Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wikipedia and Gender Bias

Over the last few days, a startling trend on Wikipedia revealed a gender bias. The page, American Novelists has been consistently edited so certain names were removed from this category and placed under a sub category, "American Women Novelists." Apparently, women novelists are being removed alphabetically, including notable writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ayn Rand, Ann Beattie, Djuna Barnes, Emily Barton, Jennifer Belle, Aimee Bender, Amy Bloom, Judy Blume, Alice Adams, Louisa May Alcott, V. C. Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark, and numerous others while obscure male writers remain. This recent attention to such practice led to a newly created page, "American Men Novelists" on April 27th, 2013. However, immediately on Wikipedia is a notice that this new category is now "considered being merged to American Novelists".

Amanda Flipacchi, who exposed this trend in The New York Times article, "Wikipedia's Sexism Toward Female Novelists" had soon afterwards faced a backlash on her Wikipedia page. There were 22 changes to her page within 24 hours to discredit her. While Wikipedia indicates that editors take a neutral stance in sharing information, there is hardly anything neutral about the removal of women novelists or that 91% of the contributors are male. Inherently, most entries will have a biased perspective. 

Gender Gap Stories offers anecdotes to why women do not edit or contribute on Wikipedia. This is highly discerning. Additionally, PCMag published an article on Wikipedia's gender gap, as illustrated in Knock Twice's infographic below:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Free Speech Debate

An interesting website, Free Speech Debate has proposed ten draft principles:
  1. We - all human beings - must be free and able to express ourselves, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, regardless of frontiers.
  2. We defend the internet and all other forms of communication against illegitimate encroachment of public and private powers.
  3. We require and create open, diverse media so we can make well informed decisions and participate fully in political life.
  4. We seek openly and with civility about all kinds of human difference.
  5. We allow no taboos in the discussion and dissemination of knowledge.
  6. We neither make threats of violence nor accept violent intimidation.
  7. We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.
  8. We are all entitled to a private life but should accept such scrutiny as in the public interest.
  9. We should be able to counter slurs on our reputations without stifling legitimate debate.
  10. We must be free to challenge all limits of freedom of expression and information justified on such grounds as national security, public order, morality, and the protection of intellectual property.
  11. What is missing? What would you propose? Join the global conversation...
Two Canadian cases were considered for the debate:
Cyber bullying that led to suicide and The importance of Braille literacy.

Sadly, the cyber bullying that led to Amanda Todd's suicide is not an isolated event. The recent suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons has reignited concerns of social media use and cyber bullying. Similar cases in the United States have also emerged, bringing a critical need to address such forms of bullying hidden within freedom of speech.   

The case study of Braille literacy poses an interesting question, "If depriving the visually-impaired of access to Braille makes them less literate – and thus, conceivably, less expressive – can this dispute over library funding be cast as a free speech issue?"

International cases of free speech are also examined in this debate, illustrating a global concern for issues in intellectual freedom. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Petition: Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists, Part II

Thanks again for signing our petition, Don't Muzzle Librarians and Archivists! Please continue to promote, support, and share this petition, we are almost half way there!

Courageous members at Library and Information Studies Students Association (LISSA) have signed a letter to Dr. Caron, cc Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Moore.  It is important to speak up about Library and Archives Canada's new Code of Conduct, as this impacts our future: 

As students, we suffer a deep loss when librarians and archivists at LAC cannot speak publicly in any conferences, institutions, and teaching engagements. There are no risks when LAC librarians and archivists share their knowledge and experience with a new generation. There are great benefits to bridging the gap from rhetoric to practice for students. Such knowledge should be transferred with scholarly activities to maintain, sustain, and preserve our national heritage and collective memory for future use.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

10th Homeless Connect Event

Thank you to all of the FLIF volunteers who helped to make the Homeless Connect event a success this weekend! Homeless Connect is a bi-annual event hosted at the Shaw Conference Centre that provides homeless and at-risk individuals with access to many important services at no cost. FLIF has traditionally taken part in Homeless Connect by setting up a “library” of sorts containing free books. This would not be possible without the help of our volunteers, so thanks again to everyone who was able to volunteer at this busy time of year!

A special thank you as well to AP!RG and EPL for their generous support in helping us to take part in this event.

CTV News is reporting that over 1,000 individuals were able to access the 65+ services provided by approximately 400 volunteers at this event.