Thursday 26 February 2015

Centre for Law & Information Policy #CLIP Launch!

These notes make up the first part of the IALS Centre for Law & Information Policy on Tuesday 24th February. The theme was ‘Information flows and dams’. The Centre itself is looking to advance research across the area of data access and ownership rights, data privacy and confidentiality, freedom of information, legal publishing (both free-to-internet and commercial), preservation and management of legal information, internet and social media regulation (in terms of content, access, and ownership) and the malicious use and misuse of data. It aims to build networks and encourage collaboration. 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Don’t Free Citizens Need The Right To Be Forgotten?

Last night saw the inaugural debate of the new Legal Debate Series organised by Thomson Reuters. It was a timely discussion around the highly contentious issue of an individual's right to control their own digital footprint and legacy. On May 13 2014 the ECJ backed the 'Right to be forgotten' and ruled that individuals can request that Google and other search engines remove links to 'inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant personal data'. The blurb continued, 'the implications for search engines, social media operators and in fact, any business with EU operations are huge'. Having already written about litigation and data protection, I was interested to hear if anything new could be brought to the debate.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Anticipating research needs; or being there from pitch to party

Old and New Clare Style
Collyer Bristow is home to a long-standing art gallery which presents the best and most interesting contemporary art, whether by up-and-coming or more established artists. Our current show is by Anne Howeson. She works with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prints that are copied on to drawing paper, which she transforms by rubbing away, and making additions with paint. So a bucolic printed view of tile kilns on old Maiden Lane (now York Way) becomes overlaid with a modern glass fronted office block. This uncanny mix reminds us of the fluidity of London’s architecture, past, present and future.

What does this exhibition have to do with knowledge management and legal information? Surprisingly, more than you might initially think. One of the speakers at an event held in conjunction with this show was Jeremy Smith, an archivist from London Metropolitan Archives. Obviously Anne is a devotee of London’s archives because of their collections of prints, which provide the underlying inspiration for her work. Jeremy was proud that archives were becoming increasingly popular with artists, but admitted that this show was rare because he was able to see the end product of a user's research.

Monday 9 February 2015

'Poky pigges and stynkynge makerels': Food standards and urban health in medieval England

  • The owner of a filthy bakery in Norwich has been fined after inspectors discovered mouse droppings, out of date meat, and grime caked on to the floors inside.
  • Loose rodent bait was found in the flour store, mould was seen growing on the ceiling, and a hole in the roof had been given a 'bodge job' repair - with a bucket used to catch the drips

I wouldn't normally start a post with a quote from the Daily Mail but it illustrates Professor Carole Rawcliffe's seminar on food standards and urban health in medieval England very well. Not only that but much of her archival research is Norfolk based so there is contiguity. There is a misconception that medieval cooks and food-sellers smothered their food with spices to disguise the taste of rotten meat or fish; Carole dismissed this out of hand. She was also scathing of the 1930s' William Edward Mead who said;

The helplessness of our ancestors in the presence of diseases now almost entirely extirpated in civilised communities by means of intelligence sanitation is indeed one of the most striking differences between mediaeval times and our own 

As she went on to explain, not only were there rules and regulations governing the cleanliness and freshness of food markets, but laws regarding weight and measures, all of which were enforced locally and efficiently. Punishments for selling bad meat or bread were extremely harsh - for reasons that I shall come on to. Not only that but designs for market locations and buildings were carefully considered so that they could be as hygienic as possible. Taken as a whole, and combined with the delightful modern bakery mentioned above, Mead's quote can be dispatched to historic oblivion.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Materiality of Art: Or is computer art, art?

It's rare that any lecture fails to spark a meteor shower of ideas but just occasionally I'm caught off guard. The LSE arranged an event to explore philosophical issues about art, and ask whether computer artworks are physical objects? Do they really qualify as art? The speaker Margaret Boden is Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Sussex. I'd never seriously considered the more intellectual arguments about what constitutes 'art' and it also fitted in well with one of the German sessions of the Dresden conference which had focused on modern examples of mirabilia. I obviously hadn't written up that session so felt this was a good opportunity to synchronise some images and notes.

It's a good job I had some mental images of computer art because Boden provided no slides; 'she isn't into technology'. Was it wrong that alarm bells immediately started ringing? I don't paint with oils but I know how they feel, smell, am aware of their texture and understand their material 'paintiness'. I am no computer programmer but have a reasonable understanding of the architecture which sits behind the screen. My knowledge of marquetry is restricted to memories of my father and his woodwork, as well as reading how to guides, so I know about grain, colour, texture, symbolism. Historians of art require insight into the materiality of the objects they are studying, otherwise how do you understand the challenges that face the artist? It is telling that despite my linguistic incapabilities, I gleaned far more from Verena Kuni's visual presentation than Margaret Boden's words - pretty much the way when dealing with art!