January 24, 2010

Is This Censorship?

A recent article in the New York Times discusses Avatar in the context of the Smoke-Free Movies campaign. The Smoke-Free Movies campaign is an initiative to reduce or eliminate depictions of smoking in movies. Avatar, although overwhelmingly popular among family audiences, contains a character, Grace, who is a chronic smoker. In fact, one scene depicts Grace exiting her avatar and immediately stating: "Where's my damn cigarette?" This has the Smoke-Free Movies campaign up in arms.

The logic behind the campaign is that impressionable individuals, such as teenagers and children, are influenced to smoke because they see characters smoking in movies. In order to reduce the number of new smokers, the Smoke-Free Movies campaign wants to eliminate smoking in movies, or have moviegoers only see the negative side-effects of smoking when smoking is depicted in movies, or have movies that contain smoking take a higher rating. For instance, an R-rating as opposed to a PG-13 rating. Most can probably agree that this is a noble effort, but is it a subtle form of censorship? How's that for a rhetorical question?

I completed research about censorship during my MLIS. Throughout my research I ran a focus group with children and discussed censorship with them in order to collect their viewpoints. One of the most interesting findings was that the children appeared to know their own boundaries. It seemed like they understood their own boundaries and could choose for themselves what they were comfortable with and what was inappropriate. Isn't the same true for smoking?

I am an ex-smoker. I began smoking when I was old enough to know better, but have since quit. I didn't start smoking because I saw some character in a movie smoking. I started smoking because I wanted to. I also quit smoking because I wanted to and not because fewer characters in movies are smoking now. When I was a smoker and my non-smoking friends told me how disgusting it was and how I was killing myself, it only made me want to smoke more. Not because I wanted to die or be disgusting, but because I didn't need to hear it. Like I said, I already knew how bad it was for me and I still decided to smoke. Therefore, I predict that the Smoke-Free Movies Campaign will be a failure. Even though it is a nobel effort to stop people from making harmful judgments it will fail because you can't save people from themselves.

In my humble opinion, directors and writers should be free to make art without compriomising aspects of films in order to appease special interest groups. I know this happens anyway because of the many instances of product placement in films, but that's a different story. Can you imagine Mad Men without cigarettes? Here's the thing: The purpose of film is not to depict an idealized world in which everyone makes perfect decisions. If this was true there would be nothing challenging or conflicting in movies and then there would be no point. I'm just saying.

January 22, 2010

Webinar Wednesday

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend two Webinars in the comfort of my own home. Ah, how I love the future! I'm sure many of you have had the pleasure to use the Webex interface, but for me this was the first time. Let me just start by saying I really enjoyed it. In fact, it made me understand more clearly how effective online learning can be and I am no longer critical of Library Schools that operate 100% online.

The session was largely a PowerPoint presentation delivered through the interface while the presenter or host spoke and the participants listened using their home phone lines or computers. Webex streamlined the process of contributing to the session in that questions were answered at the presenter's discretion and pace. For instance, participants submitted questions before the session began, or during the session through a chat function. All of the participants were on mute, which made it very easy to focus as none of us we distracted by other participants. If a participant needed to vocalize an issue, the presenter or host un-muted them and they were able to ask the question directly. The whole experience was brilliant.

The first session I attended was a virtual open-house for Click-U's Certificate in Copyright Management. Although I would love the opportunity to complete the certificate, I'm lacking the necessary funds. It would probably be more ideal to study this while working for a company that supplements employees' professional development. Well, one can dream. In any case, I'll keep it on the back burner and continue boning up on my Copyright knowledge in the meantime.

The second session was entitled "It's 2010: 20 Technologies to Watch, and How to Cope". This Webinar was very interesting. It was presented by Stephen Abrams, librarian for over 30 years and library technology expert. I will be keeping a close eye on his contributions and developments in his career. I love the fact that he shares my attitude about perseverance. Abrams states on his blog: "the best way to cope is to remain positive and reframe our [librarians'] perception of the changes". Of course I agree. In a way, this coincides with my job struggles. I've decided that in order to stay relevant while I'm outside of the profession I will constantly develop and reinvent myself in the profession by increasing my knowledge through professional development and making new connections through networking. All the while repeating the mantra: 2010 is my year!

Abrams also focused on a number of technologies that I am interested in. He explained how it is crucial for librarians to stay current on technology trends so that we will be able to lead the way into the future. It was all very refreshing and exciting. I also appreciated that Abrams was able to introduce me to concepts in tech that I was unfamiliar with before. Great talk! I'm glad there are so many librarians willing to share their knowledge and perspectives so freely with others.

One of the nicest things about the Webinars, aside from all of the amazing knowledge I took away, was the fact that I was able to schedule them back-to-back with minutes separating them and still managed to get to the later one on time. There was no travel time. I merely logged off of one and onto another. Beautiful!

The Webinars were refreshing because I was able to attend them for free as a member of SLA. They didn't cost me a thing beyond my membership fees. I also see an opportunity to develop my own Webinars and hopefully become a presenter in the future. See, 2010 is looking up already.

January 20, 2010

Interesting Follow-up to the Privacy Post

Here's a recent post from American Libraries regarding privacy and sharing, and a conversation we need to have about Status Updates.