Saturday, August 29, 2009

Definition help? RBOC

I've seen this a few times around the blogosphere, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it means. (I looked it up online, and all I get is "Regional Bell Operating Companies" aka the Baby Bells).

Can anyone clue me in? Thanks!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Orphaned Works... What do you do if you can't find the copyright holder?

One of the things I'm working on with The Book is wrangling permissions. This, I think, is almost harder than writing, as it involves not just my own weirdnesses, but those of other people as well.

To be fair, I have been in contact with extremely helpful people, who corresponded with me, sent digital files, copies of reports, and happily signed and returned the permission to publish form required by my publisher. Others have been happy I'm interested in publishing their materials, and promise to make the experience smooth sailing (once I decide which images I want to publish...) To those people, I am increasingly grateful.

Others responded positively up front, then vanished *poof* when the permission to publish form was sent their way. They may respond favorably to a nudge; I am planning some nudginess this weekend. There is one image in particular from this category that I *really* *really* want.

Other folks, surprisingly (to me) associated with large organizations in the heritage field, have been entirely and completely non-responsive. Verily, black-hole-like in their non-response (NPS and APT, I'm looking at you). The APT can go jump; their stuff's already out there anyway. But the image from the NPS? Another one that I *really* *really* want. For The Book and an article, really. Yeah, it's Federal, so I should just be able to take it... but that would be rude. And, I'd like to be sure to give correct attribution. And, I love the NPS, so this wall-of-black-hole-silence is driving me.

So, yeah. Enough winging about Fun With Photo Permissions, and to my point. There is a lot of stuff that I'd love to incorporate into The Book, but which falls within copyright limitations and the corporate authors of the works are long defunct (I'm not really working with much stuff that would have individual authors/creators). What to do, what to do....

This rolled through my RSS feeder today, courtesy the Blog of the American Historical Association: It is a .pdf Statement of Best Practices in dealing with Orphan Works (things in copyright where the copyright holder no longer exists or cannot be found), published by the Society of American Archivists. There is some good stuff in here about deciding whether to publish what you think are Orphaned Works or not (risk assessment), how to determine who is the creator, how to determine who is the copyright holder (they are often different), copyright heirs (yikes), Reproduction Rights Organizations (international and domestic!), how to cover your butt, and additional reading.

It sounds like a mess; or on a good day, like a boat-load of work. But it doesn't need to be; it's mostly just methodical. And probably, in certain cases, quite worth the effort. This certainly gives me a framework to consider Orphaned Works and in approaching their use. I'll also have to check with my publisher; they may prefer to steer entirely clear of Orphan Works.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Torture is not funny.

Torture is absolutely not funny. And it is a horrible thing when you become what you once despised.


This "leaked torture memo" posted over at Progressive Historians is VERY funny. I laughed my [redacted] off.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pedagogy and Working With Documents

I've been working on the book this morning (yay), and took some time out to mess around online while I switched gears (moving from checking sources to writing).

School starts soon, and I'm always interested in improving my teaching. I teach drive-by introductions to various subfields in anthropology; this semester it is physical anthropology. There is SO much to cover in one of these introductory courses, that I just can't. I want to give my students a tasting of all the various things you can do as a physical anthropologist, how it is relevant, how dynamic a field it is, a basic understanding of the processes of natural selection, the importance of biodiversity, and an overview of hominid evolution that ties together physical evolution and cultural development. Still an awfully tall order for 13 weeks of lectures. Yes, I could just yammer at them (and have... and will again, I'm sure), but I want them to think about and engage with the material. I want them to roll it around, compare it to their beliefs and experiences, play "what if," and ask questions - of themselves, their classmates, and me.

I'm always tweaking the course; modifying assignments, messing with lectures, etc. I don't want to emphasize style over substance, but would like my classes to be more engaged. As I was muddling about the 'net this morning, I found this: Secrets of Great History Teachers part of the History Matters: The US Survey Course on the Web. I've skimmed just a couple of the entries, but it looks like there are some good ideas in there, even for non-history teaching (though some have proposed that aren't all studies of the past history?; I will have more on that). I will have to pick out one or two to try.

Also part of the History Matters website is a section called Making Sense of Evidence, with tons of material on working with maps, diaries, letters, ads, speeches, newspapers, etc. I use primary documents all the time; good to get a refresher in approaching them (that, and I'm trying to incorporate more historiography into my historical archaeology).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When Being Late is a Good Thing

The book, she is late. Very late. Deadlines long since whooshed past (real life intervened, and I have a terrible tendency to underestimate how long it takes me to do things, especially when it comes to non-job time). I keep plugging away at it, though... I need to get it done to Get. It. Done. and move on. Worst case: if my current publisher decides they don't want it after all, I will have a completed thing to shop around.

Anyway... my point. In the process of being late, I've come across recent publications that will inform bits of the book in very big ways. In one case, a book that will make an excellent hook on which to hang my "why" chapter was published just last year. In another case, a specific case study in a volume of economic/consumer history published several years ago that, had I not found it, would have left me Very. Embarrassed. There are also an increasing number of dissertations and theses dealing with the same topic as I am; mostly tangentially or in a small area, sometimes on a larger scale. I really need to get on the stick and finish before I am scooped; but it sure is helpful to have this other information.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Picture Experiement

Fieldwork today. Nothing interesting to see; piles of dirt, more dirt, and some dirt. Oh, and rocks.

I did visit a State Park at lunch, and gave a whirl taking photos with my cell phone. Posting them here to see what they look like. Behold, Place Way Up High:

Hm. Not -too- bad, especially the foregrounds, but not great either. The "hills in the distance" were pretty hazy in real life, also (90F today, and humid. Yuck). Cellphone Cam seems to have promise for the emergency oh crap I don't have my camera moments. But cannot be my first choice! Hopefully I haven't just been charged a small fortune to suck the pix off the phone...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Home Again, and A Photo

Home again. The research trip was most excellent. Research appointment at Local History Museum #1 was threatening to not pan out terribly successfully, and suddenly became unscheduled research at Nearby Research Archive #2 that rocked. It involved access to boxes of barely-processed materials in my research area. With more than twice that much material again, part of the same collection, expected to arrive in the near future.The moral of the story is, tell ANYONE who will stand still long enough what you're researching. Even when it is something weird and obscure, and the most common response is, "What?" The curator at Museum #1 said, "I don't have that much stuff, but let me make a call." Thirty minutes later, I'm in Nearby Research Archive #2.

As promised, I toted my camera around. But National Research Archives #1 (visited the day before the above adventures) had so much material, that I used up my photo card. I remembered to bring fresh batteries, but never anticipated I'd take more than 120 images. Silly me. I'll have to toss an extra photo card into my camera bag. It's little, holds maybe 30 images, but it would have tided me over!

I did, however, save a shot for a photo to share. This is Taughannock Falls (as best I can tell, pronounced Te-GA-nick, with the emphasis on A as in can), near the southern end of Cayuga Lake in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, just north of Ithaca. It is 215 feet, higher than Niagara Falls by 30-40 feet or more. The photo does it no justice -- it is just impossible to capture the scale of it. I didn't make it this time, but there is a trail you can walk to the bottom of the falls, which is spectacular as well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

On the Road

I'm on a whirlwind tour of Cross-border family types and book research on the way home.

Remember when I said I needed to learn to take my camera everywhere? Yeah. I still need to learn that. The building had HUGE DRAGON GARGOYLES and an incredibly cool early twentieth century elevator. And I didn't have my camera.

I will bring my camera, I will bring my camera, I will bring my camera... and post a pic here to prove it!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Posting Stuff to the 'Net and Getting Cited: An Experiment

Just over a month ago, Michael Smith over at Publishing Archaeology blogged an appeal to archaeologists to make our papers available on the internet. He followed up with a post citing a study indicating that Open Access papers (i.e., stuff available online) have a five-fold citation advantage over non-accessible papers.

For fun, I'd recently looked myself up in Google Scholar, a quick and dirty way to see who is citing you. And, despite several conference presentations and some publications (book and journal), I had one citation. For my MA thesis, no less. Dang it. I mean, the reason we present at conferences and publish stuff is because we think it is something valuable and useful, and we hope others will read it. Sheesh, even if folks think it's crap, at least it should still get cited... you know, SOMEWHERE.

The kicker is, there is so much literature out there, if folks can't find your stuff, they won't cite it. Conference papers are particularly problematic here; they're so ephemeral, they don't get indexed, and it is unusual for archaeology conferences to publish their proceedings. WAC-6 (Sixth World Archaeological Congress) held last year in Dublin is an exception. They have available texts from almost 200 of the presentations; these are pre-circulated papers, so they may vary slightly from the actual presentation, but what a wealth of information (anyone interested in feminist archaeology, there is some good stuff in there...). The link above goes to the WAC-6 website; this link goes directly to the list of papers available online.

So I did a little experiment. I fished out some conference papers I've given, a couple of journal articles, and a book. I posted them to four "put your stuff out there" locations online, all free:

  • Mostly a reference management tool that lets you access your .pdfs from anywhere - especially helpful when I have references that overlap between work and personal. They do also have a Personal Profile page, where you can make your own work available as downloads for anyone. The site can be slow to load.
  • CiteULike Again, mostly a reference management tool, similar to Mendeley. You can make your papers available for download by anyone. I find it kinda clunky vs. Mendely, but have found a few references I didn't otherwise know about.
  • Facebook for academics. With the ability to post papers for people to access, as well as posting research interests, joining groups of folks that share your interests, etc. Perk: you get email when someone searches on you or "follows" you, and you can see how many people have looked at your stuff. Note: it only -looks- like you need a university affiliation to be listed here. Scroll through, there is an "Independent Researcher" catagory.
  • SelectedWorks Strictly a portal to post your stuff and have it available. Folks can subscribe to get updates, but that's about it for the acasocial framework. One perk: realtime reports about how many copies of your stuff have been downloaded. They also convert your .docs into .pdfs and index them.
Time passed. The results? Mendeley and CiteuLike, from what I can tell, did squat for me in the "making stuff available" department (though I'm sticking with Mendeley for managing references). - had a few folks peek at the papers; apparently there is a trickle of visitors coming in via Google, no Google Scholar links. I give it a meh.

The real winner here is SelectedWorks. I can see people are accessing and downloading my stuff. It is totally easy to update my site. And, time to Google Scholar for everything (book, journal articles, conference papers) = 1 month. Even though I didn't provide full text for the book and one journal article, they're now indexed in Google Scholar.

If your university has an account with SelectedWorks, it's easy to get listed. But, you can be listed as an individual for free, it's just not readily apparent. From their homepage, scroll to the bottom and click "Start a Site". You will have to email them directly to get an access code (took < 1 day for me). That's it. I found tweaking my abstracts to include words others might search for was helpful (Search Engine Optimization for scholarly papers, woot!), and the realtime download stats let me track that.

This is win-win, for writers (who get their stuff out there) and for researchers (who can find more stuff). It's a little nerve-wracking to know that my stuff is being read, but I'm coping!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cities in Cities: A Map of Philadelphia

I was in Philly recently. For a meeting, not fieldwork or pleasure... which is why I didn't have my camera with me, dang it.

I stepped out of the parking garage (I finally found one that will let you park your own car!), and onto a map of the city. Not a crumpled up tourist map... a big, stone, set-in-the-landscape map of Old Philadelphia. On the site formerly of William Penn's house, "The Slate Roof House," where he lived from 1699 to 1701. There's even a small recreation of the house on a pedestal that says, "The Slate Roof House Was Here" (shades of Kilroy?) In the center is a statue of William Penn himself, a recreation of the statue on top of Philadelphia City Hall (which is apparently worth a trip, as there is an observation post in Penn's HAT). The park is known as Welcome Park (named for Penn's ship, The WELCOME), and it's on 2nd Street just south of Chestnut.

Here is an image of Welcome Park from GoogleEarth. The four trees are located in each of the green space squares that Penn included when he laid out the city. Each of the white marble streets has the street name carved into it. I LOVE the little compass rose set in stone, there in the upper left corner. It is a very cool, interactive thing to be IN a map, in the city that it is mapping, and to stand at the location on the map that corresponds to where the map is. All kinds of coolness about space and place, representation, perception, interaction, landscape, and reflexivity.

What it looks like from the ground (image from Philadelphia.About.Com):

I need to remember to bring my own camera, EVERYWHERE.