The New Center for History and New Media

This month the Center for History and New Media moved into a wonderful new space on the campus of George Mason University. We couldn’t be more delighted; it’s a tremendous new building (provisionally named “Research I”; if you have several million dollars lying around and want a building named after you, please contact GMU). CHNM takes up about half of the top floor, where we are neighbors with the ominously named “Autonomous Robotics Laboratory.” Perhaps the most amusing part of the building is the sign in the lobby listing the other tenants. Needless to say, we’re the only historians in the building.

Research I

The other side of the building, with the observatory (our conference room is just below, in the tower)

CHNM’s main computer lab

The “West Wing” of CHNM, where my office is

The lobby sign


The Last Six Months

I’ll be away from my blog for the next two weeks, so until then, here’s a look back at what I consider to be my best posts from the last six months. As I explained when I started this blog, my goal has been to try to avoid adding yet more echo to the echo chamber of the blogosphere, and instead to try to write mostly longer pieces on the intersection of computing, scholarship, and the humanities. I haven’t always succeeded—I have occasionally succumbed, like so many others, to mindlessly blogging about the latest moves of the Googles and Microsofts—but for the most part, I’m pleased with most of what I’ve written, especially the following list. More importantly, I hope you’ve found this blog helpful.

My series on creating this blog from scratch (includes thoughts about the nature of blogs, RSS, search, and other topics):
Part 1: What is a Blog, Anyway?
Part 2: Advantages and Disadvantages of Popular Blog Software
Part 3: The Double Life of Blogs
Part 4: Searching for a Good Search
Part 5: What is XHTML, and Why Should I Care?

Practical discussions about using web technology in academia and elsewhere:
Using AJAX Wisely
Search Engine Optimization for Smarties
Measuring the Audience of a Digital Humanities Project

Thoughts about the nature and uses of digital works:
The Wikipedia Story That’s Being Missed
Wikipedia vs. Encyclopaedia Britannica for Digital Research
Wikipedia vs. Encyclopaedia Britannica Keyword Shootout Results
The Perfect and the Good Enough: Books and Wikis
When Machines Are the Audience
What Would You Do With a Million Books?
Rough Start for Digital Preservation

The impact of the web on learning, teaching, and testing:
The Single Box Humanities Search
No Computer Left Behind
Mapping Recent History

On copyright and related matters:
2006: Crossroads for Copyright
Impact of Field v. Google on the Google Library Project
Clifford Lynch and Jonathan Band on Google Book Search

Archives History News Preservation Web

Kojo Nnamdi Show Questions

Roy Rosenzweig and I had a terrific time on The Kojo Nnamdi Show today. If you missed the radio broadcast you can listen to it online on the WAMU website. There were a number of interesting calls from the audience, and we promised several callers that we would answer a couple of questions off the air; here they are.

Barbara from Potomac, MD asks, “I’m wondering whether new products that claim to help compress and organize data (I think one is called “C-Gate” [Kathy, an alert reader of his blog, has pointed out that Barbara probably means the giant disk drive company Seagate]) help out [to solve the problem of storing digital data for the long run]? The ads claim that you can store all sorts of data—from PowerPoint presentations and music to digital files—in a two-ounce standalone disk or other device.”

As we say in the book, we’re skeptical of using rare and/or proprietary formats to store digital materials for the long run. Despite the claims of many companies about new and novel storage devices, it’s unclear whether these specialized devices will be accessible in ten or a hundred years. We recommend sticking with common, popular formats and devices (at this point, probably standard hard drives and CD- or DVD-ROMs) if you want to have the best odds of preserving your materials for the long run. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) provides a good summary of how to store optical media such as CDs and DVDs for long periods of time.

Several callers asked where they could go if they have materials on old media, such as reel-to-reel or 8-track tapes, that they want to convert to a digital format.

You can easily find online some of the companies we mentioned that will (for a fee) transfer your own media files onto new devices. Google for the media you have (e.g., “8-track tape”) along with the words “conversion services” or “transfer services.” I probably overestimated the cost for these services; most conversions will cost less than $100 per tape. However, the older the media the more expensive it will be. I’ll continue to look into places in the Washington area that might provide these services for free, such as libraries and archives.

History Information Theory News Web

First Monday is Second Tuesday This Month

For those who have been asking about the article I wrote with Roy Rosenzweig on the reliability of historical information on the web (summarized in a previous post), it has just appeared on the First Monday website, perhaps a little belatedly given the name of the journal.