Briefly Noted for May 6, 2010

Two Reviews of NARA Civil War Exhibit — Last week The Washington Post and The New York Times each reviewed the National Archives’ new Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibit, Discovering the Civil War. I haven’t seen the exhibit yet myself, but I’d characterize both reviews as “mixed.” Hat tip: Lee White of the National Coalition for History.

The Economist Weighs in on CopyrightThe Economist newspaper makes a very nice, very concise case for copyright reform in a recent leader, arguing for a return to Queen Anne’s statute of 1709-10, “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.”

Briefly Noted for April 29, 2010

IMLS UpNext Wrapping Up with Discussions about the Workforce and What’s Next — The IMLS UpNext project has entered its final two weeks with open forums on two new topics. In the first, Joanne Marshall of UNC leads a discussion of the shape of 21st century library and museum workforce. In the second, Larry Johnson of The New Media Consortium considers how the conversations started this spring at UpNext should move forward in the weeks and months ahead and encourages each of us to be the change we wish to see (my words—actually Gandhi’s—not Larry’s). Join in to let IMLS know where you think the museum and library fields should be headed.

Paleofuture on NPR — Anyone interested in the history of science and technology, cultural history, science fiction, or the crackpot fantasies of generations past should subscribe to Paleofuture. To get a sense of what you’ll find there, have a listen to this recent segment of NPR’s All Things Considered with the blog’s author, Matt Novak.

Flash Support Coming to Android — It seems the death of Flash has been greatly exaggerated. Apple’s refusal to support Flash on the iPhone and iPad have been cited by some as signaling the demise of Adobe’s much loved and hated web development and display environment. Now comes news that the next version of Google’s quickly growing Android mobile operating system will fully support Adobe Flash. This is not only the latest salvo from Google in its tiff with Apple (though the timing of the announcement just after Apple’s announcement of iPhone OS4 is certainly intended to tweak the folks in Cupertino). It’s also important news for the hundreds of educational and cultural websites built in Flash and currently inaccessible to users of the latest generation of smartphones. I’m not a great lover of Flash (in fact quite the opposite), but I also find Apple’s refusal to support the technology on the grounds they are defending open standards more than a little specious. Moving forward, I’d rather see dynamic websites and video delivered via open technologies like HTML5. But for now I’m happy I’ll be able to visit the many educational and cultural websites already built in Flash on my Nexus One and that those institutions may not feel compelled to choose between a hasty reworking of entire swathes of their content or being lost to the growing numbers of mobile web visitors.

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.