This week’s post contains links to articles, interactive web features, and news from a museum and a historic home. Read about political scientists’ claims that those in the social sciences get more grants, and consider Lisa Spiro’s question of Wikipedia’s academic merits. On the digital history front, “Making the History of 1989” has officially launched; an interactive map shows Washington, D.C. in 1791; and a podcast chronicles the history of baseball. Finally, the Library of Congress embraces the Book of Secrets and James Madison’s home improvement is complete.
One hundred years ago yesterday Thurgood Marshall was born, so we start off this week’s “What We’re Reading,” with a post about this centennial from the Legal History Blog. Then, don’t forget that nominations for the John W. Kluge Prize will be accepted until July 15. We also link to a recently discovered speech by Gandhi, the latest History Carnival at Progressive Historians, a debate on Iraqi Baath Party documents, and the blog China Beat, which has recently produced a number of posts on Jonathan Spence.
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.
Last week’s “What We’re Reading” included numerous articles on the Gutenberg-e project going open access. This week, we begin with one more perspective on the issue, from Jim Jordan at Columbia University Press. Next, we include articles on two persistent topics covered by AHA Today: Google Books and Wikipedia. Then read about a new newsletter from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), an article on historians and the public, an interesting George W. Bush Library design project, and finally, reports of a new collection at the National Gallery of Art.
The AHA is now offering an Archives Wiki as a free resource for historians and other researchers. This project is described in greater detail in the February issue of Perspectives on History, but in general terms, we hope that by harnessing this (relatively) new technology for collaboration on the web, we can draw on the collective interests of thousands of researchers and archivists to develop a rich resource for anyone venturing into new archives for the first time.
As a starting point for the project, we seeded the wiki with information from the “Collections and Libraries” section of the 104 organizations listed in our Directory of History Departments, Historical Organization, and Historians in the United States and Canada.
This week’s “What We’re Reading” starts with a number of questions: Can Google’s new open encyclopedia best Wikipedia? You mean I can’t throw these out? How do I survive the Job Register? Read on for the articles that attempt to answer these questions. Then, peruse an overview of the articles available (from restaurants in D.C. to National Security) in the 2008 Annual Meeting Supplement.
- Can Google’s New Open Encyclopedia Best Wikipedia?
The Chronicle’s Wired Campus blog looks at Google’s new take on the web encyclopedia, knol, meant to draw on the knowledge of experts, and generate money through the incorporation of Google ads.
Wired magazine has reported another effort to unmask unreliable Wikipedia contributors, quite similar to one we reported on last week. The Wikipedia Scanner is the brainchild of California Institute of Technology graduate student Virgil Griffith. The program tracks the IP address of millions of anonymous edits in the online encyclopedia (edits made by unregistered Wikipedia users are recorded by IP address) and cross-references those addresses with the data on who owns the associated IP address block. Companies will often make anonymous edits to their Wikipedia entries to put a more favorable spin on public information or excise bad news (for example, Wired reports the Diebold company, makers of e-voting machines, tried to anonymously cut 15 paragraphs critical of its security procedures and political connections). Or, likewise, politicians will put their own spin on Wikipedia information by boosting their own record or criticizing their opponent’s, as anyone who has followed a candidate’s page during election season can surely attest to. While it can’t stop vandalism or corporate p.r., the Wikipedia Scanner does shed some light on who’s watching the Wiki.
The reliability of the information contained in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is a contentious topic in academia, as well as on this blog (see Wikipedia Banned by Middlebury College for History Students and Wikipedia: Valuable Resource or Abyss of Misinformation? for example). But recently, computer engineers at the University of California at Santa Cruz came up with a new method which may help separate fact from fiction at Wikipedia: measuring the reliability of those wielding the digital red pen.
As the Chronicle of Higher Education reported last Friday, these researchers have developed software that creates a value of trust for Wikipedia entries by analyzing the content history. Entries written or edited by Wikipedians with a history of long-standing unedited materials are considered generally trustworthy.