Monthly Archives: October 2011

Digital Public Library of America Plenary Meeting

The Digital Public Library of America project appears to be an American version of the Europeana project described in other posts. I will be posting more about it here as I get the opportunity. Exciting!!

from ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Many of our readers may have seen mention here and there about the idea
of creating a genuine digital public library for the United States,
something many countries around the world have done. One of the most
active advocates of this idea, and the one who has left the greatest
trail of articles related to the proposal online is the historian and
director of the Harvard University Library, Robert Darnton (see for
example, this piece).

I have watched Darnton speak about the DPLA on several occasions and I
think he strikes the perfect balance between the pragmatist and an
advocate for creating a library that isn’t afraid to reach for its true
potential. The topic has also found mention here at the Chronicle, both in longer articles and in several postings over at the Wired Campus.

Through their new website and not so shadowy mailing list, I read with excitement about the results of their recent “Beta Sprint
which invited various projects to submit code and concepts for the
platform and functionality of the DPLA. Those chosen, which include an
ongoing project of metaLAB (at) Harvard
that I have been fortunate to get to know well in recent months (I’ll
save that for another posting), will have the chance to present their
ideas next week.

On October 21, at the National Archives, there will be an open
meeting that brings together many of the stakeholders and interested
parties. I’ll be up here in Boston for THATCamp NE
and unable to attend, but I urge anyone in the DC area who is
interested in being part of the conversation about this important
initiative to attend. Read more about the event here, and register for the plenary meeting here.

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Filed under Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, digital repository, DPLA, Library science

Research Librarians Consider the Risks and Rewards of Collaboration

from Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Big-scale collaborations and digital-era collection strategies took center stage at the Association of Research Libraries’ membership meeting, held here last week. The library directors and others who attended heard about ambitious research and preservation projects like the HathiTrust digital repository and the proposed Digital Public Library of America, plans for which are moving ahead.

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Filed under Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, digital repository, Library science

Unit 7 – Digital Humanities Centers and libraries as “Third Spaces.”

I found this 2008 report, A Survey of Digital Humanities Centers in the United States, on the Council of Library and Information Resources website. It is a massive document, describing the survey’s goals, methods, and findings, as well as identifying trends, issues, and placing DHCs in the broader context of other models, including the sciences. I can only pick out a few ideas to talk about here, but I recommend the report for anyone interested in the state of the digital humanities in the U.S.

The foreword to the report identifies DHCs –and libraries– as examples of

“interdisciplinary ‘third places’—a term sociologist Ray Oldenburg has used to identify a social space, distinct from home and workplace. Third places foster important ties and are critical to community life. Familiar examples are barbershops, beauty salons, and coffee shops where, in the age of wireless, we see tables of students hunched over laptops, textbooks, and notepads. The academic library plays a role similar to that of a third place, providing resources, seminar rooms, and collaborative work spaces. It probably should not surprise us that both centers and libraries are frequently cited as elements in the emerging cyberinfrastructure to support advanced research in the sciences, technology, and humanities.”

Such third spaces are an important part of the “emerging cyberinfrastructure” precisely because of the issues we have been identifying in class: the insular nature of traditional humanities research and reward structures, and institutional inertia or resistance. Thus “the centers, whether virtual or physical, effectively become safe places, hospitable to innovation and experimentation.” Such shared infrastructure “requires compromise, negotiation, and, ultimately, trust” since they are “cooperative social systems.” I think the idea of “trust” goes back to the way the humanities (and academic institutions in general) create cultural capital: and a new model is needed, one that values cooperative research, as in the sciences. The third space approach may be the beginning, as third spaces provide “safe” places outside disciplinary and institutional boundaries to forge new alliances and to foster trust, to forge new structures of cultural and academic value.

However, humanities funding and research structures/sources in the U.S. tend to work against the idea of a third space. DHCs are almost exclusively associated with universities in the U.S. The executive summary identifies the tendency for DHCs in the U.S. to be “silos” that, because they “favor individual projects that address specialized research interests,” do not “effectively leverage resources community-wide.” This silo effect is an “inefficient use of the scarce resources available to the humanities community,” and leaves these projects at risk for “being orphaned over time.” The executive summary concludes that “new models are needed for large-scale cyberinfrastructure projects” and suggests that “the sciences offer a useful framework. Large-scale collaborations in the sciences have been the subject of research that examines the organizational structures and behaviors of these entities and identifies the criteria needed to ensure their success. The humanities should look to this work in planning its own strategies for regional or national models of collaboration.”

Section 6.3 of the report suggests that regional and national centers will be a necessary future development for the digital humanities, since “the form of collaboration that takes place in today’s centers is also inadequate for future scholarship. The differences between the small-scale, narrowly focused collaborations common among DHCs, and the more coordinated, large-scale organizational collaborations characteristic of regional and national centers are more than just differences in size and degree. They involve wholly new processes of management, communication, and interaction.” Thus suggests that this  third space will become itself standardized and institutionalized (much like the internet itself as a third space) and require the development of a fourth space (as some researchers are now developing alternate internets). But I digress…..

The executive summary does not address where the funding for such regional and national models is to come from. In section 4.5.2 of the report, centers could often not account for all of their funding sources, which were a hodgepodge of grants, funding lines, and other sources. “It is, however, certain that universities, followed by grants and foundations, are the most frequently cited funding sources for centers.” So long as funding comes from such heterogeneous sources, and especially from universities whose narrow interests will dictate which projects get funded, it seems that a larger model will not be feasible. But getting funding on the state or national level will be difficult, given the current financial/fiscal crisis in this country. It seems that the European Union is ahead of the U.S. with their Europeana initiative (which is an immensely-scaled cyberinfrastructure project funded by the EU). Of course, if the EU goes broke bailing out its weaker members, perhaps all bets are off. But I think even the effort will have been worthwhile because of the way it has intensified the development of protocols and standards, and raised international awareness.

The report addresses the issue of motivation: many DHCs did not see the need for large-scale collaboration or regional/national centers. Section 6.4 asks, “As digital humanities computing becomes an integrative, multi-team endeavor, the motivations, support structures, and reward systems that make for successful collaboration become critically important. What aspects of collaboration may be critical to the success of regional or national centers?” (emphasis mine). The report suggests several aspects:

  • Compelling, Community-Wide Research Needs – examples such as digital preservation issues, developing repositories for digital collections, and the creation of large datasets
  • No Center Left Behind – clarification of the role of individual DHCs in the context of regional and national centers, so that current investment is not lost.
  • Trust as the Tie that Binds –  The ability to trust the level of prestige/cultutal capital associated with a center: Academic tenure-and-review committees have long been accused of failing to give credence to digital scholarship. Michael Shanks, codirector of the Stanford Humanities Lab, believes the reason for their hesitation is rooted in trust. These committees want to know if an individual on a team has done the work, or if he or she is simply riding on someone else’s coattails.The report suggests regional and national centers will confer more prestige and thus, more trust.
  • Individual Motivations – suggests that web 2.0 technologies to give feedback and confer prestige to contributors will help, since “reward systems that enhance the personal reputation of contributors are important.The report also suggests that structural motivations/requirements such as exist in the sciences will help (i.e., requiring the sharing of deposits of data in repositories as a prerequisite for publication and/or funding).
  • The Nature of the Work – “successful large-scale collaborations occur most frequently when the work is easily divided into components.”

So the report assesses where we currently are and suggests a needed direction; but it doesn’t really have much in the way of concrete suggestions except to look to the sciences for institutional and structural models. This is probably because it appears that the digital humanities are still building consensus that such regional and national centers are needed, and that such institutional and disciplinary changes are requisite.

Where does the library fit in?  The report refers to libraries as other examples of such “third spaces,” and  it seems that libraries as a whole are much more aware of and committed to developing such regional and national structures/centers. It seems that libraries can thus take the lead in developing such centers; which would put them squarely in the center of the developing cyberinfrastructure in the U.S. But the study’s author is not a librarian per se, but a museum specialist; according to the website, the report’s author, Diane M. Zorich, “is a cultural heritage consultant specializing in planning and managing the delivery of cultural information. Her clients include the J. Paul Getty Trust, the American Association of Museums, the Smithsonian Institution, RLG Programs/OCLC, and many other cultural organizations and institutions . . . . [She] has graduate degrees in anthropology and museum studies.”  So libraries need to really work on developing such resources and connections with cultural organizations in order to make this work.

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Filed under Digital Humanities, Library science, SIRLS 675

Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Fear of Repression Spurs Scholars and Activists to Build Alternate Internets – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Since Egypt cut off its internet completely during the Arab Spring uprisings, this idea is getting a lot more play.

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Filed under internet

Unit 6 – DSpace Install notes and comments

I was able to install and configure DSpace with no problems;  we followed these steps:

We set up a new virtual machine, and built, not a LAMP stack, but a LTPJ stack: Linux-Tomcat-PostgreSQL-Java. Once those programs were installed, we needed to create all the structure for DSpace: we used sudo to create linux directories and users for DSpace, set their permissions, and then set up a related user and space in PostgreSQL. Then we set up a DSpace database and directories in Tomcat.

Once those structures were ready, then we downloaded the DSpace source code and set up a configuration file, then used maven to actually “build” the installation according to the configuration we specified. I’m guessing that means maven compiled all the code using the modules and settings we specified in the configuration files. The we used ant to do a “fresh install” – I guess it installed the compiled binary code that maven created.

The we had to create a DSpace administrator/user  at the linux command line and edit some configuration files to give that user privileges; then we rebooted the system and were then able to access DSpace from the browser and set up our collection.


The alternate instructions Bruce suggests at


look like they would be followable; although the comments on those instructions show there is some room for error in interpretation.  The details of the steps are different than what Bruce gave us, but they seem to follow the same general outline. I’m not sure I could follow them without technical support. Bruce’s step-by-step commands are probably best if you are going to try to do this without support; but the screenshots in the second link are probably helpful; and I like the clear delineation of steps in the first link.

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Filed under dSPace, Operating systems, SIRLS 675

News: The Promise of Digital Humanities – Inside Higher Ed.

I want to play “Desperate Fishwives”!

“While we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them,” wrote Stanley Fish, the outspoken professor of humanities and law at Florida International University, on his New York Times blog in June.

Some were oriented to teaching history via role-playing games. Heidi Rae Cooley, an assistant professor of new media studies at the University of South Carolina, presented one such project, called “Desperate Fishwives.” The game “intends to introduce students to the kinds of social and cultural practices that would have been in play in a 17th Century British village,” Cooley explained. Students will be tasked with accumulating resources, completing social rituals, and solving some societal ill “before church or state intervene,” she continued. Afterward, students would render a prose account of their experiences — “and thereby learn of the nature and complexities of historiography.”

Lisa Rosner, a professor of history at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, presented her concept for a role-playing game called “Pox in the City.” The game has similar educational goals to “Desperate Fishwives,” although Rosner’s has to do with public health in 19th-century Edinburgh. Players can assume the roles of doctor, patient, or smallpox virus.

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October 4, 2011 · 10:27 am

DuraSpace | Open technologies for durable digital content

DuraSpace | Open technologies for durable digital content.

This is the home page of the non-profit organization that runs DSpace and Fedora Commons. I wanted to link it here for future reference.

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Filed under Content Management, Digital Collections, Digital Humanities, dSPace, SIRLS 675