Libraries and the Fight to Save Net Neutrality

Illustration by EFF Senior Designer Hugh D'Andrade dearfcc.org/. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

What is Net Neutrality?

If we conduct a simple natural language search, using Google, it will return the following dictionary metasearch results that defines Net Neutrality as follows: “The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.” In 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted regulations that supported the principles of net neutrality, but lawsuits involving Comcast Corps and Verizon Communications, Inc. in 2010 and 2014 led to even stricter legislation. In 2017, President Trump appointed a new FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, who quickly proposed a reversal on net neutrality legislation. On December 14, the FCC voted three to two to proceed with Pai’s proposal. On February 18, 2018, the FCC formally informed the Senate of the plans to repeal net neutrality. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress now has until April 23 (60 days) to stop the repeal from going into effect.

Who are the Key Players Involved?

Essentially, the two primary opposing sides in the debate over net neutrality are internet service providers (ISPs) and consumers. ISPs, such as Comcast and Verizon, stand the most to gain if net neutrality is repealed. Politicians and lawmakers are persuaded by both sides, with consumers asking for legislation that prevents ISPs from giving any websites or content favoritism over others, or from making certain content premium (such as charging customers more to be able to use streaming services like Netflix or Hulu—on top of what Netflix and Hulu are already charging for the content itself). Information professionals, such as librarians, museum curators, and archivists, represent the interests of the consumer, and are advocating to defend and uphold net neutrality.

Why Are Libraries Involved?

Librarians are fiercely devoted to our profession and we believe in building an informed, intellectually curious society where information and knowledge are openly available, without restriction; and because we also believe that unrestricted access to information is an essential egalitarian ideal rooted in civil society.

Librarians lead an organization that has seen tremendous evolutionary growth from its analog start to the virtual reality of digital environment.

Librarians have an inextricable connection to the information universe and that rests on the foundational role of the library to ensure that everyone has equitable access to information resources and knowledge.

To read more on how librarians value and defend net neutrality, check out the American Library Association’s statement on the issue at http://www.ala.org/advocacy/telecom/netneutrality.

What Happens in a World Without Net Neutrality?

The elimination of net neutrality regulations gives ISPs the power to change users’ access to information sources based on non-strategic reasoning by censoring information based on ideological, political, and social rationalizations.

In this unregulated state, many of the actions undertaken by ISPs to manipulate access speeds create layers of inequity in consumers’ ability to access information. ISPs would be allowed to monetize the concept of equitable access to information by charging content providers (like Netflix, JSTOR, and YouTube) more for the amount of traffic they are generating, and then charging consumers more for the ability to access that premium content, or even just to access it at a sufficient speed to enjoy it properly.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Brutal Archives

1920s CUA Brochure to Prospective Students from the CUA Archives Photographic Collection Ca. 1887-1999: Box 71, Folder 7.

The construction of a Brutalist building at The Catholic University of America marked a departure from the existing architectural style previously seen at CUA and it was a departure from original conceptions of the growth of the university taking shape in a form that resembled a medieval village.

How did this shift in architecture challenge the ideas of public space? Was it a social experiment that was well suited to the academic environment?

I recently chatted with Eric Jenkins, a Professor of Architecture at Catholic University’s School of Architecture and Planning to get the answer to this question:

It was very expressionist; a lot of architects in the 70s were not concerned with making a typical campus, such as Yale, with its unified and orderly sense of space; they were concerned with making a modern statement” This modernist statement was invoked in the form of Aquinas Hall, the current home of The Catholic University of America Archives and 1 of 4 Brutalist expressions currently on campus.

The grand entrance stairway consists of a set of angulated right vertices and rectilinear striations of concrete whose descent to a planular surface of alternating rectangles adds an ethereal level of depth to the viewer’s field of vision.

Washingtonians are organically familiar with the Brutalist Aesthetic, due to the ubiquity of Government Brutalism in Washington D.C. In fact, The District is home to extremely beautiful examples of the Brutalist architectural style. From the trip to work, to the work place itself, a Washingtonian’s daily routine is saturated by the atmospheric essence of Béton Brut, which can be seen in the ceilings of the Metro’s cavernous stations and seen deep within the bowels of Downtown.

Washington’s Brutalist buildings are a communique of power, impenetrability, and the performative use of materials to create a remarkable psycho-social demarcation through jarring exaggerations in building scale that coerce the viewer to process the architectural form from a macroscopic perspective, in what Professor Jenkins noted as “object-oriented landscaping, in which the building becomes a landscape object.”

The atrium central staircase is an act of paradox: an acute involution of inflexible materials around a softer hexagonal social area presenting an unusual mix of refined textiles and raw materials.

Brutalism was the Federal Government’s de rigueur style during the 1970s; but tucked away at The Catholic University of America, a new player entered the field, in the form of a quieter, more pensive expression that emerged in divergent transition to the Federal Government’s translation of the Brutalist aesthetic.

In 1965, candidates for the Master of Arts in English, at The Catholic University of America, were asked during their comprehensive examinations to ruminate on a complexly layered observation made by Mark Shorer in the foreword of Society and Self in the Novel, a 1955 treatise edited by Shorer in which he made the following annunciation:

“…the problem of the novel has always been to distinguish between these two, the self and society, and at the same time to find suitable structures that will present them together.”

The central staircase appears dramatic in the morning sunlight due to the striking contrasts created by the deep shadows of the opposing faces.

From an interdisciplinary standpoint, the ontological consideration of the parallels, partitions and implications of what is real, what is imagined, and what can become, is one of the core considerations of designing a building—in other words: how to reconcile between anthropocentricity and design aesthetics to create a unified conversation between these aspects that are at times in harmonious communication and at other times in discordant miscommunication. The design of CUA’s Aquinas Hall squares this circle because the building was not designed through a psycho-social lens but rather as a form of psycho-geographical praxis in which scale is downplayed and the viewer’s gaze is shifted to the granular level. In this context, the juxtaposition of raw, coarse, unpolished, imperfect, cacophonous materiality results in theatric, unexpected geometries.


A melodic, psychogeographic exploration of the geometry and materiality of the Brutalist home of The Catholic University of America’s Archives.

Images and video of Aquinas Hall are by the author, Juan-Pablo Gonzalez.

Digital Scholarship: What’s Next?

Call it being curious. Call it being proactive. Call it being engaged. Maybe it is just human to look to the future. Here are some reports from 2015 and 2016 that give us clues to what the future of learning and libraries may look like.

Libraries & Learning

2016 ALA State of America’s Libraries Report
2016 PEW Libraries and Learning
Horizon Report 2015 Library Edition
2015 IMLS FOCUS SUMMARY REPORT: LEARNING IN LIBRARIES
2015 CLIR The Center of Excellence Model for Information Services

Trends in Digital Scholarship

SPEC Kit 350: Supporting Digital Scholarship (May 2016)
2015 CLIR Building Expertise to Support Digital Scholarship: A Global Perspective

Data!

NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics (Altmetrics) Initiative: Persistent Identifiers in Scholarly Communications
NISO Alternative Assessment Metrics (Altmetrics) Initiative: Alternative Outputs in Scholarly Communications
2015 The Metric Tide: Report of the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management
‘Preserving Transactional Data’: new DPC Technology Watch Report

Sam Seaborne, of The West Wing: Season 2, Episode: Galileo, reminds us to ask “what’s next?

Digital Scholarship @ CUA: If Librarians Were Honest

Happy end of your semester, academic year, or college experience from your CUA Librarians! Happy summer and visit a library!

No one spends time here without being changed.

From “If Librarians Were Honest” by Joseph Mills

“… a book indeed sometimes debauched me from my work….”!!!!
– Benjamin Franklin
If librarians were honest,
they wouldn’t smile, or act
welcoming. They would say,
You need to be careful. Here
be monsters.
They would say,
These rooms house heathens
and heretics, murderers and
maniacs, the deluded, desperate,
and dissolute.
They would say,
These books contain knowledge
of death, desire, and decay,
betrayal, blood, and more blood;
each is a Pandora’s box, so why
would you want to open one.
They would post danger
signs warning that contact
might result in mood swings,
severe changes in vision,
and mind-altering effects.
Read the whole poem in The Artist’s Library by Erinn Batykefer and Laura Damon-Moore: p54