#THATcamp report part 1: Roy Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and Humanities

x-post Knitting Clio

Hi folks,

I’m back from a busy four days at THATCamp CHNM (aka THATCamp Prime). I’ll start by discussing the fascinating presentation by Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other exciting digital projects from “our nation’s attic.” I thought Sharon Leon‘s choice to use an interview format was excellent and made for a much more dynamic and engaging forum than a straight-up presentation. The Citizen Archivist Dashboard grew out of the Open Government Platform initiated by President Obama. The goal of Citizen Archivist is to make NARA’s documents more accessible while also serving as a forum for engaging the public in the intellectual work that makes accessibility happen. Pam realized that simply opening the archive’s data to the public without any guidelines would be like dumping out a load of raw cake batter: it might be yummy for the most dedicated enthusiasts (e.g. “Lincoln Lady”) but most people would like to have a “cupcake” — i.e. a specific task or subject on which to work (e.g. the Titanic is the featured “cupcake” right now).

So far, Citizen Archivist has been wildly popular: within two weeks of going live, the archive received 1,000 page transcriptions (by contrast it took Sharon several years to reach the same number of transcribed pages for the Papers of the War Department). The 1940 census received 20 million hits the morning it went live.  Pam hoped that one of the hackers at THATCamp or elsewhere would design a “pocket archivist” app that would allow users to upload images while they are doing research at NARA. She also asked for suggestions for other topics and projects to add to the initiative.

Another way that NARA engaged the public was in the redesign of its website. They received 4 choices from the designer and then let the public vote on which one they liked best. Voters overwhelmingly chose the simplest design (which many at NARA found too minimalist). This is something to keep in mind as my colleagues and I set out to redesign our department website.  Perhaps we should survey our students to see what they want from a website?


Display JPG2000 Images

JPG2000 holds the promise of lower storage costs for large collections of scanned documents. It can also minimize the bandwidth requirements for display the image details.

One limitation is that most web browsers do not support this format and thus would require a viewer.  Omeka does a good job of creating thumbnails from JPG2000 images, but you would still want to view the image at the full resolution.

Any suggestions on a good JPG2000 viewer / plugin that is able to handle multiple pages documents.

Twitter Archiving

I would like to have a session to discuss building a better workflow for Twitter archiving. What tools do we need, and what do we need to create in order to make this easier? Can we build something this weekend?

The MLA has released a github repository analyzing tweets from MLA12 — are there ways that we can fork this repository for more general use? Is there potential to use github as a shared platform for creating a larger corpus of twitter archives? Related to these tools, what kind of loose coordination do we need? A lot of Twitter archiving already takes place and is decentralized, so what is a lightweight way to integrate some of these efforts?

Visually-Oriented Social Tools: Pinterest, Tumblr, and…?

So much emphasis in the Digital Humanities is on the written and the computational– it’s easy to forget that one of the major revolutions of the internet, especially once we got past dial-up, is the ease with which users are able to produce, manipulate, and share images.

For those of us who are deeply visual thinkers, however, this is a very important development.

I would like to propose a session discussing technologies of social image sharing like Tumblr and Pinterest. I think that tools like these have a lot of potential to draw in visual thinkers, encouraging them to learn, aggregate, and create in ways that our more textual social tools– blogs and Twitter, for example– might not.

I’d love to see people’s examples of Tumblr, Pinterest, and other similar tools in the classroom as part of a social pedagogical approach, as well as good examples of these tools being used for outreach and sharing by libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage organizations.

There are, of course, deep and fundamental issues with these sites– they are not specifically designed for this context. There are issues with metadata, deepness of data, and attribution, among other things. I’d like to see a discussion of what a perfect image sharing site for these types of use-cases might look like: more sorting? More thought given to citation? Greater opportunities for discussion and description?

Is this a tool that digital humanists should be working on? Should we be building a better social image sharing tool? Can something like this be built off of any existing open frameworks? Is this something that educators and cultural institutions would embrace, or would they tend to stay with the less-than-perfect commercial vendors because that’s where the people are?

Small-Scale Digital Archiving Sans Institutional Support (relatedly, Kickstarter)

If you have a discrete set of sources that you think could make an interesting digital archive, but you’re not going to be executing the project with the financial support and institutional imprimatur of a library, archive, or university, how do you get started? How do you get copyright? How do you fund your labor (or maybe just some of it)? How do you find collaborators, and maybe fund their labor as well? How do you choose the kind of CMS that’s right for the project? How do you help your project gain visibility after it goes live? How do you plan for long-term sustainability moving forward?

As a soon-to-be-finished PhD in a humanities field, with several ideas for small-scale archiving projects but no sure source of continuing institutional support, I’m wondering if there are enough people with the same needs to constitute a session.

The session could be of interest to people who find themselves in the same position as myself, people who’ve independently created specialized archives of this kind, people who’ve worked with Kickstarter (successfully or un-!), or people who just know a lot about digital archiving, copyright, or grant-writing.

Issues of copyright are, of course, crucial here (for example, I’d love to do a full-text, searchable archive of Sassy magazine—but without the prestige & cash of an institution backing me up, I’m not sure I could secure that copyright), but I’m also interested in questions of labor and compensation. Is there any way to work on this kind of a project while, if not getting paid a ton, at least receiving some compensation for the time spent scanning and formatting?

I’m very interested in talking about using Kickstarter as a source of funding for this kind of a project. Trevor Owens wrote a blog post last year pointing out that many DH projects have found funding this way, and linking to some examples. What kinds of projects end up getting funded? How have they framed their projects to appeal to the public? What kinds of outcomes do they promise? What do their budgets include? What swag do they offer their funders?

If people know about ways of getting small-scale non-Kickstarter grant funding for this kind of a project, that’d also be great to add to the discussion.

As a product of this session, I suggest we could produce a GoogleDoc outlining best practices for getting small digital humanities projects funded on Kickstarter.

Digitization and its discontents

Now that digitization is part of almost every cultural heritage institution’s workflow, how are we doing?  I’m still seeing real tensions and unresolved arguments over metadata (how minimal can we get without making our work undiscoverable?), process, staffing, interfaces, preservation and discovery. (This can also be an opportunity to talk about the problems with Google Books’ digitization model and its omissions.)  And funding, of course:  plain vanilla digitization projects are less fundable than they used to be.  And when is 3D scanning going to be cheap enough for mass digitization of museum objects?  Let’s discuss where we are and where we’re going in terms of digitization and providing digital access to collections of all sorts.

Reminder: Rosenzweig Forum today 4pm

Just a reminder that if you’re getting in for THATCamp today, you can come to the Rosenzweig Forum at 4pm. Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Access Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration, will be speaking with Dr. Sharon Leon at the 2012 Roy Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other exciting digital projects from “our nation’s attic.”

This event is Thursday, June 14 at 4:00pm in Johnson Center Meeting Room A. See Travel for a campus map.

Rosenzweig Forum, Workshops, Jam and Other Sessions

THATCamp is two weeks away! (Whoa, how did that happen.) What you need to know now:

1) We’ll be kicking off THATCamp with the Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities on Thursday at 4pm. This year, Sharon Leon will be interviewing Pamela Wright, Chief Digital Strategist at the National Archives and Records Administration, about the Citizen Archivist Dashboard, online projects created with the recently-released 1940 census data, and other cool digital projects from “our nation’s attic.” Feel free to join us for that on Thursday 6/14 at 4pm in Johnson Center Meeting Room A.

2) We’ve scheduled a whole mess of workshops for Friday, June 15. Sign up for workshops you want to go to with the form at docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dGRvZmtYY0NZYmNkM2VTVXBSdTlodXc6MQ#gid=0 . Most workshops require a laptop, not a tablet.

3) Since so many THATCampers are also musicians (that DIY ethos), I’m biting the bullet and throwing an acoustic jam session on Friday evening out on the patio of the Mason Inn. Bring your guitar, mandolin, ukulele, or what you will for a musical interlude on Friday evening. If we enjoy it, we might even do it again on Saturday night. If you don’t want to haul your guitar you can borrow mine.

4) Bill Cowan has made us all look bad by posting a session idea already on annotating videos in the classroom. It’s never too early to post a session idea — if you don’t know how it works, read all about it.

Feel free to use the blog for coordinating travel with one another, or of course you can Twitter your needs with the hashtag #thatcamp. If you’ve got any questions about anything, write me at gro.p1487988392macta1487988392ht@of1487988392ni1487988392. Can’t wait to see you all.