[Humanist] 25.927 publications: bit rot; spectral imaging

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue May 1 07:47:15 CEST 2012

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 927.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>          (25)
        Subject: bit rot

  [2]   From:    "Adrian S. Wisnicki" <awisnicki at yahoo.com>                (79)
        Subject: Publications from the David Livingstone Spectral Imaging

        Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:31:29 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: bit rot

I expect that most here will be interested in an article in The 
Economist for 28 April, "Bit rot: The world is losing its ability to 
reconstruct history. Better regulation could fix that", 
www.economist.com/node/21553445. The author asks us to imagine being an 
historian of 2012 in the relatively near future of 2035.

No surprises here. We can all accurately imagine the problems he or she 
writes about. But I persist in thinking that this is not a simple matter 
of GOOD (preservation) versus EVIL (loss of information). First there is 
the tight relationship between forgetting and sanity. Someone, I think 
the English mystic Rodney Collin (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Collin), 
defined Hell as uncontrolled simultaneous recall of everything you've 
ever experienced. Then there's Borges' story, "Funes the Memorious" 
(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funes_the_Memorious). And (let us say) finally 
there's the need for a space to be cleared so that new people can 
discover new things and rediscover old ones.

So, I ask you to imagine being an historian in 2035 in a world where 
absolutely nothing has been lost or forgotten.


Professor Willard McCarty, Department of Digital Humanities, King's
College London; Professor (fractional), University of Western Sydney;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (www.isr-journal.org); Editor,
Humanist (www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist/); www.mccarty.org.uk/

        Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 13:28:06 -0700 (PDT)
        From: "Adrian S. Wisnicki" <awisnicki at yahoo.com>
        Subject: Publications from the David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project

Dear Colleagues,

I attach an announcement for two new and exciting publications from the
David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project
(http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/), which may be of interest to members
of this listserv. The project is a collaborative, international effort to
use spectral imaging technology and digital publishing to make available a
series of faded, illegible texts produced by the famous Victorian explorer
when stranded without ink or writing paper in Central Africa.


Dr. Adrian S. Wisnicki

Assistant Professor of 19th Century British Literature, English DepartmentCo-Director, Center for Digital Humanities and Culture
Indiana University of


Two New Publications from the David Livingstone Spectral
Imaging Project

We are delighted to announce the first edition publication of two digital
resources that will be of significant interest to scholars of Victorian
literature, the Digital Humanities, postcolonial studies, and African
history. Both resources focus on David Livingstone, the celebrated Victorian
abolitionist, missionary, and explorer of Africa:

Livingstone's 1871 Field Diary: A Multispectral Critical Edition

The Livingstone Spectral Image Archive

The beta publication of these resources last fall drew worldwide interest,
with full-length articles appearing in The New York Times, The Washington
Post, BBC News, and many other outlets. The UCLA Digital Library Program now
presents these two resources in revised and expanded versions with enhanced
functionality. Collectively the resources make the text of Livingstone's
previously illegible diary available for the first time in 140 years. The
resources also bring together the 1871 Field Diary with a variety of related
manuscripts for the first time since the nineteenth century. Nearly all
materials are published and licensed for use under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Livingstone's 1871 Field Diary: A Multispectral Critical Edition
(http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/1871diary/) reveals for the first time
the words of a unique diary kept by Livingstone in the months prior to his
famous meeting with Henry Morton Stanley ("Dr. Livingstone, I presume?").
The diary also records Livingstone's uncensored, first-hand impressions of a
horrific slave trading massacre in the Congo. Thanks to a letter from
Livingstone, the massacre would become an iconic rallying point for
late-Victorian abolitionist and help spur the British-enforced closure of
the notorious Zanzibar slave market. Livingstone composed the diary
crosswise over old newspaper pages with ink concocted from the seeds of a
local African plant - an expedient that has not stood the test of time.
Today large portions of the text are illegible and nearly invisible to the
naked eye. However, the David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project
(http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/) has succeeded in restoring the full
text of the diary by using advanced imaging technology and digital
scholarship to produce a comprehensive critical edition. The edition also
includes an extensive "Project History & Archive" that chronicles the
journey of Livingstone's text from its rediscovery in 2009 to its
publication. This section of the site contains over 60 downloadable
documents and files that together provide a detailed account of the
production of the critical edition and spectral image archive.

The Livingstone Spectral Image Archive
(http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/livingstone_archive/) enables easy and
direct access to the images, transcriptions, and metadata of Livingstone's
1870 and 1871 Field Diaries as well as select letters from the period,
including the primary materials used for Livingstone's Letter from Bambarre
(2010-2011, http://livingstone.library.ucla.edu/bambarre/). The archive,
which consists of "flat" digital files not dependent on any graphical user
interface (GUI), has been created to international library standards, and
reflects the archival model established by the Archimedes Palimpsest Project
(http://www.archimedespalimpsest.org/). The archive includes registered
spectral TIFF images with metadata embedded in the header; TXT metadata
files; XML TEI P5 transcriptions; MD5 checksum files to ensure data fixity;
and extensive documentation. In most cases, the XML transcriptions also
include spatial data linking lines of text to corresponding spectral image

The publication of these two resources represents the culmination of a
two-year collaborative, international endeavor that brings together
scholars, scientists, archives, and educational institutions. The U.S.
National Endowment for the Humanities and the British Academy have made the
project possible through generous funding. Questions and comments about the
project can be sent to project director Adrian S. Wisnicki, Indiana
University of Pennsylvania, at awisnicki(at)yahoo.com.

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