sunnuntai 26. helmikuuta 2012

Web archives, in good and bad~

A warm greeting followed by a sneeze and nasty cough! Seems like this ongoing weather mind f*ck between +0°C and -5°C, combined with a lot of incessant stress and lack of sleep because of it has taken it's toll and made me ill -___-. Despite not being able to come to the Digital culture lecture on Monday, I bravely defied the fever and visited the National Library in order to complete the earlier given extra task for said course, namely to browse around the Web Archives of the National Library and web archives of the Internet Archives website and compare the experiences.

After slight moment of standing around and looking stupid in the northern reading room at the National Library I decided to ask for help considering the web archive there. A helpful gentleman of the staff showed me to a computer and gave a quick introduction, also offering me aid in the form of a folder with general information on the Web Archive. I found it quite versatile and easily usable – it offered a vast expanse of information and material, allowing one to search for entire web pages or then search for web pages by entering keywords. Since I couldn’t come up with any web page, I tried by entering a keyword ("Victorian gender roles", quite connected to the topic of my pro-seminar :’D). Up popped material in mainly Finnish and English, some pages proven quite interesting.

The time span of digitised web archives reared from January 1st 2006 to (quite peculiarly) January 1st 2013, and also displayed how many times a certain amount of pages had been viewed. I supposed the search would have been more accurate, had I really known what I was looking for, in fact. Often it worked as such, that it looked for material including those to words, which essentially did not have much to do with “victorian gender roles” on the whole. Essentially, it seemed quite much like something akin to Google. In the end I felt I could acquire the same effect with Google, in case I did not know what I was looking for. The web archive works well, however, if you know what you’re looking for and it’s dated back to 2006.

I also took a look at the other services offered by the National Cultural Archives, which the Web archives were part of. These included the National Audiovisual Archive (KAVA) with an archive on Finnish Radio and Television programs. This contains digital material (ohfrom from the year 2009 forwards. This archive in questions seemed slightly confusing to browse around first, but after a while seemed quite helpful, allowing you to view, observe and play digitised material from Finnish television.

The Digital Collections of the Web Archive, which were another part of the National Cultural Archives, seemed very interesting, with Newspapers (dating back to the end of 1770’s), Ephemera (dating back to 1855) and journals (dating back to 1890’s). I consider this digitised part of the archive amazing and perfect for research or just idle browsing around and enjoying old newspapers. The digitised versions of the pages were clear and although the style of the older days might be a bit challenging at times (yeah, I sucked a palaeography -___-…), they are very well preserved. Entertaining and informative – I could’ve sat there all day scrolling down page after page of old newspapers. I guess this could offer me an interesting field of research on some topic.

The Internet Archive was in a manner much more accessible, since it didn't require visiting a certain building in order to access the site. On the front page it presented itself as "non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public." Wow, that sounds classy and nice, and most importantly - easy to work with 8D! So I decided to browse around and gather material and knowledge for my comparative study. When I started looking at the page further, it seemed quite chaotic with a lot of material and To remain true to my original random topic, I typed in "Victorian gender roles" again. Up popped 0 results, f*cking great. I tried again with the search word "Victorian era" and this time I had more luck - I encountered around 123 results. Most were digitised books, which could be read online. "The Literature of the Victorian era" which I browsed around in, from 1923, was very-well preserved, bright in colour and good in quality to read.

In the end I came to the conclusion, that both the Web Archive of the National Cultural Archives and the Internet Archive are slightly complex and it takes a while yo learn to manoeuvre the pages - especially if you don't know what you're looking for. Knowing the web exact page, name of a blog, a topic or such really helps you getting somewhere with the search. Unless I need some really specific for a project, analysis or research at the university, I think I'll personally stick to normal Internet and Google instead...

P.S. I just realised, after writing everything above, that in my delirious fever state I must have misunderstood the assignment, namely the part about checking out some Finnish website and whether it's found on both the Web Archives of National Library and on the Internet Archives and compare these experiences. I'm sorry for the mess-up >___< ! Hopefully no one gets their knickers in a twist because of this little bad! Here's, however, a nice picture to make you all feel better about it ^__^'!

sunnuntai 19. helmikuuta 2012

Moving pictures and digitised sound

The topic was this week was the long process of digitising sound and pictures, with the actual first movie from 1826, which we got to see during the lecture. Albeit it was only two seconds long (and someone had made a funny parody of repeating parts from the incredibly short video on youtube), I can just imagine the impact it must have made on the public back then. The first photographs had started showing up around the same time, the earliest surviving picture also from 1826, depicting a scene from nature. This was the work of French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, who had produced his first photogravure etching back in 1822. Through collaboration with another Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, he improved the photographic process and created what became known as daguerreotype. This first prototype of photographs soon became very popular throughout the world and several daguerreotypes have been preserved to our time.

Nowadays, few realise how important digitisation of old film and sound material is. We were shown a process on preserving old recording, interviews e.g. As a researching, the best option is to make a perfect copy of the original recording, digitised it, and then work on how to get rid of additional, annoying sounds (such as wheezing sounds, murmuring in the background). It had never struck me as how difficult digitising sound can actually be and my respect for researchers and keepers of records multiplied severally.

But digitisation has also increased among normal citizens, who aren't inclined to the academic world in any manner. Many smaller companies offer services such as converting old vinyl records to mp3 format and old VHS video-cassettes to DVD format, in order to preserve precious memories and personal keepsakes. Sounds very practical, although I can't claim to have any personal experience about the process. Digitisation has become a part of our everyday life, whether we really acknowledge it or not.

I myself, am quite content with the existence of moving pictures and digitised sound and how widespread it is - I really can't imagine life without movies or music (mp3 format, of course). Or the wonderful combination of these two such as this following video. Enjoy!

sunnuntai 12. helmikuuta 2012

Thoughts on the digital archives of the National Library & National Archives

As an extra assignment for this week, we were supposed to have a look at the digital archives of the National Library and the National Archives and and our opinions and thoughts on these. I have to pathetically admit, I've never browsed around on the National Archives home pages. According to the introduction on their pages, there is 103 shelf-kilometres of records dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. The NA also harbours a vast collection of microfilms, essential for historians and their research. The web pages are quite accurate and easily manoeuvrable, and have useful links and short cuts for researches as well as genealogists and the press. It is fascinating to find out, that as of January 31st 2012, the Digital Archive has over 11,700,000 files (that's unimaginably much!) containing material from the National Archives Service. Really blows your mind, doesn't it?

The main reason for digitising archives, according to the NA themselves, is in order to be able to preserve the old and fragile documents and other materials, which can often range several hundreds of years back. In this manner it is easier for several researchers to work with the material without that damaging physical touch. I remember being told, when we visited the National Archives with a group of uni students, that texts written with a pencil lasts much longer than any kind of new, modern kind ink (ball-point pen e.g.). Better keep that in mind while writing notes by hand :'3.

Personally, the National Library is a bit more familiar to me, but rather through its physical books than digital archives. They also have a smaller collection of digitised material, which, according to themselves consist of "Finnish newspapers, historical everyday ephemera and vintage audio recordings are among the materials digitised by the National Library of Finland for freely accessible online use". These collection consists of 'The Historical Newspaper Library 1771-1909, a very valuable resource indeed (have to take a better look at some point, I really like old news papers). Just like the NA, the NL of Finland digitises material and collections it considers culturally and historically valuable, as to facilitate the use of the materials and preserve the original publications. Much good it would do to 200 years old news papers, if every slightly interested student wanted to physically browse them.

On my opinion of digital archives, I already contemplated the subject in my earlier post, but to add to the topic more specifically; I don't reject or refuse digitisation of old archives - it's practical and efficient for many reasons. I confess I have not really given it any bigger thought than what I presented earlier, because I have yet to use it more frequently. In the end, I'm a romantic person, so maybe that's one of the reasons why I like books - they have that feel of nostalgia that clear, clinical digital publications don't have. In the end, I'm a lazy person, so despite my fidelity to good old books, I still like being able to access books and articles online without having to make a bigger effort. True story, bro!

Digital archives - practical and efficient?

Hello again!
The topic for the lecture in Digital cultures in humanities this week was digitisation of archives and texts. I understand it's a very tiresome and slow process, but very important, nonetheless. Although, I still have my doubts about it - about digitising big archives. Yes, several important works can then be displayed for people online, internationally, but still I guess I like the consistency a solid book represents. I suppose many others my own ages might feel confused and uncertain about the digitising process - after all, we've all grown up browsing through books, some more dusty than the others. With the constant fear of computers systems crashing and erasing all that valuable material of yours, I suppose there's that nagging little feeling in the back of your head suggesting, that this could also be a potential threat for bigger, better organised and secure digital archives as well. When I hold a real, hard cover book in my hands I don't have to dread its disappearance or destruction in the same manner as digital information.

Digitisation has its good points, which for me are mostly associated to online publications, magazines and entire e-books. Nowadays e-books and online publications have become a an important part of studies at the university and here to stay. The digital publications offer access to works, which would otherwise remain unreachable for several reasons (like those bloody books on Gender Studies, which are always hogged by other students and kept by them for an eternity. Or at least long enough for me to not be able to obtain those before the exam, which requires those books in question. Annoying...).

Nelli-portaali is one of these web portals, which offer e-books and publications, which I find really helpful and practical for studies. It also helps staying in touch with research abroad, as you can find a load of internationally published academical dissertations and doctoral thesis. Albeit it requires that you're a student at some of the Finnish universities and have a uni-password to access the page, I still find it very practical and helpful, as it is free of charge. Few people feel tempted to buy an entire e-book, despite the potential low price, just in order to read an article or such. Therefore I consider the Nelli portal a very valuable resource.

There is the growing realisation which we have to deal with; that the digital archives are growing constantly and that they're a huge part of our reality, especially within the academic world, just like normal books. I refuse, however, to believe that e-books and online publications will completely replace the existence of good, old solid books. Sure, it's easier to bring e-books with you (if you own some kind of device suitable for displaying it, laptop e.g.) anywhere you go and you can sit home on your butt instead of dragging yourself to a library somewhere supposedly far away (well, it seems really far away if you're lazy like me 8D!). For me books are not old relics of an archaic life - rather they are just as compatible and practical as digital publications. Yay for books!

sunnuntai 5. helmikuuta 2012

Computers and internet is a daily necessity for quite a majority, nowadays, but few really understand or know about the complicated process through which both were slowly developed. On the most recent lecture, we discussed around the topic of the emergence of the computer, the internet and how the fruit of all those complicated processes have turned into an obvious part of our daily lives.

The most of the information was new and quite complicated, and I guess I realised I'm very much spoiled by this society and its comforts, when I found myself amazed over how the earliest computers - big enough to fill whole rooms, worked so slowly. A process as simply (well, nowadays) as transferring information as a file from one computer to another was gruellingly a slow and complicated process. Quite astonishing for us to imagine. 'What, I can only keep one window open at a time? Bitch, please! I like my 50 tabs open, simultaneously >8D!'. So, yeah, that wouldn't much have been an option back then :'3. Then again, computers were ridiculously expensive and used mostly for research and high-profile projects within science. Awesome.

One thing that I was surprised about, was for how long necessary web sites like Wikipedia, Wordpress, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter and search engines like Google have been around. Which really isn't long. Google suddenly popped up back in 1998 and pages like Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter all appeared sometime during the 2000's. It sure feels like they've been around forever, doesn't it? Apparently human memory is not always as infallible as expected... After all, how could I have written all my essays and do my homework in Secondary School without Wikipedia ;____;? It just would've taken more effort >8)...

It's unfortunately obvious, that when Internet was invented and started gaining popularity, some people lost their social life to it completely and utterly. Or at least many lost a part of themselves to it (yours truly as well :'3) and internet has now become an inseparable part of our way of life, and for some people, it has become their sole purpose of living. Ain't that great 8D?

The future sure looks bright for us...and our children :'D.