Coding’s Place in the Digital Humanities

An observer of the 2008 meeting of Museums and the Web noted that:

> More museums should be building these programming skills in internal teams that grow expertise from project to project. Far too many museums small and large rely on outside companies for almost all of their technical development on the web. By and large the most innovation at Museums and the Web came from teams of people who have built expertise into the core operations of their institution.

> I fundamentally believe that at least in the museum world there isn’t much danger of the technology folks unseating the curators of the world from their positions of power. I’m more interested in building skilled teams within museums so that the intelligent content people aren’t beholden to external media companies but rather their internal programmers who feel like they are part of the team and understand the overall mission of the museum as well as how to pull UTF-8 data out of a MySQL database.

About all I can say is that *universities* in general and *humanities* in particular could be inserted wherever *museums* appears above and the statement would be perfect. Ideally, programming would not only be folded into teams but also into individual players. There really is no reason why humanists shouldn’t have at least some exposure to the basics of coding.

To see the quotation above in its original context, you only need to [look here](http://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/04/guest-post-from-museums-and-web-bryan.html).

Digital Humanities and Publishing Reading List

I have a bunch of these links stored up, and I need to begin organizing them. They will get moved to a page one day. For now, I’m collecting them in a post. All of these are summative documents in some fashion:

* From the UK, there is the [Communicating knowledge: how and why UK researchers publish and disseminate their findings report](http://www.rin.ac.uk/communicating-knowledge), which explores “how researchers publish and why, including the motivations that lead them to publish in different formats and the increase in collaboration and co-authorship. It also explores how researchers decide what to cite and the influence of research assessment on their behaviours and attitudes.”

A Hundred Hits

So … I think I have only looked at the *statistics* section of cPanel only once or twice before in the entire time I have been blogging, which dates back to somewhere like 2002 or 2003. (That’s right, before personal blogs jumped the shark.) When I first started maintaining a website, the front page hosted a welter of connections to different pieces of my portfolio: essays I had written, projects I had worked on, documents people could download — like a fieldwork log sheet or a guide on how to ask questions — and the blog was off to the side. All that stuff is there, or soon will be back, but it’s now pushed over to the left, and the blog is front and center … er, right. Or, a little off-center and to the right. (The off-center is probably revealing, and I do like to think that I am mostly right about things I write about, but that’s not my decision to make.)

I should be honest and admit that I haven’t really cared about readers. There were several reasons for this. The first reason was somewhat rhetorical: if I worried about audience, I wouldn’t necessarily write about the things that truly mattered to me, and I wanted to give myself time to discover that, to cast a broad net again and again until I knew for myself what it was I wanted to keep. The second reason was that I wasn’t even sure that I wanted any public to care about my blog. That is, and this is still somewhat the case, I rather liked the idea of the blog simply being my own on-line notebook. There are just so many ideas and things that pass through my hands, pass through my mind, that I really liked having a notebook in which I could catch it all and then search for it later.

I am not entirely convinced that I really want to break from either of those desires, but along the way, I found myself with something I had not planned on … *readers*.

That’s right. The *Webalyzer* application built into my [hosting provider’s][aso] version of cPanel revealed to me that I have readers. Now I knew I had the occasional reader, mostly family and friends, and the occasional stray reader, but neither of those account for the fact that this website is now accruing over a hundred unique visitors a day — visitors that are not robots. (I was, to be honest, searching the logs in hopes of discovering that a [certain set of readers][iub] had dropped in.)

Now some of you reading this, or “reading” this, are either robots unknown to Webalyzer or comment spambots — and it really must be frustrating to those of you who are spambots that I have comments turned off — but that still can not account for the over 100 hits a day this site is getting. (As of late summer, early fall of 2009, the number is about 140.)

With readers come responsibility. I’m not in search of a readership. I don’t, at least as yet, have any desire to become an independent blogger. And I certainly don’t want to do it by posting about stuff I *think* readers will want to read about. Rather, I have always wanted to write about stuff that, well, I wanted to write about, and it’s nice to know that there are readers who are interested in reading what I want to write about. That’s not a selfish statement. Rather, it’s a way of foregrounding the idea that I when I write about something I am honestly interested in it and trying to think about it and that you are getting that when you read. If I have posted something, it’s because it matters to me — or is at least interesting to me.

There are more than enough people in this world who are willing to say anything or do anything to curry the favor of an audience. Some began with great integrity and then lost their way, either because they got to be popular and got caught up in the rush or because they are so desperately seeking to be popular, and some never had integrity to begin with. This, by the way, applies to all walks of life and not just bloggers. It applies to the business world and to the academy.

In fact, one of the realizations I have had is that people can be pretty much uncreative everywhere. Which saddens me greatly, but it explains a whole host of phenomena. (I’ll write about this at some point in the future, I promise.)

I hated writing that, but it’s balanced out by what I am about to say: that I am re-focusing this blog a bit. Having blogged now off and on for over six years and maintained this particular version of the site for about a year, I think it’s safe to say that this blog has really been about three things:

* the digital humanities,
* thoughts on things that happen in my daily life, and
* creativity.

I listed creativity last because it has been far less a feature of this blog than I would like — you’ll find it mostly tagged as “making” so far. (Give me a minute to clean up the tagging system and I’ll make that a link to take you to those posts.) I plan to write about these “discovered” foci in upcoming posts.

And thanks for reading.

[aso]: http://asmallorange.com/
[iub]: http://iub.edu/

Digital Virgils: The Digital Library Still Needs Librarians

Sometimes when we imagine the digital future, I think we often imagine it without human beings, at least in terms of trekking through the datasphere, aka searching. The promise of Google is that one can sit down in front of the legendarily simply Google search box and type in a series of queries, perhaps none terribly better phrased or constructed than the one before, until you get something like what you thought you wanted or would get. (The epistemology of search is incredibly fascinating in this way, since our very idea of a successful search is perhaps based on incorrect assumptions about what success will look like. Prior searches might have produced better results, but we were unable to see them.) Google of course has to maintain this appearance, since its entire revenue scheme is based on delivering ads tailored to your searches, placing sponsored links at the top or advertised results to the side. Google’s finances depend upon a fair number of us clicking on these results as successful results.

Add to this the very idea of progress built into almost all Western discourse since the Enlightenment, which is especially forceful in the realm of science and technology, and which frequently figures the diminishing necessity of our fellow human beings, and you get an image of the datasphere largely built on the intelligence of machines who serve our needs dispassionately and objectively. (We always worry about bias and judgement when other people are involved.)

Well, yeah, that *could* happen, but it would be a really bad place for someone like me. Because sometimes, when you really need a very particular thing, it is revealed to you that perhaps your search results are not as good as you think, and you really need a guide, a Virgil to take you by the hand and guide you through the search purgatory of your own making.

All this comes up because as I sat in line waiting to pick up my daughter from school, I engaged in one of the great pleasures of being stuck in traffic, I listened to a podcast. In this case, it was the Harvard Business School’s IdeaCast (which, truth be known, is rather uneven). This particular podcast was an interview with an author of a recent essay in the _Harvard Business Review_ entitled “Restoring American Competitiveness.” The author, Gary Pisano, argued that one of problems with the American engine of innovation is that it isn’t firing on all cylinders. That we had shut down part of the engine when we outsourced so much of our manufacturing overseas. His argument, it seemed to me, was both a grand one, that making and inventing feed each other, and a fine one, that process innovations can often lead to product innovations.

*I need to look up that article*, I thought. When I got home later that day, I first searched, yup, Google. I got to the HBR home page and quickly found the way to get to the article on-line. Or at least the first few paragraphs of the article. The rest I could have for $6.50.

I’m not opposed to paying such a reasonable amount for the sake of my own curiosity, let alone my research. Still, one of the purposes of a library is to pool our resources in order to have a common pool of, well, resources. So I got on-line to see if our library carried the _Harvard Business Review_. My first few searches went awry. I couldn’t find HBR at all. *Well*, I thought, *maybe I’ll have to call in a few favors with the business school folks: surely one of them subscribes.* But it just didn’t seem right that our library didn’t have HBR. *I better call*, I thought.

And so I did and a very patient librarian found our subscription to HBR and the link to the URL that would get me full PDFs. Because I seemed to be trapped in some intellectual-digital acrobatic nightmare, she stayed with me on the phone until I got exactly where I needed to be, which took a while.

And so this post is a tribute to my Virgil, and to the Virgils everywhere, and to let you know that even when *Colossus* goes live, we will still need you.

Why I Wear a Cap

Some days I drive onto campus with a cap on my head. When I forget to take it off, I regularly get odd looks from my colleagues and/or the occasional question about whether I’m in costume. Something about “going native.”

Leaving aside the fact that I sometimes feel more like a native who has “gone academic” than an academic who has risked “going native,” there are already plenty of costumes on a university campus — college is, after all, a terrific time for young people to try on different identities.

I may in fact have multiple identities — *humanist* and *field researcher* for a start — but I do not wear a cap to feel more like one than the other. Rather I wear a cap for the same reason that I keep my hair short: Louisiana summers are hot. And bright.

The bill of a baseball cap is, of course, pretty good at shading one’s eyes, and that’s a good reason to wear a cap, but the real reason that I and so many people working out in rice fields or in metal shops wear caps is that when it’s hot you sweat. Caps are not necessarily all that cool, but their bands are good at catching sweat, and the fabric of the cap’s dome is good at wicking that moisture away. And if you keep several caps on a shelf in your shop or on the floor of the back of your truck, then you can always exchange a wet cap for a dry one and, in the process, feel somewhat refreshed, or at least like you have something of a new beginning, which itself is a fairly welcome feeling when you are up to your proverbial elbows in a dirty, greasy, gripping burning hot metal problem.

And that is why I wear a cap.

The Road to Digital Considered

*A recent [posting on Ars Technica][at] about the American Chemical Society’s “road to digital” publishing spurred an interesting discussion, but a surprising number of posters fumed about the loss of print. I took a moment to write about the issue, using what little I know about how things work for my own society, the American Folklore Society:*

I, too, enjoy serendipity and have profited immensely in my intellectual and professional development from reading the card behind the one for which I was searching while in the card catalog or from seeing the title of a book on the shelf above the one for which I was looking. That said, that notion of browsing is not really lost in the digital realm. These things are called “browsers” after all and the rise of the multi-tab interface that allows one to open multiple other texts while one stays focused on another speaks directly to the ability to browse easily in the digital realm.

I am the editor of a website for a small scholarly society in the humanities, the American Folklore Society, that is about to make its premiere on October 1. We are deploying this new/additional communication platform in addition to our journal of record, the Journal of American Folklore. JAF already exists in print and digital form: as a paper product produced and shipped by the University of Illinois Press and as an electronic product available through Project Muse (5 most recent years) and through JSTOR. Having had a chance to talk some with the CIO for JSTOR through the Project Bamboo workshops, I have to say that JSTOR is really trying to do this right. And I would bet that they, too, are looking for some better format than PDF that is, in some ways, too heavily focused on print as an eventual outcome. (You would think in this era of XML and XSLT we would be there already, but, alas, we are not.)

Our society is not alone in being somewhat dependent on the revenue generated by subscriptions to the journal. Like any number of scholarly societies, subscriptions are considerably larger than the active members in the field and are largely dependent upon libraries around the world. In some way, libraries subsidize small scholarly societies as well as, perhaps, large ones. Perhaps that is as it should be. The true cost of running a scholarly society, as opposed to a professional society which can probably charge more for membership, can probably never be born by its members — unless, perhaps, they agglomerate into larger and larger groups for economies of scale. E.g., the American Anthropological Association. (Which now has a number of breakaway groups and journals because the views of the center cannot encompass the many views of its many edges.)

At the same time as all this is happening, libraries have been bearing the costs of both print and digital editions of scholarly products like journals. That kind of expansion of costs for, ostensibly, the same product was bearable when money was less of a concern. But it’s a concern now and likely to remain one for a while. And so, libraries now have to begin making choices that perhaps should have been made a long time ago. Not surprisingly, they find digital more cost effective across a number of fronts.

The obvious needs to be said here: digital production in no way inhibits users from printing out materials and reading them the old-fashioned way. It’s just that the cost of doing so, and the hassle of it to some degree, is now directly born by the print user and not by the larger economy. Pay as you go, as it were. With any luck, some of the hassle will get removed as print-on-demand devices become more common and more available so one could download an entire copy of a journal and have it printed and bound — that’s one of the satisfactions of hoisting a book that I don’t know the digital realm will ever replace.

I should be clear: I love books. I love the way they feel, smell, look. I paid my way through undergrad and parts of grad doing graphic design work. I love the printed page. But I’m also a realist, and we’re in serious need of a re-think about how all this goes. I know some will lament the loss of page numbers for citations, but what need the page number when you can search the text for the quotation yourself and get to it faster than flipping through pages and scanning paragraphs?

[at]: http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/08/publisher-were-somewhere-on-the-road-to-pure-digital.ars

The Cult of the Author in the New Economy

The writers at [Wired][w] are regularly wrong — the “long boom” anyone? — but they are usually thought-provoking in the process. At the very least, folks like Kevin Kelly and Chris Anderson are prolific, practically living embodiments of what is sometimes called Google’s approach to doing business: “Have a lot of ideas; fail often.”

Chris Anderson is, of course, most famous — if one ignores his current infamy for suggesting that everything should be free — for describing [the long tail][tlt], which suggests, as per the diagram below, that there is a reasonable income to be made in the “long tail” of sales that occurs over time. The high “head” on the left of the graph is where hits live. Anderson’s argument is that there is more money in the long tail and that retailers like Amazon.com, Netflix, and iTunes have already discovered this and can, thanks to lowering costs by having an internet storefront and centralized, and efficient, inventory systems (or digital inventory in the case of iTunes) take advantage of the overall scene.

The Long Tail

Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail”

This is, as Kevin Kelly points out, extremely good news for two groups: the retailers who occupy these markets and the consumers who shop in them who now have access to considerably more, and considerably more varied, commodities.

Everyone wins, right?

Well, certainly the mainstream media/content producers continue to win as they stay focused on producing the hits that occupy the head. They spend a lot in order to make a lot. They have an infrastructure for doing so. There may be some settling, and some shrinkage Anderson seems to suggest at times in his argument, but at least in this moment in time there seems little reason to believe that such industries won’t continue to play significant roles in the market place.

But what about individual/independent producers? Do they get to win, too?

While the public may be interested in, and be profiting from, the greater variety of materials available to them, it would seem that the advantage lies with the content aggregators like Amazon and Netflix and iTunes who can successfully ride the long tail, as it were, by selling an obscure novel here, renting an odd film there, or making available a one-hit wonder from two decades ago. That kind of aggregation might make economic sense for the aggregator, but does it work for the aggregated?

Kelly thinks there is a way to make a living in the long tail, and it consists in cultivating and maintain [1000 true fans][kk]. Kelly’s description of a *true fan* is:

> someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.

His economic argument for 1000 true fans runs like this:

> Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day-wage” is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

It’s an interesting idea. Kelly suggests that some things a content creator is going to have to learn to give away — in the case of musicians it may very well be the music itself — in order to establish a relationship with an audience and sell them other things, e.g., concert tickets, tee shirts, autographed copies of special collections and/or collectibles. The goal is to cultivate within any given audience the true fans who will reside at the center of concentric rings:

True Fans

.

Kelly admits that there will be movement into and out of the circles: creators will “connect” with audience members differentially — with different individuals for different reasons at different moments within their lives. But, he argues, the only way to make that connection, to establish the relationship that will become your economic lifeline that will enable you to continue creating content, is to be open to the relationship, and to recognize its importance, in the first place. Kelly’s argument is quite clear:

> The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.

## The Cult of the Author ##

*Stay tuned for an update in the next few days…*

[w]: http://wired.com/
[tlt]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401309666?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1401309666
[kk]: http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php

More on RAW and JPEG

This past spring Pravina Shukla asked me what a JPEG file was and what was the best way to interact with them (if that was the format that your fieldwork data was in). I asked on [Mahalo](http://mahalo.com) and got an answer, but I continue to read around in hopes of finding better answers to her questions and to the many folks who ask me:

* There’s a detailed [raw] over at Luminous Landscape. It’s part of their “Understanding …” series.

[raw]: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/u-raw-files.shtml

The Difference Digital Makes

This is my own response to the current discussion being held by the Digital Humanities On-line Seminar:

> It strikes me that both the ongoing discussion about what difference digital makes and McCarty’s wonderment about Grafton and company really are two facets of the same jewel at which we all seem to keep staring, mistaking it, if I may continue the metaphor for just a moment more, for the light which it refracts. (I’m going to return to this Gothic moment later.)

> The point of reading, it seems to me, is to engage in better and more diverse kinds of dialogue. Wisdom does not flow from books, but from conversations between people. Perhaps this reveals my own deep indebtedness to philosophers like Karl Jaspers but such an idea is found in folk philosophies around the world. (E.g., the rural Irish concern for the man who keeps too much to himself.)

> Here, digital does make a difference, even if only that difference is, as other posters have noted, once of making things happen more readily. Still, the chance conversation between the scholar and the ordinary citizen is much more likely to happen in a place where both can be, if not simultaneously, at least in a deferred fashion. For this, I look no further than my own research with rice farmers and meta shop workers who regularly check my blog and my Flickr account to see what I’ve been up to and to wonder why I forgot to interview so-and-so. (I really should.)

> In turn, they submit to me, and to others, there own photographs and videos from their own archives, greatly expanding the historical record as they do so.

> I am fairly certain that many, many of us share this active difference that the digital makes possible — and by active difference I mean an orientation by action. Some of this is born out by the analysis that I am currently doing looking at the narratives collected by Project Bamboo from a variety of scholars sprinkled across the nation. So far, the common themes are really things people want to be able to do: access, search, digitize, manage, collaborate, preserve, compute. (It’s interesting that compute really amounts to the smallest percentage of actions people wish to perform.) They want all these actions to be pervaded by two properties: annotated (metadata) and authentic (authorized).

> What’s interesting about these actions is that under “collaborate” a number of the narratives/scenarios are really about opening up the scholarly convention not only to students but also to just regular people, who have their own ideas and practices. (And, to answer from a folklorist’s perspective an earlier conversation about is a prototype a theory? Yes, from my own experience as a field researcher, most folks do not have theories about why they do what they do. They don’t need to. It’s embedded in the doing. It can be drawn out to some degree, but not directly.)

> So I don’t mind if the book dematerializes. Let it go. The codex is a particular manifestation of a much longer-lived idea: that marks in the physical can lead to conversations that lead to ideas. (And, yes, this probably resembles Heideegger’s sense of “aletheia,” but I did warn you with a reference to Jaspers up front where this note was headed.)

> All of this reminds me of the construction binge our good Abbott Suger kicked off and put a whole lot of masons to work, all of whom had competing senses of what the right proportions were. The legacy of the ideas they carried in their head can be glimpsed in the architectural mess that is Chartres, among other cathedrals. The advantage we now enjoy is that many of those same workers carry smartphones and regularly check e-mail and our blog pages, if we but invite them.

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

The “Digging into Data” Challenge

This looks like a terrific idea but it has a steep entry price. I could see UL putting something interesting together with a university in Canada or France focusing on our strength in Francophone studies, but there’s a lot of writing and negotiating to be done and I just don’t think we have the staff for it. Nevertheless, I am posting the [link to the site](http://www.diggingintodata.org/) here to encourage others and in case I change my mind:

> The Digging into Data Challenge is an international grant competition sponsored by four leading research agencies, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) from the United Kingdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) from the United States, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) from Canada.

> What is the “challenge” we speak of? The idea behind the Digging into Data Challenge is to answer the question “what do you do with a million books?” Or a million pages of newspaper? Or a million photographs of artwork? That is, how does the notion of scale affect humanities and social science research? Now that scholars have access to huge repositories of digitized data — far more than they could read in a lifetime — what does that mean for research?

> Applicants will form international teams from at least two of the participating countries. Winning teams will receive grants from two or more of the funding agencies and, one year later, will be invited to show off their work at a special conference. Our hope is that these projects will serve as exemplars to the field.

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.

Web Publishing Platforms for the Humanities

As I continue to work on the scholarly narratives for Project Bamboo, I have gleaned the following platforms that people are using, or would like to use, in the service of humanities projects:

* [Omeka](http://omeka.org/) is brought to you by the same folks who brought us Zotero and is described as “a free and open source collections based web-based publishing platform for scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, educators, and cultural enthusiasts. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog. Omeka is designed with non-IT specialists in mind, allowing users to focus on content and interpretation rather than programming. It brings Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to academic and cultural websites to foster user interaction and participation. It makes top-shelf design easy with a simple and flexible templating system. Its robust open-source developer and user communities underwrite Omeka’s stability and sustainability.”
* [CONTENTdm](http://www.contentdm.com/) is described as *digital collection management software*. Its blurb is “CONTENTdm® makes everything in your digital collections available to everyone, everywhere. No matter the format — local history archives, newspapers, books, maps, slide libraries or audio/video — CONTENTdm can handle the storage, management and delivery of your collections to users across the Web.”
* [Pachyderm](http://pachyderm.nmc.org/) is “n easy-to-use multimedia authoring tool. Designed for people with little multimedia experience, Pachyderm is accessed through a web browser and is as easy to use as filling out a web form. Authors upload their own media (images, audio clips, and short video segments) and place them into pre-designed templates, which can play video and audio, link to other templates, zoom in on images, and more. Once the templates have been completed and linked together, the presentation is published and can then be downloaded and placed on the author’s website or on a CD or DVD ROM. Authors may also leave their presentations on the Pachyderm server and link directly to them there. The result is an attractive, interactive Flash-based multimedia presentation.” It appears to be available in three versions: hosted, as a managed deployment, and as a DIY open source download.