Category Archives: Other

The Problem of Libraries

We didn’t get to talk much about Ramsay last night, but this review of John Palfrey’s BiblioTech covers some of the same intellectual ground

So is the library, storehouse and lender of books, as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold? Perversely, the most popular service at some libraries has become free Internet access. People wait in line for terminals that will let them play solitaire and Minecraft, and librarians provide coffee. Other patrons stay in their cars outside just to use the Wi-Fi. No one can be happy with a situation that reduces the library to a Starbucks wannabe.

Perhaps worst of all: the “bookless library” is now a thing. You can look it up in Wikipedia.

Impediments to Digital History

Dr. Stephen Robertson’s essay, “The Differences between Digital History and Digital Humanities” engages many thought-provoking points, foremost in my mind, the challenges surrounding access to information. For all of the debates concerning what it is exactly that DH is doing, what unique qualities it brings to the table, if the table is locked away, we’re left standing. That intellectual property, digital or otherwise, is often protected as a commodity is an intuitive reality. Access to both print and digital subscriptions to academic journals, by and large, entails substantial fees. Some of the fully digital tools have locked-down APIs. That being said, the academy has a unique responsibility, even an existential one, to facility open access to ideas and information. Instead of going into the reasons why, I wanted to write a quick conversation starter that might point at one of many potential solutions.

Piggy-backing off of a recent development in New Media reporting, I can envision a mainline channel into the second largest repository of intellectual property in the world (although at this point, not the most technically agile – a separate problem) the Library of Congress. The Story Corps audio archive has been preserved at the Library of Congress for years. However, the Story Corps mobile application is new, and potentially trans-formative. Although in the past, reporters from Story Corp would sit down with interviewers and interviewees to help them record their stories, this was time-consuming, costly, and largely inefficient. The SC application allows users with smartphones to record and upload interviews that will be digitally preserved at the LoC, instantly, at the push of a button.

My question: How can the Library of Congress, a tax payer-funded institution be used from the outset to facilitate open access to new, digitally-born intellectual property? Can we look toward partnerships with a current, or yet-to-be-created government entity, and privately-funded organizations like Story Corp as a model for guardianship of ideas? What would such a partnership look like? What would we call it?

Code in the News

Volkswagen’s Diesel Fraud Makes Critic of Secret Code a Prophet

The code in automobiles is tightly protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Last year, several groups sought to have the code made available for “good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing and fixing of malfunctions, security flaws or vulnerabilities,” as Alex Davies reported last week in Wired.
A group of automobile manufacturers said that opening the code to scrutiny could create “serious threats to safety and security.” And two months ago, the E.P.A. said it, too, opposed such a move because people might try to reprogram their cars to beat emission rules.

Karen Barad on Apparatuses

[Niels] Bohr argues that classical physics seriously underestimates and undercounts the contribution that apparatuses make. Apparatuses are not mere instruments serving as a system of lenses that magnify and focus our attention on the object world, rather they are laborers that help constitute and are an integral part of the phenomena being investigated. Furthermore, apparatuses do not simply detect differences that are already in place; rather they contribute to the production and reconfiguring of difference. The failure to take proper account of the role of apparatuses in the production of phenomena seriously compromises the objectivity of the investigation. Accounting for apparatuses means attending to specific practices of differentiating and the marks on bodies they produce. Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway, 2007, 232.
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