Mathematicians are getting pissed about the journal publishing regime.

[Jason Jackson](http://jasonbairdjackson.com/) is far more expert here, but I keep track of these issues as best I can. The switch to open access is being led by the sciences — strange to see mathematics so encumbered by the old paradigm — and I hope the humanities can follow soon. It’s hard work, but not only does such an effort align with the overall ethical schemes of many of our disciplines but it is it worth it in terms of making our work more accessible not only to each other but also to a larger potential pool of interested individuals.

That said, the next step is a coordinated infrastructure that allows for easy accessing across the entire landscape. That’s the promise of [Project Bamboo](http://projectbamboo.org/).

PB6 Day 2

*Advisory (and Apology): This post is finally going up early Wednesday afternoon. A tiring flight back — we sat in an un-air-conditioned aircraft on the ground in Atlanta for half an hour — combined with a delightful series of Father’s Day activities delayed my finishing the post. (Oh, and a cold I caught at some point still tugs at the corners of my ability to focus.)*

I’m writing this summary in Boston’s Logan Airport. It’s the Saturday morning after the second and final day of Project Bamboo’s sixth, and final, planning workshop. The Bamboo Technology Program is well under way, and I believe, the proposal will be submitted to Mellon some time soon.

The piece that remains is the social component — perhaps ironic given our current era’s focus on social graphs — and it seems the hardest one to get right. Bamboo’s innovation is not to build tech nor is it to build a community: there have been plenty of efforts to do both. But never has anyone aspired to build both together.

And so the second day was focused on building the consortium that will, at first, seek to support the technology program, and be the dialogic partner that will ensure that technologies support theories and methodologies and that, in turn, reveal that make new theories and methodologies possible.

Our task for the day was a set of interconnected steps: determine the scope of the three working groups that will be the consortium’s first working social units, enumerate three deliverables for each WG, and describe how the WG will form.

The three working groups are:

* the Consortium WG, which is to establish the organizational and leadership structure as well as define membership dimensions and benefits,
* the Community Outreach WG, which is to develop and initiate a variety of communications efforts to reach out to interested parties and orgs both within campuses as well as across campuses, and
* the Bamboo Labs WG, which is to outline the nature of how individual labs and centers can be involved in BTP initiatives as well as what seed grants and fellowships might look like.

Because my mind is not naturally drawn to abstract organizational matters, I decided to join the consortium group. (Sometimes you have to work against your own grain. I can only hope I didn’t impair the group’s functioning in doing so.)

The first thing we decided was that social openness had to be a working principle, working in tandem with technological openness to make it as easy and as welcoming as possible for individuals and organizations to explore Bamboo’s communities and technologies. To do that, we engaged in some semantic re-jiggering, if you’ll allow me to use that term here, in order to open up *membership*. To do this, we converted the proposed *Partner* tier into *Executive Partner* and the proposed *Member* tier into *Contributing Partner*. The result matrix then becomes:

Tier Commitment Benefits

Executive Partner

$20,000+ cash
$100,000+ in-kind
Strong presence on governing board
Ability to influence technologies and standards that will determine course of digital humanities

Contributing Partner

$4,000+ cash
$19,000+ in-kind
Presence on governing board
Ability to vote on board members and other important decisions
Ability to be first to adopt new technologies and repositories

Member

$250 – $500 cash Access to technologies and repositories

World/User

That’s a very quick sketch done as an HTML table, and so forgive me if it doesn’t reveal the fact that there are gradations within the tiers as well as the host of benefits and other matters we discussed. I think the point we were trying to make is that what Bamboo is looking for is people’s time: we want partners to invest time and we want members and potential members and users to invest time as well.

The working groups went through several iterations, and it became clear that, well, clarity is key. Clarity achieved through communication, both internally and externally. But by this point in the day, we needed to begin to wrap up and to have some concrete tasks to achieve. My sense is that the BTP has such tasks and deadlines: I fear that the BOP, or the Bamboo Organizational Program — the social side of Bamboo, er, the consortium — did not quite get there. My hope is that there will be a lot of post-workshop communication and activity.

I volunteered to co-chair the website development working group, which got broken out because it needs to get done and it needs to happen outside the scope of the Community Outreach WG in order to get done.

Project Bamboo Workshop 6, Day 1

It’s the end of the first day of Project Bamboo’s Workshop 6, which represents an opportunity for the larger (arguably still emergent) community to shape a response to the new context, which is, as I understand it, a function of the Mellon Foundation’s merging of the Research in Technology program with the Scholarly Communications program.

In the interval between this change in context and the workshop itself, the core PB team has worked with a group of universities who early on had identified themselves as likely partner level contributors to whatever it is we’re building. That has resulted in the Bamboo Technology Project.

The goal of the BTP is to identify “strategic areas of work” within which they can plan and, in the case of Phase I projects, build something — because across the board any number of us agree that it’s time for Bamboo to make something, to have an identifiable product that we can show to colleagues and administrators and others that reveals the potential profit in universities and other organizations collaborating in an open way to build services, software, and standards for knowledge creation and distribution. The list of partners is impressive. (I will list them in an update to this post.) The four major areas of work to be completed in Phase I are: work spaces, scholarly web services, collections interoperability, and corpora space. (Phase I is to last eighteen months, as is Phase II to follow.) The first three areas already have some pieces in place that the BTP hopes to build upon and, at the same time, begin to draw together into the kind of whole that is the promise of Bamboo.

For work spaces, there is HubZero and an ECM (Enterprise Content Management System) which will be the foundations for further work.

For scholarly web services, the partner institutions will be able to draw upon a number of projects, including, but not limited to, PhiloLogic, Perseus, CLARIN, SEASR, and Prosopography. (Links to follow.) Most of these services offer some or all of what are becoming the usual analytical tools for textual scholars: document mapping, concordance, collocation, frequency, etc. Collection interoperability will focus on metadata interchange.

The one area of work that will not be built but will be subject to planning in Phase I is corpora space, which is going to focus on the production of five or so white papers as well as identifying some high priority/profile corpora that can be targeted for a project. (I would like this to be a folklore corpus, of course.)

There are other projects and plans within the BTP, but much of the morning was focused on determining the kind of consortium that would, during this transitional period, support the BTP projects. This is, of course, the reverse of Bamboo’s ultimate goal, but I think it rightly puts resources and imaginations in motion. A number of organizations have stuck with the planning process now for two years, and we will, I think, continue to stick with it because we believe in the greater good that Bamboo seeks to serve. What we need are tangibles to show to others to concretize our participation and to act as an incentive for others to join.

Once more firmly established, Bamboo can do a lot of good, if it can negotiate the somewhat crowded waters of already existing as well as emerging organizations, coalitions, and other consortia with similar goals and/or visions. E.g., CHCI, CenterNet, and now CHAIN. Part of what I think Chad Kainz was struggling to articulate in trying to develop an organizational structure for Bamboo was to make as many people and institutions feel included as is humanly possible. (In all honesty, humanists and their organizations can be a fairly territorial lot, as contradictory as that seems to the rhetoric that we so often deploy.)

One of the things it could do, that was the focus of our table’s conversation not once but twice during the day, is the development of a federated researcher/user identification system for the humanities. Think Thomson-Reuters’ ResearcherID but open source and run by the collaboration of member organizations — and even non-member organizations. Throw in DOIs for publications, projects, datasets, tools, and workflows and you have not only a very powerful, and searchable, data stream but one that fits within every organization’s already existing workflows of annual reports and assessments and every individual scholar’s workflows of vita maintenance. And it would be a natural component/connection to institutional repositories. (I will link to the small presentation I pulled together for my colleagues at UL-Lafayette in an update.)

*UPDATE*: [The document is here.](http://www.scribd.com/doc/33595752/An-University-Institutional-Repository)

There was a lot more that happened today. Some of it can be gleaned from Chad and David’s slide decks, which I hope they make available later, and some of it can be found in the planning documents, which may be available on the Bamboo website. For now, I will leave off my summary of the day here.

One Digital Difference

Recently in the [Digital Humanities On-line Seminar][dh], there arose the question of what difference does being digital make? Or, rather, does it many any real difference apart from speeding things up? That is, has the digital only sped up otherwise conventional work?

I have two responses to such a question. The first is the observation that at least one dimension of this question suggests that speeding things up or making more convenient certain facets of work are trivial. I make no claim that any work getting done within a quickened digital regime is any better than work done by hand — one imagines the shuffling of note cards versus a quick search through a database, but the quality of the work is always in what was written on the cards, what was entered in the database. The absurdity of such claims is revealed in the fact that books and the printing press achieved the same, if not greater, speed of dissemination — and probably of composition later — than the previous tradition of copied manuscripts. So it’s not worth bothering about.

The other observation is that such speeding up or making more convenient is not enough, that unless computing radically transforms humanistic study, it has not lived up to its promise nor potential. My response to this dimension of the complaint is that such *tipping points* are rarely perceived during their own time but are usually discerned later. The tipping points are, in fact, sometimes a matter for historical argument.

That’s all fine and good. Let history decide and all that. In the mean time, I *can* report on one digital difference I have enjoyed in the lat few weeks.

I am finishing up work on my analysis of the scholarly narratives collected by Project Bamboo. In the end, I focused on forty or so texts that I first simply collected as text documents stuffed in a directory. I also had a list of the texts I had chosen in a table in a Word file. The two really needed to get together, and so, since my SQL-foo is still incredibly weak, and I didn’t feel like running `sed` or `awk` through my collection of texts, I decided to download and install [Filemaker Pro][fmp] — for the record that’s a link to the Amazon.com page and I would be indebted to anyone who wanted to buy a copy for me: UL is broke and I am on my own fronting the cost. Filemaker is a cross-platform database app that can also act a as a GUI front-end to MySQL databases, and so I am hoping it will help me make the transition.

I had already read and to some degree categorized all the texts I put into my Filemaker database, and I had already learned a fair amount about them using IBM’s [Many Eyes][me] — that link takes directly to the corpus I uploaded there and some of the visualizations I set up. With the FM database I was able to automate a few simple tasks, like determining the size of each text by counting its words. But where I was really able to fly was being able to do searches either on tags or on the texts themselves looking for particular words or usages. Almost instantly, I could pull up the 7 seven texts that mentioned X or the 12 that used the term Y.

All of this would have been perfectly do-able if all these texts existed only on paper, but the work would have gone much more slowly and I would probably have taken far fewer chances. (It may also be true that the slower work may have allowed for more digestion. I don’t know, and I don’t think it’s worth arguing.) What I liked was the ability to “play a hunch.” For me at least, sometimes scholarship is really about discerning patterns. The problem is at what level of cognition the patterns get distinguished. Quite often, for me at least, I know I sense a pattern but I can’t quite put my finger on it. I may even flounder around, scanning texts or flipping through pages hoping something will “catch my eye” or “jog my memory” or put the thought on the “tip of my tongue.”

One difference “the digital” makes in my own scholarship is being able to pursue a lead as soon as it pops into my mind. That may only amount to speed or convenience, but that’s a significant enough difference for me. Please don’t take my bionic memory, and recall, away from me.

[dh]: http://www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
[fmp]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00079W5TI?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00079W5TI
[me]: http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/users/johnlaudun

A Brief Note about Bamboo

From my note today to Sarah Spell — via Facebook:

> It looks like Bamboo is largely going to be a consortium seeking to establish common APIs and services, with perhaps some standards for things like metadata in and through which a digital infrastructure for humanities research can get built. There are already a lot of pieces out there, but nothing/noone has woven them together into something coherent yet. Imagine something like JSTOR, another Mellon initiative, which is an incredible storehouse of humanities research — and beginning to take on the task of storing data as well, but imagine that kind of infrastructure for tools and ideas. It will immediately make a lot of data and ways to examine that data available and accessible to a wide variety of scholars. More importantly, that kind of accessibility will immediately be felt by students, who will find themselves capable of making contributions, though perhaps on very small scales, to real knowledge. Finally, such accessibility has the capacity to reach beyond the boundaries of campuses and to expose the good work of humanists and humanistic research to a larger public, which has shown itself interested in such topics but has had its collective hands tied in getting access to quality information, since that information is so often found in university libraries or in hard to find journals.

Apple’s On-Line Seminars

A number of vendors, like Apple and Adobe but I’m sure others as well, provide a range of free on-line seminars that not only are instructional in how to create content — and even think about content creation — but are examples of that creation themselves. A good example is [this pairs of presentations][bs] by Brian Storm of Storm Media that is directed at photojournalists and how by adding audio then can not only enrich their content but also potentially reach new markets, and thus new revenue streams. The first presentation focuses on why someone might want to do this and the basics of gathering inputs and the second on working in Final Cut Pro.

[bs]: http://seminars.apple.com/seminarsonline/richmediafcp/apple/index1.html

JASO Revived On-line

The [_Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford_][jaso] was not necessarily a ready reference or me, but its evolution — it lived from 1970 to 2005 in print and is now being brought back as an on-line publication — is interesting:

> The Journal of the Anthropological society of Oxford (JASO) was originally launched in 1970 as a hard copy journal; it ceased publication in that form in 2005. It has now been re-launched to coincide with the Centenary of the Oxford Anthropological Society in 2009. The new online journal, called JASO-Online, will be a joint collaborative project between JASO, the Society, and the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, which is hosting the website. Thus we hope it will appeal to all branches of the School, staff and students alike, and that it will be an active forum open to all for the discussion of anthropology and issues of interest to anthropologists. For the time being, at least, JASO-Online will be available as a free download, though we reserve the right to levy a charge at any time in the future. Contributors will not be paid for their contributions.

What I’ve been thinking about is how easy it is to publish a journal on-line. As numerous commentators have pointed out over the past decade: the costs of printing and distribution acted, at the very least, as a kind of test of resolve. Now, one only needs a connection — numerous publishing platforms are free. And so, the real problem is to have a readership, an audience. I think this will be the strength of learned and professional societies going forward. In creativity studies, this is described as the *field*, and within those studies the field is test bed for ideas introduced into the *domain* by an *individual*. (This is the DIFI model.) The conventional understanding is that the field in some way is the test for innovation, that an innovation is that which is not already in the domain but is still recognizable by the field as being a relevant extension or revision of the domain.

But, clearly, you have to have a field. I just wonder about the number of journals popping up that don’t have a field, an audience. They may describe a new domain, and it may be better than the extant domains, but without a field, one is perhaps talking quite loudly with no one around really to hear.

[jaso]: http://www.isca.ox.ac.uk/publications/journal-of-the-anthropological-society-of-oxford/

Statements for Project Bamboo Proposal

It turns out I wrote down the wrong day for the annual rice field day at LSU’s Rice Station west of Rayne, and so I am home, with my cold, working on various Project Bamboo tasks.

### Value Statement

The first thing I got done was to draft a value statement for scholarly / professional / learned societies:

> The central focus of the learned society remains the pursuit of reliable knowledge and its effective communication within and without the society. Cyberinfrastructures expand the communicative modalities available to learned societies and their members. However, these same infrastructures threaten some of the most venerable revenue streams, emphasizing the importance of maximizing the return on investment in the digital realm. What learned societies need are at least interoperable, if not common, infrastructures that allow members to communicate and collaborate, in a trusted fashion, with other scholars, be they mutual members of the same society or in an adjacent field. By participating in a common technological ecosystem, learned societies can leverage their investment to give their members the tools and content they need to advance their own scholarship, and thus the impact of the society itself.

This has now been [posted](https://wiki.projectbamboo.org/display/BPUB/Atlas+Value+Statements) on the Bamboo Wiki. (N.B. I believe the wiki is currently private, so that link will probably not work.)

### Case Statement

The second thing I did was to add a potential new case statement to the proposal that focused on the outreach / public relations potential of Bamboo:

> Bamboo’s goal of increasing the visibility and accessibility of digital tools and content to humanities scholars themselves will necessarily not only radiate out to graduate and undergraduate students who will thus be able to participate in and work with these materials and methods but it will also increase the visibility of the work of humanities scholars to an increasingly connected public who are often in search of humanities content but are often stymied in their search for trusted materials and ideas.

> [You could think of this as something like Stanford’s SEE (Stanford Engineering Everywhere) program. One-upping to a definite article: the THE (The Humanities Everywhere). Maybe.]

### Use Statement

> I remember a conversation from graduate school where students were trying to hash out where they thought the field was going. One of our cohort finally spoke up and said, “Well, I don’t know where the field is going, but I do know where I want to take it.” Perhaps, Project Bamboo is something like that for those of us at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

> We have taken a multi-level approach to our efforts:

> * At the base level, there is an enormous benefit for an university like the University of Louisiana simply to be among the founding members of anything of the scope and scale as Project Bamboo. We are the only university from the Deep South to have participated throughout the process.
* Building from such a base, we have already, as it were, used the fact of our participation in Bamboo to leverage state funding of a “digital humanities lab.”
* Moving from an institutional scope to one focused more clearly on the humanities, we have emphasized the inevitability of the IT revolution and the ability to be in control of one’s own destiny to which Bamboo aspires to discuss with faculty not only our involvement in the consortium but also to begin to make them aware of the possibilities contained within under the rather diffuse rubric of the “digital humanities.”
* At the level of particular disciplines, my involvement in Project Bamboo has also helped me steer a parallel project, the design and development of a new website / communications platform for the American Folklore Society, of which I have been named editor.
* Finally, at a personal level, there can be no doubt the enormous professional development I have enjoyed thanks to the incredibly challenging conversations we have had as a result of the mixing of humanists, technologists, and archivists / librarians. The multi-disciplinary discussions have been amazing.

Making (Foot)Notes

As I began work on the analysis of the Scholarly Narratives deposited in the Project Bamboo planning wiki, I found I needed the occasional footnote to explain a few items that didn’t really deserve space in the text proper but still deserved to be addressed in some fashion. Such extra-textural information can customarily be contained in notes of some kind, either foot or end.

Fortunately, the variation of [Markdown][md] that I am using, [MultiMarkdown][mmd] by Fletcher Penney, contains note functionality.

All I have to do to embed a note into the text is to add `[^1]` in the body of the text and then at the end of the text add a mate `[^1]:` Followed by the body of the note. Simple, n’est-ce pas? The HTML it creates looks like this:

1

And later:


  1. [footnote text here]
     ↩

Note how the MultiMarkdown script generously creates a link to return you to the spot where you were reading in the text proper. Thank you, Mr. Penney.

But all of this, it turns out, opens up a larger can of worms that has been poked at by a number of individuals with sticks that reveals that there really is no terribly good solution to the problem of notes in HTML — this despite the fact that one would think that the very links that saturate HTML texts would do the job.

Well, they do, but not quite in the same way that footnotes do the job. One of the great advantages of footnotes, one that they have over endnotes to my mind and why I have always preferred footnotes, is that the reader doesn’t really leave the space, the cognitive space if you will, within which they are operating. If a number or symbol indicating a note is available is paired with an item that piques the reader’s curiosity, all she has to do is flick her eyes to the bottom of the page. Thanks to a pretty decent spatial memory built into the human brain and to the fact that the note you’ve just read had a particular symbol paired with it, returning to the approximate spot in the text from whence the reader came is usually not so difficult a task that it breaks the reader’s sense of flow. (I do not find that endnotes accomplish this at all, by the way, and I’m sorry that my own discipline has chosen endnotes over footnotes.)

But a web page is not a page except in name. The comparable physical space is really a screen.

The compromise has been for the most part to treat the web page as a page and to place notes at its distant, and sometimes unknown (from the reader’s point of view) bottom. The convention that the Markdown script follows, in giving a link back to where you were in the text, is also a common one. The idea is to achieve via technology what the reader used to do themselves physically. I don’t find the effect to be as smooth and it is likely, at least for this reader, at least half the time to result in me losing track of where I was.

There is a really terrific description of all this by [Paula Petrik][pp] in a post where she also gives some really concrete and practical advice on how to construct notes according to one’s own preferences.

[md]: http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/
[mmd]: http://fletcherpenney.net/multimarkdown/
[pp]: http://www.archiva.net/footnote/

Project Bamboo Review

A number of my pre- and post-Workshop 1 essays are on the blog. Links are below. I also promised everyone that I would post a version of the 4/6 presentation I gave. It’s [here][pb46], but I’ll warn you now that it is only the slides. I am working on a transcript as well as a “slide-cast” version. (I’ll post an update as soon as possible.) There are three options when it comes to the blog: scan the main page or click on the individual links below. For all Project Bamboo posts, anywhere on the site, you can simply click on the “projectbamboo” tag, which can also be found in the right-hand navigation bar. UPDATE: The [slidecast version of the talk][pbsc] is now ready for download. It’s 8.7MB, so you’re best downloading it with either a fast connection or a nice cup of coffee. (With any luck, both.) * The first thing I posted was “[Some Ideas I’m Taking with me to Chicago][ids].” It collects together some projects I have either started or imagined in the last few years that an improved information infrastructure for the humanities would, I believe, make more possible. * In the post titled “[Pre-Workshop Notes][pwn]” I offer a synthesis of a wide ranging conversation that Clai Rice and I had one afternoon which focused on what we imagined were some of [our central concerns][pwn]. * In the [next post][hwk], I did my assigned homework, where I outlined a [scholarly practice][hwk] that I regularly engage in and that I also feared might be somewhat overlooked.

Digital Humanities Sites

* [Arts-Humanities Net](http://www.arts-humanities.net/).

[pbsc]: http://johnlaudun.prg/share/pb46-medium.mov
[pb46]: http://johnlaudun.org/assets/2008/5/20/4-6_Laudun.pdf
[ids]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/12/some-ideas-i-m-taking-with-me-to-chicago [pwn]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/13/pre-workshop-notes
[hwk]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/14/my-scholarly-practices

The Future of Scholarly Publishing from an Individual Perspective

I’ve been thinking about the future of scholarly publishing rather intensely for the past year or so. Before then, I was simply an individual scholar pursuing my own career, trying to make the best of not only a changing landscape (in terms of what remains print and what goes digital) but also a bewildering interdisciplinary landscape — a humanist who studies material culture that isn’t conventionally artwork has to search a lot of niches.

I got more involved in the future of scholarly publishing, which is a phrase I’m going to stick with for the time being, when I was asked to sit on the Publications Committee of the American Folklore Society. My participation in that group led to the development of a plan for a new website (set to “go live” on May 1) of which I now find myself editor. Since then I have become my university’s liaison to [Project Bamboo][pb], a [Mellon Foundation][mf] initiative to develop a digital infrastructure for humanities research.

So I’ve spent a fair amount of thinking about scholarly publishing from an institutional perspective, but now I want to re-turn the tables and think again from an individual perspective. My thinking really began with a simple forecast — and one I should be sure to emphasize that is only my own and does not in any way reflect the American Folklore Society or my own position as editor of the new site: that the *Journal of American Folklore* will one day simply be absorbed into the larger communications platform that the Society maintains.

How did I arrive at that forecast? I imagined the publication/communication landscape of the future from the point of view of an individual scholar. From the point of the view of the individual practitioner — we’ll leave groups for another time — there are three obvious places where one’s work should be featured:

* A personal site
* An employer’s site
* A professional organization’s site

Or, to concretize things a bit. There are three places an interested reader should be able to go to find my work:

* [*my personal site* ](http://johnlaudun.org/) (`http://johnlaudun.org/`)

* [*my university faculty page* ](http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~jjl5766/) (`http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~jjl5766/`), which should have a human-readable address like this:

`http://louisiana.edu/faculty/jlaudun`

* Or [*my member page of my professional organization* ](http://afsnet.org/) (`http://americanfolkloresociety/members/johnlaudun`) — that link is only to the current AFS website, which doesn’t have anything like what I’m writing about here.

Publishing, or cross-linking, to those three pages should be a central part of my work-flow as a scholar. Two of those three allow for *green* sources and the third for *gold*.

[pb]: http://projectbamboo.org/
[mf]: http://mellon.org/

“I Love Alaska”

In 2006 AOL mistakenly released the searches of thousands of its subscribers. As I understand it, the information was anonymized, in that no names were used, but still identified: an individual subscriber had a number attributed to them. AOL quickly “retracted” its release, but by then the information had been copied all over. Two Dutch filmmakers pored over the information and discovered that the information we submit when we search for information reveals things about us that we perhaps would rather not be known in composite. The searches of one particular individual, user 711391, told a particularly interesting story all on their own.

They released their documentary as a series of short videos, each one nothing more than an image of an Alaskan landscape, shot in HD video, while a woman’s voice reads out, fairly flatly, the contents of each search. If you watch the videos in sequence, the searches unfold chronologically and reveal that the searcher is a woman with a snoring husband, who has conducted an affair over the internet, and is looking to escape her life in Houston by going to Alaska.

Her searches are interesting in that they are often phrased as rather personal questions or statements: “Has anyone ever praised you for being who you are?” The starkness of the represented Alaskan landscapes would seem to reflect the starkness of the searcher’s life, as she seeks to live life more fully.

This is the first episode:


I Love Alaska – Episode 1/13 from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.

This kind of archeology of ordinary life as it is being lived reminds me of the *garbology* craze that hit a decade or more ago, where researchers would go through people’s trash, usually in the context of teaching a course on archeology or sociology, in order to show how much we can know about a person through the things they throw away. In both the cases of garbage and internet searches, what I think is really compelling is that we typically think of them as discrete bits of information, which they are, which reveal relatively little about us. Where they become compelling, even disquieting, is in their aggregate:

* a single piece of garbage reveals relatively little
* a kitchen trash can reveals a few days of living
* a household can at the street can reveal an entire week’s worth of living

The same goes for internet searches. Just think how much information Google knows about you — perhaps not you as in named you but about the on-line you, your avatar if you will — from days, weeks, months, even years of searches. Chances are the longer period is possible if you have any Google accounts and tend to log on to check your GMail or for your personalized iGoogle page which gives you local weather and news.

I think I’m going to log out and clear out some of those cookies. Maybe give birth to a new user id. Break my on-line self up into smaller pieces. I might even like Alaska.

A Tale of Two Online Book Sites

For both personal reasons and for professional reasons, I recently signed up for O’Reilly’s [Safari Online Books][sob] service and I purchased an Amazon Upgrade[^1] of the Robert Coles’ book I am using in my seminar this spring, [Doing Documentary Work][ddw].

Personal reasons aside for the moment, my professional reasons were twofold: I wanted both access to the content the two services provided and I wanted to try out the services themselves:

1. I needed immediate access to the Coles’ book because my own copy went missing and I wanted to finish preparing for my seminar before our first meeting tomorrow. A subscription to O’Reilly’s service would give me access to a number of titles that might play a role in my teaching now or in the future, and the chance to access those books for a relatively small sum — O’Reilly graciously admitted me into their defunct $9.99/month subscription plan while their SafariU goes on holiday — was too nice to pass up. The two titles I am reading now are: [*slide:ology*] and [*The Lean Forward Moment*][lfm].
2. As the humanities in particular and all of us in general slowly rumble towards a digitized distribution scheme for practically everything — well, let’s hope nutrients stay off-line (though there’s enough effluvia already passing through the internet’s “pipes”) — I wanted to try out two of the possibilities currently being deployed in the mainstream.

O’Reilly is usually a bit ahead of the mainstream — and often fairly smart — but in this instance, their online reader looks, and acts, a lot like Amazon’s reader. Here are some screen shots:

reader-amazon
*Amazon’s Reader*

reader-safari-1
*Safari’s Reader*

reader-safari-2
*Safari’s Reader scrolled to maximize the page.*

As can be seen in all the screen shots, but perhaps best in the last (bottom-most) one above, there is no way to see a whole page on a MacBook screen. (And I had no better luck when I had a 15″ MBP.) There’s a **zoom** option, but there is no way to zoom out, only zoom in. Safari is a bit more advanced in offering an HTML option for reading, but it doesn’t work on any of the books I have checked out yet. So, it’s an offer, but one you can’t accept.

All of this might be mitigated by the option to go **full-screen** with these readers, and I hope to explore some way to do this in Firefox, but it’s not built into the readers themselves — if Youtube can do this for videos, why can’t we do this for books?

[^1]: I tried to link to a generic page about the upgrade program on the Amazon website, but all the URLs I could find were very long and very ugly. Bad, Amazon, bad.

[ddw]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195124952?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0195124952
[sob]: http://my.safaribooksonline.com/home
: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0596522347?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0596522347
[lfm]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0321585453?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0321585453

Photos from Project Bamboo Workshop 3

These aren’t the best of images, but I was trying out my new point and shoot, a Canon PowerShot that my mother gave me for Christmas. When I am at work, I use a Canon 350 DSLR with a huge Sigma 24-70 lens on it. But that doesn’t travel very well. The PowerShot does, but it has limited abilities:

www.flickr.com

johnlaudun's Project Bamboo photoset johnlaudun’s Project Bamboo photoset