Re:Thinking

A blog featuring perspectives from a variety of contributors on topics relating to the emerging digital environment, research, and higher education.
Blog posts published after January 1, 2018, are available at https://www.clir.org/category/rethinking/

Posts

Born Digital: Planning for Access

When Tony Geiss (1924-2011), an American songwriter and staff writer for Sesame Street, wrote a song called “Don’t Eat the Pictures” to remind the Cookie Monster not to eat the paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he probably didn’t have born-digital materials in mind. Even so, lines like “Picture exciting, but not for biting!” articulate a tension familiar to many of us in the cultural heritage sector: how to balance active engagement with careful...

How We Learned to Start/Stop “Speaking in Code”

Here’s a consummation devoutly to be wished: digital humanities research and practice becomes its best self, and finds scholars and technology staff engaging as peers in mutually intelligible conversation. It sounds like a modest hope, until you reflect on how far we are from achieving that vision. Communications gaps are deep and broad, even among humanities-trained software developers and the scholars with whom they collaborate. Much (not all) knowledge advances in software development through hands-on,...

Thread Count: Cataloging Textile Collections

Before I started my 22-month job as a textile cataloger, my knowledge of Pennsylvania German culture was limited to the dandelion and hot bacon dressing salad we had at Thanksgiving, and the joke my mother used to tell; “Kannst du micka funga? (Can you catch flies?) “Ja, wenn de hocka bleiben” (Yes, when they sit still). Now after 16 months on the project, my appreciation for a dying culture—my dying culture—has been revitalized, thanks to...

Data as a Human Condition

The term big data is popular today, as our world accumulates unprecedented amounts of information—approximately 2.5 quintillian bytes per day (2.5x10 18). Fields of study that contribute to this enormous burgeoning of data include astronomy, genomics, climatology, and medicine. A favorite example that helps conceptualize the scale of big data production is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). It has 150 million sensors that detect and capture the information generated by particle collisions; as many as...

Report from Access Conference 2013

I’ve just returned from lovely coastal St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the Access Conference 2013, which wrapped up today. While Access has been going strong for 20 years, this was my first time attending, and I am glad I did. The single-track format and limit of 120 attendees fostered lively discussions that carried on to the evening events and continued on Twitter. There was something for everyone, from a digital humanities maker bus to RDA to...

The Long and Winding Road

I came to CLIR by a long and winding road. From the Philadelphia airport, my cab and I drove through a darkened industrial landscape, with stilled cranes and quiescent smokestacks; through a dark wood; through the streets of a quiet town; and finally, to the dark, peaceful campus of Bryn Mawr, where our road wound along thick-walled, venerable buildings of grey stone. At this point medieval romance turned to farce. Having braved the Waste Land...

New Leadership in Higher Ed?

In late July, the Regents of the University of California nominated and confirmed Janet Napolitano to lead the university system. This is simply stunning. To say that she’s non-traditional is an understatement. Most university leaders are scholars-turned-administrators. She is a lawyer-turned-administrator. She has no background in academia (although I understand her father was an academic) and no Ph.D. She has a highly political background, complete with baggage. She certainly has experience running large bureaucratic organizations....
Last summer, a DLF community member emailed me to ask whether DLF had a code of conduct or other anti-harassment policy. He wanted to know because a colleague of his was making an effort to only attend conferences that had some sort of policy publicly in place. Until then, I hadn’t heard much about codes of conduct. After a few hours down the rabbit hole of the Internet, and then in discussions with DLF advisory...
The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) World Congress is always an exciting place to be. There is a pervasive feeling of optimism that right here, right now, 3,500 library and information professionals from around the world are creating a roadmap to solve the toughest information questions of our age in a convention center in Singapore sitting on top of a shopping mall. But, as I manage to pull my head out of the dizzying...

From the Ground Up

Before leaving for a year of research in Russia last summer, I heard from various people that the dissertation was going to be as easy as stringing a few term papers together. The simplicity of this statement, intended to soothe the agitated nerves of the anxious writer, can be deceptive and what it claims does not have to be true. In my experience, a year of research abroad has affected—and often improved—how I design research...
In the past two weeks, I've been fortunate to be a part of CLIR's annual Postdoctoral Fellowship Program summer seminar, held on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. As a former fellow (2004-2006, also at Bryn Mawr), then as co-leader of the seminar, and subsequently as a program officer, I've been involved in this program in one way or another throughout its nine-year history. Begun as a way to bring technically adept subject specialists in...

Hot from the Forge: Anvil Summer Update

Summer’s dog days are a good time to take a few beats and do a little good ol’ fashioned operational assessment. I’ll make things brief, but I do want this to be an honest appraisal and not just a breezy piece of organizational puffery. Right now, Built Upon projects are in the draft stage and undergoing peer review by Anvil editors and select outside readers. It’s a rigorous process and, we hope, a productive one...

Leading from Where You Are

Reflections on LCI 2013, Part II On the first Monday of LCI 2013, a tweet encouraged everyone to “go to the bar and socialize” after the day was over. I was tired and my head was spinning when the last session ended at 9 p.m., but I decided to get out of my shell—I’m a librarian at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania—and head over to the hotel bar. On the way there, I...
In early June, I made the long journey from Pennsylvania to Victoria, B.C. to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, which has been held at the University of Victoria since 2003. It was my first time attending the institute, and I was not sure what to expect. I took the course on "Large Project Planning and Development," which promised to provide participants with a foundation in project management, project development, and even some basic guidelines...
Reflections on LCI 2013, Part I Despite being in a room of 25 or so higher education IT professionals (and an equal number of colleagues from libraries) for a week at the Leading Change Institute program sponsored by CLIR and EDUCAUSE in June, it wasn’t until the morning of the last day when I heard anyone speak about “the cloud.” Based on what I expected going into the program, this was surprising. It was also...

Data Essentials: Sharing and Reflection

Lately, I’ve become more aware of the importance of reflection when analyzing the research data from our ethnographic studies at the University of Rochester. The aim of our studies is to learn about our users so that we can design space and services to better support them. Our approach has been heavily influenced by my colleague Nancy Foster, who has developed and led CLIR-sponsored workshops in Participatory Design in Academic Libraries, and by the experiences...

Now THAT's More Like it!

Last week I participated in the second Linked Open Data for Libraries Archives and Museums Summit (LODLAM), held at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Information about the summit and the LODLAM community can be found with the #LODLAM tag. It’s a big conversation that spans the world, and it is only getting more interesting and exciting. Jon Voss, Historypin strategic partnerships director at We are What we Do, spearheaded the first summit meeting...

The Code of THATCamp

You probably know a little already about THATCamp, The Humanities and Technology Camp: it’s an unconference, an open, inexpensive, informal event where the agenda is set on the spot and where people work and talk together instead of passively listening to papers or presentations. There have been more than a hundred THATCamps around the world in the five years since the first THATCamp was held at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM)...

Translating our Cultural Heritage

Years ago, when I was teaching the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, the class would compare at the outset of the course the original manuscript (a rather plain vellum codex that includes the occasional tankard ring stain, which suffered some damage in the 1731 Cotton Library fire at Ashburnham House in London, and also subsequently lost letters and parts of words from handling) with several modern translations. The translations were selected from different periods in the...

Proceeding from "Know that" to "Know how"

Recently in Chapel Hill, NC, I attended the DigCCurr Professional Institute: Curation Practices for the Digital Object Lifecycle, a workshop taught by world-renowned digital curation specialists and featuring a curriculum intended to help digital curation professionals build skills, knowledge, and community. My attendance was timely since the University of Michigan Library’s Research Data Services unit is currently designing and implementing data management and digital lifecycle services. As I start my second year as a CLIR/DLF...