The Google Book Settlement 18th February 2010


I am just reading Professor Robert Darnton’s new book titled ‘The Case for Books’. Darnton is a well know book historian, especially of the French Enlightenment, and made the bold career move to become Harvard’s Librarian. Admittedly ‘the Case for Books’ is not that good, especially for those who have been involved in academic publishing debates for quite some time. In the quest to reach larger audiences, the book appears to have lost some rigour and Darnton’s first-person monologue is a little too personal at times (he should keep a blog). Still, there is a lot of information on the Google Book project, especially as it relates to the looming legal decision in which I am admittedly not on top of.

Here is a initiative from the UK’s JISC (The Joint Information Services Committee) who have attempted to create a ‘social software’ solution for broader public consultation. Almost always these social software solutions do not work (as it the case here) as the sites lack of community feedback. Still there there is an excellent summary of the case and key issues (link to JISC’s site).

What to do with 30 million books?


(Posted to that wonderful Digital Humanities list, Humanist).

Date: Wed, 14 Oct 2009 18:22:57 +0100
From: Jockers Matthew <>
Subject: Possible Text Mining Opportunity at Stanford


As I’m sure many of you already know, Stanford has been closely
involved with Google’s book scanning project, and we (Stanford) are
currently preparing a proposal for the creation of a text mining /
analysis Center on campus. The core assets of the proposed Center
would include all of the Google data (approx. 30 million books) plus
all of our Highwire data and all of our licensed content. We see a
wide range of research opportunities for this collection, and we are
envisioning a Center that would offer various levels of interaction
with scholars. In particular we envision a “tiered” service model
that would, on one hand, allow technically challenged researchers to
work with Center staff in formulating research questions and, on the
other, an opportunity for more technically advanced scholars to write
their own algorithms and run them on the corpus. We are imagining the
Center as both a resource and as a physical place, a place that will
offer support to both internal and external scholars and graduate
students. We are looking at creating fellowship opportunities and
post docs as well as other ways of encouraging and supporting

I am writing to you specifically because I think this will be
something you are interested in but also because at this stage of the
proposal we are looking for some external validation that this corpus
would be of value and that the research it would support would inspire
new questions and new knowledge. I have already polled our Stanford
faculty, and the response (especially in the humanities and social
sciences) has been very enthusiastic. My hope is that you might be
able to send a few words (at most a short paragraph) that I could add
to a section of our proposal that is titled “Scholarly Interest and
Research Potential”.

Hope you are all well and getting your abstracts polished for London
in 2010.


Matthew Jockers
Stanford University

The Text of Dot Porter’s “Reading, Writing, Building: the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch” Now Available Online

(an excellent paper that challenges the British Library’s crappy page-turning software)

3 February 2009 – The text of Dot Porter’s talk, “Reading, Writing, Building: the Old English Illustrated Hexateuch,” including accompanying slideshow and example videos, are now available on the DHO website. Ms Porter, Metadata Manager at the DHO, presented this paper at the Royal Irish Academy on 26 January, and it was simultaneously webcast as part of the Culture and Technology European Seminar Series sponsored by the Humanities Advanced Technology And Information Institute (HATII) at the University of Glasgow. Her talk focused on the expression of physicality in digital projects, proposing a new model for editions of text-based objects.
(thanks to Dot P for the link)

‘Tools for Collaborative Scholarly Editing over the Web’

University of Birmingham,24-25 September, 2009.

This workshop will review and address the making of tools for collaborative scholarly editing over the web. The workshop leaders joins partners in the COST-ESF Interedition project (, which is focussing – as is the JISC-funded Virtual Manuscript Room project — on Europe-wide creation of infrastructure and tools for collaborative scholarly editing. The Australian Aust-e-Lit project will bring advanced experience of the making and working of collaborative tools with in for a national scholarly digital library. The workshop will allow key participants in Interedition, Aust-e-Lit, and in similar enterprises outside Europe to exchange information with UK scholars active in the area, and to explore common problems and possibilities for further collaboration (link).

TILE project blog and website launched

TILE: Text-Image Linking Environment is pleased to announce the launch of its public blog and informational site:

Our first blog posting includes a description of anticipated TILE functionality.

Upcoming posts will include an invitation to participate in user testing, as well as announcements of software as it becomes available.

Visit often, or subscribe to the RSS feed for the latest news on TILE.

TILE is a collaborative project among the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), Digital Humanities Observatory (DHO), and Indiana University Bloomington, funded through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation and Access: Humanities Collections and Resources program (research and development focus). Over two years TILE will develop a new web-based, modular, collaborative image markup tool for both manual and semi-automated linking between encoded text and image of text, and image annotation.

The project is unusual in digital humanities tools development in that it is being designed from the start to support a wide variety of use cases. Several projects from the University of Indiana Bloomington, The University of Oregon and Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies are initial testbeds. In the second year of the project, TILE will turn to the user community for testing. If you are interested in participating, or in learning more about the project, please contact us at  (thanks to Dot P for the link)



The ‘Dark Side’ of the Enlightenment

The Alchemist

“The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone,” by Joseph Wright, 1771

Dan Edelstein, a Stanford French professor, has been exploring an aspect of the Age of Enlightenment that is less familiar to most, the so-called “dark side” of the enlightenment. He described the differentiating factors. “The prevailing understanding of the enlightenment is one in which there was only scientific and rational thinking, but there was also a significant number of people contributing to the enlightenment who were absorbed in dubious scholarly pursuits like alchemy, mythology, astrology and secret societies.”(link)

These ‘dubious scholarly pursuits’ are still with us. ‘Web 2’ perhaps?