The End of Higher Education's Golden Age

Clay Shirky Blog • 29 January 2014

Facing facts. Check out Clay Shirky's sobering look at the mythology surrounding the Ivory Tower's Golden Age: "It was a nice time, but it wasn't stable, and it didn't last, and it's not coming back. It's been gone ten years more than it lasted, in fact, and in the time since it ended, we've done more damage to our institutions, and our students, and our junior colleagues, by trying to preserve it than we would have by trying to adapt." Shirky says it's time to end the hand-wringing and move on to the business of remaking education to serve the new reality of more students, less money and no tenure.

This will be essential reading in the debate about the future of the academy and the way higher education is delivered. Shirky is pretty clear-eyed about the academy's dualism and income inequality. In the comments to this post he says: " . . . if tenured and tenure-track faculty at NYU each taught one additional class every other year, we could reduce our adjunct head count by 15%, and give the remaining adjuncts a 15% raise. This will not happen, both because we do not much care about the fate of adjuncts and because we will not tolerate increases in our teaching load." (Michalko)

Dr. Matthew Rimmer Takes a Closer Look at Fair Use

Tech Dirt • 1 February 2014

Criminalizing culture. This encapsulation of discussion points made in the recent Congressional hearing on copyright law is worth perusing for a refresher course on the parameters of the fair use doctrine. To read more about concerns over copyright restrictions, check out Timid About Fair Use? in Inside Higher Ed. According to a recent survey of College Art Association members, a third of respondents said they'd avoided or abandoned a project over "actual or perceived inability to obtain permission to use third-party works."

A very good summary by an Australian observer who acknowledges that Australia's much less encouraging approach to "fair dealing" impoverishes cultural activities. The summary calls out many of the experts that are familiar (and heroes) to librarians—Peter Jaszi, Brandon Butler, and Patricia Aufderheide. I've recommended it to my section mates in CopyrightX (even though we are still weeks away from discussing fair use). (Michalko)

Big Data's Dangerous New Era of Discrimination

HBR Blog Network • 29 January 2014

Awareness counts. Pundit Michael Schrage warns of Big Data's ability to create "Big Dilemmas" when it comes to discriminating against a specific demographic. And while Schrage's commentary focuses on loyalty programs and corporate profits, it's a reminder that unintentional correlations and biases can pop up any time you're crunching large quantities of numbers: "Greater knowledge of customers creates new potential and power to discriminate," says Schrage. "Tomorrow's Big Data challenge isn't technical; it's whether managements have algorithms and analytics that are both fairly transparent and transparently fair."

Read "Big data is our generation's civil rights issue, and we don't know it" as the companion piece to this essay. (Michalko)

The Ghost Files

Columbia Magazine • Winter 2013-14

Top secret. If you've ever filed a FOIA request or searched for a government document only to find it "unavailable," you'll be interested in this tale of one man's journey down the rabbit hole of the US Government classification practices. In response, a team of computer scientists, mathematicians and statisticians is working on something they call the Declassification Engine that they hope will shine a light on the dark shadows of government archives.

This work has been discussed elsewhere but this is a more comprehensive piece direct from the home institution. So if they do figure out how to infer what's behind those redaction bars (DIY) won't it just be easier to have machines do the redacting? (Michalko)

Correction Strategies: 6 Good Questions with Regret the Error's Craig Silverman

American Press Institute • 30 January 2014

Do the right thing. In today's rampantly viral cybersphere, it's easy for false or inaccurate information to circulate endlessly, while subsequent corrections rarely receive the same mobility. Correcting mistakes is never pleasant, but Poynter Institute columnist Craig Silverman says, "We should lean into the discomfort of admitting our errors and help push them out." Check out Silverman's suggestions on how to catch errors quickly and make corrections more effectively.

Or go right to "Visualized: Incorrect information travels farther, faster on Twitter than corrections" by Poynter. As expected but sobering. (Michalko)

It's Time to Engineer Some Filter Failure

Jon Udell Blog • 26 January 2014

Pop the bubble. Widely used automated content filtering limits exposure to non-conforming information without users' expressed knowledge or consent. Blogger Jon Udell suggests a few ways to break out of the echo chamber and broaden your outlook.

He's right but my problem isn't the social media echo chamber so much as my feeds. I try to drop in some that will turn my head and likely make me angry but then I just skip them and wind up reading random xkcd panels. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, who is the Executive Director of the DPLA?

Get the answer.