Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data

How data surveillance, digital forensics, and generative AI pose new long-term threats and opportunities—and how we can use them to make better decisions in the face of technological uncertainty.

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data
April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE
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“I have been waiting a long time for a clearly written book that cuts through the hype and describes how data—big and small, old and new—actually operate in our lives. Neither utopian nor dystopian, The Secret Life of Data just tells it like it is.”   
—Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies, The University of Virginia; author of Antisocial Media and The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)

In The Secret Life of Data, Aram Sinnreich and Jesse Gilbert explore the many unpredictable, and often surprising, ways in which data surveillance, AI, and the constant presence of algorithms impact our culture and society in the age of global networks. The authors build on this basic premise: no matter what form data takes, and what purpose we think it’s being used for, data will always have a secret life. How this data will be used, by other people in other times and places, has profound implications for every aspect of our lives—from our intimate relationships to our professional lives to our political systems.

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ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS

ARAM SINNREICH is an author, professor, and musician. He is Chair of Communication Studies at American University. His books include Mashed Up, The Piracy CrusadeThe Essential Guide to Intellectual Property, and A Second Chance for Yesterday (published as R. A. Sinn).

JESSE GILBERT is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the intersection of visual art, sound, and software design at his firm Dark Matter Media. He was the founding Chair of the Media Technology department at Woodbury University, and he has taught interactive software design at both CalArts and UC San Diego.

DR. LAURA DENARDIS is Professor and Endowed Chair in Technology, Ethics, and Society and Director of the Center for Digital Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Her book The Internet in Everything: Freedom and Security in a World with No Off Switch (Yale University Press) was recognized as a Financial Times Top Technology Book of 2020. Among her seven books, The Global War for Internet Governance (Yale University Press) is considered a definitive source for understanding cyber governance debates and solutions. Professor DeNardis is an affiliated Fellow of the Yale Information Society Project, where she previously served as Executive Director, and is a life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds engineering degrees and a PhD in Science and Technology Studies, and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Yale Law School.

Book Talk: The Secret Life of Data
April 18 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET ONLINE
Register now!

Book Talk: Wrong Way by Joanne McNeil

Join us for a VIRTUAL book talk with author Joanne McNeil about her latest book, WRONG WAY, which examines the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. McNeil will be in conversation with author Sarah Jaffe.

This is the first Internet Archive / Authors Alliance book talk for a work of fiction! Come for a reading, stay for a thoughtful conversation between McNeil & Jaffe about the labor implications of artificial intelligence.

February 29 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
VIRTUAL

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WRONG WAY was named one of the best books of 2023 by the New Yorker and Esquire. It was the Endless Bookshelf Book of the Year and named one of the best tech books by the LA Times.

“Wrong Way is a chilling portrait of economic precarity, and a disturbing reminder of how attempts to optimize life and work leave us all alienated.”
—Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

For years, Teresa has passed from one job to the next, settling into long stretches of time, struggling to build her career in any field or unstick herself from an endless cycle of labor. The dreaded move from one gig to another is starting to feel unbearable. When a recruiter connects her with a contract position at AllOver, it appears to check all her prerequisites for a “good” job. It’s a fintech corporation with progressive hiring policies and a social justice-minded mission statement. Their new service for premium members: a functional fleet of driverless cars. The future of transportation. As her new-hire orientation reveals, the distance between AllOver’s claims and its actions is wide, but the lure of financial stability and a flexible schedule is enough to keep Teresa driving forward.

Joanne McNeil, who often reports on how the human experience intersects with labor and technology brings blazing compassion and criticism to Wrong Way, examining the treacherous gaps between the working and middle classes wrought by the age of AI. Within these divides, McNeil turns the unsaid into the unignorable, and captures the existential perils imposed by a nonstop, full-service gig economy.

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About our speakers

JOANNE MCNEIL was the inaugural winner of the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation’s Arts Writing Award for an emerging writer. She has been a resident at Eyebeam, a Logan Nonfiction Program fellow, and an instructor at the School for Poetic Computation.
Joanne is the author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User.

SARAH JAFFE is an author, independent journalist, and a co-host of Dissent magazine’s Belabored podcast.

Book Talk: Wrong Way by Joanne McNeil
February 29 @ 10am PT / 1pm ET
VIRTUAL
Register now!

Share Your Wayback Machine Impact Stories!

Have you ever used the Wayback Machine and witnessed the magic of internet time travel? We want to hear your stories of how web archives have made a positive impact on your life! Whether it’s preserving a cherished memory, aiding in research, or sparking a meaningful change – your stories matter!

Fill out our quick questionnaire and let us know how the Wayback Machine has left a mark on your digital journey: https://forms.gle/5DhDqNTLqxY41K3p6 

Your stories could inspire others and highlight the importance of preserving the web’s rich history. Let’s celebrate the incredible moments made possible by the Wayback Machine!

You may be wondering, “Will anyone actually read my submission?” YES! We appreciate your time in sharing your story. Submissions will be reviewed and may be included in upcoming social media posts and news stories. We put out a similar call last year and received hundreds of responses, which we turned into testimonials & blog posts to help people understand how our library is used. 

Community Webs Receives $750,000 Grant to Expand Community Archiving by Public Libraries

Started in 2017, our Community Webs program has over 175 public libraries and local cultural organizations working to build digital archives documenting the experiences of their communities, especially those patrons often underrepresented in traditional archives. Participating public libraries have created over 1,400 collections documenting local civic life totaling nearly 100 terabytes and tens of millions of individual documents, images, audio/video files, blogs, websites, social media, and more. You can browse many of these collections at the Community Webs website. Participants have also collaborated on digitization efforts to bring minority newspapers online, held public programming and outreach events, and formed local partnerships to help preservation efforts at other mission-aligned organizations. The program has conducted numerous workshops and national symposia to help public librarians gain expertise in digital preservation and cohort members have done dozens of presentations at professional conferences showcasing their work. In the past, Community Webs has received support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Mellon Foundation, the Kahle Austin Foundation, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

We are excited to announce that Community Webs has received $750,000 in funding from The Mellon Foundation to continue expanding the program. The award will allow additional public libraries to join the program and will enable new and existing members to continue their web archiving collection building using our Archive-It service. In addition, the funding will also provide members access to Internet Archive’s new Vault digital preservation service, enabling them to build and preserve collections of any type of digital materials. Lastly, leveraging members’ prior success in local partnerships, Community Webs will now include an “Affiliates” program so member public libraries can nominate local nonprofit partners that can also receive access to archiving services and resources. Funding will also support the continuation of the program’s professional development training in digital preservation and community archiving and its overall cohort and community building activities of workshops, events, and symposia.

We thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their generous support of Community Webs. We are excited to continue to expand the program and empower hundreds of public librarians to build archives that document the voices, lives, and events of their communities and to ensure this material is permanently available to patrons, students, scholars, and citizens.

DLARC Preserves “Ham Radio & More” Radio Show

Ham Radio & More was a radio show about amateur radio that was broadcast from 1991 through 1997. More than 300 episodes of the program are now available online as part of the Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications (DLARC).

Ham Radio & More was the first radio show devoted to ham radio on the commercial radio band. It began as a one-hour show on KFNN 1510 AM in Phoenix, Arizona, then expanded to a two-hour format and national syndication. The program’s host, Len Winkler, invited guests to discuss the issues of the day and educate listeners about various aspects of the radio hobby. Today the episodes, some more than 30 years old, provide an invaluable time capsule of the ham radio hobby.

Photograph of dozens of cassette tape cases, each with hand-written labels indicating air date and topic of that episode.
just some of the HR&M cassette tapes

Len Winkler said, “I’m so happy that the Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications took all my old shows and made them eternally available for everyone to hear and enjoy. I had the absolute pleasure, along with a few super knowledgeable co-hosts, to interview many of the people that made ham radio great in the past and now everyone can go back and listen to what they had to say. From the early beginnings of SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) to Senator Barry Goldwater to the daughter of Marconi. So much thanks to the Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications for doing this amazing service.”

Other interviewees included magazine publisher Wayne Green, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Bob Heil, Bill Pasternak, Fred Maia, and other names well known to the amateur radio community. Discussion topics spanned the technical, such as signal propagation, to community issues, including the debate over the Morse code knowledge requirement for ham radio operators—a requirement eventually dropped, to the benefit of the community.

The radio programs were recorded on cassette tapes when they originally aired. Winkler digitized 149 episodes of the show himself in 2015 and 2016. The digitizing project paused for years. In January 2024 he sent the remaining cassettes to DLARC. Using two audio digitizing workstations, we digitized another 165 episodes in about three weeks. The combined collection is now available online: a total of 464 hours of programming, most of which have not been heard since their original air date. The collection represents nearly every episode of the show: only a few tapes went missing over the years or were unrepairable. 

The Digital Library of Amateur Radio & Communications is funded by a grant from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) to create a free digital library for the radio community, researchers, educators, and students. DLARC invites radio clubs and individuals to submit material in any format. To contribute or ask questions about the project, contact: Kay Savetz at kay@archive.org or on Mastodon at dlarc@mastodon.radio.

Once Upon a Click: Librarian’s Fairy Tale Journey with the Internet Archive

Once upon a time, Liz Gotauco fell in love with fairy tales. That is, making videos while retelling them with some quirky twists.

Librarian Liz Gotauco, aka “Cosbrarian” across social media.

By day, Gotauco is a full-time public librarian in Rhode Island. On nights and weekends, she creates content for TikTok, Instagram and YouTube under the name Cosbrarian (a portmanteau of “cosplay” and “librarian”). Gotauco takes a traditional fairy tale or folk tale, writes her own scripts, and films herself telling it — often wearing costumes and using props to make it come alive.

To find the original fairy tales, many of which are in books that are out of print, Gotauco often uses the Internet Archive. She lists her more than 100 stories and sources on her website.

“It has been invaluable to me to have an easily accessible resource like the Internet Archive at my fingertips,” Gotauco said. “Sometimes I’m writing my content on the fly—but I don’t want my time constraints to compromise my research. Being able to quickly find a reputable source is such a gift, especially to those of us without academic library access.”

In her saucy, darker, and wilder versions of fairy tales for adult audiences, she weaves in humor and commentary. Gotauco likes to feature lesser-known folklore from a variety of cultures for her series, “Around the World in 80 Folk Tales.”  Many of these books are old and no longer on library shelves, but she often finds them at the Internet Archive.

“I was blown away that there was so much in the collection,” she said. Gotauco recently found Inuit folk tales and stories from Latin America that she adapted. Her online audience also requests stories from their home countries, and she is intentional about representation in her work.   

Once she discovers books in the Archive, Gotauco said she then sometimes buys a copy to add to her collection at home.

Follow Liz across social media:
TikTok
Instagram
YouTube

Gotauco started as a freelance content creator in 2021. It has almost become a part-time job, as she produces about two videos a week, which are available for free to viewers.

“The responses I’m most happy to get are when I make people laugh,” she said. “Especially since I started during the early pandemic, some people were like, “Wow, I just really needed to smile today and this did it for me.’”

Gotauco is busier these days, but plans to continue producing new content and hopes material continues to be available through the Archive to support her endeavor.

“Fairy tales have always been a part of my life. It’s been nice to indulge in that interest and find other people whose interests are the same,” said Gotauco, who has enjoyed tapping into her love for theater. “It’s partially a performance piece, as well as storytelling. I’ve been able to merge my two personas: the theater kid Liz and librarian Liz.”

Public Domain Day Celebrates Creative Works from 1928

Hundreds of people from all over the world gathered together on January 25 to honor the thousands of movies, plays, books, poems and songs that recently entered the U.S. public domain.

Steamboat Willie, Walt Disney’s 1928 animated film featuring Mickey Mouse, had top billing at the virtual event. Literature now free from restriction for reuse includes Orlando by Virginia Woolf and Tarzan Lord of the Jungle by Edgar R. Burroughs. Sound recordings from 1923 (released on a different schedule) joined the public domain such as ”Down Hearted Blues” by Bessie Smith and ”Who’s Sorry Now” by Isham Jones Orchestra.

WATCH RECORDING:

“There’s so much to rediscover and to celebrate,” said Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School. For example, the release of The Great Gatsby into the public domain in 2021 inspired a creative flurry — new versions of the novel from the perspective of different characters, a prequel telling the backstory of Nick Caraway, a young adult remix, and song. “From the serious to the creative, to the whimsical to the wacky, these are all the great things we can do…now that [these works] are in the public domain and free to copy, to share, to digitize and to build upon without permission or fee.”

For an overview of new works in the public domain, view the curated list from the Center for the Public Domain.

Remix Contest

The winning film from the Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest was shown as well: “Sick on New Year’s,” by Ty Cummings. Every year since 2021, this contest has invited artists to remix works from its collection to showcase new and creative uses of public domain materials. Fifty films were submitted to this year’s competition, according to Amir Esfahania, artist in residence at the Archive. Learn more about the finalists or watch all the submissions in our recent blog post.

Advocacy

“Celebrating the public domain is not just about vintage references and period-appropriate clothing. It’s about understanding history to inform the present day,” said Lila Bailey, Internet Archive senior policy counsel and co-host of the virtual festivities. “We think there should be time set aside every year to celebrate the immense riches that free and open culture provides to everyone.”

While federal holiday recognition (like MLK Day or Presidents’ Day) for the public domain is unlikely, there was a discussion of an advocacy campaign for establishment of a commemorative Public Domain Day (more along the lines of National Data Privacy  Day or National Whistleblowers Day).

“It only requires a simple resolution in the Senate with high chances of recognition,” said Amanda Levendowski, director of Georgetown Law School’s Intellectual Property and Information Policy Clinic. “Prospects for passage are way better than possible. About 80 percent of proposals are passed — and maybe next year, Public Domain Day will be among them.”

Experts said a successful drive for the designation will require a collaborative effort. A kickoff event will be held February 29 in New York City, hosted by Library Futures, executive director Jennie-Rose Halperin announced.

AI and the Public Domain

The online program also featured a panel discussion on generative artificial intelligence, copyright and artist expression. Experts weighed in on just what should be the copyright status of the outputs of generative AI.

Panelists (clockwise from top left): Lila Bailey (Internet Archive), Heather Timm (artist), Maxximillian (artist), Matthew Sag (Emory Law), and Juliana Castro Varón (Cita Press).

Now, AI tools can turn text or simple descriptions into images that are  genuinely new and often look like exactly the kind of things that people get copyrighted if a human made them, explained Matthew Sag, professor of law, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science at Emory University.

“The copyright office is quite clear that to get copyright, you have to have human authorship. So something created entirely by an unsupervised machine is not eligible for copyright,” Sag said, noting that the courts have recently agreed. “The interesting question is what about when humans are using AI as a tool and directing the output. This is where the controversy really is.”

On the panel, two artists, Heather Timm and Maxximillian, shared how they both leverage AI in the creative process.

Timm said she started using generative AI in 2021 and thinks the copyright office should cover works that have results from it. She has trained AI models on her own physical work and then created something new collaborating with the machine, as well as conceptualized how to blend different pieces of work in a collage or sculpture.  

“I use it almost as a notebook,” Timm said. “If I have a concept or an idea about something on the go, I can immediately prompt that and have it as a placeholder to explore it later.”

As a filmmaker and musician, Maxximillian said she feels passionate about AI and it has saved her time creating animated characters and helping refine her text. “As a professional artist, I rely on copyright to keep viable the works that I produce for clients legally,” said Maxximillian. “It’s important to understand that copyright protection enables the creator to be a steward of that work. The question to consider: Who benefits by denying copyright on AI? I think nobody benefits.”

An open access publisher, Juliana Castro Varón, design director and founder of Cita Press, also addressed the issue. “I believe that AI may pose economic, power, and labor challenges, but I feel very confident that creativity will survive technology,” she said. All books Cita produces are in the public domain for everyone to download. “We are not at all against people using AI for their work, but we continue to hire humans…elevating the work of people is core to our mission.”

***

The event was co-hosted by Internet Archive and Library Futures with support from Creative Commons, Authors Alliance, Public Knowledge, SPARC and Duke Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain.

Lights, Camera, Victory! Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest Winners Revealed

After sifting through a sea of talent and creativity, we are thrilled to present the cinematic achievements of three winners and two honorable mentions in our Public Domain Day 2024 Remix Contest. These winning entries not only captivated our imaginations, but also showcased the immense power of remixing, reimagining, and breathing new life into public domain works.

View the winning entries & honorable mentions below. Rick Prelinger, noted film archivist, helped judge the competition and offers why each film was selected for recognition.

Browse all submissions (52!) at the Public Domain Day Remix Contest collection at the Internet Archive.

First Place: “Sick on New Year’s” by Ty Cummings

Found-footage filmmaking is all about taking material that might have almost-sacred status and, well, bringing it back down to earth. We find this film worthy of our first prize because of its irreverent humor and skilled editing, its playful predictions of the future, and because it points to the limitless opportunities that a constantly-refreshed public domain offers makers in all media.

Second Place: “Keaton and Kaufman: The Cameramen” by Max Teeth

This film brings together two characters who will be familiar to people who love films, characters that lived and worked very far away from one another and did deeply different work, but might perhaps have more in common with one another than we might think. We see it as a poetic piece, a loving tribute to some of the people who put the motion in motion pictures.

Third Place: “Just Like a Hollywood Star” by Timothy Johnson

Our 3rd prize winner is a rich montage of sound and picture, focusing on images that model beauty, fitness, posture, proper behavior, and the laws of physics. We like this film’s uninhibited reach and its draw from wildly disparate material, often pretty predictable, to produce an unpredictable result.

Honorable Mention, Historical Perspective: “A Member of the Family” by Lizzy Tolentino

Combining government-produced films, family home movies and an unusual sponsored film by a world-famous company, this filmmaker makes a chilling statement about the gap between the promise of our society and the reality of 20th-century history. The public domain is a record of both proud achievements and disturbing histories, and we feel this film exemplified the potential of the public domain to reveal histories that some might prefer to be kept silent.

Honorable Mention, Quirkiest Film: “Domain” by Cullen J. Sanchez

Sometimes you just have to recognize the unusual. But this unusual film makes a critical point about the public domain — that WE are the public domain, and the public domain is us. Take it away! “It’s us. It’s all of us.”

DISCMASTER Rises Again

In October of 2022, the DISCMASTER site arrived, providing amazing semantic search of thousands of shareware and compilation CD-ROMs at the Internet Archive. In the entry written on the blog back then, the advantages and features of this site were pretty well enumerated.

Unfortunately, the site went down in June of 2023, due to a number of factors, the most pressing of which was a need to switch hosting and administration duties. (It is not run by Internet Archive and is not hosted at Internet Archive’s datacenters.)

However, DISCMASTER HAS RETURNED!

Thanks to a set of generous donors and the efforts of multiple volunteers, the site is back running with all the data and functionality it had in its previous incarnation.

The website is at http://discmaster.textfiles.com.

The previous blog entry has fuller details on the meaning of this site and the many uses it has for computer and internet history. All hail DISCMASTER!

Internet Archive an ‘Information Lifeline’ for Librarian Professionally and Personally

When Zeau Modig began as the graduate school librarian at the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) nearly a decade ago, many of the students lived nearby. They came to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus to check out some of the library’s 1,500 print books and make photocopies.

Zeau Modig, librarian

Today, the majority of students live elsewhere in a dozen different countries from Brazil to Hungary—and instruction has moved online. This is driving up demand for e-books. Modig has found resources on the Internet Archive to fill the gap between what her physical library can provide and the needs of her community.

“The Internet Archive has been amazing for us to be able to get material into our students’ hands, and making it accessible, especially for the people overseas studying in less developed countries,” Modig said. “If you’re not in the United States it’s not as easy to get books because of shipping—it could take weeks to get there. The Internet Archive has really been a tremendous help to our students.”

The graduate program attracts students who are often mid-career, working in education, criminal justice, business or any field looking for strategies and scholarship to address conflicts, repair harm, and restore community among individuals and groups. To understand the foundational ideas behind restorative practices, the classes sometimes assign readings of theoretical models that are hard to find. Modig said students often turn to the Internet Archive to find obscure books or journals that have otherwise vanished.

Modig said she values the Archive’s collaboration with Wikipedia to turn reference links in Wikipedia articles blue, connecting citations to the original source content in Archive’s digital collections. This effort gives scholars single-click access to verify information for their research.

“It’s made my life as a librarian so much easier,” Modig said of the Archive. “The faculty, too, most of whom work remotely, really appreciate having books at their fingertips.”

Outside her job, Modig said she uses the Archive for genealogy research, leisure reading and entertainment. She recently discovered a commemorative family reunion volume from 1883 on her French Huguenot relatives that gave her insight into her family history. Inspired by the Netflix series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” Modig checked out the original novel on which the show was based.

“Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally.”

Zeau Modig, librarian, International Institute for Restorative Practices

Unfortunately, as a result of the publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s lending library, “The Queen’s Gambit” is no longer available for borrowing. 

When Modig learned that the book can no longer be checked out to one reader at a time, she paused. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to enjoy this book while I could,” she said. “I hope that the publishers involved in the lawsuit against the Internet Archive will come to realize the advantages that controlled digital lending holds for them as well as for readers, and allow the Internet Archive to restore access to their content.”

“Overall, the Internet Archive has become an essential information lifeline for my graduate institution’s students and faculty, and also for me personally,” Modig said. “It would be deeply disappointing for us if this rich trove of content is no longer available through the Internet Archive.”