11/12/14

Linux in the Wild

One of my first posts on this site was about Linux, and I always love seeing examples of how Open Source software powers so many computing devices which we interact with everyday. On a recent plane trip back from Seattle (where I attended ASIS&T. It was awesome!) I settled into my seat and prepared to watch a movie on the seatback screen when it suddenly went black. Confused, I looked up and noticed that the entire plane had lost their screens as well.  A few seconds later, much to my surprise, this appeared on screen as the software loaded:

Wild Linux

Can you see tux in the upper left corner? That’s right- Delta’s seatback screen are powered by Linux! After another period of intense scrolling text as the system rebooted, I was eventually greeted  by the clean welcome screen:

Delta Welcome

After this snafu, the system remained on for the rest of my flight, and I was able to watch Parks & Recreation while editing some files. I must have looked like a weirdo when I whipped out my phone to take pictures of the software loading on my seatback screen, but I always love witnessing moments like this. The experience of flying a commercial airline is designed to be sleek and streamlined, but remembering that much of this software runs on Linux was a refreshing reminder that the polished face of Delta runs on a complex infrastructure.

I’ve also been thinking about the recent dustup between Groupon and the GNOME project. Groupon used the trademarked name of the popular Open Source desktop environment as the name of their new point-of-sale system, filing trademarks that infringed upon those already in place for decades. I was surprised to see Groupon making this move when my assumption is that some portion of their developers and code is based on Linux. After some confusion, it looks like Groupon is pulling back and will change the name of their product. Score one for the OS lobby!

I wonder how many consumers know how important Linux is to so many aspects of our computational lives? How can we increase awareness of this software, and how would knowing more about Linux change conversations in society about the role and place of computing in everyday life?

 

10/30/14

Upcoming Conference- ASIS&T Annual Meeting

Next week I will be at the 77th Annual ASIS&T Annual Meeting in Seattle, WA. I am participating in the Doctoral Seminar and am excited to attend this conference where I presented a paper last year (Kriesberg et al. 2013). This year’s program is here, it looks like a great set of sessions.

If you are going to be in Seattle, leave a comment or drop me a line- see you there!

ASIS&T Annual Meeting 2014

10/7/14

Archival Articles on Wikipedia

My regular readers will know that I edit Wikipedia from time to time, and that I am a doctoral student in an iSchool who studies archives. I was therefore overjoyed to attend this session at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting this August. The session chairs, Dominic McDevitt-Parks and Sara Snyder, successfully signed up new editors for Wikipedia accounts and introduced them to the basics of editing. As a group, we even made some progress on a few articles relevant to archives. A wiki page documenting the session is located here.

I fully agree with the goals of this session: to increase the quality of Wikipedia articles which relate to archival concepts, archival institutions, and archivists. Since August, I have been looking for opportunities to edit archival articles. Now, this term I am working as a Graduate Student Instructor (also known as a TA at universities not named Michigan) in a course on archival access systems. During a recent lecture, my lead instructor provided an overview of many of the archival software platforms that exist today. Following along, I happened to google Archon and ended up on its Wikipedia page: Archon (software). I was dismayed to see that the article was not up to date and listed the tool as in active development when in fact it has merged with ArchivesSpace and is no longer maintained. I made a mental note to follow up and edit this page to reflect the most current information.

A few days later, when I returned to complete my edits, I noticed that someone else had come in and begun my work for me! A sentence indicating the inactive status of the project was tacked on to the end of the article. I still made some edits, cleaned up the page, and made sure that things were up-to-date. However, during this time I discovered that ArchivesSpace itself does not have an article yet. That’ll be a task for a later date.

You may be asking yourself- what is the point of this story? Well, if you see an article related to something having to do with archives that needs work, edit it! I did a bit of writing on a small article and discovered a much larger task that I will tackle in the upcoming weeks.

What wiki-event is happening at SAA next year?? I’m there!

09/30/14

Dissertating

Seeing as it is the last day of September, I feel I am overdue for an update on here about what I’ve been up to. This summer was very busy! I attended three conferences, collected a majority of the data for my dissertation, and wrote as much as I could. I am very nearly done with my data collection and am currently working on analysis while also making progress on other areas of the dissertation.

The fall semester is in full swing here in Ann Arbor and I am currently serving as the Graduate Student Instructor in SI629: Access Systems for Archival Materials. Here is a course decription. Other than this, I am writing as much as possible! The picture below should give you a good sense of where I’m at as I write this post.

Seated portrait of a man with a beard writing a document.

This is not a photograph of me. But look at that chair. And that beard.

With accommodations as luxurious as this, it’s no wonder I’ve been a writing fool…and now before I make any more nonsense jokes about anonymous historical figures posing for pictures composing text at small desks, I will mercifully end this post and return to my dissertation.

08/10/14

Upcoming Conference- Society of American Archivists

This week I will be attending and presenting at the joint annual meeting of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), the National Association of Government Archivists and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and the Society of American Archivists (SAA). My presentation is on Saturday; the full conference schedule can be found here.

I am excited for this conference as I hope to have the opportunity to meet some of the state archivists from whom I have collected data over the past few months for my dissertation project. It should be a swelteringly good time in our nation’s capital!

07/11/14

Conference Next Week- Archival Education and Research Institute

Next week I’ll be heading to Pittsburgh for the Archival Education and Research Institute, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. This will be my fourth year attending and I’m excited to share my research and see  what others have been up to. I will be presenting preliminary results from my dissertation study.

The conference website is here and the schedule can be found here. I’m presenting on Monday afternoon so if you’re going to be at AERI come check out my session!

06/16/14

Upcoming Conference- International Conference on Digital Government Research

Just a quick note that I’ll be heading to Aguascalientes, Mexico for the 15th Annual Conference on Digital Government Research this week. I am participating in the doctoral colloquium and presenting a poster at the poster session on Thursday (6/19).

The conference website and full schedule and is here. If you’re at the conference stop by and say hi!

06/10/14

The Public Domain on my Birthday

Today is the day of my birth, and I figure that there’s no better way to celebrate than by highlighting what Public Domain materials have to say about June 10th. While browsing the Wikimedia Commons page for this date, I found a relevant and very interesting image:

American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963.

American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963.

Look how happy all of those women look, not to mention President Kennedy! Is it just me or does his desk seem rather cluttered? I see an ashtray, other mementos, files, a phone, papers… I especially like seeing LBJ in the back of the group, overseeing the signature. Little did this assembly know that in just a few short years this date would catapult my being into existence, unleashing unkown forces upon the world (I kid, I kid)…

On a more serious note, I encourage everyone to investigate and explore what is available on Wikimedia Commons and other public domain repositories. Before this, I didn’t know that my birth date loomed so large in the story of the struggle for equal rights and pay in the United States. Now I know more about this law and discovered that I have some amazing access to a fine image documenting this day. Three cheers for the public domain!

04/10/14

Gender-neutral pronouns in the classroom

This semester I am working as a Graduate Student Instructor (UMich’s term for TA) in a large introductory course for the Masters program here at the School of Information. Overall, the experience has been very rewarding. I enjoy teaching section and am happy to interact with students and explore rich topics across the broad field of information. In my section this week I encountered a situation that has stuck with me and rekindled an uneasiness I sometimes feel about the English language.

In this particular session, the students were doing blind peer reviews of each other’s most recent assignments. Split into pairs, I noticed that some of the students defaulted to referring to the author of the assignment under review as “him” or “he” when in fact it was not possible to tell if the student was male or female. At least one student corrected their partner on this point. I wished I could have stopped class and talked about the deficiencies of the English language in this situation. I have sometimes tried to incorporate the use of the gender-neutral pronoun “xe” into my vocabulary, and this would have been a great time to be able to deploy this invented word. Instead of he/she, xe can be used as a pronoun without signalling gender. Instead of saying “he/she  will be here soon” you instead say “xe will be here soon.” The pronunciation is similar to zed, without the d.

Interested in gender-neutral pronouns? Wikipedia is a good place to start. In addition to “xe,” “ze” and “ve” are also possible pronouns to employ in these situations where it is impossible to know an individual’s gender, or in other situations when a particular person does not identify as strictly male or female. This is something I would love to see catch more traction. Do any of you use gender-neutral pronouns or wish you did more often?

03/24/14

Excellent Coverage on Wikipedia and Cultural Institutions

Let me start by saying that I love Wikipedia. I’m not just a consumer of information from the online encyclopedia but also an editor, having made my first contribution back in 2006. While I have not been a consistent Wikipedian throughout the years, I make an effort to edit regularly these days and maintain a deep belief in the importance of this website on today’s internet. In a world of corporate web systems and services, Wikipedia is a refreshing organization in which people come together in the service of creating new knowledge and increasing human understanding of complex topics. For me, it represents a possibly-naive ideal that if everyone works together on this project, in the end knowledge will meaningfully increase and contributors will learn something about each other and the process of creating a global resource for learning and enjoyment.

All of this is not to say that Wikipedia is without flaws. Perhaps chief among these is a deep gender bias and an under-representation of female editors as well as topics on prominent women across the encyclopedia. A brief and admittedly superficial comparison of the article length of Halo: First Strike, a novel based on the popular video game series, and Flight Behavior, a novel by Pulizter-nominated  author Barbara Kingsolver demonstrates the results of the gender gap articulated in recent coverage of Wikipedia editors (e.g. this NYTimes article). The large number of male editors of Wikipedia articles has resulted in increased attention to male-centered topics such as video games. This leaves articles on novels by famous female novelists to languish as stubs, wiki-speak for articles which are too short to be of much value on the encyclopedia even though they cover notable or important topics (for more on stubs, see here). This is a disappointing trend as I would like to see more equal coverage of women in Wikipedia articles and would encourage more women to edit the encyclopedia and have a hand in its direction.

Which brings me to an article in today’s New York Times that I found refreshing. Noam Cohen gives a great description of what a Wikipedian-in-residence does, and highlights how edit-a-thons focused on women scientists, authors, and academics are attempting to address the gender gap issue through engagement with existing library, archival, and museum resources. It is always good to see coverage of Wikipedia in the national media that moves beyond the “can we trust Wikipedia??” baseline. The activities described in the article are positive developments as I see things and can only help improve the overall quality and usefulness of the encyclopedia over time. I’m all for long, detailed articles about Halo novels, but also think that Wikipedia should be a place where often overlooked but demonstrably important people can be included. All while adhering to proper Wikipedia formatting, citation guidelines, and style of course…