Friday, September 28, 2012

Ramsay Rockwell and Drucker . . . a.k.a My Jurassic Park Post

It is an interesting thing to blog about the discussion that took place during the Ramsay, 
Rockwell, and Drucker portion of our class on Tuesday. It is interesting because 1. we’ve 
already talked at length about them, 2. I was the one presenting, and 3. what is my intention 
in blogging? I could blog about the experience of being part of the discussion, or I could
blog about reading the chapters, or I could blog about what discussion did NOT take place—
my own thoughts in regards to discussion that (as facilitator) I withheld from sharing.
I’ll blog about the latter.
I find no problem giving scholarship “status” to builders, coders, and hackers—beginning 
with their reaching the criteria set forth by Ramsay and Rockwell. The builders should get 
scholarly credit (if that is what they desire), because building a site to facilitate a scholarly 
vision/need requires close collaboration with the traditional scholar. Coders should get 
scholarly credit, among other reasons (that depend on one’s personal definition of coders), 
for any and all innovation involving code or the process of coding—advancing their field, 
if you will. Hackers fall into this last example, generally (if I understand “hackers” correctly), 
as they “hack” others’ coding/work, adapt it and do something new or different with it. 
It’s kind of like what Dr. Ian Malcom chastised John Hammond about in Jurassic Park
something to the tune of: “You didn’t figure it out for yourself—you stood on the minds 
(and research) of giants and took the next step. You didn’t develop a respect for the research.” 
(That’s a gross paraphrase—I’ll throw up the clip if I can find it.)
That I am of the “younger generation” of scholars certainly makes a difference—computers 
and computer savvy coders have always been a part of my educational experience . . . even 
though my family didn’t get an internet capable computer until I was in sixth or seventh grade. 
I can also see the merit of what is being done with the digital humanities—especially when 
it attempts to replicate the safe-guarding ideals of peer review. (I’ll blog about 
here shortly.)
Drucker’s idea of “where is the theory? Why isn’t there ambiguity?” (again, paraphrase) 
fits Brandon’s statement best: everyone’s asking for more—don’t worry, it’s on it’s way. 
We don’t know how to best use the technology in new and truly innovative ways—but we’re
asking for those innovations, so they’ll come. We just have to be patient.
In terms of those innovations, I look to the rest of technology for a template. I once read 
(I think in a Michael Crichton novel, as it turns out) that Americans are always looking for 
the next big thing, and work to create it out of the blue—trying to leap from innovation to 
innovation. But the Japanese, in contrast, work to improve in small steps, quietly and consistently 
building toward the next step. 
Whether or not that statement is true (and I have absolutely NO evidence that it is), it 
brings up two legitimate schools of thought. Both need to happen, and would benefit from 
working together. 
[Here's the Jurassic Park clip. The relevant dialogue is over by the half-way point.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GALE: It's Like That Scene from The Matrix . . .

. . . "Guns. Lots of guns."

Man. I wonder if GALE watched this film before they designed their search descriptions for going through the NCCO--cause that's the image I got when I read about searching through information.

Love it.

Here's my question though, and I don't mean it as a cop-out, considering what we do as researchers: although GALE has an advisory board full of credentialed individuals giving advice on what is truly worth digitizing, how much worth can we attribute to obscure receipts of payment for workers?

Meh--I'm digressing--let's get back to the matter of form, not content. 

The thing that strikes me most about the GALE promotional material is the oft repeated mentioning of millions of files/pages/scanned/available. They have MILLIONS of images to sift through. (See the clip above). I guess there will always be someone out there interested in even the most obscure piece of data. I would like to run an algorithm (maybe using the Textual Analysis Tool ( to see what percentage of the millions of files are searched on a regular basis, and what percentage never get searched.

RANDOM THOUGHT: what about current newspaper worth? Most newspapers today have digital counterparts, but they look much different than the online pieces, and I don't know if newspapers keep scanned images of the physical newspaper. Will we look back in one hundred years, or longer, and find value in the Indiana Gazette's Thursday newspaper from October 15th, 2012? I suppose that's where the advisory board comes into play . . .

I did really like the Term Cluster engine, that allows a user to sink deeper and deeper into key terms and ideas. As the behind the scenes video said, tools like this allow for faster research, resulting in more time for analysis.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Metadata . . .

. . . surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.

I think that about sums up metadata, wouldn't you say?

I found the link Dr. Wisnicki sent us very helpful in unpacking the Schreibman et al article on the importance of digital library standards.

As the article moved through the different types of metadata standards (DC, MARC, Warwick), I thought of the adoption of standard gauge in railroad track--deciding upon a standard distance between the rails, creating an interoperability from trains and tracks. (For more on the subject, see: In the case of rails, Standard gauge allowed for something like, say, the Trans-continental railroad to be successfully built. Imagine what would have happened if the two groups used different gauges and tried to meet up in Utah? 

Other examples for the need(s) for standardization are found anywhere: standard electrical sockets (American vs. English), standard size bricks (vs. modular), or the 16" standard between wall studs. . . but I digress.

During class, I mentioned to A.J. that we've seen metadata before--when we open the preferences of an image taken from a camera, we find the size, type of file, date take, camera used, etc. The term should have clued me in as well: meta-data. As a fan of the meta-theatrical (the ole' "play within a play," or "breaking of the 4th wall"), I should have guessed metadata to be self-referential. 

One of the most important issues brought up within the article (in relation to standardization practices), is the idea of lasting view-ability. I hearkened this problem to the age-old frustration of video game consoles--something I'm sure we've all experienced before. The fact that I can't play my "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project" NES cartridge on my SNES saddens me to no end--much less trying it on an N64 . . . which marked the end of the cartridge era in Nintendo. (For more on the topic: .) Now, in this case, technology has far outdistanced the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cartridge--considering how I can download old NES games directly into the Wii's memory, makes interoperability obsolete.

With metadata, I thought the METS system from the Coyle webpage makes the most sense: it creates a package of data that binds together all of the important information--nothing gets left behind. Keeping standards in place to ensure proper decoding of this information ensures that the information within the packets is accessible.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hello Everyone:

Library as Laboratory: Or, My first real post of substance.

Reading through  G.S. Choudhury & D. Seaman's, “The Virtual Library” (Blackwell Companion to Digital Literary Studies) (Found at:, the section on "Library as Laboratory" struck me as interesting. I, like many of my English major compatriots before me, have had the "aha!" moment described--perusing for hours in the library stacks, finally coming upon the book, chapter, paragraph, or even sentence that locks an essay firmly in place. But the idea of viewing the library as scientists view their laboratories? Never thought about that one.

Choudhury and Seaman suggest that librarians can (and should) begin playing integral parts in assisting or spearheading new avenues of research, teaching, and general innovation within the field. A number of digital initiatives are listed, one of which intends to function for the humanities like the NSF functions for science (DO IT, for example).

I like the idea of utilizing the library's physical space as a place for invention and investigation. With most of the digital repositories and initiatives, I can access the data from a home computer, tablet, or smart phone--from the free WiFi in McDonalds for heaven's sake. I usually do my digital article database searches from home--why travel onto campus to log into a (potentially) slower computer, that may or may not be available, to search for digital articles when I can do the same at home?

I suppose I'm a romantic--I go to the library when it's crunch time, when I need to separate myself from the home-sphere when a deadline approaches. I'm a far-cry from taking notes down in a notebook after rifling through card-catalogs and handing in a written request for a physical journal to be shipped to me three weeks from the request, but the feeling of immersing myself that deeply into the research holds appeal.

I'm going to campus this afternoon to look up a digital article that's held locally but unavailable through the library online database (not sure how THAT works), so in a sense I'm putting the idea into practice: approaching the experts (the library staff, at least the full-time professional staff, ARE experts in their field, in many regards--archival, recall, investigation) for assistance in finding data.

I've heard a number of lectures (usually side-note stuff) on the "lone-wolf" approach to research--the image of Nash (played by Russell Crowe) in A Beautiful Mind comes to mind. Sequestering himself off from all outside influences, even to the point of not attending classes, so his "governing dynamics" idea of economics can be properly thought out and written down. It results in his achieving the highest honor possible, to include a coveted research position. It's a VERY macho way of thinking regarding research.

Here's a question: Why haven't I asked the library staff for help in every paper I've written? Why haven't I asked them for help in narrowing my dissertation field (just the FIELD for heaven's sake, not even the focused TOPIC!)? Why don't I utilize the laboratory--that's what it's there for.


Also: I thought the conclusion was spot-on: making sure the digital encourages innovation in regards to accessibility, gather-ability, and use. We, as the researchers who partner with the research experts, need to give active input on how this innovation can be achieved.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Extended Introduction

Hello everyone--Blog post 1.

This is an extended introduction of myself, and is not intended to count toward my two page minimum for this week. </disclaimer>

I'm Steve. I live here in Indiana with my wife Rachel, one year old son Nolan, and three year old dog, Ivy. My academic interests include the 20th Century American Novel and Short Story, Children's and Young Adult Literature, Film Studies, and at least a passing interest in just about everything else. I really liked Julia's comment about being a Generalist--I don't think that applies to me as much, but it was heartening to hear nonetheless.

When I'm not wearing the academic hat, I work as a painter and trim carpenter--usually during free days and weekends. It's enough physical labor that I want to hit the books again when Monday rolls around, which helps, but it also makes me feel like a man divided.

That's it for now.