Community, Collaboration, and Authority: Museums and Technology

Technology is democracy. It can give everyone a voice or a vote. Sometimes this democracy works out well (kickstarter, etc). Sometimes not so much (@sweden, made some news recently). The Walter Art Musem in Baltimore tried crowdsourcing an exhibition that was pretty well received, but the Pittsburgh Symphony’s attempt to find a member on YouTube was nixed.

I am interested in a few questions relating to the democratizing force of technology in museums. First, should curators give up their authority, or have it take a lesser role in concert with visitor knowledge (I believe one of Mills Kelly’s students found an error in the Star Spangled Banner exhibit)? Is curatorial authority still needed? Secondly, is there a limit to the voice of the public? Should comments be moderated in historically sensitive areas (slavery, World War II, etc.). Do comments need to turn into conversation to be truly useful?And finally, what do you do if no one really cares? In a 2004 visitor survey conducted by the Smithsonian, the average age of the visitors was 37 years, only 30% of visitors were younger than 27. The museums subreddit has 25 subscribers with seven posts in two years. Are museums still culturally relevant, and will they be in 20 years?

Digital Journalism and Digital Humanities, United

As I blogged a few months ago, it has become increasingly clear that digital humanities has a kindred spirit in digital journalism—perhaps a stronger potential relationship than humanities computing and computer science. We have discovered the same needs in terms of tools and infrastructure, and find ourselves engaging the public with similar genres of online writing and communication.

Just some of the products of digital journalism we could discuss or adopt at THATCamp: the 20 open source Knight Apps, which include DocumentCloud; what’s coming out of Mozilla OpenNews; and the developer challenges and tool reviews from Duke’s Reporters’ Lab.

O rocks! Celebrating Bloomsday DH-Style

Saturday is Bloomsday! It strikes me that we might put our DH nerdiness to more direct Joycean use than simply deciding which Ulysses t-shirts to wear. I propose using this post space to discuss possible small-scale, collaborative Joyce-celebratory projects we might undertake during free time throughout the weekend (not a session necessarily, but a backchannel collaboration). These could be performative (e.g. recording readings of favorite passages? maybe a choral reading? making a small game?) or investigative…

One possibility: I’ve been playing around with the free visualization tool Gephi recently; we might create a simple dataset representing one-to-one character interactions in Ulysses or part of Ulysses–who interacts with whom? How many degrees of separation does the most removed character have from Bloom?–and drop it into Gephi to create a pretty and useful visualization. This would require

1) People signing up to list all the character interactions for a given section in Ulysses (if we only have a few people, we could just divvy up pages in a single rich episode like Circe or Wandering Rocks). For ease of collaboration, it probably makes sense to use the Project Gutenberg e-text (unless the rumored new digital edition drops in time for us to use!).

2) Defining what an “interaction” in Ulysses entails (dialogue? glimpsing someone? thinking about someone?). Or are there other factors we might want to model with a visualization?

3) Creating a basic spreadsheet with two columns: whenever an interaction happens, create a row with Person A on column 1 and Person B in column 2. Unless we decide on doing a one-way directed sort of interaction–e.g. Bloom thinks about Molly doesn’t mean Molly thinks about Bloom at the same time–it doesn’t matter which person in a pair of interacting characters goes in which column. We might also consider adding a “weight” column that keys different weight numbers to “degree of interaction” (e.g. degree of 1 indicates thinking about someone, 2 indicates glimpsing but not being seen, 3 indicates dialogue). I can post a link to a Google Spreadsheet with example rows if people are interested; you might also check out the Gephi sample datasets looking at character interactions in Les Miserables and the Marvel comic universe.

Interested? Or have any other Joycean ideas?

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.

open peer review in practice

This is really a selfish proposal: I want to take advantage of Jack Doughtery being at THATCamp by having a conversation in which we rigorously analyze and critique the experience of conducting open peer reviews. Jack, with Kristen Nawrotzki, co-edited Writing History in the Digital Age, a volume of essays that was open peer-reviewed and that will be published by Univeristy of Michigan Press. I’ve guest-edited an issue of Shakespeare Quarterly on Shakespeare and Performance that went through an open peer review and, as an Associate Editor of SQ, have been involved with our earlier open peer review of an issue on Shakespeare and New Media and am currently involved with a soon-to-be-announced open-peer-reviewed issue. As far as I know, Jack and I are among the very very few people to have edited open peer review projects in the humanities (we are all, of course, indebted to Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolesence, and maybe if the session happens and we tweet loudly enough, she’ll be able to be part of the conversation too).

I’d like to take a hard look at the actual practice of open peer review. What worked well and what didn’t? What changes would we make to the model we used? Is it sustainable, or under what conditions might it be sustainable? I’ve written about my experience, but I would benefit from a conversations with others about the nitty-gritty details and the larger questions about the value and use of open peer review in the humanities.

For some analysis that’s already out there, I recommend Jack et al’s recent post “Conclusions: What We Learned from Writing History in the Digital Age.” There’s also a cluster of essays at the Postmedieval Forum on “The State(s) of peer review.”

Mapping/Spatial tech idea session

Hello all,

First, let me just put it out there that this is my first THATCamp, first unconference, and first post to this blog.  I’m a PhD Candidate working on a diss that will hopefully have some awesome digital aspects.  I’m looking at Baltimore merchants from about 1790-1830 and I want to do several things with my data.  First, I’d like to map the relative locations of merchants in Baltimore (I have pretty specific info from city directories) over time.  Second, I’d like to map their Atlantic networks, which will connect to Europe, the Caribbean, and South America.  Third (and this one is only a small possibility) I’d like to map the flow of goods by volume, similar to these maps.  What I’d like to achieve in this session is a set of ideas about which applications or methods would be best suited for what I want to do, and, to see if it’s realistic for me to tackle this much digital work for what will be a mostly traditional dissertation committee.

Help a grad student out! (that should be a category)