One thing that seems to have gotten lost in the current conversation about access to information in libraries, scholarly communication (by way of Open Access Journals etc) is the notion that these technologies do not very well represent the past.
The Digital Humanities folks seem to be the best workers toward goals of representing the past with their digitization projects and increased contextualization of those documents. The time one takes to learn a subject is also an exhibition of time itself connected with artifacts, ephemera, books, and archived websites.
I mean, design in the networked era is always changing but there is nary a place to appreciate the web itself as a historically situated technology and tool that collects history.
The Internet Archive is the only place where the history of the internet can be browsed.
But that is only one place. Might we need an archive of the archive? You know, Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (L.O.C.K.S.S.). Yes, a micro-tangent.
They do offer a service (for a fee) for cultural heritage institutions called Archive-It, with which libraries, universities, museums etc can curate web crawls (collections of specifically chosen internet archives). This has some value. I worked with this tool a few years back at Folger Shakespeare Library.
But the main issue I see with the internet, digitized objects, born-digital resources, e-books, etc (and their archiving) is that the objects themselves, the files (be they DRM free, MP3, .PDF, .JPEG Open Source or Free Software tools, etc) is that the marks of history fail to make any impression on the objects themselves. These objects (say, digitized manuscripts from the 16th century in Arabic) may be surrounded by dates, historical contextualization and narrative, but are not, in my view, fundamentally distinguishable from an object created just 15 minutes ago. The encoding of the object is the same and the viewing is from the same point-of-view – – – from a screen or networked device of some kind.
Books and paper do not have this trouble. Each copy of an analog object is physically dis-ambiguous from its “exact” copy right beside it AND the travels and journeys (its history) will become evident increasingly over time because we live in a physical world. The networked age and digital agenda can not represent this fact. It can only state it – a fundamentally different thing.
Libraries and museums as physical spaces full of physical objects CAN and DO represent the past in a more visceral mode.
Thank you for reading.
My collection development article, Careful, You’re Being Watched: Surveillance & Privacy, has just been published at Library Journal.
The print edition is out in August and will feature more information and resources.
Please click on over to read this version and subscribe to Library Journal or head on over to your local library to peruse the print.
Thank you for reading.
This is fun.
Plus, it’s another way to promote the various and diverse library/information/collections/metadata (you get the idea) conferences and annual meetings happening every year in the United States and elsewhere.
Librarians like outreach right. That is what I am doing for annual meetings and conferences from large-scale to local (as time allows).
Thank you for reading,
I want to introduce the notion of the guest-post to this blog. Not new to blogs, but new to this blog. It’s an idea that has floated in my brain for a while. But hey, I am busy and the content and connections came slowly.
This essay by Robert Ward reminds me of a Montaigne-sque personal touch on the technical art-essay as penned by Jorge Luis Borges. It works with the historical as well as the playful and abstract. He touches in ancient Egyptian math, its inspiration from maat (deeper order) and dreams of the future mathematical possibilities. I feel this little text is a micro-imaginary library in that most Borgesian vein and should be included in this blog. Enjoy!
Guest Post by Robert Ward – “Architect, Philosopher, Libertine, Scholar, and Gentleman”
(Image courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/kcre7d9 accessed 01 March 2015)
“What is mathematics really? The ancient roots are in Egypt when they noticed the order of order – also called deeper order. This order was expressed in architecture, math, music.. which are seen as a triple expression of deeper order (maat) of the cosmos. Music has structure, hierarchy, cycles and our mind follows these patterns. Music pleases us because it is highly organized. In fact, the reason it effects us so emotionally is because it was the precursor to language itself. We were singing to each other long before we were speaking. Just as we use our native tongue to communicate every day, mathematics is likewise a language used to communicate between your subjective mind and objective reality of the cosmos. Like music which is a different representation of the same thing, mathematical language also has structure, hierarchy, cycles. Unlike spoken languages, math is a formal language. Like our written language it is shown in glyphs. This is why professional mathematicians are so creative; they are not writing new sentences they are creating new alphabets! Mathematics as the formal language we study today was invented by Pythagoras after years of study in Egypt. He took the proto-rational understanding of math and rationalized it into the formal language we use today. In fact, Mathematics is the Anglicized form of the title given to his students mathematokoi – meaning a note on the glyphs – they are not neutral. They are either poorly designed or well designed in the spirit of infoviz. For example, doing multiplication and division with the Roman Numeral system required university education, but anyone can do if effortlessly with the Indian Numeral system. Look at some of the glyphs we use today (sin, log, d/dx) are they an aid to understanding or a barrier?
The area of interest in Mathematics is not part of some grand unified system of ideas. Instead, like their ancient Egyptian roots, they are a collection of observations about pattern structure hierarchy and relationship that someone deemed worthy of study. Perhaps one day we will completely re-conceive mathematics with a totally new formal language by some future Pythagoras. Until then we have Arithmetic, Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra, Calculus, Linear-Algebra, Statistics, and other minor fields of inquiry.
Arithmetic is kind of like the ABC’s of math. It is the study of quantity transformations, very intuitive to understanding operations. Algebra is kind of like the grammar of mathematics. It contains lots of rules on how to manipulate glyphs in the pursuit of isolating a variable. It also introduces us to the idea of a function and a graph. This is very interesting because it shows us the deeper order in two different ways; visually as geometry or symbolically as glyphs. Finally, implicit in the idea of algebra is statement, usually equality which is the sentence of math. Trigonometry is kind of half-grammar and half shape. This is because it was originally a technique in Egypt, Sumer, and Greece to survey land and navigate using triangles. Today it is still useful because it describes the deeper order of cyclical patterns. The original triangles are just diagrams in textbooks and everyone uses the functions as part of algebra.
Geometry, kind of sits off to the side with little connection to Arithmetic-Algebra. Just as Trig can be expressed as part of grammar (Algebra) it can be expressed and even solved without any glyphs at all, but just by drawing triangles. Geometry is the study of shape and is a totally different approach than Arithmetic-Algerba formal language. Instead of glyphs the primitives are drawn out as points, lines, planes etc, and solved that way. Lots of problems are difficult to solve by algebra and easy to solve by Geometry.
Calculus is the bridge between the ancient origin of mathematics and the more modern use. In short it studies what our intuition tells us is unknowable: infinity. The infinitely long function on a graph, the infinitely thin slice of a solid, the direction of a directionless point. It uses all the techniques of the ancient maths and expands a new grammar of integrals, differential, and differential equations. It was originally developed to describe physics.
Linear-Algebra is part geometry and part calculus. It is one of the higher maths that were opened as a result of Calculus. It uses every part of math described thus far to create simulations of reality. See how the deeper order of the world has been described to such an extent we can create models of the flow of time itself! It is the theory used to program computer simulations of physics used in Engineering. Since the invention of the computer, Linear-Algebra has become super useful to solve by numerical methods. The ancient Egyptians attempted to model the cosmos around them by music, by architecture, and by math. Since the mid-20th century with computers running Linear-Algebra, the Egyptian dream has finally come to fruition. It is now possible for man to make a model of the deeper order of the cosmos.
There are all kinds of cool advances every day, perhaps we will one day see a math organized into some ultimate unified system. Until then we continue to use 4000 years of collected observations somewhat organized to model reality on computers. In particular since engineering is applied physics – math is the common language.”
I am beginning a new library job tomorrow, a job that will revolve around Middle East and Arabic studies.
(Image courtesy of Caravan-Serai, Inc. <accessed 02 Nov 2014>)
I will need to learn Arabic.
Who can suggest to me the best resources and methods for learning, not only to speak, but also to read, Arabic?
You can drop those recommendations into the reply box below or reply to me on Twitter: @jlibraryist.
Thank you for reading.
Books and libraries and human beings…
I finally got around to reading my May/June issue of Poets & Writers.
In it is a story about people who declare themselves as names of books. Not names of books that already exist, though there is a place for that, but names of books of stories only they can tell – and use to provoke.
The Human Library was started in the year 2000 in Denmark as a mode of gathering people together in public spaces such as libraries to interact within their communities, to create a safe place where community members can communicate and hear stories from those in their communities they might not normally meet.
The University of Rochester created a safe place in Rochester, NY where people could tell each other stories based on the book they have titled themselves – titles such as “You Can’t Shave in a Minimart Bathroom” and “Vietnam Veteran.” At the events, the “book” is the identity of the person and with that, Human Library has also emphasized a new form of storytelling. Please look up Human Library and read more about it. Maybe your community is perfect for such an event. You could use your local library maybe… 🙂
I think this is a great idea.
My thinking of Human Library sparks a memory from the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, still read as much as ever, still questioned from time to time and just celebrated its 60th Anniversary last year (2013). In that novel, we follow the protagonist who decides he must read books even though all books have been banned. In fact, they are burned. The protagonist is a Fireman, he starts fires to burn books instead of putting them out. At the end of the novel, the multitude of characters who have found ways of getting away from the government, don’t seem to care about books as physical objects (paper at the time of its publication). They have taken a new approach to keeping the great works of literary artifice alive. These characters memorize whole books and then become known as the title of the book they memorized. Maybe the Human Library was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s great novel. Who knows? But what I do know is that if people gathered to tell their novels, their stories, this would be an entirely new idea of the “book club” wouldn’t it?
Books can be burned, eBooks can be removed from devices at the whims of content providers (huh hmmm Amazon), and publishers can go out of business (or consolidate and merge until there is one content provider to rule them all (huh hmmm Amazon), but people are way more messy to put away and remove from circulation…
I see the Human Library as a revolutionary approach to stories, “writing,” the spreading of language through verbal and personal contact as well as an example of provocative intersectionality.*
Thank you for reading.
*Please contact to chat about intersectionality.