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Good Summary Article on Digital Classics/cist

March 22, 2011

Yesterday I read with interest Simon Mahoney’s article “Research communities and open collaboration: the example of the Digital Classicist wiki,” thanks to a recommendation from @paregorios (Tom Elliot).  It’s a fairly quick read and I feel like I have a better understanding of what the Digital Classicist wiki‘s history is, and what I might find it useful for in the future – better than I acquired after some random poking around on the site last summer, anyway.

One of the big topics the article raises is whether digital humanities is inherently collaborative and what technological structures can do to foster community.  This is an issue I’m interested in in general, especially because I see academia generally, and classics within the academy in particular, as very hierarchical disciplines that value tradition, and disciplines where much of the serious work is done solo (archaeologists are somewhat exceptional in this regard).  I thought about this idea when I talked about and social networking for academics; I thought about this idea when we discussed crowdsourcing at THATCamp SE.  I’m thinking about this today, as my goal for this week is to get the wiki piece of the Ancient World Open Bibliographies project up and running, and the goal of that project is the building of a collaborative bibliography for the use of scholars and students.  How can I get collaborators?

As an aside, I was curious enough about the gender balance in digital classics – especially because of the recent spate of articles about gender imbalance among Wikipedia editors – to count the number of members listed at the Digital Classicist Wiki by gender.  (For first names I was uncertain about, I assumed they were female.)  The tally was 120 listed members, 80 of whom are male and 40 of whom are female; the four editors are male.  Not too shabby; recent reports suggest classics PhDs currently awarded are largely split 50-50 by gender, for context, but computer science remains a male-dominated field.


Open Access Week for Classicists

October 21, 2010

The 4th annual Open Access Week is October 18-24, 2010. What does it mean for a classicist?

Open access resources are those that are available to all online, without the payment of a subscription by a university library or department or individual.  For many students and faculty based at large research institutions in the United States, it is easy to take access to appropriate scholarly resources  for granted.  Many undergraduates  I work with are surprised to discover that the UGA library pays for access to Jstor.  I field queries from students who are perplexed that a web site is asking them to pay $30 for a scholarly article they found using Google, and recent graduates who are distressed that they no longer have free access to Lexis Nexis.  And consider those who are based at small and/or ill-funded academic institutions, both in the US and abroad, and rely heavily on interlibrary loan and/or database license restriction-violating friends at larger institutions (who email them .pdfs or share passwords).

It is relatively easy to embrace the principle that scholarly information should be freely disseminated and available to all – but real life and the economics of scholarly publishing make open access more complicated.  To explore these issues, the Association for Research Libraries  has an Open Access initiative called SPARC.  SPARC produces a brochure (pdf) that is much more eloquent than I can be about the benefits of open access, and the web site has sections on economics and campus policies.  A few campuses have had their faculty commit to publishing their research in open access repositories, and many campuses have digital repositories, usually based in the libraries, to adequately organize and store various open access materials, which can range from digitized historic documents to data sets to student papers (including dissertations) to scholarly research by faculty.

Open Access: You’re Already Using It

Some of the best-loved and most heavily used online resources for Classics research are open access: Perseus, the core collection of the TLG, and Lacus Curtius, to name some of the most popular.

The blog AWOL: The Ancient World Online has been collecting scholarly journals and other resources relevant to ancient studies that are open access, and has amassed an impressively long lost of titles.

The Hathi Trust catalog is an important scholarly site to be aware of.  Supported by major US research libraries,  it has online full-text of many scholarly works that are out of copyright, and the indexing and searchability are better than Google Books (which is also a valuable resource for open-access scholarly books and a few journals.)

What have I missed?  Tell me the best scholarly resource you use online for Classics research that is open-access.  I am certain I am missing many non-US ones!

Open Access: How You Can Contribute

As a teacher and scholar, you can help promote open access resources by:

  • Recommending them to your students and colleagues.
  • Publishing your scholarly papers in open access journals, especially if you are past the tenure process and can actually attract readers to these often newer journals because of your well-known name.
  • Looking closely at your contracts with publishers when you sign them.  If they don’t allow you to keep copyright of your own works, consider asking for an amendment of the agreement.
  • For scholarly works for which you hold the copyright, consider posting them online as free .pdf files, making them de facto open access.  A personal or departmental web site is a good place for this (you can link .pdf files to an online CV, for example) or a ‘scholarly social networking site’ like makes the process easy.

Are there other ideas I have missed?  Have questions about Open Access?  Let me know!


Social Networking and Academia

July 26, 2010

Now that everyone and (no joking) her dog is on Facebook, has the time come for social networking to have an effect on academia?  There have been academic and research-related “social” sites for some time now – (part of Nature Publishing) broke big in 2005, and CiteULike happened at about the same time.  Both of these allow the bookmarking of web pages, like, but have a special focus on online academic journal articles.  They pull metadata from the articles to create an accurate mini-citation in your list of resources, and allow lists of articles or web pages to be tagged, shared, and fed out via RSS; you can also explore others’ lists and discover new research articles that way.  I explored Connotea pretty thoroughly in early 2007, but haven’t used it since then.

Mendeley is a more recent entrant into the arena (2007), with a desktop as well as a web application, although like Zotero (2006)  it bills itself most prominently as a reference management software (like EndNote or Refworks) that just happens to have a social dimension.  More truly social, with a goal of promoting campus research and fostering intra-campus collaboration is BibApp, an application developed by librarians and technologists at two university campuses.  Here, the researcher is the focus of the site (not the individual paper or citation) and the institution is the impetus for organizing and collecting the published works of the researcher.

Right now, I’m most interested in, though.  I’ve had an account at for a couple of months now, and I think it’s a new idea that could encourage some interesting changes in academic culture.

Phoebe Acheson's page at

1.  It increases the visibility of an academic career.  The site comes up quite high in a Google search; higher, I find, than one’s departmental web page.  Also in contrast to a departmental web site, I have instant control over what is on my profile; if I update my resume I can simply upload the new version, without having to work through a web administrator.  (I toy with turning off the feature that emails me when someone searches for me on Google and lands at the site.  While one knows, rationally, that people do search for one on Google, it is a little disconcerting to hear about it I find!) In the difficult employment environment academics face, any tool that lets you promote your academic work and manage your own academic ‘brand’ for free is a good one.

2.  It serves as a de facto high visibility repository for open-access papers.  Researchers can easily upload copies of their published or unpublished works to the site.  Scholars should, of course, only upload papers they hold the copyright of, so do read your publishing contracts carefully to make sure you hold the copyright in your own work if you want to post your papers or book chapters online.

A couple of things I wonder about:

1.  If I switched university affiliations, how would that be handled?  Right now the url for my page starts with “uga,” but academics do move around, especially at the early stages of their careers, and I suspect this site is aimed at scholars writing PhDs or assistant professors (the Facebook generation?) rather then senior faculty. (I seem to see a lot of UK-based grad students on the site especially – note the site itself is UK-based.)

2. Will people make connections using that turn into academic collaborations?  While I treat Facebook as a public forum, and don’t post anything there I wouldn’t say to my postal carrier (or my boss!), my “friends” are almost all people I have actually met and interacted with.  I am, on the other hand, comfortable “following” the work of scholars I don’t know at  Will graduate students and early-career faculty reach out to each other and turn “following” into collaborating?  If so, could this have an effect on the culture of academia, which (at least in the humanities) is not very collaborative?


On Information Management

June 1, 2010

When I started this blog a couple of months ago, and created an accompanying twitter account (which, I know, I am not using much yet, sorry), I didn’t realize I would be adding the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of Too Much Information. But in addition to remembering yet another username and password, I am now struggling with keeping up with both producing content and consuming content online.  Disentangling the private and professional online is also a bit of a mess in my head right now.   So I’m starting a blog-project on information management that I hope will help me define things a bit, and will also help me better serve the faculty and students I work with, who are probably facing many of the same problems.

Here’s where I stand as a content producer/distributor:

I have one Facebook account, that is mostly an expression of my private life (i.e. I interact(ed) socially in real life with almost all of my Facebook friends).  But since many of my ‘friends’ are current or former coworkers, or former fellow-students, I also have a dimension of my professional life on Facebook.

I have two twitter accounts (@phoebeacheson and @classicslib), and contribute to a group account (@ugalibsref).  I am most muddled about what is personal and what is professional in this arena right now.

I have three blogs: this one, a private personal one, and a public one that is rather boring unless you are deeply excited by plumbing and gardening.  I have also been invited to contribute to the Ancient World Bloggers’ Group (though have not done so yet) and I contribute to the UGA Library blog.  Here my boundaries and scopes are delightfully clear. Whew.

I also recently set up an page, and am on Linkedin (not very actively).  I explored Connotea a couple of years ago, and my account is still there.  Did I mention I have four email addresses?

Offline, I have published one article as a librarian so far (okay, that’s online too, but the sent me paper offprints! I marveled), and just last Friday gave my first presentation at a small regional conference (Atlanta Area BIG 2010).

In terms of content consumption, I subscribe to 8 professional email list-servs (aside from ones limited to my workplace), and read around 80 work-related blogs (it’s hard to say exactly, as I only have one Google Reader account and also sometimes it’s hard to decide what is personal and what is professional – is Language Log or Uncertain Principles something I read because I enjoy them personally, because they inform my work (they don’t, directly, but do get me thinking…), or both?) I continually feel like I’m not keeping up in some areas, but I also feel like I’m devoting too much time to this sort of keeping up as it is.

I don’t do nearly as much original research as active scholars in Classics do, but I have both a RefWorks account and an EndNote library (the latter really only so I can teach it to others; I use RefWorks for my research projects) and keep meaning to do something with Zotero.

Note I haven’t mentioned non-internet methods of acquiring and distributing information, like talking to colleagues, teaching classes and one-on-one sessions, browsing the stacks of the library, and keeping up with print periodicals.  I do almost all of those, too.

Am I managing all this well?  In terms of consumption, am I finding what I need and keeping up with areas I am most interested in, while weeding out irrelevant-to-me information?  In terms of production, am I reaching my target audience (have I defined a target audience?) with the information and messages I want to convey?  Am I useful to my target audience?  How can I tell?

To further my thinking in these areas I’m going to start having a series of conversations with scholars – hopefully people of different generations who are in different places in their careers – about how they manage information related to their scholarly work and identity.  With their permission, I’ll write up accounts of our chats and post them here, in hopes that I can start answering some of these questions for myself, and help those around me solve any information management problems they may be having.