In this episode the usual suspects, Mills, Stephen, Amanda, Dan and Tom gathered for yet another lively discussion. The episode began with a discussion on the trend toward opening data as several big players, the Getty, Twitter, Microsoft and the Public Library of Science took steps toward greater accessibility of their resources. The hosts also highlighted the subject of virtual conference attendance, looking at the “dopplebot” conference attendance model. From big changes to a historical look back, the group switched gears to discuss a Pew Report that looks back at 25 years of internet use, broad discussion of changes and how the internet has become an indispensable facet of our lives. Nothing demonstrates that more than the next topic of discussion, the $19 billion dollar purchase of WhatsApp.
Opening access to data
Virtual Conference attendance:
WhatsApp acquisition for $19 billion
Sharon updates on Art Historians & American Historians institutes
Running time: 41:08
Download the .mp3
Next month, Jan Eric Olsén is co-organizing a workshop titled “Touching The Tactile” here at Medical Museion.
The aim of the workshop is “to approach the sense of touch via a series of hands-on investigations and discussions that will take place within the context of art and museum practices”.
By focusing on touch, the workshop draws attention to features that are often overlooked in the fabric of art exhibits and museum displays. More particularly, the workshop will unfurl the experience and knowledge that comes with touch and the things that we touch. These are experiences that span from intimate relationships, over the skills of diverse crafts and the knowledge of specific materials to pedagogical methods and artistic positions that entail the actual touching of objects and works (e.g. museum exhibits for visually impaired people and artworks such as Gonzalez-Torres candy spills). The question is, among others, what kind of knowledge do we speak about with regard to touch? What kind of remembrance is invoked? Is it conceptual, can it be conceptualized or does it rather stand in opposition to concepts and visuality? Likewise, what difference does the actual touching of artworks and museum objects make?
Medical Museion, Thursday 10 April
• 13.00 – 13.20
Welcome: Thomas Söderqvist, Director, Medical Museion
Introduction to the workshop theme: Jan Eric Olsén, Medical Museion
• 13.25 – 14.10
Roundtable presentation, 4 minutes each: background, interests, perspectives…
• 14.15 – 15.00
Teresa Nielsen (Vejen Art Museum): “Vejen Art Museum: a project for the blind – to the delight of many others”.
15.00 – 15.30
Jan Eric Olsén (Medical Museion): “Tactile extracts from the blind-historical collection”.
• 16.00 – 16.45
Lucy Lyons (London): “Touch but don’t touch: touching by proxy”.
• 16.45 – 17.30
Ane Pilegaard Sørensen (Medical Museion): “Between bodies: exhibiting medical materialities”.
• 17.30 – 18.00
Erik Hippe (Copenhagen): Demonstration of medical palpation.
Royal Academy of Arts, Friday 11 April
• 10.00 – 10.45
Zoe Laughlin (Institute of Making and the Materials Library Project, London): Title TBA
•11.15 – 12.00
Michael Renner (Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst, Basel): “Ceramics: intersection of the tactile and the visual”.
•13.00 – 13.45
Tony Hildebrandt (Instituto Svizzero, Rome): “Drawing blindfolded: on the relation of touching and memory”.
• 13.45 – 14.30
Jakob Bak, Jamie Allen, David Gauthier (Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design): Title TBA
• 15.00 – 15.45
Anette Stenslund (Medical Museion): “Touching absence: the smell of nothing”.
15.45 – 16.30
Interlude on touching
• 16.30 – 17.15
Laura Liv Weikop (Danish Design Museum Copenhagen): “The Exhibition Lab : from glass cases to affect”
• 17.15 – 17.45
Contacts: Associate professor Jan Eric Olsén, Medical Museion, email@example.com.
Even in academia, where much is done on a voluntary basis, it is generally acknowledged that good work deserves a correct remuneration. A lot of labour is involved in publishing a peer-reviewed scholarly journal and, whether access to the publication is open or subscription-based, there is always a cost involved. In the real world, no one expects anything to be free, except for a smile and the sun, maybe.
Over the last couple of years I have been contacted by a handful of scholars who announced that they do not want to contribute to or review for LLC anymore because they object to 'giving away their research and peer reviewing for free to a publisher who charges readers and makes a profit'. I regret that this point of view diabolizes LLC by romanticizing the ideal of Open Access publication.
In the first part of this editorial, I'd like to take the opportunity to explain why this perspective on LLC is false on at least three points and why a decision not to devote any time or effort to LLC directly affects Open Access publications. In the second part of this editorial I am presenting a report on the past record-breaking year of publishing LLC. The Journal of Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.1. Three points to consider before turning your back1.1. Ownership & Copyrights
Let me start by emphasizing that LLC is not owned by the Press but by the European Association for Digital Humanities (EADH, formerly known as ALLC). Every five years, EADH re-negotiates the contract or puts the publication of the Journal – not the ownership – up for tender. A very important and substantial part of the negotiations concerns author and readership services, terms and conditions. For example, as an author publishing in LLC, you do not 'give away your research' but you retain all copyrights. All you do is sign a licence which gives EADH the right to have your work published on their behalf by the Press. This is clearly stated in the footer of the first page of each published paper. This means that as an author, you retain any right to make a preprint version of the article available on your own personal website and/or that of your employer and/or in free public servers of preprints and/or articles in your subject area, provided that where possible you acknowledge that the article has been accepted for publication in LLC.
It is true that for the moment, you cannot make the accepted postprint manuscript available in the same way during the first 24 months after publication, but this term is currently under discussion. It is also true that, for the moment, you can never make the PDF of the final typeset and published version of your article available for free, e.g. in institutional repositories, for the simple reason that there is copyright involved in the typesetting by the Press. Just as the Press respects the copyrights of the authors and the licences to the EADH, we should respect the copyrights of the Press. There are legal systems to obey, after all. However, both the EADH and the LLC Editorial Team are in constant discussion. with the Press to see what could be done about these restrictions. One of the outcomes of this ongoing and open discussion has been the freely accessible online publication of the DH2012 conference issue (LLC 28/4) for a period of three months after publication. This will certainly be a recurring initiative which could hopefully be extended to other issues as well.
So what do you get out of it, apart from retaining your copyrights? Well, your publication is included in a highly esteemed scholarly Journal with a long tradition, a wide distribution, and a high appreciation. Further, the peer review process helps to improve your paper and the copy-editing and typesetting helps to improve your paper's readability. Your paper is published both in print and online where reference links to cited work are included and related data files can be linked to the article. Your published paper can be accessed by ca. 600 personal subscribers, and scholars and students in over 3,500 institutions worldwide. Your publication is indexed by the most important indexing/abstracting services in the humanities, including MLA, ISI Web of Science indexes, INSPEC, ABELL, ABES, LLBA, etc. And as LLC is receiving a yearly Impact Factor, publishing in the Journal certainly does no harm to your academic record.1.2. Subscription Fees & Membership Fees
Subscription fees are collected by the Press on behalf of ADHO and all of its constituent organizations, namely the EADH, ACH, CSDH/SCHN, aaDH, JADH and CenterNet. The subscription rate is agreed upon yearly. Up to 2013, membership of an association of your choice or joint membership of ADHO was by subscription to the Journal only. In 2013, this changed, and it is now also possible to become a (joint) society member and pay the corresponding fee without paying for a subscription to the Journal. Currently, this proves to be popular with student members who have access to the Journal through their institution. It is, however, a misconception that opting for the membership-only fee would only affect the Press's profit. Under the current contract, only 30% of the net profit remains with the Press. The remaining 70% of the net profit goes directly to ADHO and its constituent organisations. However, there is always a fixed cost involved in making a Journal whichever publication model is chosen or whatever the circulation of the Journal – we did agree at the beginning of this editorial that that good work deserves a correct remuneration. The profit which is at stake here is your very own associations' income.1.3. LLC funds DH (and Open Access)
LLC generates a substantial revenue for all Digital Humanities Organisations represented in ADHO. The total income from LLC received by ADHO in 2013, i.e. 70% of the net profit of 2012, was over 80,000 GBP (ca. 97,000 EUR; ca. 132,000 USD; ca. 146,000 CAD; ca. 151,000 AUD; ca. 13,613,000 JPY). ADHO distributes this income among the constituent organisations using a disbursement system which takes into account the individual and joint memberships and the geographical location of institutional and consortia subscriptions. A huge share of this income is used by ADHO and its constituent organisations to jointly fund, for instance, the publication subventions of DHQ, Digital Studies/Le Champ Numérique and DHCommons, the DH web infrastructure including DHQ hosting costs, conference support, prizes, awards and bursaries, etc. The rest of the income is then passed on to the constituent organisations on the basis of the disbursement scheme. Each constituent organisation uses this income to realize their own programmes and actions to promote, support and further the Digital Humanities.
So, if anyone makes a huge profit from the Journal, it is your very own association. Their income through the Journal allows your association to invest in the Digital Humanities the way you, as a voting member, decide upon.
To put it simply: by supporting LLC as a subscriber, author or reviewer, you support ADHO as well as your own association and you facilitate the funding of many initiatives in DH including the publication of Open Access publications. To put it differently, a subscription to LLC does not only cover the cost involved with the publication of LLC, but also the cost involved with the publication of the other Open Access publications which are offered by ADHO for free.2. A Year's Work in Publishing LLC
2013 has by all measures been a record-breaking year for LLC. The Journal has never had more subscribers, never received more submissions, never published more papers on more pages, never received a higher Impact Factor, and never generated more income for ADHO and its constituent organisations.2.1. Figures
In 2013, LLC managed to raise its individual subscriptions again by a healthy 12%. The Journal also received 34.58% more submissions than in 2012. With 144 manuscripts submitted from 34 different countries, LLC confirms the upward trend which started in 2011. The breakdown of the submitted papers per country in 2013 shows that most submissions still come from Europe (74) with the UK (17), Germany (11), the Netherlands (6), Belgium (5), France (5), Italy (5), Switzerland (5), Spain (4) and Greece (4) as the main providers of copy. Other European submissions came from Norway (1), Portugal (2), the Russian Federation (2), Cyprus (1), Ireland (2), Poland (2), Sweden (2) and Turkey (1). The second highest number of submissions came from the US (32). Asian authors produced 20 submissions: China (6), India (4), Japan (2), Malaysia (2), Taiwan (2) and 1 each from Iran, Israel, Hong Kong and Korea. The rest of the submissions were sent in from Canada (8), Australia (5), Africa (3 – Egypt, Morocco & Nigeria), Mexico (1) and New Zealand (1).
This is a very pleasing result which reflects the geographical distribution of the constituent organisations of ADHO which adopted LLC as their official Journal. These figures partially fulfill the objectives I outlined in my editorial in LLC 26/1 with regards to outreach to scholars in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Australia, and the Middle East. However, there is still room for improvement here, and I'd like to call upon your assistance to promote LLC as a publishing venue for all digital scholarship in the Humanities worldwide.
Also, LLC keeps on performing well with respect to speed and acceptance rate. The average time taken between submission and first decision for manuscripts submitted in 2012 was 133.42 days for full papers and 159.76 days for short papers. The average time for first decision for manuscripts submitted in 2013 was 80.20 days for full papers and 66.38 days for short papers. 36.46% of the full papers and 26.7% of the short papers submitted in 2013 received a decision in the same year. The average time taken between submission and final decision for revised papers submitted in 2013 was 32.47 days for full papers and 25 days for short papers. The accepted papers were published in advance access on in under six weeks from the final decision and we are heading towards a five-week mark.
Although these average times are very good considering the growth, size, and scope of the Journal, I am very sensitive to comments of authors who express their wish for a faster review track. A scholarly Journal like LLC is hugely dependent on the availability of peer reviewers, and although the demand to publish in LLC is growing, I observe a declining willingness to review for the Journal. Also, because of the broadening scope of the Journal and the geographical diversity of its authors, many manuscripts are submitted on subjects outside the traditional nucleus of Anglo-American centred literary and linguistic computing. This is no doubt a positive trend for the Digital Humanities, but on a managerial level, it can create delays in the peer review process when a sufficient number of appropriate reviewers cannot be invited. One author even decided to withdraw his submission because he was not able to suggest any subject specialist to the Journal besides himself. In order to improve the peer review process, I'd like to invite anyone who has not already done so to come forward and register as a reviewer by creating or updating your account in the Journal's online system and flagging your areas of expertise.
The overall acceptance rate of all submissions has come down from 40.21% in 2012 to 34.95% in 2013. Of the original submissions, 59.09% were sent back to the authors for revision in 2013 (49.06% in 2012). The rejection rate of original submissions after the first round of peer review has decreased from 31.13% in 2012 to 26.36% in 2013.
Production continues to run smoothly and all four issues appeared ahead of schedule in 2013. Volume 28 published a record number of 59 papers, which is an increase of 119% compared to 2012. Thanks to ADHO and OUP, subscribers to LLC were treated to 58% more pages compared to 2012 at no extra cost. The 2013 volume contained 753 pages compared to 476 pages in the 2012 volume.
The Journal more than doubled its Impact Factor which has increased from 0.431 (June 2011) and 0.333 (June 2012) to 0.717 (June 2013). Although LLC is not purely a linguistics Journal, it ranks at 60th of the 161 journals in SSCI Linguistics (101st in 2011).2.2. Contents
The contents of volume 28 were as diverse as the DH community itself and mainly consisted of thematic collections of papers. In my editorial to 27/1, I already identified the formation of thematic clusters of interdisciplinary research as the second of four evolutions in the Digital Humanities. The first issue published a thematic collection on dialectometry edited by John Nerbonne and William A. Kretzchmar Jr. This exciting collection demonstrated that the traditional use of computational and quantitative techniques in dialectology co-exists alongside novel developments in the field, such as the application of dialectometric techniques to sociolinguistic and diachronic research questions and experiments with techniques from spatial statistics, geographic information systems, and image analysis. The second issue published the long-awaited collection of conference papers from DH2011 and was edited by Katherine Walter, Matt Jockers, and Glen Worthey. This conference issue reflects the conference theme of 'Big Tent Digital Humanities' and promotes an inclusive view of the Digital Humanities which is at the heart of the Journal. Apart from four unsolicited contributions and five book reviews, the third issue contained a thematic section of six papers coming out of the Interface 2011 Symposium and which highlights the wealth and breadth of early-career research. This thematic section was edited by seven young scholars as a hands-on exercise in journal management: Alberto Campagnolo, Andreia Martins Carvalho, Alejandro Giacometti, Richard Lewis, Matteo Romanello, Claire Ross, and Raffaele Viglianti. The fourth issue presented a collection of papers presented at the DH2012 conference and was edited by Paul Spence, Susan Brown, and Jan Christoph Meister. The thematic and methodological wealth demonstrated in this conference issue is in line with the overall theme of the conference: ‘Digital Diversity: Cultures, languages and methods’. This impressive conference issue was made accessible for free to everyone during a period of three months after publication. This will surely be a recurring initiative, because there is no better publicity for the Journal and the community it represents than to increase the accessibility to its contents.
Volume 29 of LLC promises to be at least as exciting as the previous one, albeit less voluminous. The first two issues will publish a good number of regular, unsolicited copy which is already available in advance access. The last two issues are reserved for the DH2013 issue and a thematic issue on Computational Models of Narratives.
With a growing number of submissions published in advance access, a good part of the 30th Jubilee volume of LLC is filled up nicely, but there are still some slots available. The Journal is already accepting proposals for thematic issues to be published in 2016.
It has been a wonderful year for LLC and the future looks bright, thanks to the many people involved in editing, producing and publishing the Journal. First of all, I should like to thank our authors, book reviewers, anonymous peer reviewers, and guest editors for their important contribution to the Journal and their service to the community. A special word of thanks goes to the production and marketing people at OUP who have done a terrific job in producing and publicizing the Journal. Thanks to Sarah Scutts and Victoria Smith and their publishing team, a special thanks to Sarah Beattie who served as LLC's Production Editor for a year, and a very warm welcome to Deborah Hutchinson who has taken over from Sarah since July 2013. Thanks also to Jane Wiejak and her marketing team.
At the end of 2013 we say goodbye to Ron Van den Branden who has served the Journal over the last three years as its Book Reviews Editor. Ron has invigorated the number and importance of book reviews in the Journal and has done a wonderful job in prospecting, commissioning, and editing reviews. I'd like to thank Ron for all his work and for his ongoing support to the Journal as a member of the Editorial Team. My personal gratitute also goes to our Associate Editors Wendy Anderson and Isabel Galina for their hard work, much of which remains hidden from the readership.
Last but not least, I should explicitly thank the readership for their support and feedback. I'd be delighted to hear back from you and receive any feedback on the Journal or suggestions for improvement. You can do this by including the hashtag #LLCjournal in your tweets or by contacting the Journal via email and you can stay informed by following @LLCjournal on Twitter, find us on Facebook, visit the Journal's website regularly or sign up to be notified automatically whenever a new issue becomes available online.
Thank your once again for subscribing to the Journal and supporting the Digital Humanities organisations.
Disclaimer: all figures and facts presented in this editorial are quoted from public ADHO & EADH reports.
In just a few weeks I’ll be teaching a class on Public Health Risk Communication, as part of the Public Health Science Communication course at University of Copenhagen. Despite the topic being big enough to cover a whole course in its own, it will with 90 minutes available only be possible to give a brief introduction to Risk Communication and public health. To compensate a little for this I have therefore been searching for possibilities for further studying, which I could recommend to the students.
Online course: Emergency Risk Communication
One of my findings is an online course in Emergency Risk Communication offered by the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice, University of Washington. It is free and takes only an estimated 2,5 hours (thus it is also mainly an introduction to the topic). I decided to take the course yesterday before adding it to my list of “further readings and materials in Public Health Risk Communication”.
Background information about the course
The course is very practice-oriented and less theoretical. The developers’ approach to the course and described target audience is that “if you work in public health, during a crisis or emergency, you will be likely to become a risk communicator, even if your job description does not include public information or media relations”. Therefore the course’s main objective is to teach how to plan for an emergency, create effective messages, and interact with the media and community in times of crisis. This is clearly illustrated in the below learning objectives:After completing this course, you should be able to:
A well crafted and structured course
All in all I found the course quite useful and very well put together. I felt it gave me a good basic insight into some of the main components of Emergency Risk Communication. It took me about 2 hours to finish, but it has materials for extensively further studying. Throughout the different modules it is full of links to guidelines, templates, check lists, background literature, resource websites etc. useful in developing an emergency risk communication plan or strategy. All the links are also collected in an easily accessible Toolkit, which makes the course even more hands-on-oriented and user-friendly.
Another great aspect of the course is that is makes use of many real life examples and includes for example interviews with public health professionals who suddenly found themselves involved in emergency risk communication. You are presented with a situation similar to what they experienced and is asked what actions you would take. Afterwards you are then presented with their actions and the outcome of that. This works very well and helps in keeping one’s interest and attention. The course also makes sure to use many different cases of public health emergencies covering all from outbreak of infectious diseases, food safety issues, environmental health risk, to natural and man-made disasters. Again, great to keep one’s attention and making it relevant to people working in many fields of public health.
Social media and Emergency Risk Communication
A very positive aspect of the course was, seen from my perspective, that social media and its role in emergency risk communication is given much attention. Many examples of its use is presented and it is consistently mentioned throughout the different modules of the course. Apart from being of course a super important aspect to include it also gives you a feeling of the course being up-to-date.
In conclusion, it’s definitely a course worth spending 2,5 hours on. As said it is not very theoretical or academic oriented, but it has great references if one feels like digging into more of that, and is relevant for students as well as public health professionals proned to get involved in public health emergencies in one way or the other. You get a nice little diploma when passing the final assessment test and can, if relevant also apply for official credits for the course.
As member of the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) I receive a monthly newsletter with relevant Public Health news from the region. I have previously criticized EUPHA for their lack of focus on public health communication (see blog post “European Public Health Association and the missing communication category”). I maintain my critic, but must also congratulate them when public health communication does sneak its way into for example their newsletter.
Thus, in the January 2014 newsletter under Upcoming Courses and Conferences attention is given to the Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET), which will take place in Lugano, Switzerland 26-28 June 2014. The conference aims to bring together communication researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, ranging from healthcare specialities to the human and social sciences.
The first Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) was hosted by the Health Communication Research Centre at Cardiff University, UK in 2003 and was attended by more than 200 participants from 20 countries. Based on its success COMET has now established itself as an annual interdisciplinary, international event.
COMET is described as using a problem-oriented approach, and places special emphasis on the dissemination of high quality research in interpersonal, mass communication, and practical ethics which is directly relevant to healthcare practitioners.
The 2014 conference will focus especially on the dissemination of ongoing research in Doctor-Patient communication studies, health communication in the media, as well as practical ethics which engages directly with healthcare practitioners. Looking at the list of proposed topics and keynote speakers, it does seem like especially the doctor-patient communication will be given much attention, but I’m happy to note that themes like “Communicating Risk and Uncertainty”; ” Interprofessional Communication and Hospital Management Systems” and “Media and Health Communication” also figures on the list.
Assessing myself unlikely to attend, I do hope that the conference will set up a hashtag for Twitter and encourage social media activity during the conference, so that a broad audience (including me) can be reached.
The organisers of the conference accepted proposals for either panels or paper presentations (oral or poster) within the main themes up until 31st January 2014, so unfortunately the deadline has been passed, but I look forward to seeing the complete programme once it becomes available.
You haven’t noticed this, because you don’t read my blog yet, but this is the first newsletter I’m writing in three months. It’s also the last public one for a while.
You’re growing so quickly, and I want to write to you a ton. But you’re a much more autonomous person now than you were even just three months ago. I’ve already been shaping your online presence with these newsletters. Maybe it’s time to back off and let you craft your own when the time comes. Up until now, I’ve been justifying these letters to myself as being really about me and my perceptions of you. But it’s getting harder to write amusing trivialities without revealing the person you’re becoming. I want to leave that to you.
Twoddlerhood is in full swing. This appears to be the first age of deafness to my questions, but I can hardly stay grumpy at you for that: it’s mostly because of your total absorption in what you’re doing.
I’m slightly miffed to report that one of your favorite activities is rejecting people. “No Sierra!,” you shout. “No Rio! No Romy. No Mary. No Luke. No… mama. Yes mama.” Well, at least you grudgingly acknowledge the hand that feeds you most often.
You need feeding, for all of those major, major growth spurts over the last few months. Feelings are the biggest every time. You’re sucking down milk like nobody’s business, building bones I would think. You’re moody and have strong preferences. In other words, you’re two.
Some of your newest mad skills:
In the “notable lack of mad skills” department: first and second person pronouns are hard to learn when there are just the two of us. Our conversations are sometimes like Who’s On First.
Your current favorites:
The other day we held your second birthday party, themed Trucks and Fans. A smashing success. We colored and assembled “DIY” (pre-cut) pinwheels, we colored little unfinished wood cars with markers made especially for wood (who knew those existed?), we played with Legos. The house was a bustle of joy. The store-bought cake was unexpectedly delicious. Everyone had a good time, and then they were all gone, and you and I giggled our way to bedtime.
I love you so much, Nico. Happy second birthday — and many, many more.
PS pix, as usual.
I have started a small experiment on Tumblr. To collect the online culture of Medicine.
Using the simple, but amazing IFTTT (it really does put the internet to work for you!) I’ve set up a number of automated recipes that collect content from a number of sources: Instagram, Youtube, Flickr, and Twitter. The original idea for which I was inspired by the Horniman was to include photos taken by visitors at our museum. But then I thought why not widen the scope. So I decided to look at how people portray medicine in the world of social media.
While setting up the recipes I started looking into what hashtags to follow on Instagram and was quite surprised by a number of facts:
There’s a lot of content out there. And this is where IFTTT comes into the picture. Whenever we “like” or “favorite” content from one of museum accounts on these platforms, ITFFF automatically adds the picture or video to our Tumblr queue and it becomes part of the collection. Simple as that!
At the moment I’m not informing people (other than “liking”) nor asking for their permission to include their photos on the Tumblr. Should I be doing this? I do make sure to link back to the original content and include the original description, and in today’s sharing culture isn’t that more or less acceptable? On the other hand, I guess a simple “We like your photo, mind if we feature it on our Tumblr?” could also work. It does make the process a bit more time-consuming, but on the other hand I wouldn’t like to upset anyone.
What do you think of this idea? Any other platforms or hashtags we should be following?
(thanks to Victoria Pearce from the the Horniman Museum and Gardens for sharing the idea of using IFTTT with Tumblr)
This semester I’m offering a new course, Improving the Past [syllabus], that is another attempt on my part to capitalize on what we’ve learned from recent research about how young people use digital media. Last year I wrote a series of posts I called The History Curriculum in 2023 in which I argued that within a decade we should be focusing our teaching around four key areas of skill: making, mining, marking, and mashing. Improving the Past takes on the first and last of these criteria.
Last year my department decided that I couldn’t teach my admittedly controversial course, Lying About the Past, in its full form and I chose not to teach it in the version our undergraduate committee proposed, one that would limit my students’ creative endeavor to the confines of our classroom. Because that course had generated so much student enthusiasm, I started thinking about ways to capture that enthusiasm that would also be acceptable to my colleagues. A close friend and former George Mason colleague helped me clarify my thinking on this and had several fantastic suggestions, one of which morphed into the current course.
The basic premise underlying the course is that there is a long history of attempts to “improve” the past, whether it was the sudden disappearance of Trotsky from the history of the Soviet Union, or a more recent claim by a Virginia textbook writer that thousands of slaves took up arms in the Civil War to defend the institution that held them in bondage. And then there are those faked Civil War photographs like the one provided here. Of course, this history of improvement extends all the way to the origins of our profession when, for instance, Thucydides put words into the mouths of his subjects in his history of the Peloponnesian Wars. At least Thucydides was up front about his improving of the past.
Given this long history of improvement of the past — whether with good intent or bad — it seemed to me important that students, whether history majors or not, need to learn to think critically not only about why the past is being improved, by how. How is information altered and woven into compelling new narratives? What role does technology play in both the alteration and the dissemination of such knowledge? How can technological tools help us ferret out distortions of the historical record?
One of the most important takeaways for me as an educator from my experiences with Lying About the Past is that my students learned best when they were making a hoax out of the available (mostly true) historical facts. As a result, Improving the Past is built around making and mashing. In addition to studying the many ways the past has been improved, my students will do some of their own improving. They will select historical texts, images, and maps that they will then alter, preferably subtly, to create a new and improved narrative about the past. Then they will write about why they made the choices they made, how the new narrative might change our understanding of the past, how an improved past might be easier to teach, and what they learned from their experiences.
A glance at the syllabus will show that I’m placing a big premium on collaborative work in the course. There are two reasons for that emphasis. The first is that the work I’m asking them to do is difficult and each student will come to class with a different level of experience with history and with technology. The more they can pool their intellectual resources, the more they’ll get out of the class. The second is that I’m emphasizing the lesson that historical work is heavily collaborative, especially in these days of digital scholarship, and so I want to drive home the idea that by working together they are mirroring what, increasingly, we do in our own work. And lest anyone be concerned, my students’ “improvements” of the past will not be released to the Internet.
I am fortunate that the university has just opened two new active learning classrooms and I was able to grab one for this course (see below). I have not had the good fortune to teach in such a space before and so I’m looking forward to monitoring the ways the classroom design does (or doesn’t) facilitate the kind of work I’m expecting from my students. Given what I’ve written recently about spaces for history teaching and learning, I’m excited to be in such a new and different room. Notice, for instance, the wrap around white boards and the lack of an obvious “front” to the room.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the class. I’ll report in later in the semester on whether it’s working or not.
I actually thought I had blogged about it before, but a search through my posts shows me that the #sm4ph Twitter chat has been neglected. So hereby making up for that.
#sm4ph is a Twitter hashtag dedicated to exploring aspects of social media use and how it affects public health, including the academic field of Public Health and the public’s health at large. Until recently it was a monthly chat (although not really active in the second half of 2013) but since January 2014 it has been upgraded to a weekly chat. It is moderated by Jim Garrow, who is director of Digital Public Health in the Department of Public Health in the City of Philadelphia and works like other scheduled Twitter chats: A moderator choses (often based on inputs of other chat participants) a number of questions for discussion, which are then discussed at a designated time. The #sm4ph chat takes place every Wednesday at 9pm Eastern Time (which in central Europe time means at 3am (!))
Due to the time difference I have never been able to take part in the chat, but as with other similar chats an archive is stored and made available through a website (in this case www.phsocmed.wordpress.com). In addition, the hashtag is regularly used, also by myself, for tweets which relate to the topic of social media and public health. Doing a regular check-up on #sm4ph on Twitter is a great way to get updated on new studies, initiatives and people (mostly US-based) related to social media and public health.
Should I next Wednesday night suffer from insomnia, I might try to join the chat. If not I will most likely be checking in on the Storify summarizing the chat afterwards. Of course the topic discussed is not always of interest to me, as my main interest is in public health science communication, but still it is a good way to keep up to date on ideas, initiatives and innovations in using social media for public health.
Briefly - Hopper is something new in the travel / local space. In their own words:
What if you could plan an amazing trip based on a vague idea — like “spring surfing in California” or “Mediterranean cruise”? What if logistical information popped up right when you needed it, so you wouldn't have to spend hours on research? This is our vision: to make planning a trip an effortless extension of discovering and exploring new places.
We spent several years experimenting with different tools, technology and algorithms to collect, organize and manage massive amounts of travel data. The result is a new kind of trip planning engine, powered by the world's largest structured database of travel information.
I've not remotely explored the site, but I see it as part of a trend which involves rich exploration experiences including plenty of imagery, the social aspect of local and specifically travel combined with smarts involving itinerary planning and travel booking. There are some similarities with the recently acquired RouteSet demo from PerceptLabs and also with the geo-microblog site Findery.
Visually, the exploration of a place on Hopper looks like this:
Which is to say - visually very rich with images provided (I assume) by the community. This wave of modern location products makes one ask the question - how important is the map for (engagement) in local search?
Right now, the site has some issues. As a signed in user I'm told to browse others' experiences and 'save' what I find interesting. Howerver, there is no mention of a 'save' action on any of the posts on the site. Consequently, it is a little hard right now to give a write up of how the site works. I do note posts have a reference to a source. Does hopper crawl these sources? or do the users cross post?
Update: regarding saving - a search on google for 'site:hopper.com save -near' surfaces pages which contain the word save, like this one: http://www.hopper.com/list/cities/-378 . However, the page itself according to Chrome has no instance of the string 'save' on it. Looking at the source for the page shows that there is actually a save button and other mechanisms in place. Not sure what is amiss here. Testing on IE also fails to surface any visible save functionality.
Update: I figured out the save mechanism. There is a star on each entity. Hitting the star *saves* the entity. This is a pretty poor design. Stars are generally used in interfaces associated with the term 'favourite'. Telling users they need to 'save' entities, then using a different metaphor for this action will, if I am any sort of average user, result in a lot of lost opportunity for engaging users.
In 2012, Adam Bencard and I attended the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSA) conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The conference was full of energy, curiousity-driven conversation, a perhaps unsurprising amount of great vegetarian food given all the animal studies scholars, and interdisciplinary in the manner of a delicious banquet rather than a fragmented and depleted vending machine.
Whilst in Milwaukee, I was also introduced to the European chapter of SLSA, and I’m now sitting on the board and very much looking forward to the 8th SLSAeu conference in Turin, Italy this June. The conference theme is ‘Life, in Theory’, and the website contains a full description and a call for papers under several different thematic strands. Deadline is January 31st, submissions info here or via info[at]litsciarts.eu. From the website:
The VIII European Meeting of the Society for the Study of Literature, Science, and the Arts aims to continue the conversation between science and the humanities on the implications for our projected futures of the manipulation, administration, and governance of life forms. The concept of life today no longer provides sufficient ontological ground to distinguish among different forms of life and to guide ethical, political, legal, or medical actions. Thus, a discussion across disciplinary forms of knowledge and theories of life, and the practices they authorize, is literally to confront issues of life and death.
Alongside paper presentations, roundtables, keynotes from the likes of Prof. Robert Esposito and Prof. Cary Wolfe, Adam and I are organizing a public performance event as part of the conference, and a bioart exhibit is also being planned.