By Anne Welsh, on 21 April 2011
Next month, Ernesto Priego (UCLDH) and Ernesto Priani (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico) will present a paper at the International Conference on Latin American Cybercultural Studies.
From the conference abstracts posted in January:
Re-mapping the Total Library: An End-User Comparative Critique of the Biblioteca Digital Mexicana and the World Digital Library // Ernesto Priani (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico) and Ernesto Priego (University College London, UK)
This paper presents a comparative analysis of the newly-launched Biblioteca Digital Mexicana (Mexican Digital Library or BDMex, http://bdmx.mx/; made public on 23 November 2010) and the World Digital Library (WDL, http://www.wdl.org/) from the perspective of the academic end-user.
The Mexican Digital Library is the result of the collaboration between four major Mexican memory institutions and the World Digital Library, sponsored by UNESCO. The BDMex has digitized and made freely available online documents of historical, artistic and literary value dating from 500BC to 1949, presumably with the technical and financial help of the WDL, but this is not made explicit or even apparent from the comparison
of both sites as they currently exist.
The appearance of the BDMex seems belated for at least a decade in comparison to other similar institutional initiatives (Amis, 2000), and the authors present a series of hypotheses based on the end-user experience of its interface in order to interrogate its technical, cultural, financial and political implications.
This paper presents the results of user-testing carried out by the two authors in different contexts, including teaching and research in Mexico and Britain, and presents a series of suggestions for the projects’ improvement, including questions of markup, text analysis, transcription, classification, ontologies, datamining, data curation, searching capabilities, visualisation and user-interface interaction.
Beyond the strictly technical critique, the authors provide practical examples of how both web sites are not precisely “digital libraries” per se (Smith, Dongqing, McAulay, et al 2007) but can nevertheless be used as interesting case studies for textual, cultural and political analyses. Both the BDMex and the WDL raise interesting issues about institutional digital constructions of national identity, and give illuminating insight into the role of digitization as an act of interpretation (Terras 2006; Tarte 2010).