January 2011

Image courtesy Vatican Radio Website

Social Communication has been squarely in the spotlight this week, starting with the Pope’s message on World Social Communications Day.  You can read his message Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age” on the Vatican website, or you can listen to an interview with Archbishop Claudio Celli (who heads the Pontifical council for Social Communications) on the importance of the message on Vatican Radio. (1)

This emphasis on Social Communications  is a wonderful correlation with our call to “Be Vincentian” this week.  How is it that we reflect our Vincentian mission in our real-life and extended virtual worlds?  How can our studies, and the direction of our research, reflect a commitment to the most vulnerable, both in our local communities and around the world?  How do we use the Social Communications tools at our disposal to promote quality research and access to the information necessary to be active participants in our communities and world?

A couple of related stories bring these social communications & social justice issues to light.  Catholic Relief Service’s Fair Trade branch has posted a crowd-sourced “Request For Proposals” (via blog, Twitter and Facebook) calling on all “Solutionaries” to suggest proposals on how CRS should invest  up to $50,000 each “in action-oriented research and/or pilot initiatives to tackle the persistent questions” in development work.

Global Voices Online (a community blogging site funded by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Reuters and the MacArthur foundation among others) is reporting on the roles of, and blockages of, Facebook, and subsequently twitter during planning of “Day of Anger” protests in Egypt .  ***Update 1/28 *** Subsequently, CNET, (among several news sources) indicated that the Egyptian government shut down the mostly-state run internet service providers, and instructed all other ISP and mobile connectivity providers to suspend activity, prompting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications.”

Image of precipitous drop in internet activity, as depicted by Arbor Networks -- click image to see graphic in original context

It also prompted Leslie Harris, president of the DC-based Center for Democracy and Technology to state: “This action is inconsistent with all international human rights norms, and is unprecedented in Internet history. ****

In an effort to answer this call to “Be Vincentian,” to be “solutionaries,” and to be “social communicators” in a positive way, the University Libraries & Friends of the Libraries are proud to sponsor the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Applied Social Justice Essay Competition, which seeks entries from among undergraduate researchers whose essays incorporate and/or inform a social justice dimension within the essayist’s chosen discipline.  In addition to encouraging these students to explicitly examine the social justice dimension of their research, with a faculty member as a mentor, the libraries are promoting the use of  a variety of scholarly resources (in both traditional and Social-media venues) which contribute to the creation and distribution of the student’s university-level research. Winning essayists receive a cash prize (1st = $500, 2nd=$300), and  the winning essays then become available as a social-web-scholarly resource to other researchers and the public through open-access publishing via this library blog. (2)

The first deadline for this year’s contest is fast approaching, this Monday Jan 31 Tuesday, February 22. If you are an undergraduate student, please consider writing or revising a paper, in conjunction with your mentor; if you are a faculty member, please notify those students you think would be interested in this contest. For application details, see the Competition posting.

(1) To discover how some other Vatican & Catholic news agencies make positive use of Social Web tools, you may want to visit this GDSJ Blog entry, or to learn more about Social Web tools in this LibGuide.

(2) We are pleased to report that the winning essays from last year garnered over 1300 blog views, and elicited many positive comments from readers outside the University community.

UPDATED:  deadline for application is 2/22, final submission due 3/15.

March 25, 2011 marks the Centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City, in which 146 people were killed and 71 injured – still the most deadly workplace accident in US history. Most of those killed were immigrant women and girls.

Poor safety standards contributed significantly to the tragedy, such as lack of adequate alarms and the practice of locking employees into rooms so they could not leave work early. Many of the victims leapt to their deaths from the ninth and tenth floors, which lacked fire escapes and which the firemen’s ladders could not reach.

In the wake of this horrible event, public pressure mounted on employers to provide better working conditions for their employees. As a result, New York City created the Bureau of Fire Investigation, which gave the fire department greater power to enforce fire safety regulations. The fire also proved a watershed moment for labor organization, spurring large numbers of workers to join the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

To commemorate those who died in the Triangle Fire, and to honor those who have fought for the rights of working people then and now, several faculty members in Discover New York are including a unit on the Triangle Fire in the Spring 2011 semester.

To help faculty members successfully integrate the Triangle Fire into their courses, the library has created a Triangle Fire Libguide, which directs students to books, journal articles, newspaper articles, photographs, and eyewitness accounts. Since some of the material in the Guide is copyright protected, it requires a password to access. The password can be obtained by contacting Professor Ben Turner at turnerb@stjohns.edu.

We hope you find this guide useful, and welcome your input.