Guardian Teacher Network Seminar: Technology in schools: money saver or money waster? – Belated Liveblog

Last Thursday I attended the Guardian Teacher Network Seminar: Technology in schools: money saver or money waster? at Kings Place, London.The panel was chaired by Kate Hodge (KH), head of content strategy at Jaywing Content and former editor of the Guardian Teacher Network, and featured:

  • John Galloway (JG), advisory teacher for ICT/special educational needs and inclusion, Tower Hamlets Council.
  • Donald Clark (DC), founder, PlanB Learning and investor in EdTech companies with experience of teaching maths and physics in FE in the UK and US.
  • Michael Mann (MM), senior programme manager, education team, Nesta Innovation Lab.
  • Naureen Khalid (NK), school governor and co-founder of @UkGovChat.

These are my live notes from the event – although these are a wee bit belated they are more or less unedited so comments, corrections, additions etc. are welcomed. 

The panel began with introductions, mainly giving an overview of their background. The two who said a wee bit more were:

John Galloway, specialist on technologies for students with special needs and inclusion, I work half time at Tower Hamlets with students but also a lot of training. It’s the skills of adults that is often the challenge. The rest of my time I consult, I’m a freelance writer, I am a judge of the BETT awards.

Michael Mann (MM), NESTA, our interest is that we don’t think EdTech has reached its potential yet… Our feeling is that we haven’t seen that impact yet. And since our report five years ago we’ve invested in companies and charities who focus on impact. Also do research with UCL, and work with teachers to trial things in real classrooms.

All comments below are credited to the speakers with their initials (see above), and audience comments and questions are marked as such… 

KH: What’s the next big thing in tech?

DC: It’s AI… It’s the new UI no matter what you use really… I only invest in AI now… Education is curiously immune from this at the moment but it won’t be… It is perfect for providing feedback and improving the eLearning experience – that crappy gamification or read then quiz experience… We are in a funny transitionary phase..

MM: There has been an interesting trend recently where specialist kit is becoming mainstreams… touch screens for instance, or speech to text… So, I think that is closing the gap between our minds and our machines… The gap is closing… The latest thing in special education needs have been eye games – your eyes are the controller… That is moving into mainstream gaming so that will become bigger… So I see a bigger convergence there… And the other thing I see happening is VR. That will allow children to go places they can’t go – for all kids but that has particular benefits and relevance for, say a child in a wheelchair. For autistic children you put them in environments so they can understand size, lights, noise, and deal with the anxiety… before they visit…

KH: What are the challenges of implementing that in the classroom

JG: The tech – and costs, the space… But also the creativity… A lot of what’s created are not particularly engaging or educational. I’d like to see teachers able to make things themselves… And then we need to think about pedagogy… But that’s the big issue…

DC: I can give you an example in the context of teaching Newton’s Laws with kids… We downloaded a bunch of VR apps… And NASA apps there was great for understanding and really feeling Newton’s three audience… Couldn’t do that with a blackboard… And that’s all free…

KH: How accessible is that… ?

DC: Almost every kid has a smartphone… Google Cardboard is maybe £5… It’s very cheap… It won’t replace a teacher, at least not yet. I wouldn’t teach basic mathematics with VR, but I wouldn’t teach Newton’s three laws any other way…

MM: We are piloting a thing called RocketFund and one of the first people to use VR used it in history… After that ran we have about 10 projects because they’d seen what was possible…

DC: “Fieldtrips” can be free… I’ve also seen a brilliant project with a 360 degree camera in a classroom used in a teaching space – a £250 camera – and brilliant for showing issues with behaviour, managing the classroom etc.

NK: Now if something is free, I would have no objection at all!

KH: How do you measure impact?

NK: Well if someone has a really old PC and it runs slow… that’s a quick and clear impact. But it’s about how they will use it, what studies are there and are they reliable… Could you do this any other way? What’s different?

MM: A lot of these technologies do not have evidence on them… But you will have toolkits, ideas that are well grounded on peer instruction, or tutoring… If you can take pedagogical approaches and link it to a tool you are using, that’s great. There’s work on online tutoring, and there is a company which provides tutoring from India… And I want to know how they ensure that they follow established criteria…

DC: I think we’ve had a lot of device fetishism… We’ve seen huge amounts of tablets imposed… and abandoned… You have to regard tech as a medium – not a gadget or a school. I think we’ve had disastrous experiences with iPads in secondary schools… They work in primary schools but actually writing on iPads doesn’t work well… It’s a disaster… And it’s a consumer devices not enabling higher order writing, coding, creation skills… I recommend that you look at Audrey Mullen’s work – she was a school kid when she started a company called Kite Reviews… She said we don’t want tablets or mobiles, that laptops were better…

Comment: What about iPads in schools… I did a David Hockney project with Year 10 students, that riffed off his use of iPads and the students really engaged with it… I’ve also used it in a portrait project as well… And one of the things I’m interested it is how you use it in more than writing and literacy…

JG: I just want to come back to measuring impact… It depends what you want to use it for… Donald gave us an example of using an iPad for the wrong thing, and from the audience that example of using iPads in the right ways… No-one in industry would code on an iPad… We have to use technology appropriate to the context and the wider world.

KH: How would you know that?

JG: As a teacher you have to gain expertise and transfer that to your teaching…

KH: You might be an expert in history but not in ITT…

JG: As a teacher you have to understand the technology you are being given to use… You have to understand the pedagogy… And you have to prove to teachers that the technology will improve their practice… I’m not sure any teacher has ever taught the perfect lesson, you always can think of ways to improve that… And that’s how you consider your work… One of the best innovations in teaching have been TeachMeets – informal exchanges of practice, experiences, etc. The reason technology in classrooms is not as successful as it should be are complex…

NK: I know of someone who purchased an app, brought into it, send people off to training… But it was the wrong app or what you are trying to do… So do the research first before you purchase anything…

DC: I think that the key word here is procurement… And teachers shouldn’t be doing that with hardware… You have to start with teaching needs, but actually general school software too – website, comms with parents, VLEs etc… It’s back end stuff… Take the art example… I know lots of artists… none using iPads… They use more sophisticated computers that enable the same stuff and more… It’s not David Hockney, that’s the tail wagging the dog… It’s general needs… Most kids have devices… I’d spend money on topping up for inclusion… And you have to do that cost benefit analysis first…

MM: Cost benefit analysis and expert approaches isn’t realistic in many schools… Often it’s more realistic to do small scale trialling… If it works, guide their peers, if not, then quite there… Practical experimentation, test and learn is the way forward I would say…

JG: I think that the challenge is often the enthusiast… You need to give things to the cynic!

DC: There is a role for sensible professional advice. In Higher Ed we have Jisc, we are quite sensible… But we don’t have that advice available for schools… It all goes a bit odd… It’s all anecdotal rather than evidence based… Otherwise we are just pottering about… And we end up with the lowest common denominator in terms of skills and understanding…

JG: I’m getting a bit nostalgic for BECTA, and NESTA FutureLab… doing interesting stuff. A lot of research now is funded by companies engaged in the research…

MM: I agree… but there is no evidence for white boards, tablets, whatever as they don’t work on their own… Has to be evidence informed…

DC: Cost effectiveness is always about tech as an intervention in education… The evidence for schools is that writing accuracy goes down 31% and is a huge problem on tablets… Unless…

NK: There’s good evidence that typing notes in class doesn’t work

DC: Absolutely… Although there is plenty of evidence that lectures don’t work ad we still do that… They have power devolved and in my view they are not really teachers… That happens every day…

Comment from audience: That doesn’t happen every day…

MM: We have to be careful about how we use the word evidence… Lectures may not be correlated with success but that may be to do with the quality of teaching staff, of lecturers…

KH: One of you talked about giving technology to the cynic… How do you overcome this…

JG: I think that the doubter, the cynic… will ask all the questions, find all the faults… But also see what works if it works…

KH: Often use of tech comes down to the enthusiasts and evangelists… But teachers lack space to be creative… How can we adopt technology if we lack that time and opportunity…

JG: We have so much more technology now, it has permeated our lives more… Our thinking, our discussion, potentially our classrooms… But I haven’t seen smartphones in schools much yet… We haven’t talked about bring your own device… There is an element of risk.. potential for videoing, for sharing bad practice, for bullying and harassment… But there is a lot of nervousness there…

DC: I think we have to move away from just thinking about technology in the classroom. I’m dead against it. Bring tech into a room in a one-to-many context… I’d rather use learner technology… Good teachers are teachers in the classroom… Kids really use tech at home, with homework… When you struggled when I was a kid you got stuck… but now you can use devices… to find the answer but also the method… And we have adaptive learning that can tailor to every kid. I think learner technology and away from the classroom is where it needs to be… Rather than the smart board debacle… Where one minister brought that in, Promethean made millions…

JG: I don’t recognise the classroom you are describing… I see teachers using technology, with big changes over the last twenty years… It is the appropriate use of technology in the appropriate places in learning… And thinking about the right technology for the job… If we took technology out of the classroom we’d just have lectures wouldn’t we?!

DC: The issue of collaboration is interesting… There is work from Stanford that many group works/collaborative technological driven things in the classroom… That most kids aren’t doing anything, but it looks collaborative… versus a good teacher doing the Socratic thing…

MM: I don’t think the in/outside the classroom thing is as important as the issue of what works, how things adapt, immediate feedback to with FitTech…. But it all comes back to pedagogy….

NK: It all comes back to what the problem is that you are trying to solve…

KH: What about the right way to do this… There’s the start-up like run fast, fail fast approach… Then the procurement approach…

NK: We want evidence based procurement… I don’t want to fund trials… Schools are poor…

KH: Start ups don’t throw it and see if it works… They use data to change their approach…And that’s what I’m talking about… Trialling then using evidence to inform decisions…

DC: The last thing I want to do is to waste time or money with start ups going into schools… I think taking risks in schools like that is very risky… I’m also not sure governors should be procuring… The senior team should… But often there is no digital strategy… It needs to be tactical not strategic…

JG: Suppose we get the kids to assess the start up product… There is a great project called Apps For Good… It gets kids to engage in the idea, the design process, the entrepreneurial aspect… There is a role for start ups for teaching kids about how this happens… I think education is a risky business anyway… We think something good will happen, kids have to trust the teacher… I think risk can be quite a healthy thing, and managing risk… Introducing something new can be edgy and can be quite invigorating…

NK: As a governor I don’t want my school going into the red financially… We need to operate within our means…

KH: It wasn’t about start ups in the classrooms… Even a small spend…. Can be risky…

MM: Isn’t there a risk of a big roll out of something that doesn’t work for your school? Some risks will feel riskier than others… School culture and character all mater…

JG: We do have examples of technologies that didn’t work but now do… VLEs didn’t take off… Schools don’t use them… It was an expensive risk… But many use Google Classroom which is essentially the same thing… It’s free but needs maintenance…

DC: Actually with new start ups… you want evidence, you want research to prove the usefulness. 50% of start ups fail, and you don’t want to adopt stuff that will fail…

JG: But someone has to try things first, to try new things, to bring something new into the classroom.

KH: How do we take Ed Tech forward… ?

DC: At risk of repeating myself… Professional procurement, technology strategy, strategic leadership in this…

Comment from crowd: Where do you get the evidence if you don’t test it in the classroom…

DC: I am involved in a big adaptive learning company… We are doing research with Cambridge University…

Comment from crowd: so for the schools taking part, that is a risk!

DC: No, it’s all carefully set up, with control groups… Not just by recommendation by colleagues…

JG: Setting up trials in schools in incredibly difficult, especially with control groups… Even if you do that you have to look at who was teaching, who was unwell then, etc. It’s very very hard to compare… And if it is showing improvement then morally should you withhold that technology from some pupils… One of the trials I can think of was around use of iPads… Give them own budget for apps.. But give them free choice… And then have them talk about that… It’s a trial but it’s very low cost, it’s very effective, it’s judging fit of tech to the space…

NK: I’ve known schools go for the iPad whether or not it works… Why go for the most expensive tablets… to try them!

DC: In the US there was a 1.3bn deal with Apple in California… And iPads are not there now… They now use Chrome Books…

JG: But that was imposed from the top.. And that’s an important issue…

Comment: I want to take issue with something Donald was talking about… I am all in favour of evidence based research and everything… But it is hard to find time to find the research, and a lot of effort to actually read through it… 3 pages of methodology before the conclusion… By the time it’s published it’s out of date anyway… I write about evidence on my website and often no firm conclusions come out of this… Ultimately anecdotal evidence matters… Asking questions of what was this trying to solve, what worked, what didn’t… Question: does Donald agree with me.

DC: No!

Comment: We all know the digital age is coming, kids have to work with computers, how can schools prepare children for that work and keep traditional teaching too..?

MM: For me there are two aspects: digital skills like codeclubs, programming… The other side is that when we are in this world with automation, what sort of jobs will survive… We have a report at Nesta called Creativity vs Robots… Skills that are most robust are creative, collaborative, dexterous… Preparing kids for the future still requires factual knowledge but also collaborative and problem solving skills… It’s not that it doesn’t exist, we just really need to focus on that…

JG: Maybe controversially I will say that we don’t… We should teach flexibility and to learn. A few years back I wrote for TimeEd… I visited Harrow- relatively unlimited funding… They don’t teach computing… They don’t get there until Year 9… Prep schools don’t teach it… Not “academic” enough fpr A-level or GCSE. They do some ICT skills… I guess they will get jobs, good ones…But they don’t prepare them for that… They prepare them to be leaders and the elite… I’m not necessarily sold on the idea that you have to prepare kids to be the makers… We teach reading and writing, but not digital literacy… Or how to read a film or a computer game, why failure is important… We don’t teach that… We might teach them how to create the game… So in part “don’t” and in part “expand the curriculum”

Comment: For Mr Galloway… Why did you go to Harrow not Eton… They invest in innovation and you get to be amused at top hats and tails?

JG: Tube ride!

DC: It would be madness to ignore technology in schools… But coding is this year’s thing… ! Kids need skills when they leave school…

NK: I have great problems with the idea of 21st Century skills… We can’t train kids for jobs they don’t exist… Jobs from hundreds of years ago….

MM: There is a social justice aspect here… Mark Zuckerberg went to one of the top schools… If we don’t expose all children to technology opportunities they can miss out…

JG: In Harrow they don’t impose technology on teachers… but they get it if they ask for it. They also give kids Facebook account sand teach them how to use it…

Comment: When we think about technology in schools, when do we think about teachers perspective… can we motivate and engage students with 21st century skills and possibilities…

NK: With all the money in the world, yes. We are in the position where schools can barely afford the teachers… We have to live within their means…

DC: Are teachers the right people to teach these skills… Is that what teachers are best suited to that… Not sure subject orientated teachers are well placed for that.

JG: Teachers do teach collaboration. Social media is about relationships… It’s just a form of that… CPD for teachers is outside of school time and that means keen teachers engage there…

MM: Having some teachers into smartphones. Some who are not… Some teachers are into outdoor education and camping… Others are not… You would’t want to exclude kids from the experience of camping… That’s how you can think about the ideas of digital literacy here… Finding the enthusiasm and route in…

Comments: A lot of what we, in this room, know of technology is through past exposure and experience of technology. Children are sponges.. They can often teach the teachers, with scaffolding from the teachers, about this era of technology… The kids are often better and quicker at using the technology… We have to think about where this might lead them…

Comment: On procurement and evidence… Michael talked about small trials… Do we think specific and unique contexts with schools not justify that type of small scale trialling…

MM: I think context is key in trials… Even outside of tech… Approaches like peer learning have great evidence… But the actual implementation can make a big difference… But you have to weigh up whether your context is as unique as you think…

DC: That can also be an excuse… Having been involved in procurement in tech… You don’t throw tech about… You think about what the context is, do serious homework before spending the money… You need the strategy and change management to roll things out and sustaining the effort… That’s almost invariably absent in the school context… Quite haphazard… “everyone’s unique… Let’s just play with this stuff”

Comment, I’m the director of a startup empowering primary aged girls and augmented reality to encourage routes into STEM subjects.: In terms of costs and being a governor… Start ups are obsessed with evidence. One of the best things you can do is work with start ups, they really want that evidence… If you are worried about costs you can trial things… But it is a risk when you are teaching… You were also talking about jobs that don’t exist at the moment… That means new jobs in new fields… One thing that strikes me this evening is that no one has talked about science, technology, arts and maths…. And teachers don’t come in from that route into schools… We’ve been talking to Jim Knight. In primary schools you don’t get labs but you can use AR to do experiments… to look in this area… My point it you’ve been talking about technology, is it worth it… Would have been great to hear someone from positive experiences, or an Ed Tech company… This feels like a lot of slamming down of technology…

JG: Can I talk about positive experiences… Technology is life changing and amazing… removing technology from classrooms is a horrendous… Your example in not having enough good qualified science teachers is an important one…

DC: I am not sure about AR and VR… I’d be careful with some of these things… Hololens isn’t there yet… Leading edge tech is a bit of a honeytrap… I raise VR as its on every phone… and free…

Commenter: AR is on phones… !

KH: Thank you for a really lively discussion!

And with that the rather spirited discussions came to an end! Some interesting things to consider but I felt like there was so much that wasn’t discussed properly because of the direction the conversation took – issues like access to wifi; measures to use but make technology safe – and what they mean for information literacy; technology beyond devices… So, I’d love to hear your comments below on Ed Tech in Schools.

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IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day Three Liveblog

It’s the final day of the IIPC/RESAW conference in London. See my day one and day two post for more information on this. I’m back in the main track today and, as usual, these are live notes so comments, additions, corrections, etc. all welcome.

Collection development panel (Chair: Nicola Bingham)

James R. Jacobs, Pamela M. Graham & Kris Kasianovitz: What’s in your web archive? Subject specialist strategies for collection development

We’ve been archiving the web for many years but the need for web archiving really hit home for me in 2013 when NASA took down every one of their technical reports – for review on various grounds. And the web archiving community was very concerned. Michael Nelson said in a post “NASA information is too important to be left on nasa.gov computers”. And I wrote about when we rely on pointing not archiving.

So, as we planned for this panel we looked back on previous IIPC events and we didn’t see a lot about collection curation. We posed three topics all around these areas. So for each theme we’ll watch a brief screen cast by Kris to introduce them…

  1. Collection development and roles

Kris (via video): I wanted to talk about my role as a subject specialist and how collection development fits into that. AS a subject specialist that is a core part of the role, and I use various tools to develop the collection. I see web archiving as absolutely being part of this. Our collection is books, journals, audio visual content, quantitative and qualitative data sets… Web archives are just another piece of the pie. And when we develop our collection we are looking at what is needed now but in anticipation of what we be needed 10 or 20 years in the future, building a solid historical record that will persist in collections. And we think about how our archives fit into the bigger context of other archives around the country and around the world.

For the two web archives I work on – CA.gov and the Bay Area Governments archives – I am the primary person engaged in planning, collecting, describing and making available that content. And when you look at the web capture life cycle you need to ensure the subject specialist is included and their role understood and valued.

The CA.gov archive involves a group from several organisations including the government library. We have been archiving since 2007 in the California Digital Library initially. We moved into Archive-It in 2013.

The Bay Area Governments archives includes materials on 9 counties, but primarily and comprehensively focused on two key counties here. We bring in regional governments and special districts where policy making for these areas occur.

Archiving these collections has been incredibly useful for understanding government, their processes, how to work with government agencies and the dissemination of this work. But as the sole responsible person that is not ideal. We have had really good technical support from Internet Archive around scoping rules, problems with crawls, thinking about writing regular expressions, how to understand and manage what we see from crawls. We’ve also benefitted from working with our colleague Nicholas Taylor here at Stanford who wrote a great QA report which has helped us.

We are heavily reliant on crawlers, on tools and technologies created by you and others, to gather information for our archive. And since most subject selectors have pretty big portfolios of work – outreach, instruction, as well as collection development – we have to have good ties to developers, and to the wider community with whom we can share ideas and questions is really vital.

Pamela: I’m going to talk about two Columbia archives, the Human Rights Web Archive (HRWA) and Historic Preservation and Urban Planning. I’d like to echo Kris’ comments about the importance of subject specialists. The Historic Preservation and Urban Planning archive is led by our architecture subject specialist and we’d reached a point where we had to collect web materials to continue that archive – and she’s done a great job of bringing that together. Human Rights seems to have long been networked – using the idea of the “internet” long before the web and hypertext. We work closely with Alex Thurman, and have an additional specially supported web curator, but there are many more ways to collaborate and work together.

James: I will also reflect on my experience. And the FDLP – Federal Library Program – involves libraries receiving absolutely every government publications in order to ensure a comprehensive archive. There is a wider programme allowing selective collection. At Stanford we are 85% selective – we only weed out content (after five years) very lightly and usually flyers etc. As a librarian I curate content. As an FDLP library we have to think of our collection as part of the wider set of archives, and I like that.

As archivists we also have to understand provenance… How do we do that with the web archive. And at this point I have to shout out to Jefferson Bailey and colleagues for the “End of Term” collection – archiving all gov sites at the end of government terms. This year has been the most expansive, and the most collaborative – including FTP and social media. And, due to the Trump administration’s hostility to science and technology we’ve had huge support – proposals of seed sites, data capture events etc.

2. Collection Development approaches to web archives, perspectives from subject specialists

As subject specialists we all have to engage in collection development – there are no vendors in this space…

Kris: Looking again at the two government archives I work on there is are Depository Program Statuses to act as a starting point… But these haven’t been updated for the web. However, this is really a continuation of the print collection programme. And web archiving actually lets us collect more – we are no longer reliant on agencies putting content into the Depository Program.

So, for CA.gov we really treat this as a domain collection. And no-one really doing this except some UCs, myself, and state library and archives – not the other depository libraries. However, we don’t collect think tanks, or the not-for-profit players that influence policy – this is for clarity although this content provides important context.

We also had to think about granularity… For instance for the CA transport there is a top level domain and sub domains for each regional transport group, and so we treat all of these as seeds.

Scoping rules matter a great deal, partly as our resources are not unlimited. We have been fortunate that with the CA.gov archive that we have about 3TB space for this year, and have been able to utilise it all… We may not need all of that going forwards, but it has been useful to have that much space.

Pamela: Much of what Kris has said reflects our experience at Columbia. Our web archiving strengths mirror many of our other collection strengths and indeed I think web archiving is this important bridge from print to fully digital. I spent some time talking with our librarian (Chris) recently, and she will add sites as they come up in discussion, she monitors the news for sites that could be seeds for our collection… She is very integrated in her approach to this work.

For the human rights work one of the challenges is the time that we have to contribute. And this is a truly interdisciplinary area with unclear boundaries, and those are both challenging aspects. We do look at subject guides and other practice to improve and develop our collections. And each fall we sponsor about two dozen human rights scholars to visit and engage, and that feeds into what we collect… The other thing that I hope to do in the future is to do more assessment to look at more authoritative lists in order to compare with other places… Colleagues look at a site called ideallist which lists opportunities and funding in these types of spaces. We also try to capture sites that look more vulnerable – small activist groups – although it is nt clear if they actually are that risky.

Cost wise the expensive part of collecting is both human effort to catalogue, and the permission process in the collecting process. And yesterday’s discussion of possible need for ethics groups as part of the permissions prpcess.

In the web archiving space we have to be clearer on scope and boundaries as there is such a big, almost limitless, set of materials to pick from. But otherwise plenty of parallels.

James: For me the material we collect is in the public domain so permissions are not part of my challenge here. But there are other aspects of my work, including LOCKSS. In the case of Fugitive US Agencies Collection we take entire sites (e.g. CBO, GAO, EPA) plus sites at risk (eg Census, Current Industrial Reports). These “fugitive” agencies include publications should be in the depository programme but are not. And those lots documents that fail to make it out, they are what this collection is about. When a library notes a lost document I will share that on the Lost Docs Project blog, and then also am able to collect and seed the cloud and web archive – using the WordPress Amber plugin – for links. For instance the CBO looked at the health bill, aka Trump Care, was missing… In fact many CBO publications were missing so I have added it as a see for our Archive-it

3. Discovery and use of web archives

Discovery and use of web archives is becoming increasingly important as we look for needles in ever larger haystacks. So, firstly, over to Kris:

Kris: One way we get archives out there is in our catalogue, and into WorldCat. That’s one plae to help other libraries know what we are collecting, and how to find and understand it… So would be interested to do some work with users around what they want to find and how… I suspect it will be about a specific request – e.g. city council in one place over a ten year period… But they won’t be looking for a web archive per se… We have to think about that, and what kind of intermediaries are needed to make that work… Can we also provide better seed lists and documentation for this? In Social Sciences we have the Code Book and I think we need to share the equivalent information for web archives, to expose documentation on how the archive was built… And linking to seeds nad other parts of collections .

One other thing we have to think about is process and document ingest mechanism. We are trying to do this for CA.gov to better describe what we do… BUt maybe there is a standard way to produce that sort of documentation – like the Codebook…

Pamela: Very quickly… At Columbia we catalogue individual sites. We also have a customised portal for the Human Rights. That has facets for “search as research” so you can search and develop and learn by working through facets – that’s often more useful than item searches… And, in terms of collecting for the web we do have to think of what we collect as data for analysis as part of a larger data sets…

James: In the interests of time we have to wrap up, but there was one comment I wanted to make.which is that there are tools we use but also gaps that we see for subject specialists [see slide]… And Andrew’s comments about the catalogue struck home with me…

Q&A

Q1) Can you expand on that issue of the catalogue?

A1) Yes, I think we have to see web archives both as bulk data AND collections as collections. We have to be able to pull out the documents and reports – the traditional materials – and combine them with other material in the catalogue… So it is exciting to think about that, about the workflow… And about web archives working into the normal library work flows…

Q2) Pamela, you commented about permissions framework as possibly vital for IRB considerations for web research… Is that from conversations with your IRB or speculative.

A2) That came from Matt Webber’s comment yesterday on IRB becoming more concerned about web archive-based research. We have been looking for faster processes… But I am always very aware of the ethical concern… People do wonder about ethics and permissions when they see the archive… Interesting to see how we can navigate these challenges going forward…

Q3) Do you use LCSH and are there any issues?

A3) Yes, we do use LCSH for some items and the collections… Luckily someone from our metadata team worked with me. He used Dublin Core, with LCSH within that. He hasn’t indicated issues. Government documents in the US (and at state level) typically use LCSH so no, no issues that I’m aware of.

 

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IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 – Day Two (Technical Strand) Liveblog

I am again at the IIPC WAC / RESAW Conference 2017 and, for today I am

Tools for web archives analysis & record extraction (chair Nicholas Taylor)

Digging documents out of the archived web – Andrew Jackson

This is the technical counterpoint to the presentation I gave yesterday… So I talked yesterday about the physical workflow of catalogue items… We found that the Digital ePrints team had started processing eprints the same way…

  • staff looked in an outlook calendar for reminders
  • looked for new updates since last check
  • download each to local folder and open
  • check catalogue to avoid re-submitting
  • upload to internal submission portal
  • add essential metadata
  • submit for ingest
  • clean up local files
  • update stats sheet
  • Then inget usually automated (but can require intervention)
  • Updates catalogue once complete
  • New catalogue records processed or enhanced as neccassary.

It was very manual, and very inefficient… So we have created a harvester:

  • Setup: specify “watched targets” then…
  • Harvest (harvester crawl targets as usual) –> Ingested… but also…
  • Document extraction:
    • spot documents in the crawl
    • find landing page
    • extract machine-readable metadata
    • submit to W3ACT (curation tool) for review
  • Acquisition:
    • check document harvester for new publications
    • edit essemtial metaddta
    • submit to catalogue
  • Cataloguing
    • cataloguing records processed as neccassry

This is better but there are challenges. Firstly, what is a “publication?”. With the eprints team there was a one-to-one print and digital relationship. But now, no more one-to-one. For example, gov.uk publications… An original report will has an ISBN… But that landing page is a representation of the publication, that’s where the assets are… When stuff is catalogued, what can frustrate technical folk… You take date and text from the page – honouring what is there rather than normalising it… We can dishonour intent by capturing the pages… It is challenging…

MARC is initially alarming… For a developer used to current data formats, it’s quite weird to get used to. But really it is just encoding… There is how we say we use MARC, how we do use MARC, and where we want to be now…

One of the intentions of the metadata extraction work was to proide an initial guess of the catalogue data – hoping to save cataloguers and curators time. But you probably won’t be surprised that the names of authors’ names etc. in the document metadata is rarely correct. We use the worse extractor, and layer up so we have the best shot. What works best is extracting the HTML. Gov.uk is a big and consistent publishing space so it’s worth us working on extracting that.

What works even better is the gov.uk API data – it’s in JSON, it’s easy to parse, it’s worth coding as it is a bigger publisher for us.

But now we have to resolve references… Multiple use cases for “records about this record”:

  • publisher metadata
  • third party data sources (e.g. Wikipedia)
  • Our own annotations and catalogues
  • Revisit records

We can’t ignore the revisit records… Have to do a great big join at some point… To get best possible quality data for every single thing….

And this is where the layers of transformation come in… Lots of opportunities to try again and build up… But… When I retry document extraction I can accidentally run up another chain each time… If we do our Solaar searches correctly it should be easy so will be correcting this…

We do need to do more future experimentation.. Multiple workflows brings synchronisation problems. We need to ensure documents are accessible when discocerale. Need to be able to re-run automated extraction.

We want to iteractively ipmprove automated metadat extraction:

  • improve HTML data extraction rules, e.g. Zotero translators (and I think LOCKSS are working on this).
  • Bring together different sources
  • Smarter extractors – Stanford NER, GROBID (built for sophisticated extraction from ejournals)

And we still have that tension between what a publication is… A tension between established practice and publisher output Need to trial different approaches with catalogues and users… Close that whole loop.

Q&A

Q1) Is the PDF you extract going into another repository… You probably have a different preservation goal for those PDFs and the archive…

A1) Currently the same copy for archive and access. Format migration probably will be an issue in the future.

Q2) This is quite similar to issues we’ve faced in LOCKSS… I’ve written a paper with Herbert von de Sompel and Michael Nelson about this thing of describing a document…

A2) That’s great. I’ve been working with the Government Digital Service and they are keen to do this consistently….

Q2) Geoffrey Bilder also working on this…

A2) And that’s the ideal… To improve the standards more broadly…

Q3) Are these all PDF files?

A3) At the moment, yes. We deliberately kept scope tight… We don’t get a lot of ePub or open formats… We’ll need to… Now publishers are moving to HTML – which is good for the archive – but that’s more complex in other ways…

Q4) What does the user see at the end of this… Is it a PDF?

A4) This work ends up in our search service, and that metadata helps them find what they are looking for…

Q4) Do they know its from the website, or don’t they care?

A4) Officially, the way the library thinks about monographs and serials, would be that the user doesn’t care… But I’d like to speak to more users… The library does a lot of downstream processing here too..

Q4) For me as an archivist all that data on where the document is from, what issues in accessing it they were, etc. would extremely useful…

Q5) You spoke yesterday about engaging with machine learning… Can you say more?

A5) This is where I’d like to do more user work. The library is keen on subject headings – thats a big high level challenge so that’s quite amenable to machine learning. We have a massive golden data set… There’s at least a masters theory in there, right! And if we built something, then ran it over the 3 million ish items with little metadata could be incredibly useful. In my 0pinion this is what big organisations will need to do more and more of… making best use of human time to tailor and tune machine learning to do much of the work…

Comment) That thing of everything ending up as a PDF is on the way out by the way… You should look at Distil.pub – a new journal from Google and Y combinator – and that’s the future of these sorts of formats, it’s JavaScript and GitHub. Can you collect it? Yes, you can. You can visit the page, switch off the network, and it still works… And it’s there and will update…

A6) As things are more dynamic the re-collecting issue gets more and more important. That’s hard for the organisation to adjust to.

Nick Ruest & Ian Milligan: Learning to WALK (Web Archives for Longitudinal Knowledge): building a national web archiving collaborative platform

Ian: Before I start, thank you to my wider colleagues and funders as this is a collaborative project.

So, we have a fantastic web archival collections in Canada… They collect political parties, activist groups, major events, etc. But, whilst these are amazing collections, they aren’t acessed or used much. I think this is mainly down to two issues: people don’t know they are there; and the access mechanisms don’t fit well with their practices. Maybe when the Archive-it API is live that will fix it all… Right now though it’s hard to find the right thing, and the Canadian archive is quite siloed. There are about 25 organisations collecting, most use the Archive-It service. But, if you are a researcher… to use web archives you really have to interested and engaged, you need to be an expert.

So, building this portal is about making this easier to use… We want web archives to be used on page 150 in some random book. And that’s what the WALK project is trying to do. Our goal is to break down the silos, take down walls between collections, between institutions. We are starting out slow… We signed Memoranda of Understanding with Toronto, Alberta, Victoria, Winnipeg, Dalhousie, SImon Fraser University – that represents about half of the archive in Canada.

We work on workflow… We run workshops… We separated the collections so that post docs can look at this

We are using Warcbase (warcbase.org) and command line tools, we transferred data from internet archive, generate checksums; we generate scholarly derivatives – plain text, hypertext graph, etc. In the front end you enter basic information, describe the collection, and make sure that the user can engage directly themselves… And those visualisations are really useful… Looking at visualisation of the Canadan political parties and political interest group web crawls which track changes, although that may include crawler issues.

Then, with all that generated, we create landing pages, including tagging, data information, visualizations, etc.

Nick: So, on a technical level… I’ve spent the last ten years in open source digital repository communities… This community is small and tightknit, and I like how we build and share and develop on each others work. Last year we presented webarchives.ca. We’ve indexed 10 TB of warcs since then, representing 200+ M Solr docs. We have grown from one collection and we have needed additional facets: institution; collection name; collection ID, etc.

Then we have also dealt with scaling issues… 30-40Gb to 1Tb sized index. You probably think that’s kinda cute… But we do have more scaling to do… So we are learning from others in the community about how to manage this… We have Solr running on an Open Stack… But right now it isn’t at production scale, but getting there. We are looking at SolrCloud and potentially using a Shard2 per collection.

Last year we had a solr index using the Shine front end… It’s great but… it doesn’t have an active open source community… We love the UK Web Archive but… Meanwhile there is BlackLight which is in wide use in libraries. There is a bigger community, better APIs, bug fixees, etc… So we have set up a prototype called WARCLight. It does almost all that Shine does, except the tree structure and the advanced searching..

Ian spoke about dericative datasets… For each collection, via Blacklight or ScholarsPortal we want domain/URL Counts; Full text; graphs. Rather than them having to do the work, they can just engage with particular datasets or collections.

So, that goal Ian talked about: one central hub for archived data and derivatives…

Q&A

Q1) Do you plan to make graphs interactive, by using Kebana rather than Gephi?

A1 – Ian) We tried some stuff out… One colleague tried R in the browser… That was great but didn’t look great in the browser. But it would be great if the casual user could look at drag and drop R type visualisations. We haven’t quite found the best option for interactive network diagrams in the browser…

A1 – Nick) Generally the data is so big it will bring down the browser. I’ve started looking at Kabana for stuff so in due course we may bring that in…

Q2) Interesting as we are doing similar things at the BnF. We did use Shine, looked at Blacklight, but built our own thing…. But we are looking at what we can do… We are interested in that web archive discovery collections approaches, useful in other contexts too…

A2 – Nick) I kinda did this the ugly way… There is a more elegant way to do it but haven’t done that yet..

Q2) We tried to give people WARC and WARC files… Our actual users didn’t want that, they want full text…

A2 – Ian) My students are quite biased… Right now if you search it will flake out… But by fall it should be available, I suspect that full text will be of most interest… Sociologists etc. think that network diagram view will be interesting but it’s hard to know what will happen when you give them that. People are quickly put off by raw data without visualisation though so we think it will be useful…

Q3) Do you think in few years time

A3) Right now that doesn’t scale… We want this more cloud-based – that’s our next 3 years and next wave of funded work… We do have capacity to write new scripts right now as needed, but when we scale that will be harder,,,,

Q4) What are some of the organisational, admin and social challenges of building this?

A4 – Nick) Going out and connecting with the archives is a big part of this… Having time to do this can be challenging…. “is an institution going to devote a person to this?”

A4 – Ian) This is about making this more accessible… People are more used to Backlight than Shine. People respond poorly to WARC. But they can deal with PDFs with CSV, those are familiar formats…

A4 – Nick) And when I get back I’m going to be doing some work and sharing to enable an actual community to work on this..

 

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Behind the scenes at the Digital Footprint MOOC

Last Monday we launched the new Digital Footprint MOOC, a free three week online course (running on Coursera) led by myself and Louise Connelly (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies). The course builds upon our work on the Managing Your Digital Footprints research project, campaign and also draws on some of the work I’ve been doing in piloting a Digital Footprint training and consultancy service at EDINA.

It has been a really interesting and demanding process working with the University of Edinburgh MOOCs team to create this course, particularly focusing in on the most essential parts of our Digital Footprints work. Our intention for this MOOC is to provide an introduction to the issues and equip participants with appropriate skills and understanding to manage their own digital tracks and traces. Most of all we wanted to provide a space for reflection and for participants to think deeply about what their digital footprint means to them and how they want to manage it in the future. We don’t have a prescriptive stance – Louise and I manage our own digital footprints quite differently but both of us see huge value in public online presence – but we do think that understanding and considering your online presence and the meaning of the traces you leave behind online is an essential modern life skill and want to contribute something to that wider understanding and debate.

Since MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – are courses which people tend to take in their own time for pleasure and interest but also as part of their CPD and personal development so that fit of format and digital footprint skills and reflection seemed like a good fit, along with some of the theory and emerging trends from our research work. We also think the course has potential to be used in supporting digital literacy programmes and activities, and those looking for skills for transitioning into and out of education, and in developing their careers. On that note we were delighted to see the All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education‘s 2017 event programme running last week – their website, created to support digital skills in Ireland, is a great complementary resource to our course which we made a (small) contribution to during their development phase.

Over the last week it has been wonderful to see our participants engaging with the Digital Footprint course, sharing their reflections on the #DFMOOC hashtag, and really starting to think about what their digital footprint means for them. From the discussion so far the concept of the “Uncontainable Self” (Barbour & Marshall 2012) seems to have struck a particular chord for many of our participants, which is perhaps not surprising given the degree to which our digital tracks and traces can propagate through others posts, tags, listings, etc. whether or not we are sharing content ourselves.

When we were building the MOOC we were keen to reflect the fact that our own work sits in a context of, and benefits from, the work of many researchers and social media experts both in our own local context and the wider field. We were delighted to be able to include guest contributors including Karen Gregory (University of Edinburgh), Rachel Buchanan (University of Newcastle, Australia), Lilian Edwards (Strathclyde University), Ben Marder (University of Edinburgh), and David Brake (author of Sharing Our Lives Online).

The usefulness of making these connections across disciplines and across the wider debate on digital identity seems particularly pertinent given recent developments that emphasise how fast things are changing around us, and how our own agency in managing our digital footprints and digital identities is being challenged by policy, commercial and social factors. Those notable recent developments include…

On 28th March the US Government voted to remove restrictions on the sale of data by ISPs (Internet Service Providers), potentially allowing them to sell an incredibly rich picture of browsing, search, behavioural and intimate details without further consultation (you can read the full measure here). This came as the UK Government mooted the banning of encryption technologies – essential for private messaging, financial transactions, access management and authentication – claiming that terror threats justified such a wide ranging loss of privacy. Whilst that does not seem likely to come to fruition given the economic and practical implications of such a measure, we do already have the  Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in place which requires web and communications companies to retain full records of activity for 12 months and allows police and security forces significant powers to access and collect personal communications data and records in bulk.

On 30th March, a group of influential privacy researchers, including danah boyd and Kate Crawford, published Ten simple rules for responsible big data research in PLoSOne. The article/manifesto is an accessible and well argued guide to the core issues in responsible big data research. In many ways it summarises the core issues highlight in the excellent (but much more academic and comprehensive) AoIR ethics guidance. The PLoSOne article is notably directed to academia as well as industry and government, since big data research is at least as much a part of commercial activity (particularly social media and data driven start ups, see e.g. Uber’s recent attention for profiling and manipulating drivers) as traditional academic research contexts. Whilst academic research does usually build ethical approval processes (albeit conducted with varying degrees of digital savvy) and peer review into research processes, industry is not typically structured in that way and often not held to the same standards particularly around privacy and boundary crossing (see, e.g. Michael Zimmers work on both academic and commercial use of Facebook data).

The Ten simple rules… are also particularly timely given the current discussion of Cambridge Analytica and it’s role in the 2016 US Election, and the UK’s EU Referendum. An article published in Das Magazin in December 2016, and a subsequent English language version published on Vice’s Motherboard have been widely circulated on social media over recent weeks. These articles suggest that the company’s large scale psychometrics analysis of social media data essentially handed victory to Trump and the Leave/Brexit campaigns, which naturally raises personal data and privacy concerns as well as influence, regulation and governance issues. There remains some skepticism about just how influential this work was… I tend to agree with Aleks Krotoski (social psychologist and host of BBC’s The Digital Human) who – speaking with Pat Kane at an Edinburgh Science Festival event last night on digital identity and authenticity – commented that she thought the Cambridge Analytica work was probably a mix of significant hyperbole but also some genuine impact.

These developments focus attention on access, use and reuse of personal data and personal tracks and traces, and that is something we we hope our MOOC participants will have opportunity to pause and reflect on as they think about what they leave behind online when they share, tag, delete, and particularly when they consider terms and conditions, privacy settings and how they curate what is available and to whom.

So, the Digital Footprint course is launched and open to anyone in the world to join for free (although Coursera will also prompt you with the – very optional – possibility of paying a small fee for a certificate), and we are just starting to get a sense of how our videos and content are being received. We’ll be sharing more highlights from the course, retweeting interesting comments, etc. throughout this run (which began on Monday 3rd April), but also future runs since this is an “on demand” MOOC which will run regularly every four weeks. If you do decide to take a look then I would love to hear your comments and feedback – join the conversation on #DFMOOC, or leave a comment here or email me.

And if you’d like to find out more about our digital footprint consultancy, or would be interested in working with the digital footprints research team on future work, do also get in touch. Although I’ve been working in this space for a while this whole area of privacy, identity and our social spaces seems to continue to grow in interest, relevance, and importance in our day to day (digital) lives.

 

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Jisc Digifest 2017 Day Two – LiveBlog

Today I’m still in Birmingham for the Jisc Digifest 2017 (#digifest17). I’m based on the EDINA stand (stand 9, Hall 3) for much of the time, along with my colleague Andrew – do come and say hello to us – but will also be blogging any sessions I attend. The event is also being livetweeted by Jisc and some sessions livestreamed – do take a look at the event website for more details. As usual this blog is live and may include typos, errors, etc. Please do let me know if you have any corrections, questions or comments. 

Part Deux: Why educators can’t live without social media – Eric Stoller, higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker.

I’ve snuck in a wee bit late to Eric’s talk but he’s starting by flagging up his “Educators: Are you climbing the social media mountain?” blog post. 

Eric: People who are most reluctant to use social media are often those who are also reluctant to engage in CPD, to develop themselves. You can live without social media but social media is useful and important. Why is it important? It is used for communication, for teaching and learning, in research, in activisim… Social media gives us a lot of channels to do different things with, that we can use in our practice… And yes, they can be used in nefarious ways but so can any other media. People are often keen to see particular examples of how they can use social media in their practice in specific ways, but how you use things in your practice is always going to be specific to you, different, and that’s ok.

So, thinking about digital technology… “Digital is people” – as Laurie Phipps is prone to say… Technology enhanced learning is often tied up with employability but there is a balance to be struck, between employability and critical thinking. So, what about social media and critical thinking? We have to teach students how to determine if an online source is reliable or legitimate – social media is the same way… And all of us can be caught out. There was piece in the FT about the chairman of Tesco saying unwise things about gender, and race, etc. And I tweeted about this – but I said he was the CEO – and it got retweeted and included in a Twitter moment… But it was wrong. I did a follow up tweet and apologised but I was contributing to that..

Whenever you use technology in learning it is related to critical thinking so, of course, that means social media too. How many of us here did our educational experience completely online… Most of us did our education in the “sage on the stage” manner, that’s what was comfortable for us… And that can be uncomfortable (see e.g. tweets from @msementor).

If you follow the NHS on Twitter (@NHS) then you will know it is phenomenal – they have a different member of staff guest posting to the account. Including live tweeting an operation from the theatre (with permissions etc. of course) – if you are medical student this would be very interesting. Twitter is the delivery method now but maybe in the future it will be Hololens or Oculus Rift Live or something. Another thing I saw about a year ago was Phil Baty (Inside Higher Ed – @Phil_Baty) talked about Liz Barnes revealing that every academic at Staffordshire will use social media and will build it into performance management. That really shows that this is an organisation that is looking forward and trying new things.

Any of you take part in the weekly #LTHEchat. They were having chats about considering participation in that chat as part of staff appraisal processes. That’s really cool. And why wouldn’t social media and digital be a part of that.

So I did a Twitter poll asking academics what they use social media for:

  • 25% teaching and learning
  • 26% professional development
  • 5% research
  • 44% posting pictures of cats

The cool thing is you can do all of those things and still be using it in appropriate educational contexts. Of course people post pictures of cats.. Of course you do… But you use social media to build community. It can be part of building a professional learning environment… You can use social media to lurk and learn… To reach out to people… And it’s not even creepy… A few years back and I could say “I follow you” and that would be weird and sinister… Now it’s like “That’s cool, that’s Twitter”. Some of you will have been using the event hashtag and connecting there…

Andrew Smith, at the Open University, has been using Facebook Live for teaching. How many of your students use Facebook? It’s important to try this stuff, to see if it’s the right thing for your practice.

We all have jobs… Usually when we think about networking and professional networking we often think about LinkedIn… Any of you using LinkedIn? (yes, a lot of us are). How about blogging on LinkedIn? That’s a great platform to blog in as your content reaches people who are really interested. But you can connect in all of these spaces. I saw @mdleast tweeting about one of Anglia Ruskin’s former students who was running the NHS account – how cool is that?

But, I hear some of you say, Eric, this blurs the social and the professional. Yes, of course it does. Any of you have two Facebook accounts? I’m sorry you violate the terms of service… And yes, of course social media blurs things… Expressing the full gamut of our personality is much more powerful. And it can be amazing when senior leaders model for their colleagues that they are a full human, talking about their academic practice, their development…

Santa J. Ono (@PrezOno/@ubcprez) is a really senior leader but has been having mental health difficulties and tweeting openly about that… And do you know how powerful that is for his staff and students that he is sharing like that?

Now, if you haven’t seen the Jisc Digital Literacies and Digital Capabilities models? You really need to take a look. You can use these to use these to shape and model development for staff and students.

I did another poll on Twitter asking “Agree/Disagree: Universities must teach students digital citizenship skills” (85% agree) – now we can debate what “digital citizenship” means… If any of you have ever gotten into it with a troll online? Those words matter, they effect us. And digital citizenship matter.

I would say that you should not fall in love with digital tools. I love Twitter but that’s a private company, with shareholders, with it’s own issues… And it could disappear tomorrow… And I’d have to shift to another platform to do the things I do there…

Do any of you remember YikYak? It was an anonymous geosocial app… and it was used controversially and for bullying… So they introduced handles… But their users rebelled! (and they reverted)

So, Twitter is great but it will change, it will go… Things change…

I did another Twitter poll – which tools do your students use on a daily basis?

  • 34% snapchat
  • 9% Whatsapp
  • 19% Instagram
  • 36% use all of the above

A lot of people don’t use Snapchat because they are afraid of it… When Facebook first appeared that response was it’s silly, we wouldn’t use it in education… But we have moved that there…

There is a lot of bias about Snapchat. @RosieHare posted “I’m wondering whether I should Snapchat #digifest17 next week or whether there’ll be too many proper grown ups there who don’t use it.” Perhaps we don’t use these platforms yet, maybe we’ll catch up… But will students have moved on by then… There is a professor in the US who was using Snapchat with his students every day… You take your practice to where your students are. According to global web index (q2-3 2016) over 75% of teens use Snapchat. There are policy challenges there but students are there every day…

Instagram – 150 M people engage with daily stories so that’s a powerful tool and easier to start with than Snapchat. Again, a space where our students are.

But perfection leads to stagnation. You have to try and not be fixated on perfection. Being free to experiment, being rewarded for trying new things, that has to be embedded in the culture.

So, at the end of the day, the more engaged students are with their institution – at college or university – the more successful they will be. Social media can be about doing that, about the student experience. All parts of the organisation can be involved. There are so many social media channels you can use. Maybe you don’t recognise them all… Think about your students. A lot will use WhatsApp for collaboration, for coordination… Facebook Messenger, some of the asian messaging spaces… Any of you use Reddit? Ah, the nerds have arrived! But again, these are all spaces you can develop your practice in.

The web used to involve having your birth year in your username (e.g. @purpledragon1982), it was open… But we see this move towards WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, these different types of spaces and there is huge growth predicted this year. So, you need to get into the sandbox of learning, get your hands dirty, make some stuff and learn from trying new things #alldayeveryday

Q&A

Q1) What audience do you have in mind… Educators or those who support educators? How do I take this message back?

A1) You need to think about how you support educators, how you do sneaky teaching… How you do that education… So.. You use the channels, you incorporate the learning materials in those channels… You disseminate in Medium, say… And hopefully they take that with them…

Q2) I meet a strand of students who reject social media and some technology in a straight edge way… They are in the big outdoors, they are out there learning… Will they not be successful?

A2) Of course they will. You can survive, you can thrive without social media… But if you choose to engage in those channels and spaces… You can be succesful… It’s not an either/or

Q3) I wanted to ask about something you tweeted yesterday… That Prensky’s idea of digital natives/immigrants is rubbish…

A3) I think I said “#friendsdontletfriendsprensky”. He published that over ten years ago – 2001 – and people grasped onto that. And he’s walked it back to being about a spectrum that isn’t about age… Age isn’t a helpful factor. And people used it as an excuse… If you look at Dave White’s work on “visitors and residents” that’s much more helpful… Some people are great, some are not as comfortable but it’s not about age. And we do ourselves a disservice to grasp onto that.

Q4) From my organisation… One of my course leaders found their emails were not being read, asked students what they should use, and they said “Instagram” but then they didn’t read that person’s posts… There is a bump, a challenge to get over…

A4) In the professional world email is the communications currency. We say students don’t check email… Well you have to do email well. You send a long email and wonder why students don’t understand. You have to be good at communicating… You set norms and expectations about discourse and dialogue, you build that in from induction – and that can be email, discussion boards and social media. These are skills for life.

Q5) You mentioned that some academics feel there is too much blend between personal and professional. From work we’ve done in our library we find students feel the same way and don’t want the library to tweet at them…

A5) Yeah, it’s about expectations. Liverpool University has a brilliant Twitter account, Warwick too, they tweet with real personality…

Q6) What do you think about private social communities? We set up WordPress/BuddyPress thing for international students to push out information. It was really varied in how people engaged… It’s private…

A6) Communities form where they form. Maybe ask them where they want to be communicated with. Some WhatsApp groups flourish because that’s the cultural norm. And if it doesn’t work you can scrap it and try something else… And see what

Q7) I wanted to flag up a YikYak study at Edinburgh on how students talk about teaching, learning and assessment on YikYak, that started before the handles were introduced, and has continued as anonymity has returned. And we’ll have results coming from this soon…

A7) YikYak may rise and fall… But that functionality… There is a lot of beauty in those anonymous spaces… That functionality – the peers supporting each other through mental health… It isn’t tools, it’s functionality.

Q8) Our findings in a recent study was about where the students are, and how they want to communicate. That changes, it will always change, and we have to adapt to that ourselves… Do you want us to use WhatsApp or WeChat… It’s following the students and where they prefer to communicate.

A8) There is balance too… You meet students where they are, but you don’t ditch their need to understand email too… They teach us, we teach them… And we do that together.

And with that, we’re out of time… 

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Jisc Digifest 2017 Day One – LiveBlog

Liam Earney is introducing us to the day, with the hope that we all take some away from the event – some inspiration, an idea, the potential to do new things. Over the past three Digifest events we’ve taken a broad view. This year we focus on technology expanding, enabling learning and teaching.

LE: So we will be talking about questions we asked through Twitter and through our conference app with our panel:

  • Sarah Davies, head of change implementation support – education/student, Jisc
  • Liam Earney, director of Jisc Collections
  • Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer, Jisc
  • Paul McKean, head of further education and skills, Jisc

Q1: Do you think that greater use of data and analytics will improve teaching, learning and the student experience?

  • Yes 72%
  • No 10%
  • Don’t Know 18%

AM: I’m relieved at that result as we think it will be important too. But that is backed up by evidence emerging in the US and Australia around data analytics use in retention and attainment. There is a much bigger debate around AI and robots, and around Learning Analytics there is that debate about human and data, and human and machine can work together. We have several sessions in that space.

SD: Learning Analytics has already been around it’s own hype cycle already… We had huge headlines about the potential about a year ago, but now we are seeing much more in-depth discussion, discussion around making sure that our decisions are data informed.. There is concern around the role of the human here but the tutors, the staff, are the people who access this data and work with students so it is about human and data together, and that’s why adoption is taking a while as they work out how best to do that.

Q2: How important is organisational culture in the successful adoption of education technology?

  • Total make or break 55%
  • Can significantly speed it up or slow it down 45%
  • It can help but not essential 0%
  • Not important 0%

PM: Where we see education technology adopted we do often see that organisational culture can drive technology adoption. An open culture – for instance Reading College’s open door policy around technology – can really produce innovation and creative adoption, as people share experience and ideas.

SD: It can also be about what is recognised and rewarded. About making sure that technology is more than what the innovators do – it’s something for the whole organisation. It’s not something that you can do in small pockets. It’s often about small actions – sharing across disciplines, across role groups, about how technology can make a real difference for staff and for students.

Q3: How important is good quality content in delivering an effective blended learning experience?

  • Very important 75%
  • It matters 24%
  • Neither 1%
  • It doesn’t really matter 0%
  • It is not an issue at all 0%

LE: That’s reassuring, but I guess we have to talk about what good quality content is…

SD: I think materials – good quality primary materials – make a huge difference, there are so many materials we simply wouldn’t have had (any) access to 20 years ago. But also about good online texts and how they can change things.

LE: My colleague Karen Colbon and I have been doing some work on making more effective use of technologies… Paul you have been involved in FELTAG…

PM: With FELTAG I was pleased when that came out 3 years ago, but I think only now we’ve moved from the myth of 10% online being blended learning… And moving towards a proper debate about what blended learning is, what is relevant not just what is described. And the need for good quality support to enable that.

LE: What’s the role for Jisc there?

PM: I think it’s about bringing the community together, about focusing on the learner and their experience, rather than the content, to ensure that overall the learner gets what they need.

SD: It’s also about supporting people to design effective curricula too. There are sessions here, talking through interesting things people are doing.

AM: There is a lot of room for innovation around the content. If you are walking around the stands there is a group of students from UCL who are finding innovative ways to visualise research, and we’ll be hearing pitches later with some fantastic ideas.

Q4: Billions of dollars are being invested in edtech startups. What impact do you think this will have on teaching and learning in universities and colleges?

  • No impact at all 1%
  • It may result in a few tools we can use 69%
  • We will come to rely on these companies in our learning and teaching 21%
  • It will completely transform learning and teaching 9%

AM: I am towards the 9% here, there are risks but there is huge reason for optimism here. There are some great companies coming out and working with them increases the chance that this investment will benefit the sector. Startups are keen to work with universities, to collaborate. They are really keen to work with us.

LE: It is difficult for universities to take that punt, to take that risk on new ideas. Procurement, governance, are all essential to facilitating that engagement.

AM: I think so. But I think if we don’t engage then we do risk these companies coming in and building businesses that don’t take account of our needs.

LE: Now that’s a big spend taking place for that small potential change that many who answered this question perceive…

PM: I think there are saving that will come out of those changes potentially…

AM: And in fact that potentially means saving money on tools we currently use by adopting new, and investing that into staff..

Q5: Where do you think the biggest benefits of technology are felt in education?

  • Enabling or enhancing learning and teaching activities 55%
  • In the broader student experience 30%
  • In administrative efficiencies 9%
  • It’s hard to identify clear benefits 6%

SD: I think many of the big benefits we’ve seen over the last 8 years has been around things like online timetables – wider student experience and administrative spaces. But we are also seeing that, when used effectively, technology can really enhance the learning experience. We have a few sessions here around that. Key here is digital capabilities of staff and students. Whether awareness, confidence, understanding fit with disciplinary practice. Lots here at Digifest around digital skills. [sidenote: see also our new Digital Footprint MOOC which is now live for registrations]

I’m quite surprised that 6% thought it was hard to identify clear benefits… There are still lots of questions there, and we have a session on evidence based practice tomorrow, and how evidence feeds into institutional decision making.

PM: There is something here around the Apprentice Levy which is about to come into place. A surprisingly high percentage of employers aren’t aware that they will be paying that actually! Technology has a really important role here for teaching, learning and assessment, but also tracking and monitoring around apprenticeships.

LE: So, with that, I encourage you to look around, chat to our exhibitors, craft the programme that is right for you. And to kick that off here is some of the brilliant work you have been up to. [we are watching a video – this should be shared on today’s hashtag #digifest17]

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TEDxYouth@Manchester video live: What do your digital footprints say about you?

This is a very wee blog post/aside to share the video of my TEDxYouth@Manchester talk, “What do your digital footprints say about you?”:

You can read more on the whole experience of being part of this event in my blog post from late November.

It would appear that my first TEDx, much like my first Bright Club, was rather short and sweet (safely within my potential 14 minutes). I hope you enjoy it and I would recommend catching up with my fellow speakers’ talks:

Kat Arney

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ben Smith

Click here to view the embedded video.

VV Brown

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ben Garrod

Click here to view the embedded video.

I gather that the videos of the incredible teenage speakers and performers will follow soon.

 

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Association of Internet Researchers AoIR2016: Day 4

Today is the last day of the Association of Internet Researchers Conference 2016 – with a couple fewer sessions but I’ll be blogging throughout.

As usual this is a liveblog so corrections, additions, etc. are welcomed. 

PS-24: Rulemaking (Chair: Sandra Braman)

The DMCA Rulemaking and Digital Legal Vernaculars – Olivia G Conti, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States of America

Apologies, I’ve joined this session late so you miss the first few minutes of what seems to have been an excellent presentation from Olivia. 

Property and ownership claims made of distinctly American values… Grounded in general ideals, evocations of the Bill of Rights. Or asking what Ben Franklin would say… Bringing the ideas of the DCMA as being contrary to the very foundations of the United Statements. Another them was the idea of once you buy something you should be able to edit as you like. Indeed a theme here is the idea of “tinkering and a liberatory endeavour”. And you see people claiming that it is a basic human right to make changes and tinker, to tweak your tractor (or whatever). Commentators are not trying to appeal to the nation state, they are trying to perform the state to make rights claims to enact the rights of the citizen in a digital world.

So, John Deere made a statement that tractro buyers have an “implied license” to their tractor, they don’t own it out right. And that raised controversies as well.

So, the final register rule was that the farmers won: they could repair their own tractors.

But the vernacular legal formations allow us to see the tensions that arise between citizens and the rights holders. And that also raises interesting issues of citizenship – and of citizenship of the state versus citizenship of the digital world.

The Case of the Missing Fair Use: A Multilingual History & Analysis of Twitter’s Policy Documentation – Amy Johnson, MIT, United States of America

This paper looks at the multilingual history and analysis of Twitter’s policy documentation. Or policies as uneven scalar tools of power alignment. And this comes from the idea of thinking of the Twitter as more than just the whole complete overarching platform. There is much research now on moderation, but understanding this type of policy allows you to understand some of the distributed nature of the platforms. Platforms draw lines when they decide which laws to tranform into policies, and then again when they think about which policies to translate.

If you look across at a list of Twitter policies, there is an English language version. Of this list it is only the Fair Use policy and the Twitter API limits that appear only in English. The API policy makes some sense, but the Fair Use policy does not. And Fair Use only appears really late – in 2014. It sets up in 2005, and many other policies come in in 2013… So what is going on?

So, here is the Twitter Fair Use Policy… Now, before I continue here, I want to say that this translation (and lack of) for this policy is unusual. Generally all companies – not just tech companies – translate into FIGS: French, Italian, German, Spanish languages. And Twitter does not do this. But this is in contrast to the translations of the platform itself. And I wanted to talk in particularly about translations into Japanese and Arabic. Now the Japanese translation came about through collaboration with a company that gave it opportunities to expand out into Japen. Arabic is not put in place until 2011, and around the Arab Spring. And the translation isn’t doen by Twitter itself but by another organisaton set up to do this. So you can see that there are other actors here playing into translations of platform and policies. So this iconic platforms are shaped in some unexpected ways.

So… I am not a lawyer but… Fair Use is a phenomenon that creates all sorts of internet lawyering. And typically there are four factors of fair use (Section 107 of US Copyright Act of 1976): purpose and character of use; nature of copyright work; amount and substantiality of portion used; effect of use on potential market for or value of copyright work. And this is very much an american law, from a legal-economic point of view. And the US is the only country that has Fair Use law.

Now there is a concept of “Fair Dealing” – mentioned in passing in Fair Use – which shares some characters. There are other countries with Fair Use law: Poland, Israel, South Korea… Well they point to the English language version. What about Japanese which has a rich reuse community on Twitter? It also points to the English policy.

So, policy are not equal in their policynesss. But why does this matter? Because this is where rule of law starts to break down… And we cannot assume that the same policies apply universally, that can’t be assumed.

But what about parody? Why bring this up? Well parody is tied up with the idea of Fair Use and creative transformation. Comedy is protected Fair Use category. And Twitter has a rich seam of parody. And indeed, if you Google for the fair use policy, the “People also ask” section has as the first question: “What is a parody account”.

Whilst Fair Use wasn’t there as a policy until 2014, parody unofficially had a policy in 2009, an official one in 2010, updates, another version in 2013 for the IPO. Biz Stone writes about, when at Google, lawyers saying about fake accounts “just say it is parody!” and the importance of parody. And indeed the parody policy has been translated much more widely than the Fair Use policy.

So, policies select bodies of law and align platforms to these bodies of law, in varying degree and depending on specific legitimation practices. Fair Use is strongly associated with US law, and embedding that in the translated policies aligns Twitter more to US law than they want to be. But parody has roots in free speech, and that is something that Twitter wishes to align itself with.

Visual Arts in Digital and Online Environments: Changing Copyright and Fair Use Practice among Institutions and Individuals Abstract – Patricia Aufderheide, Aram Sinnreich, American University, United States of America

Patricia: Aram and I have been working with the College Art Association and it brings together a wide range of professionals and practitioners in art across colleges in the US. They had a new code of conduct and we wanted to speak to them, a few months after that code of conduct was released, to see if that had changed practice and understanding. This is a group that use copyrighted work very widely. And indeed one-third of respondents avoid, abandon, or are delayed because of copyrighted work.

Aram: four-fifths of CAA members use copyrighted materials in their work, but only one fifth employ fair use to do that – most or always seek permission. And of those that use fair use there are some that always or usually use Fair Use. So there are real differences here. So, Fair Use are valued if you know about it and undestand it… but a quarter of this group aren’t sure if Fair Use is useful or not. Now there is that code of conduct. There is also some use of Creative Commons and open licenses.

Of those that use copyright materials… But 47% never use open licenses for their own work – there is a real reciprocity gap. Only 26% never use others openly licensed work. and only 10% never use others’ public domain work. Respondents value creative copying… 19 out of 20 CAA members think that creative appropriation can be “original”, and despite this group seeking permissions they also don’t feel that creative appropriation shouldn’t neccassarily require permission. This really points to an education gap within the community.

And 43% said that uncertainty about the law limits creativity. They think they would appropriate works more, they would public more, they would share work online… These mirror fair use usage!

Patricia: We surveyed this group twice in 2013 and in 2016. Much stays the same but there have been changes… In 2016, 2/3rd have heard about the code, and a third have shared that information – with peers, in teaching, with colleagues. Their associations with the concept of Fair Use are very positive.

Arem: The good news is that the code use does lead to change, even within 10 months of launch. This work was done to try and show how much impact a code of conduct has on understanding… And really there was a dramatic differences here. From the 2016 data, those who are not aware of the code, look a lot like those who are aware but have not used the code. But those who use the code, there is a real difference… And more are using fair use.

Patricia: There is one thing we did outside of the survey… There have been dramatic changes in the field. A number of universities have changed journal policies to be default Fair Use – Yale, Duke, etc. There has been a lot of change in the field. Several museums have internally changed how they create and use their materials. So, we have learned that education matters – behaviour changes with knowledge confidence. Peer support matters and validates new knowledge. Institutional action, well publicized, matters .The newest are most likely to change quickly, but the most veteran are in the best position – it is important to have those influencers on board… And teachers need to bring this into their teaching practice.

Panel Q&A

Q1) How many are artists versus other roles?

A1 – Patricia) About 15% are artists, and they tend to be more positive towards fair use.

Q2) I was curious about changes that took place…

A2 – Arem) We couldn’t ask whether the code made you change your practice… But we could ask whether they had used fair use before and after…

Q3) You’ve made this code for the US CAA, have you shared that more widely…

A3 – Patricia) Many of the CAA members work internationally, but the effectiveness of this code in the US context is that it is about interpreting US Fair Use law – it is not a legal document but it has been reviewed by lawyers. But copyright is territorial which makes this less useful internationally as a document. If copyright was more straightforward, that would be great. There are rights of quotation elsewhere, there is fair dealing… And Canadian law looks more like Fair Use. But the US is very litigious so if something passes Fair Use checking, that’s pretty good elsewhere… But otherwise it is all quite territorial.

A3 – Arem) You can see in data we hold that international practitioners have quite different attitudes to American CAA members.

Q4) You talked about the code, and changes in practice. When I talk to filmmakers and documentary makers in Germany they were aware of Fair Use rights but didn’t use them as they are dependent on TV companies buy them and want every part of rights cleared… They don’t want to hurt relationships.

A4 – Patricia) We always do studies before changes and it is always about reputation and relationship concerns… Fair Use only applies if you can obtain the materials independently… But then the question may be that will rights holders be pissed off next time you need to licence content. What everyone told me was that we can do this but it won’t make any difference…

Chair) I understand that, but that question is about use later on, and demonstration of rights clearance.

A4 – Patricia) This is where change in US errors and omissions insurance makes a difference – that protects them. The film and television makers code of conduct helped insurers engage and feel confident to provide that new type of insurance clause.

Q5) With US platforms, as someone in Norway, it can be hard to understand what you can and cannot access and use on, for instance, in YouTube. Also will algorithmic filtering processes of platforms take into account that they deal with content in different territories?

A5 – Arem) I have spoken to Google Council about that issue of filtering by law – there is no difference there… But monitoring

A5 – Amy) I have written about legal fictions before… They are useful for thinking about what a “reasonable person” – and that can be vulnerable by jury and location so writing that into policies helps to shape that.

A5 – Patricia) The jurisdiction is where you create, not where the work is from…

Q6) There is an indecency case in France which they want to try in French court, but Facebook wants it tried in US court. What might the impact on copyright be?

A6 – Arem) A great question but this type of jurisdictional law has been discussed for over 10 years without any clear conclusion.

A6 – Patricia) This is a European issue too – Germany has good exceptions and limitations, France has horrible exceptions and limitations. There is a real challenge for pan European law.

Q7) Did you look at all of impact on advocacy groups who encouraged writing in/completion of replies on DCMA. And was there any big difference between the farmers and car owners?

A7) There was a lot of discussion on the digital right to repair site, and that probably did have an impact. I did work on Net Neutrality before. But in any of those cases I take out boiler plate, and see what they add directly – but there is a whole other paper to be done on boiler plate texts and how they shape responses and terms of additional comments. It wasn’t that easy to distinguish between farmers and car owners, but it was interesting how individuals established credibility. For farmers they talked abot the value of fixing their own equipment, of being independent, of history of ownership. Car mechanics, by contrast, establish technical expertise.

Q8) As a follow up: farmers will have had a long debate over genetically modified seeds – and the right to tinker in different ways…

A8) I didn’t see that reflected in the comments, but there may well be a bigger issue around micromanagement of practices.

Q9) Olivia, I was wondering if you were considering not only the rhetorical arguements of users, what about the way the techniques and tactics they used are received on the other side… What are the effective tactics there, or locate the limits of the effectiveness of the layperson vernacular stategies?

A9) My goal was to see what frames of arguements looked most effective. I think in the case of the John Deere DCMA case that wasn’t that conclusive. It can be really hard to separate the NGO from the individual – especially when NGOs submit huge collections of individual responses. I did a case study on non-consensual pornography was more conclusive in terms of strategies that was effective. The discourses I look at don’t look like legal discourse but I look at the tone and content people use. So, on revenge porn, the law doesn’t really reflect user practice for instance.

Q10) For Amy, I was wondering… Is the problem that Fair Use isn’t translated… Or the law behind that?

A10 – Amy) I think Twitter in particular have found themselves in a weird middle space… Then the exceptions wouldn’t come up. But having it in English is the odd piece. That policy seems to speak specifically to Americans… But you could argue they are trying to impose (maybe that’s a bit too strong) on all English speaking territory. On YouTube all of the policies are translated into the same languages, including Fair Use.

Q11) I’m fascinated in vernacular understanding and then the experts who are in the round tables, who specialise in these areas. How do you see vernacular discourse use in more closed/smaller settings?

A11 – Olivia) I haven’t been able to take this up as so many of those spaces are opaque. But in the 2012 rule making there were some direct quotes from remixers. And there a suggestion around DVD use that people should videotape the TV screen… and that seemed unreasonably onorous…

Chair) Do you forsee a next stage where you get to be in those rooms and do more on that?

A11 – Olivia) I’d love to do some ethnographic studies, to get more involved.

A11 – Patricia) I was in Washington for the DMCA hearings and those are some of the most fun things I go to. I know that the documentary filmmakers have complained about cost of participating… But a technician from the industry gave 30 minutes of evidence on the 40 technical steps to handle analogue film pieces of information… And to show that it’s not actually broadcast quality. It made them gasp. It was devastating and very visual information, and they cited it in their ruling… And similarly in John Deere case the car technicians made impact. By contrast a teacher came in to explain why copying material was important for teaching, but she didn’t have either people or evidence of what the difference is in the classroom.

Q12) I have an interesting case if anyone wants to look at it, around Wikipedia’s Fair Use issues around multimedia. Volunteers take pre-emptively being stricter as they don’t want lawyers to come in on that… And the Wikipedia policies there. There is also automation through bots to delete content without clear Fair Use exception.

A12 – Arem) I’ve seen Fair Use misappropriated on Wikipedia… Copyright images used at low resolution and claimed as Fair Use…

A12- Patricia) Wikimania has all these people who don’t want to deal with law on copyright at all! Wikimedia lawyers are in an a really difficult position.

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Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016: Day Two

Today I am again at the Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 Conference in Berlin. Yesterday we had workshops, today the conference kicks off properly. Follow the tweets at: #aoir2016.

As usual this is a liveblog so all comments and corrections are very much welcomed. 

Platform Studies: The Rules of Engagement (Chair: Jean Burgess, QUT)

How affordances arise through relations between platforms, their different types of users, and what they do to the technology – Taina Bucher (University of Copenhagen) and Anne Helmond (University of Amsterdam)

Taina: Hearts on Twitter: In 2015 Twitter moved from stars to hearts, changing the affordances of the platform. They stated that they wanted to make the platform more accessible to new users, but that impacted on existing users.

Today we are going to talk about conceptualising affordances. In it’s original meaning an affordance is conceived of as a relational property (Gibson). For Norman perceived affordances were more the concern – thinking about how objects can exhibit or constrain particular actions. Affordances are not just the visual clues or possibilities, but can be felt. Gaver talks about these technology affordances. There are also social affordances – talked about my many – mainly about how poor technological affordances have impact on societies. It is mainly about impact of technology and how it can contain and constrain sociality. And finally we have communicative affordances (Hutchby), how technological affordances impact on communities and communications of practices.

So, what about platform changes? If we think about design affordances, we can see that there are different ways to understand this. The official reason for the design was given as about the audience, affording sociality of community and practices.

Affordances continues to play an important role in media and social media research. They tend to be conceptualised as either high-level or low-level affordances, with ontological and epistemological differences:

  • High: affordance in the relation – actions enabled or constrained
  • Low: affordance in the technical features of the user interface – reference to Gibson but they vary in where and when affordances are seen, and what features are supposed to enable or constrain.

Anne: We want to now turn to platform-sensitive approach, expanding the notion of the user –> different types of platform users, end-users, developers, researchers and advertisers – there is a real diversity of users and user needs and experiences here (see Gillespie on platforms. So, in the case of Twitter there are many users and many agendas – and multiple interfaces. Platforms are dynamic environments – and that differentiates social media platforms from Gibson’s environmental platforms. Computational systems driving media platforms are different, social media platforms adjust interfaces to their users through personalisation, A/B testing, algorithmically organised (e.g. Twitter recommending people to follow based on interests and actions).

In order to take a relational view of affordances, and do that justice, we also need to understand what users afford to the platforms – as they contribute, create content, provide data that enables to use and development and income (through advertisers) for the platform. Returning to Twitter… The platform affords different things for different people

Taking medium-specificity of platforms into account we can revisit earlier conceptions of affordance and critically analyse how they may be employed or translated to platform environments. Platform users are diverse and multiple, and relationships are multidirectional, with users contributing back to the platform. And those different users have different agendas around affordances – and in our Twitter case study, for instance, that includes developers and advertisers, users who are interested in affordances to measure user engagement.

How the social media APIs that scholars so often use for research are—for commercial reasons—skewed positively toward ‘connection’ and thus make it difficult to understand practices of ‘disconnection’ – Nicolas John (Hebrew University of Israel) and Asaf Nissenbaum (Hebrew University of Israel)

Consider this… On Facebook…If you add someone as a friend they are notified. If you unfriend them, they do not. If you post something you see it in your feed, if you delete it it is not broadcast. They have a page called World of Friends – they don’t have one called World of Enemies. And Facebook does not take kindly to app creators who seek to surface unfriending and removal of content. And Facebook is, like other social media platforms, therefore significantly biased towards positive friending and sharing actions. And that has implications for norms and for our research in these spaces.

One of our key questions here is what can’t we know about

Agnotology is defined as the study of ignorance. Robert Proctor talks about this in three terms: native state – childhood for instance; strategic ploy – e.g. the tobacco industry on health for years; lost realm – the knowledge that we cease to hold, that we loose.

I won’t go into detail on critiques of APIs for social science research, but as an overview the main critiques are:

  1. APIs are restrictive – they can cost money, we are limited to a percentage of the whole – Burgess and Bruns 2015; Bucher 2013; Bruns 2013; Driscoll and Walker
  2. APIs are opaque
  3. APIs can change with little notice (and do)
  4. Omitted data – Baym 2013 – now our point is that these platforms collect this data but do not share it.
  5. Bias to present – boyd and Crawford 2012

Asaf: Our methodology was to look at some of the most popular social media spaces and their APIs. We were were looking at connectivity in these spaces – liking, sharing, etc. And we also looked for the opposite traits – unliking, deletion, etc. We found that social media had very little data, if any, on “negative” traits – and we’ll look at this across three areas: other people and their content; me and my content; commercial users and their crowds.

Other people and their content – APIs tend to supply basic connectivity – friends/following, grouping, likes. Almost no historical content – except Facebook which shares when a user has liked a page. Current state only – disconnections are not accounted for. There is a reason to not know this data – privacy concerns perhaps – but that doesn’t explain my not being able to find this sort of information about my own profile.

Me and my content – negative traits and actions are hidden even from ourselves. Success is measured – likes and sharin, of you or by you. Decline is not – disconnections are lost connections… except on Twitter where you can see analytics of followers – but no names there, and not in the API. So we are losing who we once were but are not anymore. Social network sites do not see fit to share information over time… Lacking disconnection data is an idealogical and commercial issue.

Commercial users and their crowds – these users can see much more of their histories, and the negative actions online. They have a different regime of access in many cases, with the ups and downs revealed – though you may need to pay for access. Negative feedback receives special attention. Facebook offers the most detailed information on usage – including blocking and unliking information. Customers know more than users, or Pages vs. Groups.

Nicholas: So, implications. From what Asaf has shared shows the risk for API-based research… Where researchers’ work may be shaped by the affordances of the API being used. Any attempt to capture negative actions – unlikes, choices to leave or unfriend. If we can’t use APIs to measure social media phenomena, we have to use other means. So, unfriending is understood through surveys – time consuming and problematic. And that can put you off exploring these spaces – it limits research. The advertiser-friends user experience distorts the space – it’s like the stock market only reporting the rises except for a few super wealthy users who get the full picture.

A biography of Twitter (a story told through the intertwined stories of its key features and the social norms that give them meaning, drawing on archival material and oral history interviews with users) – Jean Burgess (Queensland University of Technology) and Nancy Baym (Microsoft Research)

I want to start by talking about what I mean by platforms, and what I mean by biographies. Here platforms are these social media platforms that afford particular possibilities, they enable and shape society – we heard about the platformisation of society last night – but their governance, affordances, are shaped by their own economic existance. They are shaping and mediating socio-cultural experience and we need to better to understand the values and socio-cultural concerns of the platforms. By platform studies we mean treating social media platforms as spaces to study in their own rights: as institutions, as mediating forces in the environment.

So, why “biography” here? First we argue that whilst biographical forms tend to be reserved for individuals (occasionally companies and race horses), they are about putting the subject in context of relationships, place in time, and that the context shapes the subject. Biographies are always partial though – based on unreliable interviews and information, they quickly go out of date, and just as we cannot get inside the heads of those who are subjects of biographies, we cannot get inside many of the companies at the heart of social media platforms. But (after Richard Rogers) understanding changes helps us to understand the platform.

So, in our forthcoming book, Twitter: A Biography (NYU 2017), we will look at competing and converging desires around e.g the @, RT, #. Twitter’s key feature set are key characters in it’s biography. Each has been a rich site of competing cultures and norms. We drew extensively on the Internet Archives, bloggers, and interviews with a range of users of the platform.

Nancy: When we interviewed people we downloaded their archive with them and talked through their behaviour and how it had changed – and many of those features and changes emerged from that. What came out strongly is that noone knows what Twitter is for – not just amongst users but also amongst the creators – you see that today with Jack Dorsey and Anne Richards. The heart of this issue is about whether Twitter is about sociality and fun, or is it a very important site for sharing important news and events. Users try to negotiate why they need this space, what is it for… They start squabling saying “Twitter, you are doing it wrong!”… Changes come with backlash and response, changed decisions from Twitter… But that is also accompanied by the media coverage of Twitter, but also the third party platforms build on Twitter.

So the “@” is at the heart of Twitter for sociality and Twitter for information distribution. It was imported from other spaces – IRC most obviously – as with other features. One of the earliest things Twitter incorporated was the @ and the links back.. You have things like originally you could see everyone’s @ replies and that led to feed clutter – although some liked seeing unexpected messages like this. So, Twitter made a change so you could choose. And then they changed again to automatically not see replies from those you don’t follow. So people worked around that with “.@” – which created conflict between the needs of the users, the ways they make it usable, and the way the platform wants to make the space less confusing to new users.

The “RT” gave credit to people for their words, and preserved integrity of words. At first this wasn’t there and so you had huge variance – the RT, the manually spelled out retweet, the hat tip (HT). Technical changes were made, then you saw the number of retweets emerging as a measure of success and changing cultures and practices.

The “#” is hugely disputed – it emerged through hashtag.org: you couldn’t follow them in Twitter at first but they incorporated it to fend off third party tools. They are beloved by techies, and hated by user experience designers. And they are useful but they are also easily coopted by trolls – as we’ve seen on our own hashtag.

Insights into the actual uses to which audience data analytics are put by content creators in the new screen ecology (and the limitations of these analytics) – Stuart Cunningham (QUT) and David Craig (USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism)

The algorithmic culture is well understood as a part of our culture. There are around 150 items on Tarleton Gillespie and Nick Seaver’s recent reading list and the literature is growing rapidly. We want to bring back a bounded sense of agency in the context of online creatives.

What do I mean by “online creatives”? Well we are looking at social media entertainment – a “new screen ecology” (Cunningham and Silver 2013; 2015) shaped by new online creatives who are professionalising and monetising on platforms like YouTube, as opposed to professional spaces, e.g. Netflix. YouTube has more than 1 billion users, with revenue in 2015 estimated at $4 billion per year. And there are a large number of online creatives earning significant incomes from their content in these spaces.

Previously online creatives were bound up with ideas of democratic participative cultures but we want to offer an immanent critique of the limits of data analytics/algorithmic culture in shaping SME from with the industry on both the creator (bottom up) and platform (top down) side. This is an approach to social criticism exposes the way reality conflicts not with some “transcendent” concept of rationality but with its own avowed norms, drawing on Foucault’s work on power and domination.

We undertook a large number of interviews and from that I’m going to throw some quotes at you… There is talk of information overload – of what one might do as an online creative presented with a wealth of data. Creatives talk about the “non-scalable practices” – the importance and time required to engage with fans and subscribers. Creatives talk about at least half of a working week being spent on high touch work like responding to comments, managing trolls, and dealing with challenging responses (especially with creators whose kids are engaged in their content).

We also see cross-platform engagement – and an associated major scaling in workload. There is a volume issue on Facebook, and the use of Twitter to manage that. There is also a sense of unintended consequences – scale has destroyed value. Income might be $1 or $2 for 100,000s or millions of views. There are inherent limits to algorithmic culture… But people enjoy being part of it and reflect a real entrepreneurial culture.

In one or tow sentences, the history of YouTube can be seen as a sort of clash of NoCal and SoCal cultures. Again, no-one knows what it is for. And that conflict has been there for ten years. And you also have the MCNs (Multi-Contact Networks) who are caught like the meat in the sandwich here.

Panel Q&A

Q1) I was wondering about user needs and how that factors in. You all drew upon it to an extent… And the dissatisfaction of users around whether needs are listened to or not was evident in some of the case studies here. I wanted to ask about that.

A1 – Nancy) There are lots of users, and users have different needs. When platforms change and users are angry, others are happy. We have different users with very different needs… Both of those perspectives are user needs, they both call for responses to make their needs possible… The conflict and challenges, how platforms respond to those tensions and how efforts to respond raise new tensions… that’s really at the heart here.

A1 – Jean) In our historical work we’ve also seen that some users voices can really overpower others – there are influential users and they sometimes drown out other voices, and I don’t want to stereotype here but often technical voices drown out those more concerned with relationships and intimacy.

Q2) You talked about platforms and how they developed (and I’m afraid I didn’t catch the rest of this question…)

A2 – David) There are multilateral conflicts about what features to include and exclude… And what is interesting is thinking about what ideas fail… With creators you see economic dependence on platforms and affordances – e.g. versus PGC (Professionally Generated Content).

A2 – Nicholas) I don’t know what user needs are in a broader sense, but everyone wants to know who unfriended them, who deleted them… And a dislike button, or an unlike button… The response was strong but “this post makes me sad” doesn’t answer that and there is no “you bastard for posting that!” button.

Q3) Would it be beneficial to expose unfriending/negative traits?

A3 – Nicholas) I can think of a use case for why unfriending would be useful – for instance wouldn’t it be useful to understand unfriending around the US elections. That data is captured – Facebook know – but we cannot access it to research it.

A3 – Stuart) It might be good for researchers, but is it in the public good? In Europe and with the Right to be Forgotten should we limit further the data availability…

A3 – Nancy) I think the challenge is that mismatch of only sharing good things, not sharing and allowing exploration of negative contact and activity.

A3 – Jean) There are business reasons for positivity versus negativity, but it is also about how the platforms imagine their customers and audiences.

Q4) I was intrigued by the idea of the “Medium specificity of platforms” – what would that be? I’ve been thinking about devices and interfaces and how they are accessed… We have what we think of as a range but actually we are used to using really one or two platforms – e.g. Apple iPhone – in terms of design, icons, etc. and the possibilities of interface is, and what happens when something is made impossible by the interface.

A4 – Anne) When the “medium specificity” we are talking about the platform itself as medium. Moving beyond end user and user experience. We wanted to take into account the role of the user – the platform also has interfaces for developers, for advertisers, etc. and we wanted to think about those multiple interfaces, where they connect, how they connect, etc.

A4 – Taina) It’s a great point about medium specitivity but for me it’s more about platform specifity.

A4 – Jean) The integration of mobile web means the phone iOS has a major role here…

A4 – Nancy) We did some work with couples who brought in their phones, and when one had an Apple and one had an Android phone we actually found that they often weren’t aware of what was possible in the social media apps as the interfaces are so different between the different mobile operating systems and interfaces.

Q5) Can you talk about algorithmic content and content innovation?

A5 – David) In our work with YouTube we see forms of innovation that are very platform specific around things like Vine and Instagram. And we also see counter-industrial forms and practices. So, in the US, we see blogging and first person accounts of lives… beauty, unboxing, etc. But if you map content innovation you see (similarly) this taking the form of gaps in mainstream culture – in India that’s stand up comedy for instance. Algorithms are then looking for qualities and connections based on what else is being accessed – creating a virtual circle…

Q6) Can we think of platforms as instable, about platforms having not quite such a uniform sense of purpose and direction…

A6 – Stuart) Most platforms are very big in terms of their finance… If you compare that to 20 years ago the big companies knew what they were doing! Things are much more volatile…

A6 – Jean) That’s very common in the sector, except maybe on Facebook… Maybe.

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Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 РDay 1 РJos̩ van Dijck Keynote

If you’ve been following my blog today you will know that I’m in Berlin for the Association of Internet Researchers AoIR 2016 (#aoir2016) Conference, at Humboldt University. As this first day has mainly been about workshops – and I’ve been in a full day long Digital Methods workshop – we do have our first conference keynote this evening. And as it looks a bit different to my workshop blog, I thought a new post was in order.

As usual, this is a live blog post so corrections, comments, etc. are all welcomed. This session is also being videoed so you will probably want to refer to that once it becomes available as the authoritative record of the session. 

Keynote: The Platform Society – José van Dijck (University of Amsterdam) with Session Chair: Jennifer Stromer-Galley

 

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