I can’t imagine working for an organization that would put out a code of conduct that prohibits its employees from engaging in teaching, conference attendance or other “personal engagements” on their own time. I mean, I can imagine it; I just imagine it would suck. And for the librarians at Library and Archives Canada who are in charge of keeping the country’s information organized and accessible for all Canadians to be muzzled in such a way is complete bullshit.
An employee may accept such invitations as personal activities if all of the following conditions are met:
- The subject matter of the activity is not related to the mandate or activities of LAC;
- The employee is not presented as speaking for or being an expert of LAC or the Government of Canada;
- The third party is not a potential or current supplier to/collaborator with LAC;
- The third party does not lobby or advocate with LAC;
- The third party does not receive grants, contributions or other types of funding or payments from LAC;
- The employee has discussed it with his or her manager, who has documented confirmation that the activity does not conflict with the employee’s duties at LAC or present other risks to LAC.
Personally, the idea of having to have off-work-time speech needing to be okayed by a manager gets up my nose in terms of chilling effects. Who’s going to ask interesting questions if they must check with risk-averse superiors first? Other people who are more in tune with how organizations work than me point out that the other clauses mean LAC employees couldn’t feel at ease going to talk at their kids’ school about being an archivist, let alone work with academics who might get some funding from LAC. One would think you’d want interesting thinkers at a country’s flagship library instead of mere functionaries. I would think so, anyway.
Because I was interested I looked at the social media segments of this code of conduct. They say that if an employee said something within a limited group of people that was shared to a wider audience, the employee could be subject to disciplinary measures, because of her “duty of loyalty.” Now my reading of that section seems to indicate that as long as the individual employee isn’t representing LAC’s position, but her own, things would be fine. Of course, I don’t take anything said by a person to be representative of their employer’s views, because that is crazy. Oh wait. If someone could find out where you worked and that you had an opinion then it would count as you trying to represent LAC’s opinion and smack goes the hammer.
I’m sorry, LAC employees. I think we, as librarians and as humans, should be asking interesting questions. The photographer Clayton Cubitt recently wrote a blogpost about labelling which of the pictures he posts on Tumblr are NSFW (not safe for work) after an explanation of how to get a feed of just his SFW pictures he went on to talk a little bit about alignment of your philosophy with your workplace. And there he says: “So the only real solution is in your hands: don’t work at a job that doesn’t share your personal philosophy.”
I think that’s good advice. And actually I think it’s good in its way that LAC sets out its philosophy so starkly so its employees can see how it diverges from their philosophies. They are clearly saying to their librarians “We don’t trust you. You are our enemy.” Having such a clear enemy makes some things easier. You know who you should pull your support from. The problem however is that LAC isn’t just some company making widgets or apps. It’s supposed to be preserving and organizing the citizenry’s information for use, and it’s not like the librarians who have been made enemy of their institution can just start up another one.
Let’s just get this out there: I would hate to work at LAC. But we need a National Library. If this strangulation of its workers means that librarians dedicated to freedom of information and access for the citizens leave or get chilled out of proposing any ideas to talk about that is a huge fucking loss. The librarians shouldn’t have to leave because the government doesn’t understand what the job of a librarian is.
We need people to change this. Part of the job of being a librarian is to stand up for freedom of thought and expression. That has to apply within the National Library as well as in society in general. We have to make the rules at our National Library fit the job and its values. This should be a no-brainer for librarians. We should all be do our best to help people with their information needs, which might involve asking interesting difficult awkward questions. We aren’t supposed to be scared of ideas. That is part of my personal philosophy and something I believe makes me a good librarian.
This is not a very focused blogpost. Organizations I belong to are writing much more eloquent letters outlining the issues for a general public and other librarians. I don’t know what you should do. They probably will. I will link to them as they come up.
This is just a response. My response. (Not that of any employer of mine, past, present or future.)
I wrote a post on what I learned on my non-summer non-vacation on Librarianautica.
In our presentation for libr559m, which our group did on (my) Thursday, Dean asked us what we’d learned that we hadn’t known before in creating our project. At the time I mentioned the technical stuff about working with Drupal. Afterwards I was asking myself how much of this course was just me performing. I mean, I grew familiar with a bunch of tools over the course of the past 6 weeks, but I had some pretty firm social media habits coming into the course, so it’s not like I’ve now discovered Google Reader and nothing will be the same again. (Glogging isn’t really for me.)
I think the biggest thing I learned (apart from generally being impressed by my study buddy’s insight and principles, but that’s not really the domain of the class) was how relatively painless it can be to work with people across so many timezones. I didn’t feel disconnected from the class even though we didn’t share a hemisphere. That in itself is an experience that’s useful.
Another question Dean asked at the end of our presentation was whether I ever feel information overload. I assume this is because I’ve been pretty visible in my quasi-prolific use of these tools (though if you check the Storified summations of the class you’ll see a lot of other people posting more than me on Twitter). I think that’s where my performing this class kind of comes in. Normally I’m more of a lurker. I use these tools but for my own benefit, to suck things into my own head. I was trying to take the opportunity of doing a class in social media to work on being a more active producer in this sphere. If you take your classes as a means of developing yourself professionally, well, if I’m going to be paid to be on Twitter someday my employers would want to see some results, not just that I’m full of neat tales from BoingBoing. I think I’ve got a better handle on being a visible social media producer now. For what it’s worth, my Klout score jumped quite a bit since the course began.
I think I’m negotiating a good balance between being a social media user (which I was) and an evangelist (which I won’t ever be). Finding some middle space there seems like a good result, and a good use of three of my precious credit hours for the degree.
I’ve tried before and I’ll probably try again, but I can’t get immersed in Second Life. It’s the lack of story there. You make yourself look how you want (or find you’re unable to) and then you stand around listening to music or whatever. A few years ago on my second attempt to get into it I signed up to go to a reading of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. Snow Crash is a novel about the kind of immersive second world SL is trying to be, but it all feels so clunky, so much more about just being in SL than about what’s going on.
I guess it comes down to my gripes about content in the social mediasphere. I find myself agreeing with the lack of Big Ideas in social media (though one of my classmates noted that some of the thinkers quoted in that article are also on Twitter).
Scott McCloud in his talking about comics has a bit about how characters are drawn and how that affects us as readers. A very detailed drawing gives us information about that specific person, whereas a more abstract drawing lets the reader put more of herself into it, to fill in more of the gaps. Immersive environments like Second Life are mixing those up. The more detailed your avatar can be the more the gaps between what’s happening to it and to you become visible.
I remember back in the ’90s my first time playing a MUSH. It was based on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. I went in expecting to have slots to fill in and skills to work on so I could become whatever kind of character it was possible for me to be in that world. The fact that I could be a Thief-Taker, just by saying I was and acting like I was, was so astounding to me I was immediately intimidated by the freedom. I still feel that way now when I’m staring at a blank page to fill with text. Anything at all can go there. You don’t have to fit into CPU cycles when you’re dealing with text. Your immersion is based on skills with language that humans have been working on for thousands of years.
That’s why I can get immersed in the flow of information on Twitter. It’s text. I’m a text person. Doing photos and screencasts using avatars and all of that doesn’t excite me. I don’t feel I’m part of a world I’m not helping to create in my mind. I love the old text-based computer games, even though the limits were very apparent. You had to learn the rules so you knew that “Take Boat” wasn’t the kind of language it wanted. Working within limitations becomes immersive once you’ve really taken it up.
Now this isn’t to say I don’t get immersed in videogames. Once it gets out of the way and I’m taking part in telling a story, I’m there. I played Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas not for the random gratuitous violence (yes, you’d go off on a five-star wanted rampage every once in a while but that wasn’t the point), but because it was a classic gangster story. That’s what I want out of any environment, really. Hell, I love the stories embedded in the numbers in baseball boxscores. That’s what I need for immersion, characters instead of customizable avatars.
This is, of course, good to know. Because if I’m like me, there might be more. And that’s why if I’m bringing a library into a space it’s to tell a story, and to help our users tell a story and imagine one. Not just about the library but about the community it’s a part of (be that physical or digital).
One of the things I love about an aggregated informational world is the idea that if you’ve got enough information flowing past you things will wash up on shore. In the Wesch video there’s a bit about how a person finds significance based on our relationships/contrast with other people. That flow of what you and other people care about is important for significance I guess. You see how people who make stuff you care about care about certain things and you learn what you feel about things.
Journalism is about working yourself up into a lather over something you previously felt nothing about. It is diametrically opposed to what you do as a novelist, which is to very slowly discover what you feel about things. – Kazuo Ishiguro
I feel like aggregating information aids in both of these acts. You need that flow to see what other people are getting into a lather about and sometimes you can get into that lather too. There’s something to be said for having a pile of information you’re barely reading until you see people talking about the same thing so many times and it just bubbles up seemingly everywhere. I love that, especially when news is breaking.
And then there are the people who do the librarian/journalist type aggregation themsleves like @acarvin the NPR journalist who’s become the go to retweeter for the revolutions in the Middle East. He’s being the human in the middle putting an eye on things (and sometimes he, like others, gets fooled).
I can see how these software bits and the fancy learning environments are good for bringing information together but man oh man do I ever like the idea of the infopro (ie the person not the tool) as aggregator supreme. In a much more modest way I’ve been trying to play that kind of role in this class, going through the twitterstream and putting the conversations into a more followable format on Storify. This is not the most efficient means of aggregation, I realize. That Wesch video is talking about automatically pulling in everything tagged anthropology on Flickr, but I’m sure a lot of those pictures are absolute shit. If we’re filters we’re filters sifting for treasure. And it’s not easy.
The other day Jessamyn West posted a commencement address I really enjoyed, which included this:
Some of what I do is go places that “my people” don’t go to, represent us, and then come back and tell my folks what I found there, whether it’s being a techie at a librarian conference, a librarian at the tech conference or a rural librarian at the big city meeting. The world needs people who stay and people who roam, cross-pollinate, bumblebee style.
Sometimes I was surprised that I’d be one of very few people in my communities speaking out cogently and clearly for my ideas, against filtering, against digital rights management, for copyright reform and open access, that sort of thing.
Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement sometimes called this isolation of idealism the “long loneliness” and said it could only be solved by the love that comes with community. I feel that by sharing your ideas and ideals with others, you’re not as lonely.
I don’t know, this idea of streams of information merging with each other and being separated out is important and kind of beautiful. I don’t know about the wisdom of crowds but I do love cross-pollination and that’s something that works if you’re aggregating across different ideas.
Following up on my last post, I’m not so sure that “web 2.0 itself implies creativity.” I mean, I get the Clay Shirky idea that making something is better than watching Gilligan’s island so making LOLcats is fine, but I think remix culture allows for a lot of laziness.
Some of the most interesting Web 2.0 projects I’ve seen are about rewarding creators who can work outside the traditional model. Molly Crabapple’s Week in Hell (she’s locking herself in a room to create for a week) raised thousands of dollars on Kickstarter (over five times her original goal so now they’re going to make more stuff with the extra money). She’s helped raise the question of whether Kickstarter is more important/useful than Arts Council grants for artists.
So yes, social media is helping fuel that kind of creativity, but it’s important to note that people are giving her this money because of her talent. The connections are about funding and supporting creativity, not inspiring it.
I love Neil Gaiman as much as the next person, and his presence on Twitter is huge. But, I don’t love him because of that social media scene. I love the work he does. Making meaning from the banal is a nice idea about social media’s relationship to creativity, but the fact is that most of the banal is still pretty banal, even when it’s aggregated.
I guess I’m saying that “fostering connections, building networks, creating new knowledge” isn’t creative in and of itself. It has to be supportive of some actual talent.
I wrote a post about social media being only a means of supporting creativity on Librarianautica.
There’s an idea in the social media-verse that “conversation is the content.” That kind of quote makes me angry. In the article linked to (which isn’t specifically about libraries but for other businesses engaging in social media) Christopher Rollyson is talking about marketing and how content doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking about marketing. For him, social media being social is about not outsourcing your social media to marketers because “people can smell manufactured content a mile away,” which is a different thing. I think too many people involved specifically with Social Media! ignore the idea that collaboration about nothing is empty, and having good content is bedrock essential.
Now, Rollyson has a good point, clouded by a stupid italicized quote, especially in the library world. Manufactured content is dumb and nobody wants to waste their time with it. But equally bad is the idea that a library can just be there being social with nothing to talk about. Chatting about nothing, trading jokes like a real person does on Twitter might be engaging but isn’t useful for a library or organization.
I think you’ve got to have cool stuff to talk about before you start a conversation. That’s how you get Rollyson’s “human spark of knowledge and caring.” Maybe that’s just my aversion to small-talk, but if you want someone engaging in conversation on behalf of your institution that person needs something to talk about. Just talking doesn’t mean shit. If you want an audience to return you’ve got to be doing good work (or at the very least spotting good work others are doing and pointing it out) to be talking about.
We’ll be getting into this more in our course when we’re talking about Creation, I’m sure, but the Rollyson article ticks me off because the blueprint for success in social media needs Vision, Strategy, Test and Services (though the services bullet point is so filled with marketing buzzwords I can’t even read it). Nowhere there does he talk about making something worthwhile to be talking about.
That is my biggest problem with social media. Just because “the medium is the message” doesn’t mean that’s a laudable state or that you can ignore your content. It seems that people get so starry-eyed about it they forget that there needs to be good work going on to be promoting.
Chatting and collaborating just to garner retweets, favourites +1s, or buzz in whatever new digital form is empty bullshit that I for one don’t want to be participating in. I’m in a substance business, not advertising, and though we can use social media to promote our items of substance the medium can’t be our goal.