Current Cites (Digital Library SunSITE)

Volume 11, no. 3, March 2000

Edited by Teri Andrews Rinne

The Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720
ISSN: 1060-2356 - http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/CurrentCites/2000/cc00.11.3.html

Contributors: Terry Huwe, Michael Levy, Leslie Myrick, Margaret Phillips, Jim Ronningen, Lisa Rowlison, Roy Tennant

Arms, William Y. Digital Libraries MIT Press, Cambridge, MA: 2000. - As the founder of D-Lib Magazine, Arms certainly has enough credentials to attempt this book. The problem is that it's clear that he hasn't ever had to keep the doors of a real library open. The book is a hodge-podge of history, technologies, and research projects, but by the end you may not be any clearer about how to build functional digital library collections and services, and you certainly won't have any idea about how to integrate digital library collections with existing print ones, or virtual services with actual ones. As an overview, it may be useful to have a brief explanation of a particular technology, but it would help if some criteria for decisionmaking were included. The index is overly selective. - RT

Cliff, Peter. "The Oxford English Dictionary Online" (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue23/oed-review/) and New, Juliet. "'The World's Greatest Dictionary' Goes Online," (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue23/oed-online/) Ariadne Issue 23 (March 23, 2000). See also free tour of the online OED at http://oed.com/tour/. - The UKOLN-based journal Ariadne features two informative articles covering the March 14th release of the OED Online Edition, one an announcement from a member of the OED team, and the other a user survey by a member of UKOLN staff. The venerable Oxford English Dictionary now exists in three recensions: the original fascicles spanning the period from 1884 to 1928; a 1989 second edition, which consolidated further supplemental entries, but without revising extant materials; and now an online version, the fruit of a core group of about 300 OED staff, with technical support from Stanford-based High Wire Press. The OED Online will benefit from a 20-year, 55-million-dollar program of revision, which will take into account recent advances in research, for instance, in the field of etymology. It will also encompass the addition of some 9000 words researched over the last decade, an ambitious 3000 new words per quarter during the year 2000, and untold thousands more through to the end of the revision period, in 2010. Planned additions could actually double the dictionary's present length. Whereas dictionary thumbers might well bewail the curtailment of browsability and of the joys of serendipitous discovery (only one word can be accessed on screen at a time), the online OED promises to compensate with wildly increased accessibility and searching through hyperlinks, full-text search with wildcard features, and synonym finders. Some solace to dictionary browsers may be found in the 25 side-barred links provided to entries in direct proximity to the queried word, according to how they were sorted: alphabetically, chronologically, and so on. Another nice feature, of interest to historical lexicographers and others, is the ability to compare the treatment of any given lexeme amongst the three different editions. The major downside seems to be that the licensing costs for such a gargantuan undertaking are bound to be, in a word, prohibitive, starting at $550/individual, $795/institutional. - LM

Coyle, Karen. "The Virtual Union Catalog: A Comparative Study" D-Lib Magazine 6(3) (March 2000) (http://www.dlib.org/dlib/march00/coyle/03coyle.html) and Dovey, Matthew J. "So You Want to Build a Union Catalogue?" Ariadne 23 (March 2000) (http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue23/dovey/). - These two articles both look at how libraries can create union catalogs — either virtually (simultaneous searching of multiple catalog systems) or physically. Dovey covers differences between the two models, and identifies where each is relatively good or bad. Coyle's piece is the outcome of a recent effort to decide how best to replace the aging MELVYL catalog, the crowning achievement of the University of California libraries. In testing a possible virtual union catalog replacement for MELVYL, Coyle identified four areas that would require more testing and analysis before determining if a virtual union catalog could replace MELVYL: 1) database consistency and search accuracy (searches of different catalog systems must retrieve comparable items), 2) system availability (individual systems must be available 24x7), 3) capacity planning for campus OPACs and the network (a virtual union catalog would place a heavier load on campus network infrastructure), and 4) sorting, merging, and duplicate removal. - RT

Gladney, Henry M. "Are Intellectual Property Rights a Digital Dilemma? Controversial Topics and International Aspects" iMP: Information Impacts Magazine (February 2000) (http://www.cisp.org/imp/february_2000/02_00gladney.htm) - As one of the Committee members who authored the report "The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age" (see: http://books.nap.edu/html/digital_dilemma/) published by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (CSTB), Gladney's article touches on topical aspects of the Report which did not reach Committee consensus. In an intellectually biting tone Gladney brings to light some of the controversial issues surrounding intellectual property rights, and takes a non-partisan role in exposing some of the rhetoric of both copyright maximalists as well as copyright minimalists. Sections on the ideological meanings of copyright, the limits of fair use, distinctions between private use and piracy, and viewing copyrighted materials in light of the 1997 No Electronic Theft (NET) Act make for engaging reading. For example, as Gladney points out, loading a copyrighted work into RAM for viewing via the web constitutes a "copy" of copyrighted material and as such, users may unwittingly be in violation of section 506(a)(2) of the Act — which calls for fines and imprisonment. However, examples such as this explify the reasoning behind the Committee's conclusion that legislative remedies ought to hold off in favor of accumulating further experience with both digital IP issues and technological solutions/developments. Gladney's examples of copyright conundrums and his articulate explication of their surrounding legal environment makes this a valuable and easy to read article. Additionally, the international treatment of the subject creates a broader context in which to view the U.S. stance. A significant bibliography points users to most of the key articles, papers, and reports on the subject. - LR

Morrison, Alan, Michael Popham, and Karen Wikander. "Creating and Documenting Electronic Texts: A Guide to Good Practice" AHDS Guides to Good Practice. London: Arts and Humanities Data Service, 2000 (http://ota.ahds.ac.uk/documents/creating/). - Every publication I've seen to come out of the Arts and Humanities Data Service has been top-notch. This one is no different, and in fact should stand as one of the best explications of digitizing textual material for some time to come. The completely online publication takes you from initial considerations (analysing the text) through digitization and markup to documentation and metadata. The staff of the Oxford Text Archive have been doing this since well before the web, and their experience shows. If you're digitizing textual material, run, don't walk to the one resource that will help you more than any other. - RT

Museums and the Web 2000. International Conference by Archives and Museum Informatics, Pittsburgh, PA. (http://www.archimuse.com/mw2000/). - This web site epitomizes one of the great things about the web. Here is a conference, which at the time of this writing hasn't happened yet, and meanwhile most of the papers of the presenters (over 45 of them) are available online. Those of us who can't make it to the conference can nonetheless attend "virtually," albeit without the hallway chats and in-person networking over drinks. If you have anything to do with a Museum web site, the papers here will be interesting and informative. If you have anything to do with a web site at all, there may still be something of use here as well. If you are interested in past papers presented at this conference, see http://www.archimuse.com/mw.html. - RT

Peterson, Ivars. "Beyond Hits and Page Views" JEP: THe Journal of Electronic Publishing 5 (3) (March 2000) (http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/05-03/peterson.html) - Most articles about web log analysis portray it as a powerful tool in the hands of e-commerce marketers, but Peterson has shown how it can also be fruitfully wielded in the hands of scholarly journal editors. This article is a particularly good read for any scholarly publisher whose interest in log analysis might stop short at a tally of hits and page views to add pleasing statistics to a grant report. Peterson, the online editor of Science News Online (http://www.sciencenews.org/), has demonstrated here how careful analysis of daily traffic logs has helped him to tailor the content of his site to provide timely delivery of relevant information to his audience and thereby ensure repeat visitors. For instance, the perusal of log analysis reports can give a picture of the amount of time spent during a visit, in order to ascertain which articles are being most carefully read, or perhaps whether users are reading onscreen or printing pages to read later. On a different level, they can also be used to track a visitor's trails through a site, or from a referring site to one's own. In the former case, analyses can be made of site architecture; in the latter, one can get a sense of who is linking to one's site. This sort of exercise can produce amusing results, e.g. the discovery that a perfume company was providing a busy link to a Science News article on pheromones. - LM

Rosenzweig, Roy. "The Riches of Hypertext for Scholarly Journals" The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 17, 2000 (http://chronicle.com/free/v46/i28/28b00401.htm) - Rosenzweig, Director of the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University (http://chnm.gmu.edu/), a collaboration between GMU and the American Social History Project at the CUNY Center for Media and Learning, uses experiences gained from various CHNM projects to map the face and the direction of the new digital media. Because of the extended and comfy-chair-seeking readerly shelf-life of humanities scholarship (over against, say, physics or medicine), coupled with the uncomfortable experience of onscreen reading, Rosenzweig does not foresee cyberjournals replacing their print analogues anytime soon, but rather, standing as a "digital supplement." With reference to Janet H. Murray's formulation, in Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, of hypertext's potential for additive and expressive form, Rosenzweig explores what, exactly, cyberjournals allow us to do differently from print journals, culling examples from CHNM-sponsored projects. It has been clear from the beginning that online scholarship can offer more — more material behind every hyperlink, and a far wider field of dissemination. This primarily additive aspect is well demonstrated by the Interpretation of the Declaration of Independence Through Translation project (http://chnm.gmu.edu/declaration/), which serves as a prime model of Rosenzweig's conception of hypermedia as archival "digital supplement." Whether online journals can achieve something radically different has been explored in an American Quarterly project (http://chnm.gmu.edu/aq/) featuring four experimental hyper-essays ("Dreaming Arnold Schwarzeneggar" especially stands out) which all, in their own way, press the envelope of scholarly form. In the end, as Rosenzweig suggests, it would seem that at some level, more = different. The images he conjures to describe how cyberjournals will look and function — clone, hybrid, digital supplement — foreground the potent marginality of media which promise, as he claims, to rewrite the scholarly social contract between readers and writers. - LM

Wurman, Richard Saul. Understanding USA (http://www.understandingusa.com/) Newport, RI: TED Conferences, 1999. - This work, as complete on the web as it is in print, manages to embody some of what's best and worst about the latest uses of information technology. Wurman, who refers to himself as an information architect, envisioned a project which would address a perceived overabundance of data about the United States and come up with graphical ways to clarify the information, leading to a greater understanding. Picture a standard reference title such as The Statistical Abstract of the United States (http://www.census.gov/statab/www/) worked over by a group of creative, cutting-edge designers, skilled in information display through computer graphics and typography. Visually stimulating it is, with a wide variety of pictorial representations for statistics in demographics, government spending, crime, etc. Desktop computing power has vastly increased the realm of possibilities for designers, and here that's clearly a double-edged sword: it's become very easy to use this wide array of tools to promote subjective interpretation and selective emphasis, which are common in this work and take away from its credibility. Statistics taken out of their original context and given visual prominence take on an aura of being 'more true.' For example, on a page about information anxiety, close to a picture of a woman holding her head, is the debatable assertion that "75% to 90% of all visits to physicians are stress-related," accompanied by the skimpy citation "National Mental Health Association, 1997." It's there in boldface, in something which claims to be a reference work, encouraging the reader to take it at face value. But if you have some doubts (like maybe this notion is predicated upon some hypothetical, impossibly stress-free world of no hunger, war, debt, divorce or traffic jams) there's no context here to help you — you'll have to dig elsewhere. In a brief, laudatory article titled "Information as if Understanding Mattered" (http://www.fastcompany.com/online/32/benchmark.html) in the March 2000 issue of Fast Company (http://www.fastcompany.com/homepage/) magazine, one of the designers, Nancye Green, is quoted thus: "People don't care about cold facts. They care about pictures or stories that are connected to themselves in some way. That's what learning is all about. That's what leads to understanding." The phrase 'dumbing down' comes to mind here, but maybe that's a little harsh. Those of us who help people find information know that they do indeed want cold facts, including numbers, and they want them complete, accurate and verifiable. For people doing such research, the fact that a dataset can be rendered now as a graphic resembling some multicolored mutant eggplant may be amusing, but not highly useful. So take a look at this collision of information technology, statistics and graphics, but don't expect a reputable scholarly resource. Treat it as great-looking, browsable infotainment. - JR


Current Cites 11(3) (March 2000) ISSN: 1060-2356
Copyright © 2000 by the Library, University of California, Berkeley. All rights reserved.

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