Tag Archives: digital objects

Hierarchies of presence

Through the archway - the fabulous Shine Dome at ANU

Last week I attended the inaugural conference of the Australasian Association of the Digital Humanities, held at the Academy of Science’s Shine Dome at ANU in Canberra. I was there because of the interest at MPOW in our library supporting academic research and e-research in particular is becoming increasingly important to our role as Outreach librarians as we start to have conversations with academics about data management and access.

In an attempt to make some sense of the sometimes highly technical papers I went to over the three days, I will be blogging about a few recurring themes and also a number of individual papers, such as the one I’m talking about here.

On Day 3 I attended a paper by Dr Alice Gorman of Flinders University called ‘The personal is political: communicating archaeology and heritage through online platforms‘.  Dr Gorman is also known as @DrSpaceJunk and blogs about space archaeology at Space Age Archaeology.

There was a really good twitter back channel running throughout the conference, so while I was tweeting madly (my personal form of notetaking), I was also able to follow the comments of others – this was particularly helpful during some of the more technical sessions that were hard to follow. This from some of the twitter stream during the space archaeology presentation:
Now hearing from @drspacejunk about misperception of what archaeology and getting people interested in what it really is #DHA2012 (from @ellenforsyth)
Space archeology – who knew?! #dha2012 (from @LizzieM79)
@drspacejunk has divided audience – is space archeologist, crosses archaeology & space scientists, talking about bridging links #dha2012 (from @newgradlib)
Really interesting discussion from @drspacejunk about the importance of identity to help explain her field of interest #dha2012 (from @newgradlib)
Alice talked about the different roles her different public identities can take to help her reach a wider audience. As she said, @DrSpaceJunk can say and do things that Dr Alice Gorman can’t. Using what Alice called ‘heirarchies of presence’ her audience can be filtered up and down depending on their entry point to her work and their level of interest.

Hierarchies of presence: SM both passive & active backed up byacademia.edu & inst presence, supporting cred & authenticity #dha2012 (from @newgradlib)

I spoke with Alice after her presentation and a concrete example she gave me was an invitation she received (seemingly out of the blue) to speak to a group involved with something fairly obscure to do with plastic. It turned out, the event organisers found her because of a blog post she had written on cable ties. Because her various profiles and identities are linked back to her serious researcher profile, she was contacted as someone who had a valuable and serious contribution to make.

I have a strong personal interest in the area of social media and professional networks so this session was particularly appealing to me. I think it provided a useful take home message to start some discussions at MPOW about how we talk about some of this to our academics, particularly early career researchers (ECR’s) who do not have long and established publishing profiles and need to use a variety of ways to promote themselves and their work.

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Browsing in the digital world

SFMOMA Artscope Visual Artwork by pushandplay via flickr CC

This post was inspired by a Mashable post on the importance of browsing to content discovery.

To me browsing is essentially a visual activity and inextricably linked with allowing my eye to make visual links between items – such as similar books or CDs on a shelf in a shop or library.  One of the things I struggle with in the move to digital information is the loss of browsing in that way.  Following links on web pages and discovering more information can be fun but it’s a process that often takes me further away from what I was looking at, not just a little way either side of it.

I am not a luddite about electronic collections and don’t advocate browsing or serendipitous discovery as a justification for keeping vast quantities of print material sitting on shelves, but I think browsing in the sense that I know it is definitely harder to do in a digital world.

To be fair, I grew up as a browser. I leafed through atlases, encyclopedia and my dad’s record collection. I browse cookbooks, coffee table books and other people’s book shelves. There’s something very tangible about browsing the physical object and serendipitous about coming across unexpected finds.

Mitchell Whitelaw said in his presentation to TEDx Canberra in 2010 that search is great if you know what you are looking for and you know what’s in the collection.  I’m paraphrasing slightly – to find out exactly what he said and more, check out this (17 minute) video:

(Co-incidentally, TEDx Canberra 2011 is next weekend folks. It’s sold out but the team has successfully arranged for it to be streamed live – great for those of us who can’t get there this year!)

I digress. You can read more about Mitchell’s visualisation projects at his blog The Visible Archive.  Hearing Mitchell speak was the first time I realised that it might be possible to have something approximating that old habit of browsing in the digital world.

Other examples of visual browsing in the online world that appeal to me include the ‘cover flow’ view of the digitised Australian Women’s Weekly collection on Trove at the NLA and Flipboard for the iPad.  The fact that projects like these are being developed by people with technical skills of which I am in awe and used by ordinary, information hungry folk like me gives me hope that I’m not the only person who misses browsing.