What We’re Reading: June 5, 2008 Edition

With the Democratic presidential nomination finally settled (sort of), it seems especially timely to start off this week’s “What We’re Reading” with a link to the most recent History Carnival, written in the format of a presidential debate. Next, two news items from George Mason’s Center for History and New Media: the launch of a new site and the completion of a weekend multimedia conference. On the topic of libraries and the digitization of books we link to two articles, the first from Dan Cohen and the second from Robert Darnton. Other topics covered this week include popular history, style in Wikipedia, the history of photo tampering, and new projects and awards.

  • History Carnival LXV: The First Debate
    The most recent History Carnival is up at Progressive Historians. Jeremy Young leads readers to some excellent articles through a clever presidential debate format. Hat tip.
  • Gulag History Site Launches
    Dan Cohen announces the launch of the Center for History and New Media’s new site: Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives. AHA Today covered the session at the 2008 annual meeting where this site was discussed.
  • THATCamp
    CHNM held a multimedia meeting at George Mason this past weekend called “The Humanities and Technology Camp” (THATCamp). Check out the THATCamp blog and read a number of other perspectives from the blogosphere:  Mills Kelly uses the occasion to point out the conservatism of the rest of the profession; Lisa Spiro, at Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, talks about changing research practices; and the Spellbound Blog talks about the value of rich text mining.
  • Mass Digitization of Books: Exit Microsoft, What Next?
    Dan Cohen considers who should take up the work of book digitization now that Microsoft has abandoned the field. He suggests the libraries at well-endowed private universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
  • The Library in the New Age
    An interesting follow-up to Dan Cohen’s article (mentioned just above) is "The Library in the New Age," an essay published in the June 12, 2008, issue of the New York Review of Books. In it, cultural historian Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library at Harvard (and a former president of the AHA), suggests that while it might be difficult to answer the question of how to make sense of the changing information landscape in the technological age, it could be approached best by considering the history of the ways in which information has been communicated.
  • Do You Need a License to Practice History? (PDF)
    From Historically Speaking an interesting article about writing popular history.
  • The Wikipedia Style
    Mark Bauerlein, who has appeared previously on this blog (May 1, 2008 "What We’re Reading"), writes in Education Next about what he believe is Wikipedia’s biggest weakness — its style. Comparing Wikipedia’s entries with earlier encyclopedias (and even Cliffs Notes), Bauerlein finds the online encyclopedia’s prose "formulaic" and "bland".  All metaphors end up "dead."  Elaborating further on his Chronicle blog, Bauerlein says this is negatively influencing the way students write: "Wikipedia has become such a popular resource tool that [students] think Wikipedia style is proper academic style. When writing for intellectual purposes, they assume they should drop the creativity, dash, and metaphor that appears in their personal profile pages [on things such as Facebook]. The concern for bias probably underlies the neutrality style, but I wish I received a lot more biased, opinionated, argumentative, judgmental, stylish, and colorful papers."
  • Digital Forensics: Photo Tampering Throughout History
    This slideshow from Scientific American shows photo tampering was going on well before the creation of Photoshop.
  • Project Announcements from ASHP
    Found History reports on three new projects from the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at CUNY.
  • Paul Milliman to Receive Award from PIASA
    The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (PIASA) has announced that Paul Milliman, assistant professor of history at the University of Arizona in Tucson and AHA member, will receive the 2008 Ambassador Kazimierz Dziewanowski Memorial Award at PIASA’s upcoming annual meeting in July.

Contributors: David Darlington, Debbie Ann Doyle, Elisabeth Grant, Pillarisetti Sudhir, and Robert B. Townsend

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