One of the great things about my work at MIT is the preposterous level of encouragement the people there give each other. Example: even though I’m not a researcher, I get encouraged to post occasionally to the Center for Future Civic Media’s blog because I have a media background and am (nearly) equal in nerdiness to my formal researcher colleagues.
Since I’m in charge of making sure people post to our blog—which can be tough around Christmas—I’ll keep interviews in the hopper for use when posting is slow. Not only is that typical prudent editorial management, but it’s a really great way to approach people outside MIT that I admire.
Here’s a preview. Going up on the site sometime this week is an email interview I did with Michelle Springer, Project Manager for Digital Initiatives at the Library of Congress. Michelle was in charge of managing the Library of Congress’s partnership with Flickr. I asked Michelle to pick some favorite photos from the LoC’s Flickr photostream and to describe how they speak to what Flickr can do for the relationship between the public and a government institution:
The photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/2178249475/ is a terrific example of the personal history and memories that these photos can evoke. The original caption was “Street in industrial town in Massachusetts.” Flickr members quickly identified the location, and the Library changed the title to Sylvia Sweets Tea Room, corner of School and Main streets, Brockton, Mass., both in the Flickr version and in the Prints and Photographs Online catalog. The Library also added a note to its own online catalog record for this picture (http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsac.1a33856) so that people are pointed to the constantly growing rich discussions out in Flickr.
The rest of the interview is great, so be sure to bookmark civic.mit.edu.
Update: the interview is now posted.
Though all the hype about the Internet is about its hurtling us into a beautiful, linked-arms future, a huge portion of tomorrow’s ‘net will in fact be the past. We’re turning into a world of archivists, given the declining cost of server space and the increased public access to (and understanding of) memory-preserving tools like blogs, digital cameras, and flash drives.
We’re not talking about your aunt’s online genealogy project anymore. We’re already in the age of archive.org and its live (recorded) music project; of librivox.org’s attempt to voice-record every literary text in the public domain; of the Hollywood Animation Archive; of Wikipedia; of Google Video; of Flickr; and, yes, of your aunt’s online genealogy project, which now features photographs of known relatives tied to a GoogleMaps mashup of their locations.
Literary magazines have an opportunity (and I would say obligation) to take part in this informal but massive project—to make available their archives. Two or three years ago, you could argue that most of the great literary writing was effectively lost; if you didn’t know what you were looking for nor the library at which to find it, you didn’t have a chance of finding lesser-known Mencken, early Paris Reviews, or a pointed letter to the editor by Reinhold Neibuhr.
But now we have all the necessary ingredients for an organized literary past: tools to grant us the access, and experienced editors to link the stray bits and provide context. The magazine AGNI already makes a point to publish rediscovered (and, often, retranslated) work online. All literary publications should follow that lead, into the past.
Yes, this is a photo of FC editor Andrew Whitacre. With his mother. Altogether, how sad. We’re posting this more or less as a test to see how Flickr’s photo-posting-to-blogs technology works.
Ideally it maintains the embedded comments. We’ll see . . .
Work progresses on the literary magazine article. Yes, it’s an article now, rather that just a review. We’ve gotten some good quotes from AGNI and N+1 people, so it’s turning into a decent feature. It’s taking some time to put together, though.