Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Call for Papers: Digital Humanities – The Shifting Contexts

I'm so pleased to be working with Megan Meredith-Lobay, who is the Scientific Analyst, Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at UBC together on an exciting project.   We are co-editors of a special edition of Digital Library Perspectives, a journal that explores new understandings and definitions of what is a digital library.   In this issue, we focus on the emerging field of digital humanities, the evolution of the term, and the ways it's being presented and practised by scholars and researchers, particularly examining it outside of the traditional parameters of what one usually considers DH.  So yes, we're looking at shaking up the boundaries a bit, and experimenting with new ideas and processes while we're at it.  But we need your help -- if you have something in the works, please do consider submitting it to this special issue, which will be first LIS academic journal devoting an entire issue to DH.  

Call for Papers: Digital Humanities – The Shifting Contexts 

This special edition of Digital Library Perspectives focuses on the topic of Digital Humanities, with emphasis on the shifting framework of scholars and practitioners who do not necessarily identify themselves digital humanists but use Digital Humanities tools and practices in their work. The Guest Editors of this issue include Dr. Megan Meredith-Lobay (University of British Columbia) and Allan Cho (University of British Columbia).

The co-editors invite contributions on the following, as well as other related topics:
  • Role of LIS in supporting non-traditional DH areas of scholarship, i.e. New Media Studies, Musicology, Archaeology, non-textual DH
  • Emerging areas of research, teaching, learning in the digital scholarship in the social sciences and humanities
  • Beyond “What is DH?” - exploring “Why DH?”
  • Non-traditional DH practice and practitioners: inclusion and exclusion
  • DH in non-western contexts
  • The intersections between DH and digital social science
  • Digital Humanities as Data Science
Important Dates:
  • Deadline for submission: December 2017
  • Notification of acceptance: April 2018
  • Deadline for final paper submission: June 2018
Submission Instructions:
  • Papers should be no more than 6000 words
  • Submissions to Digital Library Perspectives are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts, the online submission and peer review system. Registration for an account needs to be created first: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/dlp.

Friday, June 16, 2017

#DHSI 2017 - The Evolution of the Digital Humanities (DH)

It's been a while since I've attended my last Digital Humanities Summer Institute.   The colloquium and workshops have evolved since I first attended in 2008.   Back then, the DHSI was about learning the new tools available to us (text encoding initiative, digitization, transcription, etc.)  There was only a handful of courses.   At the time, DH could easily have been mistaken for Web 2.0 (or social software!)   In less than a decade, I've witnessed the emergence and evolution of a cohort of scholars and practitioners who have come back each year and have coalesced into a community of practice, with the DHSI as a stage for informing and encouraging new members to join the fray.

Of course, what I witnessed at DHSI 2017 is a critical mass of scholars and libraries of the need for DH support in the form of facilities and funding.   As a way to become more inclusive, some have instead preferred broader designations as digital scholarship as an embracing term that encompasses DH.  Some have also used data science that collate various faculty to an interdisciplinary lens.  Whether it be political or fiscal, before an institution can embrace DH, it needs to have a paradigmatic shift in mindset in institutional culture from one in which lone scholars conducting DH pedagogy or research can be fully supported with pooled resources.  I've seen not only the new tools, but also the gradual emergence of DH pedagogy and new DH methodologies.

One of the key themes I've heard and seen from the DHSI is the models that institutions need in carrying out DH work.   Institutions vary widely on how far along they are in establishing an institutional framework for DH.  Some have an institutional DH mandate with accompanying staff, but no centre or lab facilities; while others, have the centre and requisite facilities, but not necessarily a mission to coordinate a comprehensive DH plan.    Timing is everything because during the DHSI, Educause and the Centre for Networked Information (CNI) released a working paper Building Capacity for Digital Humanities: A Framework for Institutional Planning.  In my opinion, the authors address some of the fundamental issues with DH planning in higher education that is by far the most cogently articulated on paper.   So where to begin?  Let's start off with the organizational models first, which I find most interesting:

Centralized Model - This model focuses on meeting faculty and student needs by housing most or all DH services in a centralized unit.  In one collaborative space, practitioners can "rub elbows" and share insights easily, and this model is usually set up by a school, or program such as the library to support DH work.

Hub-and-Spoke Model - In this model, expertise, personnel, knowledge, and services are embedded in academic departments, units libraries, and other service points around campus, but coordinated through a central node.

Mesh Network Model - No one unit is dominant in this model.  Rather, each unit that offers DH services pools knowledge to create a linked network of units, groups, and practitioners who contribute their expertise to the overall pool.

Consortial Model - As the most recent model to have emerged onto the DH scene, this model leverages resources and interests across institutions to better support DH initiatives within each institution.  Such partnerships tend to arise organically as DH practitioners look beyond their own organizations to share ideas and knowledge while collaborating on projects.


As I'm writing this, I'm excited about the final day (yes, day #5) of the DHSI.   I'm going to be reflecting more about the stages of progression along the spectrum in which institutions belong to in creating infrastructures that can support and carry out DH work.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Locating Digital Humanities in India: the Emergence of DH in the Global South #digitalhumanities

Courtesy of Pad.ma project (http://pad.ma/)
In my research, I approached digital humanities from a cross-cultural perspective.  In my examination of the field of DH, I can't but help notice the immense scale of the project, the sheer difficulties of not only defining the parametres of what constitutes digital humanities among institution, but also the lofty challenges of defining it among countries.

In a very interesting research report by Puthiya Purayil Sneha, she concludes that locating DH in India as a futile project.   This is particular so, as conversations around the internet and digital technologies have been located within the domain of the developing information and communication technologies in India.   In the Global South, digital usually means rhetoric about the potential to address and even resolve social and economic problems - anything digital translates to “good” and “beneficial.

The ICT-fication, as Sneha put it, of education has been a major objective and challenge within the larger DH vision, specifically because of access, namely the quality of access and the lack of connectivity.  There is an emergence of independent, online archives, seen as a fallout of the hegemony of state-funded archives though, particularly early key projects such as Bichitra, Tagore’s works at Jadavpur University, and Pad.ma.

However, in terms of the logistics of technology, Indic scripts is a persistent problem for digital initiatives in India.  Though in Bengali work has been done to address this by a keyboard software called Avro which stores conjunct letters preserving their separate characteristics - general searching the “anglicized," funding for research and development, maintenance, and sustainability is difficult to obtain.

The research infrastructure has been primarily for the natural sciences - humanities often end up being inadequate, in terms of financial and intellectual investment.  For example, in the case of Bangalore, with so much infrastructure at its disposal, there has been minimal development in the humanities.   And other places like Kashmir, there is strict regulations of access to the Internet due to security concerns.  Consequently, the need to have an archive metadata tool that can work with different Indian languages at the moment is difficult, if not impossible.  So even with technology a concern, there are other key points in consideration:
  • Post-Colonial Considerations - The “incompleteness of the archives” is not well preserved by British administrators before independence.  Still a contentious among archivists and historians, the viability and usefulness of this incomplete history of India produces problems for academic research of the digital humanities in India.
  • Small Steps by the Academic Institutions - Indian Institute of Technology at Indore and Hyderabad have engaged in DH and cultural informatics - through modules in existing courses and seminars.  Small steps are being taken in this very early era of DH in India. 
  • Academic Cultural Resistance - Just as with Western scholars, there is resistance from humanities departments ranging from lack of expertise to concerns about too “technological”
Indian researcher Radhika Diwan is currently conducting research into the state of digital humanities in India, tracing the history and development of Indian DH and reviewing prominent DH projects and the analysis and data collected through the interviews with DH scholars.  So the future is bright, with prospects of more to come.

Monday, March 20, 2017

My Stroke of Insight - By Neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor


A dear friend and mentor of mine had suffered a tragic stroke recently.  A stroke is the last illness anyone would want: the debilitating consequences can take a lifetime to heal, a lifetime changes within a fraction of time.  I'm truly at a loss for the suffering that my friend faces.  As a librarian, I do what I do best in times of tragedy: I read and understand what I'm up against.   I am reading as much about stroke and strategies for recovery.   I'm fortunate to come across My Stoke of Insight, a brain scientist's personal journey through stroke, and her process of recovery as I know it's one of the important titles in the field.   I read the book and here are the important points about stroke patients and what we need to remember. If you find it useful, please share it with others, especially with caregivers who have friends and loved ones who suffered a stroke.   Here's how Bolte Taylor recalls in her journey to healing:

1. I desperately need people to treat me as though I would recover completely (Regardless if it would take 3 months, 2 years, or 20 years, or a lifetime, I need people to have faith in my continued ability to learn, heal, and grow)

2. Honour the healing power of sleep (Value sleep, as it physically heals cell; Brain is the ultimate authority on what it needs to heal itself)

3. I need people to love me, not for the person I had been, but for who I might now become (At the essence of my soul, I am the same spirit. But with brain wiring now different, I might have new interests, likes, and dislikes)

4. I need those around me to be encouraging. I need to know that I still have value. I need to have dreams to work toward. (Accept me as the person I am at the moment, permit me the freedom to evolve as a right hemisphere dominant personality)

5. I need people to celebrate the triumphs I make everyday because my success, no matter how small, inspire me (focus on my ability, not my disability)

6. I need people to come close and not be afraid of me (I desperately need their kindness; I need to be touched, stroke my arm, hold my hand, or gently wipe my face)

7. I need my visitors to bring me their positive energy
(I appreciate when people come in for just a few minutes, take my hands in theirs, and share softly and slowly how they are doing, what they are thinking, and how they believe in my ability to recover. It's difficult for me to cope with people who come in with high anxious energy. Extremely nervous, anxious, or angry people are counter-productive to my healing)

Sunday, March 05, 2017

One Belt, One Road, and Beyond - A Look at the Collections of Libraries, Archives, and Museums

I'm pleased that my research partners from across the Pacific Ocean, Dickson Chiu (University of Hong Kong) and Patrick Lo (University of Tsukuba) will be giving a talk at the University of Hong Kong Libraries.   Our book is a labour of love (perhaps more labour than love it seems at times).
The genesis of it come from a common theme that we hear too often about the challenges and trials of librarians who face continuously shrinking budgets, increased workloads, and the constant change in information technologies.  But as we gradually worked our way through these discussions, we realized that such themes go beyond just libraries, but includes cultural institutions as archives, museums, and to a certain extent, art galleries – what is now more commonly known as a whole as LAMs.

One might ask, why focus on LAMs? We argue that the present convergence is actually a return to traditional unity. These three institutions share epistemological links dating from the “Museum” of Alexandria and continuing through the cabinets of curiosities gathered in early modern Europe. But over time, as these collections expanded, they became more specialized and their storage separated according to the form of information that emerged in around the nineteenth century, and as a result, these institutions professionalized and intellectual societies and educational programs materialized that further crystallized the formal separation.  We have come full circle.  For us to focus on only one but not the other would be to give an incomplete picture as to the continued merger of LAMs. Our book is thus based on a series of direct interviews with different practicing librarians, archivists, and museum curators across the world who specialize in East Asian collections.

In trying to examine the dynamically shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information, cultural and knowledge exchanges, and collaboration on a global scale, we want this book to serve as a reference guide for students, scholars, researchers, and professionals who manage East Asian collections, and enable them to gain a glimpse of the vast amount of treasures available for their research and other scholarly activities. As LAMs began their histories mainly as collecting institutions with mandates to preserve and make accessible primary sources valuable for researchers, we want to show in this book how we are coming full circle again with the merger of practices and techniques of managing collections across cultural institutions.

When we sought a title for this book, we were careful to live up to the promise of “World’s Leading Librarians, Archivists and Curators.” Of course, it can be a subjective process in labeling who exactly are “leading,” but we strove to select those who are considered experts in their field, those who have published extensively in there area of literature, who have amassed many years of experience in management of their collections, and also those who have won awards or acclamation from their peers. We did not make our selections in haste; we also carefully selected interviewees based on a geographical spread that best represented various countries across the world to justify the global focus of our book. So that is why we went on a journey to interview experts from Berlin State Library, Bavarian State Library, the British Library, the British Museum, the National Library of France, the Vatican Library, the National Library of Denmark, the National Archives of Japan, the National Taiwan Library – just to name a few.

In the context of this book, East Asian collections not only refers to those housed and managed by library, archive, and museum (LAM) professionals who are ethnically of East Asian descent, but also their American as well as European colleagues, who have devoted their careers to safeguarding cultural heritage collections of immeasurable values. We conducted our research using a mixed-methods approach using semi-structure surveys through face-to-face meetings, Skype, and also by email depending on preferred mode of access by our interviewees. Upon completion of transcribing our interviews, we followed up with our interviewees for clarification and approval for publication of the text.  We're looking forward to finally having this monograph out and available.  Expect a June launch to come.  

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Screwmaneutical Approach to Digital Humanities and Digital Scholarship

Image courtesy Duke University
I've attended many Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI)'s over the years, and have come to realize that digital humanities is neither a field, a discipline, nor a methodology.  Humanities cannot be done with computers, nor is it computer science performed on topics of interest to the humanities.  There's much debate within academia about the merit of digital scholarship.  While some have called digital humanities as a "misappropriation," others have even referred to its as "Twitter as scholarship."

 DH is currently caught in an existentialist dilemma despite the resulting dynamic dialogue between emerging technology and humanistic inquiry.   Although DH comprises a scholarly humanities community of practice that is engaged in a wide variety of projects but that collectively values experimentation, collaboration, and making, it is a contentious label that signifies elitism and is characterized by a fetishization of technology and a lack of critical reflection. However it is defined, DH has had a significant impact on the academic landscape for more than a decade. Micah Vandegrift takes a page from Stephen Ramsay and calls for a "screwmaneutical approach," one which of re-imagines the place and role of the library is not simply as a place to get the right answers, or be directed to the correct resource, and that means browsability and playfulness.  As Vandegrift put its,
"the“serve ‘em and send ‘em along” model is no longer serving a patronage whose information needs include planning, building and executing projects that utilize the strengths of librarianship."
He recommends some excellent steps to take for those interested in diving into this area of DH.   I've added some of my own an in a more holistic approach.  I hope as a community of practice that this is useful:

1. Attend academic department events - scholars present their work at colloquia

2. Sign up to the department listservs and keep up with its social media

3. Connect with councils and committees - campus-wide initiatives

4. Get involved in online DH social networks - how about #digitalhumanities?

5.  Follow Digital Humanities Now

6. THATCamp - a Humanities and Technology Camp that is an open and relatively inexpensive meeting where humanists and technologists learn and build together in sessions proposed on the spot.  There are camps across North America
7.  Blogs - Lisa Spiro's blog is just one of many who delve into this topic

8.  Join ACRL's Digital Humanities Humanities Discussion Group - Perhaps the most involved academic library group.

9.  Digital Research Tools (DIRT) wiki 

10.  Follow the scholars - Is there a better way than using the web and keeping up with the latest researchers in the field of Digital Humanities by following some of the most involved scholars?


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Digital Humanities in East Asia


As an area of scholarly activity at the intersection of computing and the disciplines of the humanities, Digital humanities (DH) has evolved from simply digitizing historical texts to the philosophical, such as reflection on the nature of representation itself.  As an attendee of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute since 2008, I've seen the growth of DH as a niche study to become an emerging area of importance to the scholarship in the humanities.  I spoke to a number of librarians and scholars in the area of digital humanities and noted the various projects and stages of development across countries in Asia.  If anything, the growth of DH is Asia is far from a homogenous process.

Upon the return of my sabbatical, I presented on the state of Digital Humanities in East Asia to peers at UBC.   In examining the state of DH in Asia, my research reveals a dichotomy of what Tom Mullaney of Stanford University as a West and the Rest.   As Mullaney puts it:
The “Asia deficit” within Digital Humanities is in no small part the outcome of more entrenched divides within the platforms and digital tools that form the foundation of DH itself. Digital databases and text corpora – the “raw material” of text mining and computational text analysis – are far more abundant for English and other Latin alphabetic scripts than they are for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, and other Non-Latin orthographies.
So it's not surprise to see uneven development across Asian countries.  The following is a list of DH scholars that Mullaney has shared and is a group that represent that wonderful work that East Asian studies experts are using the technology to enhance their research in ways that could not have happened (or at least a less immersive way) in the pre-digital world.

  • Eunkyong Shin, Columbia University - Specialist in Network Analysis, Applied to Study of Resistance Movements in Colonial Korea

Friday, December 09, 2016

Inside the World's Major East Asian Collections


I'm really pleased that the book project with Patrick Lo (Tsukuba University) and Dickson Chiu (Hong Kong University) is completed and published. This book is intended to serve multiple purposes.  In particular, the project examines the rise of the "LAM," an acronym that stands for libraries, archives, and museums.  In doing so, we profile leading experts -- librarians, archivists, and museum curators -- who specialize in East Asian collections from across the world.  In analyzing the dynamically shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information and collections, this book provides important themes offered by these cultural experts in understanding the necessary professional skills, knowledge, and personalities that are required for working in such environments of varying size, scope, and composition in LAMs.

As such, LAMs manage preservation and access of history and culture, their missions and goals as cultural institutions continue to converge.  Further, as collecting institutions, LAMs share the common mandate to preserve and make accessible primary resources valuable for researchers and professionals, as well as the public.   Certainly, as LAMs are mostly publicly funded, publicly accountable institutions collecting cultural heritage materials, the purpose of this book is ultimately to enhance the visibility while recognizing the efforts of the LAM professionals as cultural institution leaders, since much of their great contributions is preserving our cultural and documentary heritage often unnoticed outside their parent institutions.

European Collections
1. The East Asia Collections at the Vatican Apostolic Library in Rome
2. The Library of Venice and the East at the Giorgio Cini Foundation’s Centre Comparative Studies of Cultures and Spiritualties
3. The Chinese Collections from the Shang to Qing Dynasties at the British Library
4. The Chinese, Japanese and Korean Studies Collections at the British Library
5. The Chinese Collections at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library
6. The Anthropology Collections of the Ewenki and Orochen Peoples at the University of Cambridge Museum’s Archaeology and Anthropology
7. The Dunhuang International Manuscripts Project at the British Museum
8. Asian Art Propaganda at the British Museum
9. The East-Asian Library at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium
10. The Chinese, Japanese and Korean Collections at the Royal Library of Denmark
11. The Asian Collections for the Nordic Asian Studies Community at University of Copenhagen’s Nordic Institute of Asian Studies Library and Information Centre
12. The Chinese and Japanese Porcelain and Ceramic Art at the Museums of the Far East & the Royal Museums of Art and History of Belgium
13. The East Asia Collections at the Berlin State Library
14. The Chinese Collections at the Bavarian State Library’s Oriental and Asia Department
15. The Chinese Collection that dates back to the 13th Century at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies Library
16. Documenting the Cultural Exchange of Czechoslovak-Chinese Relations at the Charles University in Prague’s Chiang Ching-kuo International Sinological Center (CCK-ISC) and Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) Libraries
17. Collecting Asia at the Library at the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
18. A Unique Chinese Collection for the Public at the Lyon Public Library in France
19. The Kingdom of Naxi Manuscript Collections at the French School of the Far East
20. The Collection of the History of French Interests In China and East Asia at the University Library of Languages and Civilisations
21. The most comprehensive collection of Asian art at the National Museum of Asian Art Guimet Museum
22. The Orient and Eastern collections at the National Library of France

East Asian Collections in Asia
1. The Digital Archives at the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR)
2. The Siberian Ethnographic Collections at Peter the Great Museum of Ethnology and Anthropology in Russian
3. Imperial China’s collections at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan
4. International Exchange and Networks of Cooperation at Taiwan’s National Central Library (NCL)

1. Chronicle of Taiwan’s Collections at the National Central Library, Taiwan (ROC)
2. The History of "Asian Hollywood" at the Hong Kong Film Archive
3. The Traditional Chinese Medicine Library Collections at the Hong Kong Baptist University
4. The Kung Fu Museum in Hong Kong by the School of Creative Media and the International Guoshu Association
5. The School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong
6. Contemporary Asian Art at the Asia Art Archive (AAA)
7. The Sport collections at the Hong Kong Sports Institute Library

North America
1. The East Asian Collections at the Princeton University Library’s East Asian Library
2. The Japanese Collections at University of California, Berkeley’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library
3. The Japanese Collections at the University of Michigan’s Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library
4. Azusa Tanaka, Japanese Studies Librarian, East Asia Library, University of Washington Libraries
5. Exhibiting Bruce Lee Collections Around the World via the Bruce Lee Foundation (USA) and the Bruce Lee Exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Renewing the Digital Path in the Publishing Industry

I'm in the business of publishing, and like many in the industry, have faced the daunting challenges with print.  So when Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly iterated that cultural producers face both challenges and opportunities because of new digital publishing and broadcasting platforms, I naturally listened.  There are stark differences of opinion over how Canada's cultural industries should adapt to the future of digital content.  And there is increasing concern in the cultural industry that current government policies are stifling creation of content at a time when traditional media is being drowned out by the likes of Apple iTunes and Netflix.  It's assuring that the new federal government is at least listening.

The federal government released a discussion paper to coincide with the consultations which seems to indicate that while it doesn't want to place limits on foreign content, it does need to channel is efforts into supporting its own cultural industries.  In the world of magazines, I've witnessed the cruel decline of a once vibrant industry.   So the Department of Canadian Heritage wants to build a more dynamic system that better supports creation, discovery and export of Canadian content in the digital world

What should a cultural system that supports creators choice look like?

In 2016 the Department of Canadian Heritage launched consultations on Canadian Content in a Digital World.  An online survey questionnaire canvassed the opinions of stakeholders (creators and cultural organizations) and Canadian culture/media consumers (public) on issues about Canadian and local content and as well as tools for the creation, discovery and export of content.  The results are interesting because despite the diversification of entertainment and communications in the globalized environment that we're in, the need for Canadian content is still very important in the eyes of creators and consumers.  The grants and funding system needs to be support Canadians first and foremost.  So yes, while it's clear that our habits have clearly shifted online, the need for access to cultural content hasn't shifted away from Canada. 


How can we promote Canadian content in the digital world?
One that protects Canadian culture and reflects Canadian identities.  But I don't think the system currently embraces the diversity of Canada.   The initiative that I've been involved in, Ricepaper Magazine, has sought to explore the meaning of being Canadian of Asian descent, perhaps in ways that seeks to redefine the term "Asian Canadian" within Canada.   But over the past few years, funding has decreased and have further marginalized so-called "non-mainstream" media.  It's almost too late now for a reversal.  Canada's intercultural mosaic has evolved as it has every century, and will continually do so.  So the media that reflects the new faces of Canada need to be upheld.  Despite what the government may tell us about its role, it's clearly come short of where the country need it to be.

How do we support Canada’s artists, content creators and cultural entrepreneurs?
The division between of media between print and digital media into distinctive camps is no longer sufficient, and we can't expect the self-cannibalism to solve itself.  For a sustainable and vibrant publishing industry, we need to be "platform agnostic," blending both into emerging areas as transmedia transmedia narrative, multiplatform storytelling, or cross-media seriality that uses creative techniques of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using our current digital technologies.  We need to move beyond the convenient the future-is-digital stance and integrate efforts telling our stories.

So consultations are underway, but it's interesting and perhaps shortsighted that such energies have excluded the Canadian book publishing industry.  As a librarian, I worry about this omission.  Maybe there is a greater plan yet to emerge, but from what I've seen and heard, I don't sense it. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

When Is Research Data No Longer Useful?

I've been fortunate to be in an academic library considered by many to be one of the more advanced in research data management planning.  Certainly in confronting ever changing guidelines the  funding requirements around data sharing, data preservation and the submission of data management plans at universities across North America, academic library institutions clamouring to  understand the needs, in addition to attaining a fuller understanding of their users’ research data management practices and attitudes.  Certainly, much has been written about the work being done here and here.  My friend and colleague Eugene Barsky, for example, has researched and published much in the area of data management.   RDM is such a new area that it sometimes feels very much like the early days of the Wild West.  Where to begin?  It seems like everything we collect becomes data; sorting and organizing it all is an challenge unto itself.

On the surface, it's messy, but underneath it, it's even more complicated as not all of can or should be archived.   Since federal granting agencies in Canada are now advocating for "open science" whereby future researchers can access and reuse such research data, we often assume all data is important, all data is equal.  But just because it's data, doesn't mean it's useable, let alone preservable.  University of Alberta librarians Janice Kung and Sandy Campbell's What Not to Keep: Not All Data Have Future Research Value offers a remarkably cogent and sensible examination into what faculty, clinicians and graduate students from the health and medical sciences deem as research data and while what types of data should not be kept by libraries and archives for the purpose of reuse.  There are eight themes identified here:

Bad or Junk Data - Data that has missing values, malformed records, or stored in problematic file formats has no research value and are therefore unusable.

Cannot be used by others - When datasets become too specific to be combined with other datasets - or cannot be used by other researchers that require knowledge of that particular context or subject - it prevents researchers from manipulating them in a meaningful way and hence,

Easily Replicable - Cost effectiveness of regenerating data on demand - for example, citation analysis data - can make data preservation impractical.

Without good metadata - Since descriptive metadata must accompany research data to ensure future use and interpretation, the ability to reuse datasets can be hindered by suboptimal metadata.

Data without cultural or historical value - Since server space and administrative costs are finite, not all data are valued equally and it's necessary to evaluate the feasibility of archiving everything.  Data covering short periods of time, small samples, or have no cultural/historical content would have less value than longitudinal, large, and cultural based studies in such instances might need to be "weeded."

Pilot or test data - Data derived from instrument testing or trial runs have little future research value since they are used for testing the data collection methods to ensure quality control.  Sometimes there are many iterations of data generated in developing a method that such "raw data" is not required for validation

Proprietary data - Often researchers do not have ownership rights to data but work with such data released to them under contract by companies or organizations for a specific project only.

Confidential data - When research involving human subjects is being conducted, ethics agreements define when data must be destroyed and researchers must abide by these restrictions.

Of course, the study is not exhaustive by any means as it offers only a viewpoint of the health sciences.  But what about other subject domains?  For a more comprehensive contribution to the establishment of more detailed library and archival best practices, policies, and procedures, we need to further examine the digital humanities, for instance.   This is a good, early start.  But more is to come.  Stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pokémon Go Drags Augmented Reality to Coolness (Finally)

Pokémon is back, and it's taken a flailing technology and made it relevant and even cool again, too. Augmented reality—the ability to witness an altered version of our world via a smartphone display -- was written off by most. It had gone the way of the QR codes. Faded and irrelevant. Pokémon Go has consumed the public’s consciousness and, in a single weekend, thrown augmented reality into the mainstream. It’s fun and so people actually use it, and that’s critical because augmented reality is suddenly something the whole world can experience in an accessible and interactive manner.

But times have changed (or returned, in this case) as the Nintendo-owned franchise, which exploded in popularity in the late 1990s, is again taking the world by storm — this time through Pokémon Go, its biggest entry into the mobile space, now available for a free download on Android and iOS. It’s so popular that it’s now overtaken Twitter based on daily active users on Android.  It's amazing to see how people are clamoring to download and use this app, even if it's before it's official release in their country.

What is exactly Pokémon Go?  It's an AR game that utilizes a phone’s GPS and clock to detect where and when in the game Pokémon will "appear" (on the phone's screen) in order to "go" and catch it. By moving around, various types of Pokémon appears, but depending on when and where an individual is situated. The idea is to encourage people to travel around the real world to catch Pokémon in the game.

Augmented reality in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre Recognition Wall
In many ways, augmented reality has arrived, albeit much later than we have expected. Three years ago, I experimented with the technology and at that time it was Layar that was the most popular app. In the "Virtual Museum," augmented reality became a useful tool for highlighting the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre’s history as the Main Library using UBC Library’s digital collections. Patrons using their smartphones or iPads could view the current Wall of Recognition and see the wall "come alive" with archival images and videos of students and alumni talking about their experiences in the building - past and present.   Back then, the technology was still in its infancy.  It was a novelty.  Pokémon Go has really opened up the game.  What are the opportunities for AR in libraries and education?   There's great potential to use the technology now that people are looking up instead of down and will eventually grow to love the neat applications of AR.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Use of Smartphones by Art and Design Students for Accessing Library Services and Learning

In Use of smartphones by art and design students for accessing library services and learning in the journal Library Hi-Tech, a research study in which I co-published with Patrick Lo, Dickson Chiu, Man-hon Leung, and Kevin Ho, our study explored the use of smartphones for accessing library services and learning by art and design students at the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI).

In the design and research methodology, we employed the questionnaire survey to examine how students used apps and the Web on mobile devices in finding information for the purpose of academic learning, social networking, and collaborative learning.

Our survey results showed that while the HKDI students were all smartphone owners and active users of such mobile communication devices, only a minority of them “frequently” use these mobile devices for formal learning purposes.  Students demonstrated a keen preference to use search engines, social communications, and other diverse use of smartphones. Except for research and image/audio-visual needs, the majority of the needs and usage behaviour of these students is similar to mainstream university students.  Therefore, our results recommends greater opportunities for libraries to develop services and facilities that could better fulfill students’ information needs, and to improve the outreach outside the library.

So why is this research of value to the library and information science literature?  This is probably the first study of its kind to explore how art and design students use smartphones for learning needs. In particular, with recent capability of smartphones and mobile Internet speeds being comparable to desktops, it is vital to re-examine the rapidly changing environment and their effects on the needs of the library's users.  I encourage you to take a read and explore the discussion and data from our research and see if it corroborates with your particular library context.  Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any comments, feedback, or question to share with us.

Monday, May 09, 2016

From the Electronic to the Digital University: a Twenty-Five Year Redux

In 1988, the library thought leader David Lewis' "Inventing the Electronic University."  What's significant about Lewis' article is that it was the first to examine how technology would change the information practices of users and library patrons rather than the library itself.

This was a seminal piece: it marked a new beginning in the library literature.  Joan Lippincott responds with an interesting take on the state of the academic library twenty five years later.   Its topics are highly relevant to not only my research, but also to the volatile times we are in for academic libraries everywhere.  With that said, here are the salient points to discuss:

Teaching and Learning - Lippincott argues that of all the developments, teaching and learning programs have had the most mixed results in recent times in terms of development.  Although MOOCs and LMS's have emerged as tools that libraries have had to learn to support, but overall libraries have not been trendsetters in the area of learning technologies when once upon a time, patrons and users needed to rely on libraries more heavily on borrowing and using technology (remember catalogs?)

Scholarly Communications -   With new technologies has emerged e-science and digital humanities -- digital scholarship arrived without much fanfare but has become critically important areas that academic libraries have been asked to support. At the same time, open access, data curation, social media, among the among have become integral in our daily work and is needed to support students, faculty and researchers.

Access and Preservation - We've come a long way since Lewis' article predicted the potential of the digitization of print materials on the CD-ROM.  Libraries created strong digital collections, but the caveat is that they have seemingly lost ownership and authority of these collections.   Libraries are falling behind in integrating its open access collections with its discovery tools -- so now that we've built it, how do we use it?

Staffing - Changes in the roles of staff continue to come as new technologies emerge.   However, some of Lewis' predictions did not materialize as predicted.  While Lewis expected library services and university academic computing units to merge, this has simply not happened in the scale he imagined.  For the most part academic libraries have continued to lead its own initiatives in teaching, learning and research in the areas of technology.  Instead, libraries are working with faculty in both research and learning to expand the "liaison model."  We keep hearing about it, but what is it exactly?  Lippincott alludes that changes are to come, so we wait and see.


Certainly, this is a brief list and there could be quite a few more areas to include here.  Despite what universities say, research is often prioritized at universities and faculty research and publication is tied to tenure and promotion.  What are academic libraries doing right in supporting research?  What are the big areas that we need to get better at?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

From A Cabinet of Curiosities to the Re-Emergence of the LAM

Currently, I'm working on a research project with Dickson Chiu and Patrick Lo on Journey to the East.  We examine the rise of the “LAM,” an acronym that stands for libraries, archives, and museums and in doing so, we profile leading experts -- librarians, archivists, and museum curators -- who specialize in East Asian collections from across the world. In examining the dynamically shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information and collections, this book provides important themes offered by these cultural experts in understanding the necessary professional skills, knowledge, and personalities that are required for working in such environments of varying size, scope, and composition in LAMs.

By interviewing practicing librarians, archivists, and museum curators across the world who specialize in East Asian collections, our research examines the shifting role of the cultural institution in the context of managing information, cultural and knowledge exchanges, and collaboration on a global scale and ultimately challenges the notion of what constitutes “Asia’s collections.”

These managers of East Asia collection not only refers to library, archive, and museum (LAM) professionals who are ethnically of East Asian descent, but also their North American and European colleagues, who have devoted their careers to safeguarding cultural heritage collections of immeasurable values that are housed in different world’ s leading LAMs, located all over the globe. So that is why we went on a journey to interview experts from Berlin State Library, Bavarian State Library, the British Library, the British Museum, the National Library of France, the Vatican Library, the National Library of Denmark, the National Archives of Japan, the National Taiwan Library – just to name a few.   We have three purposes for the project:

(1) Our research project ultimately serves as a reference guide for students, scholars, researchers, and LAM professionals, enabling them to gain a glimpse of the vast amount of treasures available for their research and other scholarly activities. To survive on their own for future generations, LAMS must be organized, researched, talked about, promoted, and taught to the young generations - otherwise they risk extinction, physically as an entity and institutionally relevant to their audiences and users. 

(2) We conducted our research using a mixed-methods approach using semi-structure surveys through face-to-face meetings, Skype, and also by email depending on preferred mode of access by our interviewees. Upon completion of transcribing our interviews, we followed up with our interviewees for clarification and approval for publication of the text. 

(3) We argue that the present convergence is actually a return to traditional unity. These three institutions share epistemological links dating from the “Museum” of Alexandria and continuing through the cabinets of curiosities gathered in early modern Europe. But over time, as these collections expanded, they became more specialized and their storage was separated according to the form of information and kinds of users and after the nineteenth and century, these institutions professionalized and intellectual societies and educational programs materialized that crystallized the formal separation. So in many ways, LAMs have come full circle.

I'd be more than happy to answer any questions and feedback you may have about our project.  I've written about LAMs in the past, and this is a really exciting project to continue my research in this area. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The Rise of the Innovation Commons


On my research study, I took the opportunity to visit the City University of Hong Kong, which is globally recognized as a top institution of higher learning and research, currently ranked #57 in the world in the QS World University Rankings and ranked #2 in Asia by the U.S. News & World Report.  It's not a large space whatsoever, but how it creatively re-purposed existing library space into a collaborative learning environment is worth a closer examination.

As my research is now focusing on innovative academic library spaces across the world, I was really interested in learning more about the history of this rapidly growing institution during my stay in Hong Kong.  Founded in 1984 as the City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, it became a fully accredited university in 1994 and renamed the City University of Hong Kong and became public research university located in Kowloon, Hong Kong.  It's also uniquely situated in the vicinity of the beautiful Festival Walk Mall.

Established collaboratively between the university library, the School of Law, the Knowledge Transfer Office, and the Education Development and Gateway Education, the Innovation Commons serves as a one-stop resource center physically located inside the Run Run Shaw Library.  It is a draw for students and the campus community for quick and easy access to information about entrepreneurship and innovation. 


What I really wanted to learn more about was how the Innovation Commons situates community engagement in its academic mission.  One of the initiatives is holding competitions for business plans and government-funded venture programmes for students.  Its staff participates as jurors in these competitions. In addition, it organizes activities, inviting industry experts and speakers to hold talks and workshops related to innovation, intellectual property, and the entrepreneurial projects. The Commons also provides professional advice through its peer tutors from the School of Law to consult on patents and related legal issues.

As I'm conducting research on curriculum mapping, I was curious to see how the Innovation Commons has aligned its space and services to the City University of Hong Kong's curriculum called the Discovery-enriched Curriculum since 2012.  Under DEC,  students create new knowledge, communicate it, curate it and cultivate it to benefit society as a final project prior to graduation with the goal of giving students the opportunity to make an original discovery while at CityU.    The results of this research trip will be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of East Asian Libraries.  Stay tuned.