Public Libraries, Police Abolition, and Serving Your Community in a Time of Change

If we abolish the police and reimagine the ways in which our societies cope with disorder, violence, and transgression, what else will have to shift? How radically could public libraries change, if we reimagined the institutions of information as profoundly as we might reimagine the institutions of justice?

I led strategy workshops last month with some very senior librarians in Australia, and at the beginning of these sessions, we gave an Acknowledgment of Country, acknowledging the Traditional Custodians of the land we were on and paying our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.

We didn’t just speak these words as a formula and then move on. We talked about what it meant to acknowledge country in digital space, when each of us was in a different location, from Australia to the UK. We talked about acknowledging the histories which have led us to a world in which I could speak the traditional language used for generations in the place where I was born, and not make any effort to adapt the way I speak for audiences in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the US, Canada, or many other nations.

We talked about what it would mean for the institutions represented in the workshop not just to acknowledge these histories, or to carry out the work of recognising and remedying them through diversity and inclusion efforts, acts of reconciliation and decolonisation, and so on. We talked about what it would mean for these institutions to become explicitly antiracist.

It was important to talk about this, because for some public institutions, it proves hard to take a stand against injustice. The political environment in which public library services and other organisations operate is shaped by the elected governments which determine their funding and policies, and this can make it challenging for institutions to do the right thing. Read more

Psychodynamic literacy? New column for Information Professional

“Group dynamics are ‘like an iceberg – you see some of the relationship on the surface and then there is also everything beneath the water. There are the explicit, seen, and formal aspects; then all that is implicit, unseen, unspoken, and even unconscious.'”

The second instalment of “Scripturient”, my new quarterly column for Information Professional magazine, is out now.

Iceberg_in_the_Arctic_with_its_underside_exposed
Iceberg in the Arctic, by Wikipedia user AWeith – CC BY-SA 4.0

In this series, I’m looking at how we can push the boundaries of literacy in the 21st century, to encompass new areas of representation. What does it mean to read the future? To read risks? To read the forces that underpin our relationships and drive us psychologically? To read the signs and signals which exist in the natural world?

The latest instalment explores questions of “psychodynamic literacy”. If we were better at reading the forces that shape our relationships, could we rewrite them to get better, happier outcomes?

I talked to two expert practitioners, a leadership coach and a mediator, to find out more. Find out what they had to say in the article (PDF download).

Real Time – Webinar with R. David Lankes

Today I spoke with leading US information professional R. David Lankes about foresight, strategy, and coping with uncertainty beyond immediate short-term crisis response.

David created one of the first 100 web sites ever, plus the first web presence for CNN, the Discovery Channel, and the U.S. Department of Education. We spoke about what he foresaw at the beginning of the Internet age, the surprises which emerged along the way, and how we might learn from the past when the future is uncertain and unlikely to repeat what went before.

You can watch the YouTube video below, or read more at the Librarians.Support website.

After Hours lecture at City University London

I’m speaking at City University’s “After Hours” lecture series in London next Monday, 15 October at 5pm.

The series, hosted by City’s Library and Information School, explores all aspects of information in modern society.

In my session, “Your Half-Truths Are Problematic“, I’ll be talking about our relationship to truth, facts, stories, and lies, both on- and off-line.

In 2018, who can we trust with our information, and what information can we trust?

Is there any institution we can rely on in an age beset by digital misinformation?

Are there tools we can use to fight back against those who seek to cloud the truth for their own purposes?

Join me at City University London to discuss these questions next Monday at 5pm.

Politics and youth participation in the digital age – interview with @PhilippaCollin, pt.2

On the blog this week, I’m joined by Dr. Philippa Collin, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney’s Institute for Culture and Society. Read Part One of this interview with Philippa on political, participation, youth engagement and the digital world here.

How does your role contribute to discussions around youth engagement – and activities which bring young people together with different institutions and organisations?

In the last few years I’ve been involved in large-scale, cross sector engaged research initiatives that bring together young people, industry, community, policy and academic partners to collaboratively identify, design and undertake research on a range of issues such as youth mental health, engagement, employment and online safety.

In this work I’ve been a strong advocate for participatory approaches and thinking about how to be inclusive of young people’s views – from agenda-setting about what gets researched and the terms of inquiry, through to translation and application of research findings. I hope I’ve had some influence!

My most recent project has involved collaborating with eight colleagues at WSU to run a Young and Resilient Living Lab Foundation Project. We brought together 100 participants over five workshops to co-create a community and an agenda for engaged research to inform technology-based strategies to promote the resilience of young people and their communities.

Fo us, resilience should be understood as the capacities to transform the conditions of social life – achieved through ongoing processes of individual and collective receptivity and responsiveness. Read more

Politics and youth participation in the digital age – interview with @PhilippaCollin, pt.1

On the blog this week, I’m joined by Dr. Philippa Collin, a Senior Research Fellow at Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society. Philippa is a social scientist who previously worked at www.reachout.com, the world’s first online suicide prevention initiative aimed at young people. She researches the role of digital technology and media in young people’s lives, including a focus on political participation, identity, and exclusion.

Portrait of Dr. Philippa Collin
Dr. Philippa Collin

I hear a lot of concern from public institutions about the notion of “making better citizens” right now. Political upsets, fear of ‘fake news’: the powers that be are concerned about the nature of citizenship in the digital age.

Institutions could adapt their structures to meet the needs of people they perceive as “disengaged”. Or, instead of the institution adapting, they might try to help people develop the skills & capacity to engage with existing structures.

What pitfalls are there for organisations seeking to engage the (apparently) disengaged?

I come from a community of scholars who have actively argued against the normative framing of ‘politics’ and ‘participation’. For example ‘politics is about what happens in parliament’ and the ‘good’ forms of participation are to vote, join a party or get involved with set activities or processes – usually all designed by adults! Read more

Always get feedback…

Always get feedback…from the workshops and activities that you run.

There’s always something to learn from your participants, something to surprise you, or something to make you smile.

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(That “bit cold” line is about the air conditioning in the venue, not my icy demeanour…I hope!).

The USQ Podcast

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) has piloted a new podcast at the end of a six-month community engagement project with their School of Information and Learning Services.

The chatshow-style podcast offers a new medium to bring university experts together with a wider audience, to explore new ways of sharing knowledge, and to stimulate conversations between USQ staff and peers in other institutions.

Staff and students from USQ’s radio school joined forces with REDTrain, the university’s Researcher Development and Training Team, to identify USQ researchers who could speak to contemporary issues for a wide audience. We then partnered USQ speakers with peers in museums, the arts, sciences, and other universities to broaden the conversation and stimulate debate.

Three pilot podcasts were recorded in late 2017, with the first episode launching to mark USQ’s Astronomy Festival.

A second edition celebrating women in academia has just gone live.

Visit the USQ podcast platform, Whooska, to hear more.

Marvellous Finale

It’s the final edition of Curious, Mysterious, Marvellous, Electrical today – the newsletter I’ve used to capture stories and secret histories from Australasia and beyond over the last two years.

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We started out by walking the coasts near Lisbon back in January 2016 and we finish the journey more or less where we began, exploring the history of one of Portugal’s most illustrious artistic families.

In the intervening years, highlights included:

And that’s not even including the drug counsellors, the Nazi hunting comedians, the dancer turned paramedic, the time travelling arts worker, or the Argentinian sisters running a horror-themed cake shop out on the tropic of Capricorn

…or the pastry.

Check out the complete Marvellous, Electrical on Google Maps.