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April 2011 Newsletter
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Hamilton College




April 2011

In this Newsletter:

From the Editor

Going Mobile

Mobile Apps for the Adventurous User

Digital Humanities initiative Q&A

Upcoming Classes

Online Learning Opportunities

ITS Newsletter Archives

 

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From the Editor- Maureen Scoones

It's an exciting time to be in the information technology field! As noted many times before, technology is changing at a rapid rate, but along with that comes innovative ways for us to access information (see Going Mobile and Mobile Apps for the Adventurous User), and approaches and methods that will result in new ways of thinking and learning (see Digital Humanities initiative Q&A).

Going Mobile- Dave Smallen

The world is moving to highly mobile devices as the entry point for communication and access to information. The fall 2010 survey of the class of 2014 indicated that over 60% of them owned smart phones (capable of accessing the Internet), 98% had cell phones and wireless laptop computers. Tablet devices such as the iPad, and e-book readers such as the Kindle, were less common.

In the February ITS Newsletter, I predicted 2032 being a time when "Technology devices are highly mobile and almost all of our services are capable of being delivered through these mobile devices. Everyone carries these devices with them all the time, including to class – and they are integrated into the learning process."

Recognizing that ownership of such devices will become pervasive at Hamilton long before 2032, ITS is undertaking three major initiatives to make our institutional information "mobile-friendly."

First, we are working with the student Entrepreneur Club, led by Jason Mariasis '12, to help them in the development of an iPhone/ iPad/ iTouch application for accessing Hamilton information. This application will soon be released and will be free to the Hamilton community.

Web Services (ITS), working together with Electronic Media (C&D) is mobile-enabling key elements of the ITS web site. This will allow employees, students and alumni with any smart phone to access Hamilton information in a manner tailored for the small screens on these devices. Campus and alumni directories and news feeds are likely candidates for the first information to be presented in this way. If you are interested in getting involved with testing our mobile-enabled website, please e-mail webhelp@hamilton.edu.

A task force, including members of ITS, the Burke Library and others, is meeting with faculty, staff and students to better understand their needs for mobile devices. This group is experimenting with mobile devices to uncover applications that might be particularly useful in supporting the academic and administrative activities at the college. Many of the companies that provide software to Hamilton are developing such applications to access their systems (e.g. Blackboard, Datatel) and we should leverage their expertise.

There are three basic principles that guide our current mobility initiatives. Hamilton will:

  1. mobile-enable key areas of our web site through use of industry programming standards to support as many mobile platforms as possible;
  2. partner with companies that are developing mobile applications;
  3. leverage the work of companies that have developed applications consistent with our information environment.

As Hamilton enters its third century, highly mobile technologies will increasingly enable us to provide convenient, anytime, anywhere access to information consistent with the highly personalized experience that is the hallmark of a Hamilton education. The day when people will be able to easily carry around devices that meet almost all of their information needs is fast approaching.

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Mobile Apps for the Adventurous User - Nikki Reynolds

With the thousands upon thousands of mobile applications available for your smart phone or your tablet computer, how can you find the ones that will really help you manage your hectic work life? One way is to watch the ITS Newsletter for brief lists of “mobile apps for the adventurous user”. (You know who you are, or aren’t.) In this article, we’ll share some apps we’ve found that could be useful to some of you. Note that we haven’t tested all of these, and we don’t support any of them. However, when last we checked, you have not been limiting your technology use to things ITS can support, so we thought sharing our "finds" would still be appropriate.

This month, three  iPad applications we garnered from “ProfHacker” by Eathan Watrall in the Chronicle of Higher Education: Penultimate by Cocoa Box Design, GoodReader by Good.iWare and Pulse News Reader by Alphonso Labs.

Penultimate ($1.99) is the application for keyboard haters everywhere, but especially for people who think of handwriting as an artistic exercise and a natural form of expression. The software provides you with a “notebook” interface and a choice of three possible pen types. You can create as many notebooks as you need, the inks can be colored, the paper is photorealistic, and the notes can be e-mailed to others. If you find your iPad on-screen keyboard to be too awkward for your needs, perhaps this app will increase your iPad’s utility.

GoodReader ($4.99) is just about the best program for reading, highlighting and annotating all sorts of electronic documents. I use it primarily for PDFs, but it will take in MS Office documents, HTML archives, graphics or photos, audio and video. Once you install GoodReader, you will have a “pop up” menu bar that allows you to capture documents directly from your e-mail or the web on the iPad. The annotation possibilities include text boxes, popup comments ("sticky notes"), text highlights, freehand drawings, lines, arrows, rectangles, ovals, cloudy shapes, text underlines, strikeouts, and text insertion marks. All in all, a versatile aid for all sorts of reading, studying, planning activities.

Pulse (Free) is an RSS feed manager that provides a graphic, tiled interface to all of your favorite websites. It will present a summary of an article within its own interface, or take you to the website at a touch.

Next month: Some Android Apps (ProfHacker again…)

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Digital Humanities initiative Q&A with Janet Simons - Maureen Scoones

I recently sat down with Janet Simons (Angel David Nieves and Janet Simons are the Co-Directors of the Digital Humanities Initiative) to better understand the history behind and the work being done through Hamilton's Digital Humanities initiative.

How did DHi come to Hamilton?
The idea originated with Angel.  In the fall of 2009, as part of the discussions around the cinema and new media studies minor, we (Angel David Nieves, Patricia O’Neill, Kyoko Omori, Stephenson Humphries-Brooks, Martine Guyot-Bender, Brent Rodriguez-Plate, Deborah Pokinski, Patrick Reynolds, Joe Urgo, and Janet Simons) were discussing the curricular goals, the types of collaborations faculty wanted to engage in with students, and the potential interdisciplinary research activities that could be undertaken when not contained within a semester, but ultimately feed back into the curriculum.  The discussion was about innovative ways of doing research.

How did DHi become a reality?
We initially had eight faculty from across disciplines in the humanities say they had research ideas and projects where they wanted to work with students and we worked with them to develop research proposals. DHi became a reality through the support of the people leading the cinema and new media studies effort. Joe Urgo, Patrick Reynolds, and Dave Smallen strongly supported our grant proposal to the Andrew Mellon Foundation.  William Billiter and Amy Lindner were integral in helping us take our ideas and frame and formulate them to make sense to granting agencies.

An example of one of the projects being undertaken is Kyoki Omori’s Comparative Japanese Film Archive. “A database of video clips from early silent films to contemporary Anime, with annotations and metadata that can be shared with consortial institutions for scholarly and instructional activities.”

What type of support does DHi provide?
There are three areas:

  1. Grant support for humanities projects – Taking their ideas and superimposing them into the methods and approaches that are now possible for them in the technology area.
  2. Project Management – translation into the digital realm.  There is support for the “low hanging fruit” and then the pieces that will take five to seven years to realize, e.g. 3D projects.
  3. Technology Infrastructure – We are working on developing an infrastructure prototype for digital scholarship in the liberal arts. 

Can you explain some of the technology behind the projects you support now and what you are thinking about for the future?
There are four areas of focus and much of this past year has been spent researching the best technology solutions.

  1. The actual collection or repository of objects
    • Fedora Commons Repository software is open source software (i.e. no cost) used to manage, preserve, relate and link digital content.  You can use Fedora to preserve objects from now until the end of time! One can think of Fedora as what we used to know as the card catalog.  You know the item exists, but you can’t show the object to anyone else.
  2. The research on and manipulation of these objects
    • Hydra and Islandora are examples of software that interface with Fedora and allow you to grab these objects and manipulate them, re-associate them and contextualize them while you are also doing research on them. That is, you need to manipulate, annotate, and take pieces and parts of an object (e.g. the book, video, audio file, or statue) and put them together in one digital environment without destroying the original and make entirely new associations and ways of thinking around the research someone is doing.
  3. The presentation of digital scholarship
    • Present in ways that provides you the experience the scholar wants you to have with the information.  Instead of talking about the objects, you can walk through them and experience them regardless of the location of the objects or the people.

      One of Thomas Wilson’s major goals is to have his information, which is extremely deep and broad, entered at the eighth grade level all the way through scholars of his caliber who are potential collaborators.  He wants it accessible and presented in a way that you can go really, really deep or learn enough to get a sense of it as your knowledge and ability grows, say if you were a high school student.
  4. The preservation of the collections
    • DuraCloud is a cloud-based service (i.e. available via the Internet) focused on preservation.  That is, DuraCloud provides a mirror image and backup mechanism for an institution’s local collection and the ability to make this collection more broadly available.
      DuraCloud has been in a pilot phase since the beginning of Fall 2009 and will be released as a service in early 2011. Hamilton is involved in the pilot along with MIT, Columbia, and The Ohio Five.  This is truly cutting-edge technology!

What are some of the challenges you face in supporting digital humanities?
We are dealing with large amounts of data.  Therefore, cloud based solutions are being explored for the all of the areas noted above. When manipulating large media objects, bandwidth becomes an issue.  If you are in the clouds and manipulating in the clouds, you don’t run into the bandwidth issues when you are trying to work between a local system and some of these software services.

Many of our faculty are doing research internationally – Japan, China, Taiwan, Tanzania, Russia, South Africa, and India. We intend, at some point, to have collaborative collection development and scholarship. Remote collaborators will be feeding in the process as well, which will be much easier if we are already in the cloud layer.

What are some ways faculty are manipulating objects?
There are a variety of ways that you can manipulate an object. Text, for example, can be manipulated through text encoding so that the text can become searchable.  Scholars have to do this encoding because they the ones who understand, in many instances, the origin and the contexts of these passages.  Text encoding has been used, for instance, to determine if a poem is actually written by the poet it is attributed to because the structure, the style, the language, the form, as well as the actual words can be encoded and analysis performed across large amounts of material to determine the probability that this poem was written by this same poet.  Video manipulation is a big one and one that everyone is still struggling with.  We want to be able to analyze video at the same level that we can analyze text.

What is DHi one year from now, two years from now, three years from now?
A collaboratory.  We want to engineer an environment where faculty and student scholars can work on interdisciplinary research projects and ideas with approaches and methods we haven’t even envisioned yet that will result in new ways of thinking and learning!

If someone forced me to define digital humanities, which would be very hard to do, I would say it is providing the opportunity for scholarship to continue to live and be built upon, these are living collections, living digital publications. They are designed, developed, and presented in ways that enable collaboration and further collection development regardless of space, place, and time.

Hamilton is a part of a national collaboration for digital humanities, an area that has really taken off.  The technology over the past four years has made this type of work possible.  The development of methods and approaches to scholarship and presentation of scholarship are constantly moving.  The goal will remain the same, but ways of accomplishing it are mind boggling.  If you can think it, it can happen!

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Upcoming Classes

SiteManager classes and working sessions continue to be offered. Whether creating a page for your administrative office, academic department, student organization, or your own professional page, SiteManager, Hamilton's own web editing tool, can be used to create your web presence.

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Online Learning Opportunities

Students - do you need to learn a new computer skill for a summer job or your new job after graduation? Employees - do you need a refresher course on an application that you don't use on a regular basis?

ITS subscribes to an online training library, Lynda.com, that contains over 1000 video tutorials you can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to Lynda.com:

  • Learn software from Adobe, Apple, Microsoft and more.
  • Classes for beginners to experts.
  • Learn at your own pace: Play, pause, rewind.
  • Watch one tutorial at a time, or a whole course.

Please contact Maureen Scoones (mscoones@hamilton.edu, x4178) if you are interested in accessing these tutorials or have any questions about this service.

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ITS Newsletter Archives

All past issues of the ITS Newsletter are available on our website.

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