When I started as an AUL at McMaster, I took on about 25 direct and indirect reports in the units that fall under my role on the organizational chart. I had been there about ten months when the first holiday season rolled around. Not surprisingly, a few of my reports gave me holiday gifts, for which I was quite grateful. It soon occurred to me, however, that in my administrative role, this presented me with multiple conundrums.
First, there’s the practical issue of making sure that any gift giving I engaged in be fair and equitable. If I only exchanged gifts with those who had initiated it with me, then it may look like I’m singling people out and ignoring others, even if discreetly done. If instead I choose to give everyone a gift, then those who hadn’t given me anything may feel obligated to reciprocate, even if I said it’s not necessary. (Nevermind the fact that I can barely shop for my children, let alone 25 people, but that’s a personal issue.) Not reciprocating, however, with the kind individuals who had given me a gift also seemed a poor solution.
The other issue this presented was that were I to respond with gifts to all, I would be making the assumption that at the end of December we are all celebrating the same holiday and that that holiday is an occasion for gift giving. Even in the small sample of 25-30 people in my areas, that just isn’t the case. As an atheist Unitarian, I’m already sensitized to the practice of saying “merry Christmas” in work settings where we stress that we want to be inclusive and diverse.
When this first happened, I spoke about it with my wife, who suggested what I have found to be a sensible and workable solution. She suggested that I make a donation to a charity in honour of the people who work for me, and then share that with them along with holiday greetings (that avoid Christianized formulations) and my sincere thanks for their work over the year. Having just done this for the fifth time, I like to think it has gone over well with many of the people who report to me, although it may still perplex a few of them. I try to pick a charity that does broadly good work related to basic social justice issues, and have mixed it up in terms of local versus global. I confess that part of what I’m trying to do is raise awareness for some of these charities, as well as to encourage others to consider replacing gift-giving with charitable giving.
Is this a sensible way to address the issue this time of year presents? Have others found a better way?
As per usual, this week’s CNI meeting offered a surfeit of updates and reports on a number of interesting and emerging projects. After making the hard choices about what to skip and what to see, I tried to take detailed notes on the talks below.
I’ve been doing this for a number of years–taking extensive notes and publishing them via this blog–and have heard from many of you via various channels that the notes are useful. They certainly help me with remembering what I’ve heard, as well as when and where and from whom. Please share any suggestions or requests with me through whatever channel works for you or via the comments below.
Digital Dissertations in an Increasingly Welcoming Landscape
Amanda Visconti, Purdue; Matthew Kirschenbaum, Maryland
Noted that she wants to move beyond a discussion of whether digital dissertations are ‘equal’ to written chapters to a broader discussion of the many ways that one can achieve scholarly goals. Interested in the work that takes public digital collections and makes them “truly” available to all, not just to specialized scholars. In other words, public humanities in a participatory vein. Read more…
The 2015 OCUL Digital Curation Summit was held in the Lewis & Ruth Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship at McMaster University Library. The organizers did a great job pulling together a diverse array of topics and updates. Below are notes from some of the talks; the afternoon consisted of back-to-back introductions to Islandora and Archivematica. I chose not to take notes during those but rather to pay attention and pick up the details.
I am not going to tell you where to stick it!
Richard Godsmark, McMaster U
Provided a tour of data storage, noting that it’s a relatively recent development that we have had portable data. Dates to the 1980s and data cassettes. With the emergence of floppies, things go a bit further: Iomega Zip, optical disks, USB sticks, and the profusion of memory cards, e.g.- SD, compact flash, etc.
Now we live in an era of cloud storage services: Dropbox, Box, OwnCloud, Drive, etc. Many varieties, different function and services.
One of his concluding thoughts was that it’s less important where you put data than how you protect it. Also raised the very interesting point that how we assess data or information when we come across it is very tied to our time and notions. As we know in libraries, what seems useless or trivial may not be in the future. Of course, the challenge inherent in this is that the quantity of information and data created today is simply overwhelming. Read more…
Designing Digital Scholarship: Research in a Networked World
Julia C. Blixrud Memorial Lecture
Tara McPherson, U of Southern California
Started by pointing out the issues of scale with digital scholarship: hundreds of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, millions of Instagram images, etc. Beyond that, there’s also an explosion of data. She showed various examples of municipal use of data and pointed out that there are very valuable and rich scholarly datasets as well. As she put it, we hear about data from our provosts all the time.
Noted that humanists don’t typically use the term data, but that it’s data being used regardless of what one calls it. Archives such as the Shoah Foundation archive are simply a different kind of data when viewed in this light.
Interesting notion: “preservation is no longer separate from access.” Taken literally, that’s a very daunting challenge. Read more…
I chose to lump my Thursday and Friday noted into one post. I spoke on Friday, so obviously couldn’t take notes on that, and for the same reason was slightly distracted during the opening panel, so the only notes I took were for Amy Buckland’s excellent closing keynote.
Can I Actually Use It? Testing Open Textbooks for Accessibility
Tara Robertson, CAPER-BC; Kendra Levine, U of California at Berkeley
Believe this was the first time I’ve experienced a talk with a live DJ providing a soundtrack, although I’ve seen it done in recorded talks. It was … interesting, not least since it was the first talk of the day. It did wake me up! It also made it harder to multitask, which is a good thing. She had my full attention.
Tara gave an introduction to CAPER-BC (Centre for Accessible Post-secondary Education Resources BC). They are now working with open textbooks as a way to reduce the textbook costs for students. She showed a graph that clearly illustrates how textbook prices have risen in cost at a rate well beyond the CPI or even home prices. This leads to a situation where a majority of students now admit that they have opted not to purchase a required textbook for a class. As she put it, this often leads to students starting the semester without the resources they need. Read more…
For the first time ever, Access took place in my backyard. Glad that it finally cycled through Toronto. The local organizers did a great job, making everyone feel welcome and putting on a great event. Kudos to them for a unique locale for the opening reception.
Continuing a trend from recent years, I noted a decrease in the ‘technically-inclined cohort,’ with many familiar faces from recent years choosing to sit out this year’s version. Countering that, it was encouraging to see more people coming to Access who would likely never have considered doing so a few years back.
This year’s Access also had some wildly creative presentations, such as Tara Robertson’s use of a DJ during her presentation, Daniel Sifton’s RPG battle of scripted headless browsers, and Thomas Guignard’s hysterical Dr. Who / Night Vale performance piece on the failings of the ILS. Great talks, all, that highlight the creativity of the community and certainly raise the bar for those of us inclined to avoid the use of humour or other “non-serious” elements.
As always, my editorial comments and notes are in italics where I remembered to do so.
Public Computing and the Revolution
Opening Keynote & Dave Binkley Memorial Lecture
Molly Sauter, McGill
Started off by asking the crowd if they know that DDOS is; most hands went up, which pleased her. She explores in her book The Coming Swarm how networks–both cellular and the Internet–create spaces and possibilities for political action.
Showed some examples of oxymoronic “privately owned public spaces,” which are parks and open spaces maintained by corporations. The problem is that these spaces have regulations placed upon them by those corporations, not by law. They are private property. Read more…
This was an excellent conference. Many thanks to the organizers and to the University of Western Sydney for their hospitality. It’s a beautiful campus and the crystal clear weather didn’t hurt.
Long Paper Session
“Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: Quantifying Kissinger
Micki Kaufman – CUNY
Used a quote from John Ehrlichman about the record on Nixon as motivation for the work. Ehrlichman said, basically, that historians needed to listen to all of the Nixon tapes to form a complete picture.
Source material for this work comes from the Digital National Security Archive, a Chadwyck/ProQuest product. Scraping the 18,000 metadata records led to a cease and desist letter from ProQuest. There are now multiple gigabytes of Kissinger material available from his time as national security advisor. Read more…