Interesting transformation of genres on [SafariBooks](http://www.safaribooksonline.com) right now:
The Open University has made the software stack behind their Open Learning initiative available for download. It’s on [SourceForge](http://sourceforge.net/projects/bookbind/). I have yet to try it out: it’s a Windows executable, but I hope to do so when my own university makes it possible to download and install Windows software.
Photography is part of my research, and I also enjoy photographing my family and just generally documenting my world — more on that as my next potential project later. Between those various interests and commitments, I have about 15,000 images, all of which are safely cataloged by Adobe’s Lightroom. (I tried Aperture when it premiered at an unbelievable price point on the Mac App store, but either I have worked with Lightroom too long and couldn’t figure out how to access Aperture’s features or it doesn’t have the functionality on which I now depend that exists in Lightroom.)
I get a lot of questions about using Lightroom from students and colleagues. From now on, I am telling everyone to [start here](http://www.mulita.com/lightroom/tutorialpodcast45/). That link takes you [George Jardine’s website](http://mulita.com/blog/) and the half-hour tutorial he recorded on the basics of image management with Lightroom.
If the tutorial convinces you to try Lightroom, then you should also read [Rob Sylvan’s “10 Things I Wish I Could Tell Every Lightroom User.”](http://photofocus.com/2009/10/16/10-things-i-wish-i-could-tell-every-new-lightroom-user/)
Because MLA came in January this year, our household is a week or so behind its usual schedule for getting Christmas put away. Typically we do this earlier in January, trying to get our Christmas tree on the curb in time for it to be recycled for coastal restoration. Unfortunately, that recycling program is not happening this year: none of the parishes — Louisiana has parishes instead of counties — involved has any money for it. (If you are keeping track of the casualty count for the economic downturn in Louisiana, it’s: public health, higher education, the coast.) And so our clean up got put off until the MLK weekend.
And so out came the plastic bins to put away the Christmas decorations. But, what’s that? Aren’t you a little tired of that closet threatening your life every time you open it? Well, then, let’s take out all the bins, sort through them, throw some things away, give some things away, repack some things and begin to get a little order in here.
*Hey, here’s a whole box of APS film canisters.*
I have a lot of negatives lying around. Much of it is probably not worth spending too much money to preserve, but if it can be digitized in bulk for a reasonable price, then I am open to the idea. I don’t have that many APS canisters. Most of my film photography was done with a 35mm camera, but a lot of that is on slides, which are all neatly tucked into binders … and I don’t know when I will work up the energy to get that digitized. (My colleague Barry Jean Ancelet was fortunate enough to have a few semesters of graduate students to do the digitizing for him. Perhaps, one day, when I have a similar status, I can enjoy something similar. *Gotta get that book done.* — yes, Craig Gill, I *am* working on it. I promise.)
But let’s focus on the APS to digital for the time being, and see what we can learn:
* [ScanMyPhotos.com](http://scanmyphotos.com) will do 2000 dpi scanning for $10 a roll or 4000 dpi scanning for $20 a roll. All scans are output as JPGs. (This makes no sense to me.) They will also scan slides and prints.
* [FotoBridge](http://www.fotobridge.com/) also does scanning, but it doesn’t have anything on APS scanning. Their price for scanning up to 250 slides at 2000 dpi is $90. 3000 dpi costs $102, and 4000 dpi $115. The [prices drop](http://www.fotobridge.com/pricing_slides.php) as you increase the amount you have scanned.
If only Microsoft’s execution was as good as its vision … some of the devices depicted here seem awfully close to things that the iPhone already does:
Still, the value of having a vision and of sharing it with a larger audience is not an action to be taken lightly. I myself look forward to Microsoft’s *surface* technology becoming ubiquitous and to having low-powered, large, multi-functional, multi-touch work surfaces.
For a variety of reasons, I have been thinking recently not only about the digital humanities, as I have written about [here] and [here] (and [here]) for example, but also about digital library services. Perhaps more than any other collection of disciplines, the humanities have as their center the library. The arts and the sciences have a variety of discourses on primary and secondary texts (data and analysis in the sciences, artworks and criticism in the arts), some of which pass through the library and some of which do not. But in the humanities, almost any meaningful stream — and let me use that word here with a promise to treat it better later — passes through the library.
And this is coming from the very person who argued in his presentation to the Project Bamboo crowd that the library was not the beginning and end of my research. And I meant it. But I qualified my provocation by noting that the library is one of my beginnings, paired with equal amounts of time spent in the field (also known more simply as the world), and one of my endings — that is, I don’t see my job as only building a scholarly apparatus but also helping the people with whom I work with things they need or want.
Even given such a qualification, however, I emphasized the central role in my own workflow, and in the larger workflow of the humanities and human sciences, that the library plays. And that role has the potential to change radically and, perhaps, in the process become even more important, more powerful.
### Thinking While Driving ###
As far as I am concerned, podcasts and audio books are the best thing ever to happen to driving, which often includes waiting in traffic. I already spend a fair amount of time in my truck doing fieldwork, but now I spend additional time waiting in line to pick up my daughter from school. Non-musical audio files on my iPhone make me glad for the time behind the wheel. Podcasts like the BBC’s [In Our Time][iot] allow me to fill in parts of my education or in the case of NPR’s [Science Friday][sf] keep up with recent developments in fields not my own.
*In Our Time* is one of my favorites, and it features a rather old-fashioned format: an informed interlocutor, in this case Melvyn Bragg, pulls together a panel of experts and asks them to explain a particular topic to the audience. In the case of IOT, the panel is almost always made up of British academics, which brings me to [familiar territory][ft] (see especially [this]). Recent topics on *In Our Time* have included:
* The Library at Alexandria
* The Physics of Time
* The Music of the Spheres
* The Great Reform Act
None of these are easy topics, but they are almost always handled well within the 42 minutes that confines the podcast, revealing that the program is really produced with radio in mind.
### Other Podcasts, Other Producers ###
The BBC is not alone in stocking the shelves of the iTunes Store. NPR does as well. And on another aisle in this on-line mega-mart, there is something called [iTunes University][itu]. A lot of universities are already on iTunes, and some are wise enough to make sure their content is on several aisles: Harvard is not only in iTunes U, but it also has several podcasts, one of which, the [Harvard Business Ideacast][hbi] (*iTunes link*), I subscribe to. The HBIs are more like new media (see the link for *familiar territory* above to see what I mean by this) in that they are of variable length, ranging from as little as 7 minutes to as much as half an hour, with the length dependent on the topic and not the medium. Many of the ideas are, of course, from Harvard faculty or from authors recently published in the [Harvard Business Review][hbr], but one of Harvard’s key strengths has always been its ability to promote itself. But other universities have as much talent, they just don’t quite have the machinery in place to promote it, or the culture of doing so.
Let me take my [folklorist/faculty cap][cap] off for a moment, and put on something like a digital librarian’s hat, because it seems to me that this is a really interesting place for digital library programs to come into their own.
When I performed my own survey of digital library programs recently, I chose a few major programs — e.g., Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas at Austin — as well as a few from smaller schools — e.g., Iowa State University. Some were more mature, some less. The more mature programs offered not only on-line repositories of the kinds of materials that libraries traditionally traffic in — texts and images (which also reveals an active digitization program) — but also had begun to imagine themselves as portals through which scholars could communicate.
But we’re digital now, everyone, and we need to start thinking about all the different kinds of media in which we can communicate, and which one best suits the idea or issue at hand. And I think it’s really in the best interest of universities to allow digital librarians to take some of this charge. Scholars and scientists already have a lot on their plate: they will come around, but the threshold for entry needs to be lowered more.
Libraries are already in the access business and are already familiar with the range of users that seek out the kinds of knowledge that universities produce. Indiana University has already outlined in its most recent strategic plan for IT the collection of challenges that universities like itself face as they look to the future. One of those challenges is clearly resolving the problem of scholarly/scientific communication in a way that universities do not face something like a triple tax:
* Universities pay salaries for scholars and scientists with the expectation not only of teaching but also of producing research;
* Universities regularly fund research expenses, be they the ongoing maintenance of library collections or scientific labs;
* Universities subscribe to scholarly/scientific journals, some of which charge steep fees for access.
It seems to me that digital library programs are in a great position to mediate across a range of challenges.
### The Particular Case of IU ##
Indiana University’s efforts are near and deer to me at the moment, having enjoyed a two-week fellowship with [EVIADA](http://eviada.org/) and had a chance to glimpse some of the things happening at the [Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities][idah]. So I decided to explore what presence had on iTunes University. For those who haven’t visited iTunes U before, click on the link in the left-hand column of the iTunes Store and you will see something like this:
On today’s front page, the Cassiopeia Project (an effort to make science education videos available to anyone who wants them), Duke University, and Yale University are featured across the top. Still featured, but now in the main content window are a range of programs from Carnegie Mellon, the Library of Congress, and New Mexico State among others — the range of providers here is interesting and makes me curious about how this block and the one above it get filled. I.e., what’s the selection process, because this doesn’t feel entirely random to me. More importantly, just like SEO, are players gaming the system at all?
I ask this question, because as we’ll see in a minute in this case study, iTunes U feels more like Google than it does Yahoo when it comes to finding content. That is, the thing that Yahoo did so well — but lost sight of because it became obsessed with beating Google at search — was to organize content. It was admittedly hierarchical, which meant users had to have a certain willingness, and wisdom, to move up and down the structures. The wisdom came from the fact that you could trace your steps to find the information again. This strikes me as somewhat different from the way most of us interact with Google, which really becomes a matter of trying to remember the string with which you searched last time in order to find again that thing you found. (That sentence was meant to mimic the feeling of doing that repeatedly when you can’t quite remember what it was you previously typed.)
So let’s go searching for IU:
The first time I tried this, all the results were for the Indiana Marching One Hundred. That didn’t seem quite right, so I tried again a little while later — again, this all goes to the somewhat unpredictable nature of iTunes in this area. Here are my later results:
This is better. In the iTunes U block we have three listings: (1) Music Clips for Podcasting, (2) Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, and (3) WTIU/WFIU’s “See It or Skip It.” There are two podcasts: (1)the School of Music again and (2) the Pashto Language Learning Podcasts. There are two albums and, of course, a basketball application. Clicking on the “Show All” link in the upper-right of the iTunes U box gets you the following:
It’s an interesting mix, and I can’t tell at all how much the variety is planned or unplanned. Sometimes with iTunes, you simply have to poke around, which I did until I spotted something interesting in the bread crumbs of the navigation bar:
Home > iTunes U > **Arts & Humanities** > Indiana University’s Jacob School of Music Presents…. Where does that “Arts and Humanities” link take us?
Under Arts and Humanities are the Music School again as well as those sound clips for podcasting and the “See It or Skip It” program. The new content is a “backstage pass” from the IU Auditorium and a series of talks posted by the IU Foundation. Elsewhere, there are a series of mini-lectures posted by the Alumni Association.
All of this leads me to wonder if there is a plan or some central organization body that is keeping an eye on how all of this unfolds with an eye to the university’s overall vision and goals. Is this an opening for a digital library program? It certainly seems to me that the functionality and features are parallel in many ways.
### Getting There from Here ###
No matter the current state of affairs, it’s clear that not only is iTunes University a viable platform, it also points to the fact that digital library programs will need eventually to include the full portfolio of media within their scope. If we — remember, I’m wearing my librarian hat now — wish to be not only repositories but also portals and communications platforms, we are going to have to push the envelope ourselves. If we are going to spotlight our faculty’s work, then we may have to set up audio and video facilities and learn how to prompt faculty to show their work off at its best advantage. We already do this, in some capacity, when we work with faculty to deposit their materials in archives, or, now, when we work with faculty on digitizing materials or setting up on-line collections or publications.
That is, successful digital library programs are already well on their way to doing these things. It’s just one small step … okay, it’s a series of small steps not only to helping maintain, and expand, our university’s reputation but also realizing the true democratic potential of information technology. We can reach more people in more ways. Everybody wins.
J. J. Abrams, of _Lost_ fame, gave a [TED talk](http://ted.com/) where he talked about the role of mystery in fiction, and in life. He attributes his own fascination with mystery to his grandfather — it’s a somewhat interesting story that I won’t summarize here. It’s not the best of talks, but a lot of these TED talks focus more on being entertaining and than being cogent and tight in what they are trying to say. In Abrams’ case, maybe it’s intentional — following his argument is sort of like trying to follow _Lost_: you think there might be, and you want there to be, something there, but maybe there isn’t and he’s only presenting the illusion, the mystery of there being something there to keep you watching.
No matter. At some point he discusses the mystery of the shark in _Jaws_ and asserts that the movie would have in fact been far less interesting if the mechanical shark, Bruce, had in fact worked as Spielberg hoped. The shark is the mystery, and we all remember the scenes of it. What we don’t remember are such amazing scenes as the one he shows in which Roy Scheider’s character tell his son to kiss him. The son asks why, and the father responds: “Because I need it.”
It really is an amazing scene, and Abrams seems to be suggesting that we come to the movie for the mystery of the shark, but what fills us up is the mystery of ourselves that we find in scenes like this.
Abrams then goes on to argue that where we go wrong when we make sequels or borrow from other works is when we rip off the ostensible mystery, the shark, when we should be “ripping off what matters,” which is the character, his development, and those moments in which the two are revealed.
Well, here’s an interesting item from the on-line [New York Times](http://www.nytimes.com/): Hewlett-Packard is offering a new web-based on-demand printing service for magazines, called [MagCloud](http://magcloud.com/). A content creator uploads a properly formatted PDF and the cost to the purchaser is 20 cents per page plus shipping. (That’s the base cost. Anything on top of that results in profit for the content creator.) [Here’s the story](http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/technology/internet/30mag.html?_r=1&em).
Below is the prospectus I originally wrote for Louisiana Folk Masters in 2003. It’s an interesting historical document, and I am surprised that in a few short years I had actually done two out of the three things listed here:
Housed in the Center for Cultural and Eco-Tourism at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, the **Louisiana Folk Masters** series spotlights individuals from around the state who represent the very best of what Louisiana’s diverse folk cultures have to offer. While initially focused on the CD series, the project’s larger goal is a portfolio of offerings that will give a wide-range of audiences access to quality, humanities content through the rubric of getting to know particular practitioners of various traditions.
* The *Louisiana Folk Masters CD Series* draws from the extensive collections of the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore, which houses thousands of recordings, representing the collecting and preservation activities of several generations of folklorists, ethnomusicologists, linguists and other cultural resource management professionals. The oldest recordings contained in the collection are on wax cylinders and the newest were collected with the latest in high-quality digital recording techniques. Recordings are as intimate as a living room in Mamou to the stage of the American Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.
* The *Louisiana Folk Masters in Profile Series* is a planned cooperative effort with the local press, the Daily Advertiser being the first, to feature individuals drawn from the community who are practitioners of folkways of either already established interest or deserving interest. Reporters will work with Research Associates from the Center who will act not only as field guides but appear as experts within the piece. (We would eventually like to extend this model to other media, such as television.)
* The *Louisiana Folk Masters Publication Series* encourages writers to extend the treatment individuals receive in the profile series. The medium for doing so are a series of books, each of which will be a compilation of individuals based either on region, tradition, or group. Such a publication series can, on a smaller level, be produced through the Center itself; larger projects will be handled by a press.
The Louisiana Folk Masters project reflects the Center’s vision that all of us necessarily create the future out of the past here in the present and that our best resource in guiding us to our creation of the future is each other. We encourage all inquiries.