12/28/20

The Last Archive, reviewed

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.

04/11/20

Non-exhaustive list of media consumed during the COVID-19 Pandemic, briefly annotated

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.

Books:

Movies and Television:

  • 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.

Podcasts:

Music

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!

11/17/15

Literature on Digital Repository Policy Development

This week, I have been looking into the collections policies and other policy documents of digital repositories, specifically data repositories. The other day, I came across this First Monday (open access!) article, “A balancing act: The ideal and the realistic in developing Dryad’s preservation policy” which I thought was worth summarizing here.

The authors report on their process for developing the preservation policy for Dryad, a general purpose scientific data repository. A Preservation Working Group consulted peer repositories and selected four which directly informed their process. The working group identified work already taking place and considered what a Preservation Policy should contain in developing their final document. In the article, the authors highlight important lessons learned such as the need to maintain realistic expectations and consider the constraints of the technology currently in place at the repository.

I have found few articles reporting on policy development in this way and thought this was a good example to share. Often in digital curation contexts, policy development is an afterthought or individual process, rather than a collaborative effort with diverse inputs. While it can seem trite to go through the process of creating policy rather than “doing the work,” it is vitally important for the vitality of organizations to have meaningful and well-thought-out policies which can inform future practice and help introduce new members into ongoing work. Here’s to publishing articles like this in the future!

09/15/15

Hierarchy of Google Products

With all of the recent talk about Google’s updated logo, I thought I’d share an observation I had this week while using two Google products: image search and Google Scholar. Here’s a screenshot, taken today, of images.google.com:

Google Images screenshot

And here’s a screenshot, taken today, of scholar.google.com:

Google Scholar screenshot

As you can see, the Scholar landing page still displays the old logo. Does this signal a shift in Google’s commitment to their scholarly literature search product? I hope not! Scholar is one of my favorite Google projects and a regular part of my research process. Update the logo and show us that Google Scholar is still thriving!

 

05/13/15

In which something I co-authored appears on the internet

Last week, an article I co-authored with Ixchel Faniel and my dissertation advisor Beth Yakel was finally published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).  The article reports on the results of a survey we conducted of 1,480 academic authors who cited ICPSR data in peer-reviewed publications, and is part of the larger DIPIR project which I was a part of for more than two years as a research assistant while in graduate school.

In the paper, we present a literature-based model to represent the relationship between data quality and user satisfaction with data in a reuse context. We tested this model with our survey data, using multiple regression analysis. The results of our survey indicate that data completeness, data accessibility, data ease of operation, data credibility, and documentation quality all correspond significantly with data reuser satisfaction. These findings suggest that repository managers should look to these areas when creating or updating guidelines or policies for data deposit and evaluation.

The paper is live on the JASIST website here. It’s not open access 🙁 but I’m really proud of this work! Email me if you want to talk about it or any of my other work.

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?

 

10/7/14

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!

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!