We’re freshly into 2023 and the past year has been a big one for me on a personal level as my family welcomed our first child in June of this year. Amidst all of the activity I’ve been doing my best to maintain a steady media diet and devoured some interesting stuff in 2022. Below is a very much non exhaustive list of those things I’ve read, watched, and listened to over the past year that vaguely relate to my academic interests, or are things I can easily remember while typing this post up as the baby naps upstairs. Cheers! As always, I’m open to any and all suggestions in the comments. ☮
Following up on the playlist I created last year on the invitation of some SLIS students, I felt inspired again as I return to the classroom following my parental leave this fall to make a new playlist to send me into the new calendar year as well as the new semester. These are some timeless favorite jams plus some more songs with echoes to current events, libraries, school, or the turning of the wheel of time. Enjoy!
I’ve been reflecting on the lives (and deaths) so social media sites more than usual this week and. I joined back in the summer of 2009 while working a corporate job in New York City in what feels like a different lifetime. I was also reminded that I’ve written no less than four papers which are specifically about Twitter. It’s a profoundly strange feeling to consider that the subject of these research studies may soon look quite different than it did when I wrote about it, if it exists at all.
Back in 2014, I investigated how archives were using Twitter to promote their collections, engage with users, report on events, and what else they were up to. At that time, all Twitter accounts had RSS feeds which made data collection of public accounts quite easy and reflected the original conception of the service as a “microblogging” platform, in contrast to “macroblogs” like this here website built with WordPress.
What do these papers, particularly the most recent trio, portend about Twitter? Amelia and I have been working to highlight the deep tension between the platform’s identity as a private company and it’s function as a digital public square. We’ve pointed out more than once that the risks of leaving government records on private social media platforms is quite risky and creates major potential challenges for archives and digital preservation professionals. I remain proud of this work and confident that the ideas discussed in these papers will be valuable even if the platform changes on a fundamental level. An article published just today in the MIT Technology Review points out some of these risks and reaffirms the value of Twitter as a living historical record with the potential to inform our understanding of this era into the future.
There’s so much more to say about all of this but it looks like this is the sixth paragraph of this post and, thanks to a tweet I read today, I know that if you write more than six paragraphs about any one topic, you f*cked up. The future of Twitter looks quite unsteady, that’s about all I’m willing to predict today. As for me, while I might try to post here on my own personal piece of internet real estate more frequently, you will still find me on Twitter until the bitter end, doomscrolling through niche memes, news stories, celebrity posts, sports updates, and whatever else pops up…
I recently finished reading A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe’s account of the 1665 Bubonic Plague epidemic in London. Only took me two and a half years of living through a pandemic myself to read one of the most famous historical accounts of a plague. The book itself apparently sits somewhere between fiction and non-fiction, and was full of detailed retellings of the trials and tribulations of English people living through a Public Health crisis. While this book was written some 300 years ago (it was first published in 1722), it reads as a remarkably recognizable narrative for those of us continuing to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. There are stories of people fleeing the city, their run-ins with locals in the small towns dotting the countryside, the ongoing work of keeping those who stayed in London fed and employed, tales of sickness, quacks and scam treatments, people celebrating the end of the plague before it was over, and much more. Despite the writing style this book felt remarkably relevant to me and I recommend it to anyone interested in considering our modern moment, its relationship to similar eras in the past, and how people cope with large scale crises of sickenss.
I also wanted to be sure to mention Standard Ebooks, a great site I’ve been using to access public domain books. In addition to A Journal of the Plague Year, I am also making my way through Moby Dickand have a number of other works in my e-reader queue. The quality and attention to detail of these files is top notch and I really appreciate the dedication of this project to providing professional level files though and open source model. Promoting access to free culture, public domain materials, and classic literature is always a good decision!
It’s been a year, hasn’t it? Amidst everything going on we returned to in-person teaching at Simmons SLIS and the fall semester is almost concluded. An advisee of mine who is part of the leadership of LISSA (Library & Information Science Student Association), our student organization here at SLIS, asked me if I would be a part of their end of semester celebration by creating a 30 minute playlist for a virtual event they dubbed the “Serotonin Swing” Virtual Dance Party. Here’s what I came up with, the Spotify playlist is embedded below and I’ve got some more context and commentary after the embedded player. Consider this my personal liner notes for this playlist!
“Dancing in the Street” – Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. This was the first song that came to mind when thinking about this playlist. It’s such a joyful celebration of self-expression, as well as a sort of anthem for the Civil Rights era (more about that here).
“Pelota” – Khruangbin. I’ve been listening to this band so much during the past few years, and really loved their most recent album Mordechai which came out in June 2020. This particular song is catchy and danceable, with irreverent Spanish lyrics about the singer being a ball and going on various adventures. There’s also a music video which is pretty great.
“Wrapped up in Books” – Belle & Sebastian. The chorus of song, from the 2003 album Dear Catastrophe Waitress, says “Our aspirations are wrapped up in books.” Is there any more appropriate sentiment for library school students? I think not. The music video looks like it takes place in a bookstore instead of a library, for what it’s worth.
“Move on Up” – Curtis Mayfield. A classic funk/soul anthem from Curtis Mayfield, which you may recognize due to its sampled use in a latter day hit. The lyrics are about striving and working towards a brighter future, which is an inspirational message at the end of a long semester. For a different take on this song, here’s a live version from Curtis himself back in 1987.
“Robot Rock” – Daft Punk. This song provides the perfect soundtrack to an interplanetary dance party. It’s the first single from Daft Punk’s 2005 album Human After All and a longtime favorite.
“Hypotheticals” – Lake Street Dive. I suppose that one song released this year should be on this playlist. This is from LSD’s 2021 album Obviously and I think it’s a super catchy, fun, well constructed song. Bonus points for the fact that this band was formed at the New England Conservatory of Music, right down the road from the Simmons campus!
“A Minha Menina” – Os Mutantes. This song is built on a memorable guitar lick and has an addicting groove infusing it with dance. Os Mutantes means “The Mutants” in Portuguese; this band is influential in 60’s Brazilian rock and has been compared to The Beatles. Can you hear the similarity in their sound?
“Waterloo” – ABBA. I want to start by saying that this is my favorite ABBA song. I absolutely love that it’s about a pivotal historical battle and also a pop song about love. When I was a rebellious teenager who thought I was too cool for this type of song, my parents explained to me that ABBA was the international language of music. I eventually got over myself and now have a major soft spot them, this song in particular. Check out this 1974 clip of them performing the song as part of Eurovision, it’s a legendary performance.
“I’m Amazed”- My Morning Jacket. This song, from the 2008 album Evil Urges, is a triumphant declaration of an approach to the world (with all its clearly visible flaws) from the perspective of wonder. It’s a relevant lens for graduate school, and life in general! Here is an alternate version of the song, from the David Letterman show back from 2010. I’ve been a fan of this band for years and have been fortunate to see them in concert a handful of times. Bonus fact: this album has a track called “Librarian” on it which was considered for this playlist but ultimately rejected because it was too slow for dancing, and because the lyrics are NSFW. Go look for it yourself if you’re interested in listening to more from this band 🙂
Let me know what you think about these songs! What did I leave out, what are your favorite songs about libraries, archives, museums, and/or organizing information? Thanks again to LISSA for inviting me to be a part of their end of term festivities, this was a fun task and I was honored to be asked.
I first read Jill Lepore’s A is for American in an undergraduate history course on the United States before the Civil War; the following year her book The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity was a key inspiration for my senior honors paper in which I tried to localize the historical memory of King Philip’s War around Bristol, RI, where the conflict ended following Metacom’s killing. She also wrote an article in The New Yorker in 2015 on web archiving and digital preservation that I assign to students and still recommend. When I saw the announcement of her latest venture, a podcast, I knew I had to tune in. It’s not like I have too much going on in the middle of this pandemic, plus the title was “The Last Archive,” so on-brand!
The stated goal of the show is to answer the question “Who Killed Truth?” over the course of ten episodes tracing a modern history of facts and evidence. I will admit that the first few episodes, on an unsolved murder case in Vermont, the lie detector, an invisible woman, and the invisible man, felt a bit scattered and without a clear focus. Perhaps it was a function of my thoughts on the current public health and political climate in our country right now but episodes 5-8 on computational election prediction, the polio vaccine, the failed attempt to build a National Data Center, and the 1977 National Women’s convention were spot-on in terms of tone and content. In each, Lepore provides historical context for urgent issues facing our society, giving the listener a better idea of how we arrived in a place where many people distrust vaccines but trust the private sector to manage vast stores of personal data about each of us. Episode nine, focusing on Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, climate change, and citizen science projects documenting bird deaths was a reminder that more people should read that book, and the final episode ties things together neatly and enticed me to pick up a copy of her latest book IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future.
The podcast is livened up by voice actors reading some of the records used to write the episodes, and the show’s website provides additional info on the archives and sources used in the production. The final episode featured the Computer History Museum and the Internet Archive, among other repositories. I, for one, think the internet airwaves would benefit from more explanations of punch cards and the efforts to extract data off of them!
Is this indeed the titular last archive? I hope not, for my own sake as an archival educator and researcher. What it is, though, is a fascinating and engaging history podcast for anyone interested in how we’ve come to construct truth and knowledge in the modern United States. Give it a listen, it’s well worth the addition to your COVID-era media diet.
In these pandemic times we find ourselves in, the world feels as though it’s been tossed upside down and cast asunder. I find myself alternating between deep dives into the news, reading the latest developments and coming to terms with the reality of what’s going on, and periods where I force myself to turn away and consume other media. These are some of the things I have turned to in these moments. They are by no means recommendations and they are not even necessarily good. It’s just a semi-random and not complete list of what I’ve been watching, reading, and listening to while I work through these decidedly weird weeks.
Science in Russia and the Soviet Union : a short history (http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840334186). This is the only library book I brought home from campus the last day I was in my office. Loosely related to a research project I’m spinning up.
Tiger King. Need to have something to talk to my friends about in our group chats. What happened to Carole Baskin’s husband? Sound off in the comments.
Vanderpump Rules. In my house we also watch plenty of other Bravo shows which I don’t like quite as much, but I will recommend VPR to everyone. The first few seasons of this show are truly transcendent reality television, if you don’t like them then there’s no hope in converting you.
What Men Want. A fun little rom-com starring Taraji P Henson, who should be given all the roles she wants forever and ever.
I’m had to move my teaching online and have been doing other stuff besides all this nonsense. If you’re reading this, know that I love you and hope to see you in person soon. We’re living through a global tragedy and I can only hope that we make it through and imagine how to collectively heal our world and create a more just environment. The pandemic has revealed the cracks in our society like never before and the need for justice is as urgent as ever. Now, I’m off to wash my hands!
I am writing this post from my new office at Simmons University School of Library and Information Science where I am beginning as an Assistant Professor. I am beyond excited about this next chapter in my career and eager to explore all that the university and greater Boston area have to offer. I can’t wait to get to know new colleagues and visit all of the incredible archives, libraries, and museums around here! I’ll be posting again with more detail about my position, courses, and syllabi soon.
Since I’m here, I figured I’d also share some relevant highlights from my summer so far. With a change of position and move looming, I made sure to get out and visit a few placed in the DC area I had not been to before. Among these were the Steven F. Udvar Hazy Center, part of the Smithsonian’s Air & Space Musuem. This was a fascinating space, full of incredibly rare and unique planes and related artifacts, including civilian aircraft, military and space equipment. I will share one photograph of a vintage computer, a UNIVAC 1232 which helped track and manage US government satellites through 1990 (?!?).
I did spend some time looking at the Enola Gay and considering it’s representation in the space. The tour guide I heard gave much more context than the object label which was woefully short. The Enola Gay has been covered far more thoroughly than I ever could (for example here and here), and I will only add that it’s deeply troubling that the visible text is all that could be agreed upon in the midst of the controversy. I hope that soon we can reach a place as a country where difficult conversations are possible not only about the atomic bomb and the end of World War II, but also the myriad pressing issues of the day including racism, bigotry, homophobia, and misogyny. Honestly the Enola Gay deserves its own post so I’ll have to get to that next.
During my parents’ final visit to DC before my move, I took them to the National Museum of African American History and Culture for their first time (my second). This is an amazing museum that everyone should go to as soon as possible. The image below is of a very striking object that made me pause: a guard tower from Angola Prison, founded on the grounds of a plantation which held enslaved people and remains open as the largest maximum-security prison in the US.
Finally, I attended the Archival and Education Research Institute (AERI) 2019 last month in Liverpool, UK. As always, this was an amazing institute and I was so happy to see old colleagues from around the world while also making new connections. The talks and workshops were excellent, as was the Beatles tour which I attended with much anticipation. The smile on my face in front of the gate to Strawberry Fields, an orphanage where John Lennon used to hang around as a kid, says it all.
That’s it for now. I’m getting settled at Simmons and can’t wait for the school year to begin! If you are reading this and ever find yourself in the Boston area, get in touch!
Earlier this week I looked at this website and realized I had not posted anything on here since January! That’s far too long to go without any updates, so here’s a few highlights of what I’ve been up to at the University of Maryland iSchool this year…
I have continued my research and work at the USDA National Agricultural Library, along with an additional project on the preservation of social media data from the Barack Obama presidential administration. Here are a few of the peer-reviewed papers I authored along with various colleagues that were published during the past few months:
Kahn, E., Arbuckle, P., Kriesberg, A. (2017) Challenge Paper: Challenges to Sharing Data and Models for Life Cycle Assessment. Journal of Data and Information Quality. 9(1), https://doi.org/10.1145/3106236
Kriesberg, A., Huller, K., Punzalan, R., Parr, C. (2017) An Analysis of Federal Policy on Public Access to Scientific Research Data. Data Science Journal. 16, p.27. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/dsj-2017-027
Acker, A., & Kriesberg, A. (2017). Tweets may be archived: Civic engagement, digital preservation and Obama white house social media data: Tweets May Be Archived: Civic Engagement, Digital Preservation and Obama White House Social Media Data. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 54(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2017.14505401001.
I’d like to wish all my readers, colleagues, reviewers (even you, reviewer #2), family and friends a happy holiday season and new year. I’ll leave you with a seasonally appropriate GIF from the National Archives and a nod to next year’s Winter Olympics.
Happy New Year! I still get to say that through the month of January. It’s been a while but I’m back to let you, my loyal reader, know that I am going to participate in an exciting event next week, Tuesday 1/31, at McKeldin Library on the UMD campus. We are hosting a Wikipedia Library #1lib1ref event, a mini edit-a-thon of sorts where librarians come together around the world to add references and citations to Wikipedia. This initiative is sponsored by the Wikipedia Library, with the goal of improving Wikipedia through connecting editors with librarians and reference resources.
Longtime readers of this blog will know that I am a big proponent of Wikipedia, having edited and participated in public events in the past. I am very excited to meet fellow Wikipedians at UMD and perhaps convince some folks from the libraries and iSchool to get more involved with editing!
I am close to digging out from the historic blizzard which has blanketed the Washington DC region with 2 feet (maybe?) of snow. Since Thursday evening, I have spent a lot of time in my apartment and, on a whim, decided to watch the Enough Said starring James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The movie interested me because it was Gandolfini’s last; little did I know the surprise in store as the plot unfolded.
Gandolfini plays Albert, a recent divorcee and DIGITAL ARCHIVIST who works at a place called the “American Library of Cultural History” which houses a significant collection of television films. I’ll avoid spoilers that do not involve archives– Albert oversees digitization and created metadata for archival episodes of television. What’s more, there is a scene in the closed stacks of the library, complete with a stolen kiss amongst the Hollinger boxes! The rest of the movie was great as well and is recommended for archivists, librarians, curators, and everyone else too :-). It was very well-acted and definitely worth a watch.
While doing some post-film googling, I discovered this post from an excellent site called reel-librarians about Enough Said as well. Add it to the blogroll!