Collection Achievements and Profiles System and DPLA Crawler Services

This is a quick strawman proposal for what the Digital Public Library of America should build as the first parts of a generative platform. This document is not in a finished state, but just as the DPLA has been good at opening up its process with the Beta Sprint, I wanted to release this document early even in this unfinished state.

We have the advantage of arriving late to the game.

In the cut-throat world of high-tech venture capitalism, the first company with a good idea often finds itself at the mercy of latecomers. The latecomer’s product might be better-thought-out, advertised to a more appropriate market, or simply prettier, but in each case that improvement comes through hindsight. Trailblazers might get there first, but their going is slowest, and their way the most dangerous.

Digital humanities finds itself teetering on the methodological edge of many existing disciplines, boldly going where quite a few have gone before.

My aim for that paper, and for this, is to think through my hesitation with regard to the new, history, form, and meaning. Briefly put, and not saying anything new as yet I think, I value new forms and processes of discourse, ones that seek to overcome limitations inherited from the past in order to make meaning in new ways. These forms and processes would have to, perhaps, ignore history and the methods of meaning making it affords us. However, I also value history, however problematic, insofar as it allows us to contextualize, understand, and make judgments about the new.

[T]his article is a call for a refocusing of academic work on historical videogames.  A call for an approach that does not get detained by primarily examining the particular historical content of each game (i.e. historical accuracy or what a game ‘says’ about a particular period it depicts) but instead tries to establish an analytical framework that privileges analysis of form (i.e. how the particular audio-visual-ludic structures of the game operate to produce meaning and allow the player to explore/configure discourse about the past). The benefit of this is that we do not just gain knowledge of a particular historical representation but instead, conclusions about form (a particular game-structure’s operations) are then transferable to an understanding of games made up of similar ludic (and audio-visual) elements.

Recently I was writing a paper for a journal and needed to cite the Old Bailey Online (OBO). Not any particular piece of content contained in the project, but the project itself as an outstanding example of digital humanities work. For those unfamiliar with the venture, it’s a database containing 127 million words of historical trial transcripts marked up extensively with XML; still the flagship project of its kind in this author’s opinion. I found myself struggling to decide who the authors of the project were; that is, whose names was I bound by “good scholarship” to include in the citation. Who deserved public credit?

With the newly developed enthusiasm for RDF as the basis for library bibliographic data we are seeing a number of efforts to transform library data into this modern, web-friendly format. This is a positive development in many ways, but we need to be careful to make this transition cleanly without bringing along baggage from our past….

My message here is that we need to be creating data, not records, and that we need to create the data first, then build records with it for those applications where records are needed. Those records will operate internally to library systems, while the data has the potential to make connections in linked data space.

Infrastructures are installations and services that function as “mediating interfaces” or “structures ‘in between’ that allow things, people and signs to travel across space by means of more or less standardized paths and protocols for conversion or translation.”1 A digital research infrastructure is no different: it’s a mediating set of technologies for research and resource discovery, collaboration, sharing and dissemination of scientific output.

Infrastructures, however, are also strong cultural and political symbols
From electricity systems in the 1920s, to coal trains in the 1950s, through to the gateways and bridges on Euro notes in the present decade, infrastructures have been mobilized repeatedly in broader spheres as symbols and metaphors for broader forms of modernization, integration and co-operation. (Badenoch and Fickers, 2)