Weeknote 12, 2023

§1 Pentiment

This week I finished Pentiment, a video game that is a cross between The Name of the Rose and Disco Elysium.

Book culture people might enjoy this game more than most as the game takes place during a crucial time for literary culture:

The 16th Century

A period rich in political, social, and economic change, the sixteenth century saw a major push in education among the peasantry. Illuminated manuscripts, once coveted by the wealthy and known for their artistic beauty, slowly became replaced by printing presses which helped to educate the masses.

With Martin Luther mass producing and publishing his 95 Theses, he was able to reach many more people than ever before and give a large push to the Protestant Reformation. This push would cause a rift between the Catholic church and the peasants seeking to better themselves which helped reshape the course of Western civilization.

§2 Ms. Attribution

Last week, I had the opportunity to enjoy an exceptional seminar by Jordana Goodman and her Patent Equity Project. It was a gift to learn about how her work incorporates quantitative and qualitative research in pursuit of better understanding the systematic forces that results in less patents being filed by women and other equity seeking groups.

Her most recent published work is Ms. Attribution: How Authorship Credit Contributes to the Gender Gap. It’s abstract begins:

Misattribution plagues the practice of law in the United States. Seasoned practitioners and legislators alike will often claim full credit for joint work and, in some cases, for the entirety of a junior associate’s writing. The powerful over-credit themselves on legislation, opinions, and other legal works to the detriment of junior staff and associates. The ingrained and expected practice of leveraging junior attorneys as ghost-writers is, to many, unethical. But it presents a distinct concern that others have yet to interrogate: misattribution disparately impacts underrepresented members of the legal profession…

§3 The Social Future of Academic Libraries

As a person with a pro-social disposition, I am intrigued by the promise of the text The Social Future of Academic Libraries: New Perspectives on Communities, Networks, and Engagement that I learned of, from this article Seven strategies to turn academic libraries into social organisations:

The service model for academic libraries has changed, but there is more work to do. This is not about the digital shift dominating the conversation in higher ed. It is about the important social shift happening in tandem, part of the larger turn towards participatory culture in the network society where, as the sociologist Manuel Castells defined it, “the key social structures and activities are organised around electronically processed information networks”.

Libraries have supported institutional initiatives in widening access, public engagement, academic entrepreneurship, lifewide learning and student well-being. They have become campus champions for open research and decolonising the curriculum. But to secure their future on campus they must switch from a transactional to a relational model of librarianship.

§4 One of only seven Black scholars to receive Information Science PhDs in her year

I didn’t expect a damning statistic that implicates the discipline of Library and Information Science in a WIRED article entitled, To Hold Tech Accountable, Look to Public Health but here it is:

In the 2010s, when Safiya Noble began investigating racism in search engine results, computer scientists had already been studying search engine algorithms for decades. It took another decade for Noble’s work to reach the mainstream through her book Algorithms of Oppression

Why did it take so long for the field to notice a problem affecting so many Americans? As one of only seven Black scholars to receive Information Science PhDs in her year, Noble was able to ask important questions that predominantly-white computing fields were unable to imagine.

Stories like Noble’s are too rare in civil society, journalism, and academia, despite the public stories our institutions tell about progress on diversity. For example, universities with lower student diversity are more likely to put students of color on their websites and brochures. But you can’t fake it till you make it; cosmetic diversity turns out to influence white college hopefuls but not Black applicants. (Note, for instance, that in the decade since Noble completed her degree, the percentage of PhDs awarded to Black candidates by Information Science programs has not changed).