9am. NEH Start-Up Grants hangover

The morning started with some ruefulness. We had tried (largely at my urging) to submit too many NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up grants at once (four in all..). This turned out to be unsustainable given the amount of preparation needed and the limited time available. I decided to shelve until the next round of funding in September a plan to create an entirely standards based, pure HTML5 / CSS3 web app which could serve as a model for leaving behind Flash, QuickTime, Silverlight, Gears etc. as the default means for featuring rich media playback, an interactive user-interface and custom fonts. The other proposal we set aside for the next round of funding was a pilot project for exploring the possibilities for “augmented reading” (that is, reading with, or alongside a computer) of literary texts on eBooks (specifically, of ePub based texts on an iPad). Ironically, hours after making the decision, I come across this article in the NYT.

Fortunately the grant we decided to submit to the NEH in this round (“Cinemetrics, a Digital Laboratory for Film Studies”) was also the best developed at this point in time: innovative new tools for tracking film style elements as well statistical methods and visualizations for evaluation and analysis. I’m hopeful that my idea of using Mathematica notebooks as virtual laboratories for experiments will be well received. This allows us to quickly try out new statistical analysis and visualization ideas, disseminate these and receive feedback, all without any writing any new code on the website.

11am. Hire a techie or a humanist? Yes.

Later in the morning I had a meeting with the chair of Art History to discuss how I was planning to fill a vacancy in Research Computing on my staff. The discussion went back and forth for a while on the relative pros and cons of hiring someone with deep technical knowledge (particularly in 2D and 3D imaging and digitization) versus someone with perhaps purely less technical qualifications but more of a humanistic / liberal arts background.

1pm. Clashing calendaring systems

After lunch I found out that a well meaning person in the central communications group had told some of our units in Humanities that a switch from Trumba (the Humanities Division’s events calendar) to Bedeworks (the university’s events calendar) was a done deal. Our Trumba users were understandably upset and confused. Phone calls, emails, meetings to arrange..

2pm. Interns looking for jobs.

We got an inquiry from a 4th year undergraduate at the University of Chicago who was offering to work as an unpaid intern over the summer as a digital archivist. She’s interested particularly in learning how to create a digital archive using Omeka or DSpace. Right this way please..

Fortunately, we’ll be able to pay her to work on creating collection surveys, findings aids and evaluating collections in the Humanities Division’s nascent Digital Media Archive. Then, after she’s put in her apprentice time in the stacks she can move on to creating a small, pilot digital collection, probably using Fedora Commons.

3pm. More research computing job description discussions

Further discussions with my staff on how we want to (re)structure the open research computing staff position. To what extent can we leverage the technical skills of the database, web development, sysadmin and desktop support staff to assist this position? Should we transition this more into a project manager type role? Should we try to hire graduate students as liaisons to faculty on particularly complex, long-term projects? What specific technical and programming skills should be required? What degree of humanistic / liberal arts skills will be of most benefit to the job? How much experience will the new person need to bring with them?

4pm. Online academic journals

Received two separate messages from faculty members interested in taking their journals online (or converting their existing journal into an online only version). For about a year, no-one was interested in this, but now with subsidies to journals being cut left and right, going online-only has become the last/best option. I pointed them to Open Journal Systems which we’ve had running in the division for some time now, specifically to run the Proceedings of the Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities and Computer Science (JDHCS). We’ll give them a demo next week. At this rate, it might even make sense to send out an announcement to the whole faculty.