Briefly Noted for April 28, 2010

On "Uninvited Guests" — As I tweeted when it was first posted, Bethany Nowviskie’s “uninvited guests: regarding twitter at invitation-only academic events” is “*the* must-read Twitter-at-conferences post.” But it’s more than that, of course. It’s also a nuanced unpacking of the ways in which new, technologically-driven modes of scholarly discourse are colliding with older, analog modes—in particular how Twitter disrupts closed academic gatherings and how closed academic gatherings disrupt the ethical assumptions and practical expectations of the Twitterverse, which by default takes all discussions to be open, public, and distributed. Unusually, however, Bethany doesn’t take a strong side in these disputes, treating seriously the concerns of both traditionalists (who cherish the intimacy, privacy, safety, and efficiencies of closed meetings) and the Twitterati (who often view closed meetings as elitist, counter-productive, and just plain suspicious). This is refreshing. What bothers me most in most discussions of these issues is the righteous indignation of both defenders of private meetings/opponents of Twitter and defenders of Twitter/opponents of private meetings. Issues of public v. private and discussions of who’s in and who’s out are always very complicated, and indeed are made more complicated by new media, and anyone who claims to know the “right” answer is just full of it. So how’s that for righteous indignation?

Briefly Noted for April 27, 2010

Be Your Own Privacy Settings — Recent missteps at Facebook and Google Buzz have put privacy on the front burner of conversation among internet watchers and digital humanists of all stripes, including this one. To be sure, there is lots to criticize in the way big social media companies have handled their users’ supposedly private information of late. But @vambenepe makes a very strong case that the energy directed at shaming Facebook and its peers into shaping up would be better spent on reforming our own social media habits (and, I would argue, those of the students in our charge). He writes, “Yes you should have clear privacy settings. But the place to store them is in your brain and the place to enforce them is by controlling what your fingers do before data gets on Facebook. Facebook and similar networks can only leak data that they posses.” Good advice.

"Twitter Archive is Nothing Without Tools, Funding"Digital Campus listeners will already know my take on the Library of Congress Twitter announcement. But for those who missed our most recent podcast, I was also quoted on the matter in an article in Read Write Web entitled “Twitter Archive is Nothing Without Tools, Funding.” #shamelessselfpromotion

Briefly Noted for April 23, 2010

An Asset Bubble in Higher Ed? — Michael Feldstein (currently of Oracle and formerly of SUNY) argues that we may be seeing an asset bubble in higher education of the kind that recently burst in the housing market. Taking Anya Kamenetz’s observations about the problematic economics of higher education one step further, Feldstein argues (with substantial facts and figures to back him up) that the price of a college degree may well have risen “out of proportion with the rise in its intrinsic value,” the defining characteristic of an asset bubble. More frighteningly, he posits the possibility that the bubble may burst, leading to “large and painful contractions in college budgets leading to layoffs, cuts in services and the closing of a significant number of colleges.” Scary.

Steven Johnson on "The Glass Box and the Commonplace Book" — Writer Steven Johnson has an interesting post comparing the well-regarded early modern intellectual practice of “commonplacing,” which he describes as the habit of “transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations,” to the early blogs of a decade ago, which were similar compendia of serendipitous inscriptions and insights. He contrasts this kind of annotative reading to the kind that can be done on Apple’s new iPad, a “glass box” which does not allow for easy clipping, moving, and reworking of text. We’ll see how the iPad changes reading and blogging, but I have noticed that the more I use my fairly “glassy” and keyboardless Nexus One for web browsing, the less likely I am to blog or email or bookmark what I find there. It also occurs to me that this whole “briefly noted” thing I have going is a little like commonplacing, and I should probably do more of it.

Briefly Noted for April 21, 2010

edUi Call for Proposals — edUi has posted the CFP for its November 2010 conference in Charlottesville, Virginia. edUi provides a forum for user interaction and experience designers to talk about designing for institutions of learning including higher education, K-12 schools, libraries, and museums. Full disclosure, I’m on the speaker selection committee. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great event.

Oxford Bibliographies Online — I shutter to think that this is what counts as innovation in today’s university press. Tell it George Sarton, who started publishing the Isis Current Bibliography of the History of Science in 1913. More from Ars Technica.

Briefly Noted for April 8, 2010

Teachinghistory.org’s New Look — If you haven’t visited recently, take another look at CHNM’s National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC) at teachinghistory.org. The NHEC team has spent several months completely redesigning CHNM’s one-stop history education portal. The result is easily one of the best websites we’ve ever built. Congratulations to all!

CHNM to Build Transcription Crowdsourcing Tools — Congrats to Sharon, Jim, and the Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 team on NEH’s recent award of a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant to support the design and development of software for crowdsourcing documentary transcription. A much needed tool and the right people to build it.

Briefly Noted for March 31, 2010

Yikes! Another Facebook Privacy SNAFU — Another reason to be happy I left Facebook: it seems a bug in Facebook’s code allowed its 400 million members’ email addresses to be exposed publicly for 30 minutes yesterday. As Mashable writer Jennifer Van Grove correctly noted in her report of the incident, while we may be inclined to forgive this kind of privacy breach in a startup, Facebook is now a several billion dollar company with hundreds of developers and really should do better.

Preserving Video GamesMITH Associate Director and all around good guy, Matt Kirschenbaum appeared today on WAMU and NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to discuss issues of video game and virtual worlds preservation.

Briefly Noted for March 30, 2010

Old Sturbridge Village Shaping Up — I have spent more time at Old Sturbridge Village, which is two towns over from where I grew up, than at any other museum I haven’t worked at. So I’m very happy to see that its attendance and finances appear to be improving after a very rough decade for what is in many ways the quintessential living history museum.

Organizing Digital Humanities in Southern California and New England — Recent days have seen the announcement of regional digital humanities hubs in Southern California and New England. Set up as group blogs, the two new websites will disseminate information about events, projects, and employment opportunities of interest to digital humanists. Both sites encourage community participation and ask for guest posts and other contributions from the field.

National Air and Space Museum Launches Mobile Website — The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) has become the first of the Smithsonian museums to launch a mobile website. The site includes the kind of information visitors especially would want to find: a calendar of events, a database of objects on display, and basic visitor information for both the downtown and the Dulles museums. I know the team at NASM worked very hard on the new mobile site, but at the same time, by choosing a light-weight, quick-to-market, browser-based approach (as opposed to building native iPhone, Android, and Blackberry apps), their work shows that providing useful and usable mobile access doesn’t have to be an exceedingly difficult or drawn-out process or involve hiring specialized development talent.

Briefly Noted for March 23, 2010

Omeka-Powered Digital Amherst Recognized by ALA — The American Library Association’s (ALA’s) Program on America’s Libraries for the 21st Century has recognized Digital Amherst with one of three awards for best use of cutting-edge technology. A project of the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts, Digital Amherst is a collaborative Omeka-powered website celebrating the town’s 250th anniversary. The official announcement [.pdf] quotes Lead Technical Developer Kirstin Kay saying, “using Omeka software as the backbone of our digital library allowed us to focus our limited resources (both labor and money) on high impact areas. The very easy administrative and cataloging areas were simple to learn and allowed us to quickly get items ‘live’. Pre-made design themes gave us a jumping-off point to really customize the public interface to showcase our collection.”

Briefly Noted for March 4, 2010

Facebook, Google, Apple: Patents Gone Wild — The last ten days or so have seen a flurry of suspect behavior by large technology companies, their intellectual property lawyers, and the United States Patent Office. First, Facebook secured a patent for “dynamically providing a news feed,” which has likely caused some consternation among the folks at Twitter and Google Buzz. Then, Google secured its own patent for “using location information in an ad system” spelling trouble for Microsoft’s Bing, Facebook, and any other company looking to push ads to users of their services based on location information sent from mobile devices. This includes Apple, which recently acquired a company called Quattro Wireless, apparently in hopes of using its technology to deliver location-based ads to iPhone users. Finally, Apple got into the patent game itself, filing a patent-violation suit against HTC, maker of Google’s Nexus One smartphone, accusing the company of infringing more than twenty iPhone patents. This is getting ugly.