London Day 8: Miscellaneous

Today, we took the day off to do some laundry, catch up on some work and reading, and explore some more of London by making the general plan to wander toward Buckingham Palace, then toward some of the museums near Cromwell Road, stopping whenever we saw something interesting.

Highlights of the day included:

  • the Forbidden Planet Megastore, the city’s–and according to their website, the world’s–biggest comic book and general science fiction shop (where, alas, it was a bit too crowded to take any pictures)
  • Burlington House, where many things were closed, but where we got to spend some time touring a free Royal Academy of Arts student art exhibition
    Burlington HouseRoyal Society of Chemistry headquarters, Burlington House
  • Buckingham Palace, where we stood outside the gate and took some pictures, and found out we did not make it out there at the correct time to witness the changing of the guardGates, Buckingham Palace Queen's Guard, Buckingham Palace
  • Via one of those random detours we made along the way, a rather unique World War II landmark known as “the hole in the wall” in Rutland Estate, which we found due to a very charming local guide who saw us looking at a map and walked us to the spot, giving us a bit of history of the neighborhood on the way there.
    The Hole in the Wall Closeup of plaque explaining history of the hole in the wall Rutland Estate residences

Unfortunately, things we did not see included the museums we had hoped to visit, due to the fact that our journey took a bit longer than expected, and we got to the area quite a bit after closing time. The Victoria & Albert Museum is actually on our schedule for next week, but the Science Museum and Natural History Museum might need to wait until another trip.

At this point, we were all getting hungry, so we took the (extremely crowded) tube back to our neighborhood and then went out for something to eat. All in all, a nice break and a good chance to see some of the city we’ve been visiting before what looks to be another full week of class activities.

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London Day 8: Miscellaneous

London Day 7: Pride

I am not attending the American Library Association’s Annual Conference this year due to the conflict with this trip. While I don’t regret my decision to go to London instead, I am a bit sad that I will be missing the ALA members marching in the San Francisco Pride Parade. So I was very pleased to be able to attend Pride in London this Saturday, and be able to watch the local parade and live entertainment. The event took place immediately after this historic Supreme Court ruling back in the States, and while the ruling had no impact in the U.K., Londoners seemed to be happy to celebrate it just the same. The U.S. Embassy had a float, and when it passed, many in the crowd shouted, “Congratulations!”

Below are some pictures from the event:

Flagbearers at the London Pride Parade Scouts at the London Pride Parade HM Armed Forces at the London Pride Parade Stonewall group at the London Pride Parade US Embassy marching group at the London Pride Parade US Embassy float at the London Pride ParadeThis was another experience of being out of my element information-wise. When I’ve attended parades in the States, I’ve always taken for granted knowing the names and logos of at least most of the businesses and organizations sponsoring the floats. Luckily, there were others in the crowd willing to explain what things were to visiting Americans. Also, many of the sponsors were giving out stickers, so I could look things up when I got home. It was also unusual to me that most of the floats, like the embassy one pictured here, were actually double-decker buses.

I was the only member of our group who didn’t get tired before the end of the parade, so I wound up staying until the bitter end and meeting up with people once the whole thing was over. We met some new friends (and their puppy) and stayed talking in an increasingly crowded Soho, until we wisely decided to go grab some dinner somewhere nearby with fewer people.

Overall, a fun, but exhausting day.

London Day 7: Pride

London Day 5: Digital Monographs

A display of Harry Potter books at Bloomsbury Publishing
A display of Harry Potter and other books published by Bloomsbury.

Today was devoted to exploring how digital technology is transforming the world of book publishing, and potentially the book itself. Much of what we see currently in eBooks is an electronic version of the print text, but Anthony Watkinson gave some examples of “Book 3.0,” or texts that are starting include features enabled by the web, such as embedded multimedia content. Online platforms may even change how strictly text-based monographs are written, as interest in discovering and accessing content by chapter may not only require providing rich metadata at the chapter level, but also authors and publishers to make sure each chapter of a scholarly book can be read as a standalone unit.

Next, Ruth Jones from the distributor Ingram discussed how digital technologies are transforming book distribution, for example, allowing dynamic, location-based print-on-demand services, new subscription models, and the ability to create “new” monographs from combining multiple sources. (Copyright clearance, as ever, remains a concern here.)

After this, we headed to Bloomsbury Publishing, best known for publishing the Harry Potter series, to talk to some of their staff about their various digital initiatives, including Drama Online and the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. This last intrigued me, as I’ve been reading a lot about the use of social media in academia as a potential substitute for (at least some part of) traditional publishing. This is not that. Rather, it’s an attempt to use social media, as well as online freemium content and in-person learning events and conferences, to build and energize a community around a still-traditionally published reference resource. This is much like the model behind how2become.com that we learned about earlier, with additional resources devoted to building an online community for users. Bloomsbury also uses a sort of gamification, a rewards points system to further encourage purchases and the creation of user-generated content. Users gain a certain number of points for various activities, for example, making a comment on a blog. Points can eventually be traded in for free books or discounts on services.

I’m not sure whether any of this could translate into the world of scholarly publishing, particularly given several recent discussions about how academic motivations for creating content are so strongly tied to, and tend to be limited to, those activities that support career advancement, but there are ideas here worth pondering.

The day ended early, so I spent the rest of it exploring more of the British Museum. I got through the Egyptian sculpture gallery, as well as a bit of Assyrian and Greek sculpture, before closing time. Alas, at this pace, I do not think I will make it through all I want to see before we leave.

London Day 5: Digital Monographs

London Day 4: The British Library and Digital Marketing

Statue of Isaac Newton outside the British Library
Statue of Isaac Newton outside the British Library

Today began with a tour of the British Library, the U.K.’s national library. According to its website and our BL hosts, the library holds a copy of every publication produced in the U.K. and Ireland, as well as a number of publications from other nations, with a total collection of over 150 million items, almost all of which are housed in closed stacks. We learned how to search the collection (which one should do before visiting, as the stacks are not browsable) and how to apply for a Reader Pass.

The King's Library at the British Library
The King’s Library at the British Library

The highlight of the trip was learning about the digital scholarship and preservation projects currently being undertaken by the library, particularly the British Library Labs.

Select tools and resources we learned about:
British Library Flickr account (what it says on the tin)
British Library Online Map Archive (where users can help georeference digitized historical maps)
IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework)
The Mechanical Curator (posts random digitized illustrations from historical books every hour to Twitter and Tumblr)
The Programming Historian (online tutorials for humanities scholars interested in digital tools)

These represent changes digital technology is bringing about in not just in how humanities scholarship is done, but how it is accessed, and who does it, with crowdsourcing tools similar to those for citizen science.

The presentation that interested me most was Jason Webber’s talk on web archiving in the U.K., and the contrast between two of its initiatives: the Open UK Web Archive, a collection that anybody with a web connection can search, but that includes only select web pages collected since 2004 for which the creators have given permission for public display, and the Legal Deposit UK Web Archive, which collects all freely available web pages from UK domains or hosted in the UK, but which is only accessible to users able to view the collection from deposit library reading rooms. Neither is a completely elegant solution to preserving and making available the often ephemeral content of the web, which is of course a significant issue for those concerned with the preservation of information; seeing the graph of just how much web content available in 2004 had disappeared by 2013 was a bit shocking.

Our final presentation was from Christina Duffy on imaging the Magna Carta documents. Following this, we got to spend a brief time in the Magna Carta exhibit itself before heading to our next appointment. I fully intend to go back if I can.

Things learned by accident: the name of the Pizza Express next to the library is deceptive. The food involves pizza, but isn’t be delivered at a speed that can be remotely described as express.

The afternoon was spent at a forum on digital marketing. It was interesting to see the strategies publishers use digital technology and digital data to identify and market to various audience segments. I was most interested in a presentation from Kate Smith of Wiley, not because it represented the best digital marketing strategy–indeed, it was more of a cautionary tale–but because it involved a tool, the Wiley Online Bookstore for Libraries that helped address a genuine pain point for practicing librarians: the difficulty of placing small orders with scholarly publishers. I would have liked to have given this one a try while I was still a practitioner dealing with a collection.

London Day 4: The British Library and Digital Marketing

London Day 3: Digital Publishing and Digital Humanities

Apocalyptic book display at Waterstones , stating The End is Nigh
Is this the end of scholarly publishing as we know it? Probably not. (Apocalyptic book display at Waterstones)

My third full day in London was actually the first full day of the course proper. We spent the morning talking about digital publishing and the afternoon learning about the research being done in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. This was followed by a reception in which we had the opportunity to mingle with a few of the researchers we had met earlier.

First up was Anthony Watkinson, who discussed the history, present and possible future of digital scholarly publishing, including the pressure on publishers to meet increasing user expectations for digital products and functionality, the role of (green and gold) open access, the Force 11 Manifesto, and some of the research CIBER Research Ltd. has done on trust, in which it was found that scholars still tend to place trust in traditional peer-reviewed journals, and less in sources such as social media and repositories.

Next, Michael Mabe from the International Association of STM Publishers gave a talk on the future of journal publishing, in which he noted that technology has changed researcher behavior very little and has not changed people’s motivations for publishing scholarship. In the publishing world, we are still “using new tools for old purposes.”

He also discussed the fundamental needs of researchers, and how these differ when a researcher is in author mode versus reader mode, which explains much of the variation between the results librarians and information scientists get when we study researchers and those publishers get: we’re studying the same populations in different modes, where different sets of needs dominate.

It is difficult to say at this point how the changing public and political attitudes towards open access Mabe discussed will ultimately change scholarly publishing or scholarly behavior. Certainly, the increasing number of mandates for sharing the results of research do force change in the behavior of many of the researchers to whom they apply. They also require technical solutions for the problems of storage and access.

But will these replace or even fundamentally alter traditional scholarly publishing? As Mabe pointed out, institutional repositories and pre-print archives exist, but neither fill the function of the scholarly journal. Researchers who use these tools are still publishing their research in traditional ways.

Is the end near for traditional scholarly publishing? From a researcher behavior standpoint, it would appear not, as most researchers who use tools such as repositories, preprint servers, and social media don’t seem to be using any of them as a substitute for traditional peer-reviewed publication. The business models for publication may be changing in some significant ways, however. I look forward to learning more about this in the coming weeks.

Things to read later:

And now for something completely different…

The afternoon’s presentations in digital humanities at KCL Drury Lane highlighted some impacts of technology on research that I hadn’t previously considered. Department Head Sheila Anderson notes that researchers there are studying not just digital humanities, but “the digital human,” and how technologies are changing both human lives and the way we produce culture.

As my focus for the past several years has been on STEM research and researchers, I’ve thought less about how new technologies are changing the kinds of research that can be done in the humanities, but we learned about some truly nifty things being developed and used, such as Faith Lawrence’s tool for annotating and analyzing fictional narratives, and the DigiPal tool for analyzing medieval handwriting. At the reception, I got to talk to many of these researchers about their dissertation work, and how communication and information sharing varies by discipline and by environment (academia vs. industry).

Finally, a group of us departed for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant, then home.

London Day 3: Digital Publishing and Digital Humanities

London Day 2

Shops at Covent Gardens
Pollock’s Toy Shop, Covent Gardens

Today was our introductory day for Scholarly E-Publishing. This was the day we got to meet with our instructors, as well as our student counterparts from Pratt and do the housekeeping part of the course. We got our identification, went over the course schedule, discussed assignments, and–perhaps most importantly–found out where we will be having class during most of the unit. Lunch was at Covent Gardens, where I also found a few interesting shops I would like to visit later.

I am very excited about the syllabus for this course. I’ve experienced scholarly publishing from the library perspective, but know comparatively very little about the publisher perspective, so I’m looking forward to being able to meet and interview people from that side, and get their perspectives on the future of digital publishing. Also, our field trips include visits to the British Library, the National Art Library and the Bodleian Library. Overall, it looks like it’s going to be a busy two weeks. Inevitably, there probably will not be enough time to get to a small fraction of the things that were suggested for doing during our free time in London, though I’m hoping to be able to take in a show and spend some time in at least a few of the museums before departing.

Our plan after class was to visit the British Museum. Fortunately, we made it before they closed. Unfortunately–after a detour which involved attempting to run a couple of errands on the way and getting temporarily disoriented–we made it with only ten minutes to spare. This was just enough time to get to see the Rosetta Stone, which was probably both the cultural and information-related highlight of the day.

Other information-related observations: I did not realize how much I’ve gotten used to both readily available unlimited mobile data and my own personal search result filter bubble. The latter because now that Google knows I’m in the U.K., the search results I’m expecting to be at the top of the page in a number of searches…aren’t. In a much more obvious way than the changes that occur when I’m wandering around the Lower 48. It’s unsettling.

Tomorrow is a long day ending in a reception, so I had probably better turn in.

Today’s culinary highlight: Fish and chips.

London Day 2