How Libraries can support Digital Humanities: reflections on #GaleDHDay

By Antony Groves (Learning and Teaching Librarian at the University of Sussex) @AntonyGroves

At the beginning of May, Gale organised their first Digital Humanities Day at the British Library. The event brought together a diverse range of speakers from around the world who spoke about different aspects of Digital Humanities (DH) scholarship; from infrastructure through to research and teaching. This post will draw out three themes from the day in an effort to better understand how we can support this growing area of work:

  1. Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations. 
  2. There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.
  3. We should work on our own data projects if we wish to really understand what is needed to support the academic community.

Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations.

In the afternoon session, Dr Sarah Ketchley stressed that “Digital Humanities projects are inherently a collaborative undertaking” and the earlier presentations of Professors Mark Algee-Hewitt and Joris Van Eijnatten highlighted this. The work done by Prof Algee-Hewitt and others at the Stanford Literary Lab has involved a number of ‘distant reading’ projects where participants have used a variety of computational techniques to analyse large collections of digital texts. Looking at grammar and language respectively, Prof Algee-Hewitt’s research involved digital novels whereas Prof Van Eijnatten focused on newspapers using The Times Digital Archive; both resources that libraries can provide.

Throughout the day, flags such as these indicated potential roles for libraries in DH collaborations. For example, Dr Julianne Nyhan reflected on infrastructure and the challenges to researchers of obtaining data in a format that can be ‘mined’ – in one case having to obtain a hard drive from a provider. This is somewhere librarians can help and Lisa Mcintosh, Director of Access Services at the University of Sydney Library, shared an impressive list of services offered by their library in support of digital research:

  • Provide content for text and data mining
  • License permission and copyright support
  • Recommending tools and TDM (Text and Data Mining) resources
  • Integrating text mining into Information Literacy classes in the Humanities
  • Assisting humanities teaching staff to integrate text mining in the classroom
  • Getting started with data visualisation training • Data analysis and visualisation guide

There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.

For those wondering which students this area of scholarship might appeal to; the answer is all of them. In an inspiring talk about introducing DH in the Undergraduate Classroom, Dr Sarah Ketchley showed that her 2018 ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ module was full, with 35 students from 21 different departments across campus. Not only is this type of scholarship appealing to students but it is also invaluable to them. For one reason, as explained by Dr Melodee Beals, “evidence is merely data with a direction”. If we want students to critically engage with evidence-based research, helping them to analyse the underlying data is of great importance.

The tools that students use in Dr Ketchley’s class have included OpenRefine, Voyant Tools and more recently the Gale Digital Scholar Lab – a cloud based platform containing a range of software that can be used with Gale databases to which the institution subscribes. This cloud based approach avoided issues encountered by previous cohorts where a whole lesson had to be dedicated to downloading and installing the required programs. Dr. Tomoji Tabata also introduced an open source tool called Stylo to be used for ‘rolling stylometry’, a technique to detect stylistic changes in passages of text.

Throughout the day, reference was made to many different techniques (e.g. topic modelling, named entity recognition, sentiment analysis); tools (e.g. Gephi, Google Fusion Tables, MALLET); and data sources (e.g. TROVE, Hathitrust, Gale Historical Newspapers). With so much out there, it can be hard to know how best to start providing support. Thankfully, Associate Professor Ryan Cordell brought clarity to this undertaking by proposing four steps to teaching humanities data analysis:

  • Start with creativity 
  • Teach using domain specific data 
  • Foreground corpus over method
  • Foreground mind-set over method (‘programmatic’ thinking more important that programming’)

We take a similar approach to developing our Information Literacy training sessions and find that it works well. In the short amount of time that we often get to see students in workshop, making the content of the session as relevant to a given cohort as possible increases engagement. In addition, focusing on how to approach searching (as opposed to how to use a particular tool) means that they can apply this learning to a range of tools that they may encounter not just the one or two included in the session.

“Work on your own data projects to understand what is really needed to support your academic community”.

This is a direct quote from the final presentation by Lisa Mcintosh, which was the perfect way to finish the day. While listening to the research presented throughout the day was fascinating and certainly highlighted areas where we can support this scholarship, managing our own data projects and facing the same barriers that our researchers encounter is what will really help us to understand the support that is most needed.

This may sound daunting but hopefully this post has shared at least a few resources that can be explored further, and take encouragement from Prof Van Eijnatten who asserted that “if I can write a few lines of code anyone can”.

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MmIT bursary for Cilip Conference 2019 #CilipConf19

 

The CILIP Conference takes place in Manchester from 3-4 July. It’s the annual flagship event for CILIP, the library and information association and one of the biggest events in the calendar for UK library and information professionals. The conference brings together delegates from across the sector to meet, learn and share knowledge. It’s a great chance to catch up with colleagues and make new connections. The conference aims to leave you feeling inspired and passionate about the work that we do as professionals.

MmIT are delighted to be able to offer a bursary place. If you haven’t attended the CILIP conference before, this is a great opportunity to listen to the excellent key note speakers and to network. To apply, please email treasurer.mmit@cilip.org.uk by end of day Friday 19th April 2019. Please tell us who you are, where you work/study, and provide us with a draft blog post about your favourite technology (between 400-1,000 words). We will confirm who the bursary will be awarded to by end of day Friday 3rd May 2019, and subsequently publish the winning blog post (we appreciate that the application time is limited so we will give the winner the opportunity to edit the final version of their blog post during the month of May).

Travel expenses are not provided with the bursary place but accommodation is included. This bursary place includes access to both days of the conference, lunch, refreshments and all sessions. We would expect the bursary winner to proactively promote both the conference and MmIT before, during and after the conference using social media.

To keep up to date on conference developments, follow @CILIPConf19 and #CILIPConf19 and visit the website cilipconference.org.uk.

You can also register for the conference. Don’t worry – if you receive a bursary place, CILIP will refund you. You can still book delegate places at the Early Bird discount until 17th May 2019.

Conference tech: the hardware

MmIT Committee member Alison McNab writes:

I’m looking forward to attending #ILI2018 next month (if you are a member of MmIT you can claim a 25% discount – see our blog post for details of how to claim it).  We will be staffing an MmIT stand with giveaways and a competition.

I’m giving a lightning talk at ILI on using social media to promote and amplify events and thought it might be helpful to talk about the tech that helps me do so.  The two devices I use are an iPad and mobile phone.  I find a tablet much lighter and easier than a laptop when balanced on my knees but I do know other people who prefer having the full keyboard on a laptop for rapid tweeting or blogging.

A spare power supply is essential if you wish to keep tweeting after lunch! You can’t guarantee having access to a power point at a conference, but it is probably worth taking your charger plug and lead along just in case.  Delegates who bring and share access to a multi-USB adaptor and/or an extension lead are true digital citizens!

  • Entry-level power banks (left) are low cost and often feature as a “high value” giveaway  from library suppliers and publishers.  They should help you top-up your phone charge to last out the day.
  • The more powerful high-capacity power banks (centre) can carry enough charge to keep your laptop or tablet topped up throughout the conference or a transantlantic flight.
  • My most recent purchase has been a battery phone case (right), which gives me four times the battery life (YMMV), and the some newer versions even offer wireless charging.

My final tip is to charge all your devices and chargers the night before the event starts, and top up the charge whenever possible.  I’ve found an article that advises that shallow discharges and recharges are better than full ones, which mentions the new-to-me  Battery University as an authority!

[Note: my “tech” was purchased personally, apart from the entry-level power bank which was a publisher giveaway.  Obviously other brands of tablets, power banks and phone cases are available….]Technology to keep tweeting at conferences

#ILI2018 : register now for the library innovation conference

MmIT is delighted to be again supporting Internet Librarian International: the library innovation conference, which this year takes place in London Olympia on 16-17 October 2018.  Follow #ILI2018 on Twitter for the latest updates.

Registration is now open – take advantage of the early bird discount or (if you are a member of MmIT) we have a special discount code* just for you.

Themes at ILI 2018 include: new roles, skillsets and tools for librarians; looking at user-driven change; how libraries and info pros are supporting social inclusion, engagement and equality; content: working with new formats and new audiences; marketing: influencing use and expanding audiences; and changes in the scholarly communications landscape.  Check out the ILI at 20 infographic for more about one of our favourite conferences.

MmIT members will be speaking during the conference, and we’ll also be staffing an MmIT stand with giveaways and a competition.

* Members of MmIT should enter priority code MMIT25 during online registration to receive a 25% discount on the conference fee. ILI18

Apply for a CILIP Conference Bursary (4-5 July 2018)

CILIP Conference 2018 – 4-5 July, Brighton

The CILIP Conference returns to Brighton this July with a stimulating line-up of keynote speakers, thought provoking seminars and essential workshops. Meet like-minded colleagues and make new connections for two days of knowledge sharing, discussion, debate and networking opportunities. The conference aims to leave you feeling inspired and passionate about the work that we do as professionals.

MmIT are delighted to be able to offer a bursary place.  If you haven’t attended the CILIP conference before, this is a great opportunity to listen to the excellent key note speakers and to network.  To apply, please email treasurer.mmit@cilip.org.uk by end of day Wednesday 18th April 2018.  Please tell us who you are, where you work/study, and provide us with a draft blog post about your favourite technology (between 400-1,000 words).  We will confirm who the bursary will be awarded to by end of day Friday 20th April 2018, and subsequently publish the winning blog post (we appreciate that the application time is limited so we will give the winner the opportunity to edit the final version of their blog post during the month of May). 

Travel expenses are not provided with the bursary place but accommodation is included.  This bursary place includes access to both days of the conference, lunch, refreshments and all sessions.  We would expect the bursary winner to proactively promote both the conference and MmIT before, during and after the conference using social media and producing a short report for the MmIT Journal.

 To keep up to date on conference developments, follow @CILIPConf18 and #CILIPConf18 and visit the website cilipconference.org.uk.

 You can also register for the conference.  Don’t worry – if you receive a bursary place, CILIP will refund you.  You can still book delegate places at the Early Bird discount until 27th April 2018.

 CILIPConf18

#ILI18 – your opportunity to showcase innovation

Once again MmIT will be supporting the @IntLibIntl #ILI18 Conference, to be held at London Olympia on 16-17 October.  ILI is marking its 20th birthday in 2018 by celebrating innovative libraries and innovative information  professionals  The Call for Speakers is open until Friday 13 April.  We’re particularly looking forward to potential sessions on tech tools and trends, users and user experience, strategising the future, search tools and techniques, and collections and content. See you there?

 

ILCLogo-2017

Blockchain technology and us

MmIT committee member Antony Groves looks at how blockchain technology may impact on the work that many of us do…

Last year Professor Kris Seeburn wrote that “the underlying technology of blockchains will most likely represent a second era of the internet” (2016). Whether or not this is hyperbole, there is certainly growing interest around the use of blockchain technology in research: Jisc Futurist Martin Hamilton (who will be speaking at the MmIT AGM in January) delivered an excellent webinar in October about blockchain in research & education. Last month Digital Science also published a report about the potential use of blockchain technology for scholarly communication and, as detailed in Information Today Europe, will be offering a grant of up to $30,000 for work in this area. However, the reach of blockchain technology may go far beyond research and have wider implications for librarians and information professionals across all sectors. The purpose of this post is therefore to provide a very brief introduction to blockchain technology for MmIT readers, showing where it may impact on the work that we all do, and bring together some useful links to help you find out more about this emerging technology.

To begin, the blockchain was first devised to enable the use of Bitcoin as a peer-to-peer electronic cash system. It provided an innovative solution to one of the main challenges in establishing a digital currency: the need to create a trusted, reliable system that allowed the transfer of money without having to use third party financial institutions. At a very basic level, that is what the blockchain does – it works as a distributed digital ledger enabling trusted payment from one person to another, with each block acting as an entry in that ledger. As Audrey Watters (2016) explains:

Each block aggregates a timestamped batch of transactions to be included in the ledger – or rather, in the blockchain. Each block is identified by a cryptographic signature. These blocks are all back-linked; that is, they refer to the signature of the previous block in the chain, and that chain can be traced all the way back to the very first block created. As such, the blockchain contains an un-editable record of all the transactions made.

The fact that the blockchain is a distributed system means that no one computer centrally holds and controls all of this information; new blocks are added to the chain through a process of consensus building and validation by the network, analogous to Google Docs (at the time of writing there are over 11,000 nodes in the Bitcoin network). It is this unalterable timestamped chain of blocks, establishing clear and open provenance, that could benefit research and scholarly communications. One relatively straightforward application proposed in the Blockchain for Research report is that “a blockchain could provide a notarisation function by allowing scientists to post a text or file with ideas, results or simply data” (2017, p.8).

To be clear, this is still a fledgling technology. Last month Deloitte Insights reported that in 2016 nearly 27,000 new projects related to blockchain appeared on GitHub (a software development platform) but that “about 90 percent of projects developed on GitHub become idle, and the average life span of a project is about one year, with the highest mortality rate occurring within the first six months” (2017, p.10). Despite this, the appetite for blockchain systems has not diminished; it may only be a matter of time until we see this technology underpinning processes and systems that we need to engage with in our roles as information professionals. For example, some of the proposals and applications to date have concerned:

  • Academic and Professional Certification: MIT’s Media Lab created Blockcerts to issue diplomas to a cohort of their students using blockchain technology.
  • Digital Archives: The University of Surrey are currently working on the EPSRC funded project ‘ARCHANGEL – Trusted Archives of Digital Public Records’ with The National Archives and Open Data Institute to develop a blockchain based system that will “ensure the long-term sustainability of digital archives” (2017).
  • Ebook Distribution: DECENT have put forward a use case for ebook blockchain distribution.
  • Fee Payment: In 2014 the University of Cumbria became the first institution to accept Bitcoin payment for tuition fees through their Bitpay.
  • Media Libraries: San-Diego startup, Blocktech, started a crowdfunding campaign to create the Alexandria decentralized media library using blockchain.
  • Medical Records: MedRec, a private blockchain on the Ethereum network, was created by researchers at MIT. This allows patients to access their complete medical history, from multiple providers, in one system.
  • Research Data Management: DaMaHub was a research data management platform using Hyperledger blockchain technologies.
  • Tackling ‘Fake News’: Steve Huckle and Dr Martin White from the University of Sussex have been exploring how blockchains could provide a technological approach to proving the origins of content.

Some of these projects may come to fruition, some may not, but a secure technology that can support payment, accreditation and research integrity is likely to tick many boxes for many institutions. As the list above shows; whether you work in an academic library, health library or public library, developers are starting to think of blockchain applications that have the potential to affect the way that many of us work. Even if these are not realised, at the least, a basic understanding of blockchain technology can help us to better support users looking for information in this area.

In the November/December issue of the Information Management Journal, Victoria Lemieux performs a SWOT analysis of blockchain recordkeeping to see if the hype is justified, concluding that “perhaps the greatest risk will be if information professionals fail to take up the challenge of understanding the capabilities of blockchain-based recordkeeping, allowing its implementation to march ahead without their wisdom and guidance” (2017, p.27). Although it is important that we try to look forward to see how we can continue to best support our users and our sector, it is not always clear how, as individuals, we can do this with limited time or expertise. However, help is at hand – at the MmIT AGM in January we’ll be addressing some of these very challenges:

  • David Parkes will examine techniques, outcomes and tactical insight in the field of near future work.
  • Tabitha Witherick will explore how libraries are uniquely placed to empower people to access, explore and technology in a time when the pace of digital disruption is increasing.
  • Martin Hamilton will reflect on the impact for libraries and librarians of some of the defining narratives of the late Anthropocene era: from climate change and failed states to cheap space travel and artificial intelligence.
  • Alison McNab will discuss current awareness and trend-watching for information professionals.

So sign up for the MmIT AGM, ‘Future Proofing the Library: addressing the issues of today for an innovative tomorrow’, to find out what else 2018 may have in store for information professionals like us.

By Antony Groves.