Archive for October, 2010

Digital Papyrology

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

The following is a lightly edited version of a talk that I delivered at the 26th Congress of the International Association of Papyrologists, 19 August 2010, in Geneva (program), posted here upon nudging of G. Bodard.

Colleagues. It is a great honor and a privilege to be able to speak with you today. An honor and a privilege that, I hasten to add, I did not seek, but which a number of our colleagues insisted some months back the members of this research team must try to live up to. If I approach this distinguished body with some trepidation it is perhaps because my training as an epigraphist has conditioned me to a tone less attuned to collegiality than that which informs the papyrologists’ discipline. I should add also that am here not to present my own work, but the fruits of a team whose members are in Heidelberg, London, New York, North Carolina, Alabama, and Kentucky, and who have been working heroically for more than three years now.

I shall aim to speak for no more than 40 minutes so that we may at least start discussions, which I know the rest of the team and I will be more than happy to carry on via email, Skype, phone, and separate face to face meetings. I will add also that, since the matters arising from this talk are highly technical in nature, we shall be more than happy to field questions as a team (I and my colleagues Rodney Ast, James Cowey, Tom Elliott, and Paul Heilporn) and in any of the languages within our competence.

First some background. I don’t need to tell you very much about the history of the Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri. It was founded in 1983, as a collaboration between William Willis and John Oates of Duke University, and the Packard Humanities Institute. A decade and a half later, around the time, as it happens, that APIS was also starting, the DDbDP decided to migrate from the old CD platform and to the web. John in particular was committed to making the data available for free, to anyone who wanted access. The Perseus Project, from Tufts University, very kindly agreed to host the new online DDbDP, to develop a search interface, to convert the data from old Beta code to a markup language called SGML–all at no cost to us. The DDbDP added a few thousand texts after switching from the Packard CD ROM to Perseus. But the landscape changed dramatically from this point onward, and the DDbDP began to fall behind. The end of the CD ROM meant the end of regular revenues to support data entry and proofreading. And of course, ongoing development of the search interface was not without cost to Perseus, whose generous efforts on our behalf were, as I mention, unremunerated. Within a few years the DDbDP was behind in data entry and the search interface was not able to grow and mature in the ways that papyrologists wanted.

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Database/Web Position at the American Numismatic Society

Monday, October 25th, 2010

The American Numismatic Society seeks to hire an entry-level Database and Web Services Developer to oversee the ongoing development of its curatorial database and related resources as tools for internal collections management, scholarly research and public outreach. We particularly seek candidates with experience in the practice of Digital Humanities. Funding is available for a two-year position, with possibility of renewal.

The ANS is the United States’ premier institution for the study of coins of all periods and cultures. Currently, the collection of over 700,000 objects is available on the web. It is an essential resource used by both specialists and members of the general public while conducting numismatic research.

We seek an individual who can work with existing staff further to develop our internal FileMaker databases and public website, specifically as it enables access to the collection and related materials. Initial responsibilities will include: close collaboration with curatorial and collection management staff to develop and implement a series of effective interfaces for the public collection database; collaboration with archival staff in the introduction of a management system for EAD finding aids.

Applicants should have a record of technical competence and innovation in a humanities environment as well as excellent communication and organizational skills. The ANS’ public website relies entirely on open source software so that familiarity with current trends in web technologies is essential. Some experience with FileMaker is preferred but this is not a requirement. The successful candidate is likely to have training in scholarly research.

ANS offers a competitive salary and superior benefit package, which includes generous vacation, medical, dental, and retirement plans. For more information about the ANS visit: http://www.numismatics.org .

The Search Committee will begin reviewing applications on November 12, 2010. Applications consisting of a cover letter, resumé, and the names of three referees should be sent to: position@numismatics.org .

Employment at the American Numismatic Society is dependent on a successful background check. The American Numismatic Society is an equal-opportunity, affirmative-action employer.

CLIR/Tufts Survey of Digital Classics available for comment

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Via Humanist:

Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2010 12:09:47 -0400
From: Gregory Crane
Subject: CLIR/Tufts Survey of Digital Classics available for comment

Infrastructure for Humanities Scholarship

http://www.clir.org/activities/details/infrastructure.html

CLIR and Tufts University are engaging scholars and academic librarians in examining the services and digital objects classicists have developed, the future needs of the discipline, and the roles of libraries and other curatorial institutions in fostering the infrastructure on which the core intellectual activities of classics and many other disciplines depend. We envision a set of shared service layered over a distributed storage architecture that is seamless to end users, allows multiple contributors, and leverages institutional resources and facilities. Much of this architecture exists at individual projects and institutions; the challenge is to identify the suite of shared services to be developed.

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What is Web 2.0?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

This blog post is the introduction to a lecture on Publishing and Web 2.0 I am delivering to students on the Digital Humanities MA, and is partly intended as a venue for online discussion in the comments section. All are welcome to join in the discussion.

When I posted the question, “What is Web 2.0?” on Twitter at the weekend, the first reply was from @espenore, who wrote:

A buzzword 10 years ago :-)

Leading me to muse:

Does this mean that 2004′s “Web 2.0″ is 2010′s “The Web”?

More seriously, most online definitions of Web 2.0 focus on the dynamic nature of Web content:

“The second generation of the World Wide Web, especially the movement away from static webpages to dynamic and shareable content and social networking”
(Wiktionary)

and

“Web 2.0 does not refer to any specific change in the technology of the Internet, but rather the behavior of how people use the Internet”
(Twinity)

and

“Le web 2.0 se caractérise principalement par la prise de pouvoir des internautes”
(Novaterra)

The idea that the Web is not controlled by a top-down, monolithic publishing industry, but an organic, uncontrolled, intelligent network authored and edited by all users is a powerful one. (On of the nicest descriptions of this is The Machine is Us/ing Us [video].) There is a lot of monolithic content on the Web, of course, and this is sometimes among the more professional and reliable material out there, but almost every web search returns pages from Wikipedia and blogs high in the results list.

It has become the norm to see the Web as a place to post content, to add comments, to correct errors and omissions (or introduce errors and misinformation). Obviously, this is no longer about new technology or tools; all this dynamic functionality has been around for a long time (in Internet terms) and is both the norm and visible on the vast majority of the Web, so the rhetoric of “version 2.0″ is broken. Rather it is a subset of the kind of activity that takes place on the Web: leaving comments rather than just reading news; editing rather than just reading Wikipedia; reviewing rather than just buying books; even searching the Web with cookies enabled.

In this lecture we’re going to discuss the implications of this dynamic and semantic Web on publishing, and especially academic output. We’ll look at a few examples of blogs (The Stoa Consortium, AH Net, DH Now), wikis (Digiclass, Academic Publishing, Uncyclopedia), and talk about the kinds of scholarly activities that are appropriate to publishing in these media.

Watch the comments to see how convincing this all turned out to be.

(My slides for this class are available as an Open Access Google presentation.)

DH PhD studentship at the Open University

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Forwarded for Elton Barker, who would be happy to answer any queries:

One full-time, three year PhD studentship available from 1 January 2011
Interdisciplinary PhD Studentship in Digital Humanities
Open University – Faculty of Arts
Based in Milton Keynes

Digital Humanities at The Open University is a rapidly growing area of research. The proposed studentship is aimed at exploring the application of geographical concepts to research in the Arts and Humanities, and the ways in which they are represented, in the digital medium. We would welcome applications from candidates with an appropriate research proposal in any discipline studied in The Open University Faculty of Arts, ie Art History, Classical Studies, English, History, Music, Philosophy and Religious Studies.

Projects which will benefit from supervision across traditional disciplinary boundaries are particularly encouraged. Also encouraged are proposals with links to one of our existing research groups or collaborative projects.

For FURTHER PARTICULARS go to: http://www3.open.ac.uk/employment/job-details.asp?id=5367

Further details of Digital Humanities-related research at The Open University can be found at http://www.open.ac.uk/Arts/digital-humanities/index.shtml

Justifying the Humanities

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

On the day when the Browne Report proposes cutting all government funding for teaching in the Arts and Humanities in the name of making the British university sector “more competitive”, there has of course been much online discussion (notably on Twitter) of how to (and indeed whether we should have to) justify the arts and humanities in a shrinking academic economy. Several important opinion pieces have been cited:

For my part, the answer is very simply that the reason society should value a strong Arts and Humanities culture is not because of any measurable “value” in economic terms (although cases can and are being made for that), but because a civilized society benefits from having a large number of educated citizens with as varied backgrounds as possible who are able to (and in the habit of) critically examine an arbitrary statement or text.

I’m willing to concede that society gets very little (if any) measurable gain from my study of the role of marginalized women in Ancient Greek narratives of magic. But the fact that I spent so much time studying anything that closely makes me better able to critique the rhetoric of a politician, or to analyze the social impact of a controversial television programme (and I’m no scholar of political science or media studies, both of whom have important roles to play there). In short, my liberal arts education has made me a better citizen, and the students I have been involved in the teaching of likewise.

Others can and have made better cases than this, and I hope will continue to do so, in the comments here and elsewhere. This may not be an especially convincing argument for politicians, but it is, in my opinion, the truth.

Citation in Digital Scholarship: A Conversation

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I’m writing to bring readers’ attention to a series of pages that is coming together on the Digital Classicist wiki under the rubric “Citation in digital scholarship” (category). I take responsibility/blame for initiating the project, but it has already benefitted from input by Matteo Romanello (author of CRefEx) and from comments by my colleagues at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. You’ll also see the influence of the Canonical Text Services.

A slight preview of what you’ll find there and of where this all might go:

  1. The goal is to provide a robust and simple convention for indicating that citations are present. How robust? How simple? At a bare minimum, just wrap a citation in ‘<a class=”citation” href=”http://example.org”>…</a>’. That will distinguish intellectually significant citations from other links (such as to a home page for the hosting project). I cribbed the  ’class=”citation”‘ string from Matteo’s articles cited at the bottom of the wiki page. Please also consider adding a ‘title’ and ‘lang’ attribute as described.
  2. We are also interested in encouraging convergence on best practices for communicating information about the entities being cited and about the nature of the citation itself:
    1. There is a page “Citations with added RDFa” that suggests conventions for using RDFa to add markup. It encourages use of Dublin Core terms.
    2. Matteo has begun a page “Citations with CTS and Microformats“. CTS, developed by Neel Smith and Chris Blackwell, is important by way of its potential to provide stable URIs to well-known texts.

    Merging these conventions is of ongoing interest. And they do illustrate that one goal is to converge on best practices that are extendable and not in unnecessary conflict with existing work.

  3. While it isn’t represented on the wiki yet, I intend to start a javascript library that will identify citations in a page (e.g. jQuery’s “$(‘.citation’)” ) in order to present information about, along with options for following, a particular citation. Or to list and map all the dc:Location’s cited in a text. Etc.
  4. Closing the loop: this work overlaps with a meeting held by the ISAW Digital Projects Team in NYC last week. The preliminary result is a tool for managing URIs in a shared bibliographic infrastructure. This is one example of an entity that can produce embeddable markup conforming to the ‘class=”citation”‘ convention. Such markup would be consumable by the planned js library. Any project that produces stable URIs can have an “Embed a link to here.” (vel sim) widget that produces conforming html for authors to re-use.

I’m grateful to Gabriel Bodard for letting me use the Digital Classicist wiki to start these pages and for encouraging me to summarize here. The effort is inspired by the observation that a little bit of common documentation, sharing, and tool building can lead to big wins for users and developers, as well as to greater interoperability for our citation practices going forward.

Comments here are very welcome.