Despite the technical difficulties of the video conference this Saturday, I feel like there was nevertheless some great discussion.  In the interludes during which the video software cooperated with us, we heard from Katherine Hayles, Jerome McGann, Matthew Kirschenbaum, and Arthur Kroker.  I know for a fact that Michael Joyce and Rita Raley made it into the program, but we couldn’t hear the first and severe lag prevented us from listening to the second.

Hayles began the event with an intriguing story that served as a representation (Concetta aptly called it a parable) of the intersection of humanities and technology in the form of a war between “DHs” and “PHs,” the D standing for “digital” and the P for “physical” or “paper,” I assumed.  I know Martin said he was recording it, so listening to it would make a much better rendition than my shoddy recap of it, I’m sure.  To me, her point was that departments seeking integration with digital humanities will be better off than those who don’t.  Either way, it was good to put a voice and face to the words we’ve been reading.

McGann envisioned what he called the “New World Library,” or “a machine that will stabilize the cultural record, both print and digital.”  This discussion led to McGann’s commenting on the Google Books project, a topic which dominated the discussion for most of the remainder of the conference.  McGann commented that, when the Google Books settlement occurred, scholars were not invited to the conversation, causing them to be left out of a very important discussion regarding the digital future of books.

The second part of the conference became more of a local discussion as by that time the server’s ability to handle the connections had for the most part faltered.  We listened to Dr. Kamrath talk about his visit last week to the University of Virginia, where McGann had also been, and discussed some of the issues brought up earlier in the event.  Of particular interest to me (at least partially because I just started working with Dr. Kamrath on his Charles Brockden Brown project) was Dr. Kamrath’s talk about digital standards.  He said a mere 5-6 years ago, it was deemed acceptable to scan a document as a jpeg file at 300 dpi.  If anyone knows what that means technologically, they’ll know that a 300-dpi .jpg file won’t tell you the difference between a dot on an “i” and a piece of dust on the page, which at times is significant to scholars looking at old documents.  This brought the conversation once more to libraries and the Google Books topic, which personally I was glad to hear about since I am woefully under-informed on the issue.  Furthermore, it’s good to hear opinions from the scholarly crowd that was apparently neglected when the decision to allow the service was passed.  Most of the controversy seems like it centered on copyright and the opinions of authors and publishers, completely leaving out the perspective of academics.

I’ll leave off here for now, since I’m sure others who attended will have their own content to contribute, and those who didn’t should have their own insight and opinions on the topics above.

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