Each of these projects explores what is possible when libraries open their collections to data scientists, allowing them to apply data mining algorithms to catalog, mine, visualize and create new ways of interacting with these vast archives. The results of such “big data” analyses by this new generation of “data librarians” yields new tools and datasets that can subsequently be used by ordinary citizens and journalists to transform how they access and understand the world.
Category Archives: internet
Here is another thoughtful article, this time from The Chronicle of Higher Education, about the need to theorize the role of software in digital media, especially the way users interact with digital materials (the article is linked below). Although not the major point of the article, the author Lev Manovich makes an interesting observation about digital humanities:
Over the past few years, a growing number of scholars in the digital humanities have started to use computational tools to analyze large sets of static digitized cultural artifacts, such as 19th-century novels or the letters of Enlightenment thinkers. They follow traditional humanities approaches—looking at the cultural objects (rather than peoples’ interaction with these objects). What has changed is the scale, not the method.
Instead, Manovich argues that “peoples’ interaction with these objects” — not documents, but performances–is the data of the future, and software not only makes new sorts of interactions possible, it is also the means for tracking and analyzing those interactions.
I have mixed feelings about this. While the platform sounds great, it is still placing these digital collections behind a pay wall, which goes against the principle of open access. Gale does have some fabulous digital collections, but you have to be a library to afford a subscription.
White House Delivers New Open-Access Policy That Has Activists Cheering – Research – The Chronicle of Higher Education
This is terrific news for proponents of open access to research; it puts academic publishers and academic journals on notice that federally-funded research must be made open access within a year of publication.
More about the career, and legacy, of Aaron Swartz.
The death of Mr. Swartz, apparently by suicide, is a tragic loss to the open access movement, and indeed to the world at large. He is perhaps most famously known for having hacked into the computer network at M.I.T. and then downloading most of the articles available on JSTOR in an attempt to make them free to the public. He was facing charges for that act that could have netted him years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
JSTOR itself, it should be noted, declined to press charges. It was the State Prosecutor for Massachusetts* who pursued Mr. Swartz (to his death, some would argue).
As an academic who participates in the process of scholarly information production and exchange, I have some understanding of the time, money, and effort it takes to conduct research, write and publish articles, run an academic journal, collect and curate said articles, and archive them in ways that make them available to others in a useful form. That work deserves fair compensation. But at the same time, corporations have become gatekeepers to that information (which is often produced at public expense at public universities, funded by public grants) and are charging what appear to be exorbitant amounts of money for access.
The Open Access model of information production and distribution requires a fundamental restructuring of the way information is produced, circulated, and valued in our culture. The current model is deeply entrenched, and will not change without significant buy-in from stakeholders who are currently highly resistant. Thus some activists are taking back their power by circumventing the system and forming alternate systems outside the current publishing structure. Mr. Swartz was one of those. He did so, not for any gain of his own, but because of his passionate conviction that the producers and users of information need to take back control of their intellectual property and make it freely available (or as free as possible). The entire system of scholarly production and exchange is changing, and the sooner the corporations that tie up intellectual information in proprietary databases realize this, the better.
*Correction: an earlier version of this post said it was the federal government that pursued prosecution of Mr. Swartz. The corrected information is above.