• DH and the Tech Industry

    As someone who hails from Silicon Valley and has a lot of friends working at places like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., I’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of input and exposure to new technologies as I’ve been exploring the possibilities for DH to inform my own research in Renaissance drama.

    The University typically sets itself aside from the private sector, especially in the humanities. There’s much more back-and-forth conversation in the sciences though, with professors consulting for industry and industry leaders returning to lecture at the academy. I wonder if DH should or will provide a similar bridge between private and public as tech companies might produce a tool useful for digital humanists or bibliographers/librarians/archivists/etc. might be able to do consulting for projects such as Google Books.

    This perhaps also relates to Eric’s public humanities session. We all bemoan the awful lack of metadata in the Google Books digitization project, but the truth is those texts will be the ones that the general public is most likely to access – not the carefully curated archives that DH academics have been painstakingly putting together (at the moment anyway). Is partnership with industry our best shot at getting the right (or at least better) information about humanist subjects out there? What are the possibilities or ramifications of flirting with the line between public and private DH?


  1. img7u says:

    “We all bemoan the awful lack of metadata in the Google Books digitization project, but the truth is those texts will be the ones that the general public is most likely to access – not the carefully curated archives that DH academics have been painstakingly put together (at the moment anyway).”

    To this I say: yes and no. Maybe for books, but not for newspapers. Last year Google abandoned its newspaper scanning efforts (searchengineland.com/google-shuts-down-ambitious-newspaper-scanning-project-77970) but a lot of people like LC (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/) and the Australian Newspaper Project (www.nla.gov.au/ndp/) are doing it well. These are big names, for sure, but I’ll note that LC’s project is driven by the work of 28 state institutions (full disclosure: I’m an alumna of the project on the LC side). The Google project was dreadful and the lack of metadata pretty much precluded anyone from finding anything in the collection.

    This is a really interesting topic and that I’d love to chat about this weekend.

  2. Ethan Gruber says:

    There’s a fair amount of collaboration between academics and private business within archaeology, especially with respect to documentation (survey, laser scanning, photogrammetry, geoscience etc.). Private companies are sometimes contracted to do architectural visualization (e.g., procedural modeling of ancient cities, like Rome or Pompeii), but the results can be dubious without rigorous oversight from scholars. When it comes to architectural visualization, I think there’s a disconnect between the video game industry and scholars who use 3D engines who want to create the look and feel of video games within their reconstructions. I’d love to get game developers involved in consulting in archaeology, but that’s a topic for a different conference than this one.

  3. syg2au says:

    @img7u – Interesting! I hadn’t considered digital access to newspapers (it’s good to know the project is in better hands than Google Books though). Actually, THATCamp has made me think a lot today about this question of audiences. As an academic-hopeful, I guess I tend to think of archives as things being created by scholars for scholarly research, but a lot of the conversations today made me realize that there’s a lot of work being done on the museum and library side to present collections/exhibits to a general public. It makes sense then that the two orgs you listed as doing digitization of newspapers are .gov and publicly funded. Of course there’s still the issue of getting the public to go to LC instead of Google/Wiki/etc, but I suppose that’s another question for the next THATCamp.

    Sorry we didn’t get to talk, but I thought I should respond. Hopefully I’ll see you around!

  4. syg2au says:

    @Ethan Gruber – Haha, shows what I know. I was also interested in exploring what kinds of partnerships don’t exist already, but would be fruitful so I really like this idea of connecting architectural visualization to video game modeling. I know someone in the game design program at USC if you want to get in touch with some game developers. Let me know! Also, sorry we didn’t get to talk in person, but that’s what Twitter is for, right?

    Also, have you seen this: www.google.com/culturalinstitute/francerelief.html? (Thoughts?)

  5. lisaschamess says:

    my two cents:

    Google Art Project is happening: www.googleartproject.com/

    …and pursuant to Bethany’s session on creating acces to a Wunderkammer tool a la Pinterest, what’s to prevent an institution or a consortium of institutions from approaching Pinterest’s developers to work on a public-private collaboration.

    I keep coming back to the NINES platform (partly because one of my projects is steeped in the 9th century, but also because what the NINES is doing is so versatile): perhaps a Pinterest-style or Pinterrest+Academy collaboration would present users with a peer-reviewed or otherwise vetted universe that is nonetheless open enough to permit new submissions from the wider Web.

  6. lisaschamess says:

    missing s, missing 1, pretty soon i will go completely Zen and have nothing to say.

    too late, you say?


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