Archive for the ‘digital [humanities|libraries]’ Category

RolandHT back up online!

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

He even has his own URL now: rolandht.org.

If you’re just tuning in, that’s my dissertation over there.

this is what i do for work

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’m at Digital Humanities 2009, my home conference, the place that actually feels like home. The people are fantastic, the energy is high but not crazy, and the entertainment is made of awesome. Tonight, about 300 of us (literally) went to a crab shack.

I’ve been blogging the conference–or at least, the sessions I’ve managed to attend. The posts are here; if you’ve been wondering why exactly I’m in love with my somewhat obscure (and yet pervasive and important to all of us, whether we know it or not) profession, this is a good way to find out what excites me about digital humanities.

Oh, and hey, I was lightning-interviewed! Now I have had 1m4s of my 15m of fame.

Want to know what I do all day?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Today is the international Day of Digital Humanities, in which over a hundred of us (I think…) are blogging what we do on this particular date. It’s not going to cover everything I do evar, but it’s a decent cross-section. If you’re interested, take a look here.

Open Access Day 2008!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Did you know today is Open Access Day? Wikipedia’s summary of what open access means is a good one: “free, immediate, permanent, full-text, online access, for any user, web-wide, to digital scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals.”

Why support open access? Won’t the people who need these resources already be associated with colleges or universities, and so have access to them? Well, first off, no; currently access to many important resources costs more than many institutions can afford. But consider also the full range of uses for open-access materials. Educators at all levels can use it to keep up to speed with their fields, and better teach children of all ages. (“Won’t somebody think of the children?!” actually applies here.) People who are dealing with diseases they know little about, whether it’s them or their relatives who are sick, can use scientific articles to educate themselves and get a better perspective on what’s going on with their bodies. Researchers can get their work done faster and ultimately more cheaply – less need for interlibrary loan! – which again increases equality in access to the knowledge we are so quickly amassing, regardless of a scholar’s or institution’s economic status.

Open access does nothing to address the problem of the digital divide; people without internet access still don’t get the benefit of this knowledge. But it’s a step. And when internet spreads further, like telephony, these resources will be waiting for people dealing with epidemics, people who need cheap renewable energy, people who can improve their own lives using knowledge we already have, without waiting for the Peace Corps to get to them.

Support open access. Talk to librarians about it. Talk to your scientist friends about it. Talk to anyone who’ll listen.

bits and pieces

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

This will be redundant if you read any of my housemates’ journals, but: I love my household. Interviewing potential new housemate last night was full of giggling and conversation about EVERYthing and cake and blueberry wine. I have my issues with living here (mostly having to do with allergies, and we’re working on this). But the people, and the circus band in my living room (oh, you think I’m kidding, do you?), and the art and science and foodie quotients are all near optimal.

My job continues to delight me. I suspect it’ll be taking up more of my brain in the next couple of months, as I transition from being almost exclusively computing support to doing more of the balanced mish-mosh of support and digital library work I’m supposed to be doing. This transition is right on schedule; I’m glad for the increased variety, and also glad to have had a reasonably intense introduction to networking and other larger computing issues at BU.

Random students whom I don’t believe I’ve ever actually met grin at me and compliment the blue hair. So do some of the faculty and staff at the school. Nobody has made a huge deal out of it, and nobody seems too weirded out. Also, I may have finally found a community event at work I’d probably feel consistently good participating in: Sabbath space, a sanctuary of sorts on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, in a beautiful chapel space used for prayer, quiet conversation, meditation and… coloring mandalas. Clearly not entirely Christian, for which I’m thankful. It’s been a strange landscape to navigate, this School of Theology. Before I came there, I thought STH was, you know, like majoring in religion except on a graduate level: you learn about as many different religions as you can, and do anthropology and cultural studies and stuff. But no, this is a Methodist seminary, and though they’re all excellent people and extremely tolerant and clearly versed in many religions (several faculty members have artifacts from all over East Asia in their offices), it’s still a Methodist seminary. People learn how to preach, they practice ministry, they graduate and go work in churches and on missions. To me, this is all alien, and the more vociferous Christian contingent hasn’t exactly been sane in this country of late, or anywhere ever. But, you know, so it goes. I’m there to do computer stuff, and to help create digital resources that help people of vastly different backgrounds find out about each other. I work with good people who do good work for their fellow human beings. Ultimately, what they believe in looks like a cross between anthropology, social activism and mythology to me. And I’d be willing to bet that not a single one of them has ever contemplated harming a doctor who performs abortions.

Spiritually speaking, I tend to steer clear of monotheism, and don’t like it around me. But the people at work are fascinating and multifaceted and kind and compassionate and, most of the time, present. I like people who are fully there in the moment with me.

It’s oh-gods-late, and I must go to sleep. There is a seven-day candle burning in my room; every one of those that burns down will light the next one until the vernal Equinox. A continuous flame through the darkest part of the year; thanks to Molly for the idea. G’night.

askAcademe

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Have you ever used an institutional repository to find/retrieve or publish research? Which repository was it? What did/do you like and/or dislike about it?

Information on multiple repositories, of course, even more welcome.

jump start

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Been a while since I’ve blogged publicly, hasn’t it? Hello, again.

I go to write this post, and notice a new comment from Regina, an old friend from Moldova who now lives in Israel, with whom I’d fallen out of touch a while ago. Holy cats. Hello, again. It’s lovely to hear from you.

(The timing of the comment and of my being compelled to write here again are a coincidence.)

Yeah, there’s been a lot of sadness that I’m not quite ready to write down. Luckily, the last month or so has also been filled with joy and light and smart people and work (hooray, work!), so it’s not like there’s nothing to tell.

My job at Boston University, the title of which has now settled at Digital Collections and Computing Support Librarian [in the School of Theology], rocks my socks so far. It’s not that I’ve done a whole lot, yet; it’s only been a month, and the end of the academic year at that, and my boss the head librarian has been out on vacation for the past two weeks, so things are relatively slow. On the other hand, there’s plenty to do in the computing-support half of the job. I’ve been learning [more] about how BU’s network is set up, which is nifty. We’re purchasing a big pile of equipment to replace old stuff – both servers and personal workstations for faculty and staff – which, you know, from the support standpoint is great. Soon there’ll be no more @$#%! five-year-old Dells to support, and many of the four-year-old machines are going away too. People are open to the idea of Macs, which is huge in such a behemoth mostly-Windows org. (BU is an immense bureaucratic machine, and I say that with all the affection that one would expect a girl to have for her alma mater.)

Best of all, people want to learn. I’ve been getting to know the faculty and staff. Some of them are already doing digital humanities projects (like the History of Missiology site). Others have cool ideas (hello, Admissions Director using Facebook in all kinds of cool community-building ways). And still others want to figure out how computing can make their research and teaching (and administration, and the school as a community) more awesome.

This is what they hired me to work on. I’m unspeakably excited. Yeah, so far it’s been all support and no digilib, but I expect that to change. There’s a lot of hardware overhauling to do, and some basics to catch up on. That will take some months. But there’s already so much concrete investment of time, thought and resources in digital library stuff at STH that I have no doubt it’s going to go somewhere interesting.

Then there’s life outside of work. That’s been filled with friends, children, loved ones, cats, cooking, Burning Man planning, hand drumming, sci-fi reading, Battlestar Galactica, water and fire and earth, casual photography, breathing deeply. And the weather’s been nice.

Yesterday I flew to DC. Today I participated in a day-long grant proposal review panel for which I read a total of thirty proposals, which took an unreal amount of time and was fascinating and instructive, and I’m not being sarcastic about any of that. The panel itself was great too; in the past month or so I’ve learned a ton about the grant review and award process, and I fully intend to use this knowledge for good. I have generalized thoughts on the whole thing, but have to formulate them separately – must wrap my brain around the whole thing first, and also make sure not to cross any confidentiality boundaries. The whole thing made me feel awfully important, and going away for just over 24 hours meant I could travel with just my work bag, light and easy.

Coming back tonight, at the Reagan Airport, I texted a friend something to the effect of, I like traveling – the interstitial part, the going – even more than being places. She laughed and declared me liminal girl. Certainly that holds true for my life in a larger sense.

There’s more, always – the children I get to hang out with, the surprisingly strong presence of love in my days, feeling so strong from weightlifting with one of my dearest, the USB turntable I bought with which I’m digitizing records from the old country – but it’s 1:45am, and tomorrow’s a workday. Er, today. Whatever.

changes in quotidia

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

In an hour and a half or so I leave for the T (public transport!! don’t have to drive!) to start my new JOB.

Why, yes, I’m pretty thrilled at the prospect. The title keeps changing in the various documents they’ve sent, but the most recent one is Digital Librarian / Computer Support Manager at the Boston U School of Theology Library. The potential range of what my work days will involve is too large in my head right now, which means life will totally fail to be boring, and I’m likely to get flooded by information overload for the first few weeks, and I am so looking forward to that. I’ll tell y’all more when I get oriented. But… it’s an exciting job in my field. Holy cats.

Thus ends eleven months of unemployment.

On another note: praised be the sun and the moon and cycles, and spring. Did you know they’re saying 71 degree high today in Somerville?! And – just looked this up: there may or may not be a 5-degree difference between my house and my workplace at any given time. Well, of course: Commonwealth Ave is a wind tunnel, and work is also closer to the big water. Good to know.

MLA ‘07: Friday (1 of 2)

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Oh, Friday! Friday was a big day for electronic literature and the digital humanities (see this earlier post). A great session to go to was “New Reading Interfaces,” presided over by Rita Raley who knows how to get a discussion going. Here are some cool projects and topics discussed in this session.

Jeremy Douglass talked about tag clouds as an aesthetic medium. They are web browsing interfaces, and despite their name they’re usually organized alphabetically or by popularity. Douglass takes the idea of cloud and runs with it, exploring them as a creative medium: the example he gave of this was the Flickr Fiesta 2005 invite he received by email. Algorithmically sophisticated literary renderings like TextArc, where terms have geographic meaning may look like tag clouds, but the latter are much simpler, Douglass said; plus, TextArc isn’t searchable, whereas tag clouds are. Later in the session, he brought home the broad(er) point that the tag cloud isn’t just a utilitarian interface; it can be portraiture, for example when some blogs replace their mastheads with tag clouds.

Then Joseph Tabbi talked about the semantic literary web, mostly in the context of the ELO Archive-It MediaWiki, a joint project with the Library of Congress. How do you preserve something, Tabbi asked? Well, you can tag it, which is limited but useful as a field-building (as opposed to literary) activity. OK, so what counts as a literary interface? Clouds are interesting as conceptual art, but their literariness (found through reading) is limited. Tabbi talked about Electronic Book Review (ebr) as an example of experiments in literary interfaces: the ebr website gets completely overhauled every couple of years, sometimes with sub-optimal for readability results. The key, for Tabbi, is to find conceptual connections while reading, and cross-link, cross-categorize – both to writing within and outside electronicbookreview.com.

Elizabeth Swanstorm talked about the interface in Jeffrey Shaw’s installation piece The Legible City. This is one I would travel overseas to play with, given more time and financial resources. Here’s how Shaw himself describes it:

In The Legible City the visitor is able to ride a stationary bicycle through a simulated representation of a city that is constituted by computer-generated three-dimensional letters that form words and sentences along the sides of the streets. Using the ground plans of actual cities – Manhattan, Amsterdam and Karlsruhe – the existing architecture of these cities is completely replaced by textual formations written and compiled by Dirk Groeneveld. Travelling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes is a choice of texts as well as their spontaneous juxtapositions and conjunctions of meaning.

Better: the latest installation is multiplayer! If people are using more than one stationary bike, they may encounter each other’s avatars in the virtual world. So each rider is a node in a distributed networked system; their actions influence others’ virtual world; and their physical surroundings, irrelevant, fall away. So what kind of interactor, Swanstorm asked, does The Legible City produce – readers, riders, writers? Her eventual thesis was that this project highlights textual analysis as something one does by actively interacting with the text. No kidding; imagine giving undergraduate students of literary writing and/or criticism the visceral experience of this installation. They’d have a different relationship with literature forevermore.

Finally, Victoria Szabo talked about teaching, reading and creating scholarly works in 3D environments. Specifically, she talked about how they (Information Science + Information Studies at Duke) use Second Life in teaching. Students create objects, hold events and collaborate on criticism virtually… oh, just look at the ISIS site I just linked to. Szabo’s overarching point was this architectural metaphor: building and thinking are closely related. They put this into successful ongoing practice over at ISIS, encouraging students to combine creative and critical acts in their use of 3D virtual worlds.

MLA ‘07: Thursday cont.

Monday, December 31st, 2007

Been home for 24 hours now, and I realize that I didn’t finish writing up the exciting stuff I saw at MLA on Thursday. So:

1. NINES, “a networked infrastructure for nineteenth-century electronic scholarship,” continues to impress with its impact and exemplary use of the net for collaboration. It arose, Laura Mandell said in her talk, in reaction to the prejudice against electronic publishing among tenure review, faculty search and other profession-influencing committees. The NINES editorial board not only aims to separate high-quality electronic scholarship from the chaff, but also do so in a sustainable manner. To that end, from what I understand they review sites and projects but leave things like copy-editing to authors themselves, ideally aided by their own institutions.

Laura’s point that the digital resources don’t, and can’t, disguise the human agency that creates them is worth repeating every once in a while. One of the ways in which electronic scholarship has been good for the humanities is that computation forces us to admit we’re constantly making choices, and some of these choices are arbitrary in that equally valid options exist for many editorial decisions. Objectivity as an aim falls away when you’re working computationally, and what’s left is a need to clearly explain your decisions. As we know from so many spheres of life, transparency is key communication. Scholarly communication is no exception from that.

2. In the same session, Robert Blake talked about the UC Language Consortium, which totally blew me away even if their site has been down for a few days now. They’re developing online resources for the teaching of foreign languages, starting with impressive projects in Filipino and Arabic. The consortium solicits proposals for development of these resources, and gives out small ($5,000-20,000) grants. The courses for which these resources are developed proceed to be open – for credit and all – to all students within the UC system, and the online materials are open to anyone to look at. Now that’s open courseware. And their next big project is Punjabi Without Walls! Apparently the Punjabi communities in the U.S. (and presumably elsewhere) are excited about this, since they want to keep their language alive and these materials will make that easier.

On to MLA Friday in the next post.


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