“Games Without Frontiers” is a multi-faceted initiative sponsored by the Program Committee of the Librarians Association of UC Davis. It includes a comprehensive Library Exhibit, curated by Roberto Delgadillo, and other supporting materials, including Roberto’s comprehensive bibliography of the growing and increasingly significant “military-entertainment complex,” where gaming technology meets increasingly digitized means of waging war. On Thursday April 16th the Program Committee also hosted a symposium of invited speakers addressing various aspects of this topic. (For a response to and review reporting on and assessing the events of the symposium, see the recent review by Stephanie Maroney of the Davis Humanities Institute.) Interested parties should be sure to read the excellent and provocative introductory essay written especially for the occasion by Chris Hables Gray, one of the Symposium’s speakers.
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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.
From Miller’s article “How Objects Speak” Chronicle of Higher Education. 8/11/2014
Item: milk can
Size: Diameter 32 cm, height of the main part 51 cm, and the upper part 15 cm.
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.
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/
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.
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
“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.
BMW has introduced a new concept of the work group: the average age of the workers can’t drop below 47, reflecting the shifting demographics of the advanced industrial societies.
Full story at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21535772