JISC/CNI Conference "Transforming the User Experience" (Part 3 of 3)

August 5, 2008

Part 3 of 3:  Scholarly Resources

(Note this is Part 3 of a 3 part summary of the JISC/CNI Conference.)

Kate Wittenberg (Director of Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia University) discussed the Gutenberg-e project, a collaborative effort between Columbia University Press and the American Historical Association to explore and promote the electronic publication of scholarly writing.  Wittenberg explained that post graduate scholars were awarded prizes to create born-digital monographs that offer elements that cannot be conveyed in print: extensive documentation, hyperlinks to supplementary literature, images, music, video, and links to related web sites.  The 27 monographs published thus far have undergone a rigorous academic review process by distinguished historians.  Among the interesting results of the project are: authors and publishers had to collaborate more closely in developing these publications; academic attitudes are increasingly more positive toward online monographs; costs have not been lower than those of print publications because authors could add any number of features to their monographs; users wants to explore various points of entry into the material, not be limited to the authorial voice; and authors want to explore using images and archival documents as the organizing structure rather that the authorial voice.

In “Making Contextual Resources Accessible for Digital Resources,” Michael Buckland (Emeritus, UC-Berkeley) stated that the reference library is needed in the digital library environment to provide contextual explanations for documents, words, names, and events.  In the print environment, reference materials (e.g. dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, gazetteers, maps, time-lines and chronologies) provide a carefully constructed environment of auxiliary resources for exploring context.  However, digital libraries do not offer comparable functionality.  Buckland described an international collaboration between the University of California, Berkeley, and The Queen’s University, Belfast to create, demonstrate, and evaluate techniques to search out the background for topics, places, events, institutions, and persons encountered in texts.  This project received a joint IMLS /NEH Advancing Knowledge grant in 2007. 

The meeting closed with remarks by Malcolm Read (Executive Secretary of JISC) and Cliff Lynch (Executive director of CNI).  They said that in comparison with previous conferences, this meeting had focused on higher level issues--how technology contributes to research and learning--rather that on the “technical plumbing” that needs to be in place to make possible these activities.  Lynch identified some short-term trends arising from the meeting discussions, including policies to allow open access, sharing, and reuse of resources and interest in “digital lives” (how we manage personal information and how we portray ourselves in digital environments).  He also pointed out that higher education is experiencing tensions and mismatches between student and institutional expectations.  Students want to learn what is relevant to their lives while institutions are trying to find out whether they should be teaching bodies of information or teaching students how to think and learn. How does technology help in teaching and learning and what face-to-face experiences are important in learning is one of the questions that needs to be addressed.