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LIS Research Coalition’s ‘Developing Research Excellence and Methods’ project

SaraWingate Gray3 February 2012

The LIS Research Coalition recently held the second of their DREaM (Developing Research Excellence and Methods) project workshops, here in London at the British Library’s conference centre. Myself and fellow UCL DIS research student Paul Gooding were lucky enough to be awarded travel bursaries last year, which enabled us to attend the first DREaM workshop up in Edinburgh, so this time it was a rather more pleasant later-morning start for us to participate!

The project itself started in January 2011 and runs until August 2012, with a purpose of developing “a formal UK-wide network of Library and Information Science (LIS) researchers” and to “explore the scope of LIS and related research, and the range of methods appropriate to research in the domain” which, as recent DIS student discussions on methods training have similarly found, is a wide and wide-ranging need.

Thus, this second workshop offered another plunge into the plethora of research methodologies for library and information professionals, this time covering Webometrics, Historical Analysis, User Involvement, and Research and Policy. Overall the day was another fantastic mix of speakers and methods presentations, as well as providing another chance for attendees to network with each other. This latter aspect of the project is actually crucial in several senses, in that both LIS practitioners and researchers can often be isolated from the wider world of their colleagues through limitations of time and geography, while artificial barriers of discipline and praxis can sometimes preclude obvious collaborations or resource and research sharing. Therefore, just being given the opportunity to take time out from the daily grind, and to meet other individuals, whose work spans the range of school, academic, public, health, and national library practices and research is, in fact, absolutely key to the fruitful development of inter-library-relations and library research and development overall. Not only this, but kindling such networks enables people to establish individual personal and practical relationships, guided by common research or professional interests: such interactions often provide the seedbed in which great new ideas, research and library projects can most easily germinate.

These elements may sound obvious, but as a matter of fact can often be overlooked, with workshops and conferences that provide jam-packed itineraries removing this crucial time for people to meet and converse. Additionally, such meetings do not necessarily find it easy to escape artificially-induced auras of camaraderie: requiring faux associations due to the fact that individuals happen to be temporarily located together. Thankfully, the DREaM project successfully navigates such concerns, not only providing time for participants to talk, but also encouraging individuals to meet each other on their own terms, enabling conversations which bridge, rather than create, gaps of practice, research and experience. It was, in fact, great to talk and brainstorm with others (that means you @MichaelStead!) who share my personal interests in the field of public libraries research and practice, as well as to receive greetings from my USA-based rad-librarian ALA posse via the human telegram that accidentally happened to be LIS researcher @joeyanne who’d just returned from ALA’s midwinter conference (Waves back from across the pond to USA librarians @pcsweeney and @detailmatters!)

Notwithstanding the awesomeness of LIS banter, biscuits and tea, once again DREaM’s medley of research methodology presentations drove the day, with an intriguing first session led by Professor Beresford from Brunel University, who introduced participants to User Involvement in Research. Professor Beresford’s session provided a useful overview of this type of research, which has “change-making as its purpose” and retains an emphasis on experiential knowledge: all arguably important facets directly correlated to specific fields within LIS. In fact, such correlation meant that more specific information on implementing such a methodology was in need, rather just the macro-view of the topic that was provided here by Professor Beresford, although useful web URLS and pointers were provided to further in-depth material during the presentation (and you can find the presentation by clicking the links above in this post). Following on from this, both Dr Haigh’s “Techniques from History” and Professor Thelwall’s “Introduction to Webometrics” were superb talks which included methodology overviews and detailed implementation tips and advice, in particular information on the appropriate software used in webometric analysis was a welcome pointer. Both these presentations were precise, informative, detailed and wide-ranging, and provided the perfect mix of information for researchers to gauge each methodology’s usefulness for disparate research needs, thus enabling tentative steps towards implementation.

The final presentation from Professor Moore focused on Research and Policy, and it was particularly interesting to hear not only how to be aware of (and hopefully clear) the hurdles of influence and agenda which can stand in the way of research implementation and impact, but also the detrimental impact of being “too far ahead” of the research and vision/strategy curve. There were, of course, no clear methods of extracting oneself or one’s research from such a visionary approach, except perhaps for a level of self-reflexivity – which enables a recognition of ‘what is possible now’ versus what is ‘just’ possible altogether, and as such was a point well considered and well made.

All in all the day was a fruitful, and helpful, day of conversing, reflecting and interacting, with LIS research at the heart of it all, so thanks must be showered upon Professor Hall as organiser-in-chief, and who introduced the day itself, alongside cheers for Professor Oppenheim, Christine Irving and others who all contributed to the day’s smooth continuation.

The final workshop in this series takes place this April, back in Edinburgh, followed by a concluding conference in July back here in London,  to which it would be great to see some more UCL DIS faces, and in the meantime, you can keep track of all that is happening via the project’s website, or by stopping in on the member forum where presentation info, pictures and videos are all available too.

 

 

Digital Humanities Summer Institute

AnneWelsh12 June 2011

Research student Claire Ross has spent the last week at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria. As part of her Digital Fundamentals course, she has been digitizing images of title pages for us to use in teaching Historical Bibliography. You can read about the techniques she tried out – photography and flatbed scanning – on her blog, Digital Nerdosaurus.

Image: by Dr Melissa Terras for UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

MPhil to PhD

AnneWelsh19 May 2011

Research students initially register for an MPhil and then progress to full PhD study following an upgrade meeting at which they defend a part of their thesis.

This week the Department held two successful upgrade meetings, and we are delighted to congratulate Alexandra Eveleigh and Melissa Adams on passing the requirements to upgrade to full doctoral status.

Melissa is researching the impact and implications of truth and reconciliation commissions on archives, under the supervision of Andrew Flinn and Elizabeth Shepherd.

Alexandra is The National Archives Collaborative Award Winner, working on a thesis entitled ‘We think not I think: harnessing collaborative creativity to archival practice; implications of user participation for archival theory and practice.’ Her supervisors are Elizabeth Shepherd and Andrew Flinn of the Department of Information Studies and Valerie Johnson of The National Archives.

Bright Club Podcast

AnneWelsh26 April 2011

First year research student Claire Ross is one of the recent interviewees in a Bright Club podcast. You can hear Claire talking about museums, twitter, QRator and just what it means to be a Digital Humanist, on the UCL Museums site.

You can keep up with Claire on her blog.

Image: Claire’s departmental webpage

International Conference on Latin American Cybercultural Studies

AnneWelsh21 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).

Ernesto is in the final stages of his PhD in the department, and is one of UCL’s HASTAC Scholars.

 

Image: Gravatar

Visiting Fellowship

AnneWelsh21 April 2011

Today is the official launch of the Poetry Center Digital Archive, for which second year research student Sara Wingate Gray has been a consultant. This is Sara’s second visiting fellowship at the Poetry Center (San Francisco State University) – her first was in 2007-8.

From the Archive’s website:

Poetry Center Digital Archive makes available significant portions of early audio recordings from the Poetry Center’s American Poetry Archives collection, supplemented by select archival texts and images. New files will be added incrementally as recordings are prepared and as we proceed through the collection from the 1950s onward.

The Poetry Center, founded at San Francisco State College (now SFSU) in 1954 by English professor Ruth Witt-Diamant, has been recording and archiving tapes of its public events for nearly six decades … This collection, together with the Poetry Center housed within the SFSU College of Humanities (Department of Creative Writing), today holds over 4,000 hours of unique original audio and video master-recordings, 1954–present. (Poetry Center Digital Archive. About this collection).

Sara’s short video about the Poetry Center is available on its website.

 

Image: Poetry Center Digital Archive

Failure Files on Tour

AnneWelsh20 April 2011

Susan Greenberg (UCL DIS PhD student and University of Roehampton academic) will be speaking at an event in London for The Failure Files (Triarchy Press, 2011), to which she has contributed a chapter.

Event details on Susan’s blog.

 

Image: @gloryoffailure

 

Failure Files

AnneWelsh29 March 2011

PhD student Susan Greenberg has contributed a chapter to The Failure Files(Triarchy Press, 2011). Susan writes:

Among other things, the essay explains the purpose of the critical reflection essay, a key element of most practice-based disciplines in higher education. This form is still not fully accepted in more traditional subjects, but in today’s contested ground of shrinking HE spending, it is more critical than ever to explain and persuade sceptics of its value, and to raise the standard in our own classes. The CRE allows the process behind the practice to be documented, separately from the creative work itself, analysing the choices made and making explicit what would otherwise remain tacit. It is a way of acknowledging the inevitability and value of failure, squaring the professional and educational process which calls for demonstration of ‘research-equivalent’ activity . (‘Knowing what you don’t know’. oddfish, 13 March 2011).

As well as researching acts of editing for her doctorate, Susan teaches on the Creative Writing Programe at Roehampton University, and this latest publication has relevance to all three of the research centres of which she is a member – UCL Centre for Publishing, UCL Centre for Digital Humanities and Roehampton’s ReWrite – Centre for Research in Creative and Professional Writing.

Day of Digital Humanities 2011

AnneWelsh19 March 2011

18 March 2011 was the third annual Day of Digital Humanities, on which self-declared Digital Humanists share their diaries by blogging. From the project website:

A Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities (Day of DH) is a community publication project that will bring together digital humanists from around the world to document what they do on one day, March 18th. The goal of the project is to create a web site that weaves together the journals of the participants into a picture that answers the question, “Just what do computing humanists really do?” Participants will document their day through photographs and commentary in a blog-like journal. The collection of these journals with links, tags, and comments will make up the final work which will be published online. (Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities 2011)

Several UCL DIS students took part (programme of study in brackets):

Why Libraries Are Great

AnneWelsh11 February 2011

Why Libraries Are Great – by Katie Birkwood from chichard41 on Vimeo.

Katie Birkwood (MA LIS 2008) gave a presentation about the role of libraries at Ignite London 4, which coincidentally is co-organised by current research student Claire Ross.

You can read Katie’s own account of Ignite, and generally keep up with her news and acvitivies on her blog, Girl in the Moon.