NextGen Libraries at OSU

Ubiquitous Computing

What is Ubiquitous Computing?

Marcia Riley’s description of ubiquitous computing flips the focus from the user, us, interacting with a machine to a world where our world is embedded with smart technology. If this sounds Orwellian, it sort of is, but intended to be friendly and responsive to our desires. For example, your coffee pot becomes aware of–not in a creepy way of course–when you wake up and makes  you a cuppa.

Mark Weiser is seen as the originator of the concept of ubiquitous computing based on his 1991 Scientific American article. Some alternate names are: ubicomp, calm technology, pervasive computing, ambient intelligence, and the Internet of Things. I like Wikipedia‘s definition because it focuses on the core concepts shared among the variant models of ubiquitous computing: “All models of ubiquitous computing (also called pervasive computing) share a vision of small, inexpensive, robust networked processing devices, distributed at all scales throughout everyday life and generally turned to distinctly common-place ends.” Another way to express this comes from Stringer, et al., “Successful ubiquitous applications augment existing valued interactions rather than seeking to replace them.”

You may not realize it, but practical applications of ubiquitous computing surround us as highlighted by Mike Kuniavsky, in his keynote address at the North American Serials Interest Group 2008 conference. His concept of “information shadow” aptly describes this new phase of computing.  A contemporary example is an Adidas shoe which contains a chip that analyzes surfaces and then adjusts the shoe. What stuck out for me is Kuniavsky’s comments about how ubiquitous computing serializes everything, how libraries are skilled at managing information and that these skills make us qualified to “corral, label and organize the information shadows”.  Nice to know we still have a place in the world, isn’t it?

Jane Nichols for RIS

By Hamed Parham (

Future of the Journal in Social Sciences/Humanities

In this post, I present trends that rose to the top in my journey to learn about,  synthesize and succinctly present issues facing the future of  the journal (or the article)  in Social Sciences/Humanities. Are there trends you’d like to add? Do you have thoughts about OSU Libraries and how we are addressing these trends (or might do so)?

  1. The future of  the journal (or the article)  in Social Sciences/Humanities seems to be closely connected to the rise of Digital Humanities (formerly called Humanities Computing). “Digital humanities is a diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods.” One outlet for their work is the Digital Humanities Quarterly “an open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities. Published by the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations (ADHO), DHQ is also a community experiment in journal publication”. DHQ publishes articles, experiments in interactive media, editorials and reviews. Another form of Digital Humanities work is the HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) Scholar’s Program. This consortium of seeks “to collaborate across communities and disciplines fostered by creative uses of technology” and to foster student, faculty and others’ learning through the use of new media and cross-disciplinary lenses.
  2. New publishing platforms. Scholarly publishing on the web offers numerous opportunities for new ways of publishing scholarship and interaction with the scholarship, the author and the audience. Media Commons Press provides one example. This all-electronic scholarly publishing network focuses on Media Studies. The press plans to publish work ranging from article to book length and features the publication, a scholarly network and web-based community. It uses CommentPress so readers can discuss the publication as a whole or at paragraph level. Media Commons Press hosts Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s text Planned Obsolescence Publishing, Technology and the Future of the Academy an excellent example of an online text and one that discusses issues of “peer review for the digital age”.
  3. Developing the Social Sciences/Humanities cyberinfrastructure for scholarship. Cyberinfrastructure refers to the expertise, software, hardware, data and more that allow us to create and use a digital collection, digital library or even digital scholarship. Think about all of the infrastructure used to write, publish and make a book available and then consider how all of this transfers to our digital world for the purpose of preserving and making readily available our cultural record and heritage. Both funding and expertise is needed, to ensure the continued development of this cyberinfrastructure. Our Cultural Commonwealth: The American Council of Learned Societies Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences report details the issues and offers these recommendations:
    • Invest in cyberinfrastructure for the humanities and social sciences, as a matter of strategic priority.
    • Develop public and institutional policies that foster openness and access.
    • Promote cooperation between the public and private sectors.
    • Cultivate leadership in support of cyberinfrastructure from within the humanities and social sciences.
    • Encourage digital scholarship.
    • Establish national centers to support scholarship that contributes to and exploits cyberinfrastructure.
    • Develop and maintain open standards and robust tools.
    • Create extensive and reusable digital collections.
  4. There is greater attention being focused on the need for data preservation for data used in the Humanities and Social Sciences. One example of an effort in this area is Scholar’s Workbench-(an evolution of Fedora) which plans to “examine how digital repositories can support the management of information in the support of all aspects of scholarship. Repositories could be the core systems used, or they could underpin the use of other systems through integration with research-specific tools.” Related to this is work on data archiving. Data archiving  is becoming more important in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Two organizations supporting this work: Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) from the Netherlands and United Kingdom Data Archive (UKDA). DANS is the national organisation responsible for storing and providing permanent access to research data from the humanities and social sciences. DANS collaborates with researchers and encourages them to work in partnership with one another. DANS operates as a network, with a centre responsible for organising the data infrastructure. UKDA focuses on data acquisition, preservation, dissemination and promotion and is curator of the largest collection of digital data in the social sciences and humanities in the UK. Researchers can find and use quantitative and qualitative data for their research and teaching.
  5. My last point, is not a trend but rather a finding from the National Humanities Alliance’s report The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations. The main finding is the high cost of publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences studied. Other findings that caught my eye: Social Sciences and Humanities seem to have a longer publishing process; the open access model of author/producer pays is not likely sustainable in these disciplines in part because the funding for them to do so  is unclear; and last, subscriptions to print journals positively contribute to a journals financial success.

When discussing the future of the scholarly journal, Christopher Tomlins notes “the journey has become as important as the end result” in his American Council of Learned Societies Occasional Paper No. 43 The Wave of the Present: The Scholarly Journal on the Edge of the Internet. I feel this speaks to the significant changes in the tools and methods Social Science and Humanities scholars use to conduct research-their journey to creating scholarship, is truly transforming.

Jane Nichols for RIS