DigiLib Blog

Resources: Webilus, the best of the images of the web

February 23rd, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

By way of Geoffrey Rockwell, I came across Webilus, a blog that collects images that depict the web. The site is in French, but even the images containing languages other than English aren’t difficult to understand. Ignore the prominent ad right in the middle; the images are worth it. Here are a couple of examples—first, a social-media map produced by Overdrive Interactive (click for a larger version):

And how about an illustrative explanation of folksonomies?

Twitter talk post updated with new resources.

February 23rd, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

As promised, I’ve updated last week’s post about the Twitter talk with new resources. If you have any other URLs you think I should add, please let me know and I will do so!

Best practices: what do we want to do with it?

February 20th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

At the School of Theology Library, we’ve begun combing our first collection for public-domain imprints we’d like to have digitized by the Internet Archive. For the first batch we’ve chosen the Missions collection—logical, given the Digital Mission Project we’re pursuing.

The selection process is a huge amount of work, and we’re only dealing with about 3,000 records so far! Not only do we have to pull the books; we must find out whether they’ve already been digitized; if so, whether there’s a good reason to digitize them again; and each item needs to be within IA’s technical spec requirements.

Missions stuff is only the beginning of what we’ll eventually want to preserve and make available electronically. But, as the social internet has been teaching us, it’s not enough to digitize. Once artifacts are digitized, what do we want to be able to do with them? I’ve found a third-hand formulation that may be a useful starting point for answering that question in our specific context.

Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason U, was a participant in the recent Smithsonian 2.0 meeting in Washington. Summarizing the meeting, he paraphrased David Recordon’s description of what he’d like to be able to do with Smithsonian Institution objects, in the future (I quote from Dan’s post):

Before I visit Washington, I want to be able to go to the web and select items I’m really interested in from the entire Smithsonian collection. When I wake up the next morning, I want in my inbox a PDF of my personalized tour to see these objects. When I’m standing in front of an object in a museum, I want to see or hear more information about it on my cell phone. When an event happens related to an object I’m interested in, I want a text message about it. I want to know when it’s feeding time for the pandas, or when Lincoln’s handball will be on public display. And I want to easily share this information with my classmates, my friends, my family.

It’s unlikely that any theology library will ever have the same breadth of appeal as SI. But, as I said: it’s a starting point for thinking about what, in the exciting world of tomorrow (and tomorrow, and tomorrow), we’d like to be able to do with the objects we’re digitizing. What are the contexts for its use, inside and outside of academe? Who would want to share what with whom? What would your ideal user experience of digitized theological artifacts be like? Technosocial fantasies welcome in comments.

BU OA: reactions so far

February 19th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

Well! The news of BU’s adoption of an open access plan has spread far and wide. It’s been picked up by DigitalKoans, by the Associated Press, and by Inside Higher Ed among others. Peter Suber’s thoughtful response was one of the first, supplemented by further thoughts after the university published the document approved by the Faculty Council last September.

Institutional repository manager and librarian Dorothea Salo (University of Wisconsin) wrote an interesting post in which she characterizes BU’s initiative as something hybrid compared to what’s gone before. She writes:

It is not a mandate of any kind. It is not a typical rights-retention resolution, either; there is no author addendum attached. Instead, it is a fascinating middle-ground. It mentions gold as well as green OA. It mentions building a faculty publications database, not just an IR; this is important because like it or not, faculty publications databases have real-world uses for faculty and administrators that IRs simply don’t. It takes on tenure and promotion practices straightforwardly.

It is, in short, a start toward a university-wide open-access strategy. That’s fascinating, and to the best of my knowledge, completely novel. The breadth of the conversation is certainly a vast improvement over the library starting an IR all by itself that it then doesn’t promote or work to fill. It’s also an improvement over putting all the local open-access eggs in one basket, whether that basket is an IR or an author’s addendum or a gold-fee fund. Several open-access strategies are still in experimental stages… I think it makes an awful lot of sense to keep one’s implementation options open, focusing on policy and hearts-and-minds instead. [emphasis author's]

Salo’s comments seem to me partly descriptive, partly suggestive of where we might want to place emphasis as we work on making this thing a reality. Certainly worth discussing, as I’m sure we will.

BU's OA document

February 17th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

Here (PDF) is the document that describes BU’s current thinking on open access, and what we’re doing about it. Linked here is the version approved by the Faculty Council last September. We welcome and invite constructive feedback on this work in progress.

(Please note: I personally am involved in this project, but am acting more or less as the messenger. I will be unlikely to answer specific questions having to do with policy; other people monitoring this post, however, may be more useful. We’ll be discussing whatever comments we receive amongst ourselves, so if there is no overt reply, please be assured that your input is not only valuable but actively being included in the process.)

BU takes step toward open access

February 17th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

We’re go! University Council Approves Open Access Plan, BU Today, 17 Feb 2009:

Boston University took a giant step towards greater access to academic scholarship and research on February 11, when the University Council voted to support an open access system that would make scholarly work of the faculty and staff available online to anyone, for free, as long as the authors are credited and the scholarship is not used for profit. [...]

“This vote sends a very strong message of support for open and free exchange of scholarly work,” says [University Librarian Robert] Hudson. “Open access means that the results of research and scholarship can be made open and freely accessible to anyone. It really has increased the potential to showcase the research and scholarship of the University in ways that have not been evident to people.”

Of course, we’ll need to be implementing this, which is no trivial matter—just ask Dorothea Salo and the many, many other institutional repository managers out there. And BU is very aware of this:

“Open access will really highlight the tremendous productivity of our faculty,” says [MED professor of medicine Barbara] Millen. “Among the more important things needed to make it work is a collaboration between the libraries and our faculty to get their research onto the Web. It’s not an inconsequential task.”

Yep, they sure know it’s going to take a large amount of resources—and it looks like the university is willing to put in the effort to do this right. It’s a fantastic thing to be part of.

Any repository folk who happen to read this, please share your wisdom and the appropriate warnings. It’ll be a long (exciting!) haul.

Upcoming Twitter talk; some resources

February 16th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

(Edit 23Feb09: I’m adding more resources and pointing people back here, as promised at the talk.)

This coming Wednesday at 11am I’ll be giving a talk about the popular microblogging software Twitter. Please join us if you’re interested; we’ll be in the Administrative Conference Room at the Mugar Memorial Library. I’m gearing the presentation to librarians, but the overall themes—what Twitter is, what kinds of information flow through it as a medium, how people use it from both the authoring and receiving points of view—are widely applicable.

As with any exciting, widely used new technology, there are many more things to talk about than can be covered in an hour’s discussion. Below are links to some resources both about and by Twitter users that I’ve found useful and engaging. I will supplement this post with more pointers once the presentation takes its final shape, and probably again following the discussion.

A few articles:

And a few Twitter feeds librarians might find interesting:

Lastly, here’s a peek at Twitter’s beginnings as stat.us. Oh, and a pointer to ping.fm, which allows you to update many social networking sites at once.

Books of interest, and a bonus video

January 16th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

Two books have appeared recently that may be of interest. One is Terry Harpold’s Ex-foliations: Reading Machines and the Upgrade Path. (University of Minnesota Press 2008, $25 paper, $75 cloth.)

A sophisticated consideration of technologies of reading in the digital age.

“Every reading is, strictly speaking, unrepeatable; something in it, of it, will vary. Recollections of reading accumulate in relation to this iterable specificity; each takes its predecessors as its foundation, each inflects them with its backward-looking futurity.” In Ex-foliations, Terry Harpold investigates paradoxes of reading’s backward glances in the theory and literature of the digital field.

The other book that has come to my attention, thanks to Grand Text Auto, is Ted Nelson’s Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way. Nelson, one of the pioneer scholars of humanities computing and new media, has not published anything book-length in about a decade, it seems. This one’s self-published, available through Lulu.com for $19.95, and is 202 pages long. There’s no short blurb about it, but the chapter summaries are available here. Nelson knows his way around words; I’ll be getting my own copy of this one.

And speaking of the computer age and its history, check out this video of Douglas Engelbart demoing the mouse (and hypertext, and an online collaboration system) for the first time. In 1968.

And who could pass up a free, downloadable (as a PDF file) Atlas of Cyberspace, by Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin? Licensed under Creative Commons, no less; these guys did it right. Gorgeous illustrations and interesting exposition.

Digital humanities in the news

January 12th, 2009 in DigiLib BLog.

The past few weeks have been exciting for digital humanities and digital libraries projects, which are getting recognized and rewarded all over the place.

The Mellon Foundation has announced the recipients of its third annual Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration (MATC). Among the recipients are UIUC’s brainchild Archon, archiving and publishing software for archivists and manuscript curators; George Mason University’s Omeka, another web-based publishing platform for collections; King’s College London’s Pliny Project, a scholarly annotation tool; and Villanova University’s VuFind, a library resource portal designed to replace a traditional online catalog.

Mellon isn’t the only source of recognition for digital humanities projects. A collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Endowment for the Humanities has resulted in a fantastic opportunity for three major humanities projects, housed at UVA, UC San Diego and Tufts. Together, these projects will take advantage of 1 million hours of supercomputing time. This will allow humanities scholars to perform hugely computationally intensive research and processing of primary resources, be they Michelangelo’s David or linguistic corpora. Read UVA’s news release here.

Such tremendous recognition of these projects is notable not only in itself but also in conjunction with the upcoming nomination of Elena Kagan to the post of the United States Solicitor General. During her tenure as the Dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan supported the activities of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and most recently welcomed copyright law scholar Lawrence Lessig back to Harvard, to (among other things) direct the Safra Foundation Center for Ethics. Having Kagan as the country’s Solicitor General is reassuring in this time of uncertain copyright law – proponents of open access and Creative-Commons-like open licensing will have an advocate in Kagan, who will (as Lessig discusses) affect policymaking on a federal level.

And speaking of policies and copyright, looks like the recording industry is looking to abandon mass lawsuits in favor of “more effective ways to combat online music piracy.” (WSJ) It’s about time; those costly lawsuits have been both ineffective in accomplishing the RIAA’s anti-piracy goals and a PR disaster (see above-linked article).

An introduction to Creative Commons licensing

December 9th, 2008 in DigiLib BLog, Uncategorized.

Created by Jesse Dylan, this brief video provides an introduction to Creative Commons licensing. For more information, go to: