Friday 31 August 2007


This blog isnt abandoned.... I'm just making one of my bi-annual 2 week internet fasts, to remember what the world is like when you are not intravenously online. See you late September, and I leave you with an engraving of Venus swimming in.... Margate??????

From Wellcome images:Venus's Bathing (Margate) A woman swimming in the sea; in the background people are looking out to sea from cliffs and a beach. Coloured etching.
Hand-coloured etching 1790 By: Thomas Rowlandson

Tuesday 28 August 2007

The Digitisation Bandwagon

The Future is Yesterday has just done some interesting testing with Snapter, a piece of software that claims to convert any picture into a pdf document. Handy - and some interesting things going on inside there, if it works - and no doubt adding to the general amateur digitisation boom. But! technology doesnt seem to be working out just so for them yet.
The program is suppose to detect the edges of the page. Using this information, it can than warp the image to deal with things like page curl, or crooked photos. On most pages, it wasn’t even close, comically so.

Game Archiving

One of my MA students, Paul Gooding, is just finishing up his dissertation on issues surrounding the archiving of computer games. Interesting topic - he points me to a section on the guardian technology web blog which has an interesting summation and links to the state of play in the US, and the lack of any co-ordinated effort in the UK. Something to think about:
The US Library of Congress sets out to preserve games. At the same time, the UK government is blasted by EIDOS for its lack of support.

Thursday 23 August 2007

Amateur Digitisation of Ephemera

There are many things that I love about the Internet - and one of them is amateur digitisation projects which capture ephemera about modern/recent life for posterity. There has been much talk about web 2.0 and user generated content, but that seems to focus on the pictures-of-folks-on-holiday or vidoes-of-stuff-which-is-newsworthy angle: not on the good folks of the interverse who spend much time finding, cataloguing, digitising, and mounting collections of things online which no institution would have the time, or facilities, or foresight, or interest to go near. (Sure, there are some major and important ephemera digitisation projects out there, such as Electronic Ephemera at Oxford, but that revolves around the digitisation of a collection of objects which age from 1508 to 1939). I adore that people find the time to build shrines to long-defunct comics, such as Misty (although they recently had to take down the complete digitised archive due to copyright issues). Folks that make random collections of things like pictures of a monster or robot carrying off a fainted heroine in his arms (In my arms) - the digital equivalent of a cabinet of curiosities. Museums which would just not get funded in the real world, for whatever reason- such as the Museum of Menstruation and Women's Health: an important, if ramshackle, and often hilarious archive of the development of sanitary products and their advertising. Collections of the real ephemera of life - things found on the ground - passive aggressive notes left for others - random stuff found in junkshops. Its all a hidden, different world and approach than that taken to digitisation within the information profession, but no less important for its lack of institutional backing.

Todays find also demonstrates Fun With Internet Technologies. I have been aware of the Evening Standard Headline Crisis collection of images, depicting gloomy headlines from one of the UK's most... melodramatic? newspapers (and how fleeting are those headlines?), but now comes the mashup: the Evening Standard Headline Generator. Genius.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Once in a Google Moon

Google have added GoogleSky to Google Earth - looking at the heavens from earth. You need Google Earth to run it though [link to article]. They've also added NASA imagery to their usual online googlemap interface which enables you to navigate the moon. No distances/timings though.... I guess cars cant get up there... Also, someone needs to work on a mashup plotting the different seas, etc - but still fun to play with.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Dictionary of Words in the Wild

Geoffrey Rockwell just pointed me to the Dictionary of Words in the Wild:
a community collection of images of public textuality, specifically words outside of the usual print contexts. We are interested in words that are:
  • In the public view
  • In an interesting context where the location adds texture
  • Visually provocative in some way
  • Part of phrases that add another intersection of meaning
...You can browse the dictionary, upload your own words, and try typing in a phrase that is returned as images
What larks. Worth playing with - will be interesting to see how people are using the API as well.

Thursday 16 August 2007

VERA, blogs, and beyond

I'm one of the co-Investigators on the VERA project:
The Virtual Research Environment for Archaeology (VERA) project aims to produce a fully-fledged virtual research environment for the archaeological community. It will address user needs, enhancing the means of efficiently documenting archaeological excavation and its associated finds, and create a suitable Web portal that provides enhanced tools for the user community.
Things on the blog, based at the dig on Roman Silchester, have been pretty interesting of late, detailing how to deal with new technology in the field, and the rain. How can you not like a post titled Moving Out and Blowing Up the Generator?

When I was at the dig a few weeks ago, I took some photos, available here. The one above is my favourite. Others seem to think so too - it even got featured somehow on

TASI Guide to Finding and Using Flickr Images

Over the past few years, the Technical Advisory Service for Images has consistently provided in depth, up to date, and free guides to all manner of digital image matters, including creating, managing, delivering, and finding images. Of late, they've been paying more attention to the growth of user generated content online, and the increase in personal image collections. One of their latest guides looks at how to find and use Flickr images:

Whatever their reasons for joining and posting photos, the 24 million active users have contributed what currently amounts to a staggering 525 million photos on Flickr (as at June 2007).

These figures alone make Flickr a good place to look for images - almost every conceivable subject has been photographed and uploaded to Flickr. Most images are recently taken digital photos, but a large number of users are scanning older negatives and prints and uploading those.

However, quantity does not equate to quality and there are more reasons than sheer numbers that make Flickr a useful starting point when sourcing pictures. That is not to say it is entirely without drawbacks, and this document is intended to highlight its disadvantages as well its strengths.

Useful, straightforward, and interesting. [link]

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Wellcome Collection Images Online - and Free

The Wellcome Collection in London have recently updated their website, offering free unlimited access to their image collection under a Creative Commons licence. Nice.

Wellcome Images is one of the world's richest and most unique collections, with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science.

All our images are available on demand in digital form. Search online or use the expertise of our professional scientific and historical researchers.

Whether it's medicine or magic, the sacred or the profane, science or satire - you'll find more than you expect.

This unrivalled collection contains historical images from the Wellcome Library collections, Tibetan Buddhist paintings, ancient Sanskrit manuscripts written on palm leaves, beautifully illuminated Persian books and much more.

[Link] (and the image above is B0004756,"Boy with Aura", Credit N. Seery, Wellcome Images)

Slashdot Adventure

Remember this post? Well, we got slashdotted. DHQ gets slashdotted! I am such a proud general editor.

William Gibson Interview

Interesting interview with William Gibson, he who coined the term "cyberspace", in the Observer:

I have some friendships conducted almost entirely through email that are very intimate. I think we are getting to the point that a strange kind of relationship would be one where there was no virtual element. We are at that tipping point: how can you be friends with someone who is not online? In a couple of years, we will be no more disturbed by our relationship with virtual worlds than we are by our relationship with broadcast television.

Tuesday 14 August 2007

The more things change....

Interesting article by by Olia Lialia: Vernacular Web 2.

how does the Web look now, when it’s no longer seen as the technology of the future, when it’s intertwined with our daily lives and filled by people who are not excited by the mere fact of its existence?

At a first glance, this question looks like a purely aesthetic one. One might think it’s almost unimportant. But in fact, nothing demonstrates the state of the Web in general and the state of its services, in particular the ones that follow the Web 2.0 ideology, as clearly as the style and look of ordinary users’ home pages.

Well worth a peek. [link]

First Symphony in Second Life. But....

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will stage the first full-scale symphonic concert in Second Life next month. [link]

I have to say, I dont get it. Whats the different between watching the video on other media, and watching a video of the performance within Second Life? Its not like the musicians are being animated - its a video stream. And what will the quality of the video and the audio be like? How can this recreate the experience of sitting in a concert hall? What is lost - and also what is gained from this?

It seems to me the loss/gain question is a fundamental aspect of digital humanities/ cultural and heritage informatics that hasnt been addressed properly yet. Hmmm.....

Make your Own iPhone

...from wood. [link]

Monday 13 August 2007

Post Secret Movie


So, I'm involved with a very interesting new journal called Digital Humanities Quarterly. , an
open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities. Published by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), DHQ is also a community experiment in journal publication.
So, an interesting thing just happened in the blogosphere. The thing with DHQ is, we're trying to get stuff up there fast, online, and rolling the content out, whilst determining whats in an issue at the cut off point in time every 3 months (or so). But we still have to test the material, and so we mount it up on a test site for proofreading, before making it proper.

One article,
Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave: Examining Will Crowther's Original “Adventure” in Code and in Kentucky, by Daniel G. Jerz
just went up on the test site. But an editor posted to it from his blog (Matt Kirschenbaum) and the Gaming community just got hold of it -
and there's all sort on interesting comments (including "HOLY MOLY!") and
It is clear on a single reading that this is the most important single
paper ever written on the history of interactive fiction.
before its even been published.

The test article is here, but it will eventually move to the real address, here.

Which raises all sorts of interesting points:
  • the relevancy of DHQ, and digital humanities, to all sorts of communities we didnt reach before;
  • the speed of dissemination of such articles on the 'net
  • perhaps the need to revise the architecture behind DHQ, or at least forward things from test to the finished (ie proofed and published) version.
But it also shows... we must be doing something right. Keep sending on interesting stuff to DHQ... and keep reading it.... (please).

Update: this article made it onto Boing Boing. wow.

Friday 10 August 2007

Can computers ever read Ancient Texts?

I gave a lecture on this very topic last friday, as part of the Digital Classicist Seminar Series. Gabriel Boddard kindly took the time to sum up some of my main points - more succinctly than I probably could:>.