The conference was really interesting, and quite political. Lots of talk of combatting fake news and a keynote from the ACLU. It was also quite a diverse conference, I thought, and the topic of diversity came up again and again. A lot of people thinking very hard about the sheer scale of getting ‘everyone’ involved in open knowledge.
I mused* on 2 things:
Someone presented some research indicating that women who contribute to Wikipedia do not only edit on ‘women’s topics’ or female biographies. That was not a shock as women, notoriously, are interested in all kinds of topics. But it does mean that getting more female editors does not automatically increase the coverage of our under represented bios.
There was some interesting findings with regard to images. It seems that the images available in Wikimedia Commons to represent people in roles and professions disproportionately portray men in those roles. Even when the profession in question is traditionally female dominated.
The connection between these two I think, must draw upon the same theory of ‘unconscious bias’ as our recruitment training does. Men and women both tend to think that men are more appropriate in professional roles, and more notable for biographies. Unconsciously, even when we pay attention, we may fall foul of our bias.
Much inspired by it all, I return to my main hobby of creating and improving women’s bios. This week I wrote about Prunella Briance, founder of the NCT and Sheila Kitzinger. I felt brave and added a picture of actual breastfeeding to Kitzinger’s page. I think she would have wanted that. Briance, Kitzinger and the NCT fought the good fight to allow women to breastfeed without fear, even in public.
Some people have asked if we are going to have subtiles on our lecture recordings as default. The answer is no, but I’d be keen to hear creative ideas on how we could do it. ….. Any ideas which cost less than $3m per year are welcome.
Students with disabilities are, we hope, one of the groups which will most benefit from lecture recording. That is however, quite a diverse group, with a wide range of individual needs, with a variety of existing support in place. Disability Services supported our initial business case with their own papers and contribute to discussions on our policy task group. Accessibility use cases were included in our procurement and selection so we are confident that we chose a good solution from a knowledgeable supplier with a large HE user community.
Our approach is based on being widely flexible and enabling choices of formats and pedagogy. The draft lecture recording policy states that recordings are primarily an additional resource, rather than a substitute for attendance, so the recording and slides provide the ‘alternative format’ to enhance the accessibility of a live-delivered lecture.
Some lecturers’ notes and slides provide considerable text to support the recorded audio. Replay recordings will support a wide range of accessibility and inclusivity needs – visually impaired; dyslexia and other similar; various autism spectrum disorders; students who for a number of mental health reasons may find physical attendance overwhelming; students for whom English is not their first language, those who struggle with complex technical terms or latin translations, those who experience debilitating anxiety as a result of missing classes. Where students have a schedule of adjustments that includes having a scribe in class with them, a recording will help the scribe clarify and areas of subject specific terminology.
We are running training sessions for all staff on how to make accessible PowerPoint presentations, often it is the use of .ppt which has the greatest impact on accessibility. Replay itself includes good keyboard controls for the video player, integration with JAWS screen reader software, tab-accessible page navigation and a high contrast user interface.
Recording lectures will require academic staff to use microphones – we know practice is currently patchy. So the act of making a recording can improve accessibility for those in the room even if they never replay the video. We are also introducing dozens more Catchbox microphones to catch more student contributions in the recording.
The Replay video experiments with chalk boards will considerably enhance accessibility for students at the back of the lecture theatre with the ability to ‘zoom in’.
For students using ISG services our service level is as consistent across all of our learning technologies as we can make it. Replay recordings will be made available in a closed VLE environment, alongside eReserve texts from the library, PDF and Word documents, lecture slides etc. Any of these digital artefacts can be requested in an alternative format as part of supporting reasonable adjustments. In the case of the lecture recording this could be supplying a transcript or subtitles. For other artefacts it could be supplying in a larger font, or converting written text into audio format. We don’t pre-judge what the required adjustment might be in any of these cases.
With regard to transcripts/subtitles specifically:
Our experience is that automated speech to text although improving, is not fully there yet. And costs remain prohibitive, so transcripts or subtitles are not automated in the lecture recording system.
Specialist language in lectures remain tricky and are often subtitled badly. It is also difficult for the transcription to discern whether the lecturer is quoting, reading, muttering or joking. The kind of ‘performance’ and content some of our colleagues deliver would need a highly nuanced translation. All UK HE struggles with this challenge and colleagues are anxious that their speech is not misrepresented by a poor quality subtitle which might be more confusing for learners.
Even supposed ‘100% accurate human-mediated subtitling’ is not 100% and often requires a proof-read or edit from the speaker. In some cases colleagues are willing to take on this extra work, for others it is seen as a major barrier.
That said, we have purchased, as part of our bundle, 100 hours of human-mediated subtitling and transcripts ( 99% accurate) and 900 hours of machine speech to text ( approx. 70% accurate). The current planned use cases for this would be:
• where profoundly deaf students request a transcript;
• where the recordings are not a substitute, but in fact a primary delivery mechanism (e.g distance learning);
• where colleagues are publishing and sharing recordings of their lectures publicly online as open educational resources.
• Where a student with mobility difficulties has been unable to access the venue.
As part of the policy consultation over the coming year we may be able to encourage colleagues to make audio and video recordings downloadable so that students can use their own technology to make transcripts.
For the future:
If, as a result of scaling up recording, we find there is a large additional requirement for transcripts we have a number of options:
• If the institutional commitment to spending is there, we can integrate the third party supplier of our choice. For 50,000 hours of recordings each semester that would be approx $3m per semester.
• We can retain more high quality transcription services. This may need to be recharged to Schools to recover costs – capping costs would be difficult
• We can look into involving more colleagues in using their personalised, trained ‘speech to text’ tools to create transcripts.
• We are working with colleagues in Informatics to stay aware of the most up to date speech to text technologies.
• We can spend much less than $3m per semester paying students an hourly rate to transcribe lectures in their discipline.
University archive colleagues have been incredibly kind and spent time with me looking through his photos. Apparently there is some genuine interest in the history of electron microscopy and molecular biology these days.
The estate of Dr Peter Highton will be happy to donate whatever we have in our cupboards.
I can’t claim any connection with Stella Cartwright, but I created a Wikipedia page for her. I learned about her last night at an event at The Scottish National Galleries: Beyond Artemisia: Women Artists Brought into the Light.
Last year at an event organised by Scottish National Galleries around their ‘Modern Scottish Women’ exhibition I created a page for Anne Finlay.
One of the things both these women have in common is that their biographies include a number of ‘affairs’ with the (more famous, and often married) men in their circle.
Anne has a considerable body of work. The challenge with Stella is to consider whether being a muse, but not an artist in ones own right, is a notable enough contribution to warrant a page. Stella is mentioned in a number of citable sources, but her role is as an inspiration for the work of others. She had an impact on their lives and work, but their pages perhaps do not mention her…..
I am sensitive to the arguments made by Hilary Mantel, that we should not retrospectively make the women in our stories strong and independent, but I do think some of them deserve to be named as notable*.
I have made links for Stella to University of Edinburgh Library archives, and to published articles and resources. I hope that her story will stand the scrutiny of my fellow Wikipedia editors. The page has already been reviewed, so that is good. But the category I created for ‘muse’ has been deleted.
* When I first started editing Wikipedia, when ‘AdaLovelace Day” was being invented, it is worth remembering that most of the discussion behind the scenes on Ada’s page was about the relative worth of her contribution to the work of the better known Babbage.
First of all I’m reading ‘Discover’ magazine from National Library of Scotland. In it there’s an article about Edith Simon. I remember Edith Simon. I look her up in Wikipedia. She has a mere stub of a page. I’m thinking it needs some development and presumably the nice ‘open images ‘ policy at NLS will free up some lovely artwork to include.
Then I ask my excellent mother: ‘How do I know Edith Simon?‘
‘ She was fabulous, Jewish, and she made beautiful paper-cut portraits of your child-hood friends, when they were young, before they died of CF ‘ is the reply.
Her obit says:
‘The qualities of intense discipline, exuberant delight in the world of flesh and objects, and sheer graphic ability involved in these productions are rare enough individually. She had them all, together with considerable intellectual power, literary gifts, charm and a mordant wit. She was striking in appearance, trenchant in her views and generous to the young and those in need. ‘
I can’t add that picture to the wikipedia page because the licence belongs to her daughter Antonia Reeve, but I’m still hoping the NLS will liberate some great images for this fabulous woman.
Feel free to join on in and add or edit for Edith.
If you have ever visited our meeting rooms on Floor E you will have been immersed in an installation by Fabienne Hess.
This installation of images on the glass walls of our meeting rooms in Argyle House is a whole work by Hess, she was commissioned as part of the refurbishment the office spaces to create a work featuring images of existing objects of University collections. Her work exploring the University of Edinburgh’s Collections has spanned across several years and she features in current displays at The Talbot Rice. The process of digitizing, which started in the summer of 2012, has involved photographing almost 25,000 diverse items, from ancient manuscripts to musical instruments, anatomical drawings to historic maps. Throughout the process Fabienne has also created a series of ‘sub-collections’- these groupings, put together in arbitrary themes such as those images containing a red dot, those featuring a person raising an arm, a triangular shape, a certain shade of blue, create a fascinating set of ‘new’ collections. One of these new collections is the installation you are in. Did you notice?
In addition to more editing and inspired by Kirsty, I am also looking forward to hosting an intern, in conjunction with colleagues in Centre for Research Collections to look at the metadata which describes our images so that the women ( and others) are more easily found!
I created a Wikipedia page for Ruth Adler, because I saw her on Ewan’s list of ‘women in red’ (women notable enough to need Wikipedia pages but yet have none). I remember Ruth from my childhood in Edinburgh. Her kids went to the same school as me. She was also prominent in many of the causes in which my mother was involved and her name was mentioned in our house many times.
In creating the page I learned how impressive she really was and how much she did. I’m pleased University of Edinburgh recognise her.
We have welcomed some excellent speakers as part of our commitment to raising understanding of equality and diversity issues in our workplace. It has been particularly interesting to have academic colleagues present the most up to date data from their research and describe how their work influences public policy development in Scotland.
Our speakers this year have been Barbara Melville (Equate Scotland) on the language of job ads; Morna Simpson introducing Girl Geek Scotland; Professor Sheila Riddell (Chair in Inclusion and Diversity) on disability data and employment and Dr Tom Callard (UoE Business School) on managerial perspectives. ISG directors have also considered initiatives for apprenticeships, ‘Women Returners’ projects and we have become an institutional sponsor of Geek Girl Scotland.
For our next event the PlayFair Steps team have partnered with Fathers Network Scotland – a national charity who specialise in creating dad-friendly workplaces – to facilitate a short focus group specifically for ISG. Research has consistently shown that one of the key groups missing from discussions on gender equality are fathers in the workplace. Dads at work also need to feel supported in combining their work with their family commitments. This focus group will explore the key areas in which you believe could be addressed at work to support work-life balance.
We have also recently announced the appointment of the new Director of Software Development and Application. There will now be three ( that’s three!) women at Director level. I think that might be a record.