universities, libraries, digital media, and curation

After much email pleading from the MLA, I completed a survey on the role of digital media in my work. Obviously, digital media are very significant in the way I work.

  • blogs and other social media are a primary place I learn about new research and enter into scholarly conversations with OOO being a fantastic example of that
  • electronic versions of articles and monographs are easy to search, highlight, quote/copy
  • online journals allow me to include video and other media in my scholarship
  • and, of course, I share my work here.

i also rely a fair amount on Google and other searches for doing informal research. In other words, I work on a networked computer. Don't you?

That said, some of these questions were a little tricky for me to answer. As I mentioned in my last post, I would like to see MLA (and other professional organizations) put more emphasis on digital curation. I would like to see them advocate for open access, educate institutions about digital scholarship, and support faculty in these areas in terms of professional development and so on. I also think that universities, principally through their libraries, can provide similar kinds of support such as serving as a digital repository for faculty research, providing professional development, and facilitating access. So I am in support of all of these initiatives.

At the same time, my inclination is to do many of these things independently. In part that's because I've been blogging and publishing online for more than a decade. I was the editor of an online literary journal that was published in 1996. I have figured these things out with a great deal of support from online communities but not from professional organizations or my college or university. My experience with university IT is that it is mired in bureaucracy. I understand that my institution has to be very concerned with things like security and intellectual property and that it wants to take a conservative approach to these matters. I also recognize how paperwork and committees just proliferate like weeds. So, for example, this summer I started a project with some graduate students where we are doing Skype interviews with academics about their work with a focus on their use of "middle state publishing." That material will be up online later this semester, but it won't be at a buffalo.edu URL because it's just easier to upload those videos to YouTube and create our own domain and website. The main concern with that is long-term curation. What is the long-term viability of a YouTube video? Who knows. The website only lasts as long as I am willing to pay for it. As such, I can see the argument for libraries serving as digital repositories, and I strongly support that move. I just find it difficult to imagine working that way on an active project. In other words, the library becomes the place where information goes when no one wants to pay continued attention to it anymore. It's not a data graveyard. But it might be the place we put data so it isn't forgotten so that we can comfortably forget about it.

I don't think anyone really likes that idea. From my perspective to make a university's data services usable for me it would have to combine the ease of current cloud, back-up services (Dropbox, SpiderOak, Google Drive) with the flexibility of web services (I use HostGator) that allow the creation of websites, blogs, wikis, etc with a few clicks. In other words, offer a comparable version of the data publishing and curation services I already use and offer it for free. Even then, I would have to think about whether or not I prefer my data independence. As such, I'm not saying that this is what universities should do; my needs are perhaps unique. But since the MLA was soliciting opinions, I thought I'd let you know too.

 

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