All posts by chalpern

Writing Assignment #2: The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a massive archival collection of information of many types of media. It describes itself as, “…a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” The Archive functions as an internet library in two ways, it is a library on the internet, but also the contents of the library is basically the entire internet. The Archive contains a tremendous amount of data on literally all kinds of media contained on the web. One particularly impressive feature is the Wayback Machine, which allows users to access web pages over time, including pages, and versions of pages that no longer exist. For example, I can use the Wayback Machine to access the 4/27/1999 edition of espn.go.com. I can use the site as it was on that day, which could be a great research tool in addition to being a very cool feature. The Wayback Machine speaks to one of the ultimate goals of the Internet Archive, which is to provide a historical record of the internet for future historians and academics. It has partnered with throngs of highly decorated institutions and has been around since the beginnings of mainstream internet usage.

This digital collection meets and surpasses all of the criteria set by Timothy W. Cole in his article, “Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections.” These criteria have to do mostly with practical issues like credibility, proper citation, and accessibility. This relatively low bar is easily met by the Internet Archive. Some features that stand out, relating to these criteria, are that the data in the collection is clearly sourced and respects intellectual property rights.

The Archive also succeeds on a broader scale, when evaluating the Internet Archive for its aesthetic and functional attributes. The Archive is clearly laid out with both icons and text to describe the different types of media contained within. Also the number of each kind of media is displayed below the icon, which gives the viewer an immediate sense of the tremendous scope of the project. All of the media within is sortable by many categories and searchable via queries.  This project is also impressive because, to my knowledge, there is no digital collection that even approaches the size and ease of use of the Digital Archive.

The most impressive part of the Digital Archive is its sheer size and comprehensive sorting. Literally every type of thing I could think of is contained within this archive and it is all catalogued and sorted appropriately. Overall, I think the Digital Archive is a tremendous success and will only continue to become more so as it grows.

Cole, Timothy W. “Creating a Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections.” First Monday 7, no. 5 (May 2002). doi:10.5210/fm.v7i5.955.

Assignment #1: Define Digital Humanities

In order to understand what digital humanities is, we first must understand what the words “digital” and “humanities” mean in this context. “Digital,” refers to the use and/or study of computer technologies. “Humanities,” is what makes up the material that these technologies are applied to (Fitzpatrick). The humanities can broadly be defined as, “…the study of how people process and document the human experience” (Stanford). The humanities has many fields, including topics like history, philosophy, and literature, among many others. Therefore, putting our understandings of both “digital,” and “humanities,” together, we can see that the Digital humanities is either using computer technologies to answer questions about the humanities or asking humanities-oriented questions about computing technologies. Though the line between these two kinds of projects may seem distinct, more and more academics are beginning to acknowledge the line’s arbitrary nature—much like the line between art and the criticism of said art—and widening their scope of what they consider to be digital humanities. However, this does not mean that all humanities projects with a website should necessarily be considered digital humanities; a certain level of scholarship is required. Also, there is often debate as to which discipline particular projects may fall into (Fitzpatrick). Unlike other fields of academia, digital humanities is more focused on a way of performing research than the specific topic being researched (Kirschenbaum). Though the exact boundaries of the field may be debated, we can still acquire a general sense of the Digital Humanities by invoking Justice Stewart’s famous aphorism from his ruling in Jacobellis v. Ohio, “I know it when I see it” (Cornell).

Works Cited

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/30.

“Jacobellis v. Ohio.” Cornell, https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/378/184

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “What is Digital Humanities and What is it Doing in English Departments.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, http://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/38

“What Are the Humanities?” Stanford, http://shc.stanford.edu/what-are-the-humanities

DH Projects Analysis

The Newton Project

1. What kinds of files, data, objects are being used in the project in question?

The Newton Project contains images and transcribed text versions of both the published and unpublished works of Isaac Newton in the fields of theology, physics and mathematics, among others. It also contains secondary sources concerning Newton and his work, but not written by him personally, including miscellaneous journal articles, newspaper articles, and other publishings. The Newton Project has made many works available that were previously unobtainable by the public. The project presents users with an image or an original work alongside a transcribed and translated version of the text.

2. What’s the project research question? Or, questions?

The project’s main research question is to provide a centralized location to interpret, transcribe, encode, and publish Newton’s works with the sole purpose of evolving the modern understanding of the work of Isaac Newton. Newton’s extensive discoveries in math and science, and those discoveries’ effects on modern math and science, make his theories worth studying today. The Newton Project presents its users with an opportunity to provide their own interpretations and help aid in the overall understanding of Newton’s works. The access to unpublished works granted by the Newton project is meant to assist other academics, as well as the general public, in learning more about Newton’s life and studies.

3. What tools are being used? Created?

The tools being used to create the Newton project are various programs, including MathML, TEI-P5, and HTML, used to transcribe the text from images of original manuscripts and documents. Those images are then placed alongside the text in the Newton archive that is being created.

4. What methods are being undertaken?

The archivists are employing several methods in creation of the Newton project. The creators must first establish the materials that will be added to the archive. Then, the original documents must be procured from their owners and related to Newton’s work. Once the documents have been uploaded, and digitally included into the project, the text is transcribed using the aforementioned software. Once transcribed into a text file, the document is tagged with all relevant (searchable and study-able) information to connect it to the rest of the archive.
Cooper Halpern and Zach Kleinbaum