A Blueprint for Information and Human Rights

The syllabus for my Spring 2018 course, Information and Human Rights, is ready to go and I am excited to introduce it here. I have changed the course significantly since I taught it last in Fall 2016. That semester was marked by the US presidential election, and shadowed by it.
Broadly the course explores ways in which information professionals can support human rights work by learning about theories and methods in human rights research, aid, development work and more.

However, the major revision in the course is not in content but in pedagogy. As part of the class we will chart the field of human rights and its intersection with information inspired by Blueprint for Counter Education.

Originally published in 1970, Blueprint for Counter Education is the brainchild of two sociologists, Maurice Stein and Larry Miller and was designed by Marshall Henrichs (a Pratt alum and one time instructor). It is a work of [retro] radical pedagogy that proposes to contextualize teaching in the present and cross-pollinate fields of inquiry. The publication includes three large-scale posters that “offer a road map for a journey through the intellectual history.” The posters features major thinkers, schools of thought and theories in social-sociology. 25900226280_45fe67521f_o

In 2016 Inventory Press reprinted the Blueprint along with the posters creating a “portable learning environment for a new process-based model of education”. A forty-minute interview with the publishers Jeffrey Schnapp and Adam Michaels tells about the history of the original publication, the 2016 edition, and the rationale for the Blueprint

I admit I have a bit of a Power-Point dependency but I plan to teach this class seminar style, no slides; just maps, charts pads and markers on the table. The blueprint requires setting that allows participation as it “is designed to be constructively acted upon by the student in the widest and most creative sense of the word act: Since the project is planned as a highly participative series of art-life-politics games… This is the best tradition of the student-teacher relationship ; what as come to be known as ‘the community of scholars’” (Lipton, 1970).

The Blueprint will guide us as we map human rights, information, and their intersection throughout this semester. Our maps may chart the language of human rights, the documents of human rights, the values of moral rights and any interaction among these groupings. The outcome may be very different from what I am imagining right now, depending greatly on student input. In the end it will, by design or by necessity be “left open-ended for constant change as the needs of the times require and the community of scholars decide” (Lipton, 1970).

I hope that creating a blueprint for information and human rights will create a new kind of learning experience for students, one that give meaning to some over used phrases, such as “critical thinking”. To quote Gillmor “People are always learning things the way they’ve been taught to learn things. Here they are going to have to make their own decisions” (Dialogue, 1970).

Special thanks to Thomas Hill, art librarian at Vassar College who first brought the Blueprint to my attention

The course description is as follows and the syllabus is available here619_syllabus_SP18. Hope it goes well.

Information and Human Rights – Spring 2018

As the name implies, this course is at the intersection of information and human rights, and in this way its origins are bi-disciplinary. We will begin by gaining a better understanding of human rights – the theories, scope, laws and ethics of human rights, through readings and seminar-study discussions. We will learn of related terms such as development and globalization and their relation to human rights. Next we will introduce the concept of information, including its many variants such as disinformation. Our main goal in to examine the ways in which information professionals can support human rights work.
We will take a critical perspective and examine some of the questionable sides of human rights work, such as the corruption in many aid organizations, the give-us-trade-not-aid movement, the role of the media, and more.
This will be covered in the first 5-6 weeks of the semester.

The second part of the semester will be devoted to the application of information to human rights through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also called the UN 2030 Agenda. There are 17 goals and 167 Targets spanning economic, environmental and social development in the SDG, and of these four focus narrowly on information. Each week we will question and understand how the role of information is defined in the SDGs, whether through readings and case studies, and how information contributes to development, and how we as information professionals can personally contribute.

We will be using a unique pedagogy called Blueprint for Counter Education. Originally published in 1970, this curriculum-in-a-box supported the Critical Studies curriculum at CalArts. The box (2016 edition) includes two booklets and 3 posters that map the intellectual thought, thinkers and philosophies in postmodern thought. In class, we will work to map the field of information and human rights along lines that reflect its intellectual and ethical foundation. The Blueprint encourages critical, non-linear, conceptual, and design thinking approach to education.
The outcome of this second part of the semester (UN 2030 Agenda) is an individual project that contributes to human rights with the use of information. This can be a research paper, a website, a visualization, a video, a green-paper, using methods such as literature review, data collection, data analysis, storytelling techniques and more.

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Privatization of government information from the 1980s to today

Last week I delivered the keynote at the Westchester Academic Library Directors Organization (WALDO) symposium. A few attendees asked for the slides of my talk. This PDF includes the text and slides. Please note that this is an unpolished text, more akin to a draft than to a publication. I hope to develop this further in the future, focusing on the effects of privatization on access and the relationship (if any) between privatization and open-access. I welcome comments and thoughts on this topic. 512px-Reagan_et_Thatcher
This paper wishes to examine a phenomenon that has become practiced since the 1980’s: the privatization of information services. We will try to understand the phenomenon by examining its extent and scope (which kind of information services are being privatized, and where) and its effects.


Fall is in the air

Winter is back with a vengeance, spring and summer seem far away, but at the School of Information we are all planning for the Fall 2017 semester. It will be interesting, challenging and probably very frustrating to teach Information Policy and Government Information this fall and will require many revisions to the existing curriculum as many policies are changing and sources are no longer available. More details and updated syllabi will be available this summer. I am off to a good start with the flyers created by our wonderful office assistant that so very accurately reflect the content of these two courses.

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How the Librarians Saved History: Harvesting Government History, One Web Page at a Time

My work is rewarding whether is gets recognition or not, but I have to admit, it was nice to get an honorable mention in this NYTimes article.   screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-11-29-42-pm

There is so much I love about what I do, and where I do it and who I do it with, and this project brought it all together. My fellow harvesters and I were all connected by at most 1.5 degrees of separation. There was even someone who was in a class I taught a zillion years ago when I was an adjunct at Queens College!

It is so great to go the conferences and events and run into so many Pratt graduates, many were my students and took my information policy or government information classes. I remember their term papers and their presentations, and it is great to see them involved in information activism.

But now that my five minutes of fame are over it’s time to get back to work for access to information. Looking for suggestions. And don’t forget to #GovDocs@Trump


Double feature: #GovDocs2Trump Tweetathon and End of Term Harvest

This came to me through library channels and may have originated from @noftalee . The idea is to tweet Trump some of the documents that tell the story of our country.

The Tweetathon announcement  says:

#GovDocs2Trump Tweetathon

America deserves a president who is well versed in the history of this nation and the documents upon which that history was built. Let’s present those documents to the President-Elect through his favorite medium–Twitter.

Tweetathon will begin at 9am (central) on December 1, 2016. You are welcome to join at any time.

Feel free to use whatever government related document (Supreme Court decisions, innagurial addresses, speeches, early American papers, etc.) strikes your fancy.

Tag each tweet with the hashtag #GovDocs2Trump and please send them to @realdonaldtrump. This way we can fill his feed.

Finally, please make your first tweet “Dear @realDonaldTrump, We the people demand an informed President.

So yes, of course I plan to join the Tweetathon. In fact, I started making a list of documents I will send. These include the CONAN, The US Constitution Annotated , the Nixon grand jury records  and many more

For those who would like to join the conversation but need suggestions on where to find government documents, here are some suggestions:

Our Documents  has a list of 100 millstones documents from American history such as the Emancipation Proclamation . A much larger collection is available from Govinfo and Government Publishing Office’s database. Browse their index  for Executive orders, Presidential papers and more.

Are your interests in history, diplomacy, foreign affairs? Try FRUS  Foreign relations of the United States. There you will find all the correspondences, cables, letters, etc. between presidents and other official. The collection is arranged by president and by topic. For example John F Kennedy Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges, Volume VI (it’s basically a retrospective edited wikileaks)

For those that are more into numbers, there are reports from the Census Bureau  on topic such as poverty as well as infographics

And the Double Feature? The start of the Tweetathon happens to coincide with the End of Term Harvest event I am facilitating tomorrow at the New York Academy of Medicine

Grey Literature End of Term Harvest. 10-1pm, The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029.

The change of government administration brings the potential to eliminate websites, remove information and limit access to past administration content. This day we will identify such websites, particularly in areas on the Affordable Care Act, climate change and more, focusing on government social media and information not on .gov domains.

The plan is to double dip. Not matter where you are #GovDocs2Trump