NEH Digging into Data Challenge

May 19, 2016 by

Readers may be interested in the NEH Digging into Data Challenge Grant, which can be found at http://www.neh.gov/grants/odh/digging-data-challenge.  It is designed for projects using large-scale digital analysis.  With a funding ratio of 16%, it’s certainly worth a try.  I would love to hear what sorts of digital analysis projects are underway.

On a separate note, during a recent visit to the Massachusetts Historical Society, currently celebrating its 225th year, I saw “The Private Jefferson” exhibit, which placed digital facsimiles next to original documents.  Viewers could magnify the digitized text so as to better read it.  Jefferson remained as enigmatic as ever, but the exhibit provided a rich conduit into the archival clues to his life.  It was superb.  I would love to hear about how readers use digital technology for teaching or in library exhibits.

Save Ashgate

December 4, 2015 by

Readers will be familiar with the decision by Ashgate Press’s parent company Informa (which also owns Taylor & Francis, Routledge, and Garland) to close its Burlington, VT office.  Though we can discuss the practice of having one reviewer for manuscripts, no one can contest that Ashgate has published stellar work in the early modern period.  Indeed, it has added voices and diversity, enriching and broadening an academic conversation that is tightly controlled.

More information on the decision can be found here at Inside Higher Ed, at Burlington’s own 7 Days, and on the website below.  I have not published with Ashgate myself, though I have served as a reader.  For the record, I am all for the practice of having two readers.  But I also think that Ashgate’s departure results in a loss of voices, diminishing the academy.

If you are interested in learning more, or in contributing to the petition, please see Rabia Gregory’s web site and petition.

Digital Humanities Summer Institute

November 20, 2015 by

This is just in from the Renaissance Society of America. –Anna

 

The Renaissance Society of America is pleased to announce that it will partner with the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) in 2016, to offer five tuition scholarships (each for one week) to current RSA members who wish to attend the institute.

Additionally, all current RSA members will have the opportunity to register for one of the institute’s courses (one week) at a discounted rate.

The DHSI (dhsi.org) will be held on 6–10 June and 13–17 June 2016 at the University of Victoria, Canada. Participants may choose to attend one or two weeks of the institute. Each week will include a training workshop as well as a selection of colloquia, unconferences, panels, and institute lectures.

Tuition scholarships

Note: If you’re applying for a tuition scholarship, do not register for any course until after the RSA informs you of the result of the scholarship competition. This is because, in the event that you win a scholarship, DHSI cannot refund registrations.

Eligibility: Applicants must already be an RSA member in 2015, and if they win a scholarship, they must renew their membership in 2016.

Deadline: 30 November 2015

The committee will select two non-doctoral scholars, two junior scholars (including adjuncts and independent scholars), and one senior scholar (including adjuncts, independent scholars, and retired scholars).

The scholarship covers the cost of tuition only; transportation and lodging costs are the responsibility of the winner.

Application:

  1. Fill out a very brief form that asks for name, email address, mailing address, affiliation, academic status, and discipline.
  2. Submit documents by email (as attachments, to DHSIapp@rsa.org):
    • Resume (no more than two pages)
    • One-page letter indicating which DHSI course you propose to attend and how it meets your overarching research aims. Please also identify a second course choice, in the event that your first choice is unavailable.

Discounted registration rate for RSA members

Note: If you’re applying for an RSA tuition scholarship, do not register for any course until after the RSA informs you of the result of the scholarship competition. This is because, in the event that you win a scholarship, DHSI cannot refund registrations.

Before 1 April 2016, RSA members can register for either weeklong course at the discounted rate of $300 for students and $650 for nonstudents. To view a list of all forty-three courses, please go to dhsi.org. Because the most popular courses will fill before April, we recommend that you register in December or January, as soon as the results of the scholarship competition are known.

To register at the discounted rate, you must be a current RSA member (2015) and you must renew your membership for 2016.

ProQuest CANCELS/RESTORES RSA’s EEBO Access

October 28, 2015 by

PROQUEST has restored EEBO access through the RSA.  Please see http://www.proquest.com/blog/pqblog/2015/EEBO-Access-Continues-for-RSA-Members.html


Proquest has canceled EEBO access for members of the Renaissance Society of America starting 1 November 2015.
  The announcement can be seen on the “Members Benefits” page of the RSA.

This is a deep disappointment for those of us whose libraries do not and cannot subscribe to EEBO.  If ProQuest never intended to offer continuing access, it would have been helpful if they had announced that from the beginning so that members could plan accordingly.  A longer grace period before the announced cancellation would be considerate, especially since the agreement was presented as lasting.

BigDIVA– A New Digital Tool by the Scholars of 18thConnect and MESA

October 15, 2015 by

Developed under the leadership and inspiration of Laura Mandell (Texas A&M and the scholar who brought us 18thConnect) and with the assistance of Tim Stinson at North Carolina State, BigDIVA is the acronym for Big Data Infrastructure Visualization Application and will be unveiled October 16th. The tool provides a visual interface for “navigating scholarly, peer-reviewed humanities content” and enables users to traverse results quickly through its visualization of the returns. The tool filters out “noise” such as advertisements by booksellers or Twitter mentions, and it color codes the results according to material readily available to users and material for which users need permission to access.

BigDIVA is the newest project to emerge from the extended collaborative network of digital resource hubs that started with NINES grew to 18thConnect and then expanded to Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), REKn (Renaissance English Knowledgebase) and ModNets (Modernists) and that we have previously discussed in an EMOB post. As many will well know, Laura Mandel founded 18thConnect and then went on to help spur the formation of other hubs devoted to periods beyond her own period of work, the eighteenth century.  Tim Stinson is a medievalist and one of the founders of MESA.  Thus, much of the work undertaken by BigDIVA to date has focused on these two periods. Yet, like the extended network of historical digital hubs, this tool will serve the needs of Renaissance, twentieth-century, nineteenth-century scholars, too.

Unfortunately, The tool is open-source, but it is also being sold for use by proprietary databases, as Tim Stinson clarifies below (and thus not just available as a subscription-based tool as initial indicated).  You can  read more about BigDIVA here.

Digital Projects at SHARP 2015 — Part 3, Jordan Howell’s Digital Bibliography Quick Start and his Robinson Crusoe Bibliographic Database

October 10, 2015 by

This post is the third in a series examining select digital projects showcased at the SHARP 2015 conference. It focuses not only on Jordan Michael Howell’s “Digital Bibliography Quick Start” conference demonstration but also the project, that serves as a rich illustration of the potential WordPress has for creating databases.

Howell’s project has much to interest EMOB readers. For one, the “Quick Start” Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography, document offers an excellent guide to creating a DIY database that requires little technological knowledge to build. As the “Quick Start” title page announces, “No coding experience? No problem.” The three-page guide that follows enables novices “to develop a comprehensive and searchable bibliographical database using WordPress in eleven somewhat easy steps.” While a few may find the “somewhat” a needed qualifier, the instructions are clear, and all eleven steps fit on just two pages. Indeed, the steps should give those who are desirous of undertaking such a project but anxious about their skills the confidence to launch their own bibliographic database. Novices may be worried about what may be unfamiliar acronyms or names (e.g. MySQL), but the point is that such knowledge is not truly necessary. Full disclosure: I have yet to attempt to build such a database using the guide, but the process seems fairly straightforward. No doubt one would learn the most from hands-on application of the steps. Step 2, in fact, recommends practicing website construction using WordPress before becoming more involved in the database’s construction.

Howell’s impetus to create this guide emerges from his extensive experimenting with WordPress for his Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography and his seemingly endless searches for plugins to obtain more functionality for the bibliographic database. Scholars of eighteenth-century literature, Defoe, chapbooks, and bibliographers should be pleased to learn of this project that, once finished, will feature descriptive entries for all editions published between the years 1719 and 1774.

In his introduction to the online bibliography Howell explains that the power of our digital age has enabled this ambitious bibliographic project on a few fronts. Even though the project is in its first phase of production, there’s already much available, especially given that Howell is operating solo, handling all aspects of the project. (A tab allowing others to submit information is active and Howell does request “scholars, librarians, and rare book dealers contact the project manager with corrections or additions to the bibliography.”) Some sections, however, are in the early stages or as yet lacking content (“Chapbooks,” for example).

When finished, Robinson Crusoe Online Bibliography will offer entries for all editions published during the sixty-five year period, including “extensive description of and commentary on derivative editions such as abridgments and chapbooks.” In addition, Howell will augment his traditional descriptive bibliographical entries with “high-quality images.” Depending on their placement, the images also signal the status of an entry: “An image along the left margin indicates that the entry is largely complete, with photo-facsimiles, publication metadata, document descriptions, and secondary references.”

Besides harnessing the ESTC as well as Gale-Cengage’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online as tools, Howell has already visited a number of special collections and spent time examining their Defoe holdings. To read more about the findings from these visits, see Howell’s “Eighteenth-Century Abridgements of Robinson Crusoe.” The Library 15.3 (2014): 292-343.

I invite you to explore both Howell’s guide and the online bibliography that serves as working example of how WordPress can be employed to create such a tool–and please offer your comments and observations.

Exhibit: Bibliothecaphilia MASS MoCA (9/29/15 – 1/1/16)

September 28, 2015 by

Readers in New England may be interested in this announcement about MASS MoCA’s exhibit “Bibliothecaphilia” reposted from Book History at Harvard.  Anyone who has seen this exhibit and wishes to report back is invited to do so.  “Bibliothecaphilia’s” exhibit page can be found hereThe Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, MA, is always worth a visit.

For centuries, libraries have exerted a quiet sort of gravity, pulling us in with the promise that for a while, in the hushed, book-filled corridors, we can exceed ourselves. But, in this age of eBooks and library apps, does the physical and philosophical space of the library remain relevant? And what qualities define a library? Can libraries exist digitally, or be constituted of things other than books? The six artists in Bibliothecaphilia, explore the medium and ethos of libraries: institutions straddling the public and private spheres, the escapism that libraries offer, libraries’ status as storehouses for physical books — and thus for experiences and knowledge — and the way that these objects circulate and are re-used. Participating artists include Clayton Cubitt, Jonathan Gitelson, Susan Hefuna, Meg Hitchcock, Dan Peterman, and Jena Priebe.

The exhibition coincides with a year-long initiative at Williams College (including the Williams College Museum of Art and Clark Art Institute) dedicated to books, libraries, and information. It focuses on exploring the diverse ways in which people preserve and convey ideas, creative works, data, and other forms of information. The project features a wide array of public presentations, performances, courses, and exhibitions (including at the Williams College Museum of Art and Clark Art Institute) that imagine the theme from many perspectives.

This exhibition is made possible by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in support of MASS MoCA and the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Bibliothecaphilia is curated by Allie Foradas.

Date:
Tuesday, September 29, 2015 – 09:00 to Friday, January 1, 2016 – 17:00
Location:

MASS MoCA

1040 MASS MoCA Way

01247 North Adams, MA

United States

Harvard edX MOOC: Robert Darnton’s The History of the Book

September 22, 2015 by

I have never been in favor of pushing online teaching in the humanities, but the Harvard edX series makes the most of blending digital technology and humanities teaching.

Readers may be particularly interested in Robert Darnton’s course, which begins this week, “The History of the Book in 17th- and 18th-Century Europe.”

Gregory Nagy’s “The Greek Hero in 24 Hours” is superb, despite the requirement that epics be read in specific translations available only electronically. (A cumbersome 900-page print-out option only inspires desire for separate printed texts).  That said, Nagy’s course is fantastic, and Robert Darnton’s course looks equally valuable.

The Harvard/MIT Edx platform for free online courses rolled out in 2012, not without controversy. as this and other articles suggest.  The courses are making me think–both about their subject matter and about online teaching.

Students, Reading, and Ebooks

September 20, 2015 by

E-book: an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a personal computer or dedicated handheld device.

–Oxford English Reference Dictionary

A 2012 study at the University of Ulster by Sarah Smyth and Andrew P. Carlin provides mixed messages regarding students’ attitudes toward ebooks and their actual use of them. Students claimed to prefer printed texts, objecting to ebooks because of difficulties in navigation and the distractions of the internet.  Yet they also used ebooks “heavily during peak study times prior to exams and assessment deadlines” (Smyth and Carlin, 195).

A “sizeable chunk of respondents,” however, did not engage with electronic texts at all, suggesting that reading competencies or digital competencies (or both) may be splitting into those who can use etexts comfortably and those who won’t or can’t.

Most students in this study accessed ebooks through “a laptop or PC (68%), followed by smartphone (21%), ebook reader (9%), and tablet computer (1%)” (188).  Reading a novel or an epic on a smartphone seems dispiriting–and bad for one’s eyes.

Students found ebooks helpful for making copies, and they appreciated their remote access, searchability, and cost, but they overwhelmingly preferred print (71.4% and 61.6%) for “pleasure of reading and ease of reading” (189).  They tended to use ebooks for research (66%), with only 18% reading ebooks for pleasure and 12% for lecture preparation (186).

The table below lists the most popular kinds of ebooks:

Texbooks                               56%

Fiction                                    19%

Research monographs           18%

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries  7%

This study unearths a utilitarian approach to reading–unsurprising, given that most reading by students will be homework.  But it also hints tantalizingly at students’ desire for the pleasure of printed texts.   At what  point do we begin to consider whether we are encouraging students to enjoy reading? Are the digital texts we make available conducive to the pleasure of reading?  Is it time to acknowledge that printed texts offer a more functional, concentrated, and pleasurable reading experience than ebooks, something we want to share with students?  Do we need to consider the cult of the printed book and the pleasure of reading as parts of a successful teaching formula that ought not be erased by the prevalence and fashion of ebooks?

Works Cited

Sarah Smyth and Andrew P. Carlin, “Use and Perception of Ebooks in the University of Ulster: A Case Study,” New Review of    Academic Librarianship, 18:176-205, 2012.


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