Conference Presentations

From the creation of monopolies to the technologies that claim to disrupt them: these are some of the conference presentations I’ve been privileged enough to give in recent years!

Consolidation and monopolization of a shared library service

Joseph, Kris. “OCLC and WorldCat: Consolidation and Monopolization of a Core Library Service.” Prezi slides presented at Politics of Libraries, Edmonton, Alberta, April 23, 2018.

Created in 1971 by the Ohio College Library Centre (OCLC), WorldCat was rapidly established as the profession’s largest collaborative catalog. Four years after its creation a study of 47 libraries showed that the shared catalog had virtually eliminated the need for internal cataloging in small libraries and significantly reduced the time required for cataloging in larger institutions. Since WorldCat’s birth was enabled by advances in computing in data storage, the technology can be seen as a disruption of the sort described by Tim Wu in The Master Switch. Wu’s book describes a cycle of innovation that begins with a breakthrough, moving through a period of proliferation before becoming guarded, restricted and centralized. This presentation applies Wu’s model to the WorldCat catalog by tracing OCLC’s rapid growth, expansion, and questionable policy changes spanning 40 years of shared cataloging and other library services. The word “monopoly” was first used to describe OCLC in 1979, after anti-competitive tactics were used to deter libraries from participating in alliances like the Washington Library Network and the Research Library Group. OCLC exhibited protectionism in the 1980s when it announced plans to copyright its catalog, and in the 1990s when it realized that networked libraries could download and share catalog records without contributing new data. In the ensuing decades, OCLC has staved off competition through horizontal and vertical integration, including the acquisition of other shared catalogs, eBook publishers, interlibrary loan and proxy services. Many do not know that OCLC even has full control of the Dewey Decimal System. As OCLC has grown, it has become less responsive to its members and has shifted towards policies that emphasize self-preservation and control over increased information access and data sharing. Two recent examples include attempts to thwart the Open Library from reproducing its service and a multi-year legal fight with Innovative Interfaces, Inc. and Skyriver over their accusations that the organization operated as a monopoly. OCLC’s evolution closely mirrors the innovation cycle outlined in The Master Switch, creating an ironic situation where an institution known for information access is increasingly left to the whims of a centralized, unresponsive entity that emphasizes its own preservation over its own founding values. As a result, OCLC’s shared catalog service is ripe for disruption.

Analysis of Canadian Wireless Spectrum Auctions

Joseph, Kris. “Analysis of Canadian Wireless Spectrum Auctions: Licence Ownership and Deployment in the 700 MHz, 2500 MHz and 3500 MHz Frequency Ranges.” presented at Canadian Communications Association 2018, Regina, Saskatchewan, June 1, 2018.

Despite the Canadian government’s assertion that high-speed broadband access is crucial for economic and social benefit, there is minimal competition or availability of these services in rural or remote areas. Economic factors suggest that wireless technologies are best-suited to help rural residents meet the CRTC’s newly-released 50Mbps download speed target, but only 39% of rural and remote residents currently have access to these speeds. This presentation provides an overview of technologies used to provide rural and remote broadband services, traces the history of wireless spectrum auctions in Canada, and outlines spectrum access challenges faced by small service providers who are working to increase rural broadband penetration. There is a perception that wireless spectrum licenses are held mainly by incumbent internet service providers who use their licences inefficiently. To investigative this perception, ownership and deployment of auctioned licences was traced in three frequency ranges: 700 MHz (Mobile Broadband Service), 2500 MHz (Broadband Radio Service) and 3500 MHz (Fixed Wireless Access). Analysis suggests that Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada’s auction data is inconsistent, and cannot be easily used to link specific licences to current equipment deployments. Results support the claim that Canada’s Top 5 internet service providers dominate auction participation and licence ownership and that urban markets are the primary focus of licence deployments. The presentation concludes that auction design plays a significant role in the promotion of service competition and that monitoring and management of spectrum use should be improved.

Cryptocurrency and Cyber-Utopia: A Five-Minute Pipe Dream

Joseph, Kris. “Cryptocurrency and Cyber-Utopia: A Five-Minute Pipe Dream.” presented at the HuCon 2018: Digital Fringe, Edmonton, AB, March 9, 2018.

What do New England’s libertarian colonists, offshore doomsday-preppers and alt-right white supremacists all have in common? They all believe in transformative power of Bitcoin, and they insist that they were believers before Bitcoin got cool. Bitcoin is an example of blockchain technology — a decentralized, code-driven ledger that operates and enforces “contracts” written in code — and since its birth in early 2009 it has rallied a large community of cyber-utopians who dream of new models of digital sovereignty and absolute independence from the tyranny of the nation-state. As Bitcoin goes mainstream, though, are their dreams dissolving? This talk will stick a fork in the dark underbelly of Bitcoin, where diverse online communities are locked in a battle to create a “perfect” society governed entirely by software.

Google Slides are available here