Category Archives: Literature

‘Simpsons Did It!’, or Roy got there first and some other matters

Last week I wrote a little something about categorising the webpage-cum-page, a facet of which covered the problem of versioning and unique user perspectives. Today I have been re-reading Roy Rosenzweig’s 2003 article ‘Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era‘ when I noticed something that sounded familiar:

The problem is still worse because of the ability of digital media to create and represent complex, dynamic, and interactive objects – another of their great virtues [...] That is most obviously true of computer games and digital art, but even a large number of ordinary web pages are generated out of databases, which means that the specific page you view is your own “creation” and the system can create an infinite number of pages (742, my emphasis)

South Park S06 E07 comes to mind. The ‘Simpsons Did It!‘ problem of digital curation.

Among his many interests, Roy was questioning boundaries of access and use of scholarly material before most even realised the internet had made those boundaries open to question (there is a horrible irony in the fact that the DOI for his seminal 2003 paper is currently not working). Open Access might have got itself into a horrible administrative pickle in the UK of late, but we appear to be lurching in the right direction: a JISC conference next month on OA publishing in HSS (book now!) should be a useful opportunity to reflect on just how far we’ve come. I’m proud to make my work freely available, and am delighted that my latest article has been published in an open access journal: ‘Locating Gulliver: unstable loyalism in James Gillray’s The King of Brobdingnag and Gulliver‘, Image (&) Narrative 14:1 (2013). This article derives from a talk I gave just over a year ago at the Nottingham Contemporary, and argues that even the most ostensibly loyalist prints designed by James Gillray could have been interpreted as fundamentally ambiguous, to the point of mocking his sometime loyalist paymasters. It builds on some conversations with and reflections by Steve Poole, and was a pleasure to write in between working on the ever gestating book.

Returning to the topic of openness, the BBC has this week joined the crowdsourcing bandwagon (a wagon so popular it has made the OED) and asked the public to help tag the World Service Radio Archive. I have deep respect for both the BBC and the World Service, and yet my first instinct to this call is why? Not that I want paying for any potential work I put in, but just why? Why should I bother? Why this project and not another? In short, I’m not sure the case for contributing is being made explicit enough. Answers on a postcard.