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Weekly Shhhout-Out


Roaming librarians file dispatches from the world of information.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

September Is Library Card Sign Up Month! See What Libraries Are Doing!

Libraries have a lot to offer you and libraries need your support.  Join your library!  If you don't already have a library card, sign up today!  Your library is constantly adapting to serve your community. Open-site.org has prepared the following graphic showing what libraries do and the challenges we face.  Click on the image below to view in a larger format.

future of libraries

  A 2010 infographic by the non-profit Online Computer Library Center had a few other nice stats:

  • More libraries (12 000) provided free Wi-Fi than Starbucks (11 000)
  • Libraries lent out almost as many movies (2.1 million) as Netflix (2.1 million)
  • Libraries were more popular (1.4 billion visits) than movie theatres (1.3 billion tickets)
CATEGORIES: Technology , Libraries , Nell M.
POSTED: 12:03:00 AM |

Friday, June 14, 2013

A few words about privacy

Privacy is about control over information, not about secrecy. It is about having the right to define what is exposed and what is concealed. Privacy is about choice.
Privacysos.org

Debunking "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"

One – The rules may change: Once the invasive surveillance is in place to enforce rules that you agree with, the ruleset that is being enforced could change in ways that you don’t agree with at all – but then, it is too late to protest the surveillance. For example, you may agree to cameras in every home to prevent domestic violence (“and domestic violence only”) – but the next day, a new political force in power could decide that homosexuality will again be illegal, and they will use the existing home cameras to enforce their new rules. Any surveillance must be regarded in terms of how it can be abused by a worse power than today’s.

Two – It’s not you who determine if you have something to fear: You may consider yourself law-abidingly white as snow, and it won’t matter a bit. What does matter is whether you set off the red flags in the mostly-automated surveillance, where bureaucrats look at your life in microscopic detail through a long paper tube to search for patterns. When you stop your car at the main prostitution street for two hours every Friday night, the Social Services Authority will draw certain conclusions from that data point, and won’t care about the fact that you help your elderly grandmother – who lives there – with her weekly groceries. When you frequently stop at a certain bar on your way driving home from work, the Department of Driving Licenses will draw certain conclusions as to your eligibility for future driving licenses – regardless of the fact that you think they serve the world’s best reindeer meatballs in that bar, and never had had a single beer there. People will stop thinking in terms of what is legal, and start acting in self-censorship to avoid being red-flagged, out of pure self-preservation. (It doesn’t matter that somebody in the right might possibly and eventually be cleared – after having been investigated for six months, you will have lost both custody of your children, your job, and possibly your home.)

Two and a half – Point two assumes that the surveillance even has correct data, which it has been proven time and again to frequently not have.

Three – Laws must be broken for society to progress: A society which can enforce all of its laws will stop dead in its tracks. The mindset of “rounding up criminals is good for society” is a very dangerous one, for in hindsight, it may turn out that the criminals were the ones in the moral right. Less than a human lifetime ago, if you were born a homosexual, you were criminal from birth. If today’s surveillance level had existed in the 1950s and 60s, the lobby groups for sexual equality could never have formed; it would have been just a matter of rounding up the organized criminals (“and who could possibly object to fighting organized crime?”). If today’s surveillance level had existed in the 1950s and 60s, homosexuality would still be illegal and homosexual people would be criminals by birth. It is an absolute necessity to be able to break unjust laws for society to progress and question its own values, in order to learn from mistakes and move on as a society.

Four – Privacy is a basic human need: Implying that only the dishonest people have need of any privacy ignores a basic property of the human psyche, and sends a creepy message of strong discomfort. We have a fundamental need for privacy. I lock the door when I go to the men’s room, despite the fact that nothing secret happens in there: I just want to keep that activity to myself, I have a fundamental need to do so, and any society must respect that fundamental need for privacy. In every society that doesn’t, citizens have responded with subterfuge and created their own private areas out of reach of the governmental surveillance, not because they are criminal, but because doing so is a fundamental human need.


For a more visceral description of the importance of privacy, read this personal account.

Metadata: keep in mind:

Metadata is often more revealing than contents of a communication, which is what's being collected with PRISM. A study in the journal Nature found that as few as four "spatio-temporal points," such as the location and time a phone call was placed, is enough to determine the identity of the caller 95 percent of the time.

In addition to the times and locations calls are made and received, metadata includes emails, visits to websites, and credit card transactions. 

If that information were combined with the phone metadata, the collective power could not only reveal someone's identity, but also provide an illustration of his entire social network, his financial transactions, and his movements.

For a humorous look at this kind of use of metadata, read Using Metadata To Find Paul Revere.

One other interesting note that may bring a smile, it appears the NSA "borrowed" their PRISM logo graphic without permission or attribution from Adam Hart-Davis, British scientist and television presenter of shows such as Tomorrow's World.

Nell M.
CATEGORIES: Technology
POSTED: 1:21:00 PM |

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

From Papyrus Scroll to iPad App - The End is Nigh, Again

scroll“But papyrus scrolls feel so much better!” Such were the cries of lamentation heard across the ancient world as papyrus scrolls were replaced by that new-fangled Roman invention the codex, or book. “Why do I have to flip these – what are they called? pages? The scrolls ran so smoothly under my hand, they signified a seamless flow of knowledge, a noble tradition, now it’s all chopped up into scraps signifying nothing …” The Luddites’ fretful complaints drone on down the centuries, ever eloquent in bemoaning the end of civilization as we know it, while civilization as we aren’t quite used to it yet is busy being born. The invention of the printing press was the work of the devil according to these doomsayers, and maybe they were right because it did spread those dangerous things called ideas to the previously unlettered masses. They began thinking for themselves, founding new churches, having revolutions, writing novels that sent Victorian ladies into a swoon, and reading everything from the Bible and Shakespeare to tabloid gossip and vampire boyfriend sagas. Where will it all end? Not with a bang or a whimper apparently, but with a tweet.
The digital revolution is upon us and my grandchildren will grow up in the first fully digital generation. It is bringing out the Luddites once again; check out this cartoon, which at least adds humor to the traditional diatribe. Determined not to join the chorus of old fogies – even though that role is getting age appropriate for me – I bought an iPad and began exploring the world of children’s apps to share with my grandsons. Here is what I have discovered so far: like any other medium - books, films, music, you name it – the good, the bad, and the mediocre are all out there. Just as librarians select and recommend the best books for children, so we can help sort out the sheep from the goats when it comes to apps. If you’ve heard the horror stories about the Smurfs game and don’t want your child playing Angry Birds all day, here’s a sampling of the best apps for the very young tested on my own 1 and 3 year old grandchildren.
 The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Children touch the spider to start the song and watch him climb the water spout, then touch other objects for entertaining actions – make water gush from the downspout, see a caterpillar change into a butterfly, and more. Beautiful graphics, and the singer sounds so much better than I do!
 Fish School. Colorful fish and lively music teach letters, numbers, and colors with interactive games including matching and which one’s different? A low-key, fun way to learn.
 FirstWords Animals. Perfect for children who know their letters and are ready to start recognizing words. Settings allow parents to choose the difficulty level – three or four letter words, matching the letters or filling in the blanks etc. Note: this bird is not angry and doesn't attack any pigs!
 Popout! The Tale of Peter Rabbit. This interactive classic presents the original text and illustrations in pop-up form, with the advantage that the tabs don’t get torn by tiny fingers! Parents can turn the narration off so they can read to their child. Beginning readers get help with unfamiliar words: touch the screen to hear the word. Twittering birds, hopping bunnies, and gently falling leaves bring Beatrix Potter’s natural world to life. A beautiful app that shows the potential for digital books. The Washington Post Book World editors like Peter Rabbit too! They include it in this list of the best picture book apps in the Spring Children’s Book Review section.
 
I know my grandsons will be reading and learning in both print and digital formats in the future. Introducing them to the iPad hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm for books; it is just another way to enjoy stories together. Maybe when they grow old they will look back with nostalgia on that hopelessly old-fashioned device their grandmother shared with them. And maybe in that brave new world, as information is beamed directly into their brains, some people will cling to their electronic devices and predict the end of civilization, as so many generations have done before them.
 
One thing I’ve learned in three months with my iPad – Marshall McLuhan was wrong. The medium is not the message. The medium is just the device. Stories are forever.
Rita
CATEGORIES: Technology , Children , Books , E-Books , Rita T.
POSTED: 1:00:00 AM |
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Last edited: 11/6/2007