Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Archiving Conferences

What happens in a conference is usually lost the moment the words leave the speaker's lips. Last week I filmed a conference in the University of Western Ontario: Canadian Climate History workshop, so that what happened might be useful to others.

Just because conference presentations aren't in written form doesn't mean they aren't worth keeping.

Consider recording your next conference or conference talk. If you're looking for a place to store it, try ITunes University.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Photo Archive of One Man's World

My father sent me a link today to one of the most amazing photo archives I've ever seen.

Jamie Livingston took a single Polaroid image nearly every day from March 31, 1979 until his death in 1997. The whole collection is roughly 6000 images, which show everything from the evolution of hairstyles, to the urban regeneration of New York City, where he lived.

There are no words, only images. The people in the photos remain a mystery. But, the story the images tell are of one man's world, as he saw it. An amazing story, to say nothing of the collection's value to social historians. If you were born between 1979 and 1997, you might see what he was doing on your birthday.

Take a look:



Definitely worth a look; and extremely well presented. Archives might consider using a similar format for presenting their archival collections online. Why search with words, when our eyes are already built for searching?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plaigiarism is not Dishonourable

Allow me to plagiarize:
Students must write their essays and assignments in their own words. Whenever students take an idea or a passage from another author, they must acknowledge their debt both by using quotation marks where appropriate and by proper referencing such as footnotes or citations. Plagiarism is a major academic offence.
This addendum came with every syllabus I received during my undergraduate degree. Irony prevents me from telling you which university I plagiarized this work from.

Teaching students what should and should not be cited, and why citing is important is admirable. But, by teaching that citation is a system of acknowledging intellectual debts, students may never learn why we really cite others. Instead, they will cite to avoid punishment, and in some cases will do so when it is not necessary. Plagiarism is bad for several reasons; however, failing to acknowledge an intellectual "debt" to someone else is not one of them.

You are not indebted to someone whose ideas you borrow, rather, the strength of your argument depends upon what they wrote and what evidence they used to support their arguments. You do not cite them as a "thank you," rather you cite them so that a person reading your work has the means to check your sources. So that they can determine if what you say makes sense and is based on a sound foundation.

Hopefully, the person you cited also cited other authors. In this manner, footnotes and citations provide an unbreaking chain of logic / evidence, which goes back to an original source. For this, citations are extremely useful.

There are no victims of academic plagiarism. Plagiarism is the highest form of flattery. If someone sees your work as worth stealing, it must be good. Any undergrad who can write well enough to plagiarize without making it painfully obvious is probably smart enough for a BA anyway.

Transparency in education is important for creating a meaningful learning experience. Students aren't stupid, so maybe we shouldn't treat them like they are.

Plagiarism is not dishonourable; it's just counterproductive.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Open Peer Review

I came across an open peer review request the other day. Ara Basmadjian, a UWO digital history student posted a draft essay proposal on his blog, asking his colleagues for constructive criticism.

Not only is this brave and a nice change from the defensive, secretive nobody look at my paper attitude that so many students have, but, if it works, it might prove to be a good first step into an open peer review system that helps create good, solid scholarship in a timely manner, without the need for the bottleneck of journals. I hope it works.