Fake News Changes Us

As we’ve all been learning recently, fake news really takes two forms: 1) information that is truly wrong and 2) accurate information that someone disagrees with. The first type (alternative facts?) can be disproven using any number of fact-checking sources that we’ve identified in our earlier post. The second type is a bit harder to handle since it involves the manipulation of public opinion against factual information for political reasons. Social media likely compounds the problem. Studies show that social media is influencing how we communicate, how we perform academically, and how we engage in politics. Even before the current state of social media, studies have shown that fake news, such as political satire, can influence how people view politics and politicians in a very negative way.

Fake news turns the advantages of the internet into disadvantages. The ability for anyone to create content means the checks we are used to seeing in academic and media articles – peer review and journalistic ethics– are missing. Content can be created strictly for commercial reasons (even here in Maryland!), as we’ve found with much of the recent fake news.

The ease and speed with which information can be shared lures people to click first and think later. This plays into the filter bubbles you’ve heard so much about. What we see is reinforced and multiplied until we are overwhelmed and assume that what we’re seeing is true, just because it’s repeated so often.

Google and Facebook, whose tools have built some of those bubbles, are trying to combat fake news. In early April, Google released a Fact Check function which will allow some search results to be linked to fact checking agency information. Here’s the list of agencies they work with. Facebook is also adding a tool to your news feed to help with fact checking.

Fake news has been with us throughout history, in many guises. There are sites to help you figure out which media outlets and stories are reliable. As always, your librarian is ready to assist – perhaps libraries are the best places to fight fake news.

Protecting Yourself on the Web

As part of ChoImage of laptop with padlockose Privacy Week, we thought we'd look at securing your web history. In March, Congress agreed to roll back consumer protections that kept internet service providers (ISPs) from selling your search history.

Since then, there have been many articles posted that give us (the consumers) advice about what we should – or shouldn’t do – in response to this change. Below are a couple articles that describe several different things you can do if you are concerned.

As Congress Repeals Internet Privacy Rules, Putting Your Options In Perspective – NPR interview with Jules Polonetsky of Future of Privacy Forum

Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy from Your Internet Service Provider – Electronic Frontier Foundation

Here in the library the right to privacy for our patrons is very important to us. The publicly accessible computers in the library are configured to reduce the possibility of tracking user browsing habits. We set our browsers to delete all browsing history upon exit, so every time the browser is restarted it has no cookies or cache items, making it look like a brand new browser.

However, as you probably know, browser configuration is only a part of the issue – ISP behavior also plays a major role in personal data security. The Johns Hopkins network configuration makes most personalized browsing data appear to the ISP as an aggregated lot, making data mining activity to tie it to particular users virtually useless. All these measures make your data and private information safer when you are using Johns Hopkins computers for web access.

Because the network setup affects all computers, using your personal computer on Hopkins network, and using Hopkins VPN, also makes your browsing sessions more secure from unwanted tracking by advertisers and data miners.

An Evening with Thomas Dolby – May 2nd

Recording artist and music producer Thomas Dolby discusses his new memoir.

Presented by The Friends of the Johns Hopkins Libraries...

TUESDAY, MAY 2nd Reception at 6:00 p.m. followed by 6:45 p.m. talk in MASON HALL on Homewood Campus (3101 Wyman Park Dr., Baltimore, MD 21218).

This event is FREE, but RSVP is requested via libraryfriends@jhu.edu or 410-516-7943.

With hit songs like “Hyperactive!” and “She Blinded Me with Science,” Thomas Dolby achieved international fame in the early 1980s. He was a pioneer of New Wave and Electronica, and his innovative music videos were staples of the early days of MTV. (The five-time Grammy-nominated artist is also known for his keyboard and production work, which over the years put him in the studio with David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Joni Mitchell, and George Clinton).

Dolby combined a love for invention with a passion for music. But as record company politics overshadowed the joy of performing, he found a second act in Hollywood. Scoring films and computer games eventually led him to Silicon Valley, but life at the zenith of a tech empire proved to be just as full of big personalities, battling egos, and roller-coaster success as his days spent at the top of the charts.

The Speed of SoundDolby's new memoir, is the remarkable story of his rise to the top of the music charts, a second act as a tech pioneer, and the sustaining power of creativity and art.

Dolby served for 12 years as the Music Director for the TED conferences, and he is the JHU's first Homewood Professor of the Arts in. Film and Media Studies program.

Scientists, Communicating, Doing Science

How does science get done? In many ways -- experimenting, theorizing, testing, observing. But good science also comes from lots and lots of talking.

At conferences, in journals, in hallways, at seminars, with patients, in classrooms and labs, over coffee, through e-mail and shared citation lists and phone calls.

The "community of scientists" can be very much like a family -- you work together for a while before some family members go to other places and work with other scientists; some members of the family support you while others stop speaking to you; and so forth.

There are many accounts of life in labs and in the field, in hospitals, at universities, and at companies, which weave the stories of how scientists communicate, discover and observe, communicate some more, and keep building on what they've learned, both on their own and from others.

Read the inside stories about how science gets done in these engrossing tales:

For more of the "inside stories" about how science gets done, you should also read Hidden Figures: the American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (the movie based on the book is in theaters now) and The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars.



2nd Annual Human Library: Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

Human Library Johns Hopkins

A few "books" being "checked out" at our Johns Hopkins 2016 Human Library event. (Brody Learning Commons, Homewood Campus)

Join us on Sunday, April 30th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Brody Learning Commons (adjacent to the Eisenhower Library) on the Homewood Campus of Johns Hopkins University for this free event! It’s open to the public and everyone is welcome. The event occurs during the JHU 2017 Spring Fair, and it is sure to be another engrossing Human Library™ event!

The Human Library began in Denmark over 15 years ago in response to a hate crime. It has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon! HL works as a one-day event where instead of taking out books, “Readers” or those that attend the event, can “check out” a "Book," that is, a person who is part of a group in our community that is somehow exposed to stigma, prejudice, and/or discrimination.

Research of participants of various Human Library events has found that, "Readers increased their knowledge, understanding and empathy of their Human Books. Secondly, Human Books increased their self-reflexivity" and that Human Library organizers transcended their idea of self and others (Kudo et al. 2011, 4 in Watson, 227).

Listen. Talk. Meet your biases. Break stereotypes. Have a frank discussion with a Transgender Woman, Survivor of Suicide Loss, or a Sikh person, among so many other titles that will be available for “check out.” For more information about this world-wide movement, visit the official website humanlibrary.org. You can also listen to a podcast from last year's event at Hopkins.



Work Cited: Gregory John Watson, “ 'You shouldn’t have to suffer for being who you are': An Examination of the Human Library Strategy for Challenging Prejudice and Increasing Respect for Difference' (PhD diss., Curtin University, 2015).


From HumanLibrary.org

The Human Library™ is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers. A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.

Human Library logo

Official logo of the Human Library

The Human Library or “Menneskebiblioteket” was developed in Copenhagen in 2000 by Ronni Abergel and his brother Dany, and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen.

The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes and so they did. More than a thousand readers took advantage leaving books, librarians, organisers and readers stunned at the impact of the Human Library.

“Asger Jorn and CoBrA” – April 26, 4pm

Please join us on Wednesday, April 26th on M Level of the Eisenhower Library for a the opening of a student-curated exhibition, organized in conjunction with Professor Molly Warnock’s course, “The ‘Long Sixties’ in Europe.”

Throughout his prolific career, Danish painter, sculptor, and author Asger Jorn, 1914-1973, consistently upheld the revolutionary potential of the image. An inveterate collaborator, Jorn was at various points involved with a number of avant-garde groups, including Revolutionary Surrealism, 1947-1948; CoBrA, 1948-1951; and the Situationist International (SI), 1957-1972; and he maintained passionate, intensely productive relationships with individuals across the Continent. The name CoBrA, coined from the initials of the founding members’ cities – Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam – embodies this spirit of transnational exchange, a commitment equally manifest in the movement’s visual and textual output. Ranging from clandestine pamphlets to posters on behalf of the May 1968 protesters, the objects in this exhibition urge us to embrace “creative intelligence” – a rallying cry that still resonates today.

This opening event also celebrates an exhibition on Q Level of the library entitled "Extreme Materials and Conditions: Common Ground Between Art and Science" by HEMI artist-in-residence Jay Gould.

If either of these exhibitions pique your interest, find out more by exploring our Art History Research Guide!

“Very Short Introductions” — Quick Overviews about Lots of Things

POP QUIZ -- You need a quick overview about a topic. Where do you look?

Your answer is partly right but could be better. You said "Wikipedia," which never hurts. But you'll always need a few more sources, whose trustworthiness you can evaluate.

Where else can you get an (accurate) overview about something? You could look at:

Or, you could choose a Very Short Introduction. These are those little teeny books you see on the library shelves, about all kinds of things. We have 389 of them.

Here they are sorted by year. The most recent ones are:

  • Learning
  • Public Health
  • Accounting
  • African-American Religion
  • American Legal History

Some of my personal favorites are, of course:

The next time you need a short but dependable overview of a topic (Martyrdom? Probability? Sleep?), go to the library catalog, type the phrase "very short introduction" into the TITLE, add one search word, and see what you get.

Patents — Amaze Your Friends!

Patents are historical, technical, artistic, ground-breaking, legally binding, creative, and revealing. Patents are incredibly cool, and extremely useful.

What's a patent?

A patent is the right to keep other people from making or selling YOUR invention (unless you give them a license to do so). Specifically, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office defines a patent as “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” your invention in the United States (or importing it *into* the U.S.). (You can also get patents in many other countries; here is an FAQ with more information.)

Can anything be patented?

No. You cannot patent something that isn't new or useful, you can't patent an idea, and you can't patent something that's good only for using "special nuclear material or atomic energy in an atomic weapon." You CAN patent "any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof."

So what's cool about them?

Okay, I now have a better idea about why patents are so important and can be used for so many things. How do I find them?

There are many free and paid sources of patents. They cover different places and years, and each offers some advantages. All of the ones below are free, except the Derwent Innovations Index, which the library has.

  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is extremely reliable and the most current all patent databases, but is a bit of a pain to search.
  • Patentscope includes patents and applications from all members of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), about 150 countries (including the U.S.).  It will also translate patents into seven languages from English, or from those languages into English (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, German, and French).
  • Free Patents Online (FPO) is user-friendly and has lots of searchable fields.
  • Google Patents is missing some U.S. patents, gives unreliable results, contains some out-of-date information, and has some bad OCR, but is easy to use and fine for basic overviews.
  • Derwent Innovations Index gives enhanced patent titles, which really helps to see exactly what the patents are about when you're looking through the results list. It's also pretty easy to use.

JHU people have a lot of patents (surprise). Put "johns hopkins" into the U.S. PTO database as "assignee," and you get over 2,100 results.

For more information, see the Patents page on the Engineering research guide.

JohnCon Has It All

Johns Hopkins Blue Jay JohnCon Super HeroPaintball, magic, tournaments, laser tag, comedy -- where can you get all of this at the same event? That would be JohnCon (April 14-16)!

JohnCon is the annual convention of JHU's Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (HopSFA). It's held in Levering Hall from Friday evening to Sunday evening, with NO stops. None. These people are serious.

As the schedule tells us, events also include words like "melee," "red dragon," and "pandemic"; just the kinds of activities you need to challenge your brain with something OTHER than problem sets. Of course you can come for the anime and the games, too.

The encouraged entrance fee is $10, but you may pay as much or as little as you wish (attention: paying more = getting good stuff). And don't miss the app!

By the way, your library does have anime (perhaps you need a critical introduction to it?). And here, have some e-books about Anime Studio.Enjoy this year's JohnCon!

Fake News: Check Your Facts

It’s a post-truth world out there (Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 word of the year). And your librarians will help you tell truth from fiction.

Our first post in this series discussed the history of fake news and propaganda. Now we’re going to give you some tools to investigate facts mentioned in news stories and the bias of media outlets.

Fact Checking Organizations
If you don’t want to do the research yourself, there are some reliable organizations that do the fact checking for the rest of us.

Snopes.com was started back in 1995 (early days on the Internet) to examine urban legends. Since then it has expanded its work and looks at rumors in the media, politics, science, as well as the ever-expanding list of urban legends. This site is apolitical and supported by ad revenue.

FactCheck.org focuses on American politics. This group sees itself as advocates for US voters; they’re supported by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.

PolitiFact also focuses on American politics. The site is run by staff at the Tampa Bay Times and describes its principles and funding sources. They decide what statements and stories to fact check. They are transparent about their process and have a wonderful rating system: Truth, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, Pants on Fire.

It’s also important to know if the media outlet you use is biased. News sources can be biased towards a liberal or conservative outlook and still be truthful. Some sources are so biased that it’s best not to rely only on their reporting because they will slant their stories to support their ideology.

Media Bias/Fact Check is a site that rates how biased (or not) a news outlet is regarding its political outlook. They categorize sources as having Left Bias, Left-Center Bias, Least Biased, Right-Center Bias, and Right Bias. They also have other useful categories: Pro-Science, Conspiracy-Pseudoscience, and Satire. You can also search for a specific news source.

Reliable News Sources
If you’re looking for reliable news sources, the library’s got you covered! Major US papers are available:

(I’m showing my own bias toward East Coast papers, aren’t I?) We have a very long list of newspapers that includes foreign (think Pravda and Financial Times) and historical newspapers (ProQuest Historical Newspapers).

We do have some television news sources:

Please use these sites to get information and to check information you find. And don’t forget: you can always ask your librarian for help.