Monday, August 20, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N34): Copyright, Digital Public Library, Colleges & Big Data + More

University of California at Berkeley professor Dr. Pamela Samuelson in The Chronicle from a few weeks ago on Copyright reform and the creation of a comprehensive digital library (Chron):
The failure of the Google Book settlement, however, has not killed the dream of a comprehensive digital library accessible to the public. Indeed, it has inspired an alternative that would avoid the risks of monopoly control. A coalition of nonprofit libraries, archives, and universities has formed to create a Digital Public Library of America, which is scheduled to launch its services in April 2013. The San Francisco Public Library recently sponsored a second major planning session for the DPLA, which drew 400 participants. Major foundations, as well as private donors, are providing financial support. The DPLA aims to be a portal through which the public can access vast stores of knowledge online. Free, forever.
Initially the DPLA will focus only on making digitized copies of millions of public-domain works available online. These include works published in the United States before 1923, those published between 1923 and 1963 whose copyrights were not renewed, as well as those published before 1989 without proper copyright notices, and virtually all U.S.-government works. If a way can be found to overcome copyright obstacles, many millions of additional works could be made available.
It's no secret that copyright law needs a significant overhaul to adapt to today's complex information ecosystem. Unfortunately the near-term prospects for comprehensive reform are dim. However, participants at a conference last spring at Berkeley Law School on "Orphan Works and Mass Digitization: Obstacles and Opportunities" believe that modest but still meaningful reforms are possible.
Her comment about the institutional license for the Google database reminded me of the analysis I completed in 2010.

The Atlantic takes a more detailed look at the Digital Public Library (of America):
The DPLA is the most ambitious entrant on the digital library scene precisely because it claims to recognize this need for scale, and to be marshaling its resources and preparing its infrastructure accordingly. With hundreds of librarians, technologists, and academics attending its meetings (and over a thousand people on its email listserv), the DPLA has performed the singular feat of convening into one room the best minds in digital and library sciences. It has endorsement: The Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, Library of Congress, and Council on Library and Information Resources are just some of the big names on board. It has funding: The Sloan Foundation put up hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. It has pedigree: The decorated historian Darnton has the pages of major publications at his disposal; Palfrey is widely known for his scholarship on intellectual property and the Internet; the staging of the first meeting on Harvard's hallowed campus is not insignificant. Ideally, the consolidation of resources—specialized expertise, raw manpower, institutional backing and funding—means that the DPLA can expand its clout within the community, attract better financial support, and direct large-scale digitization projects to move toward a national resource of unparalleled scope and functionality. "We believe that no one entity—not the Library of Congress, not Harvard, not the local public library—could create this system on its own," Palfrey says. "We believe strongly that by working together, we will build something greater."
The Economist takes a look at an exhibition at the British Library on the life of Shakespeare (Econ):
Shakespeare is such a global brand that the man himself almost disappears. The aim of “Shakespeare: Staging the World”, at the BM until November 25th, is to make the playwright specific and particular, to root him in his time, 400 years ago. The exhibition summons his physical world with an array of culturally evocative objects, many of which were used in “Shakespeare’s Restless World”, a splendid BBC radio series presented by the BM’s director, Neil MacGregor, earlier this year.
The show unfolds in a dark circular space, with curving rooms that wind from one to the next, each subtly lit and discreetly atmospheric of its contents: arrow slits in the room about the history plays, a hint of trees to suggest Warwickshire and the Forest of Arden, a touch of charring on black walls for the gunpowder and witchcraft of James I’s reign (when Shakespeare wrote “Macbeth”), and finally a pale dawn for the Americas, the “brave new world” of “The Tempest”. All this sits within the embrace of the old Reading Room, its shelves and dome dimly glimpsed through gaps here and there. This globe within a globe, as it were—one full of artefacts, the other of books—glances at the play between word and object that underlies the exhibition.

Fascinating (potentially spooky) article at the NYT on how colleges are beginning to use "big data" to manage student performance and even play match maker (NYT):
Data diggers hope to improve an education system in which professors often fly blind. That’s a particular problem in introductory-level courses, says Carol A. Twigg, president of the National Center for Academic Transformation. “The typical class, the professor rattles on in front of the class,” she says. “They give a midterm exam. Half the kids fail. Half the kids drop out. And they have no idea what’s going on with their students.”

As more of this technology comes online, it raises new tensions. What role does a professor play when an algorithm recommends the next lesson? If colleges can predict failure, should they steer students away from challenges? When paths are so tailored, do campuses cease to be places of exploration?
“We don’t want to turn into just eHarmony,” says Michael Zimmer, assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he studies ethical dimensions of new technology. “I’m worried that we’re taking both the richness and the serendipitous aspect of courses and professors and majors — and all the things that are supposed to be university life — and instead translating it into 18 variables that spit out, ‘This is your best fit. So go over here.’ ”
From the Twitter this week:

ALA Releases Report on Library E-book Business Models

Media Decoder: Google to Buy Frommer's From Wiley Publishing

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