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Posts from the ‘Open Source’ Category

Another World is Possible: Open Folklore as Library-Scholarly Society Partnership


In the wake of the SOPA/PIPA protests, debate over the Research Works Act, the growing boycott of Elsevier by scholars in many fields, and more local discussions of the ways that various scholarly societies in my own fields of interest (anthropology, folklore studies) responded to the recent call by the [U.S.] White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for comment on public access to federally funded research, there is a great deal of additional attention being given to the changing nature of the scholarly communications (publishing) system and our hopes for its future.

One key issue centers on scholarly society publishing programs and how they can best be advanced in the present and into the future. At the 2011 American Anthropological Association meetings I spoke in two different contexts about these issues. I have shared here previously my remarks to the “Future of AAA Publishing” event (Jackson 2011b; for context, see Nichols and Schmid 2011 and Brown 2011). That presentation was on “Green Open Access Practices.”

I also spoke in the Digital Anthropologies: Projects and Projections panel organized by Mike and Kim Fortun and sponsored by the Society for Cultural Anthropology. In that event (which has been well documented by Daniel Lende (2011), my goal was to describe the Open Folklore project as both a broader community effort and as a specific digital platform, so as to illustrate a more general point about the fruitful possibilities that can come from direct partnerships between libraries and the library community and scholarly societies.

Libraries and scholarly societies now have a customer-to-business relationship and it is one that is growing ever more strained as commercial publishers become central partners in many scholarly society publishing programs. I evoked the alter-globalization motto Another World is Possible in my title because I wanted to suggest that the course that we are on is not the only one available to us. I believe, on the basis of a lot of time spent over the past five years with university librarians around the Midwestern U.S., that the research library community would much rather work with scholarly societies collaboratively in the shared real and digital spaces in which scholars and librarians (and students) already labor together rather than engage antagonistically in a neoliberal marketplace that has been shaped by the business practices pioneered by firms such as Elsevier, Springer and (yes) Wiley-Blackwell. Open Folklore is just one of many university-scholarly society partnerships that are exploring how to make this alternative framework real.

I should have just shared my presentation at the time of the AAA meetings, but I had hope that I could quickly work on it some more before getting it into wider circulation. Time has not been available for that work, but the current interest in these issues suggests that I might now have an interested audience and a second chance to share it below in the form that I presented it in Montreal.

My remarks below should not be taken as an official statement of the Open Folklore project team, the Indiana University Libraries, or the American Folklore Society. They reflect my own experience with these issues, although they of course also draw upon the rich experiences that I have had partnering with talented, committed colleagues working toward the goal of achieving Open Folklore’s aspirations. The paper below has been edited lightly just to recontextualize the language for a reader not at the original panel (meaning simple removal of language like, “so and so will probably speak later this morning about…”). I wish to take this opportunity to especially thank Mike and Kim Fortun for their remarkable service to the field as editors of Cultural Anthropology and as organizers of the Digital Anthropology event.


Another World is Possible: Open Folklore as Library-Scholarly Society Partnership

Jason Baird Jackson

Indiana University

Building upon shared values, facing common problems, and recognizing new opportunities, partnerships linking scholars, scholarly societies, and research libraries are a particularly hopeful development in the changing scholarly communication system. In my remarks, and as an example of current possibilities, I will quickly describe the Open Folklore project and situate it in the context of the serials crisis, the corporate enclosure of society journal programs, the erosion of the university press system, the development of open source software for scholarly communication, and the rise of the open access movement as a progressive response to these changes. For those wanting basic information on using Open Folklore associated resources in your research and teaching, I urge you to visit the Open Folklore Portal site online and to consult the instructional screencasts that my collaborators and I have shared there, and on YouTube.

By way of introduction, I can note that OF is a joint project of the American Folklore Society and the Indiana University Bloomington (IUB) Libraries. The two lead partners share as desire to make more reliable folklore scholarship—in many genres—discoverable and freely available online.  The Open Folklore team is doing this work but so are many colleagues in many places. Consulting the Open Folklore website, which I will come to in a moment, provides an eye-opening and encouraging sense of the OA work that a wide and deep network of folklorists have already been pursuing. Launched in 2010, the project has grown rapidly and made significant progress in its efforts to foster and encourage the development of an interconnected and interoperable, but also distributed and low-cost, system of open access projects and resources.

The Open Folklore project is more than its associated portal site. The project is pursuing educational projects aimed at educating scholars about open access issues. Importantly, it is also working with rights holders and publishing partners to encourage the pursuit of sustainable open access projects that comply with the basic technical standards already extant in the broader scholarly communications community. Read more

MLA Parternering with CUNY in Important Scholarly Communications Initiative: Commons in a Box

On the basis of my work on the Open Folklore project, I have spoken on a number of occasions in recent weeks about potential and power of scholarly societies partnering directly with universities in the development of tools, protocols, strategies, and projects in the scholarly communications domain. Along these lines, I am especially interested in the news that the Modern Language Association will be a partner in the Commons in a Box project announced by The City University of New York. This project brings together the open source tools already being used by CUNY Academic Commons and will make them available and easily installable at other institutions. For the MLA and its 30K+ members, these software tools will be the basis for MLA Commons. Read all about it in Audrey Watter’s story at Inside Higher Education.  Congratulations CUNY! Congratulations MLA members!

For an account of my presentation to the Digital Anthropology panel at the recent AAA meetings, where I spoke about university library+scholarly society partnerships in light of the AFS+IU Libraries partnership on Open Folklore, see the detailed summary published by Daniel Lende at Neuroanthropology.

Genres Leak, Being a Reflection on Michael E. Smith’s Essay on Semi-, Quasi- and Pseudo- Journals

On his weblog Publishing Archaeology, Michael E. Smith raises key questions about the status of a mode of scholarly communication for which he is in search of a name. To guide his thinking, he considers two actual web publishing projects in anthropology: (1) Anthropologies and (2) Anthropology of This Century. Committed to the centrality of the established peer-reviewed journal form (but eager to advance open access and also a blogger himself) he wonders what to call these journal-like publishing efforts. Noting that these publishing efforts have some clear similarities to conventional journal but that they are also, in some ways, different, the possibilities that occur to him include semi-, quasi-, and pseudo- journal.

I do not have answers for Michael’s questions all nailed down perfectly myself, but I doubt that semi-journal or quasi-journal or pseudo-journal will, in practice, stick. There are a great many experiments going on in scholarly communication and I think that we will eventually discover the right names for specific kinds of projects. I think that the label “journal” is likely going to continue to spread to refer to a greater diversity of communicative forms. For me, the key thing that we know now is that it is important not to conflate platforms with genres (or with quality). Read more

@Mukurtu Project Wins Major IMLS Grant

Congratulations to Kim Christen and everyone working on the Mukurtu project on news that the effort has received a major grant from the (U.S.) Institute for Museum and Library Services (announced here). This is a major development for a major project.

As noted on the Mukurtu project site, Mukurtu is “A free and open source community content management system that provides international standards-based tools adaptable to the local cultural protocols and intellectual property systems of Indigenous communities, libraries, archives, and museums.” It is “a flexible archival tool that allows users to protect, preserve and share digital cultural heritage through Mukurtu Core steps and unique Traditional Knowledge licenses.”

Badges! (with Special Reference to Public Folklore) #dmlbadges

As if the worlds that I try to keep up with were not overflowing already, more and more stuff to keep track of keeps coming. For several months I have wanted to take a few hours to get up to speed on the basics relating to the newer life-long-learning/educational reform/online meaning of badges. I had not quite done this, although I had read a few small online accounts and grasped the concept. I still had not taken time to do this background reading when today the phenomena took on a bigger life today.

The MacArthur Foundation awarded a two million dollar grant to HASTAC and the Mozilla Foundation (the Firefox people) for the purpose of funding a Digital Media and Learning Competition centered on the building of badge projects and the associated open technical infrastructure to make it all work. Here is how the MacArthur release begins:

Learning happens everywhere and at every age. Traditional measures of achievement, like high school diplomas, GEDs and college degrees, cannot convey the full range of knowledge and skills that students and workers master. To address this issue, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, HASTAC and Mozilla today announced a $2 million Digital Media and Learning Competition for leading organizations, learning and assessment specialists, designers and technologists to create and test badges and badge systems. The competition will explore ways digital badges can be used to help people learn; demonstrate their skills and knowledge; unlock job, educational and civic opportunities; and open new pipelines to talent.

There is a great deal of discussion of this new program going on online and the conversation suggests that many folks have already invested a lot of brain power into working out the norms, forms, and aims of the emergent badge-based education and credentialing landscape. I am interested and sympathetic but too new to have any deeply informed opinions (beyond my support for the open source software/open standards aspects, my overall belief in the importance of life long learning, and my recognition of plural educational pathways and diverse learning styles/goals).

As I begin to make sense of the badges approach, I can immediately see some ways that the approach would particularly serve some sectors of the world in which I work. Public folklorists have long pursued for themselves and built for their colleagues robust continuing education opportunities of diverse sorts. Public folklorists are very good at continuing to study and master a range of practical skills of a general sort that can apply to their work–video production, GIS systems, database development, etc. They are also good at providing to their professional community field-specific training events outside of the walls of formal higher education. Workshops and similar events are a staple activity whenever public folklorists gather. While these could be seen as standard continuing education activities typical of any profession, they go along with another dimension that is not so uniformly present in professional life, and that is mentoring and collegial support of a real and meaningful sort. Public folklorists to a high degree help, lookout for, coach, and support one another. Resource scarcity could have produced high levels of competition, but in my estimation it has instead fostered a strong communitarian ethos among U.S. public folklorists. (Its not an absolute quality but a relative one.)

It seems to me that this is an ideal kind of environment for badges to strengthen the the workings of what is present already. Public folklorists in particular learn by doing–in internships and in their jobs (something central to the badge scheme), learn through informal channels and in continuing education formats, and learn within a supportive community of practice. As a very clear way of gaining formal recognition for one’s ever growing skill set and as a way of conveying these skills in online and offline ways to employers, granting agencies, community partners, etc. badges seem very promising to me as a framework for strengthening public sector folklore work. Many of these same points could be made in connection to other areas to which I have ties–museum work and applied anthropology. The digital humanities people are of course already very aware of the badges discussion.

One of the best things about badge programs is that they can be organized by a diversity of groups and agencies (unlike formal higher education, which is built around colleges and universities and their slow moving practices).

In addition to the MacArthur release, see also the Mozilla announcement and their “About Open Badges” page, the competition announcement at HASTAC, and these these posts [1] [2] by Audrey Watters at Hack Education.

I know that the badge business will seem crazy based only on my post (what is it? are they patches?). It will make more sense if one goes to these core sources and check it out firsthand.

Want the downside? Want the “What is totally wrong with all of this?” assessment? For a compelling account of the dystopic potential of badges, check out Alex Ried at Digital Digs.

Mukurtu: An Indigenous Archive and Content Management Tool | New Website Announcement

From a December 20, 2010 Mukurtu Project Press Release:

Mukurtu: An Indigenous Archive and Content Management Tool
New Website Announcement

Project Director: Dr. Kimberly Christen; Director of Development: Dr. Michael Ashley; Lead Drupal Developer: Nicholas Tripcevich

In March 2010 the Mukurtu project was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Start‐Up grant to produce a beta‐version of an open‐source, standards‐based community digital archive and content management platform. As the third phase of an ongoing software production project, the Mukurtu team is aware that indigenous and tribal libraries, archives and museums are underserved by both off‐the‐shelf content management systems (CMS) and open source CMS and digital archive/web production tools. Over the last decade as web technologies have diversified to include user‐generated content and more sophisticated digital archive and content management tools the specific needs of indigenous collecting institutions have been left out of mainstream productions.  Based on long‐term research and collaboration with indigenous communities and collecting institutions, Mukurtu’s development and production has focused on producing a digital archive and content management tool suite that meets the expressed needs of indigenous communities globally. Specifically, Mukurtu:

  1. Allows for granular access levels based on indigenous cultural protocols for the access and distribution of multiple types of content;
  2. Provides for diverse and multiple intellectual property systems through flexible and adaptable licensing templates;
  3. Accounts for histories of exclusion from content preservation and metadata generation sources and strategies by incorporating dynamic and user‐friendly administration tools;
  4. Provides flexible and adaptable metadata fields for traditional knowledge relating to collections and item level descriptions; and
  5. Facilitates the exchange and enhancement of metadata between national collecting institutions and related indigenous communities through robust import/export capabilities.

The Mukurtu software tool suite is under development now with a system demonstration site planned for Spring 2011. Our informational website, development blog, and wiki are now live. These sites allow us to chronicle our development progress, provide updates and engage with users as we move forward to a full launch in August 2011.

Please visit the new site at: and follow the links to learn more about the Mukurtu project goals, development, and collaborations.

Get Ready: Open Folklore Launch Wednesday

I am just back from a wonderful trip to Oklahoma for the 14th Annual Euchee Heritage Days Festival. It was really great.  Lots of people, lots of hard working volunteers, lots of good food and interesting activities. I will try to write about it properly soon.

Tonight I just want to note that the new week is almost here and that we are now counting down to the launch of the Open Folklore portal site on Wednesday–the first day of the American Folklore Society meetings. Please keep an eye out for more news of the site and its debut. I hope that everyone who reads this post will feel encouraged to give Open Folklore the “like” treatment at the new OF Facebook page and/or to “follow” “openfolklore” on Twitter.

If you were to tweet about Open Folklore, the hashtag is #openfolklore. The AFS meetings hashtag will probably be #AFS2010.

If you are already liking or following OF, thank you for helping us spread the word.

Scholarly Publishing and Scholarly Values: Choosing our Future

I am very pleased to have been invited to the University of Minnesota to speak to the faculty and librarians there about scholarly communications. I will surely share reflections after the event but I wanted to pass on the details now. I really look forward to talking to, and learning from, everyone there. I am very appreciative of this opportunity. Find the details here.

Commons-Free Software, Free Content, Open Access

In an earlier post, I mentioned my attendance at one day of a conference in Hannover Germany called “Commons, Users, Service Providers: Internet (Self-)Regulation and Copyright.” The theme on the day (March 18, 2010) that I attended was “Commons-Free Software, Free Content, Open Access.” Now that I am trying to catchup on a a year’s worth of academic loose ends (our semester is just now ending) I wish that I could offer a fuller report of the conference. I think that I will need to settle for a comment or two and a word of thanks.

I especially benefited from a couple of presentations. One of these was “GNU GPL Version 3: The Law Making Process” by Eben Moglen, a professor of law at Columbia University. Professor Moglen has been very involved in the development of the GPL and he spoke of it in light of the ways that such arrangements represent a kind of non-governmental international law-making framework. He described the approach used in GPL3 as emphasizing new and general language that does not provoke default assumptions in any particular national jurisdiction. Other presenters spoke of other pathways toward internationalizing other IP/copyleft instruments. He was ill and unable to attend in person but prepared a very remarkable video that he sent to the conference. I hope that it is placed online as it would standalone very well even though it addressed the conference and conferees directly.

The two other presentations that I will mention were “Creative Commons International: Achievements and Perspectives” by Catharina Maracke and “Linux, Wikipedia and Other Networks: Governed by Bilateral Contracts, Corporations, or Something in Between?” by Dan Wielsch. Professor Maracke is the former director of Creative Commons International. She is now teaching at Keio University in Japan. He talk was a great overview of the approach that has been taken in internationalizing the Creative Commons toolkit. In contrast to the GPL, this has involved creating local versions for each national jurisdiction. Professor Wielsch teaches at the University of Cologne and his talk described research on the evolution of community governance in massive collaborative content production projects such as Wikipedia. While a subject that numerous people have been discussing in recent years, his presentation was clear and effective. As a non-specialist I learned a lot from it and from many of the presentations.

(Strangely, the area where I had the most background–open access–was the focus for the only presentation that, it seemed to me, was the most out of sync with the spirit of the day’s discussions and most contrary with my own understandings and views of the topic.)

As the first formal academic conference that I have ever attended in Germany, the even was very instructive. While mostly native German-speakers, the audience and presenters controlled and used perfect English. I both appreciated this fact (at a practical level) and found it a source of guilt (as an advocate of linguistic and cultural diversity).

I was in Germany as a guest of the DFG Cultural Property Research Group at the University of Göttingen and was hosted at the Hannover Conference by Mr. Philipp Zimbehl and Professor Dr. Gerald Spindler. I wish to extend my appreciation to them and to my overall hosts Professor Dr. Regina Bendix and Ms. Arnika Peselmann.

Hannover: Commons–Free Software, Free Content, Open Access

I am in Hannover for the day at the final day of a conference titled “Commons, Users, Service Providers: Internet (Self-) Regulation and Copyright. The focus today is Commons – Free Software, Free Content, Open Access and I have already learned a lot. I will try to write it up when it is complete.  So far there have been presentations by insiders on the GPL, internationalizing Creative Commons, and on court cases related to open source software.

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