, just after he said this, I fidgeted with my phone and checked my email, and received an email from the North Carolina Wildlife Commission reminding me that my fishing license was due to expire and offering me the chance to renew online. From a meeting room in Buffalo, NY). Alexander was very matter-of-fact about how pervasive computer technology is throughout our lives. He described a project, or possibly a new app, in Denmark that uses facial recognition technology to identify people in a photograph, which then takes you directly to their Facebook page and social media presence. I was shocked by this, because it sounds like a stalker’s delight, but Alexander did not seemed disturbed by the development. Perhaps he is concerned about the privacy implications of such technology, but it wasn’t apparent during his speech. Alexander went on to describe three possible futures that he sees developing from the proliferation of information technology: 1) The Phantom Learning World – In this world, schools and libraries are rare, because information is available on demand anywhere. Institutions supplement content, not vice versa, and MOOCs are everywhere. 2) The Open World – A future where open source, open access and open content have won. Global conversations increase exponentially in this world, but industries such as publishing collapse, and it is generally chaotic (malware thrives, privacy is gone). 3) The Silo World – In this world, closed architecture has triumphed and there are lots of stacks and silos. Campuses have to contend with increasingly difficult IP issues. Alexander acknowledged that the three variations were all pretty extreme and what eventually develops will probably have features of all three. But he emphasized that, as information professionals, we have to participate in shaping our information future.

While Alexander’s speech seemed to accept that the horse was already out of the barn when it comes to our privacy in the information technology realm, Siva Vaidhyanathan’s Vision Session speech was very much focused on privacy issues. Vaidhyanathan is from the University of Virginia, and he wrote the book “The Googlization of Everything-And Why We Should Worry.” He discussed how Google tries to read our minds and anticipate our behavior, based on our previous online behavior. He argued that Google’s desire to read our minds is actually the reason behind the Google Books project, which won’t make money for them. So, why do they do it? Vaidhyanathan argued that Google is trying to reverse engineer the sentence. They want to create an enormous reservoir of millions and millions of sentences, so they can sift through them to find patterns and simulate artificial intelligence. This would give Google and huge boost to their predictive abilities. Furthermore, he argued that Google is in a very close relationship with the government which should be worrying (particularly in light of the Edward Snowden case, which broke just days before his speech). Considering the enormity of the data at Google’s disposal, this could have enormous consequences. Vaidhyanathan argued that there is currently no incentive to curb Big Data, from the point of view of government, business and even academia. Why go small when there’s so much data to trawl through? Nobody’s trying to stop it, even if they should be. Vaidhyanathan went on to discuss Jeremy Bentham’s idea of the Panopticon, which was a prison with a circular design, with the cells placed in a ring around a central guard tower. The guard tower would have mirrored windows which would prevent the prisoner from ever knowing if they were being watched at any particular time. This was presumed to keep the prisoner on his best behavior. Vaidhyanathan argued that we now live in a Cryptopticon, where we don’t know who is watching us and when (here he gave the example of store loyalty cards, which are used to create a profile of your purchases that is cross-referenced with your credit card, and which is shared with other commercial entities). Unlike the Panopticon, which had the goal of keeping you on your best behavior, the Cryptopticon has the goal of catching you at your worst behavior. And while the Panopticon was visible, the state wants the systems of surveillance to be invisible (hence the Cyrptopticon). The state wants you to do what comes naturally, so as to catch you if you do something wrong. Vaidhyanathan argued that hidden instruments of surveillance are particularly worrying. For example, he discussed the No Fly List and the Terrorist Watch List. We don’t know what it takes to get on or off one of those lists. In essence we’re not allowed to know what laws are governing us, and that’s wrong. And these lists are very fallible. While there are a lot of false positives on the lists (people who don’t belong on the lists, but are, such as the late Sen. Edward Kennedy), there are also a lot of false negatives (people who aren’t on the lists but should be, such as the Boston Marathon bombers). The No Fly and Terrorist Watch Lists could be useful, but they are poorly executed. Vaidhyanathan argued that these lists might function better with more transparency. In conclusion, Vaidhyanathan discussed how, thanks to the proliferation of data about our lives on the web, we are creating a system where it’s hard to get a second chance. Youthful indiscretions and stupid mistakes will be with you for good. It made me think that the classic Vice Principal threat, “This will go down on your permanent record,” is now true. Vaidhyanathan argued that while savvy technology users may be able to take measures to protect their privacy on the web, we should be worried about protecting everyone’s privacy, not just our own.

Of course there were also a number of sessions that I attended, but I think I’ve already written enough and hopefully provided some food for thought.

2 Responses to “Steve at NASIG 2013”

  1. Awesome post Steve. Now I want to read Vaidhyanathan’s book.

    Thanks,

    James

  2. Wow. You are going to have your hands full next year, Steve!


Pages
About
Categories
ACRL
ALA
ALA Annual
ALA Midwinter
ALCTS
ALFMO
ANCHASL
ANSS
APALA
ARLIS
ASERL
ASIS&T
ATLA
Career Development for Women Leaders
Carolina Consortium
CASE Conference
Celebration: Entrepreneurial Conference
Charleston Conference
Coalition for Networked Information
code4lib
Conferences
CurateGear
DHSI
DigCCurr
Digital Forsyth
EDUCAUSE
edUI
Electronic Resources and Libraries
Elon Teaching and Learning Conference
Entrepreneurial Conference
Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP)
Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA)
FDLP
First-Year Experience Conference
Handheld Librarian
ILLiad Conference
Immersion
Innovative Library Classroom Conference
IRB101
Journal reading group
LAUNC-CH
Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians
Library Assessment Conference
Lilly Conference
LITA
LITA National Forum
LLAMA
LOEX
Mentoring Committee
MERLOT
Metrolina
Music Library Association
NASIG
NC-LITe
NCCU Conference on Digital Libraries
NCICU
NCLA
NCPC
NCSLA
NISO
North Carolina Serials Conference
online course
Online Learning Summit
Open Repositories
Professional Development Center
RBMS
RTSS
RUSA
SACSCOC
Site Visits and Tours
Society of American Archivists
Society of North Carolina Archivists
SOLINET
Southeast Music Library Association
SPARC
STS
Sun Webinar Series
symposium
TALA Conference
UNC Teaching and Learning with Technology Conference
Uncategorized
University Libraries Group
Webinar
WebWise
WGSS
workshops
ZSR Library Leadership Retreat
Tags
Archives
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007

Powered by WordPress.org, protected by Akismet. Blog with WordPress.com.