Friday, April 25, 2008

Alexandria and the Matrix

Here is Carl Sagan on (and in) the Library of Alexandria. He begins among the ruins, and Agent Smith from the Matrix immediately comes to mind. My favorite part is when Sagan finds the scroll he is looking for in the astronomy stacks: “Here we are—Aristarchus.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Digital Preservation Defined (Provisionally)

Short Definition: Digital preservation combines policies, strategies and actions that ensure access to digital content over time. More:

Monday, April 14, 2008

100 Days

The average life span of a Web site is about 100 days, so you have to be proactive about getting and saving them,” said Brewster Kahle, who founded the nonprofit Internet Archive and began sculpting his vision of a working Internet library in 1996.
—“Trying to Preserve Today's Web for Future Generations,” The Seattle Times, April 7, 2008, available from:

Monday, April 7, 2008

What Makes a Book a History?

See Jill Lepore, “Just the Facts, Ma’am: Fake Memoirs, Factual Fictions, and the History of History,” The New Yorker, March 24, 2008, available from:

Historians and novelists are kin … but they’re more like brothers who throw food at each other than like sisters who borrow each other’s clothes. The literary genre that became known as “the novel” was born in the eighteenth century. History, the empirical sort based on archival research and practiced in universities, anyway, was born at much the same time. Its novelty is not as often remembered, though, not least because it wasn’t called “novel.” In a way, history is the anti-novel, the novel’s twin, though which is Cain and which is Abel depends on your point of view.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The State of Digital Humanities

From “Rise of the Digital NEH”:

... some question whether the [NEH] digital initiative should be separate from the overall goal of promoting the humanities. “The definition of scholarly work in the digital realm in the humanities is still in flux ...,” said Tom Elliott, associate director for digital programs at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, which received one of the NEH grants announced last week. “You can argue, and I’ve heard people say, that really there shouldn’t be a separate angle for the digital humanities because ... it ought to be part and parcel.... But I think the prominence it’s getting at the NEH right now is going to help with the normalizing of digital practice across the humanities writ large. From where I sit I think it’s a good thing."

Critical to the development of a “digital ecosystem,” as Adrian Johns, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, put it, is to “help get towards the point where all of these tools become as routine and second nature as word processing is right now. Obviously, you can’t do that in one step.” At the same time, scholars can’t allow new tools to entirely dictate the questions they ask. The discipline still needs to come to a consensus on how to get “across that integration between technology, criticism and method,” he said, not using technology for its own sake but melding it into the work that humanists already do, while at the same time allowing it to suggest new modes of discovery.

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