Via DigitalKoans, a report on new open source OCR software. Now — someone get busy and train it to read polytonic ancient Greek texts accurately …
Archive for the ‘General’ Category
This topic has come up before and I imagine the trend will continue:
Seattle–“Should our university even be in the e-mail business?” Wendy Woodward King found herself asking last year. Her answer, the director of technology support services at Northwestern University told a session at the Educause technology meeting, was no. And that’s why Northwestern students get their e-mail “@u.northwestern.edu” which is hosted, free of charge, by Google Apps Education Edition. Bryant University, in Rhode Island, also decided to outsource, but went with another free service, Microsoft’s Windows Live@edu. And in both cases, a prime driver behind the decision was that students were already using one of these services when they came to campus. At Northwestern, Ms. Woodward King found, “90 percent of our students already had Google’s Gmail. When students forwarded their campus e-mail to a non-campus account, 67 percent of them did it to Gmail. Students told us they wanted Google.” By going with Google, she says, the university avoided costs in maintaining and upgrading an e-mail system, and took advantage of state-of-the-art technology that Northwestern could never supply. Bryant was particularly interested in staying in touch with alumni, and giving them one e-mail address for life, says Art Gloster, vice president for information services. “Many of our students already used Microsoft’s MSN Hotmail services,” he says. Moving to Live@edu, with an “@bryant.edu” address, kept the transition from student to alumni easy and seamless. More than 50 percent of the 2007 graduating class signed up. –Josh Fischman
I always find myself wanting humanists to think about using the net for more than “let’s just do what we’ve always done, only on line now” (the BMCR syndrome, if you will). But still this expansion of SSRN into Classics seems to be a step forward.
Good to keep Peter Suber’s reaction in mind though:
On the one hand, I’m glad that my field, philosophy, will finally have a discipline-wide repository. On the other, SSRN imposes restrictions unheard of at other OA repositories. For example, it adds an SSRN watermark to the pages of some deposited articles and only allows links to SSRN papers in abstracts. As Vincent Müller pointed out to me, it doesn’t support data harvesting by ROAR. And I don’t like the PDF-only limitation. I plan to monitor the site to see whether SSRN lifts these restrictions.
Tom Elliott has put out a new call for papers that looks good, “The Publication and Study of Inscriptions in the Age of the Computer.”
Alan Somerstein, helped by several research assistants, has directed a substantive new site with ancillary discussions focused on the oath in ancient Greece. Careful definition of the phenomenon, a database of over 3700 occurrences, and a spreadsheet of sources for the citations. No word on licensing specifics, but, “As promised from the start, the database is now being made available for general use.”
from Shawn Graham’s Electric Archaeology:
From an archaeological point of view, creating 3d representations of a site using Sketchup, and then moving that with the terrain into an online world, with the associated annotations etc could really be revolutionary – what immediately springs to mind is that this would make a far better way of publishing a site than a traditional monograph. Internet Archaeology (the journal) has been trying for just that kind of thing for a while. Maybe IA should host a world in Multiverse…?
Cathal Woods, philosophy professor at Virginia Wesleyan University, writes:
together with a student, i have prepared new translations of plato’s euthyphro, apology (which we’re calling “socrates’ defense”), crito, and the death scene from phaedo. they’re free to all under a creative commons license.
they’re available via
the last being an omnibus containing all 4, together with front matter.
can you make a posting about them on the stoa blog?
Nice! It’s great to see OA taking hold in the humanities.
from Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “CommentPress: New (Social) Structures for New (Networked) Texts,” Journal of Electronic Publishing, Fall 2007:
… CommentPress demonstrates the fruitfulness of reimagining the technologies of electronic publishing in service to the social interconnections of authors and readers. The success of the electronic publishing ventures of the future will likely hinge on the liveliness of the conversations and interactions that they can produce, and the further new writing that those interactions can inspire. CommentPress grows out of an understanding that the chief problem involved in creating the future of the book is not simply placing the words on the screen, but structuring their delivery in an engaging manner; the issue of engagement, moreover, is not simply about locating the text within the technological network, but also, and primarily, about locating it within the social network. These are the problems that developers must focus on in seeking the electronic form that can not just rival but outdo the codex, as a form that invites the reader in, that acknowledges that the reader wants to respond, and that understands all publication as part of an ongoing series of public conversations, conducted in multiple time registers, across multiple texts. Making those conversations as accessible and inviting as possible should be the goal in imagining the textual communications circuit of the future.
For some reason I never had a chance to meet Roy Rosenzweig in person, but I appreciated his scholarship, communicated with him by email a couple of times to discuss wikipedia, and heard lots about him from his admirers, of whom there were many. His was a very strong and very important voice in our digital humanities community. I also want to say that his closest friends who supported him to the end can be absolutely certain that their love and concern meant everything to him. I know that for a fact!
posted to the TEI list
Wiki2Tei converter 1.0
We are pleased to announce the first release of the Wiki2Tei software. Wiki2Tei is a converter from the mediawiki format to XML (TEI vocabulary).
The mediawiki format is used by wikimedia fundation wikis (Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikisource), and many other wikis using the mediawiki software. Large amounts of free hight-quality structured texts are available in this format. These texts are used more and more often in NLP (natural language processing) projects. However, the mediawiki parser is oriented towards rendition and the mediawiki syntax is complex and hard to parse.
The Wiki2Tei converter makes available the information contained in wiki syntax (structuration, highlighting, etc.), and allows to properly retrieve the plain text. This conversion is intended to preserve all the properties of the original text. Wiki2Tei is closely coupled with the mediawiki software, allowing to convert all the features of the mediawiki syntax.
The Wiki2Tei converter provides a rich set of tools for converting mediawiki text from several sources (file, mediawiki database) and managing collections of files to be converted. The TEI vocabulary used is documented, according to the TEI Guidelines, in an ODD document. The code is open source and may be downloaded from the SourceForge download area:
The web site contains full documentation and a “demo”:
A mailing list is open:
… one must suspect that Microsoft is none too pleased to see a plucky start-up trying to gain first touch with customers. It could be very frustrating for Redmond if thousands/millions of users go straight to their Yahoo! or Google e-mail without ever glancing at Windows or if they perform searches via Firefox all day long because that’s where DeviceVM pushed them…
Stretch your mind a bit more, and you could see a company like Google pushing its own desktop plans via something like the Splashtop software. Why even bother encountering Windows when you can have an instant-on machine that leads to search, e-mail, documents, photos, music and all the rest? …
We’ve seen the Splashtop software in action, and it boots as advertised. You hit the power button, and the software fires up right away. You can then opt to head toward Firefox, Skype or whatever a particular OEM decides to bundle on a machine or do nothing and allow the operating system to boot as usual. (Go get your cup of coffee.)
Laura Cohen’s post at Library 2.0: an academic’s perspective sets out some reasons for a “training wheels culture” in librarianship. I think folks in the humanities will recognize the syndrome as well:
Experience. If you’ve had little experience learning technology on your own, it can be hard to get started. It takes a certain kind of strength to wrap your mind around a new technology skill, especially one that is somewhat beyond your present skill level. There’s a problem-solving, experimental, hard-driving, trial-and-error mindset that you need to embrace. Self-training in technology is in itself a skill that you need to cultivate by actually doing it, repeatedly.
Habit. If you’ve expected, and received, training for almost everything you’ve learned, you’ve developed a dependent mindset. The environment has fit itself around you, rather than the other way around. You’ve been enabled. Your habitually tell yourself that there is someone around to help you and that’s the way it should be. All you need to do is ask.
Roles. If certain staff become too highly associated with technology training, other staff may become passive. This makes for a difficult paradox: having technology trainers on staff is a sign of administration’s support for this staffing role, yet relying too much on these trainers can breed passivity.
Attitude. Learning new skills is fun. It really is! If you dread it, or consider it a chore, or get easily frustrated, or fear failure, then you’ll have problems.
Learned helplessness. This is always a problem when it appears, and I don’t know how, exactly, to deal with it. I’ve heard this kind of thing often enough: “I’m just not good at this.” “This is always hard for me.” “I know this isn’t my strength.” “I’m a traditional librarian.” And so on. When an individual says these things often enough, and over a period of years, this person comes to believe it. Repetition creates immutable facts on the ground.
Ability. On the other hand, let’s face it: some people are just not technically inclined. You may say they have no place in librarianship, and you may be right. But let’s think about this further. I’m terrible with numbers, strong with words. With a more open mind toward numbers, and some vigorous effort, I could probably increase my skills. But I’ll never be as good as those for whom numeric reasoning comes easy. I think it’s unrealistic to expect that every librarian will have very strong technical skills. On the other hand, the profile of our skill levels will certainly shift upward in the coming years. In the meantime, we need to face facts. Some of our colleagues are technically weaker than others and they’ll stay that way. These people have other strengths, and we should cultivate and make good use of these strengths. But we also shouldn’t entirely give up on training them in new skills.
Intrinsic difficulty of the skill. Some skills are harder to learn than others. I’m unhappy when I encounter librarians who struggle to maintain Web pages made up of a bunch of links organized into unordered lists. I’m much more understanding of librarians who need help with higher-level skills…say, for importing RSS feeds into a Web page.
Time. Some people learn nearly everything on their own. More power to them! This involves a level of commitment that not everyone can match. One part of this commitment is time, including significant time off hours. We can’t expect this of everyone. This isn’t reasonable, or even desirable. In addition, many of us are overwhelmed with job responsibilities. This is why we have trainers on staff.
Strategic direction. If your library is moving in a strategic direction that expects certain new skills, then it makes sense to provide training for them. Unfunded mandates are not good policy. In my case, I’ve been making a focused pitch for importing RSS feeds into our public Web pages. I can’t do this while at the same time saying, “Learn it on your own!” If I provide a tutorial and offer support, the chances are much greater that staff will learn the skill that I want them to learn so much. And maybe they’ll listen to other suggestions from me, if I have a history of backing up my lobbying with support.
Library culture. I left this one for last. I do think our library culture is a factor. Our profession is on the cusp. What I mean is this: we’re on the cusp of a new generation of librarians (of any age) who are expected to be – and will be – technically adept. Expected to be is an element that is absolutely crucial, and we’re not there yet. Right now, we’ve got a mixed bag of skill levels on staff because of a technology generation gap, unfortunate hiring practices, low expectations, lack of vision, and so on. There is also failed leadership. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that our adminstrators need to set good examples. I can’t stand it when administrators require skills that they themselves have no intention of learning, or even comprehending. Even more problematic are administrators who have relatively few skills and also can’t envision, advocate for, put much importance on, or make time for developing the skills of the staff they supervise. They don’t support what they need to support in order to make crucial learning happen. Neither scenario is sustainable.
From A. A. Adams, Copyright and research: an archivangelist’s perspective, SCRIPT-ed, September 2007:
To be an academic carries with it a great deal of freedom, or at least it should. At a time when pressures on academic freedom are rife, everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, academics should be confronting the responsibilities that go with their cherished and fought-for freedoms. That responsibility is to disseminate one’s work as widely as possible, to hold it up for criticism and to allow others to build on it. To do so demands that we hold Open Access to our articles as a categorical imperative and not allow the tail of academic publishing to wag the dog of academic communication.
(Hat tip, Peter Suber.)
from the mailbag:
My name is Silvio and I’ve recently concluded a set of English-Latin-English dictionaries which I thought you could be interested in sharing with your site’s visitors. The dictionaries provide clear and precise translations and are absolutely free of charge.
Latin Dictionary: http://www.babylon.com/define/112/Latin-Dictionary.html
If you have any feedback on them, I’d be happy to hear.
(Note: I cannot vouch for these dictionaries but simply pass along the announcement.)
from the CHE:
Latin Lovers Flock to Vicipaedia It’s taken only a few years for Wikipedia to become one of the world’s most translated documents: Sections of the site now appear in about 250 languages, including regional dialects like Quechua, Xhosa, Nauruan, and Kalaallisut. The translation projects, fledgling though they may be, serve real communities across the world. But what to make of Vicipaedia, a bustling site whose contributors have translated more than 15,000 Wikipedia entries into Latin? The Wall Street Journal offers an entertaining profile of Vicipaedia’s editors, who are remarkably devoted to a project that is “a slightly odd thing to do in this century,” as one translator admits. Most readers and contributors use Vicipaedia to test their language skills, not to conduct real research. So the site’s content is, well, eclectic: Entries about Roman history and mythology rub up against those on beer pong and Paris Hilton. There’s plenty of debate about neologisms — editors can’t seem to agree on the proper Latin word for “computer” — but Latin experts told The Journal that the quality of the translations is surprisingly good. –Brock Read
Mr. Rocchio’s coda: “Latin has a tradition of 2,700 years … and we don’t want that to end. Latin isn’t dead, it just smells funny.”
Siva Vaidhyanathan has posted on his blog, the Googlization of Everything, an interview he did with a Charlottesville newspaper. The interview reveals some of his concerns about Google. An example:
The second footnote to a review of Wolfgang Bernard and Christiane Reitz (edd.), Werner Krenkel: Naturalia non turpia. Sex and Gender in Ancient Greece and Rome / Schriften zur antiken Kultur- und Sexualwissenschaft. Spudasmata 113. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Olms, 2006 by Bernard Kytzler caught my attention:
Werner Krenkel, born 1926, has recently published, for financial reasons (!) in an electronic version (!), his monumental work on Varro, a disc not on the market but available ‘for friends and colleagues’ from Heinrich- Schliemann Institut, University of Rostock: Marcus Terentius Varro, Saturae Menippeae, lateinisch/deutsch, mit Anmerkungen (Rostock 2001). It offers, after a long and detailed introduction, the full text and translation of the 591 fragments surviving from Varro’s 150 satires, plus a profound commentary on each of them. The work is rounded out by an extensive index and a rich bibliography. Krenkel’s collection ‘Naturalia’ discussed here contains a specimen of this electronic publication: Nr. 23, pp. 495-537.
A nice visual overview of the purposes and mechanisms for version control, from Better Explained.
The Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative and the Digital Library Program of the University of California, Los Angeles, are pleased to announce their successful proposal to the Institute for Museum and Library Services program “National Leadership Grants: Building Digital Resources” for funding of a two-year project dedicated to improving data management and archiving tools in Humanities research.
Project Title: “Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative: Second Generation”
The UCLA University Library and UCLA’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures will create the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative: Second Generation (CDLI 2). The project will migrate 450,000 legacy archival and access images and metadata from CDLI to UCLA’s Digital Library Content System, standardizing and upgrading the metadata to improve discovery and enable content archiving within the California Digital Library’s Digital Preservation Repository. The project will add 7,000 digital artifacts with cuneiform inscriptions, including collections housed at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and in Syrian national museums. This project will ensure the long-term preservation of text inscribed on endangered ancient cuneiform tablets. (see the IMLS notice of grants in this cycle)
Robert K. Englund
Hearing Mojo is not happy:
I can’t believe Apple failed to make its iPhone compatible with either hearing aids or cochlear implants. I’m in the market for a mobile phone again and just discovered the lack of compatibility. Given all the hype surrounding the iPhone launch, I’m surprised there haven’t been more complaints, other than the strong objection I just found on Paula Rosenthal’s HearingExchange site, some chatter on Apple forums, and a complaint made to the FCC by the Hearing Loss Association of America. HLAA has done the most advocacy for hearing-aid compatibility (HAC) regulations, which now mandate 50 percent of manufacturers’ handsets meet minimum M3 compatibility standards. The M3 and M4 ratings mean there’s no buzzing when you listen to the phone with your hearing-aid microphone on, and T3 and T4 ratings mean the phone works with the telecoils in your hearing aids. But according to the HLAA complaint: “Apple has now entered the scene and is predicted to shake up the entire wireless industry. Yet they are not, nor have ever been, involved in any discussions regarding HAC requirements.” Steve Jobs is known for his arrogance and inflexibility when it comes to the design of his products. Apple’s treatment of the hearing-impaired population is a great example. What a disappointment.
Cory Doctorow, “Scroogled: Google controls your e-mail, your videos, your calendar, your searches… What if it controlled your life?”
“Evening,” Greg said, handing the man his sweaty passport. The officer grunted and swiped it, then stared at his screen, tapping. A lot. He had a little bit of dried food at the corner of his mouth and his tongue crept out and licked at it.
“Want to tell me about June 1998?”
Greg looked up from his Departures. “I’m sorry?”
“You posted a message to alt.burningman on June 17, 1998, about your plan to attend a festival. You asked, ‘Are shrooms really such a bad idea?'”
The ultra-powerful I22 Non-crystalline Diffraction beamline (as best as I understand it an application of the laser particle accellerator that produces highly concentrated pure light for scanning at nanoscopic resolutions) is being applied to the reading of damaged parchment and other ancient and at-risk documents. The synchrotron can analyse the condition of collagen in paper or vellum and determine the patterns of any potentially corrosive ink; this is particularly valuable in cases of very fragile texts, such as those partially eaten away by iron gall ink, or ancient dessicated manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
I first heard about this story–albeit in very vague terms–at a party last night, and I have to say that my first reaction was disbelief. I assumed that the speaker (neither a digital humanist nor a manuscript scholar) had misunderstood or misrepresented the story of a particle accellerator the size of four football pitches being used to read the Dead Sea Scrolls. Surely the expense involved would just never be spent on something as niche as manuscript studies? (Not to mention that I know excellent results are already being achieved using standard medical imaging technology.) I apologise to my nameless source for my lack of faith. I guess I need reminding occasionally that even people with big and expensive fish to fry can share our obsession with digital and humanistic concerns.
The Stanford Humanities Center seeks to award one Digital Humanities Fellowship for the academic year 2008-2009 to a junior or senior scholar.
The Digital Humanities Fellowship reflects the Stanford Humanities Center’s commitment to supporting new directions in humanities research. The fellowship is intended for humanities scholars whose research methods are critically shaped by information technology. Projects should be oriented to producing new research outcomes rather than focusing primarily on the creation of archives or software. Appropriate projects will approach significant questions in humanistic study with the aid of new research tools or methodologies.