The Academic Book of the Future: Evolution or Revolution?

Blog;

mapsYesterday the CMT convened a one-day colloquium entitled ‘The Academic Book of the Future: Evolution or Revolution?’ This was part of Cambridge’s contribution to a host of events being held across the UK in celebration of the first ever Academic Book Week, which is itself an offshoot of the AHRC-funded ‘Academic Book of the Future’ project. The aim of that project is both to raise awareness of academic publishing and to explore how it might change in response to new digital technologies and changing academic cultures. We were delighted to have Samantha Rayner, the PI on the project, to introduce the event.

The first session kicked off with a talk from Rupert Gatti, Fellow in Economics at Trinity and one of the founders of Open Book Publishers (www.openbookpublishers.com), explaining ‘Why the Future is Open Access’. Gatti contrasted OA publishing with ‘legacy’ publishing and emphasized the different orders of magnitude of the audience for these models. Academic books published through the usual channels were, he contended, failing to reach 99% of their potential audience. They were also failing to take account of the possibilities opened up by digital media for embedding research materials and for turning the book an ongoing project rather than a finished article. The second speaker in this session, Alison Wood, a Mellon/Newton postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge, reflected on the relationship between academic publishing and the changing institutional structures of the university. She urged us to look for historical precedents to help us cope with current upheavals, and called in the historian Anthony Grafton to testify to the importance of intellectual communities and institutions to the seemingly solitary labour of the academic monograph. In Wood’s analysis, we need to draw upon our knowledge of the changing shape of the university as a collective (far more postdocs, far more adjunct teachers, far more globalization) when thinking about how academic publishing might develop. We can expect scholarly books of the future to take some unusual forms in response to shifting material circumstances.

heffersThe day was punctuated by a series of ‘views’ from different Cambridge institutions. The first was offered by David Robinson, the Managing Director of Heffers, which has been selling books in Cambridge since 1876. Robinson focused on the extraordinary difference between his earlier job, in a university campus bookshop, and his current role. In the former post, in the heyday of the course textbook, before the demise of the net book agreement and the rise of the internet, selling books had felt a little like ‘playing shops’. Now that the textbook era is over, bookshops are less tightly bound into the warp and weft of universities, and academic books are becoming less and less visible on the shelves even of a bookshop like Heffers. Robinson pointed to the ‘crossover’ book, the academic book that achieves a large readership, as a crucial category in the current bookselling landscape. He cited Thomas Piketty’s Capital as a recent example of the genre.

Our second panel was devoted to thinking about the ‘Academic Book of the Near-Future’, and our speakers offered a series of reflections on the current state of play. The first speaker, Samantha Rayner (Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Studies at UCL and ‘Academic Book of the Future’ PI), described the progress of the project to date. The first phase had involved starting conversations with numerous stakeholders at every point in the production process, to understand the nature of the systems in which the academic book is enmeshed. Rayner called attention to the volatility of the situation in which the project is unfolding—every new development in government higher education policy forces a rethink of possible futures. She also stressed the need for early-career scholars to receive training in the variety of publishing avenues that are open to them. Richard Fisher, former Managing Director of Academic Publishing at CUP, took up the baton with a talk about the ‘invisibles’ of traditional academic publishing—all the work that goes into making the reputation of an academic publisher that never gets seen by authors and readers. Those invisibles had in the past created certain kinds of stability—‘lines’ that libraries would need to subscribe to, periodicals whose names would be a byword for quality, reliable metadata for hard-pressed cataloguers. And the nature of these existing arrangements is having a powerful effect on the ways in which digital technology is (or is not) being adopted by particular publishing sectors. evolutionofbookPeter Mandler, Professor of Modern Cultural History at Cambridge and President of the Royal Historical Society, began by singing the praises of the academic monograph; he saw considerable opportunities for evolutionary rather than revolutionary change in this format thanks to the move to digital. The threat to the monograph came, in his view, mostly from government-induced productivism. The scramble to publish for the REF as it is currently configured leads to a lower-quality product, and threatens to marginalize the book altogether. Danny Kingsley, Head of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge, discussed the failure of the academic community to embrace Open Access, and its unpreparedness for the imposition of OA by governments. She outlined Australian Open Access models that had given academic work a far greater impact, putting an end to the world in which intellectual prestige stood in inverse proportion to numbers of readers.

In the questions following this panel, some anxieties were aired about the extent to which the digital transition might encourage academic publishers to further devolve labour and costs to their authors, and to weaken processes of peer review. How can we ensure that any innovations bring us the best of academic life, rather than taking us on a race to the bottom? There was also discussion about the difficulties of tailoring Open Access to humanities disciplines that relied on images, given the current costs of digital licences; it was suggested that the use of lower-density (72 dpi) images might offer a way round the problem, but there was some vociferous dissent from this view.

ULstackAfter lunch, the University Librarian Anne Jarvis offered us ‘The View from the UL’. The remit of the UL, to safeguard the book’s past for future generations and to make it available to researchers, remains unchanged. But a great deal is changing. Readers no longer perceive the boundaries between different kinds of content (books, articles, websites), and the library is less concerned with drawing in readers and more concerned with pushing out content. The curation and preservation of digital materials, including materials that fall under the rules for legal deposit, has created a set of new challenges. Meanwhile the UL has been increasingly concerned to work with academics in order to understand how they are using old and new technologies in their day-to-day lives, and to ensure that it provides a service tailored to real rather than imagined needs.

The third panel session of the day brought together four academics from different humanities disciplines to discuss the publishing landscape as they perceive it. Abigail Brundin, from the Department of Italian, insisted that the future is collaborative; collaboration offers an immediate way out of the often closed-off worlds of our specialisms, fosters interdisciplinary exchanges and allows access to serious funding opportunities. She took issue with any idea that the initiative in pioneering new forms of academic writing should come from early-career academics; it is those who are safely tenured who have a responsibility to blaze a trail. Matthew Champion, a Research Fellow in History, drew attention to the care that has traditionally gone into the production of academic books—care over the quality of the finished product and over its physical appearance, down to details such as the font it is printed in. He wondered whether the move to digital and to a higher speed of publication would entail a kind of flattening of perspectives and an increased sense of alienation on all sides. Should we care if many people our work? Champion thought not: what we want is not 50,000 careless clicks but the sustained attention of deeply-engaged readers. Our third speaker, Liana Chua reported on the situation in Anthropology, where conservative publishing imperatives are being challenged by digital communications. Anthropologists usually write about living subjects, and increasingly those subjects are able to answer back. wikipediabookThis means that the ‘finished-product’ model of the book is starting to die off, with more fluid forms taking its place.Such forms (including film-making) are also better-suited to capturing the experience of fieldwork, which the book does a great deal to efface. Finally Orietta da Rold, from the Faculty of English, questioned the dominance of the book in academia. Digital projects that she had been involved in had been obliged, absurdly, to dress themselves up as books, with introductions and prefaces and conclusions. And collections of articles that might better be published as individual interventions were obliged to repackage themselves as books. The oppressive desire for the ‘big thing’ obscures the important work that is being done in a plethora of forms.

In discussion it was suggested that the book form was a valuable identifier, allowing unusual objects like CD-ROMs or databases to be recognized and catalogued and found (the book, in this view, provides the metadata or the paratextual information that gives an artefact a place in the world). There was perhaps a division between those who saw the book as giving ideas a compelling physical presence and those who were worried about the versions of authority at stake in the monograph. The monograph model perhaps discourages people from talking back; this will inevitably come under pressure in a more ‘oral’ digital economy.

Our final ‘view’ of the day was ‘The View from Plurabelle Books’, offered by Michael Cahn but read in his absence by Gemma Savage. Plurabelle is a second-hand academic bookseller based in Cambridge; it was founded in 1996. Cahn’s talk focused on a different kind of ‘future’ of the academic book—the future in which the book ages and its owner dies. The books that may have marked out a mental universe need to be treated with appropriate respect and offered the chance of a new lease of life. Sometimes they carry with them a rich sense of their past histories.

A concluding discussion drew out several themes from the day:

(1) A particular concern had been where the impetus for change would and should come from—from individual academics, from funding bodies, or from government. The conservatism and two-sizes-fit-almost-all nature of the REF act as a brake on innovation and experiment, although the rising significance of ‘impact’ might allow these to re-enter by the back door. The fact that North America has remained impervious to many of the pressures that are affecting British academics was noted with interest.

(2) The pros and cons of peer review were a subject of discussion—was it the key to scholarly integrity or a highly unreliable form of gatekeeping that would naturally wither in an online environment?

(3) Questions of value were raised—what would determine academic value in an Open Access world? The day’s discussions had veered between notions of value/prestige that were based on numbers of readers and those that were not. Where is the appropriate balance?

(4) A broad historical and technological question: are we entering a phase of perpetual change or do we expect that the digital domain will eventually slow down, developing protocols that seem as secure as those that we used to have for print? (And would that be a good or a bad thing?) Just as paper had to be engineered over centuries in order to become a reliable communications medium (or the basis for numerous media), so too the digital domain may take a long time to find any kind of settled form. It was also pointed out that the academic monograph as we know it today was a comparatively short-lived, post-World War II phenomenon.

(5) As befits a conference held under the aegis of the Centre for Material Texts, the physical form of the book was a matter of concern. Can lengthy digital books be made a pleasure to read? Can the book online ever substitute for the ‘theatres of memory’ that we have built in print? Is the very restrictiveness of print a source of strength?

(6) In the meantime, the one thing that all of the participants could agree on was that we will need to learn to live with (sometimes extreme) diversity.

With many thanks to our sponsors, Cambridge University Press, the Academic Book of the Future Project, and the Centre for Material Texts. The lead organizer of the day was Jason Scott-Warren (jes1003@cam.ac.uk); he was very grateful for the copious assistance of Sam Rayner, Rebecca Lyons, and Richard Fisher; for the help of the staff at the Pitt Building, where the colloquium took place; and for the contributions of all of our speakers.

acbookfuture

The academic book of the future: evolution or revolution?

Events;

11 November 2015, 9.30-5
Darwin Room, Pitt Building, Trumpington St, Cambridge

This event will bring together people from all stages in the production cycle of the academic book, from authors and publishers to booksellers, librarians and readers, to consider the past, present and future of scholarly communication. How did the academic book come to take the form in which we know it today? What should we cherish and what should we loathe in the academic book? And, as we start living our intellectual lives online, what does the future hold for scholarship in this form?

mapsSpeakers will include: Richard Fisher (former Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press), Rupert Gatti (Faculty of Economics/Open Book Publishers), Anne Jarvis (University Librarian, Cambridge University Library), Danny Kingsley (University of Cambridge, Office of Scholarly Communication), Peter Mandler (Faculty of History, President of the Royal Historical Society), Samantha Rayner (Senior Lecturer in Publishing, UCL), Alison Wood (Mellon/Newton Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, CRASSH).

Sponsored by the AHRC-funded ‘Academic Book of the Future‘ project, Cambridge University Press and the Cambridge Centre for Material Texts, this one-day colloquium will form part of a week of events and exhibitions taking place across the country.

There is no charge for registration, but places are limited. To sign up, please use Eventbrite at http://acbookweek.com/events/18742868424/

Resurrecting the Book

Calls for Papers, News;

Resurrecting the Book: 15-17 November 2013, Library of Birmingham, England

PLENARY SPEAKERS: Professor Sir David Cannadine, Princeton University; Professor Johanna Drucker, UCLA; Dr David Pearson, City of London Corporation; Professor Nicholas Pickwoad, University of the Arts, London.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS: Professor David Roberts, Birmingham City University; Dr Jason Scott-Warren, Cambridge University; Linda Carreiro, University of Calgary; Sarah Bodman, University of the West of England

To celebrate the re-opening of the largest public library in Europe and its outstanding special collections,The Library of Birmingham, Newman University College, the Typographic Hub at Birmingham City University and The Library of Lost Books have united to host a three-day conference on the theme of Resurrecting the Book.

With e-book downloads outstripping the purchase of hard copies, with libraries closing and discarding books and with the value of the book as physical object being increasingly questioned, this interdisciplinary conference will bring together academics, librarians, publishers, artists, creators, designers, and users of books to explore a wide variety of issues pertaining to the creation, design, construction, publication, use, reuse, preservation, loss, and recovery of the material book, electronic and digitized books, and of collections and libraries. Abstracts on the conference themes and their intersection and covering any historical period are invited. The conference themes include, but are not limited to:

BOOKS AS MATERIAL OBJECTS: the materiality of book creation, construction, production, use, reuse, and destruction; manuscripts and printed books; book-design, illustration, paratextuality and its manifestations; book-covers, bindings, clasps, vellum, parchment, paper, manuscript and printing and production processes;

COLLECTIONS AND LIBRARIES: book collectors, collections and their locations; missing, lost and found books; the creation, recreation, dispersal, sale and destruction of books and libraries; the movement of books and libraries; lost libraries; the impact of libraries on books; lost and revised editions;

THE ARTIST’S BOOK: altered books; book preservation and conserved books; books and material culture; books as art; books in art; illustration and illumination; woodcuts; engravings; marbled pages; book decoration; printmaking;

E-BOOKS: the creation, use and abuse of ebooks; neglected and lost ebooks; ebook readers; electronic libraries; books and collections and the impact of digital technologies;

PUBLISHING: publishers and publishing; the future of publishing; back-catalogues; print-runs; editions; archives; digitization and multi-media books;

Abstracts of no more than 400 words accompanied by a 50 word biographical profile should be sent to both: Dr Matthew Day – m.day@newman.ac.uk and Dr Caroline Archer – caroline.archer@bcu.ac.uk

DEADLINE for submission of abstracts: FRIDAY 1st FEBRUARY 2013.

The conference will run in conjunction with The Library of Lost Books Project. This is an exhibition of 50 de-accessioned books which have been given a new lease of life as objects redesigned into works of art. The conference is also part of the Library of Birmingham’s reopening festival.

A weblink to the CFP is at http://resurrectingthebook.org/86-2/

Open Access: The New Future of Academic Publishing?

News;

Thursday, 12 January 2012 6.30pm – 8.00pm, followed by a drinks reception

British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1

Chair: Paul Webley, Director and Principal of SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Speakers:

Deborah Shorley, Director of Library Services, Imperial College London

William St Clair FBA, Co-founder and Chairman Board of Directors, Open Book Publishers, and Senior Research Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge

Alice Prochaska, Principal, Somerville College, University of Oxford

All the above mentioned speakers have an interest, and experience of this mode of publishing. The first speaker has made statements concerning open access. William St Clair is a powerful voice in Open Book Publishers, committed to free open access of all their texts on the internet. Paul Webley has a particular interest in open access founded in his commitment to accessibility for students and scholars throughout Africa and Asia.

Key questions to be addressed: Can the scholarly world continue to support a system where monographs are published in 3-figure numbers at best, to be read only by the well-endowed in favoured centres of the world? Is it true that having text accessible on the web encourages rather than depresses sales? Is such a project financially feasible, and what are the costs and benefits? Is this the way forward for the democratisation of global knowledge?

Attendance is free, but registration is required for this event. Please visit our website: www.britac.ac.uk/events.

espresso books

Blog;

Linda Bree came to talk to the History of Material Texts seminar last week, on the subject of ‘Scholarly Publishing and Technological Change’. As someone who knows the world of academic publishing from every possible direction–Linda is Editorial Director for Arts and Literature at Cambridge University Press, and a scholar working on the ‘long eighteenth century’–she is uniquely placed to tell us what is going on out there, and her talk was indeed eye-opening.

As someone who subscribes to the scholarly orthodoxy that new technologies don’t replace old technologies, but force creative adaptation, I had completely missed what to her was the most important feature of the current landscape: digital printing, and Print-On-Demand technology. Although POD can be unreliable (do you really trust Amazon to deliver you a decent facsimile of that novel from 1833?), for scholarly publishers it is transformative. It gives old books a new lease of life (CUP calls its project to digitize its back-catalogue the ‘Lazarus programme’!) and allows supply to be more closely tailored to demand for new books. It also promises to make publishing leaner and greener, since digital files can be printed out in locations across the world, cutting transportation costs. And you may be able to have a book freshly printed by your local bookshop, if something like the Blackwell’s ‘Espresso Book Machine’ takes off more widely.

Other areas of the picture Bree painted were more murky. The question of how libraries will survive when they are spending their budgets not on buying books but on renting digital content; or of how publishers will survive as the web fosters the illusion (or the ideal) that content should come for free–these were left hanging. In the short term, though, it seems that the physical book will remain the medium of choice for academic monographs. If you’ve got to read a big chunky book full of footnotes, cross-references, and appendices, a book that you may want to scribble on and store away for future reference, ink on paper remains indispensable. For now.

‘Collective considerations collating into Commonplaces’

Gallery;

CMT exhibition casesA backwater lay-by off the M5, Junction 24, three days before Christmas. A covert exchange of an unknown document, protected only by an iPad case, occurs between man, whippet and young woman. Shady as it may seem, this is not the stuff of reconnaissance but curation. This nineteenth-century commonplace book replete with beautiful illustrations, kindly donated by John and Caroline Robinson, now lies in situ on the first floor of the English Faculty, at the heart of the inaugural exhibition of the Centre for Material Texts. The exhibition, curated by myself and my MPhil colleagues on Dr Ruth Abbott’s Writers’ Notebooks course, focuses on commonplace books and the ways in which they acted as repositories for the recording of daily life in the nineteenth century. From passages of the Bible to Byron, musings on God to sketches of the family dogs, the commonplace book offered a powerful collective storehouse for the miscellanies and medleys of material that amassed at the center of communal family life.

19thcpbk1The unconventional method through which our exhibition materials were acquired proves apropos, given the unusual conditions under which the birth of our interest in commonplace books occurred. In another intrepid motorway adventure: a six hour, 250-mile minibus journey (nobly helmed by Ruth Abbott) with eight complete strangers, our group’s first weekend in Cambridge, was in fact spent in Grasmere, Cumbria working at the Wordsworth Trust. Guided by Ruth and curator Jeff Cowton we spent a full two days nestled in the archive, immersed in manuscripts and the materials which made them. It was a weekend stuffed with stuff. We created Thomas Bewick prints on a nineteenth-century printing press. We learned how to bind books on a sewing frame. Quills were carved and inks were made. Paste was pressed from pulp into paper (with the aid of a craftsman’s deckle and an improvised flattening dance on top of it). In a flurry of high spirits, fumbling with spirit-levels, our exhibition on the Wordsworth family commonplace books was installed.

19thCPBK3Like the chain lines and watermarks we spent the days studying in manuscripts, through curatorial collaboration we had impressed a profound mark on each other. The silence, sky and space of the Lakes and our collective academic endeavour had bound us together as tightly as the spines of the nineteenth-century treasures that lay on the archive’s shelves. What was particularly pertinent in creating this exhibition, born into being from deeply felt fellow-feeling from all parties, was that it chronicles and encourages the communal sharing of thought. The addition of our modern commonplace book to the display invites exhibition-goers to participate in shared forms of notetaking, to add their scraps and fragments of experience, their inmost thoughts, their favourite quotations and aid the creation of a beautiful, diverse collective text.

19thCPBK4Speaking to other students who have visited Grasmere, at a recent meeting with the Wordsworth Trust at London’s Brigham Young Institute, I further realised the true powerful potential of the material. Through awe-filled eyes, each sentence suffused with a quasi-religious fervour, they recounted the moment they were allowed to see a first edition of Lyrical Ballads and handle Dorothy Wordsworth’s real notebooks. In fact, the Wordsworth Trust’s website proudly proclaims ‘Visit the Wordsworth Museum to see Dorothy’s actual notebooks’. This is something our group reflected upon as we sat around Wordsworth’s ‘actual’ fire in Dove Cottage, reading his poems, souls stirred by the transcendent beauty of breathing life back into words where they were first brought into being. In curating this exhibition, in Grasmere and in Cambridge, and through Ruth Abbott’s phenomenal notebooks course we have relearnt the overwhelming magic of the material, the ability to encounter and interact with the ‘actual’. It is in this kind of engagement with ‘actual’ manuscripts, notebooks and papers that ‘with an eye made quiet by the power/Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, / We see into the life of things’.

19thCPBK5Through our immersion in the material practices from which texts develop, we learnt to cultivate a fresh appreciation for the ways in which literature is embodied and presented. The afterlives of the work we have done with these exhibitions, and the study of notebooks and manuscripts in general, like Wordsworth’s River Duddon, flow on endlessly. From future PhD projects to the reinstallation of the commonplace book exhibition in Cambridge ‘Still glides the Stream, and shall for ever glide;/The Form remains, the Function never dies’. We hope that in this latest reimagining of our display, we encourage others to see the beautiful potential in collective interaction with note-taking practices. In doing so, our work continues ‘to live, and act, and serve the future hour’.

19thCPBK6Megan Beech, MPhil Modern and Contemporary Literature

Megan is a performance poet and created these two short poetry films in response to her experiences at the Wordsworth Trust and studying notebooks on Dr Ruth Abbott’s course:

Trust Wordsworth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2BAv_9Mg5s

‘O! This is Our Tale Too!’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3UP_obyUTI

EEBO-TCP hackfest

News;

9 March 2015 10.00am — 6.30pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre, Weston Library (Map)

The Bodleian Libraries are hosting a one-day hackfest celebrating the release of 25,000 texts from the Early English Books Online project into the public domain. The event encourages students, researchers from all disciplines, and members of the public with an interest in the intersection between technology, history and literature to work together to develop a project using the texts and the data they may generate.

The EEBO-TCP corpus covers the period from 1473 to 1700 and is now estimated to comprise more than two million pages and nearly a billion words. It represents a history of the printed word in England from the birth of the printing press to the reign of William and Mary, and it contains texts of incomparable significance for research across all academic disciplines, including literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

We’re looking for all kinds of people to participate; those with an interest in data visualisation, geospatial analysis, corpus linguistics, written and spoken word, web applications and programming, data/text mining, art, film and more are welcome. You don’t have be an expert to join, but you do need to be enthusiastic and prepared to help develop a project.

The hackathon will take place during the day (10am-5pm), with a reception to follow at 5pm. Prizes will be given to the best of the day’s projects.

More information about the project is available from the EEBO-TCP website.

Participants in the day’s event are encouraged to consider entering their ideas into the online Early English Books Ideas Hack, which seeks to explore innovative and creative approaches to the data and identify potential paths for future activity. Submissions for the Ideas Hack close on 2 April.

Perversions of Paper

Calls for Papers, News;
28 June 2014

Keynes Library, Birkbeck College, University of London

Perversions of Paper is a one-day symposium investigating the outer limits of our interactions with books and with paper. It considers unorthodox engagements with texts, from cherishing or hoarding them to mutilating and desecrating them, from wearing them to chewing them, and from inhaling their scent to erasing their content.

‘Perversion’ may apply to deviations from normal usage but also to our psychological investments in paper. To talk of having a fetish for books is common, but is there more to this than merely well-worn cliché? What part do books and other written artefacts play in our imaginary and psychic lives, and what complex emotional attachments do we develop towards them? Also, how might literary studies or cultural history register these impulses and acts; what kind of methodologies are appropriate?

This symposium invites reflections on perverse uses of – and relationships with – paper and parchment. We welcome proposals from a range of historical periods and disciplinary backgrounds, and from postgraduate students, as well as from more established academics.

Contributors are invited to consider bookish and papery aberrations from any number of angles, including but not limited to:

* the defacing or mutilation of writing
* the book as sculpture or art medium
* ‘upcycling’ or re-purposing
* the book or manuscript as a fetish object
* pathologies or obsessions related to paper
* psychologies of book collecting
* bibliophilia and bibliophobia
* book crazes, the tactility or sensuality of paper and manuscripts
* books, libraries and archives as sources of contagion, or as the focus of terror or abjection.

Deadline for proposals: March 30th 2014.

Please email abstracts of no more than 200 words together with a brief bio statement to Dr Gillian Partington (g.partington@bbk.ac.uk).

More information: http://archivefutures.com/events/perversions-of-paper/

More Digital Humanities

Blog;

Today the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network gathered to hear a presentation on ‘The Evolution of e-Research’ from Dave De Roure, Professor of e-Research in the Oxford e-Research Centre. Truth to tell, I still feel very much an interloper in the e-Research universe. Or perhaps not so much an interloper as someone lowering himself with trepidation into a freezing cold swimming pool. I’ve not quite adjusted to the idea that the humanities academic is going to be useful in future principally as a miner of data rather than as a reader of books. Nor do I hold out much hope that I’ll be able to learn all the acronyms before they become obsolete, in about three weeks’ time.

Today’s most provocative acronym came courtesy of a project called Structural Analysis of Large Amounts of Music Information, or (yes) SALAMI. The aim of SALAMI was to analyse 23,000 hours of digitized music, breaking it down (or slicing it up) into its constituent elements–intros, verses, choruses, bridge passages and outros (sic) for pop music, more complex categories for classical (‘outros’ become ‘codas’). Quite what the ultimate purpose of the exercise was, or what new research has been made possible by it, was a little unclear, although one can certainly imagine that interesting patterns might emerge over time. There are, though, some important senses in which music is not like salami…

A second musical project to which De Roure drew attention has just been launched by the Bodleian library. What’s the Score? invites any musically-literate person to mark up pages from the library’s collections of mid-Victorian piano sheet music, which have hitherto been uncatalogued. First investigations suggest that it’s quite a fiddly operation. It will be interesting to see whether this latest effort at crowd-sourcing reaps results.

In other news, the website of the Cambridge Digital Humanities Network has just gone live–click here to take a look!

libraries@cambridge

Blog;

Yesterday the West Road Concert Hall was packed for the libraries@cambridge conference, entitled ‘Blue skies … thinking and working in the cloud’. What will university libraries look like in 2020, 2040, 2060? Will there still be research libraries, or will they have gone the way of the dodo? Will they be operating in a society that looks more like the wild west, a walled garden or a beehive? (Those are among the scenarios for 2050 explored by the ‘Libraries of the Future‘ project). Will they have any books in them, or will they be beautiful light-filled atria full of bean-bags and plasma screens, open to endlessly spatial reconfiguration as users flow through them? Will academics still write books, or will they create online content? Will we need subject librarians if interdisciplinarity and specialization have annihilated the very concept of a subject? These were just some of the questions raised in the first two hours… (Answers on a postcard, please!)