Friday, July 30, 2010

Copyright and preserving computer games

This article looks at the tension between preserving computer games (especially those based on consoles). You will find that this article is written from the technology perspective, but it should be of broader interest to the school.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vanishing Act

Michael Bugeja and Daniela V. Dimitrova, Vanishing Act: The Erosion of Online Footnotes and Implications for Scholarship in the Digital Age (Duluth, MN: Litwin Books, LLC, 2010), give us an interesting and compelling research study about one aspect of the implications of the growth of the Internet. The report offered here was started in 2003 when one of the authors noticed his Web citations disappearing. Examining in-depth nine leading journals in journalism and communication in order the determine what is the half-life of a Web citation, the authors sound this warning: “Vanishing online footnotes undermine the building blocks of research, and their disappearance raises concerns about the reliability and replicability of scholarship” (p. 8). They conveniently cite and summarize the research of others who have also examined this issue, lamenting that we seem to have lost the notion of the archive (in other words, the function that traditional libraries served for a very long time but which is now being displaced by virtual journals and other repositories lacking a sense of a long-term commitment to maintaining documents). “Simply by changing and renaming servers," they write, "computer technicians routinely destroy for citation purposes entire archives on a scale as disastrous as the legendary but mysterious fire at the ancient Library of Alexandria” (p. 17). Personally, I wish they had devoted a few pages to the emerging efforts in digital curation and those of some leading academic libraries to create digital repositories; I thinks this would have provided a more hopeful picture, but this is an important study and one that can be readily replicated in other fields.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Slow Reading

John Miedema, Slow Reading (Duluth, MN: Litwin Books, LLC, 2009) is an interesting, brief reflection on the nature of reading slowly for reflection rather than just locating information. “Unlike our modern consumption of information,” Miedema writes, “slow reading is a journey that fundamentally changes us” (p. 8). He also argues that “Print persists because it is a superior technology for integrating information of any length, complexity or richness; it is better suited to slow reading” (p. 16) and that “libraries are more than just data, they provide a context to information and a house to the people who use it” (p. 49). He is convinced that digital and print books will co-exist for a long-time into the future.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rethinking the photograph

The photograph remains one of the most prevalent documentary forms going, and the scholarship trying to grapple with it broad and varied. Anna Pegler Gordon, In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009) argues that photography influenced US immigration policy and how the objeCts of the photos also exercised control over how they would be depicted. John Tagg, The Disciplinary Frame: Photographic Truths and the Capture of Meaning (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009) wrestles with the nature of evidence in such images and the means by which the evidence is shaped ANC reshaped. Both are important books for understanding photography and how it is changing.

An Amazing Body of Scholarship about Maps

Mark Monmonier, geography professor at Syracuse, has perhaps created one of the most amazing bodies of scholarship on one document form, in this case the map. I have about a dozen books by him on the subject. I just read his most recent one, No Dig, No Fly, No Go: How Maps Restrict and Control (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), concerning restrictive maps, such as concerning zoning, flight paths, nautical passages, and political subdivisions. Monmonier's books are also a model of serious scholarship written in a way that can be read by a broader public.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Amazon: More Kindle books than hardcovers

This is an interesting story that makes the ongoing media transition a bit more concrete. Quoting the article:

The Kindle e-reader and bookstore have reached a "tipping point," the company said Monday, with Kindle titles outselling hardcover books on the massive online marketplace for the first time.

"We've reached a tipping point with the new price of Kindle--the growth rate of Kindle device unit sales has tripled since we lowered the price from $259 to $189," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in an announcement release, referring to last month's price drop for the device. "In addition, even while our hardcover sales continue to grow, the Kindle format has now overtaken the hardcover format. customers now purchase more Kindle books than hardcover books--astonishing, when you consider that we've been selling hardcover books for 15 years and Kindle books for 33 months."

This may not be surprising given what Amazon has invested in the Kindle and may be biased by Amazon's patron demographics, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Good Life in the Digital Age

William Powers, Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building A Good Life in the Digital Age (New York: Harper, 2010) is essentially a companion piece to Nicholas Carr's new book. Powers describes how every new information technology has brought challenges and that our present age has us always connected, our focus distracted, and our thinking often made fuzzy -- much the same arguments Carr makes. Instead of emphasizing the cognitive issues, Powers examines what Plato, Seneca, Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, Thoreau, and McLuhan have to offer with their observations about the use of information and, for them, the new technologies supporting the use of information. Powers teases out a set of principles, such developing positive rituals for shutting the technologies down from time to time, and poses them in a highly readable way. Carr's book may be the one I would select for a course, but Powers also provides a critical and useful critique. Neither author suggests anything astoundingly new, but they present their perspective in a very user friendly way that engages the reader and that certainly could be used in undergraduate and graduate courses.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Scientific Fraud

David Goodstein, On Fact and Fraud: Cautionary Tales from the Front Lines of Science (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010) offers insights by Goodstein on teaching a course on Scientific Ethics at California Institute of Technology. He lays out a set of basic principles and then supports them with specific case studies. One of the cases concerns Robert A. Millikan's research about measuring the charge of the electron, using his research notebooks at the CalTech archives as evidence the reliability of Millikan's research.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Future of News

The Spring 2010 issue of Daedalus concerns the "future of news," and it brings together the observations of many who have been writing about the status of newspapers, journalism, and news. This is a handy summary of the concerns and debates about the transformation of news in the digital era.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Internet and Our Brains

Nicholas Carr, one of our more astute commentators on the World Wide Web and its role in the present Information Age, has expanded on his oft-cited Atlantic essay, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" In his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Being (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010). Carr provides some interesting commentary about how different reading traditional books is different from browsing or scanning the Web. Carr speculates how our writing is changing, how we may be comprehending less even when having more information to work with, and how our comparison of our brain to a computer may be fraught with many problems. Sprinkled throughout the book are interesting comments such as "the Web is a technology of forgetfulness" (p. 193). This book will stimulate a lot of discussion, and it is one that can spur on good conversation in our classrooms.