Beyond the Library

Will you be working on a dissertation or project this summer or next year? Worried that the Library might not have access to the specialist books and other resources which you need? Wondering how you can find out about resources relating to your research topic which are held in other libraries?

Wonder no more! There are three main ways you can find and access books and other resources held elsewhere:

1. Search

You can search the catalogues of over 100 UK and Irish academic libraries, national libraries and other major research libraries via COPAC. For a more in-depth and up to date search, you can also search individual academic library catalogues online. Need to look further afield? Search library catalogues internationally via WorldCat.

2. Visit

We have more information about how you can visit other libraries, locally and nationally, here. The SCONUL Access Scheme enables students to use other academic libraries around the country, but you need to register online first (and be sure to check the access arrangements for any library you are planning to visit, as they may alter during the year).

3. Obtain

If we haven’t got the book you want, you can ask us to consider buying or borrowing it, via our Books on Time service. If you need a copy of a journal article to which we don’t have access, please apply via our inter library loan service.

Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay. 

New resource now available: Kanopy film streaming

We’re pleased to announce that following a successful trial, we now have access to the Kanopy on-demand film-streaming platform.

Kanopy provides access to over 30,000 films, including contemporary and classic feature films from around the world, and documentaries across a range of topics in arts, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. New films are added each month, and you can watch them on your preferred device.

Kanopy is very easy to use: simply search for a film by title, or browse by category. All the films are also individually catalogued on Library Search too, so you can find and access them that way as well.

You’ll find lots of useful features, including creating clips and playlists, viewing the transcript, and rating or adding comments.

Please note, as Kanopy is a ‘pay as you go’ service, we will assess demand during an initial pilot phase. If you’ve got any feedback about Kanopy, we’d be interested to receive it: just drop us an email or post it as a comment on this blog.

The Camera Never Lies? Fakes and Photoshop

Fake news story of a new species of bird. Picture shows a photoshopped tiger headed bird.

I am sure you spotted that the photograph above is a photoshopped fake, but according to a recent study at Warwick University, about a third of manipulated images go undetected by viewers.

Physical manipulation of images has been around since the invention of photography itself.  Take a look at this example from the early 20th Century; it looks convincing but the Library of Congress were able to work out that this is actually a composite of several images and does not really show General Ulysses S. Grant at City Point:

Modern digital technology has brought with it a plethora of photograph and video editing apps that are easily accessible and simple to use – at the touch of a button we are now able to crop, edit and filter the photographs we take.  While fun to use for entertainment and valuable for people such as designers and artists, tools such as these can be more problematic when they are used with the intention to deceive or manipulate.

For example, in March 2018 a photograph from Teen Vogue of Emma González, an American anti-gun activist, was photoshopped to show her tearing up the US Constitution with the presumed aim of promoting her views as unpatriotic:

Out of Context

Manipulated images are not the only problem.  Purposefully using a picture out of context can also mislead the intended audience.

In April 1934 a number of American newspapers, including the highly respected New York Times, published a photograph showing a man using a flying machine that worked using his lung power alone.  The incredible image depicts a man in mid-air wearing a device consisting of a box and two rotors while four other men run along below him.  Unfortunately, the newspapers had failed to check the original source of the image and fell afoul of a German magazine’s April fool’s joke.

While publishing a fake flying machine might be a fairly harmless, if embarrassing, mistake some images taken out of context like this can have more powerful consequences.

In July 2018 Time magazine used the cropped image of a young girl crying juxtaposed against a stern looking President Trump on their front page; the child was said to have been separated from her parents as part of Trump’s zero tolerance policy toward those crossing the border illegally from Mexico.    The original photograph, taken by Getty photographer John Moore, went viral, sparking a public outrage that led to the government ending the practice.  However, it was discovered that, on this occasion, the child had not been separated from her parents but was detained with her mother.

Both of these examples, highlight the importance of checking the source and confirming the context of an image before taking it at face value.

This can be true of videos too, take this example purporting to show U.S. President Donald Trump removing his hat and revealing that he’s bald:

You can see toward the end of the video, a slight glitch where the President’s hand seems to go through the top of his head, showing it to be an obvious fake but even if this wasn’t clear, the origin of the video would provide another hint that it’s not to be trusted – the video was created by Paul Lee Ticks, a Twitter user who frequently posts memes and digitally manipulated videos.

While some images and videos are obviously fake others can be more convincing and improvements in technology, particularly artificial intelligence, are making the fakes even more difficult to detect.  These more convincing images and videos are known as deepfakes and with the ability to make people appear to say things that they did not, they have the potential to cause serious damage.

Take a look at this TED talk by computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn, who explains his work with AI and discusses both the creative and more negative ethical implications of the technology:

Spotting the Fakes 

With the creation of fake images and videos proliferating in journalism, politics and social media, it’s increasingly important to be vigilant.  While experts are developing tools to help fight against the more serious attempts at disinformation, we have some simple tricks you can use to help improve your fake image savvy too:

Top Three Ways to Spot a Fake

  1. Look for inconsistencies

Check the image for distorted backgrounds, missing or altered reflections and shadows, and missing features that you would expect to see.  Keep an eye out for any obviously repeated patterns and be wary of lower quality or blurred images.

  1. Try a reverse image search

Use a reverse image search on Google to track the image, see if it has been circulated before, locate the original source or maybe even find if the story around the image has already been debunked.

  1. Check the metadata

Sometimes it is possible to look at an image’s metadata, that is, data about the image such as what time and date it was taken, which camera was used and if it has been saved in Photoshop.  This is called the EXIF data.  There are various websites and apps where you can upload an image to check it’s metadata but it’s simple to find out some key information using Windows too: right click on an image, go to properties then details.  Unfortunately, not all images will have metadata as some popular sites such as Facebook and Twitter will remove it to protect user privacy.

Now you’re armed with these top tips why not take a look at the test the University of Warwick used in the study mentioned at the beginning of the blog.  How many fakes can you spot?

Sources:

Boese, A. (no date) Man Flies By Own Lung Power. Available at:  http://hoaxes.org/af_database/permalink/man_flies_by_own_lung_power (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Brightside (no date) 10 Tips to Spot a Fake Image and Not Let Photoshoppers Fool You. Available at: https://brightside.me/wonder-curiosities/10-tips-to-spot-a-fake-image-and-not-let-photoshoppers-fool-you-469660/ (Accessed 22 March 2019)

Evon, D. (2019) ‘Is This a Video of President Trump Without His Toupee?’, Snopes, 12 March.  Available at: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-toupee-video-fake/ (Accessed 22 March 2019)

Farid, H. (2019)’Don’t be fooled by fake images and videos online’, The Conversation, 20 February.  Available at: https://theconversation.com/dont-be-fooled-by-fake-images-and-videos-online-111873 (Accessed 25 March 2019)

Kirby, J. (2018 ) ‘Time’s crying girl photo controversy, explained’, Vox, 22 June. Available at: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/6/22/17494688/time-magazine-cover-crying-girl-photo-controversy-family-separation (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Library of Congress (2008) Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints.  Available at: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/cwp/mystery.html (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Mikkelson, D (2018) ‘Was Emma González Filmed Ripping Up the U.S. Constitution?’, Snopes, 25 March.  Available at: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/emma-gonzalez-ripping-up-constitution/ (Accessed 22 March 2019)

O’Sullivan, D. (2019) ‘When seeing is no longer believing: Inside the Pentagon’s race against deepfake videos’, CNN Business, no date. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2019/01/business/pentagons-race-against-deepfakes/ (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Smith, B. (2018) ‘Fake news, hoax images: How to spot a digitally altered photo from the real deal’, ABC News, 24 July.  Available at:  https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2018-02-11/fake-news-hoax-images-digitally-altered-photos-photoshop/9405776 (Accessed: 25 March 2019)

TED (2018) Fake videos of real people — and how to spot them | Supasorn Suwajanakorn. Available at: https://youtu.be/o2DDU4g0PRo (Accessed 28 March 2019)

University of Warwick (2017) One third of fake images go undetected in recent study [Press release] 18 July. Available at:  https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/one_third_of/ (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Vick, K. (2018) ‘A Reckoning After Trump’s Border Separation Policy: What Kind of Country Are We?’ The Times, 21 June. Available at:  http://time.com/5318229/donald-trump-border-separation-policy/ (Accessed: 22 March 2019)

Bubbles and echos: are you surrounding yourself with fake news?

Librarians have been warning people about ‘Fake News’ for many, many, many, many years – how to find and select reliable, authoritative, quality resources is at the heart of any good library teaching session.  In a way we librarians have to thank Mr Trump for making Fake News a popular term; he has made everyone aware that there are fake stories out there and that there has been for centuries (see our historical time-line of Fake News).

2019 is NU Library’s third year of promoting awareness of Fake News, and by looking at the large number of visits to our Fake News Guide over these three years (4,672 visits in total), and again thanks to Mr Trump, it’s not something that’s going away anytime soon.  So we Librarians will continue our quest of highlighting all information that is fake for the greater good.

Until I went to Librarian’s Fake News conference last year, I hadn’t heard of the terms ‘Filter Bubble’ and ‘Echo Chambers’ in relation to Fake News.  However, once explained hopefully it will make you more aware of what information/news stories you read via the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter, and how they could potentially be fake.  So here is the low-down on what these terms mean and how you can avoid falling into their traps; we’ve also offered the alternative view that they’re a load of old nonsense so you can decide for yourselves…

What is a ‘Filter Bubble’?

A Filter Bubble is when you are in a virtual bubble on social media – you only encounter information and opinions that agree with or reinforce your own beliefs.  Your ‘personalised’ online experience is the result of algorithms that work away in the background and dictate what you see/read online. Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, YouTube and many more all do this.

These Filter Bubbles in turn create Echo Chambers…

What are ‘Echo Chambers’?

When information within a closed system online is only giving you (‘echoing’) back your opinion and beliefs and establishing confirmation bias (only accepting information that confirm your own opinion and beliefs).

What are the dangers?

As much as I enjoy Facebook fuelling my love of funny dog videos by suggesting similar videos and articles, being aware of why and how Facebook is doing this helps when it comes to more serious topics such as the news, social issues and politics.

Regarding Fake News, confirmation bias is particularly worrying as you will start believing fake news stories that confirms your opinions and beliefs. I know I have done this, which is really scary to realise.

Watch this short TedTalks video from Eli Pariser on the dangers of Filter Bubbles:

You could argue that this type of ‘personalisation’ is editing the web – only showing you one half of the story.  So what can you do to pop the bubble?

What can you do to stop the bubbles and echoes?

There are a few simple things you can do to stop this and open yourselves up to a wider web:

  • Read news sites, websites and blogs that offer a wide range of perspectives, such as the BBC.
  • Use Incognito browsing, delete search histories and try and resist the temptation of logging into your accounts every time you go online.
  • Deleting or blocking browser cookies – these cookies hold the algorithms that determine what we see.
  • Turn off your curated feed in Facebook.
  • Click ‘Like’ on everything! – This will tell the AI that you are into everything – all politics, all news etc.
  • Don’t clink on links, especially politics and social issues – will stop fuelling the algorithms.
  • Tell everyone else to turn off their curated feed!

Is it all a myth?

Below are a few articles that claim Filter Bubbles and Echo Chambers are myths and that it’s not the technology at fault, but rather the user. I’ll let you decide:

Dubois, E. and Blank, G. (2018) The myth of the echo chamber. Available at: https://theconversation.com/the-myth-of-the-echo-chamber-92544. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Robson, D. (2018) The myth of the online echo chamber. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20180416-the-myth-of-the-online-echo-chamber. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Schwab, P. (2017) Academic research debunks the myth of filter bubbles. Available at: https://www.intotheminds.com/blog/en/academic-research-debunks-the-myth-of-filter-bubbles/. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Don’t burst my bubble!

Or maybe you like being in your own little bubble? The safety and comfort in knowing what information you are going to be presented with – nothing that offends or upsets your online world. I know I will carry on being fed humorous dog videos.

There are some interesting thoughts and opinions on the Social Network Bubble – the pros and cons – on this Radio 4 programme:

BBC Radio 4 (2017) Bursting the social network bubble. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b083p4lw. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

References:

BBC Radio 4 (2017) Fave ways to burst your social media bubble. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3n9yf0D5WxRZJGclBMtFGwK/five-ways-to-burst-your-social-media-bubble. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Farnam Street (2017) How filter bubbles distort reality: everything you need to know. Available at: https://fs.blog/2017/07/filter-bubbles/. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).

Grimes, D. (2017) Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2017/dec/04/echo-chambers-are-dangerous-we-must-try-to-break-free-of-our-online-bubbles. (Accessed: 27 March 2019).