Digitally Owned?

Alright, I know this post is SUPER late at going up (as really I should be doing one a week), but this topic is a hard one to cover and I didn’t want to put this post up only thought half way. When it comes to who “owns” what in the digital it becomes hard to tell where lines are drawn. Are there even lines? Heck, is there anything to draw lines on?  . . . Yeah, having a philosophical mind can work against you in tasks that are meant to be just quick blurbs. Anyway, it’s really hard to say how things should work in this case. In the physical world it’s a bit easier to hold onto what is yours as you have it. Of course people could have or make copies, but there are ways of telling who had what first. Photography made this a bit more difficult as now someone could take a picture of, for instance, a painting. It’s not the actual painting, but a picture of it could be just as enjoyable to the person as having the physical painting itself. However, this does leave us with the issue of now that person has the painting (in picture form) without actually having paid the artist. The artist did take the time to go and make this image that person enjoys so much and the artist did pay for all the materials, so without the artist that image wouldn’t exist for that person to enjoy. And that’s not even as confusing as it can get!
Let us talk about this page. A page crated namely for a class, yes, but it does contain my ideas. They are mine right? I am thinking of them, it is me writing them down, and it is my grade suffering for the lateness of the posts. But, what is to keep people, who have never even seen me, from going and taking these thoughts and using them as their own? How do I know they did and just didn’t happen to come up with the same thoughts (it is possible, highly unlikely, but possible)? How is Professor Prescott, or anyone reading this, know for sure I even am writing this? All you know is the name attached to the blog and the digital words that you see on your screen, which, thanks to Google Chrome’s auto translate feature, can change their form at any time.  And even if I don’t mind about these thoughts of mine are used by others even without crediting me, is that the right thing to do? It is easy enough to give credit for a thought or some kind of knowledge to go and be cited then let the author of that go to make all sorts of arguments around it. Maybe that is the more properly moral thing to do, though that is not always the case. Is this the same thing for information that is open to public by providers, I am not sure I want to make that jump. To take everything that is on, for instance, Wikipedia and create a printed form and had it out for free. While that may not be practical, it may also be twisting how things are meant to work. Try applying that to published reference sources that can be viewed in a Library for free, but if you copied all the pages to just hand out to people for no cost, how would that go down? It really is a weird world we live in, and I’m still not sure how to quite stand on all of this.

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Paper or pixels?

That is the question between scholars these days. Is it better to have documents in paper or all digitized and up on line? There are the same old issues of maintenance to keep everything in good condition and available to those who need to see it. Of course, in most cases, the maintenance is kind of doubled once an item is digitized, as that place now has both a physical and digital copy to maintain. Just having the one copy is less costly, but then those that can access it is significantly lessened. Having a digital copy of something does open it up to many more people being able to see it, or most of it as the quality of the digital copy is sometimes less than optimal. As it currently stands the pros and cons of digital copies of documents keeps wavering back and forth in a way that makes spinning around in circles less dizzy inducing.

There are cases where some of the pros will out weigh the cons. A great example of this can be found in a site I knew of before Professor Prescott put it as an option to do this blog post around. The segment I love using the most is the audio recording section, which contains a lot of literature of books that have now gone into the public domain. As a tactile and auditory learner this is great, because some of the things I need to read for research are presented in a way that’s far less difficult for me to work with! Yeah, reading is visual, the type of learner I’m not, so research gets really frustrating, as typing reports (or blog entries), but I digress.  Having an audio recording of a reading really only keeps the supplier of that resource to only having to maintain the one copy of it, and maybe a digital written version, but not the original. It also can open the resource to more people.

At any rate here’s the link to the place that I was talking about:
http://archive.org/

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Know Thy Wikipedia

For this time around, we were told to look up a historic event in history on (drum roll please) WIKIPEDIA! Now, un-cringe yourself it’s not that bad. The other half of it was to judge it on its sources, discussion, and history. Now, as I am part of a living history group that portrays a part of a Landsknecht unit of the Holy Roman Empire in the early to mid 1500s, I went with something I know well, but largely is not known outside of Europe, the battle of Pavia in 1525 (to save you some time, here’s the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Pavia). The article does the battle justice, and goes into a good deal of detail. It says what lead up to it, what happened, and how bad it went for the French (whose king was captured). They don’t really put down any figures as to the death toll of the battle, but considering the time I’m not too surprised by this. Knowing the type of warfare (pike and shot) I can guarantee that the deaths were many, and probably gruesome. Though there is a lot that is included, they do fail to mention some of the other things that were parts of it. The article focuses mostly on the Italian and French background reasons for being there, and cover the Spanish (which considering it was Charles V includes the Holy Roman Empire) they don’t go into the Landsknecht unit that was there against the Emperor (which was a main reason Charles V was so pissed going into this). As far as the sources, they are all good sources for this, but they are few in number at the time of this being written. Well, there are 11 sources, which is a good number, but still there is a good deal more out there on this topic. Just most of those sources are in old German and probably in need of both translating and digitization. Over all the Wikipedia page is a great place to start research into the battle, but can not be considered all-inclusive.

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Google the Scavenger Hunter

So, it’s a bit silly giving a few items to a person to go find online. We have this wonderful device called Google, or Bing if you’re being all hipster. Search engines, though not infallible, will find what it is you need to look for in no time. You may have to tweak the way you phrase it a little to help narrow down or broaden the field, depending on how well you know what it is you’re looking for. Some searches will be easier to find than others, but overall these lovely things make life so much easier. But that’s it, easier. It doesn’t make you any less smart; because, who is really going to have all sorts of information in their mind all the time? And not everyone can easily travel to wherever to look at the document for a labor dispute from 1970. You could call, yes, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find the documents you’re looking for. Actually, sometimes the reply you get is that it is up on the internet, go Google it, this is not the archive you are looking for (feel free to add in that Jedi hand wave if you so wish, I did). Of course being in a class where all the students are writing a blog about this same subject too makes life interesting, as their blogs show up in the Google search too. It’s a bit silly, but such is how the Google is. Those that rise with the Google fall by the Google! Eh, I don’t think that phrase will catch on, but worth a shot. It is nice to finally be able to not have to spend way more hours than you really every wanted to in an archive. An archive which is in the basement of some town building, lit only by torch light, and has a bunch of skeletons from ages past lying over books and tomes. Alright, so I’ve never seen an archive quite like the one I described, but still they can feel that way.
Oh, and for the record here’s what we had to find, and what I found for each.

1) An op-ed on a labor dispute involving public school teachers from before 1970

http://laborboards.maryland.gov/PSLRB_Linked_PDF_files/Carroll%20County%20Negotiability%20(N-2013-01)%20CCEA%20v%20%20CCBE%2006%2027%202013%20(FINAL,%20SENT).pdf

2) The first documented use of solar power in the United States (Did use Wikipedia for a link to this page, it’s the last 1904 entry)

http://www.radford.edu/wkovarik/envhist/5progressive.html

3) The best resource for the history of California ballot initiatives, including voting data (this was the top link in the Google search)

http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/history-initiatives-info.htm

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A Web of Thoughts

Alright, so there’s been a growing trend over a long time, probably for as long as I’ve been going to school (which was with the internet starting to be used as a research source), and that would be the affect it is having on us. Well, mostly with our minds and the way we think/process information. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my spelling would be far worse if not for spell check (thank you Google Chrome for having it standard), and my grammar may be off on, well, a bit; however at least it is understandable and able to be followed. If I ever get a bit complex I blame all the philosophy texts I’ve been exposed to as a philosophy major. The internet has helped to aid in many things as I’ve learned growing up using it, but there are claims that it is not exactly aiding us anymore. That it may, in fact, be making us stupid. I can’t help but feel this isn’t so.
The web has placed at our fingertips a great deal of facts. But just that, facts. Now, yeah this means that we don’t have to remember as many facts and probably has made room for more bits of (rather useless) trivia. This is largely because when we need to know a quick fact there are these lovely things called search engines, which let you in a fraction of a second find many sources that have (in theory) that bit of information you’re looking for. Now, I would very much rather be doing that than, say, have a notebook full of quotes I found important (which I may have as a file in Word), a card catalog, and a basement full of books (which would slowly be flooding into the rest of the house). Now, yes of course our habits are going to change with a change of resources, but that’s not going to cause us to think any less, unless the person would rather be thinking less. The way that facts become knowledge is via the person’s mind that is interpreting them. This holds true for when reading someone else’s interpretation of facts. Reading someone else’s knowledge is just a fact to the person reading, it becomes knowledge upon thinking around it.

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Ideas, history, and educating in blogs.

This is a response (kind of) to the article/blog of “Professors, Start Your Blogs,” by Dan Cohen (http://www.dancohen.org/2006/08/21/professors-start-your-blogs/).
The idea of blogs being written by professors is an interesting one, and when I look at it could be quite a bit of fun. Well, that is since I’m a philosophy major the idea of having thought tracks out there and in the open allows more access to knowledge, and philosophy is the love of knowledge. Granted, this “knowledge” is still in the rough and probably not fully thought through, but aren’t diamonds more valuable in the rough? Answer: For the most part yes, but it’s a bit of give and take (http://www.diamondintherough.com/pages/value-of-rough-diamonds). Of course there is a bit of worry in the case of putting unrefined ideas out on the web, as that could lead to someone taking it and going through with it to refinement (which may or may not break some kind of law, not my area, but would still sting either way); however, it doesn’t have to just be the unrefined ideas that go out on blogs. Since there is some kind of safe guard about the whole concept behind these, putting bits of the refined ideas out there would help to spark the thoughts of others. It could get a person to go and buy the books of that person. It could also save some students a lot of time trying to find the print version of a few sentences they really need to finish up a paper.

From the history side of things, it starts to get a bit unclear for me. On one side, I’ve seen a ton of blogs through my experience as a member of a living history group; however, I can see where short scribbles of digital text could work against the historian. To point out the major flaw of having all things digital, one decent sized EMP (electromagnetic pulse) and all this data is gone, it would be the same as when the Library of Alexandria burned to the ground, and the only way to save any of it is to print it before all of the electronics stop working. Though that may seem a bit extreme, it does have a good chance of happening, there’s a lot of things in the universe that can produce it, and ones made by people are doable too (just not that huge, yet, that I’m aware of). On the more bright and cheerful side, by historians (or really anyone of authority in a topic) putting things up on the web in easy to read and (mostly) short bursts it will lessen the number of inaccuracies in what people know. And I do believe that everyone would be better off having more knowledge than less.

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Quick Test and About.

Just a test to make sure that this is working. Also, just to let anyone who happens on this know, this is largely being created for the Public History Project class that I am taking at CCSU. We’ll see what comes of this as time goes on.

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