Friday, July 25, 2008

Digital Slider for Copyright

Digital Slider

One of my listservs alerted me to a handy new gadget: a digital slider to look up copyright terms for works created at different times and under different conditions.

Recently, the American Library Association urged Congress to change the law that states that sound recordings made before Febrauary 15, 1972 won't enter public domain until 2067. To quote their press release:

"This places historical recordings at significant risk of loss by thwarting preservation programs because of the uncertainty over whether creating preservation copies would violate copyright law.

Unlike books, paintings, photographs and other creative works, sound recordings are technology dependent, so that if a pre-1972 sound recording is not reissued in a contemporary format (digital file or compact disc), the content is generally not accessible to the public or scholarly community."

This is just one example of the complexity of copyright law that affects information professionals and those involved in preserving our cultural heritage.

View the Digital Slider

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Web Trigrams

Chris Harrison's Web Trigrams

I love envisioning information, and the Internet has made this infinately easier. My brother passed on a link to Chris Harrison's experiments in visualizing Google's n-gram data. From Harrison's site:

"Back in late 2006, Google released a massive set of web n-gram data (basically pieces of sentences). A trigram (n=3), for example, might be "I like food" or "frog is tasty." Each n-gram is also labeled with the number of times it appeared in Google's corpus. The entire archive, which is almost 100GB uncompressed, has unigrams (n=1) through fivegrams (n=5). The data set is offered through the LDC for those who are interested (link).

As soon as I got my hands on the data, I quickly got to work on some straight forward visualizations. The first type compares two sets of trigrams, each starting with a different word. One visualization compares 'He' with 'She', while the other uses 'I' and 'You'. In the case of the 'He' vs. 'She', the top 120 trigrams for each were identified. The frequencies of the second word in the trigrams were combined and sorted, and rendered in decreasing frequency-of-use order. A similar process was used to create a ranking for the third (and final) word in the trigrams. Words are sized according to the square root of their use frequencies. The color-coded lines act like paths (a tree structure), enumerating all of the trigrams. The process was identical for the 'I' and 'You' version, except that only the top 75 trigrams were used.

These visual comparisons allow us to see differences in how the two subjects are used - both where they are similar and diverge. For example, among the top 120 trigrams, 'He' and 'She' have many common second words. However, they differ on some interesting ones, for example, only 'he' connects to 'argues', while only 'she' connects to 'love' (within the top 120)."

Visit Chris Harrison's Web Triagrams.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Found in Books

old books asked some of its booksellers, "What's the strangest thing you found in a book?"

Aside from all the letters, torn out newspaper articles, shopping lists, business cards, and postcards (send and unsent), other objects discovered by booksellers include a World War II US ration book (with stamps remaining), World War II discharge papers, a pair of scissors, a valid driver’s license, a marriage certificate from 1879, a holographic image of a lady who sheds her clothing, theater playbills, a condom (unused), a cockroach (dead), and a strip of bacon.

Read more about odd items found in books:

Intralibris: things found within books
Things found in used books
Things found in books

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"For Posterity": The Personal Audio Recordings of Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong Collage

The Spring/Summer issue of The American Archivist has a fascinating article about Louis Armstrong's personal audio recordings and collages. The collages intrigue me because they are "visual jazz" and use enormous amounts of scotch tape, the bane of archivists! How are they being preserved?

From the abstract:

"Louis Armstrong exerted a defining influence on one of the most influential products of the American imagination: jazz. As noted by one of Armstrong's biographers, however, Armstrong's character was 'buffeted by the forces of racism and commercialism.' From the perspective of the archives, Armstrong's reaction to these influences was a form of psychological withdrawal that often coalesced around this interaction with recording technologies. Armstrong developed an intimate relationship with audio recording and relied upon its particular form of capture to shape a posthumous identity that was beyond the distortive influences that shaped his public and commodified image, and that was appreciably honest in its relationship with, to use Armstrong's word, 'posterity.'"

The PDF of "For Posterity": The Personal Audio Recordings of Louis Armstrong is available from The American Archivist online.

Visit, the official site of the Louis Armstrong House and Archives.

The Paris Review offers some pictures of the collages.