DCW Volume 1 Issue 17 – Preserving Cont/ext/ent & Anvil Academic Launch!

by Korey Jackson on October 5, 2012

Digital Preservation in Higher Education
Zach Coble

I was particularly interested in a paper mentioned in Roger’s post last week on Archiving Twitter. The paper, recently published by Hany M. SalahEldeen and Michael L. Nelson of Dominican University, found that 11% of resources shared on Twitter are lost after one year (and 20% archived after a year) and after one year we lose .02% per day (for those interested, there are more details on the methods used in the study in an earlier blog post written by the authors). The tweets themselves are not lost but rather the resources linked to in the tweets are lost, such as photos, videos, and websites. It is not news that information on the web disappears, especially in the ephemeral world of social media, but the study affixes a number to the atrophy and places it within the context of significant social and cultural events.

Why is this important? Without the resources shared via social media, we lose not only the context but also important pieces of the conversation. Attached pictures are as much a part of the first draft of history as the 140 characters that describe or comment on the picture. Similarly, Tom Chatfield notes that what is vulnerable is “the network of living connections into which social media is a window: the nexus of sources, resources, sounds, images and updates that together constitute the stuff of many millions of people’s daily experience.”

What are the implications for higher education? This decay of information presents a problem not just to historians in some distant future but to current scholars studying an array of contemporary subjects. However, does higher education have a responsibility to preserve this content? It is impractical on many levels to expect any organization to preserve the entire social media output along with the resources shared on these platforms. But it would be feasible for universities to capture content that hits close to home or fits its curricular or research needs, such as the University of Virginia Library has done with collecting content and allowing the public to upload content regarding the President Sullivan controversy or the Tweeting #OWS project at Emory University’s Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC).

Many libraries and digital humanities centers are already engaging in preservation of born-digital objects and would be logical partners for such projects. More broadly, it is an opportunity for higher education to examine the issues involved in digital preservation, which is still very much an emerging field, and understand how participation can support institutional, curricular, and research needs.

Reporting Out: Anvil Full Disclosure
Korey Jackson

(Cross-posted at http://anvilacademic.org/reporting-out-anvil-full-disclosure/)
It’s launch day. And with Anvil’s new public face comes the pressing need to dig into and detail what we’re up to, what we hope to be up to shortly, and some of our longer-term goals. And how better to take account of goals that include increased scholarly openness and publicness than to do so openly and publicly? As we move forward, this “Reporting Out” feature will be a space for the Anvil team to talk candidly with the scholarly community–to be as transparent about our internal operations as possible.

So, full disclosure. Anvil has some grand ambitions: nothing short of the total realignment of scholarly publishing with the social, cultural, and professional needs of the wider digital humanities community. It’s a tall order, and one we fully recognize as still existing within the realm of the aspirational—especially for what is, at least for now, a compact operation.

We’ve already had some fruitful public conversations about the larger changes we’d like to see in the culture of the academic press. Chief among these is promoting the uptake of web-born DH projects as legitimate scholarship within traditional humanities departments. And I’d point out here that despite the occasional appearance of a sneer at the printed monograph, what we’re really hoping for is the chance to merge the narrative and interpretive capacity of good books with the interactive potential of equally good born-digital scholarship. In other words, it’s a relationship that is not about one-upmanship but productive hybridity, in terms of content, form, and, ultimately, professional and cultural cachet.

While our hopes for humanities publishing are admittedly big, we’re still very much committed to procedural and incremental thinking about scholarly communication reform within the humanities.

A legitimate synthesis of the traditional and the cutting-edge begins by borrowing a page from the tried and true practice of peer review. The gestalt takeaway at our recent board of directors meeting (which convened September 24th at Washington University in St. Louis) was this: right now, in the beginning stages of the Anvil Academic experiment, what we offer the DH community, and the institutions that house its members, is an editorial board that has the pan-academic clout to achieve crossover status for digital scholarship. We will begin marshaling the board to bring needed attention and authority to DH projects that still exist on the periphery of promotion and tenure requirements.

All well and good. The questions that remain–and that we’ll continue to tackle openly on this site–are what exactly “attention” and “authority” will mean and what projects will ultimately constitute Anvil’s core products. A compendium of DH reviews? A more refined series of evaluative guidelines for digital scholarship? Public conversations with scholarly societies, deans and provosts, and other administrative bodies within humanities higher-ed? Fully-realized and fully-vetted web-based projects sponsored in partnership with other institutional presses? The answer, of course, is yes to all of the above. But how we get there in the next six months, in the next year, in the next two years is still being mapped out.

Next week, I will outline our first goals in more detail: specifically, our plans to produce a series of digital scholarship reviews and our procedures for evaluation.

So, full disclosure to be continued….

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