Archive for the ‘Session Descriptions’ Category

  • Making that first page relevant


    Academic libraries are investing in new research products called discovery layers that strive to duplicate’s Google’s “one search box that rules them all” for the scholarly landscape. But are such efforts premature? There have not been demonstrable evidence that show the search results from such discovery layers are meaningfully relevant. This is a critical failing as the majority of our readers rarely go beyond the first page of results from any search box.

    I’d like to learn from others how libraries can make better use of its data to build online services that get better the more people use it.

    Libraries have been late to apply the lessons of social networks into their systems. In fact, we are still waiting for some of the most simplest applications: most library catalogues aren’t able to sort items by the number of times an item has been circulated – even when this information is available in the system.

    Here’s another damning example: every semester academic libraries add books and articles into what are unfortunately known as ‘course reserve systems’ and this valuable information — that these items have been personally recommended by faculty for class use — is simply thrown away. But what if this information could be captured and shared among other academic libraries? That kind of canon could emerge over years of collection?

    There are opportunities to improve this situation. With the development of open source library systems such as Evergreen, VuFind, and Blacklight – librarians are finally able to access and even adjust relevance rankings.  And there is at least one discovery layer that has been designed to collect and share aggregated user information from many libraries.

    I’m particularly interested if any Great Lake Campers can foresee how future developments with Zotero Commons could be integrated with library systems to make both systems more relevant to the research work of our readers.

  • To Crowdsource or Not to Crowdsource? That is the Question.


    The proliferation of social media and social bookmarking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious and LinkedIn bring unprecedented reach to academics and practitioners searching for information. However, the advantages of speed and reach come with the disadvantages of the unknown. Do we know who we’re listening to? Do we know they’re providing the best resources for the job? I propose this session as a look at the advantages and disadvantages of crowdsourcing in the humanities, and a discussion amongst participants about their experiences with social media, including their triumphs and stumbles.


  • One Day | One Toolet


    I think I’d probably initially proposed some high(er)-brow concept regarding peer review of development work in the digital humanities, but what I’d really want to do is spend some time hacking some code with some cool people. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to participate in the One Week | One Tool event, but I propose hijacking the idea with a more modest scope: One Day | One Toolet. I even think that trying to identify a project that resonates with several participants would be interesting (and which language, and which framework, and which design, …). Unless of course no one else is interested in hacking with me, in which case I’ll be a happy session tourist.

  • Active History: From Papers to a Blog


    This continues the previous post by Jim Clifford about the original ideas behind our website, After launching, we began actively soliciting papers from contributors throughout the Canadian history community. Initially, we focused on economic issues as we were in the midst of the recession, although we quickly broadened our eyes for papers on any topic that might conceivably be of interest to Canadians (our target market).

    Papers were not forthcoming. We had some promising prospects, but few materialized. We were able to get the rights to at least link to a wonderful example of ‘active history’ looking at universities in the Great Depression. Only in the last few weeks have we been able to post an original Canadian history submission, a magnificent paper by Larry Glassford on Ontario textbooks.

    Instead, we had to change our directions in two ways. » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Digital collections and the User


    Hi, everyone.  Here was my original submission:

    “I’m deeply interested in how researchers (undergrads, grad students, independent scholars, adjuncts, faculty, you name it) access and use resources within the digital humanities (e.g., NINES, Victorian Women Writers Project), and what the implications are for libraries, in terms of organizing and making these resources more accessible, as well as the implications for researchers and their work.  What affect will the digital humanities have on the nature, medium, and reception of future scholars’ work?”

    Updated post:

    While I am still keenly interested in exploring the questions above, for purposes of time and my sanity, I’m directing my questions toward college and university researchers–undergraduates, graduates, and faculty–within the field of English literature.  The reasons for my focus are my educational background (I have master’s degrees in English and library science), the existing multitude of free digital resources in English literature, and the fact that I have a ready/semi-captive audience (I coordinate the undergraduate research program at my institution and am currently a part-time doctoral student in English).  Ultimately, however, I’m interested in extending my questions about usage to researchers in other areas of the humanities as well.

    The actual questions I’m interested in are as follows:

    1. how do researchers within the field of humanities (esp. English literature) find and use free digital collections (e.g., Victorian Women’s Writers Project, Google Books, Wikipedia)?
    2. what do they use these collections and websites for? (e.g., for background research, teaching preparation, as sources in final papers)?
    3. what implications does this usage have for teaching and for scholarly communication? As websites and digital collections become a greater part of teaching and learning, to what extent are they migrating into the arena of scholarly communication?  What is the relation (if any) between the pedagogical and scholarly use of digital collections?  Are these online collections good enough for undergraduate students to use, but still largely unacceptable in the ‘higher’ circles of academia?
    4. and finally — coming at this from the other direction — how much usage (i.e., website hits and comments) do free digital collections currently receive?  What implications does this usage have for usability studies pertaining to those digital collections?

    In addition to consulting case studies, I’ve surveyed approximately 30 undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty (thus far), asking them questions 1 and 2 above.  (Since I’m still in the beginning stages of this study, I haven’t gathered as much for  questions 3 and 4.)  At my talk I will happily share both my survey and my preliminary data, and am very willing to collaborate with anyone whose interests/sessions dovetail with mine.

  • Attention and Information Filtering


    Here is the original paragraph I submitted:

    I would like to talk about the role of information filtering in digital media and research. The rhetoric surrounding “information overload” leads to all sorts of filtering techniques and technology. I am interested in the role of attention in filtering media, and how this translates to academic research, media usage, social networking and education.

    To elaborate a bit, the broader concept that interests me is that of attention. How does one direct attention effectively, sussing out signal from noise, in the age of information? In research, this means: how does one find relevant information, and what new tools might help with this? In teaching, how do we address (digital) distractions in the classroom, both for students and for ourselves, and direct attention to what is relevant — are these distractions always a problem or can they be an opportunity?

  • Instructional strategies for teaching technology that go beyond “button pushing.”


    There is no doubt that technology has changed the way we do things.  It has made some, particularly repetitive tasks simple but has also made some simple tasks more difficult.  To help users, developers try to make systems easier to use and more intuitive. But many of our students still do not know how to use many of the software tools that are core to their education.  Then, how do we teach them?

    When I did my dissertation three years ago, I looked at ways to help students learn to search online databases.  My study was based on the premise that searching is not just a task but also a problem that needs to be solved.  Therefore could it benefit from users using metacogntive tools?  I developed an instructional aid based on metacognitive questioning.  Such techniques I found helped users think about what they are doing without prescribing a step-by-step process or procedure.

    You may ask, “Why not prescribe a “how-to?”  Technically in searching, as in many other software packages, there is no “one way” to use it.  There are certain “buttons” you need to push but learning the buttons does not really teach you how to effectively do the task.  Interfaces also can be changed on a whim.  Users also come in with pre-existing knowledge and behaviors that they have found “worked before.” Teaching is more effective if you anchor to pre-existing knowledge even if it does not at times seem the most “efficient” way to do things.  If one reflects on the way they do everyday tasks, I don’t think I would be the only one to find that I do things that others would consider “inefficient,” but they work for me.

    Related to this is the overall assumption about this “net generation” by both those who are teaching and the current generation themselves; since this generation grew up with technology and use it all the time, they know how to use it.  But do they?  I have seen many instances where their knowledge and understanding is selective.

    How do we teach searching and software?  I’d like to discuss ideas and share experiences with teaching this current “net” generation and about novel instructional strategies for teaching technology that go beyond “button pushing.”

  • Text mining and the digital humanities


    There is growing interest in the digital humanities at UC Berkeley. I’m currently involved, as a computer scientist, in a project aimed at developing tools for historians to use, and exposing them to the potential applications of computer analysis to their work.

    I’d like to talk with humanities researchers about specific computational needs that humanities researchers, and historians in particular, have.  I would also like to go some way towards exposing humanities researchers to the potential applications of natural language processing, and text mining to their work.

    I’m especially interested in seeing whether we can put large, existing digital corpora, such as the new york times data collection (every article since 1987), and the Internet Archive’s ( corpus of ~1.9 million OCR-scanned books, to use for the humanities.

  • Active History: From a Conference to a Website


    Active History began as an idea for a conference at a fellow student’s post comprehensive exams party back in the winter of 2007.  In the year and a half that followed we created a vision statement, circulated a CFP, applied for funding and finally hosted a two-day symposium in September 2008.  We defined active history variously as history that listens and is responsive; history that will make a tangible difference in people’s lives; history that makes an intervention and is transformative to both practitioners and communities.

    From the early stages we recognized that we needed to engage with the internet to help achieve some of these lofty goals.  As none of us had any real experience with websites, I agreed to play around with WordPress.  I managed to create a basic website for the conference that can still be found at (now largely defunct).  We hoped to make this into more than a simple message board for the conference and we asked the conference presenters to contributed blogs in the run up to the event.  Looking back at the site it is clear this request did not resonate with  any of Active Historians attending the conference and even our request for blog posts reflecting on the conference only resulted in two posts. » Read the rest of the entry..

  • Heritage Organizations and Online Connectivity


    As social networking outlets have increased, so has our potential for connecting localized organizations interested in different aspects of the humanities.  While some local organizations have larger umbrella groups they connect with, there are several local arts, culture and heritage outlets that are relatively isolated.  I’m interested in exploring ideas for how social media can be used to help these groups connect to one another, and help each other.  I’d like participants to discuss what has worked or failed for different organizations they are involved with.

    I will be coming at this from the vantage point of the Michigan Archaeological Society. There is no umbrella group for state-level avocational archaeology groups, so we all work fairly independently, but trying to build our network with other state and territorial societies. Perhaps video conferences or chat-rooms could be organized among Board members from different states, to share ideas about increasing membership, publishing journals and improving outreach?  Is an umbrella organization necessary to maintain those kinds of connections, or can it stay informal?

    I would like to have a discussion about how other organizations are successfully using social networking, and what we can do to encourage continued success with these media.  What works for different groups, and how can those of us who are more digitally active assist these organizations?

Page 2 of 4«1234»