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Posts by David Michalski

How Objects Speak

August 13th, 2014 by David Michalski

Some of the more interesting classes that draw upon the rich collections of Shields Library over the years are those that study material culture. Professors in American Studies, Community Development, Sociology, Anthropology,  the History of Science, and University Writing frequently send their students to library resources to trace the changing interaction between objects and society. Student’s examining technologies of everyday life, such as eyeglasses, cell phone’s, or hair dryers draw upon the library’s primary and secondary literatures to reconstruct the social worlds through which these objects pass. The term papers the students write testify to the complex relations that surround things, and in the process of writing, students often find that it is in the social gathering that the object comes to life.

Peter Miller, in his recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “How Objects Speak” traces the rise of interest in study of material culture and examines its contemporary appeal.

Milk Jar
From Miller’s article “How Objects Speak” Chronicle of Higher Education. 8/11/2014
Item: milk can
Material: Aluminum
Size: Diameter 32 cm, height of the main part 51 cm, and the upper part 15 cm.
Date: 1940?
Location: Warsaw, Poland.

Peter Miller has also gathered recent writing on material culture studies in his new edited book:
Cultural histories of the material world Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2013. See: Shields Library HM621 .C848 2013. It’s a good place to start, if one is interested in engaging the archaeology of the present.

Seeking New Paths to Open Access in the Humanities

February 21st, 2014 by David Michalski

Earlier this week, I attended webinar, called “Open Access in the Humanities” led by Rupert Gatti. Dr. Gatti is a Fellow in Economics at Trinity College, Cambridge and Co-Founder and Director of Open Book Publishers. The presentation outlined the landscape and the challenges of Open Access in the humanities.

One point that resonated with me, given the centrality of monographs to the humanities, was a statistic that showed the relative dearth of new open access academic books in relation to new journal titles. Clearly there are combinations of reasons preventing a more robust move to open access in the humanities, both economic (the problem of financial capital: books (e or print) are more labor intensive) and sociocultural (the problem of cultural capital: in that humanities books are awarded status and prestige through publishing houses). Gatti’s presentation took on these challenges by seeking a sustainable ways to address these conditions, showing some exciting options moving forward.

The bulk of his presentation was spent on Open Books Publishers, a new publishing project for peer-reviewed open access monographs, which he directs. (See Open Books Publishers:

http://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/25/1/faqs ) This outfit has only published a few books to date, but their economic model, which includes a mixture of revenue from big name supporters, hard-copy and alternative format sales, and voluntary author-generated publication grant funding makes them an interesting new player in field.

Gatti also outlined other important initiatives. One of these was Knowledge Unlatched, (See: http://www.knowledgeunlatched.org/ ) a project which seeks long-term cost savings for institutions by sharing the costs of making HSS monographs available on a Creative Commons license. UC Libraries is part in one of their pilot projects. Another was Unglue It, ( https://unglue.it/about/) a project designed to help individuals and institutions join together to liberate specific ebooks “crowd-funding ” payments to authors and publishers so they they will relicense their works under Creative Commons licenses.” 

It is exciting to see these different economic models being tried. While I can’t say they will all achieve the sustainability they desire, it is clear that their aim is to create cooperatives to address real costs.

This webinar was sponsored by UKSG, a group formally that United Kingdom Serials Group. UKSG has evolved into a network that encourages “the exchange of ideas on scholarly communication…spanning the wide range of interests and activities across the scholarly information community of librarians, publishers, intermediaries and technology vendors. More about their activities can be found here: http://www.uksg.org/

Behold the Editor, increasingly important, yet undervalued says Alan Rauch

January 22nd, 2014 by David Michalski

Ecce Emendator: The Cost of Knowledge for Scholarly Editors.  

“…How is it that the role of editor has seemed to have disappeared? And how is it that the tremendous labor performed by editors has essentially been erased or degraded by the very system that depends on us?…”

Alan Rauch, past president of president of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ), and founding editor of Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology writes about the place of academic journal Editors in the new political economy of knowledge.

New data science institute to help scholars harness ‘big data’

November 19th, 2013 by David Michalski

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | November 13, 2013

BERKELEY — In a world awash in data, UC Berkeley is meeting the flood head-on by establishing a new institute to support faculty, researchers and students in their efforts to mine this information in areas as diverse as astronomy and economics, genetics and demography


Vision of the data center in Doe Library.


NYT: Professor Says He Has Solved a Mystery Over a Slave’s Novel

September 19th, 2013 by David Michalski

In this New York Times article, Gregg Hecimovich, chairman of the English department at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, is reported to have solved a literary and cultural mystery by identifying the author of The Bondswoman’s Narrative: Hannah Bond, and naming her literary influences by researching wills, diaries, handwritten almanacs and public records.


See also–
Crafts, Hannah.
bondwoman’s narrative / Hannah Crafts ; edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
New York : Warner Books, c2002.
Shields Library PS1449.C673 B66 2002 Regular Loan

In search of Hannah Crafts : critical essays on The bondwoman’s narrative / Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Hollis Robbins, eds.
New York : BasicCivitas, c2004.
Shields Library PS1449.C673 B6634 2004 Regular Loan

Hecimovich, Gregg A.Searching for Hannah Crafts in Eastern North Carolina. North Carolina Literary Review 16 (2007): 43-54.

Williams, Adebayo. “Of Human Bondage and Literary Triumphs: Hannah Crafts and the Morphology of the Slave Narrative.” Research in African Literatures 34.1 (Spring 2003): 137ff

Library Research Workshops in the Humanities and Social Sciences

September 16th, 2013 by David Michalski

Library Research Workshops in the Humanities and Social Sciences
with Research Librarian, David Michalski

Library research skills can help one jump-start new projects, place old questions in new contexts, and allow one to probe more deeply into the social and cultural record.

Graduate students, faculty and other researchers working in the Humanities, Cultural Studies or Social Sciences are invited to bring their projects to a Library Research Workshop.

Researchers will learn about the latest resources, participate in guided hands-on instruction, and have their questions about the library answered in this informal, collegial setting. Learn the most effectively ways to construct literature reviews, frame new research questions, and navigate the wide variety of interdisciplinary information sources available at the University of California and beyond.

Topics covered include:
Locating primary source material,
Conducting literature reviews in unfamiliar areas,
Citation analysis and cited reference searches,
and the use of specialized reference works.

Bring your questions and let us learn how we can serve you better.

Library Workshop Dates

October 22nd
Tuesday, 1-2:30
Peter J. Shields Library
Library Instruction Lab
First floor, near the Reserves Desk

October 24th
Thursday, 10-11:30
Peter J. Shields Library
Library Instruction Lab
First floor, near the Reserves Desk

October 29th
Tuesday, 10-11:30
Peter J. Shields Library
Library Instruction Lab
First floor, near the Reserves Desk

October 31st
Thursday, 2-3:30
Peter J. Shields Library
Library Instruction Lab
First floor, near the Reserves Desk

Finding the Library Instruction Lab:

Instructor: David Michalski, MLS, PhD. (michalski@ucdavis.edu) is the Social and Cultural Studies Librarian at the University of California, Davis. He has twelve years experience as a research librarian, and is the author of a number of scholarly publications in information studies, cultural studies and sociology.
For more info see: http://people.lib.ucdavis.edu/~davidm/mycard.html

The Book as Social Form: On the Value of Peer-Review and Editorial Critique

July 22nd, 2013 by David Michalski

As the information environment shifts, and new publishing opportunities are presented to researchers, librarians and scholars planning on how to move forward need to reflect on the relationship between the research library, the scholar/author, and the functions of the academic press.

Having sheparded to publication some of the most remarkable academic books of recent years, Ken Wissoker, the editorial director at Duke University Press, is in a good position to explain the added-value the academic press provides to this relationship. And in an insightful blog post, he does just that, focusing on the work behind the scenes that has helped to make Duke University Press as successfull as it has become.

In a world a-buzz over the technologies of self-publishing and research data repositories, Wissoker reminds us of the importance peer review and editorial guidance have on the shape of the humanities and qualitative social sciences. Questioning arguments which herald the demise of university press book, he articulates a key difference between a report on one’s research and the proper work of the book.

Publication in the humanities and social sciences isn’t the reporting of research. It’s the production of a compelling argument, based on a combination of research and interpretation.”

By drawing our attention to this process, Wissoker contributes to a wider critique of an industry that too often sees knowledge as the direct result of the exchange of information, and libraries and publishers simply as the machinery of information transfer. By opening up the labor of the editorial and review process, he reveals the social form of the book. Rather than seeing it simply as a physical or digital vessel for content, one that serves as an obstacle between the reader and her or his access to pure research, the book is reimagined as dialogue between facts, interpretations and critical arguments, a conversation that is aided by the work of external reviewers and editors. In this light, the best books in the humanities and social sciences, not only transport facts, but take the reader through the construction of those facts by unfolding both the research process and the relationships which affect its trajectory.

Wissoker’s argument in favor of a broader recognition of the social relationships of knowledge production may positively influence the way we imagine libraries too. It may help us to better organize the information environment of tomorrow by bringing into focus one the library’s most essential roles, its function as a generator and facillitator of compelling arguments.

See Ken Wissoker’s article posted on Scholarly Kitchen here:

For more of Ken Wissoker’s thoughts, see the interviews Adeline Koh has conducted with him for the Chronicle of Higher Education, beginning with “On Monographs, Libraries and Blogging”. See:

Slow Research: battling distraction and information overload in a 24/7 world

June 3rd, 2013 by David Michalski

David Michalski
Social and Cultural Studies Librarian, UC Davis

The web has changed library research, and much for the better. It has allowed for amazing improvements in the discovery and access of information, which has, in turn, allowed for deeper contextualization and previously unforeseen productive comparative work. Research with the internet turned-on can, however, also resemble studying in the middle of a crowded intersection, where news and updates from both relations and strangers interrupt one’s attention. The flood of information repeatedly works to turn one’s mind from the sustained inquiry, the patient scholarship that has always been the hallmark of critical thought.

In an information environment built for speed, I wonder if there a place today for a Slow Research movement. As the obstacles that had previously hindered access and discovery are conquered by deep databases and the digital distribution of texts, it seems that a new research problem has surfaced. How does today’s scholar sustain her or his inquiry into texts, or more simply, in a world of short-burst comments and lighting fast trends, how does a scholar concentrate long enough to reap the benefits provided by our information world? Does contemplative reading take too long? Is the inquisitive multivalent interpretation of events always too wordy or complex? Is tracking down and evaluating references or contextualizing the historical and material production of texts too cumbersome in a world that pressures us to move fast and light? Is there still time for the book-length idea, or the essay that unfolds gradually, with craft and precision?

Slow Research might be loosely modeled after the Slow Food movement, the global movement to rethink about how food is made, served, shared, and tasted. In their effort to present a challenge to the industrial character of fast-food, Slow Food enthusiasts encourage people to understand the production of food. They insist we discuss the consequences and context of food differences and the impact of different foods on our ecosystem. They also encourage people to take time to share and savor the taste of food, often holding community convivia to bring people together to think about what they are eating and drinking, and to discuss how the special tastes conjured by food and drink relate to their lives.

Slow Food seems deliberately out-of-step with the speed of the 21st Century, and, indeed, it often draws on recipes, cooking methods, farming practices, and myths born in an era before our own. Yet Slow Food is very much part of our time. It serves as a necessary antidote to the buffering and suppression of our sense of taste, while working to fortify or question our sense of community and sense of self.

As a movement, Slow Research might encourage us to slow down and concentrate on the texts that seem to be always whizzing past us. It might offer a deliberate suspension of the time pressures scholars face, carving out time and spaces in which one could sit quietly and read deeply. It might encourage us to follow trains of thought more rigorously. It might nurture spaces where scholars felt free to discuss the trials and challenges of their research journeys, and places where they could thoughtfully map-out new directions. Slow Research might also serve as a protest against information clutter and distraction by advocating the time necessary to organize knowledge within schools of thought, or to rethink the history of ideas. Or perhaps, it would take shape as a conscious rebellion against the pressures to accelerate the publication cycle, by valuing the time and space of collaborative reading, thinking, sustained argument and play over formulaic production, and the packaging and distribution of quick opinions and novel facts.

If so, like the Slow Food Movement, Slow Research would also seem out-of-step with contemporary society. It would be called old-fashion, antiquated, or obsolete. It might even look ripe for liquidation, as if such contemplative research was a waste of precious resources. But also like the Slow Food movement, Slow Research would serve a necessary contemporary purpose. It would serve to crucially restore the very values that motivated the advances seen in our information environment, values which were never just about the quantity of content and the size of data, but, at their core, about improving the quality of research and, in turn, the quality of life. Although it may not be perceived as ‘in-synch’ with the pace of today’s information economy, Slow Research can help teach the crucial skills necessary to make sense of the information world of tomorrow.

(Here is an article from eFlux, one which distracted me, and got me thinking about this… )

After the Social Media Hype: Dealing with Information Overload

Geert Lovink


“The “social media” debate is moving away from presumed side effects, such as loneliness (Sherry Turkle), stupidity (Andrew Keen), and brain alterations (Nicholas Carr), to the ethical design question of how to manage our busy lives. This Foucauldian turn in internet discourse sets in now that we have left behind the initial stages of hype, crash, and mass uptake. Can we live a beautiful life with a smart phone, or is our only option to switch it off and forget about it? Do we really have to be bothered with retweeting each other’s messages for the rest of our lives? When will the social fad that is Silicon Valley be over and done with? We are ready to move on. Time to send your last lolcats.

Come Hear the News About PeerJ… an innovative Open Access platform

May 28th, 2013 by David Michalski

What’s All the Fuss About Open Access? What Do I Need to Know, and How Does it Benefit Me?

Join us for a presentation by Pete Binfield (previously the Publisher of PLoS One, and now the Publisher and Co-Founder of PeerJ) as he provides an overview of the current landscape of Open Access publications; highlights some of the more innovative models that are being tested in the marketplace; talks about items such as article level metrics and open peer review, and shows how these new developments can benefit you as both a researcher and author.

Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Time: 3-4 pm
Place: 1065 Kemper Hall

For more information about the event: http://blogs.lib.ucdavis.edu/schcomm/2013/05/06/peerj_may2013/

PeerJ website: https://peerj.com/

Hosted by the UC Davis Library

What is the Digital Public Library of America?

April 8th, 2013 by David Michalski

The Digital Public Library of America is set to be lauched April 18, 2013, but what is it?

Tim Carmody explains in his post “How the Digital Public Library of America hopes to build a real public commons.” on The Verge

Keep up with the Digital Public Library here http://dp.la/