Prizes Announcement

We are delighted to announce that the following CityLIS graduates have been awarded prizes for the outstanding quality of work they produced in the field of Library and Information Science.

Bethany Ruth Sherwood has been awarded the Best Student Prize. This prize is awarded annually to the graduating student with the best overall performance on the LIS course. The prize is worth £100.

Alexander Andrew Bell has been awarded the Outstanding Project Prize. The prize is worth £100.

Rachel Anne Cummings has been awarded the RT Bottle Prize for her outstanding dissertation contributing to professional practice. The title of Rachel’s dissertation in ‘Documenting Fashion: The Documentation and Preservation of Fashion Pieces’. 

Finally, Anna Gialdini has been awarded the Catherine Hamilton Prize for the most outstanding Masters dissertation in the broad area of information retrieval or electronic text management. The prize is worth £250 and is administered on City’s behalf by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).

Congratulations to all of our fantastic alumni!

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Scary Stories on the Web: How does Digital Folklore Trick its Readers?

***Harper Arnold argues that the Creepypasta phenomenon shows how internet narratives blur the line between fiction and reality. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission as part of our CityLIS Writes initiative. Harper is on Twitter @HarperArnold2***

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““Darkness after all, is the unseen and therefore the unknown…And what could inspire fear more than the terror of uncertainty?” – Dr. Hill, Until Dawn” – The quote displayed on the Creepypasta Wiki (April 17, 2020)

There’s a multitude of information available on the Internet, and some of it is true, some of it is not, and some of it is partly true and partly not. In this paper, we’ll examine the way authorless narratives can manipulate their readers into believing the unbelievable. By examining how readers trust these narratives, we can also examine how and why certain information is believed or beloved in the digital era. We’ll be examining a very popular type of Internet narrative: Creepypastas, which are original short horror stories posted to forums on the Internet. The term “Creepypasta” comes from the term copypasta, which is a portmanteau of copy and paste (Balanzategui, 2019), and reflects the viral and sharing potential of these horror stories. Although fictional, these stories often purposely blend elements of reality and the uncanny to create a twilight narrative. While often rooted in the real world, or having various aspects that make it appear so, the main plot elements of these stories are almost always completely fictional. Oftentimes the stories are told in a way that preys on the anonymity of the Internet. This is why scholars have dubbed Creepypastas “digital folklore”: “Creepypasta stories deliberately embed such informal circuits of production, consumption, and dissemination into their generic form as a marker of folkloric authenticity. Initially, Creepypasta stories tended to constellate around particular images and consist of anecdotes or rituals with roots in pre-digital urban legends, echoing chain emails and early memes…They now tend to be more complex, often collaboratively authored narratives that resonate with some of the most significant cultural anxieties of the contemporary digital moment (Balanzategui, 2019)”. Creepypastas are also reminiscent of urban legends for the same reason they’re like folklore: the stories are presented in such a way to purposely make the reader unsure about what is true. This type of internet narrative can often subvert every traditional way of valuing information, simply because it’s anonymous roots and various iterations leave it up to the reader to decide what is real and what is not. By examining and deconstructing a particular Creepypasta story, we’ll begin to see how digital folklore purposely tricks its readers. Then we’ll examine the real-life effects of Creepypasta stories, as well as more modern iterations of digital folklore, and finish by discussing how and why these stories are so pervasive and believable.

The story we’ll be examining is titled “Lavender Town Syndrome”, a story whose origins are so murky that there are competing narratives about the first website it was even published on: it might be Pastebin (Hernandez, 2016) or 99chan (Hathaway, 2015). Either way, it’s agreed that the story was published sometime around summer of 2010 and that the author is titled under “anonymous” or “guest”. The basics of the story are constructed around a fictional narrative surrounding the game Pokémon “Red” and “Green”, released in in the mid-90’s. The story, in its most “original” form, is about children who, after playing the game, commit atrocities or kill themselves. This violence is linked to the song used in a section of the game titled “Lavender Town”, which uses tonal beats that only children can hear, and which instructs them to act horrifically. This is how the story gained the title “Lavender Town Syndrome”, even though that’s not the original title of the story (the first being Decoding the mystery of “Lavender Town Syndrome” and the “Lavender Tone” (2010)). The writing of the story is convincingly real, with the narrator acting as a sort of detective or journalist and using reports and interviews to piece together the mystery surrounding Lavender Town. There is a character called Ms. Harue, who is the interviewee, and who has an update dedicated to her at the end of the story stating that she died from Leukemia on “May 3rd, 2001” (Decoding the mystery of “Lavender Town Syndrome” and the “Lavender Tone”, 2010). All of this, of course, is fictional. However, the story itself is not taken to be fictional even within online communities: it’s been called a “conspiracy” in a Black Bag article (Hathaway, 2015), an “urban legend” in a Life Wire article (Oxford, 2019), a “myth” in a Kotaku article (Hernandez, 2016), and a “theory” in a Youtube video published by TheGamerFromMars (and has, as of writing, over 2.3 million views) (2011). Yet, the story, although with murky origins and authorless, is proven to be fictional in basically every account one can find. So why does it persist as something more concrete than just a horror story posted on a forum board?

Although fictional, almost every major plot point of Decoding the mystery of “Lavender Town Syndrome” and the “Lavender Tone” is based on a real life instance. There was indeed a “Lavender Town” level in a Pokémon game, but it wasn’t the “Red” and “Green” version, but rather, the “Red” and “Blue” versions (Strategy Wiki, 2020). Most obviously borrowed from real life, the “Lavender Tone” is music played while in the Lavender Town level, and is considered quite unsettling. The music was written about online even before the story came out, back in 2005, as a prime example of “depressing game music (Hathaway, 2015)”. The music reflects the storyline of Lavender Town, which is a place where Pokémon go to be buried (Hernandez, 2016). This is quite a jarring storyline, and is the first mention in of Pokémon actually being able to die. The level then centers on the player climbing a Tower, in which a crazed spirit is haunting, and also where a bunch of Trainers are mourning their recently deceased Pokémon. And although the “Lavender Tone” has been proven to not actually give kids headaches or drive them to suicide, the weird music coupled with the dark story elements has given a basis to the half-believable story that surrounds it. This use of childhood nostalgia and subsequent trauma is not a new element in Creepypastas: as Jessica Balanzategui writes about another Creeypasta ‘Candle Cove’, which centers on recollection of a children’s television program in the 70’s, “The gradual revelation of the sinister underside to childhood experience exposes the uncanniness inherent in nostalgia, by suggesting that lurking within fondly recalled childhood pasts are technological ghosts in the nursery that only fully reveal themselves to conscious thought in adulthood (2019).” This use of a childhood memory, i.e. playing or remembering Pokémon, is often fodder for these internet-based stories and conspiracies simply because memory is so faulty, and some childhood memories are only understood once adulthood is reached. Who’s to say that the ‘Candle Cove’ television show didn’t exist? Or that one level, ‘Lavender Town’, didn’t cause prolonged traumatic effects in the children who heard its music? This is another reason these stories are digital folklore: they take a commonly held experience and question its validity. These stories also whisper questions to the reader, asking whether they really remember the past like it was. As Balanzategui also points out, the use of analogue technology better enhances the mystique of the Creepypasta, since who still has an original Game Boy laying around with the Pokémon game mentioned in the story to test it out?

In an example of reality is stranger than fiction, another element of the story taken from real-life instances are the harm the game caused kids. However, it was the Pokémon television show, and not the game, that caused health issues:

“On the evening of December 16, 1997, millions of people all over Japan gathered in their homes to watch Pokemon (episode #38). About 20 minutes into the program there was a scene of a rocket explosion that flashed red and blue lights at a rate of about 12 times per second. This explosion scene was mixed with about five seconds of flashing lights from the eyes of “Pikachu,” a popular Pokemon character. Suddenly, viewers started to complain of blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and nausea. Some people even had seizures, convulsions and lost consciousness. A total of 685 children…were taken to hospitals by ambulances. Although many children recovered during the ambulance trip, more than 150 of them were admitted to hospitals (Chudler, 2000).”

The flashing red and blue lights, coupled with the fast speed, triggered kids with photosensitive epilepsy. Interestingly enough, 12,000 kids actually reported the same symptoms, but the majority of those cases have been chocked down to mass hysteria (Rogers, 2017). With just a stretch of imagination it’s easy to see how seizures and headaches caused by an innocent TV show could turn into something far more sinister in its accompanying video games.

There are other misleading elements to the story to make it seem more realistic: the investigative journalist tone, the interviews conducted in Japanese that make it difficult to fact check for those who can’t read Kanji (Hernandez, 2016), and the time gap of the incident happening over 20 years ago leading to many elements being unverifiable. But even though the story has certain believable narrative devices, at the heart of it all, it is just a story. So why do online communities persist in calling labeling it as something more than it really is? As we’ve seen, the story is written is such a way to make it half-believable, including the well known Pokémon franchise games and coupling real-life elements caused by the television show, but there are other reasons horror stories and Creepypastas are so hard to disbelieve.

Creepypastas have a history of subverting traditional ways of valuing information, especially since their anonymity makes for easier collaboration, and by inserting half-truths (as seen in the Lavender Town Syndrome) as a way to play with believability. As Balanzategui has stated, Creepypastas had their origin in simple images usually echoing chain emails or early memes, an example being ‘Smile Dog’ [2008] which was a ‘cursed image’ that readers were encouraged to circulate to avoid the curse (2019). Although chain emails and texts may have little bearing on a person’s day-to-day life, these are prime examples of how stories begin to take root in a non-traditional narrative form, i.e., an often work-related communication chain such as an email, or personal communication chains such as a text message. These non-traditional ways of communicating information can be misleading at best and tragic at worst: in 2014, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa and Morgan, lured their friend, Payton, into the woods near their Wisconsin homes and stabbed her 19 times in the hopes of appeasing Slender Man, another Creepypasta character. Payton survived, and although the other two girls have since been committed to staying in a mental health facilities, and they clearly weren’t in their right mind, they both strongly believed that Slender Man wanted them to kill their friend (Janes, 2019). Morgan and Anissa later reported that, after the stabbing, they ran off into the woods to try to meet Slender Man and find his ‘mansion’. It’s easy to dismiss this case as an extension of deteriorating mental health in these two tweens (Morgan was later diagnosed with schizophrenia (Janes, 2019)), but it points to an interesting, and perhaps problematic, way of story dissemination. As discussed before, stories like Lavender Town are often purposely acting like the narratives are real, but the format of Creepypastas are often framed like they’re literally real. Many read like a Reddit post or like a Yahoo Answers question, with some tagging ‘based on a true story’ (which is always, conveniently, unverifiable). Even looking in the comments section of the Creepypasta Wiki there are always users questioning how true certain Creepypasta stories are (Creepypasta Wiki, 2020), and many of these comments are certainly written by children. There is rarely any disclaimer on the Creepypasta Wiki that states everything is fictional, and this became a point of contention in the moral dilemma following the Slender Man stabbing attack: “…in response to the extensive public outcry, the Creepypasta Wiki (2017)…released a statement on its homepage declaring in capitals that “ALL WORKS PRESENTED ON THIS WIKI…ARE FICTIONAL STORIES AND CHARACTERS (Plunkett, 2014) (as cited by Balanzategui, 2019).” The statement went further on to read, “Of course, only a small minority of people (mostly newcomers) on the wiki (and the Internet) truly believe what they read here. And for most people, they will not attempt replicate atrocities presented in some of the literature on the wiki (as cited by Plunkett, 2014)”. The Creepypasta Wiki is right in the sense that they are a literature site, but they are not correct in thinking that digital folklore (especially without warnings) isn’t convincing enough for children and the uninitiated to believe. Also, this statement is no longer on the homepage, and the current statement can be found at the start of this paper.

Moreover, with a lack of authorship comes lack of responsibility. Even the Slender Man story has an “author” of sorts: Eric Knudsen (alias “Victor Surge”), who posted a photo of Slender Man on a “Create Paranormal Images” thread on website Something Awful (Mar, 2019). However, the difference between authorship in analogue documents and the infosphere becomes self-evident, as Knudsen, who does technically own the rights to Slender Man, wasn’t actually much involved with spreading the tale. It was other artists, writers, screenwriters, video game developers, and fans, which really spread the legend. Creepypastas almost always tend to be collaborative, with some stories being controversial in origin (i.e., multiple people have claimed be the originators of the monster ‘Jeff the Killer’ (Creepypasta Wiki, 2020). This makes it very difficult for any one story to be attributed to an author, and often lessens the ‘authenticity’ of the story if it can be traced to a singular source. For this reason, lack of authorship and collaborative endeavors are often the norm of digital folklore, and this is why they can be believed easier than a novel or article.

Creepypastas are also evolving into narratives that aren’t even intended to be Creepypastas. For example, one of the most famous, and maybe the first, Twitter thread that turned into a horror story was the ‘Dear David’ thread posted by writer Adam Ellis. The thread consisted of Ellis tweeting about a ghost boy named David who was haunting him. The interesting thing about this thread is that Ellis still maintains it was completely real, even with the nearly unbelievable “photos” he caught of David. Ellis archived this entire thread on Wakelet to make for easy reading (Ellis, 2018), and, after selling the movie rights, has since stopped giving regular updates to the Dear David story (Fishbein, 2018). Although Ellis maintains the veracity of his story, the narrative has switched and commentators are now taking the whole thread to just be a fictional story (Fishbein, 2018). This is one story that went from the “potentially real” realm to a place where others thought it was at least a hoax, if not an outright lie to gain followers (Ellis gained around one million followers after his Dear David story gained traction (Fishbein, 2018)). If it was just a story, Ellis was exploiting the vulnerability of believable Twitter users who took his story at face value, and in the process demonstrating how easy and beneficial it can be to make a story seem real, even if it has every element that should detract believers.
So how are Creepypasta stories valued by their readers? The real conclusion is that it depends on who’s reading. Especially as stories become more ambiguous and anonymous on the Internet, and sources all across the board become less trusted, these stories are giving the reader more power to believe or disbelieve them. Creepypasta authors, and other forum board members, don’t usually take any responsibility for the effects of their stories, and the Creepypasta Wiki seems to rarely make a concerted effort to warn young readers from believing in these fictional stories. By looking at Internet horror stories and digital folklore, we can begin to see how much people put their trust into online discourses written by strangers. Trusting internet information blindly is becoming the norm, with Kalev Leetaru writing for Forbes, “Instead of browsing a small carefully curated set of high quality informational streams, our online citizenry are thrown into an ocean of almost limitless low-quality information, forced to expend considerable effort to forage for the rare bit of insight (2019).” Although fictional narratives published on the Internet wouldn’t traditionally be discussed in a digital literacy conversation, as we’ve seen before with the Adam Ellis Twitter thread, there are times when even the most unbelievable information is asked to be believed. Especially as a collaborative endeavor, and an oft-anonymous endeavor, these types of digital folklore create a world of information with no attempt to clarify the truth. These types of narratives obscure their sources and origins, and displace the decision-making from the originator to the reader. Who’s to say what’s real and what’s not? Well, in the digital age, it’s all left up to who’s reading.

Resources

Balanzategui, J. (2019) ‘Creepypasta, ‘Candle Cove’, and the digital gothic’, Journal of Visual Culture, 18(2), pp. 187-208.

Chudler, E. H. (2000) Pokemon on the Brain. Available at: https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/pokemon.html (Accessed 10 March 2020).

Creepypasta Wiki (2020) Creepypasta Wiki Home. Available at: https://creepypasta.fandom.com/wiki/Creepypasta_Wiki (Accessed 17 April 2020).

Decoding the mystery of “Lavender Town Syndrome” and the “Lavender Tone” (2010) Available at: https://pastebin.com/K5BPcN1Z (Accessed 28 March 2020).

Ellis, D. (2018) Dear David. Available at: https://wakelet.com/wake/e6275d03-7bce-4789-9961-f3a04723cc71 (Accessed 19 April 2020).

Fishbein, R. (2018) How Did “Dear David” End? The Movie About Adam Ellis’s Infamous Ghost Boy Has A Lot Of Questions To Answer. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/p/how-did-dear-david-end-the-movie-about-adam-elliss-infamous-ghost-boy-has-a-lot-of-questions-to-answer-9339835 (Accessed 19 April 2020).

Hathaway, J. (2015) Lavender Town: The Bizarre Pokémon Child-Suicide Conspiracy Theory. Available at: http://blackbag.gawker.com/lavender-town-the-bizarre-pokemon-child-suicide-conspi-1690396450 (Accessed 6 April 2020).

Hernandez, P. (2016) Pokémon’s Creepy Lavender Town Myth, Explained. Available at: https://kotaku.com/pokemons-creepy-lavender-town-myth-explained-1651851621 (Accessed 20 March 2020).

Janes, D. (2019) The Complete Timeline and True Story Behind the Slender Man Stabbing. Available at: https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/tv-movies/a29591703/slender-man-stabbing-true-story/ (Accessed 19 April 2020).

Leetaru, K. (2019) Why Do We Believe What We Read On The Internet? Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2019/04/18/why-do-we-believe-what-we-read-on-the-internet/#6310fb77383a (Accessed 27 April 2020).

Mar, A. (2017) Into the woods: how online urban legend Slender Man inspired children to kill. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/07/slender-man-into-the-woods-how-an-online-bogeyman-inspired-children-to-kill (Accessed: 19 April 2020).

Oxford, N. (2019) What’s Pokémon’s Lavender Town Syndrome? Available at: https://www.lifewire.com/lavender-town-syndrome-1126184 (Accessed 6 April 2020).

Plunkett, L. (2014) Creepypasta Wiki issues statement saying Slender Man isn’t real. Available at: https://kotaku.com/creepypasta-had-to-issue-a-statement-saying-slender-man-1585713079 (Accessed 4 May 2020).

Pokémon Red and Blue/Lavender Town (2020) Available at: https://strategywiki.org/Pokémon_Red_and_Blue/Lavender_Town (Accessed 21 April 2020).

Rogers, K. (2017) Did ‘Pokemon’ Actually Give Kids Seizures In the 90s?. Available at: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/59mnax/did-pokemon-actually-give-kids-seizures-in-the-90s (Accessed 12 April 2020).

TheGamerFromMars (2011) The Lavender Town Theory. 12 October. Available at: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=de3cONeaR_8 (Accessed 6 April 2020).

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Modern forms of publishing include writing blogs and posting diverse content on social media. In this context, how do library and/or information services relate to questions of identity in the twenty-first century?

***Elle Moyse considers how Web 2.0 reconfigures our sense of identity when it is presented as media. These ideas are discussed with reference to online journalism, blogging and social media. Elle is on Twitter @ElleMoyse. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission as part of our CityLIS Writes initiative***

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Introduction
The publishing world has been shaken with the arrival of Web 2.0 platforms that allow the role of the consumer and producer to combine into one. To elaborate on exactly what Web 2.0 is Bawden and Robinson (2008:7) define the innovation of Web 2.0 as the emergence of websites such as blogs, wikis and social networks, which facilitate shared information, creation, and community. In this sphere, quality, valued content is being produced that often rivals traditional published media. In fact, many information consumers rely on web platforms alone for their retrieval of news and political content. In this context, questions of identity are prevalent, both because of the manner in which we shape our identities via our consumption of media, and the way in which we choose to present our identities in the online sphere. Navigating and making sense of the information within these types of texts requires Library and Information professionals to rethink our current ideas around information and media literacy to include how to evaluate and make sense of these new forms of published works.

In this essay, I will be examining how Library and Information services contribute to questions of identity that arise with the arrival of modern forms of publishing within the Web 2.0 landscape. In this, I will focus on new-media journalism disseminated via blogging platforms, as well as the spread of news and political content via social media. First, I will examine how the ‘online self’ is formed through our obsession with social media and social networking platforms. I will look at how identity can be performed and managed in the online, and how this contributes to a lack of clarity and authenticity in the infosphere. In this, the de-individualization of the author in the online sphere, as well as anonymity, will be examined. Finally, I will investigate how these questions of identity that arise in the online contribute to a need for Library and Information services to develop a new kind of digital and media literacy that enables information users to assess information holistically, with these modern forms of publishing in mind.

Social Media, Social Networks and the Self
Social media is an overarching figure in the modern landscape, not only does it permeate the lives of those who engage in it, it is for many of us – particularly millennials (Talib, 2018:55) our main source through which we consume media content. In fact, social media is so integral to the way in which we live our lives and shape our identities that the
majority of young people admit to checking their phone within minutes of waking up each day (Greenwood et al., 2016). Whilst we live our offline lives separately, it is greatly influenced by our online experiences. In the infosphere we are producing and consuming micro-narratives which represent an externalised stream of consciousness, changing and developing our social selves and how we interact with society (Floridi, 2014:62). Web 2.0 platforms allow users and consumers a newfound freedom to play and experiment with identity – in maintaining an online presence, one can choose exactly how much and how little they reveal. Those who produce and consume content, whether the content is a personal Twitter feed or a reputable journalistic blog, navigate a sphere in which identity and communities are negotiated, managed, and performed (Vallor, 2012). In this, a new ethical space is opened up and questions of authenticity and reliability are all the more pressing.

The idea of identity being a performance in the infosphere is an important one, especially when it comes to answering the ethical dilemmas at the heart of Library and Information studies – such as accessing information and sensemaking. Floridi (2014:73) refers to the “digital gaze” to emphasise the concept of identities online being managed and performed. Through the digital gaze, the self gazes upon itself through the proxy of the digital medium, which in turn provides only a partial and specific reflection. The danger of the digital gaze is that it imposes external and alien rules onto the construction of one’s own identity (Floridi, 2014:74). In the online world, we can choose to construct our identities from the bottom up, and in the offline world our identities are strongly tied to those we create and live out online. Online content producers negotiate these boundaries with each upload, controlling their disclosure and participation in the infosphere (Greenland, 2013:221). The media that we choose to consume online can have a significant effect on our offline identities, including our citizenship and participation behaviour (Pan et al., 2017). Therefore, what we choose to consume is incredibly significant. More traditional forms of publishing often undergo thorough research and editing before the information reaches the public. In the online world, anyone can produce, and anyone can consume. That is not to say that traditional media forms are inherently reliable or authentic, however, it is significant to note the difference in production. Digital identity is intimately linked with media literacy in this context (Lange, 2014:216), if the internet is a stage and we are the performers – how do we know what is real?

Consumption, Production, and Authorship in the Digital Age
Not only has the adoption of Web 2.0 platforms allowed information citizens to create virtual lives that run parallel with their offline identities (Gunter, 2008:197), identity is deindividualized in the infosphere and we often view ourselves and our social network contacts as representatives of a group rather than their own unique persons (Parnell, 2008:46). This is an especially interesting idea when it comes to digital authorship. It is incredibly common to consume the majority, if not all, of one’s news and political content from blogs and social media sources. In this context, the identity of the author is often anonymised or deindividualized due to the way in which information is spread and filtered through sources before it meets each recipient. In 1969 Foucault (1998) was beginning to voice ideas around authorship and deindividualization, predicting that the author function would soon disappear. In the digital age, specifically within the context of blogs and social media publishing, the idea of the ‘author’ is well on its way out. This, of course, has consequences for the way information is disseminated and received, for if no one is responsible, no one can be held accountable.

Social media and blogging platforms are an innovation in modern publishing as they have combined the role of information producers and consumers into one – often referred to as a ‘prosumer’ (Vanwynsberghe et al., 2015; Gunter, 2008). The way in which we interact with social media by delivering and receiving information in this manner has become so intuitive and integral to our daily lives that for many of us reading blogs and social media websites has replaced more traditional forms of published media. Initially blogging platforms or social media websites like YouTube, reached smaller, more niche audiences – content that was posted on these kinds of websites tended to be more personal and produced with a small community of consumers in mind. Now, however, these platforms pose significant threat to ‘traditional media’, with many journalistic blogs and vlogs becoming established news sources (Gunter, 2008:205). Examples of this include ‘The Huffington Post’ and ‘Techcrunch’, which both began as blogs (Aldred et al., 2008).
These modern innovations in publishing are especially interesting as they are de-institutionalised, and the flow and distribution of information is not controlled by media companies (Vanwynsberghe et al., 2015:283). When it comes to receiving news and political data via these mediums, this lack of outside control can be both a positive and a negative. Without outside influence, particularly outside influence that facilitates media texts to exist through money gained from advertisers, broadcasting institutions or publishing agencies, information can be given more freely and with less barriers. However, in the infosphere anyone can be a content producer. Information can be posted straight from the mind of the producer, with no editing or review process in-between, and misinformation spreads like wildfire. Hirst (2019) warns that the “fake news” phenomena is heavily linked to the collapse of the old news media paradigm. Levels of trust in traditional media are falling, which in turn may contribute to the over-reliance on web platforms as a news source. This ideological shift contributes significantly to the spread of “fake news” (Himma-Kadakas, 2017). As a society, we have reason to doubt the authenticity or ‘truthfulness’ of news distributed via traditional forms of publishing. For example, Matis & Danzig’s (2015) research of ‘The Daily Mail’ tabloid articles found several instances of false statistics used to present xenophobic ideals (e.g. “600,000 unemployed migrants living in Britain”). Even the BBC, which is publicly funded and supposedly ‘neutral’, has been involved in supposed media ‘cover-ups’, such as the rumoured cover-up of television presenter Jimmy Savile’s sex offences and child abuse (Whittam Smith, 2012). However, the growing lack of faith we, as a society, have in traditional media, coupled with the implementation of social media as an integral part of our identities and daily routines, means that we may become reliant on sources that are even less trustworthy.

Anonymity and Sensemaking in the Infosphere
Bawden and Robinson (2008:7) refer to the loss of identity and use of anonymity in Web 2.0 platforms as a specific concern to the field of Library and Information Science. The lack of identity inherent in these modern forms of publishing is a considerable threat to the authority of recorded information and validity can be incredibly difficult to access. The ambiguity associated with the online self fits within a complex of debates about the nature of authenticity, trust and reputation that are integral to the discussion of anonymity and pseudonimity in the infosphere. All online identities are to be treated with distrust and need verification (Degroot, 2011), however, at the same time the reliance on text-alone interaction in the infosphere leads to increased self-disclosure and therefore allows for trust to be built amongst online producers and consumers (Page, 2014:47). Underpinning questions of authorship and anonymity in modern publishing forms, is a need for a new kind of digital and media literacy that encompasses and addresses the aforementioned concerns. This is especially relevant as young people, and a growing number of older people, are now displaying a normative use of Web 2.0 technologies in their information gathering habits (Gunter, 2008:205). This manner in which we exist and co-exist in and amongst the infosphere presents the field of Library and Information science with new and confounding questions around digital and media literacy. Subliminal and docile acceptance of media impact turns information consumers into “prisoners” (McLuhan, 1964:6), therefore the ability to question and access information is key. In the context of blogging and social media platforms, identity is blurred and unreliable or dishonest content is easily amplified and spread.

Library and Information Services and Critical Digital Media Literacy
Information spreads fast in the infosphere, anyone can produce as well as consume, and there is often no editorial control. This means that modern forms of publishing, such as social media and blogs, can be difficult to navigate and make sense of. As we live in a neoliberal society in which individual agency is prioritised, the onus is on members of the public to interpret the information they consume (Boyd, 2018). Digital literacy is increasingly discussed, and governments are becoming aware that digital confidence and skills are necessary to benefit their citizens and contribute to society (Fraser & Reedy, 2018:155). Librarians are also increasingly responsible for enabling their patrons to use resources such as social media and blogging platforms (Callahan, 1991). However, there is not just one type of ‘digital literacy’ – to navigate the complex of information we now find ourselves wading through, we must not only learn how to navigate systems, but also how to question and be critical of these systems. In the world of online alternative forms of publishing, a combination of digital literacy and media literacy may be necessary. It is likely that many users will gain experience navigating digital systems outside of a library setting, and for those who cannot, access is readily available in the majority of public libraries (Thorne-Wallington, 2013:54). However, libraries could play a more significant role in developing critical media literacies to enable information citizens to avoid falling into the trap of “fake news” that has become such a phenomenon in online journalism. Bawden and Robinson (2008:9) call for a deeper understanding of human interaction behaviour in order to develop a critical digital literacy that addresses issues such as anonymity and sensemaking. In order to teach users how to question and be critical of information, we first require a more rounded idea of how users interact with these systems.

When it comes to navigating modern forms of publishing, the library and information field must prioritise the sociocultural and analytic aspect of studying and accessing media (Lankshear and Knobel, 2008). A critical digital media literacy is necessary in navigating information presented in blogs and social media. This encourages users to not only question the information they are presented with, but the context in which the digital communication is taking place (Talib, 2018:58). In this, the medium in which the message is being translated through must be considered, as well as questions of authorship, ideology, power, political economy, production, and reception (Funk et al., 2015:3). In decoding the context of an information resource, we can gain greater understanding of the beliefs and biases behind the text and the inherent semiotics of the types of content used to create the message (Kellner, 1998). Boyd (2014) emphasises the importance of building empathy in attempting to make sense of digital information. This means that developing an understanding of why certain individuals and groups may express certain beliefs and ideas, even if these ideas may not align with the user’s own. The extension of empathy onto a critical digital media literacy teaches consumers to analyse contradictions in text, rather than getting stuck in the intention behind the production of said text – which may be less relevant. In actively participating in a knowledge society, learning these critical digital media skills is necessary to make sense of information and access the honesty and validity of information resources. This is especially significant in the post-2016 era of ‘fake news’.

Conclusion
In the modern age, identity is formed through the online via our formative experiences with social media and blogging platforms. These identities can be negotiated as the digital gaze allows us to construct our identities online from the bottom-up. In the infosphere, identity can also be performed and managed. Therefore, navigating modern forms of publishing within this sphere can be difficult as all is not what it seems – authenticity and truthfulness can be difficult to discern. The use of blogging platforms and social media websites to disseminate and receive information, especially news and political information, presents the field of library and information science with new and unique challenges in discerning authenticity, credibility, and authorship. The deindividualization of the author in these modern publishing forms has implications for the way in which information is both interpreted and disseminated. These modern platforms allow online publishers to remain anonymous, therefore they cannot always be held accountable for the content of what they publish.

Information citizens are already beginning to question the old news media paradigm and rely less on traditional forms of media. Traditional media outlets have a chequered history, however, these outlets have somewhat of an ethical responsibility to tell the truth, whereas the internet is the Wild West. In the infosphere, ‘fake news’ spreads significantly faster, and the anonymity inherent in these platforms means that nobody is held accountable for disseminating inaccurate information. An over-reliance on resources in which information may not be edited or fact-checked can be dangerous, therefore the fact that many people rely on Web 2.0 platforms exclusively for receiving their news and political content is worrying. The ambiguity of the online self and a societal reliance on social media platforms calls for a digital literacy in which these issues are addressed, and users can be assisted in navigating these modern forms of publishing. Digital identity and media literacy are inherently linked in the infosphere and our identities are closely tied to the information we consume and produce online. However, because identity in the online can so easily be performed, negotiated and managed, we must develop strategies in order to make sense of and evaluate information. In this, a combination of digital and media literacy is necessary. The development of a holistic critical digital media literacy will give web users the tools to evaluate sources and decode the context and intent behind the message. Consumers and producers of web media content need also be aware of the bias’s built within the medium of the message, as well as the message itself. The extension of empathy onto a framework like this, also encourages digital consumers to access contradictions, rather than focussing on the intention of the author. In a world in which published works on social media and blogging platforms hold as much weight as traditional media texts, Library and Information services must intervene and equip information users with the skills needed to decode and evaluate these texts.

Bibliography
Aldred, J. Astell, A., Behr, R., Cochrane, L., Hind, J., Pickard, A., Potter, L. Wignall, A. & Wiseman, E. (2008) ‘The world’s 50 most powerful blogs.’ The Observer, March 2008. Viewed 14th April 2020. <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/mar/09/blogs>
Bawden, D. & Robinson, L. (2008) ‘The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies.’ Journal of Information Science, 35(2), pp. 180-191.
Boyd, D. (2018) ‘You think you want media literacy… Do you?’ [Blog] Points: Data & Society. March 2018. Viewed 15th April 2020. <https://points.datasociety.net/you-think-you-want-media-literacy-do-you-7cad6af18ec2>
Callahan, D.R. (1991) ‘The librarian as change agent in the diffusion of technological innovation.’ Electronic Library¸9(1), pp. 13-15.
Degroot, J. (2011) ‘Truth in urban legends? Using snopes.com to teach source evaluation.’ Communication Teacher, 25(2), pp. 86-89.
Floridi, L. (2014) The 4th Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Foucault, M. (1998) ‘What is an author?’ In Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology, ed. J. D. Faubion. From Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, ed. P. Rabinbow. New York: The New Press.
Fraser, J. & Reedy, K. (2018) ‘Digital citizens and workers.’ In Digital Literacy Unpacked, edited by K. Reedy & J. Parker. London: Facet Publishing.
Funk, S., Kellner, D. & Share, J. (2015) ‘Critical media literacy as transformative pedagogy.’ In Handbook of Research on Media Literacy in the Digital Age, edited by M. Yildiz & J. Keengwe. Hershey: IGI Global.
Greenland, K. (2013) ‘Negotiating self-presentation, identity, ethics, readership and privacy in the LIS blogosphere: A review of the literature.’ Australian Academic and Research Libraries, 44(4), pp. 217-225.
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Greenwood, S., Perrin, R. & Duggan, M. (2016) ‘Social media update 2016.’ Pew Research Center, November 2016. Viewed 12th April 2020. <https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/>
Gunter, B. (2008) ‘Trends in digital information consumption and the future.’ In Digital Consumers: Reshaping the Information Profession, edited by D. Nicholas & I. Rowlands. London: Facet Publishing.
Himma-Kadakas, M. (2017) ‘Alternative facts and fake news entering journalistic content production cycle.’ Cosmopolitan Civil Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 9(2), pp. 26-41.
Hirst, M. (2019) Navigating Social Journalism: A Handbook for Media Literacy and Citizen Journalism. New York: Routledge.
Kellner, D. (1998) ‘Multiple literacies and critical pedagogy in a multicultural society.’ Educational Theory, 48(1), pp. 103-122.
Lange, P.G. (2014) Kids on YouTube: Technical Identities and Digital Literacies. California: Left Coast Press, Inc.
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang.
Matis, A. & Danzig, J. (2015) ‘Newspaper lies can cost lives.’ [Blog] JonDanzig. September 2015. Viewed 14th April 2020. <http://jondanzig.blogspot.com/2015/09/newspaper-lies-can-cost-lives.html>
McLuhan, M. (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Canada: McGraw-Hill Education.
Page, R. (2014) ‘Hoaxes, hacking and humour: Analysing impersonated identity on social network sites.’ In The Language of Social Media: Identity and Community on the Internet, edited by P. Seargeant & C. Tagg. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
Pan, Z., Lu, Y., Wang, B. & Chau, P.Y.K. (2017) ‘Who do you think you are? Common and differential effects of social self-identity on social media usage.’ Journal of Management Information Systems, 34(1)
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Parnell, M. (2008) ‘Pernicious virtual communities: Identity, polarisation and the Web 2.0.’ Ethics and Information Technology, 10(1), pp. 41-56.
Talib, S. (2018) ‘Social media pedagogy: Applying an interdisciplinary approach to teach multimodal critical digital literacy.’ E-Learning and Digital Media, 15(2), pp. 55-66.
Thorne-Wallington, E. (2013) ‘Social contexts of new media literacy: Mapping libraries.’ Information Technology and Libraries, 32(4), pp. 53-65.
Vallor, S. (2012) ‘Social networking and ethics.’ In E. Zalta (Ed.) Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. August 2012. Viewed 4th March 2020. <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-social-networking/>
Vanwynsberghe, H., Vanderlinde, R., Georges, A. & Verdegem, P. (2015) ‘The librarian 2.0: Identifying a typology of librarians’ social media literacy.’ Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 47(4), pp. 283-293.
Whittam Smith, A. (2012) ‘The BBC’s lack of action over Jimmy Savile abuse accusations amounts to a cover-up.’ The Independent, October 2012. Viewed 15th April 2020. <https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-bbcs-lack-of-action-over-jimmy-savile-abuse-accusations-amounts-to-a-cover-up-8196247.html

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Suggested summer reading for returning PT students

For CityLIS part-time students who will be returning in September 2020 for their second year of study, here are some suggestions for summer reading. This is not required, but may be helpful for those who wish to do some preparation for the term 1 modules INM341 Information Management and Policy and INM356 Research Methods and Communication) and for initial thoughts on the dissertation. All are available as e-books in the university library

INM341
Chapter 12 (Information management and policy), in Introduction to Information Science, Bawden and Robinson, Facet, 2012
Records, information and data: exploring the role of record-keeping in an information culture, Yeo, Facet, 2018
Practical knowledge and information management, Schopflin and Walsh, Facet, 2018
Management basics for information professionals (4th edition), Evans, Alire and Layzell Ward, Facet, 2020

INM356
Chapter 14 (Information science research, what and how), in Introduction to Information Science, Bawden and Robinson, Facet, 2012
Research methods in information (2nd edition), Pickard, Facet, 2020
Research methods in library and information science (6th edition), Connaway and Radford, Libraries Unlimited, 2017

Dissertation
Succeeding with your master’s dissertation: a step-by-step handbook (4th edition), Biggam, Open University Press, 2017

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The evolution of scientific scholarly communication

***Mehreen Khalid analyses the factors for change in STEM scholarly publishing and communication, including Plan S and the Open Movement. She also considers how academia may change in a post-COVID-19 world. Mehreen is on Twitter @19Emkay. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission as part of our CityLIS Writes initiative ***

***

Introduction
Scholarly communication has undergone numerous changes over the course of history, from the introduction and proliferation of print material, to the widespread use of digital technologies and the advent of the internet. (Fyfe et al. 2017) Over the last thirty years, scholarly communication has been facing its newest change; open access (OA). (Suber 2012) With the amount of scholarly knowledge ever increasing and the cost to access it skyrocketing, the introduction and increasing presence of OA has been inevitable. (Lewis 2012) It is changing the mechanisms of scholarly communication, impacting on publishing, and resulting in changes with the propagation and access of research.
This essay will look at how scientific scholarly publishing has developed since the shift from print to digital and how informal avenues of scholarly communication are impacting on research dissemination and credibility. It will then consider OA initiatives freeing up research from behind paywalls and changing the nature of scholarly communication, and will conclude by exploring the implications publishers and library and information science (LIS) services will face and need to overcome to fully embrace OA within the field of Science.

The scientific scholarly publishing scene
One of the major milestones in scholarly communication has been the advent of the internet. (Bergamn 2006) By the 1990s its proliferation had resulted in a shift in publishing from traditional print books and journals to e-books and e-journals, which were cheaper and easier to disseminate. (Fyfe et al. 2017 and Wakeling et al. 2018) Libraries had more of their budget become available to purchase other resources and to reconfigure library spaces for other uses (e.g. installations of computer terminals). But with the sheer volume or scholarly research growing and continuous funding cuts, libraries could no longer keep up with maintaining a large amount of journal subscriptions. (Esposito 2018) And as publishers could no longer increase their prices for fear of losing their customers, the world of scholarly publishing plunged into the ‘serials crisis’. (Bergman 2006 and Fyfe et al. 2017)

In 1996, Academic Press offered a solution; the ‘Big Deal’, aimed at introducing three-year licences that allowed access to whole bundles of journals that were significantly cheaper than purchasing individual ones. In doing so, it offered libraries access to more information for their patrons, keeping them connected with the rest of the scholarly community, whilst at the same time easing the effect of their financial constraints. (Fyfe et al. 2017) But the Big Deal’s salvation was short-lived. Publishers had included clauses into their agreements that tied-in libraries as well as imposing restrictions on preservation, copying and sharing of resources, and non-disclosure agreements restricted the sharing of subscription costs between academic libraries. (Sang 2017) Scholarly publishing continued to become increasingly commercialised and soon libraries began to find an increasing amount of their budget taken up by journal subscriptions, some of which remained untouched by their patrons. As publishers continued to increase prices, libraries were forced to cancel subscriptions. (Poynder 2011 and Harington 2020) By this time, it was evident that the mechanisms of scholarly publishing had to change. (Laakso et al. 2011)

The advent of the internet offered greater means of research dissemination through social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, and other avenues such as blog posts and wikis. (Swan 2006) These informal methods of communication have enabled research to be more widely disseminated than ever before. (Regazzi 2015) Where once only the end point of research was available, now all parts of the research lifecycle are visible, enabling research to be better understood and re-used. (Dempsey 2017) Libraries and their institutions have recognised the increasing use of informal channels of research dissemination, and as a consequence, students are increasingly using such sources of information to include in their academic works (e.g. dissertations and theses). (Nicholas 2019) But the majority of scholarly research still remains locked behind paywalls, and the issues of copyright and sharing prevents researchers from accessing and sharing their work freely. (Fyfe et al. 2017) It was the hope for freeing up scholarly research and the power of the Internet that gave rise to the open access (OA) movement. (Bergman 2006 and Bawden and Robinson 2012)

The OA movement
One of the earliest OA initiatives was the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) in 1998, uniting almost 300 institutions to promote the open dissemination of scholarly research through fair pricing and ethical intellectual property management. SPARC helped to develop publishing models that offered low-cost journals and helped to increase the presence of non-profit scholarly publishing. (Bergman 2006) But the uptake of OA within the scientific fields was slow and it was acknowledged early on that OA would be a long process. (Davidson 2003) In 2001, the OA movement gained further momentum with the Budapest Open Access Initiative, seeking to act as a bridge between scholars wanting to publish their work for the sake of inquiry and the powers of the internet to do so. (Chan et al. 2002) The event brought together organisations and individuals from across the world ranging from journals, publishers, laboratories and scientists, joined forces to make scholarly research available online to everyone with no charge. (Redazione JLIS 2012)

Developments in OA have led to four different types of OA, Green OA, Gold OA, Platinum OA and Bronze OA (of which the Platinum and Bronze are newer introductions). (Bawden and Robinson 2012, Suber 2012 and Brock 2018) Green OA, where peer-reviewed articles are published in a journal that isn’t freely available, but a copy is archived into a repository (often the institutions own on). There can sometimes be embargo periods delaying the release of the OA version, which are free for the reader. (Bawden and Robinson 2012) Gold OA involves peer-reviewed articles that are published in a journal that the reader is free to read, but the author must pay an Article Processing Charge (APC). (Mukherjee 2010 and Suber 2012) Platinum OA refers to peer-reviewed articles published in a journal that is freely available and the author does not face a fee. This form of OA relies heavily on volunteers and funding to fulfil publishing tasks and roles. Of the four categories, Platinum OA is considered the best for OA, but because of its funding requirements, it can be hard to come by. (Bawden and Robinson 2012) Bronze OA is the newest category that makes up material that can be freely read but is often older material. (Brock 2018)
The benefits of OA are numerous. The first is that it has allowed scholarly research, that would otherwise have been locked behind paywalls and minor research areas, the chance to be freely available and accessible from multiple sources, thereby increasing research dissemination and author visibility. (Laakso et al. 2011 and Suber 2012) It has also helped to increase the impact of research and raise awareness about authors in an alternative way to traditional publishing with journal impact factors (JIF), that some may have missed out on. (Wakeling et al. 2018) This, it is hoped, will help change how research is regarded, moving its value away from where it is published, to what it is itself. (Hawkes 2019) And OA has crucially helped shift the cost of publishing away from academic libraries to somewhat ease their rescinding budgets. (Stern and O’Shea 2019)

The nature of scientific scholarly publishing
OA has significantly helped to highlight the need for scholarly research to be freely available, but progression within scientific fields have been limited. (Chan et al. 2013) Much scientific research is still kept behind paywalls, preventing its access by the researchers who helped produce it and the public, whose tax contributions and participation in clinical trials has helped develop it. (Guédon 2008, Schiltz 2018 and Day et al. 2020) This could be because of the hierarchical and commercially-driven nature of scientific publishing within which researchers are at the mercy of publishers (Buranyi 2017) Publishers have great influence over scientific scholarly research and subsequently how the field of science progresses. (Davidson 2003) Keen to be recognized within the prestige-driven field, and have their research appear in journals with high impact factors, researchers line up their research and submissions to meet publisher requirements, with very few confident to take alternative routes. (Buranyi 2017, Fyfe et al. 2017 and Wakeling at el. 2018)

As the commercial interests of publishers do not align with LIS principles, ethical issues of access to research and its preservation plague scientific communication and publishing. (Eve 2014) With the hope to change this, the Research Excellency Framework (REF) imposed, from April 2016, the necessity for all published research to be made freely available in institutional repositories (IRs) if they are to be considered compliant with their funding agreements. (HEFCE 2016) But libraries are increasingly buying into IR platforms from third parties, such as publishers, (Dempsey 2014) Only time will tell if the ethical issue of access to information and preservation that currently plague e-books and e-journals offered by third parties will also similarly affect IR platforms offered by them too. If it does, it may mean research dissemination and communication could also incur privacy threats that the use of e-books and e-journals are prone to.

Plan S
Plan S was formed to speed the transition to OA within the scientific community. (Wise and Estelle 2020) Developed by cOAlition S, it is an OA initiative within scientific publishing to ensure, from 2021, that funded research (through public and private grants) is immediately OA with authors retaining copyright over their works. (Plan S 2018) It is backed by a host of global funding agencies which will hopefully help with its uptake. (Hawkes 2019) Under Plan S it is hoped that the cost of publication will be transparent and based solely on publishing services, such as peer-review and editing. (Schiltz 2018 and Prevoo, Aardening and Wijk 2020) Funders will be able to set a cap on these costs with the aim of diminishing high publication costs which traditional publishers include brand value with. (Hawkes 2019) Plan S pioneers are optimistic that it will herald in a new era where scientific research is immediately and freely disseminated and accessible by everyone. With a greater uptake of OA in the Scientific fields and help to overturn the power-play of publishers in dominating scientific communication. (Tennant 2019)
The nature of scientific publishing will be a barrier to OA uptake in scientific fields and will need to be considered carefully by policymakers. For example, the Plan S initiative is restrictive in only allowing funded research to be published in OA journals, and researchers feel this may hinder rather than help the OA cause. (Gòmez-Fernàndez 2019) Policy makers will need to implement policies that encourage change rather than force it to help bring out scientific scholarly communication from its traditional ways. (Hill 2016) Plan S founders have acknowledged the limitations in their movement and have begun working towards transparency about OA publishing and their pricing and begun a pilot study for the transition. (Plans S 2020)

Implications for publishing
A major implication that publishers will face is the potential decrease in the number of submissions they receive which could affect them financially. Publishers support the aims of OA and Plan S, but disagree with the details of their implementation, and the short time frame before Plan S’s introduction. Springer Nature state that they would not be able to lower APC fees to a rate that funders would be happy with as their cost of publishing one article is between 10,000 and 30,000 euros, and so Plan S would render their business models unfeasible. (Else 2019) Critics believe that these costs are highly inflated and include brand value to increase profit margins and that publishers will need to come up with better business models to suit the looming OA publishing climate, instead of digging their heels in and opposing it. (Hawkes 2019 and Wise and Estelle 2020)
Current OA publishing models make it cheaper to publish in OA journals than non-OA as there is not charge to the reader. (Mukherjee 2010 and Van Noorden 2013) But APC business models are not completely viable, particularly for the financially disadvantaged. In poorer countries, authors may be unable to pay APC or acquire funding for it. (Larivière and Sugimoto 2020) Researchers will also be restricted in where they will be able to publish their works, as under Plan S any funded work will only be able to be published in OA journals. These will significantly disadvantage poorer and under-funded nations and individuals. (Hawkes 2019) With the inability to pay publication fees and no alternative place to publish, it may mean that some authors’ research will receive little, if any, recognition and circulation amongst the scholarly community. (Else 2018) It could lead to a negative impact on research dissemination, making it one-sided, like traditional publishing, in favour of the financially prosperous. Gómez-Fernàndez (2019 p.842) highlights that ‘it is evident journals cannot be published without cost…somebody must pay for this.’ Therefore, and OA publishing will need to be developed into a sustainable financial model for everyone if it is to survive in the long run and stay to true its ‘open’ name. (Larivière and Sugimoto 2020)

Some publishers have begun preparing for such OA implications by utilizing Big Data, analytics and search tools to offer research discovery services to increase the efficiency and efficacy of research dissemination and discovery. (Hunter 2018) This is particularly important for the scientific fields where research is face-paced. But it will be important for researchers not to repeat the mistake of the past. They will need to ensure that with the transition to OA they maintain control over their publishing and communication and consequently how they steer their fields. (Hunter 2018 and Stern and O’Shea 2019)

The Year 2020
At the time of writing, the world is in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has spread to almost every country on the planet and has killed hundreds of thousands of people. In the race to develop a vaccine, major players within Scientific publishing; Springer Nature and Taylor and Francis, have made their COVID-19 research free to access. (Springer Nature 2020 and Taylor and Francis Group 2020) The pandemic has initiated a world-wide movement in the freedom of access to research in a way no OA movement has ever done and may ever do. The threat to mankind has highlighted the need for research to be open now and in the future, to benefit society and societal challenges. (Plan S 2020)

Implications for library and information science (LIS) services
The founding principles of LIS align with the agenda of OA, and coupled with the skill set of librarians and their role as champions for OA, it places libraries in a prime position for helping to embrace and propel the acceptance of the OA movement, and solidify their evolving role as publishers. (Way 2010, Cryer and Collins 2011 and Hawkes 2019) As advocates they can negotiate licensing agreements to include OA language. (Walters 2013) As developers they can be at the fore front of setting up and maintaining IRs to store OA works and educate researchers in self-archiving. (Cryer and Collins 2011) By taking on a role as publishers, libraries can tackle the issues of access to scholarly research and its preservation that currently plague e-books and e-journals.

As OA shifts the cost of publishing from the reader to the author, it may cause problems for research dissemination. (Bennett 2013) Authors unable to pay publishing fees may rely on informal channels of scholarly communication (e.g. social media), to convey their works. But such channels cannot always be trusted as they are not subject to peer-review and can be accessed and created by anyone (including fake news outlets). This poses a risk to the integrity of scientific research as ‘the future of scholarly communication is…central to the future of research itself’. (Hill 2016 p.366) OA pioneers will need to prepare and plan for this as the digitally networked era is making the spread of fake news infinitely easier. (Flamini, 2019) The greater use of informal research sources will require libraries to provide information and digital literacy for their patrons to equip them with skills to detect the credibility and reliability of information sources and the dangers of predatory journals and how to avoid falling prey to them. (Hill 2016) They can increase OA content discovery from credible sources, by making available OA journals that are listed in the directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) within their library catalogues, (Raju, Nyahodza and Claasen 2018) and by integrating their IRs with the library catalogue. (Makula 2018)

Additionally, OA research will need to be will available in standard forms to enable its re-use. (Johnson 2010) OA versions of research, particularly those within IRs are available in HTML format, but researchers prefer PDF formats. (Aalbersberg 2013) Similarly, the use of OA research made available through social media may be hindered if it is not available in a standardized format so its credibility can be easily ascertained. (Hill 2016) Libraries may be able to help by developing a standardized system for storing and archiving OA research and enhancing its discoverability.

The ethical test for libraries will come in the form of illegal OA resources, such as Sci-Hub. Set up by an OA enthusiast Alexandra Elbakyan, Sci-Hub is a research piracy website that allows illegal access to scholarly research. Although it does provide freely available scholarly research, it is still fundamentally a criminal champion of OA. Libraries, particularly the financially challenged, may shift the gaze of their patrons towards such resources to provide them the research they cannot afford. Even without such constraints, the simple user-friendly interface of SciHub is luring many more people in, growing in size and popularity, posing potential issues for libraries. (Himmelstein et al. 2018) If places like SciHub can offer research for free, institutions may see that their libraries could save money by implicitly utilising such sources and may reallocate library budgets to other areas. (Esposito 2018)

Conclusion
OA is making scientific scholarly communication more open, freeing up scientific research from behind paywalls for the benefit of human-kind. Libraries’ evolving role as publishers and their stewardship of IRs is increasing the visibility of the entire research cycle, resulting in the greater dissemination of scientific research and enhanced author visibility. But the lack of clarity, standardization and financially viable OA publishing models may hinder the dissemination of research by everyone and for everyone. Policy makers will need to ensure that the transition to OA will maintain the credibility of scientific research and integrity of the fields to which they belong. With the field of LIS at the helm of the OA movement, scholarly communication can be steered to ensure its true openness and accessibility for everyone.

References

Aalbersberg, J.J. (2013). PDF versus HTML – which do researchers prefer?, 9 July. Available at: https://www.elsevier.com/connect/story/research-matters/innovation-in-publishing/pdf-versus-html-which-do-researchers-prefer [Accessed 27 April 2020]. Bawden, D. and Robinson, L. (2012). Introduction to information science, Facet, London. Bennett, R. (2013). The changing role of the publisher in the scholarly communications process, The Future of Scholarly Communication, 8(1), pp.103-114.
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Mehreen Khalid May 2020
INM380 Libraries and Publishing
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