Esquire just ran a pretty neat piece on technology and the reconceptualization of digital maps. One of the coolest is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's ArtScope. Check it out at SFMOMA ArtScope.
Last week of classes! We're in the home stretch now so Chris and I are wrapping up a number of issues (mostly to do with the Daily Iowan as we've received no new information from the Geosciences department). It's a odd how strangely things have worked out with the Brian Glenister collection. At the beginning of the term we thought we were going to devoting all of our efforts into getting the collection off the ground (which we've kind of done, but just barely). As inter-deparmental collaborations go, I wonder how common it is for communication to break down as it has. It's unfortunate that things worked out the way they did, but it wasn't for lack of effort on our part to get things moving. But at the very least, we laid the groundwork for others to continue work on the Glenister collection.
A list of things to finish this week:
1)Fix the order of images for the Daily Iowan (some of the issues uploaded without metadata so they are chronologically displaced to the front end of the collection).
2)Metadata for a remaining group of 1890 issues. As we linearly progress by year, the number of issues has risen dramatically, making metadata a slow and repititive process (as if it wasn't already).
3)Write collection introductions. A brief blurb about what the collection is about.
4)Finish uploading issues--should push well over the 600 items mark.
5)Presentation on Friday--I don't really know what I'm going to talk about for 10 minutes. The collections themselves are probably more interesting than the work put into digitizing them. We've had a number of technical issues that we've solved but they've always been fairly mundane glitches (like the line spacing problem).
I figure I'll probably continue working on the Daily Iowan over break, unless told otherwise. It'll help keep me busy when I get back to Iowa City after new year's.
Finally! A non-project related entry- I ran across this paper on the philosophy of folksonomies written by Elaine Peterson, a professor at Montana State University. It's a quick read for anyone interested in the linguistic implications of social tagging. Peterson writes: "It is irrelevant that digital items can reside in more than one place, since one is talking about a classification scheme, not about the items themselves."
Peterson goes on to characterize folksonomies as employing a form of philosophical relativism(For example, rather than stating that A is or isn't B, one is saying A is relative to B). Because social tagging allows for a large degree of inconsistency, Peterson posits that it becomes difficult to clarify what is and isn't true about a thing when it is organized entirely by relative interpretation.
Beneath the Metadata: Some Philosophical Problems with Folksonomy
Today, blogger and technologist David Weinberger posted a response:
"Tags are not always truth claims, and a folksonomy is not intended to mirror nature...Folksonomies reinforce our move away from the essentialist view that every thing has a single category that reflects its single and real essence. We’ve been moving away from that view for a long time as a culture."
Weinberger is always an interesting read. His main point seems to be that comparing traditional and folksonomic classifications is perhaps inappropriate, as each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses and are designed for very different purposes:
Joho the Blog
A post Thanksgiving update! This past week I finished cropping (perhaps) a final batch of images so they're ready to be uploaded when I get back(which should put us well over 400 uploaded items). I also read through and amended (a small part) of the memorandum of understanding for the Glenister collection. Tiffany recently emailed us with a list of images to be rotated and renumbered, but we are still waiting on new metadata. I also talked to Mark about the interface requirements, which were fairly straightforward. I expect we'll have that up sometime in the next week, the most difficult part being crafting or finding some introductory text for each collection (perhaps we can enlist the Geoscience department for the Glenister collection?).
Last week for seminar, the digital fellows attended a presentation by Dr. Furuta of Texas A&M University. Furuta related some of the expectations and goals of several humanities based projects he has worked on for the center of digital libraries. I found it interesting that the center for digital libraries exist somewhat autonomously from the library, but also serves as a bridge for collaboration between the library and various departments. I think the goal of balancing the needs of specialized departments (researchers, faculty) and the general public (patrons of the library) has significant applicability to our inter-departmental, albeit much smaller scale digital projects.
Chris and I have begun auto cropping large batches of images. Photoshop CS3 does have an intriguing auto crop command, but it does work effectively enough for our purposes, typically only resizing part of the image. Chris has experimented with auto cropping images divided by even and odd (left and right bound pages of the newspaper demarcated by year and month), and found it effective when compared to the time taken to crop them by hand and convert them from tiff to jpeg one by one. Most of the time is now spent fixing images where text is cut off by the auto cropping action. The result isn't quite as precise, but for this specific project, they don't have to be. We've found that by auto cropping images we can sometimes finish in about 2 hours one year's worth of newspapers as opposed to 4 hours when manually cropping (although we sacrifice some quality). So what we have is a workable solution for the rest of the semester (why didn't we think of this earlier?!), but a long term investigation of more sophisticated software or more precise means of cropping is still worth looking into. Last week, we also corrected a number of images that did not have banding for the Daily Iowan. Content DM makes correcting such errors pretty simple. We simply recalled the images after changing the options, reuploaded and approved the images.
This past week, I also attended two of the David Eads presentation on Drupal, a content management software. Most of the attendees seemed pretty firmly entrenched in IT, tossing around sophisticated technical questions with aplomb, while I often had no clue what they were talking about. But while I may not have garnered a lot from the technical explanations of the software, I thought his explanation of the implications of open source software was intriguing (I love discussions of upcoming trends and their subsequent effects on society). I find it fascinating that the internet, originally intended as a tool for collaboration, has in a sense, vacillated back and forth on this idea of community and what defines a community. The internet seems destined to forever remain in large part proprietary in nature, and yet, wikis and enormous communities of users, like the ones that use Drupal, continue to bring disparate groups of people together. The larger social implications of people (are we naturally inclined to do so?) working together are (although not unusual) quite profound. Now we have the technology to make communication and publishing easier than ever.
Some of the advice doled out by Eads included:
-Pick a vendor you like rather than a technology (emphasizing importance on working with the right people)
-Folksonomies are a great example of leveraging technology in a creative way. Another example might be the naming game Google uses to disambiguate images
-Change the mindset of I'm going to be everything to everybody. It's better to be something to somebody.
-In the future of the web may be in the Semantic Web or getting better metadata about various pieces on your page.
-The web will become a more seamless media experience (on this I wasn't quite clear what he meant. In the days of the nascent internet people seemed to believe the next thing would be something better than TV. Well we now know the internet is nothing like TV. So will the next big thing be something like the internet, but better or more seamless? Professor Hsieh discussed the implications of intuitive touch screen technology in computing. Will the next big thing be something like the iphone? Internet that is portable?).
We seem to be nearing the end now with little over a month left to go on the DI and Glenister project. Chris and I met with Nicki Saylor and Mark Anderson this week to go over some specifics about how best to begin wrapping up the projects with the long-term future of the projects in mind. Nicki proposed focusing on the following goals:
1)Create an interface for both collections--This should be fairly straightforward as Nicki wants a largely uniform layout for each of the digital library collections. So it's mostly a matter of selecting images and subjects for canned searching (although there's not a lot of variety of searches that could be constructed for the Daily Iowan).
2)Ramp up the workflow--Chris and I are to look at ways to possibly expedite the process of batch cropping and converting the images (from Tiff to jpegs). A large part of our time this semester has been devoted to (sometimes mindless) labor as opposed to intellectual work. Part of what we discussed in seminar was trying to find a balance between sticking to a familiar process of work or risking trying something new that may in end save you time in the long run, or perhaps not. The nice part about being a digital fellow, is that our schedules are flexible enough that we don't have to become overly preoccupied with deadlines and even when mistakes are made, they become valuable learning experiences. This I feel must be part of the "real world" work experience because while achieving short term immediate goals are important (justifying budgets commensurate with productivity) experimentation are the keys to long term progress (in other words allowing time to play!). Chris and I will look into possibly finding software or some kind of batch command for photoshop. Nicki stressed finding a workable solution, one that may be imperfect but still help ameliorate some of the labor intensive work that has been so far involved.
3)Nicki is going to draft a memorandum of understanding for the Glenister project. Chris and I will edit it to the best of our knowledge and then it will be passed on to Tiffany Adrain.
On a non-digital project related note, I attended the Competitive Intelligence conference held on Friday. While I'm not sure I would like to go into the business information field, the conference did give me a sense of how important research skills are to competitive companies. One of the most interesting pieces of advice that was given at the conference was for librarians or library students to join professional organizations that don't have "our" skills. My previous belief was that the general public, large companies included, lack an understanding of the importance of the work of librarians, but perhaps this is not as pervasive as I once thought.
I had a conversation with fellow fellow Joe the other day about the progress of our projects and I think we're all starting to realize just how little we're going to finish this term. Relatively speaking. This of course was as I was coming into the semester with high expectations and almost zero understanding of how to begin a new project. 6,000 slides did seem like a large undertaking, but I figured maybe, if I worked assiduously enough, I could finish like half of the slides? As it stands, we have some 120 slides uploaded on the digital library site with another 100 ready to go. And we're more than half way through the semester. Unfortunately, it's not a matter of, well maybe we can just pick up the pace. It's been about two weeks since the Geoscience department last emailed me, and I felt like Chris and I had to do a bit of haggling to get our last batch. I don't mean to sound overly negative about this aspect of the project. I understand the Geoscience Repository employees are busy with a multitude of other things of more pressing concern. Moreover, Tiffany Adrain is dependent on Dr. Glenister freely giving of his own time to, somewhat, laboriously, go through and label the collection, slide by slide.
Although, we've reached the mid-1880s in the Daily Iowan collection, we haven't been regularly uploading the images because of a problem with Content DM. Mark promptly emailed OCLC, and we found out, today, that the problem had to do with spacing the cursor after the final line in our tab delimited text files. To which I say, why is Content DM so finicky? and I never ever would have thought that was the problem. Well, at least, a simple problem only demands a simple solution. Hopefully, we'll get at least another decade posted to the collection site in the next week or so.
I feel lucky that I've had so many helping hands in my own projects in the DLS department. Chris and I have encountered our share snafus, and Mark has repeatedly stressed that it is all a good learning experience. And that, I feel, is what I will probably take away from this semester. Yes, it would be nice to have some evidence for all the work we've put into metadata and such, but the more salient, albeit less explicit, goal is to establish a workflow and create documentation for our standards to keep our project running so that maybe a year or two down the line, someone else can finish the work we started.
Finally, in a non-digital, but library related note, I went to the ILA conference on Friday and found it, a bit to my surprise, to be pretty worthwhile. While, many of my fellow library students seem much more self-assured about the direction in which they're going (i.e. they want to work in academic libraries or with old manuscripts in special collections or in school libraries), I still feel like I've been mostly direction-less since beginning school. Part of me wonders if I entered library school as an alternative to doing something more challenging or perhaps less job-friendly. Did I want to be libarian because it was something that is comfortably familiar? While much of what was discussed at the conference, wasn't earth-shatteringly new, perhaps it was not precisely what was said, but how it was said (Personally, I felt quite inspired). Speaking in broad terms, Joseph Janes, a speaker from the University of Washington, was able to precisely articulate why the library profession is so worthy an endeavor. The idea that libraries extend beyond a building isn't new, but as Janes put it, libraries have always tried to get out of the building, and it is the digital world (as David Weinberger puts it, the conversion of atoms to bits) that allows the library to be somewhere and everywhere. But in doing so libraries shouldn't strive to be Google. Libraries can beat (maybe an imprecise term?) Google by not trying to be Google, but focusing on the niche areas where our quality will always trump the expedient, yet shallow search results of Google. The digitization of documents by the staff at DLS, and other similar departments at Iowa, are working towards ensuring libraries stay relevant in an ever more digital world.