Archive for March 2007

Library of / Library As Text – Part 1

March 30, 2007

Myron Tuman in Word Perfect: Literacy in the Computer Age (1993) asks a provocative and interesting question: “Is it possible for the ascendancy of hypertext to do anything but push literacy in the direction of information management?” (78). Since I’m coming from a particular professional “place,” (academic librarianship) which I often characterize as a cultural practice that, historically, has been devoted to establishing and tweaking curatorial roles in relationship to texts, but also coming from a place where I’m attempting to manage and direct a multimedia production space as an experientially significant library service, I find questions like Tuman’s stir up deeper waters that submerge, maybe even drown, contemporary professional debates about scholarly communication, the nature of authorship, the economics of publishing, and the broadening notions of what constitutes a text and what it means to be literate. Tuman’s interesting book was published at a time when all sorts of challenges to the traditional “book” were ramped up, most particularly the event-driven phenomena of playful textual interaction and navigation metaphorically characterized as “hypertext.” Although some of Tuman’s (and others) remarks seem, on the surface, a tad dismissive, what’s clear is that the ascendancy of “hypertext” (or perhaps we can insert another anything 2.0 here) challenged deeply entrenched and romanticized notions of authorship and signaled the need to articulate a more expansive notion of “author” in order for one to characterize the writing of “hypertext” (or any interactive, technology dependent learning event) as more than just an exercise in “information management.” And while the professional literature of library and information studies abounds with discussions that attempt to understand, dismiss or promote the vocational challenges posed by and captured in such extravagant metaphors as the information society or postindustrial society, students arrive each year, less interested in the reading of books in the library and more interested in reading (and writing) their own texts.

Where might “the library” fit into a discussion of texts and of textuality? It’s clear that as a repository of texts, the modern academic library is a place where the reader and text intersect, but it is also a place where readers intersect, but it should also be a place where the texts themselves are encouraged and expected to interact with each other. These “conversations” are made possible by evolving (I hope) conventions of “bibliographic” control and description (metadata) that in their own right, I’d like to suggest, generate “texts” or new and intentional textual genres for our users. Although a university’s research library plays an often unquestioned (and, at times, uncritical) role in the preservation and access to a university’s institutional and cultural record, more interesting to consider is how the cluster of activities that situate librarianship as a cultural practice devoted to hypertextualizing or intertextualizing the entire bibliographic universe can be appreciated for and identified by their non-neutral and generative contributions to the discussion of what constitutes a text and thus what might constitute literacy. (Troy Davis)

Part II: FRBR: Intentionality and Intimacy in a Universe of Entities…

Searching Images: A Follow-up to my Creative Commons Experience

March 20, 2007

I recently posted about the Lost in Light project and how they transferred my family’s 8mm movies to DVD. I agreed to the CC license but I also want to make the films useful so I have been going through them and describing the scenes. For those who get past this paragraph, I will bore you with more details about the home movies. Right now I would like to discuss how I am approaching this project and the resources I am using. This sort of analysis is a good demonstration of the power of the Internet. Consider also that I am working with 50+ year old films and trying identify locations, events, and people. So far, I have spent quite a few hours on the first 18 minutes of one DVD. I now have a much greater appreciation of the photo analysis work done by our intelligence agencies. I don’t see how the sort of work I’m doing could be accomplished without the Internet.

Web resources I’m using

  • Google Web Search. Doing a web search generally leads me first to Wikipedia but I also locate other sites; most of which are travel related.
  • Wikipedia. A lot of the film is from Africa and many of the place names have changed. Wikipedia has been a great source for cross referencing old to new place names.
  • Google Image Search. This has been really helpful when I am trying to nail a specific location. It is also helping me develop skill in analyzing images. The scene in a photograph and the same scene in the film are more often than not seen from a different orientation, angle, and perspective. It is challenging to find out a common element. What I find on the Internet is considerably more recent than the movies and imagination is needed to compensate for the changes in building, vegetation, etc.
  • WikiMapia. I may use Google Earth later. Wikimapia didn’t require installing anything on the computer. My father shot some of the film from an aircraft and I’ve had a difficult time locating aerial shots on the Internet. One recent segment I was working with was taken from the air, over a city, in what looked like an approach to an airport. There were two features that stand out and I want to know what they are. More about this below.
  • YouTube. I haven’t actually used this resource yet but plan to. I am also thinking of posting some film segments on YouTube to see if anyone can assist with identification.

In addition to the web resources, I have my father’s flight records so I know where the plane was and when.
Here is an example of how I used some of the resources I described above. There is a segment of film where the aircraft is flying above a city and passing over what appears to be a park of some sort and a large geometric feature covering a lot of ground that I couldn’t immediately figure out. Following this segment, the scene shifted to the ground in Madrid, Spain. I used Google web search to look for parks in Madrid and was pretty sure I had found the Estanque del Retiro (an artificial boating lake) in the Parque del Retiro but all the views were ground level. I assumed that the scenes from the air were taken when the plane was on approach to the airport so I went to WikiMedia and searched Madrid Spain. The Parque del Retiro is in about the center of town and as I zoomed in, there it was. I had the DVD in the player and WikiMedia on the laptop and I was able to trace the flight path as they flew over the park. Obviously geographic features changed but many of the buildings had the same shape and it wasn’t difficult to orient. Assuming that the aircraft wasn’t going to make any sudden turns, I advanced the DVD and WikiMedia and quickly found the second feature which is the largest cemetery in Europe, Cementerio de la Almudena. Here are comparison shots from the DVD and WikiMapia

Cementerio de la Almudena from DVD

La Almudena from the air, 1953

Cementerio de la Almudena from Wikimapia

La Amundena from Wikimapia

Estanque del Retiro from DVD
Estanque del Retiro, 1953

Estanque del Retiro fromWikimapia

Estanque del Retiro, 1953

Zotero

March 15, 2007

This blog is a supplement to my Third Thursday Tech Talk session on Zotero.

Zotero is a FireFox 2.X add-on that turns your browser into a research management tool. It solves the problem of how to collect and organize research in one place.

Without Zotero, you might do the one or all of the following while doing research on the Internet:

  • Find a good web site and save a book mark in your browser or on a bookmarking site such as del.icio.us.
  • Find a book in a library catalog and save the citation to a text file or import it into a citation manager such as EndNote or RefWorks or write it on a notecard.
  • Find a book in Amazon and either jot down the title on a piece of paper or do a screen print both of which you might loose in the clutter of your desk.
  • Find a journal article and note the citation somewhere and possibly print it out if it is a PDF.
  • Find a report in PDF format and print it, save it to your PC or bookmark the site.
  • Receive an email with really good information and then try to figure out how to preserve it (save it to a folder, save it as text, print it).

Your research will be scattered throughout multiple locations on your PC and, possibly, loose on your actual desk.

With Zotero, you can collect and organize all of these items in one place. Tag them, add notes, attachments, relate the citation to another citation, take snapshots that can capture an email or entire PDF document, and more.

Zotero’s translators work with many sites and can sense the information available on the page and indicate that information with a symbol in the FireFox address bar. A file folder indicates that there is a lost of items that can be added to your library. A book or page represents book and journal information respectively. And a newspaper is a newspaper articles. A list of translators is available here.

In addition to the address bar icons, you can save a link to , create an item from, the current page, and take a snapshot of the current page. With the snapshot and link, you can tag and establish relationships whereas the create new item feature allows notes and attachments as well as tags and related.

Citations can be imported into Zotero from RefWorks or EndNote and exported to them as well. this might answer the question if Zotero is a replacement for Refworks. Right now, Refworks has more features, citation formats, etc. Consider this scenario. You keep the spontaneity of researching on the Internet and harvest book and journal citations using Zotero. You can then export your citations to RefWorks and take advantages of the features there. You could also export your citations from RefWorks into Zotero and use it as a workplace. I found that the RIS format works well with importing from and exporting to Refworks.

Zotero’s tagging capabilities are interesting. From some database sources, Zotero will extract descriptors and turn them into tags. You can also highlight several citations and apply a tag to all of them at once. Consistent use of tags and saved searches can make finding references very easy.

Zotero is best experienced though I hope your curiosity is whetted by reading about its capabilities. If you do any kind of research I recommend that you give Zotero a try. I really like being able to have all related items located together with flexible organization.

Zotero is available here but you will need FireFox 2.X first. Swem library staff should contact LIT to get the latest version of FireFox. Zotero documentation is available here.

Snapper Update Available

March 11, 2007

Back in August 2006 I wrote about Snapper, a FireFox extension that allows you to easily take a snapshot of a selected part of a web page. Then FireFox 2.X came along and Snapper broke and no updates were found when FireFox looked.

Today – instead of working on a project – I decided to check the blogs stats for Techview and noticed that the Snapper posting consistently gets hits and that made me feel bad since I said that Snapper is still broken. I went to the FireFox add-on page for Snapper and started reading comments and found that someone had made a fix for it. Go here for the Snapper 1.3 xpi file. I did a new install on my home computer and it works fine. At work, I’ll probably uninstall the old version and then add Snapper 1.3.

Note that Snapper 1,3 does require JRE version 1.4 or later to operate properly.

Creative Commons — My First Experience as a Contributor

March 2, 2007

I was visiting my parents in Florida over Christmas break and helped my mother clean out a closet of photographs, slides, and 8mm movies. The 8 mm movies posed an interesting challenge. The oldest were made between 1952 and 1956 when we were stationed in Pretoria, South Africa (my father was a crewman on the American Embassy’s C-47). I was wondering what to do with the 8mm movies when our Media Center director mentioned Lost in Light as a possible solution. I looked them up and found a really nifty project that satisfies my needs on several levels. First of all, here is what they say about Lost in Light:

This is a project about the 8mm film format. But 8mm is dead, you say? On the contrary! Not only is the format alive with innovation by filmmakers around the world, but hours and hours of Super 8 and regular 8mm film exist in attics and basements the world over—as home movies, educational films, works of art—that is slowly fading from the historical record.

We’re here to preserve that record before these films are lost, and to make those films available for viewing by the public and for use by artists seeking new, compelling footage. Lost in Light is a project devoted to preserving, showcasing, and celebrating films created on the small-gauge 8mm film format.

To that end, we provide free Super 8 and 8mm to video transfers to anyone who asks, in exchange for posting their video to the Lost in Light site and on the Internet Archive with their choice of Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Lost in Light includes articles and features by members of the filmmaking and film preservation communities, video tutorials for making 8mm films, as well as creative work, all with the goal of preserving and championing this important film format.

Note the bit where all they ask is permission to post the transfers on the Lost in Light site and on Internet Archives with some level of Creative Commons license. These are the CC licenses if you are interested. I sent Aaron and Jennifer an inquiry email and when they indicated interest, I boxed up the movies and sent them off.

You might be thinking, You mean anyone can see these movies and film makers could use segments in their own works? Why would you want that? Three reasons, really. First, I get a DVD of these movies, some of which haven’t been seen for 50 years. Ok, the world might get to see me and my brother as goofy kids. So what? I’m pretty sure there are none of me running around naked or eating boogers. Second, it is a kind of immortality. Something my father did will live on. Third, maybe the videos will help a young film maker. I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen done by W&M students in the short time that our Media Center has been in operation and I think that a project like Lost in Light and a willingness to share using the Creative Commons licenses are important for the creative process.

I got an email earlier that the film transfers are complete. You can see a bit on their home page, Lost in Light. The African dance sequence was filmed at the mine dances near Pretoria. I’m still researching it, but as I recall, the mine workers would put on these dances on a day off from work.

Aaron and Jennifer are doing cool and good things. Check it out.