Monday, June 11, 2007

Anna Log is the new Blagical

IMproPRieTies will be on hiatus for a bit. Non-digital wanderings. The voices over there ----->

need no recommendation.

Here, for one, is Kia:
These guys who start this with me always take pride in their geniality and their ability to get on with all kinds of people and they sit there and dribble forth this fact-free complacent bullshit, as if the cylinders of their brains have never turned over once in the course of their entire lives. I remember in one of these arguments, one guy, light slowly dawning in his eyes, stopped and said, “Hey, wait a minute, you voted for Clinton, didn’t you?” This was apparently as far back in the universe’s order of cause and effect as he could possibly go. The belief that the rest of the world is one gigantic, dark-skinned and ungrateful Welfare State dies hard -- hell, it just won't die. It's hard to know whether the believer would prefer to keep his money or to cherish this grievance.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Trebor Scholz has some propositions

One of "Seven propositions for the future of the sociable web," from Trebor Scholz.


On the IDC list, Scholz notes (and this seems relevant to the concern with JSTOR):

Take Craigslist. Most of you will know this network for urban communities. It operates in 450 cities worldwide and supports 5 billion page views per month. It is number 34 of all sites on the web in terms of traffic. In December 2006, Craigslist's CEO stunned Wall Street analysts by letting them know that

"Craigslist has little interest in maximizing profit from the website but instead prefers only to help users find cars, apartments, jobs and dates."

Adds Scholz:

It is foolish to naturalize capitalism, as many do, by arguing that only greedy big business can support large-scale social life.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

JSTOR: Two clarifications

After my last conversation with Bruce Heterick of JSTOR, I had a few more questions, but our schedules didn't match up. I appreciate his making time via email to offer a couple of clarifications, address three follow-up questions, and share pointers for help with a fourth.

Heterick said my account of our talk was "fair and accurate," with two exceptions, one major, one minor:

Exception #1:

Heterick: "The minor exception has to do with your characterization of “pay-per-view” via JSTOR" [quoting from my post]:
JSTOR hadn't thought of offering a pay-per-view access before Google crawled its archive. Now, as of January, JSTOR has invited its publishers to make their titles available to unaffiliated researchers on a pay-per-view basis. Only about 150 titles are currently available, and the pricing is entirely at the publisher's discretion - which is not necessarily within most readers' reach (I've heard various prices per article: $35, $60 -- who do they think they are, the New York Times #
"Certainly, in the whole of the pay-per-view world, there are some article prices that approach the prices that you’ve referenced in your post. In JSTOR’s Publisher Sales Service, however, the average price per article is about $14, with the majority of articles available in the $4-$10 range. Perhaps those averages will move (up or down) as more participating publishers decide to offer individual article purchases via JSTOR, but that’s the data we have at the moment. The service has been popular in the brief time it has been available (I think something like 6,500 articles have been purchased thus far), so some folks are finding it helpful."

Comment: Fourteen dollars for a superannuated scholarly article - or even a brand new one - seems excessive. The internet holds multitudes, and lends itself to micropayments. E.g.: Let's say a library pays $10,000 for a year's subscription to a substantial collection of old journals -- perhaps a few million pages worth. Let's say two million pages, though it could well be more. That comes to $.0005 per page. And that gives hundreds, or thousands, of students and professors unlimited access to the journals. So, why not offer a pay-per-view model that charges individuals $.0005 per page? Granted, single downloads would not add up to much, but over time, as people became aware of the quality, scope and depth of the scholarship, volume would build. I'm not aware that JSTOR would be risking anything here, since its current subscription model would still be intact - there would just be more revenue, to allocate however it might choose. A win-win. (Update: Micro is the new macro)

Exception #2:

Heterick: "The major exception has to do with the discussion around 'open access':"
JSTOR is looking at other ways to not simply emulate Kafka. In fact, says Heterick, it once did explore an individual access model, but ran into "difficulties" -- still, the goal of open access is very much on its mind.

“It’s not a question of if we should do it but when we can do it and not devolve our preservation goals,” he says. “Would people or libraries be willing to pay to maintain JSTOR and maintain its long term mission of archiving? We don’t know… .”

Would institutional libraries continue to pay the subscription fees if the journals were openly available to all?

Heterick: "It isn’t really the case that JSTOR is thinking about “open access” as much as I was carrying forward the notion that JSTOR is always trying to “open access” more broadly to other communities (e.g. secondary schools, public libraries, developing nations). That is an important part of JSTOR’s mission (to extend access as broadly as possible), so perhaps I should have used the phrase “broaden access” instead of “open access” to avoid the confusion with much more highly-publicized “open access movement”(OA)."

Comment: I am now officially depressed. I might have misheard or misconstrued Heterick's remarks because I hadn't heard him say that there was a definite policy at JSTOR that would preclude exploring Open Access in the full sense of the term. Apparently JSTOR doesn't believe that knowledge, the scholarly intelligence of the humanities, belongs to us all. I believe JSTOR is wrong. Such knowledge is not the property of some university, archive, or middleman. It took a lot of generosity on the part of a lot of people contributing to a lot of nonprofit institutions to foster the facilities, time and wherewithal for serious scholarly work. To turn around and now tell us that the fruits of those long labors are the private stash of JSTOR and its publishers is to fail to see that the only reason the human race tolerates these institutions is in hopes that they will open our eyes, expand our minds, and give us a chance for a more human, liberated world. To commodify the fruits of this vinyard is to err in understanding the core value and original purpose of the humanities, and of education in general. A catastrophic failure of intelligence.

I'll save Bruce's responses to my follow-ups for another post.

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roughly, quasi, meta

A fascinating "rough draft" on meta-ness at Notebulb. The title suggests it might undergo change. String theorists and the topologically inclined are invited to quasistabilize every bit of it for me and other math-challenged types.

[Update/afterthought: All the morphisms noted by Notebulb are spatial, no? Google's clones of the Net are magic mirrors - when I click "publish post," they change, but there's a lag.]

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Search can create what it seeks and transform how it finds

More about the relation of data and metadata, spurred by David Weinbergers' book, Everything is Miscellaneous, and spinning out of miscellaneous conversations, e.g. here and here:

Query/search can precede data:
“When there is a blackout in New York, the first articles appear in 15 minutes; we get queries in two seconds,” he says. (He is Mr. Singhal, at Google.) #
So the search for data that does not yet exist becomes metadata that helps to create the new data it is proleptically about.
And Google does more than simply build an outsized, digital table of contents for the Web. Instead, it actually makes a copy of the entire Internet — every word on every page — that it stores in each of its huge customized data centers so it can comb through the information faster. Google recently developed a new system that can hold far more data and search through it far faster than the company could before.
The instrument created to search the Net replicates the Net over and over. Is the Internet different because of this? Is it different because its performance transforms what it is?

And, duh, the question that first occurred: Are the replicants of the Net data or metadata?

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Saturday, June 02, 2007


Erin's Weird and Wonderful Word of the Day:

factice [fak-tees]

a perfume bottle, usually hugely oversized, made for display instead of sale.

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