Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy 70th Birthday

Hello friends, I have some more rock history news today.

Yes, I understand it is a day late, but I wanted to be sure I recognized the 70th birthday of Bob Dylan.

We're going back to '62-'64 when Bob was recording an early batch of some of his familiar songs, in what is known as the Witmark Demos.

Bob Dylan - "The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964" from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

Happy (belated) birthday to one of the most influential and celebrated Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beyond The Wall

The readings this week didn't require a written response on the blog, so I'll take a break from the digital history issues and take this time to talk briefly about some history making in the world of rock and roll.

Last Thursday night, May 12, Roger Waters was joined on stage by former Pink Floyd band mate David Gilmour. This is only the third time the two shared the stage in over thirty years. Summer 2010 saw the two unite for a small charity show.

After the intermission, during the widely loved song Comfortably Numb, Gilmour appeared above the wall to sing his pieces and play both mesmerizing and iconic guitar solos. This was the only song that Gilmour joined Waters and his band in the show, with the exception of the last song, Outside The Wall, in which all musicians who performed joined in front of the wall to accept the cheers of the crowd. All musicians who performed with one exception.

In attendance was the other remaining member of Pink Floyd, drummer, Nick Mason. Part way through the performance Mason was escorted backstage and later appeared during Outside The Wall with the the rest of the musicians.

This is the first reunion of the three members since their performance at Live 8 in 2005, which was the bands first reunion in well over twenty years. Since the death of keyboardist Richard Wright in 2008, any effort to reunite can only hope to be a one-off reunion at best.
Speaking of one-off reunions, just take a moment to search that topic regarding Pink Floyd. This latest gathering on the stage of The Wall in London can only serve to excite the Floyd fan and give hope that there may just be another show in the future.

Remember when they were young?
L-R: Wright, Gilmour, Mason, Waters

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Digital Preservation and the Digital Dark Age

Reading Reaction 6

The issues of digital preservation and the Digital Dark Age are topics that we find addressed repeatedly in our readings this week. The Wikipedia entry for digital preservation provides a thorough description of the topic, highlighting many of the aspects of digital preservation as well as many of the practices used by people actively engaged in digital preservation. One specific area the article brings up is that the process of digital preservation is an ongoing process that changes and adjusts with the technological advancements. One of the problems with this, the article states, is that “Digital technology is developing quickly and retrieval and playback technologies can become obsolete in a matter of years.”

This issue is also addressed in the Science Daily article (from 2008). The rapid advances in software are leaving many files inaccessible, thus forever losing their content. Jerome McDonough adds to this idea that “If we can’t keep today’s information alive for future generations, we will lose a lot of our culture.” I find it rather interesting that the article is from 2008. If McDonough is raising these points then, how much more is it relevant now? Well, continuing on, the key to avoiding a digital dark age, according to McDonough, is to first decide which data is valuable, then make sure that data is available by migrating it to a format that is currently in use.

In terms of data that is valuable and worth migrating, the Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections offers a great number of papers and photograph collections from the American intervention in Northern Russia at the end of WWI. Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan is responsible for archiving all of these documents. They did this because a large number of soldiers involved in the intervention were native to Michigan state. You are encouraged to take a look at the large number of documents contained in the digital collections.
Photograph from the Aldred S. Buckler photograph collection from the Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections

Finally, The New York Times features a section on the job market in the field of digital archiving. Since digital preservation started picking up momentum and attention, the need for dedicated individuals to oversee these operations has increased proportionately. Victoria McCargar, preservation consultant and lecturer at U.C.L.A. and San Jose State University says “People with I.T. backgrounds tend to be wrong for the job. They tend to focus on storage solutions: ‘We’ll just throw another 10 terabytes on that server.’” That may be good news for many of us History majors, since we tend not to be the most tech savvy. For doing the active work of operating the storage facility, the pay expected can range from $70,000 to $100,000, while being a consultant can pay up to $150 per hour.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Fascination with Copyright Laws.

Reading reaction 5.

According to the U.S. Copyright Act of 1790, the term of copyright protection is set to fourteen years, so choose your release date wisely. The strong arm of the law is really flexing when we get into the plagiarizing penalties in Section two. For printing another author’s material without their consent results in your having to destroy all the printed material and a stiff “Fifty cents for every sheet which shall be found.” Section four tells the reader that a copy of every published work is to be delivered to the Secretary of State, and preserved. And Section six reminds the reader of the penalties assigned to publishing another author’s material without consent, if you do, you “Shall be liable to suffer and pay to the said author or proprietor all damages occasioned by such injury.”

Boy, 50 cents per sheet... Why'd he try to rip off Tolstoy's War and Peace?!

Along the same subject of copyrighting, Cohen and Rosenzweig discuss how digital historians can have a difficult time dealing with copyright laws of the various media they incorporate in their online productions. “Multimedia historians will probably spend a great deal more time fretting about legal issues than their text-based counterparts.They’ll be consumed with finding copyright information about each item they use, whether it be text, image, audio, or video. If you do wish to copyright your works, it’s best to do it quickly, because “You can’t, in fact, sue anyone in federal court for violating your copyright unless you first register. You can, however, simply wait and register only if it becomes necessary. But if you wait, you can’t recover as much in a suit.” Yet Cohen and Rosenzweig suggest not bothering with registering your digital history site until the Copyright Office has simplified the registration process.
In the Historic Jazz Recordings reading, the copyright issue comes in when dealing with old recordings, as the reading specifies recordings from the “1930s until the end of World War II,” in which copyrights are often nowhere to be found on the remaining package. The common dilemma revolves around whether or not to use copyrighted work and hope that a copyright owner appears. “If the organization loses that gamble, the costs can be high.” That is exactly why museums and libraries and others do not use such orphan material. So what are music fans supposed to do? It’s not as though we’re working with words written on paper, this is music that was composed to be enjoyed by everyone. I can only imagine how happy any of these artists would be to know that we’re still constantly spinning their records a near century after their creation. In the case of orphan jazz or blues records, I would say that the copyright issue is simply a massive hinderance.

I hope you enjoy these.

Mississippi John Hurt from Andy Minnes on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Collecting and Preserving Digital History

A handful of images made into a slideshow, through Flickr.
Here's a map for your viewing pleasures...

Reading Reaction 4.

In this chapter of Cohen and Rosenzweig we really get an idea of the intended audience in their writing, which is not necessarily restricted to a certain age, rather a certain section of internet users with lower levels of proficiency on the web. The writers explain, “It can involve more technical hurdles than a simple history website; legal and ethical concerns, such as invasion of privacy and the ownership of contributed materials; and skills, like the marketing techniques we discussed in Chapter 5, that are unfamiliar to most historians.” It’s historians that the authors are singling out. Even though the authors are bringing up important issues that arise, it is reiterating a familiar theme in Public History, that being the historian is behind on the technological advancements, sort of stuck in their old ways. For such historians, the authors point out that the use of the internet is a likely supplement to the way they’ve always been doing their work, orally passing it on through lectures and discussions. That is where I differ in opinion, because the internet provides a number of ways to present history to the vast audience on the web. Videos, audio recordings, and images are very useful in relaying history, and these formats can be put together tastefully and with more appeal depending on the historian’s understanding of the format.
Don't be left in the dust...

Moving on in the readings, the section on preserving digital history gave way to some personal reflection on how I have somewhat of a season for when I back files up. I make sure to back up all my files on my external hard drive before finals week and before any large paper is due to ensure my security from a laptop dropping. Who’s to say that the external hard drives will not accidentally get dropped, or spilled on? The authors talk about how backing files up is not a difficult task, and that we should “store copies in more than one place, for example, at home and in your office, or in a safe-deposit box at your bank and your desk drawer.” If we were to be working with large websites circulating massive amounts of data we would probably be working with the method of mirroring, which is the copying of data to other computers, constantly backing the files up.
At least your lovely cup is still in tact... You didn't need those files anyways.

At first, I understood the Flickr Commons project to be a page where many institutions would share old images of which they did not have sufficient information on. The institutions post pictures up to the Flickr site and anybody is allowed and encouraged to comment any information they may have on that image. After examining how and when I would use it, I discovered it could be a useful tool in doing research, as well as getting all sorts of people involved in the online discussions about a variety of historical topics. This is a great example of the public and digital world coming together and working hand in hand with many historical societies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not a Genius

I was just reminded of this clip at the beginning of one of my favorite films...

Design and Audience.

     Cohen and Rosenzweig point out an interesting fact about how the average internet user does not normally take the time to explore most web pages they visit, which can be a frustration bit of information for the person who took the time to create the site. “Sometimes coming to a web page directly from another site (rather than the parent site’s home page), the surfer engages in disoriented stumbling rather than rational, linear touring.” Point being, the site should be presented with a simple and easily understood layout if it is to be used as a tool, like many historic websites are intended to be. We later read that simple does not always mean appealing, and so historians are often looking for a middle ground between the functionality of a simple layout and the visual appeal of a site that stands out with its aesthetics. Structuring the website as well as naming the website URL is what should mostly take after an approach that favors simplicity and clarity. When I think of a site that has done a great job of mixing simplicity with aesthetic, The Cool Hunter comes to mind. Yes, I understand that the content is not history related, but it definitely conveys the message of a well presented website. You’ll notice that the site is laid out similarly to a blog site, in that it is primarily vertical, yet it provides many tabs along the sides that are very simple to read and do not clash with the rest of the colors of the site.

     When considering the intended audience of the website, Cohen and Rosenzweig make some useful suggestions that may seem like they are overlapping with the structuring of the site, but what they suggest here is intended to keep a certain group of people returning to your website. Forums or discussion boards are mentioned as methods to keep the site lively and to keep people coming back. One thing that I don’t enjoy about forum discussions or comment boards on most sites is because these discussion boards tend place everyone on a level playing field in terms of the topic under discussion. Too often do I run into people writing about an issue that they have no  proper education in, which is frustrating because they normally do not respect your opposition to what they say. In any case (rant completed), the forum boards are certainly a great way to encourage people to return, as the authors pointed out, as well as having the visitors sign up for an RSS feed or registering their email addresses for updates.

And Old Bailey gets a makeover...

V for Vendetta [2005] from sekerli on Vimeo.