Marginalia 28 – social justice, hijacked journals, dynamic sorting

Sarah Lambert and Habiba Fadel’s final report for their national scoping study, Open Textbooks and Social Justice, has been released! This is a hugely important study that provides some really useful context and data for anyone interested in social justice, open education or – frankly – effective and accessible education. The key thing Lambert and Fadel do that is a little different to previous studies internationally is explicitly look at recognitive and representational justice in relation to OER. This really needs to be read by anyone who goes anywhere near academic liaison or library publishing roles.

Want to know whether that journal is scamming you? Introducing the Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker! From Anna Albakina and Retraction Watch comes a new tool. Currently it’s simply a shared Google spreadsheet, but I can see this becoming part of a standard journal-choosing workflow pretty soon.

Alison Hicks has an interesting piece on the UK-based Information Literacy Group’s blog – A wealth of knowledge? Debt collectors, prison sentences and the implications for how we conceptualise, teach for, and assess information literacy. Hicks writes about the idea of “financial literacy” and how what it means depends to a large extent on the background and worldview of the person defining it:

assessing whether someone is literate or not is often a hugely subjective process that draws upon our own biases and culturally specific understandings related to what constitutes valid or appropriate ways of knowing rather than a broader appreciation of how local practices, tools and beliefs are used to negotiate literacy events and episodes.

The online advertising industry is at the heart of many of the worst aspects of modern society. As is often the case, Real Life has brought together all the pieces, this time to point out how dangerous ad tech has suddenly made the world for American women:

if advertisers could purportedly predict who was pregnant before, they may also be able to predict who is no longer pregnant or who still should be pregnant, and pass that information to whoever wants to pay for it, perhaps under the guise of merely wanting to show them an ad.

The big problem with the ubiquitous, all-pervasive data-sucking apparatus of the modern advertising industry (aka Google, Facebook, and the comet-tail of data companies that circle around them) is that it is impossible to function in most of the modern world without becoming ensnared in their tracking system:

Even Enemy of the State levels of tech paranoia, if they were sustainable and not patently unfair to those being driven to adopt them, would not be enough to stave off all the tentacles of the ad-tech apparatus. Such paranoia would, however, certainly make one a social pariah, which is a part of the predicament we're in.

Almost all our routine social practices and information-gathering methods rely on technology that is infested to the root with the worms and parasites of the ad-tech business, which is already fundamentally premised on deception and privacy violation — it “works” only to the extent that it overrides people's will.

Have I mentioned the Kunstbibliothek before here? It seems surprising that maybe I haven’t. This amazing art library takes library book RFID tagging to its logical conclusion:

The dynamic order of the Kunstbibliothek and the idea of arranging a library in a completely different way in general, namely based on personal research, resulted from Daniel Rohner’s personal approach to collecting books. When setting up his library, the book collector and cofounder of the foundation Daniel Rohner was in the habit of repeatedly distributing his books throughout the space, and grouping and stacking them in unexpected, but fascinating combinations. He always refused to arrange the books based on conventions for organizing libraries.

This approach to identifying the location of books using an RFID reading device facilitates inventory of the library at such frequent intervals that it is possible to speak of a continuous inventory. And it also makes the dynamic order of the books possible: in contrast to conventional libraries arranged based on call numbers labels, the books in the Kunstbibliothek have no fixed location; in principle, everyone may place the books randomly anywhere on the shelves. Thanks to the continuous inventory, every book can nevertheless be found at any time, since the location of the books is regularly updated in the catalogue.

I love this so much. No racist shelf numbering classifications! No book is ever in the wrong place! It also would make a fascinating study to chart how the book arrangement changes over time.

I’ve been a little distracted over the last month, so that’s all for now. Be well. Look after each other.

Marginalia is an email and web newsletter about things that made me think over the last month – articles, books, podcasts, and perhaps from time to time some videos. It comes out on the first Monday of every month. You can subscribe by following on any ActivityPub platform (e.g. Mastodon) or via email using the form below.

You might also enjoy my weekly newsletter Libraries & Learning Links of the Week, or my irregular blog Information Flaneur.