Archive for the ‘Internet Culture and Technology’ Category

A World Digital Library Is Coming True!

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Robert Darnton has a great essay in The New York Review of Books titled, A World Digital Library Is Coming True! This essay asks about publication and the public interest. He mentions how expensive some journals are getting and how that means that knowledge paid for by the public (through support for research) becomes inaccessible to the very same public which might benefit from the research.

In the US this trend has been counteracted by initiatives to legislate that publicly funded research be made available through some open access venue like PubMed Central. Needless to say lobbyists are fighting such mandates like the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR).

Darnton concludes that “In the long run, journals can be sustained only through a transformation of the economic basis of academic publishing.” He argues for “flipping” the costs and charging processing fees to those who want to publish.

By creating open-access journals, a flipped system directly benefits the public. Anyone can consult the research free of charge online, and libraries are liberated from the spiraling costs of subscriptions. Of course, the publication expenses do not evaporate miraculously, but they are greatly reduced, especially for nonprofit journals, which do not need to satisfy shareholders. The processing fees, which can run to a thousand dollars or more, depending on the complexities of the text and the process of peer review, can be covered in various ways. They are often included in research grants to scientists, and they are increasingly financed by the author’s university or a group of universities.

While I agree on the need to focus on the public good, I worry that “flipping” will limit who gets published. In STEM fields where most research is funded one can build the cost of processing fees into the funding, but in the humanities where much research is not funded, many colleagues will have to pay out of pocket to get published. Darnton mentions how at Harvard (his institution) they have a program that subsidizes processing fees … they would, and therein lies the problem. Those at wealthy institutions will now have an advantage in that they can afford to publish in an environment where publishers need processing fees while those not subsidized (whether private scholars, alternative academics, or instructors) will have to decide if they really can afford to. Creating an economy where it is not the best ideas that get published but those of an elite caste is not a recipe for the public good.

I imagine Darnton recognizes the need for solutions other than processing fees and, in fact, he goes on to talk about the Digital Public Library of America and OpenEdition Books as initiatives that are making monographs available online for free.

I suspect that what will work in the humanities is finding funding for the editorial and publishing functions of journals as a whole rather than individual articles. We have a number of journals in the digital humanities like Digital Humanities Quarterly where the costs of editing and publishing are borne by individuals like Julian Flanders who have made it a labor of love, their universities that support them, and our scholarly association that provides technical support and some funding. DHQ doesn’t charge processing fees which means that all sorts of people who don’t have access to subsidies can be heard. It would be interesting to poll the authors published and see how many have access to processing fee subsidies. It is bad enough that our conferences are expensive to attend, lets not skew the published record.

Which brings me back to the public good. Darnton ends his essay writing about how the DPLA is networking all sorts of collections together. It is not just providing information as a good, but bringing together smaller collections from public libraries and universities. This is one of the possibilities of the internet – that distributed resources can be networked into greater goods rather than having to be centralized. The DPLA doesn’t need to be THE PUBLIC LIBRARY that replaces all libraries the way Amazon is pushing out book stores. The OpenEdition project goes further and offers infrastructure for publishing knowledge to keep costs down for everyone. A combination of centrally supported infrastructure that is used by editors that get local support (and credit) will make more of a difference than processing fees, be more equitable, and do more for public participation, which is a good too.

International Ethics Roundtable 2014

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Last week I was at a great little conference, the International Ethics Roundtable 2014. My conference notes are at Information Ethics And Global Citizenship. I gave a paper titled, “Watching Olympia”, about the CSEC slides that showed the Olympia system developed by the Communications Security Establishment Canada. You can see the blog entry that my paper came from here.

Early Selfie (1865)

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

There was a discussion on Humanist about selfies and Emma Clarke on behalf of the Letters 1916 Project team posted a link to this holding of the National Library of Ireland, Augusta Caroline Dillon and Luke Gerald Dillon with camera on tripod reflected in a large mirror.

The two were apparently skilled amateur photographers who experimented with photographs like this. If one goes beyond photographs to paintings, I wonder if Las Meninas would qualify as a selfie.

Dear NSA, let me take care of your slides.

Monday, February 24th, 2014

On Scribd I found a funny set of slides titled, Dear NSA, let me take care of your slides. The author points out how horrid the design of the NSA slides are, and then goes on to suggest alternative designs.

Conference Report: Digital Infrastructure Summit 2014

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

I have just finished participating in and writing up a conference report on the Digital Infrastructure Summit 2014 in Ottawa. This summit brought some 140 people together from across Canada and across the stakeholders to discuss how to develop leading digital infrastructure in Canada. This was organized by the Digital Infrastructure Leadership Council. For this Summit the Council (working with Janet Halliwell and colleagues) developed a fabulous set of reference materials that paint a picture of the state of digital infrastructure in Canada.

You can see my longer conference report for details, but here are some of the highlights:

  • Infrastructure has been redefined, largely because of SSRHC’s leadership, as big and long data. This redefinition from infrastructure as tubes to focus on research data for new knowledge has all sorts of interesting effects. In brings libraries in, among other things.
  • Chad Gaffield (President of SSRHC) made the point that there is a paradigm shift taking place across many disciplines as we deal with the digital in research. As we create more and more research evidence in digital form it is vital that we build the infrastructure that can preserve and make useful this evidence over the long term.
  • We have a peculiarly Canadian problem that most of the stakeholders are more than willing to contribute to any coalition, but no one is jumping in to lead. Everyone is too polite. No one wants a new body, but no existing body seems to want to take the lead.
  • There is a lot of infrastructure already in place, but they are often not bundled as services that researchers understand. Much could be made of the infrastructure in place if there were a training layer and “concierge” layer that connects to researchers.

We need to talk about TED by Benjamin Bratton

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

The Guardian has reprinted the trasnscript of Benjamin Bratton’s We need to talk about TED talk that is critical of TED. He looks at each of the three terms in T.E.D. (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and here is paraphrase of some of his points:

  • TED talks conceptualize the future, but tend to oversimplify it.
  • TED wants to be about imagining the future, but it tends to promote placebo politics and technology.
  • We are told that change is accelerating, but while that may be true of technology, it isn’t true of politics and culture.
  • TED talks have too much faith in technology. Another futurism is possible.
  • Capitalism is presented as being about rocket ships and nanomedicine. It is actually about Walmart jobs, McMansions and government spying.

He ends by talking about design. He argues that it shouldn’t be about innovation, but about innoculation. Design is presented in TED as the heroic solving a puzzles that will magically fix everything. Instead he argues for design as slogging through the hard stuff – understanding the politics and cultural issues.

He ends by summarizing why he feels TED is not just a distraction, but harmful. He believes TED misdirects our attention by charming us with the entertaining simple solutions while avoiding the messy, chaotic, complex issues that can’t be solved by technology.

I sometimes wonder if Humanities Computing didn’t serve a similar purpose in the humanities. Is it a form of comic (technological) relief from the brutal truths we confront in the humanities … especially the suspicion that we make no difference when we do confront racism, sexism, surveillance, politics and technohype. Why not relax and play a bit with the other?

Supporting Digital Scholarship

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Tri-Council Agencies (Research councils of Canada) and selected other institutions (going under the rubric TC3+) have released an important Consultation Document titled Capitalizing on Big Data: Toward a Policy Framework for Advancing Digital Scholarship in Canada. You can see a summary blog entry from the CommerceLab, How big data is reshaping the future of digital scholarship in Canada. The document suggest that we have many of the components of a “well-functioning digital infrastructure ecosystem for research and innovation”, but that these are not coordinated and Canada is not keeping up. They propose three initiatives:

  • Establishing a Culture of Stewardship
  • Coordination of Stakeholder Engagement
  • Developing Capacity and Future Funding Parameters

The first initiative is about research data management and something we have been working on the digital humanities for some time. It is great to see a call from our funding agencies.

Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Scott send me a link to the Pentametron: With algorithms subtle and discrete / I seek iambic writings to retweet. This site creates iambic pentameter poems from tweets by looking at the rythm of words. It then tries to find ryhming last words to create a AABB rhyming scheme. You can see an article about it on Gawker titled, Weird Internets: The Amazing Found-on-Twitter Sonnets of Pentametron.

Perma, and Figshare

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Thanks to Twitter I’ve come across a number of new online tools of use to academics:

Perma comes from Harvard Law and allows you to create a permanent archive of something you are linking to. You go to the site, enter a URL that you want archived and it gives you a new URL for the Perma version which lets you see what the page looks like now and what it looked like when archived. This allows us to quote web pages that may either disappear or be changed. Here is the link to the archived version of Theoreti.ca: http://perma.law.harvard.edu/0f8ojk5Phmc – this is a version before this blog entry.

Figshare is a cloud based archive for academic data. You upload data and then provide metadata for the dataset. People can comment on it, download the data and so on. It seems to do in a fairly clean fashion what university repositories do. I’m not sure of their business model. I uploaded Wendell Piez’s electronic edition of Frankenstein to try it out.

 

TIN 2013 Conference

Saturday, August 17th, 2013

This weekend I’m at the Tomorrow’s Ideas Now 2013 Conference. This is the third international undergraduate research conference that the Kule Institute for Advanced Studies has organized. I’ll tweeting using the #TIN2013 hashtag.