Centeno began the talk by describing the origins of his interest in globalization, about 11 years ago, about the time of Thomas L. Friedman's first publications on his theories about the relationships between nations (The Lexus and the Olive Tree, 2000 and The World is Flat, 2004). Centeno said it occurred to him that there were many ways to frame the subject of globalization, and that the process, in fact, had been going on for thousands of years. How, he wondered, was the best approach to grasp the complexity of the concept without resorting to banalities--and what was the best way to diagram information as complex as that describing global trade?
Centeno's first attempt to answer that question was to develop the International Networks Archive, (INA), where he used graphic arts, among other things, to try to depict complex relationships in easy-to-understand ways. Using some common reports published by the United Nations, he used trade data to support the generation of diagrams that showed some stunning conclusions about global transactions. Centeno calls these images "infographics." An example, The Magic Bean Shop and The Fries that Bind Us, are two of the diagrams in the INA collection. They show the effects of McDonalds and Starbuck's franchises on global trade. This diagram, he noted has been the most popular on the site, having been reprinted multiple times as an example of the sort of trends the INA is best at describing.
The fries that bind us? A diagram showing the effects of Starbuck's coffee shops and McDonald's restaurants on world trade. Image copyright 2003, INA.
"Globalization is nothing more than a complex series of transactions across the planet," said Centeno, alluding to the strong connections that can be made by analyzing trade data. "Most of these data sets are available publicly," he noted, showing a table that tracks the annual number of minutes spent in phone communications between countries. Data about the imports of movies, books, as well as trade data, are among the many other ways to show how these transactions take place through what seems like simple exchanges.
The INA project was followed by the "Mapping Globalization," where data was visualized in three distinct ways.
The first section of the Mapping Globalization site contains a collection of maps, and links to maps of various kinds: these include historic maps, interactive maps, and modern satellite imagery that help to convey the notion of geographic location as a critical, but often overlooked aspect of globalization. "Globalization involves connections between at least two places," the website explains, "and the first step in our understanding must be an appreciation of what this means in a concrete sense of place."
The second, and least developed, section of the "Mapping Globalization" site is the "Narratives" section, a series of animated movies that show general trends in globalization over time, such as "Migrations" and "Empires."
Finally, the "Data and Analysis" section uses diagrams generated by technology from NetMap Analytics, which creates diagrams showing the density of trade between nations. Using data from GKG trade statistics, NetMaps are circular diagrams that show relationships between various countries, grouped by continent. Thresholds can be set on the data depicted to clarify the diagrams. For instance, setting a threshold of f "0.3%" means that links corresponding to a trade share less than 0.3% of the total dollar value in the category are not shown in the diagram.
Despite best efforts at the time, there was no way for the NetMaps to be generated dynamically on the website, however images of several of the most interesting patterns can be found in the section of the site called "NetMap Combined Studies."
The talk next focused on a project undertaken by Manish Nag, a graduate student in the Department of Sociology at Princeton who now studies with Centeno. Nag explained his past career as an IT consultant, and his first interest in studying globalization at Harvard, studying with Jason Beckfield. At Harvard, Nag worked on a project called Sonoma, as a way to visualize statistical data using maps. When he came to Princeton to continue his studies, he began to work with Centeno on making an interactive database that would allow anyone to diagram world trade relationships. The result was the MapTrade project.
MapTrade, still in beta, shows various projections of a world map (Robinson, Winkel Trippel, Gall-Peters, or equirectangular are the map views that the interface supports). Trade flows can be diagrammed on top of the world projections, showing trade between selected nations, based on specific commodities, or all trade between all nations. Trade data is available for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2009.
Using the interface, it is possible to save generated maps, so that comparisons can be drawn, and the results saved for use in research and presentation. As with the earlier NetMaps projects, filters can be applied to clarify the data by setting thresholds, or by limiting the transactions by their total percentage of world trade.
Centeno and Nag used the MapTrade interface to generate a series of maps, showing the shift in trade centers over time.
A diagram showing the top 75% of trade in wheat among all nations, 1980. Image generated by MapTrade.
A diagram showing the top 75% of trade in wheat among all nations, 2009. Image generated by MapTrade
The audience then requested several maps showing various commodities, countries and time periods.
Who knew so many fish sticks were traded between the U.S. and China in 2009? That the top 50% of word trade involves only 10 countries? You may have suspected these things; MapTrade can draw you the picture to prove it!
A future phase of Centeno and Nag's collaboration will include making the NetMaps data interactive, much in the way that MapTrade currently is, so that users can generate and save their own diagrams.
Links to all three of the projects discussed in today's talk can be found at:
Brady demonstrated several free tools that facilitate scholarly collaboration. Most were on sites external to the Princeton computing environment, one, WebSpace, is a Princeton-only resource.
Brady explained that these new tools are popular because they are stored on external servers that keep shared resources up to date, and ensure that collaborators are always working on the latest versions.Most of the tools also include social media features that allow further communication and sharing.
Formerly, trying to share, write, or gather research materials while working collaboratively relied upon repeated email exchanges, possible mis-matches between software versions, cross-platform issues, email boxes going over quota, and various versions of a file being in circulation at the same time. A major advantage to these new cloud-based services is that they are browser-based, are cross-platform, and that they allow multiple editors to work simultaneously.
Many of the functions performed by these tools can be replicated by other applications at Princeton-- often more securely. However the ease of use, the fact that these tools are in common use among scholars, that students have equal access to them, and the advantage of synchronous editing make them very attractive for the types of collaborative documents and resources that require medium security, and that need to be shared with people from all over the word. For university business that requires the transmission of sensitive information, web-based external services should NOT be used.
Medeley and Zotero perform very similar functions in that they organize reference and research materials found online, and also have social-media functions. These tools can be used to gather links to resources such as journal articles and web pages, bookmark, and annotate them. Downloading similar documents and links to one's desktop can result in file names that don't reveal the actual content of the downloaded file, and these "mystery PDFs" can be difficult to share. Mendeley and Zotero allow you to make online folders of documents, and automatically download the metadata associated with files, including titles, abstracts, and tags, listing them in a clear library-like format. You can also alter and add to the metadata. Notes, highlighting, and organization within groups and folders can be accomplished in either application. Reference collections can be make public or private, and both tools have the ability to find other public libraries organized by people who share your research interests,
Mendeley is a desktop client originally designed as a PDF annotation tool (it also supports .txt files). It also has app versions for the iPhone, iPad and iPodTouch. Mendelay works with bibliographic citation formats such as BibTeX, Research Info Systems (RIS), Zotero Library and Endnote XML. A free account in Mendeley allows for 500MB of personal storage space, as well as 500MB of shared space. Both private and public groups are supported, but the free account limits private groups to 5; with each group having a maximum of 10 members. Group folder track all group activity, and it is possible for the original group owner to reassign ownership to another user if necessary, so that existing group work does not have to be recreated in a new account. There is a bookmarklet tool to make it easy to import sources found on the web.
Cloud-based, with desktop apps for MacOS, Windows and Linux.
Zotero Groups is part of Zotero, a Firefox add-in that works with Mac, Windows and Linux (a stand-alone version of Zotero for Chrome and Safari users is available in alpha). Group Libraries, both public and private can be created. The Firefox plugin can capture journal and book information with one click. Highlights and notes can be added to content. Library ownership can be transferred to another user. Zotero can also be used as a bibliographic tool, with a drag and drop feature to MS Word (Zotero export bibliographic information in the RIS format, which EndNote can import.). Your Zotero library has an RSS feed that can be followed by group members, to notify them of updates. Zotero was designed for academics, and was originally created at George Mason University. Storage space for a free account is 100MB.
Cloud-based, and a Firefox add-in compatible with MacOS, Windows and Linux versions of Firefox; a client for Chrome and Safari is in the works.
For the visually minded, Bubbl.us is a tool that allows collaborative mind-mapping via a series of connected bubbles that diagram related concepts. The free version of the cloud service allows 3 "sheets" of mind-maps to be created; more are available with a paid upgrade. Groups can be made for editing (read/write/delete) or read-only access to Bubbl.us mind maps, but group members must join Bubbl.us to participate.
Finished mind-maps can be exported as .jpg or .png image files, but the application itself uses Adobe Flash to create the interactive maps. Maps can also be embedded in an external web page as a way to share them with others. Although the tool is very simple, as mind-mapping tools go, it also has a very minimal learning curve. Most similar tools are fee-based.
Posterus, a popular micro-blogging site (think "Twitter," but with the ability to make groups) also has the ability to make simple collaborative websites for blogging among group members or multiple groups. Posterous posts can include both text, images (with automatic slide shows for posts with multiple images), links and PDFs with a 100MB upload limit per post. Posterous sites can be private (password-protected) or public, and posting is possible using a number of devices, including mobile phones, emails or bookmarklets. Responding to or adding to posts is also possible via email. For a researcher in the field or on the go, it can be an invaluable tool to share information with group members almost instantly. Groups are private by default, and have no limits on the number of members. Posterous can be linked to existing sites on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.
Cloud-based, works on mobile browsers as well as desktop ones.
Google Docs is a great tool to use for real-time or asynchronous collaboration with colleagues; several users can be working on a document at any given time (with visual hints to other editors as to what parts of the document other users are editing, and almost instant updating of new content.) The Google Docs include familiar office-type applications including a word processor, a spreadsheet tool, a slide show creator, and a tool for building forms. Documents created in Google Docs are compatible with other similar desktop based applications, such as Open Office, Microsoft Office, and iWorks, and files can be imported and exported from one to the other.
Collaborators all need a Google account to use Google Docs, but it does not need to be a Gmail account -- any email address can be registered with a Google account. Various saved states of a documents are stored and can be reviewed and reverted to when needed. Ownership of various shared documents can be reassigned to another group member, and colleagues can be invited to edit as a private group, or be completely public.
Google Docs is very popular with Princeton students, but should not be used to share secure course information that would be better put into Blackboard or another Princeton-managed storage space, however for casual collaboration, particularly outside Princeton, it's a great tool.
WebSpace is a file-sharing platform that Princeton has licensed from a company called Xythos, a subsidiary of the Blackboard Learning Management System. Xythos is an enterprise-level document management system that allows for users to set up workflows, retention strategies, and enter metadata for stored documents. Everyone at Princeton with a valid netid has 5GB of storage on WebSpace.
WebSpace has built-in integration with Blackboard course websites, allowing shared storage for course participants. A popular feature of the Blackboard component is the drop box, which allows students to share work with each other, and another feature that allows instructors to post links to files stored in WebSpace directly to one, or more, Blackboard sites.
WebSpace can also do simple file sharing on a file-by-file or folder level. WebSpace integrates with the University LDAP, so it is easy to make groups within the Princeton community. A "ticket" to a file or folder can also be shared with anyone in the world with an email address. Tickets contain a specific URL to the shared material that sets editing permissions, the duration of these permissions, and shares the file directly via WebSpace rather than sending it as an email attachment. In all cases, users can "subscribe" to a folder or file that is shared with them to receive notification of changes. Files in WebSpace can also be made public, and each has a unique URL so that others can link to them.
A desktop client is available for 32-bit Windows machines. A Mac version is in beta. For those for whom the client does not work, the WebSpace drive can be mapped as a network drive.
Dropbox is the most popular of the cloud-based file sharing services as a stand-alone application, and is also used by many other applications as a storage mechanism. Dropbox allows for public or private file sharing among groups and individuals. Dropbox group members must also be members of Dropbox.
Dropbox can be mounted as a web drive on Mac and Windows, and also has a desktop client for Mac, Windows and Linux. Dropbox is used for many mobile applications, and automatically syncs all versions to the web. Dropbox free accounts have 2GB of storage, and can track changes, for some level of document versioning control.
Cloud-based, Mac, Windows, and Linux. Both tools can be used for file sharing, and collaboration, and while Dropbox is the easier tool to use, WebSpace has integration with Princeton-specific resources that can aid collaboration.
Diigo is a social bookmarking tool that allows you to bookmark web pages, annotate and highlight them, and then share your marks publicly or privately. You can create groups for gathering and sharing bookmarks. Bookmarks are organized by tags, and group ownership can be transferred to another user. Diigo, and Diigolet, the Diigo bookmarklet tool, work with Firefox and Chrome. For fans of Delicious, a popular social bookmarking among scholars that has been around for years, Diigo is a good alternative. (Delicious's new owner, Yahoo!, has announced that it will soon "sunset" Delicious.) Diigo has an import tool that will ingest your existing Delicious bookmarks, and at lest for now, has a setting that will allow you to bookmark sites in Diigo and Delicious simultaneously.
A copy of the presentation used in the talk is visible here:
Will Howarth, Professor Emeritus of English at Princeton, spoke to a large Lunch 'n Learn audience on February 16 about how he uses his iPad as an essential companion to reading, writing, research and travel.
Howarth began the talk by describing his long search for a lightweight, portable device that would be convenient for use while writing and traveling. From small-format computers of various vintages, to PDAs, Howarth has found the iPad to be the best solution to date. Its light weight (24 ounces), long battery life (approximately 10 hours), responsiveness, and the availability of useful applications have made it one of his favorite tools for productivity.
Howarth showed the basic mechanics of navigating several iPad screens, and using the screens to organize applications by function. He also demonstrated how to customize the persistent tool "dock" that appears on all screens, useful for storing one's most commonly used applications.
Howarth's preferred layout is to have news and information applications on the first screen of his device, writing tools on the second, and on the third screen, a miscellaneous assortment of apps that are either not fully tested, or exiled as being of secondary importance.
Citing the limitations of the virtual keyboard on the iPad's touch screen for someone with larger hands, Howarth showed his solutions in the form of two Bluetooth keyboards that can be synced to the device to allow typing on a more conventional set of keys. One of the keyboards was integrated into a small carrying case. The other, more suited for desktop use, was a compact stand-alone keypad that allowed for typing on full-sized keys. Another limitation to the iPad is the lack of a USB or other data port that would allow for easy file transfer via portable storage media. However, since several of the applications that Howarth customarily uses have mechanisms to sync and share files among several machines, this shortcoming has been largely overcome by application developers. Howarth proceeded to describe and share his favorite iPad applications for writing and research with his audience.
Author's note: Although the talk was cut short owing to time constraints, Professor Howarth was kind enough to share his notes with me. This post contains material that may not have been presented in the talk, or was mentioned only briefly last Wednesday.
Safari (included with the iPad) is the browser included on all machines using the Apple iOS. Safari on mobile devices can be customized for fast browsing, for bookmarking popular destinations, and customized to take advantage of the highly portable nature of the iPad. Howarth demonstrated how he has tailored his particular Safari toolbar so that he has research tools, particularly remote access to scholarly research collections including Princeton's Library, available at his fingertips. Among the headings in Howarth's customized list of bookmarks are Reference tools, Authors, and Libraries.
Wikipanion (free in the app store) is a tool designed to optimize searching, navigation, and display of entries in Wikipedia. The tool's graphical display of a Wikipedia entry includes a sidebar outline of main headings in a Wikipedia entry to facilitate navigation and exploration, as well as contextual links to related topics.
Google Earth (free in the app store) is a portable version of the popular desktop application, made even more stunning by the iPad's high resolution screen. The application includes all of the features and imagery of the desktop version, with the added ability to find your own location on the globe using the built-in GPS features of the iPad. A good companion to travel, Google Earth, like Google Maps (included with the iPad) can help to find local landmarks, businesses and cultural locations.
The National Geographic World Atlas ($1.99 in the app store) is another application for maps, this time featuring high-resolution images of National Geographic's own distinctive cartography. The app features 3 different styles of maps, and can be zoomed down to the granularity of a satellite image focusing on a particular street or building. (Street-level maps are drawn from Bing satellite imagery.)
The Safari browser should be the first point of departure as a source for reference materials, as the bookmarks can be customized to point to many excellent online tools. Howarth recommends not buying too many reference apps until the potential of Safari is exhausted.
Things for iPad ($19.99 in the app store), also available in a desktop version for Macs, is a task manager that fits with the category known as "todo" apps. The app allows you to enter notes, projects, and due dates, in an easy-to-use interface that syncs with the desktop version of the application. Since Howarth uses both versions, he finds it easy to set up lists at home, and have them automatically updated on the iPad. He uses the Categories to set up priorities and to schedule tasks, and uses the built-in lists for "Today," "Next," "Scheduled," and "Someday" to help keep him on track with deadlines.
DEVONthink To Go ($14.99 in the app store) is a companion program to DEVONthink and DEVONnote, both desktop applications for the Mac. The program can be used on its own, but according to the manufacturer "unfolds its full potential ONLY when used in conjunction with these applications. Howarth uses DEVONthink Pro Office and DEVONnote, and uses the applications together to save web clips, bookmarks, files for courses, notes on alumni trips he has led, and writing projects. A sync folder in the applications keeps the iPad version updated; conversely any changes on the iPad are reflected in the desktop versions at the next synchronization.
Bento for iPad ($4.99 in the app store) is a personal database program made by FileMaker Pro. It comes in a desktop version as well, and can sync with Bento 3 for the Mac. The database includes templates for many sorts of organizational tasks, from to do lists, to events, to household inventories, to expenses--even logs for diet and exercise. Howarth uses Bento at home on his computer, and uses the program mostly for listing addresses, book inventories, lists of films. The application, Howarth notes, can export and import spreadsheets in various formats.
These apps, Howarth noted, are best suited to those who are enthusiastic users of their desktop counterparts. For those who don't own, or intend to own the companion programs, similar functionality can be found in the Note-Taking applications, described below.
One major lack in this category of applications is one for organizing bibliographic references. Howarth told the audience he has been in contact with the makers of EndNote, a popular bibliography program among scholars at Princeton. They report that an iPad version of their database is currently in the works.
Writing begins with reading, according to Howarth--here are his favorite tools:
iBooks (free in the app store) is Apple's own e-book reader, with content purchased from iTunes. iBooks also has the ability to read PDF documents, which can be included in the library from email attachments sent to the iPad. Items in one's library can be viewed as book covers on a virtual bookshelf, or in list view, and it is possible to arrange collections within one's library. Howarth showed an 8-page PDF report written by one of his students that is now part of his iBooks library. The interface controls include adjustments for screen brightness, a search feature, and bookmarks. The interface also has an animated page turn feature, and a "scrubbing" progress bar to slide rapidly from one section of the book to another. Books can be annotated, but PDFs cannot. Although iTunes sells many popular current books, it also has many free offerings, mostly for books in the public domain.
Kindle, (free in the app store) an app that share the name of Amazon's popular e-reader, allows Kindle books to be read on the iPad and the iPhone. There are numerous versions of the Kindle reader, available for most portable devices, desktops, and a web-based version. Content for the app is purchased from Amazon.com, or uploaded by the user. The reader accepts .azw files, .mobi files, .rtf and text files, as well as PDFs. Howarth showed how to navigate his Kindle edition of Deep Creek, a novel he co-authored with Anne Matthews under the pseudonym Dana Hand. The Kindle interface turns pages with a swipe or a tap, and tapping on a word will simultaneously offer the options to highlight the word, make a note about the text, and , and to display the entry for the word in a built-in dictionary,--with links to related entries on Wikipedia and Google. Notes bookmarks and highlights are stored on Amazon cloud servers, and can be referenced and printed through the online interface. The Amazon Kindle bookstore has the most titles of any digital bookstore, including more than 25,000 free titles from Project Gutenberg.
Stanza by Lexcycle (free in the app store) is one of the first e-readers ever made, and has been recently acquired by Amazon. Less sophisticated than the other two readers mentioned in this section, it offers annotations, bookmarks, search, and reverse black/white screen view. Stanza is backed by a library of more than 100,000 books, all of them free.
Working across e-readers can be problematic owing to the fact that formats, citations, annotations, and page numbering are not standard, which as Howarth notes, is a major headache for scholars. One bright note on this topic is the recent announcement that Amazon will include references to the pagination of the print edition on which the Kindle edition is based, which will allow more accurate citations and place finding for readers who are using both paper and digital editions of books. Apple's threatened restrictions on books purchased from non-Apple apps also has caused some worry among consumers.
Among the three readers discussed here, Howarth declares Kindle the winner, because it is the most affordable and flexible platform for reading.
These applications are ideal for taking, sharing and synching notes with other machines. In some cases, they can provide an alternative for the Database applications listed above. There are hundreds of such apps available for the iPad; here is Howarth's selected list. Some of these applications have a browser interface that will update information on your mobile device.
Index Card ($4.99 in the app store) is a simple non-linear writing tool for the iPad. It allows notes to be captured in an interface that resembles index cards pinned to a corkboard. Notes can be reordered, recolored, written, edited, and "stacked" into projects. Index Card exports a text file of your notes that can be read by most word processors. Howarth finds this a favorite tool for brainstorming, organizing, categorizing by color, and for organizing projects. He shares his cards via email, or using Dropbox.
PlainText (free in the app store) is a simple app for editing text on the iPad. It looks much simpler than Index Card, and does many of the same things. Sharing and syncing is done via a Dropbox interface. Howarth and other writers like it because it is simple, elegant, and has a very "paper-like" interface.
SimpleNote (free in the app store) is a note-taking app, that despite its name, is a little more complex than the other apps mentioned in this section. Howarth uses SimpleNote in conjunction with a Mac iOS application called Notational Velocity (a free, open-source download) that stores and retrieves notes. Howarth finds it a great way to type up quick or related ideas, which auto-sync to SimpleNote. There is also a browser application for SimpleNote that can be used to share ideas with others. There is no choice of font, and the user interface is less attractive than the other two options.
All three of these note-taking applications have unique strengths, but of the three, SimpleNote is the most versatile.
Notebook apps group items, sync them to cloud servers, allow for exports into various word processors, and allow entry of data either via a web browser or a desktop application.
Springpad (free in the app store) is an application that allows you to save notes, tasks, links, images, nearby places, barcode scans (from products, books or media), lists of things (movies, books, wines) in virtual notebooks that organize your materials by topic. It syncs via Springpadit.com to a browser interface that includes a web-clipping tool. Your notebooks can be shared with family and friends using Facebook or Twitter. Howarth likes the application for its organization and synchronization, and notes that it is a very good tool for working with groups. His notebooks, containing items related to Teaching, Writing, Travel, and Local topics were displayed against a background of a favorite picture.
Evernote (free in the app store) is probably the most popular notebook app for Apple devices. It stores many kinds of files including webpages, PDFs, text, links, audio files and images, and organizes them into notebooks based on project type. Each media type can also be geo-referenced for mapping and searching. Evernote syncs to Mac, PC, and web interfaces, and the desktop versions are also a free download. The "todo" functions of Evernote are quite good, and works best when used in conjunction with one of the desktop versions (also free). Monthly uploads of up to 60MB per month are free on Evernote; the premium version ($45/annum) allows for monthly uploads of up to 1 GB. The premium version also allows for read/ write notebook sharing with colleagues, whereas the free version is read-only for those you share with.
Howarth notes that other notebook applications allow writing and drawing and speaking instead of typing, but his recommendation is Evernote as the best notebook app.
PDF documents are part of the lingua franca of scholarly documents. There are several apps that allow PDFs to be read, annotated and shared on the iPad. Getting PDFs into your iPad can either be via a server, download, file-sharing via iTunes, or as an e-mail attachment
iAnnotate ($9.99 in the app store) as the name suggests is a tool made for annotating PDF documents ( PDF readers are more numerous.) The tool allows highlights, notes, freehand drawing or writing, bookmarks, stamps, underscoring, strike-through, and tabbed reading of multiple documents. The standard toolbars can be customized with a wide range of possible commands, and the program allows display through VGA out. Search is possible at the document level, or full-library. Markups can be "flattened" for printing and sharing in a way that preserves annotation as an image, or emailed "as is." Sync is possible through iTunes, Safari, email and Dropbox. The same company makes a desktop PDF companion for iAnnotate calld Aji PDF Service. Using the desktop program in conjunction with iAnnotate makes it easy to manage large libraries of PDF documents.
GoodReader ($2.99 in the app store) is another PDF reader/annotation tool. It allows sticky notes, highlighting, freehand drawing and writing, rubber stamps, underlining, strike-through, and shapes such as arrows, boxes, ovals, and others that can be used to draw attention to sections of a document. Transfer and sync can be done via MobileMe, iDisk, Google Docs, Dropbox, SugarSync, box.net, and WebDAV and FTP services. The application is most versatile in the document types it can read: not only PDF, but MS Office, iWork, HTML, image and audio and video files can be used with this application.
Papers for iPad ($14.99 in the app store) is mainly for scholars of science. Although the app is a PDF markup tool, allowing highlighting and notes, and emailing annotations, the chief benefit of the app is the built-in search engine that allows you to find and download PDF articles in the following databases: CM, NASA-ADS, arXiv, Google Scholar, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR, Pubmed, and Web of Science. There is a desktop version for the Mac that can be used for synchronization, but it also works with Dropbox, iDisk, iTunes and email. PDFs are stored on your iPad, so you need at least 100MB of free space. A limitation in the current version is that although documents are synced between the mobile and desktop versions of the app, your annotations are not.
GoodReader is a good value for most PDF use, and also works with other document types. iAnnotate has more markup features, and the advantage of VGA-out. Papers is invaluable for a researcher who commonly uses the scholarly databases supported by the application.
Storage on Cloud Servers
Getting documents on and off the iPad, keeping them up to date, and sharing them with people, other applications, and devices relies mostly on wireless forms of document transfer. Cloud servers perform an important function in achieving this goal.
From the numerous times that Dropbox (free in the app store) is mentioned in other entries, you may have concluded that it is a very popular program for file sharing. Dropbox is available for desktop and mobile devices, has a built-in public html file for sharing, and a photo file for making automated slide shows you can send to other people. Using any of the Dropbox interfaces syncs to all others. The free service is up to 2 GB, and the next upgrade takes you to 50 GB for $99/ year.
MobileMe iDisk (app is free in the app store, but a MobileMe subscription is required) is a popular Apple service that allows you to view and share files from a number of devices. File types from iWork, Microsoft Office, PDFs, QuickTime movies, JPEGs and more, are supported, however files larger than 20MB may not be viewable on all devices. The iDisk has both public and private folders to facilitate sharing. Paid subscribers of MobileMe who have legacy iPhones can subscribe to a service on MobileMe that will find their lost or stolen iPhone. Owners of the iPhone 4, iPad, or fourth generation iPod touch with iOS 4.2 or higher can get this service with a free account, but storage space still costs money.
Air Sharing ($0.99 in the app store) allows you to mount your iPhone, iPad or iPodTouch as a wifi drive on your computer. It works with Mac, PC or Linux. Mounting your mobile device as a remote drive allows you to drag and drop files between devices for syncing and sharing. Documents can be viewed and emailed. The app also allows you to mount other web-based servers such as MobileMe iDisk, Dropbox, Box.net, WebDAV, FTP, FTPS, and SSH/SFTP, and allows downloads of files from the web. Air Sharing can zip and unzip files, print to printers shared by Mac OS X 10.5 and above or Linux. It has an advanced image viewer for hi-res images, and an PDF viewer that supports large, structured PDF files. There's a long list of viewable file types that includes most office applications and media files. The HD version is made especially for the large display of the iPad; the same company also makes a fun app that allows you to turn your Apple device into an extra computer monitor.
Dropbox is the Esperanto of file sharing apps, and you should have this one. Other cloud services can provide extra features.
iWork for mobile devices started a revolutionary trend in office-type applications. Rather than buying bundled software that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet program, and a presentation program, as is typical, Apple decided to market these applications separately for the iPad. Each app costs $9.99. The unbundled desktop version costs $19.99 each for the same three apps.
On the iPad, files can be shared using email, iWork.com, iTunes, MobileMe iDisk, or WebDAV.. There is one-tap AirPrint available on all three apps that allows for automatic printing on any AirPrint-enabled printer.
Howarth describes Pages as his favorite word processor, one he customarily uses on both the iPad and his Mac to share files with MS Word users. The iPad interface is described by Apple as "the most beautiful word processor ever designed for a mobile device." They may be right.
Keynote is Apple's version of PowerPoint, and in Howarth's opinion, is in many ways better. Presentations are easy to build, and sync between devices (although fonts can be an issue). Keynote is one of the few Apple apps that works with the VGA-out feature of the dock connector on the iPad, which makes it possible to use the iPad as a display, as well as editing, device for Keynote presentations.
Apple's spreadsheet app, which Howarth says he uses mostly for grade sheets, and built-in formulas to make calculations easy. The app has many built in design features so that spreadsheets look less like boring tables, and much more like a polished publication.
These apps make the iPad a viable laptop replacement. An external keyboard is almost required to get the most out of them, but the applications cost so much less than expected, you can use the money you save to get a fancy iPad case with an integrated keyboard that makes typing a breeze.
According to Howarth, the iPad is a lot more than entertainment -- the constant evolution of apps have made it into a valuable tool for writing and research. New, useful apps are emerging everyday to extend the usefulness of this device.
Howarth concluded his presentation with this video, which he said, makes it clear that research is "the coolest, sexiest work on the planet."
Scrivener, an innovative software package for writers, was the topic of last week’s Lunch ‘n Learn, led jointly by Professor Will Howarth, Professor Emeritus of English at Princeton, and Jon Edwards, who has recently retired from Princeton’s Office of Information Technology. Howarth and Edwards spoke of their enthusiasm for this fairly recent tool, with Howarth demonstrating the latest version for Macintosh computers (Scrivener 2.0), and Edwards using the new beta version for Windows (Scrivener Beta 1.4).
The idea for the software, Professor Howarth explained, was conceived in 2006 by Keith Blount, a primary school teacher from England turned self-taught programmer, because he was frustrated by the capabilities of existing commercial word processors. Blount wanted to design a different set of writing tools to support his ambitions for writing fiction. His vision for a new type of writing tool became a reality when the first version of Scrivener for the Mac was released in January of 2007. A beta version of Scrivener for Windows was released in November 2010 to coincide with National Novel Writing month. Blount’s software firm, which now employs 4.5 full time staff members, is called Literature and Latte; Scrivener is its sole product. Although entire documents can be written and formatted in Scrivener, the program is really designed to help with more creative aspects of writing than just typing words and making them look good on a printed page.
Scrivener was described by Howarth as being part “content-generation tool” and part “idea-and-structure processor.” Scrivener deals with all aspects of a writing project from first ideas, to research links and notes, to outlining, structuring, and eventually, composing and editing a document. Scrivener-created works can later be exported to a traditional word processor for final polishing and formatting. Apart from supporting common word processor formats such as .DOC, .DOCX, .RTF and HTML, text can also be translated to e-book formats such as ePub, a standard platform, .MOBI, a non-proprietary format that can be read on the Amazon Kindle, and PDF. It isn’t only this multi-platform flexibility in file types that sets Scrivener apart from other writing tools. By design, the software attempts to follow the creative process that takes place before writing begins, starting with half-formed ideas and sketchy notations; the writer then proceeds with research, composing and organizing, adding to and editing these beginnings into a more complete work. Although the production version of the Mac edition of Scrivener has only been around for a few years, it has already become the top choice of many professional fiction writers, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Howarth demonstrated the software interface, showing its three-part workspace: there is a binder pane (a collection of all written parts and research material for a particular work), a central editing pane (where writing and edits occur), and an inspector pane on the far right of the screen, where metadata and other information about items in the binder can be entered and viewed. Pre-existing templates for several specific types of writing are included in the software: screenplays, novels, short stories and non-fiction, are several examples of templates that contain formatting commonly required by publishers and producers of such works, particularly those in the UK. The scriptwriting template, for example, has many of the standards required to submit such works to the BBC, as well as being a general guideline for standard script formatting.
Howarth demonstrated many ways to view an existing work in progress in Scrivener, showing both a traditional outline format, as well as one that represented the outline as if each part was an index card pinned to a corkboard. In either view, highlighting and dragging one part of the work to a new position in the outline structure, or on the pin board, caused the document to immediately reflect that change in organization.
Screen shot showing the Scrivener "corkboard" view. (Note: this image shows the interface for Scrivener for Windows Beta 1.4).
Using an e-text version of Walden by Henry David Thoreau, taken from the Project Gutenberg online repository, Howarth showed how easy it was to break an existing long work into component parts. In the case of Walden, Howarth quickly divided the book into its published chapter structure, by using search terms and keyboard shortcuts. He also demonstrated how search results of certain terms (searches that look both in the work’s text and all of the research materials in the binder) resulted in saved collections or smart folders that can be used for later reference. Expanding upon the visual strengths of organizational tools in Scrivener, Howarth even color coded each chapter of the Walden document to reflect the seasons of the year described in the narrative. This resulted in a handy way to group chapters by Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall, and back to Spring, in the same way that Thoreau organized his account of a year’s life in the woods. Using the same Project Gutenberg file as research material for a new Scrivener project, Howarth showed how he was able to adapt Thoreau’s work into a correctly formatted screenplay, using the templates already built into Scrivener as his guide.
The e-text of Walden and other supplemental files that Scrivener can save in the course of working on a project serves to illustrate how external documents and files can be organized for easy reference and later citation. Research materials saved in Scrivener can include web sites, images, notes and bibliographic references. EndNote field codes (also known as “Cite While You Write”) are placeholders for including properly formatted bibliographic citations in a written work. These codes are supported by Scrivener.
Howarth described his Scrivener workflow-- from using storyboarding and notation software on the iPad to capture ideas (the Index Card and Simple Note apps), synchronizing those notes with Scrivener, working on the document in Scrivener, and later exporting to Apple’s Pages software, or Nisus Writer Pro for the Mac (an RTF text editor; Scrivener supports RTF) for final formatting. The end result is a finished file that can be shared with publishers via Microsoft Word. Howarth described how this process helped him to collaborate with co-author Anne Matthews on their latest work Deep Creek, published under the pseudonym Dana Hand. Howarth and Matthews were both able to seamlessly share files and resources using Scrivener in the planning and writing phases of their work, and later delivered the finished novel in the .DOC format accepted by their publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Coincidentally, Deep Creek, which has met with great critical acclaim, has recently been named one of The Washington Post’sBest Novels of 2010. What is next for the Dana Hand authors? Howarth showed a glimpse of a screenplay based upon Deep Creek that he was working on in Scrivener. Will this Dana Hand film be coming soon to a theatre near Princeton?
Howarth concluded his portion of the talk by reflecting on how his discovery of Scrivener, coinciding with the extra time afforded by his retirement, has allowed his writing to develop in directions he had never imagined possible in his earlier career. He informed his audience that he could not guarantee using Scrivener would make them all authors of best-selling novels—but that it would certainly help to make their writing projects easier and more enjoyable.
Jon Edwards next spoke of his experiences with the recently released version of Scrivener for Windows, software that is still in beta development. His new book on Gioachino Greco, a chess player active in the early 17th century, is due for publication in February; however, Edwards used parts of the completed manuscript to experiment with the new Scrivener software, and concluded that it might be a valuable research tool for future works.
During a recent trip to London, Edwards extended his experimentation with Scrivener into new research paths. He took the opportunity of his trip to explore the British Library’s extensive holdings on the history of chess, and used the beta version of Scrivener for Windows to begin organizing projects based on several topics in chess-related history.
Edwards described how easy it was to write using Scrivener, noting that for any author with a tendency towards writer’s block, the simple, almost playful, workflow in Scrivener, which captures initial notes, research items, web links, outlines and fleeting ideas, might serve to overcome any hesitation in putting ideas to paper. Edwards used Scrivener to begin outlining and researching a proposed work documenting the chess matches played at the 9th Chess Olympiad of 1950 at Dubrovnik, a tournament in which 480 games took place. Using Scrivener, he was able to save all of his notes, references, and writing about the event, including building a stored collection of photos and biographical information about each team taking part in the competition.
Edwards recalled participating in meetings of the Scholars’ Environment Committee, which took place at Princeton in the late 1980s. The mission of the Committee was to improve research methods for scholars in an environment where computer-based resources were becoming increasingly more important. One tangible result of the Committee’s work that year was an idea for the formation of a project would eventually be called JSTOR, the online resource for archiving academic journals, founded in 1995. However, the guiding phrase for the committee’s goals that year was, said Edwards, was the idea of taking the “search” out of “research.“ Scrivener, Edwards noted, in some sense does that, by allowing all the materials needed for the writing of a serious scholarly work to be gathered in one place; with the split-screen format used in Scrivener, it is possible to write in one pane, while viewing citations and other research materials in another. Cutting and pasting from one workspace to the next is quite easy, and Scrivener makes storage of many types of document and file types possible.
Much of the historical literature on chess, Edwards noted, was published between AD 800 and 1890, which means that many of these text have been digitized and are now available for searching and download via the Google Books interface. Having an entire text downloaded as a resource file in Scrivener is a great convenience for a researcher, said Edwards. Writing clearly about the history of chess involves gathering and presenting many types of information. These might include diagrams of chessboards, and lengthy notations that recount the history of a particular game. As an example, Edwards mentioned his interest in the subject of “The Troitzky line,” a classic series of moves that begin an endgame by using two knights against a pawn. The strategy can take up to 50 moves to achieve; documenting it can require extensive illustrations and explanations. One of the main benefits of Scrivener to him, said Edwards, is that all of his notes, documentations and diagrams are finally captured in a single environment, so that he can keep his supporting documents close at hand and organized by specific topic.
Edwards described his particular Scrivener workflow, at least as far as his experiments have taken him to date. He uses an online content management system, in this case Princeton’s WebSpace, to save the latest versions of his Scrivener files. He can then retrieve the files from anywhere using a web-based interface, and continue working without worrying about where he left the latest version of his project, or any of its supporting files.(Scrivener also has built-in support for syncing files with the popular Dropbox service.)
It is to be noted that the Windows version of Scrivener is still in beta, and is currently free until certain known bugs are fixed. For the moment, PC and Mac versions of the software don’t recognize the other’s files, and compiling documents into a final format using the Windows version has some documented issues. Still, in the short time the program has been available since November of this year, it has gone through several versions. The latest, version 1.4, said Edwards, shows significant improvements over earlier releases. While Scrivener may still lag behind more familiar word processing platforms in terms of document versioning and formatting, it is a particularly agile tool for the first stages of writing. “It’s an excellent brainstorming tool,” Edwards remarked, noting that other tools such as Microsoft Word, were designed for a corporate environments, and reflect the sorts of tasks required by business. Professional writers have very different aims and needs. Scrivener, thanks to the interests of its inventor, was specifically created for such writers and researchers.
Scriptwriter, poet, novelist, short story author or historian? You may want to check out Scrivener as a platform for organizing your next writing project.
The Mac version of Scrivener 2.0 currently retails for US $45. A 15% discount is available to academic users. There is a growing online community of Scrivener users who share their experiences and tips for greater productivity. The Windows public beta version is currently free to download, and is available here.
This session is the final Lunch and Learn of 2010. Check out the Lunch ‘n Learn schedule in early February for next semester’s program.
Where do I shelve that? Photo of Decode, a digital art installation at the V&A, London, December 13th, 2009. Photo courtesy of Rain Rabbit, Flickr. CC license, 2009.
Note: to access resources cited in this blog post, you must either be on a machine on the Princeton University network, or have a VPN or proxy server running on your machine. For instructions on how to set up a VPN or proxy server connection, click here.
"These are exhilarating times to be arts librarians," said Darwin Scott, librarian of the Mendel Music Library at Princeton. Today's Lunch 'n Learn session explored just how exhilarating - and challenging-- it is to deal with new modes of delivering various media to library patrons, when the media exists outside the traditional collection of books, manuscripts, disks, drawings and other tangible assets one usually thinks of as library holdings. The presenters represented the three main arts repositories at Princeton; Darwin Scott was joined by librarians Sandy Brooke (Marquand Library of Art and Archeology) and Hannah Bennett (Architecture Library), to discuss their respective collections.
Sandy Brooke began the session by describing the tension between a library's mission to collect, provide access, and preserve for the future, in an age where digital media seems to be increasingly difficult to quantify in terms of ownership, shared access, and sustainability. "Old literature is good literature for art historians," Brooke said, explaining that scholars rely upon important documents from past centuries. Marquand's holdings are still largely print-based, she noted, however, there is an increasing number of digital versions of both text- and image-based references. Art has traditionally been studied through surrogates, whether photographs, drawings or descriptions of works that are either housed in remote places, or may no longer survive.
A new form of art--that which is born digital--presents certain challenges to those who would study it, because the delivery medium is no longer a surrogate for the work, but may be the work itself. Digital art is often recorded on perishable media, the formats of which can migrate to incompatible formats in a fairly short period of time. It might be posted directly to the web, and lost when its link later disappears. The work itself might be a record of an ephemeral event that is almost impossible to capture in its entirety. When offered for distribution by a vendor or dealer, its licensing terms can be extremely limiting and restrictive with regard to how the work can be later viewed, shared, or migrated to more stable digital formats.
Such licensing terms, Brooke noted, are much more restrictive than the terms of fair-use usually applied to educational use of copyrighted materials. Many digital objects handled by dealers and vendors are delivered with the idea of restricting access to them, thus creating an artificial scarcity. Ensuring future access to this media that comprises an original work is uncertain, since access is often provided via an online resource with a fee-based delivery method. If the online resource were to go out of business, its digital content might well be lost.
As an example, Brooke showed an installation by Swiss video artist, Pipilotti Rist (1962 - ). Brooke cited Rist's Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), an award-winning 2008 installation at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, as a problematic example for scholarship. What resources would a researcher today have to study this recent work of art, since it is no longer viewable at the museum?
Brooke showed several still photos of Rist's work found in ArtSTOR, an online database for the study of art history, but found no images of the 2008 MoMA installation. The artist's own website contains links to her gallery and some visual references to other video projects, but not the MoMA installation. The MoMA website has some valuable documentary video footage about Rist's installation, but there is no video that presents a complete idea of what it was like to experience the complete work in situ. A YouTube search offers the MoMA videos again, along with two amateur videos made by people who attended the exhibit while it was at the MoMA; one of these videos, obviously shot with a cell phone, is enhanced by a sound loop provided by the amateur videographer--however it is music composed by the phone's owner that has nothing to do with the original installation. Since Rist's works tend to deal in dreamlike, distorted imagery, it's almost impossible to tell whether the distortions seen in the YouTube clips were intended by the artist, or simply a result of a highly-compressed, low quality copy of the original work. Authorized digital copies of such ephemeral works are typically priced at hundreds of dollars apiece, so collecting them on any scale is beyond the financial resources of most repositories; trying to capture something tangible and complete about such works, as Brooke demonstrated in the searches described above, is no easy matter.
For the moment, Brooke concluded, the sustainability of this kind of digital art is uncertain; questions of rights, of access, of preservation are only partially answered by current means of distribution. Guerilla websites such as ubu.com, a web-based educational resource that operates on a gift economy, posts avant-garde works under an assumption of fair use. Ubu.com was created in protest to the marginal distribution of these elusive works, but the fact that the site sometimes knowingly violates copyright in posting links makes their sustainability tenuous, at best. Many of the sound and video works on the site are represented by highly compressed video and audio files introducing uncertainty as to their accuracy; as with the YouTube video of Pipilotti Rist's video installation, it's impossible to say whether the files represent the artist's vision--or the technological limitations of a bad digital copy. More sustainable solutions may be in the future, however. Brooke mentioned the Electronic Arts Intermix site, a not-for-profit venture that is trying to preserve digital art for cultural repositories such as libraries and museums. An educational streaming solution to providing high-quality copies of video art for art libraries is one licensing model being considered by this organization, which has preservation and sustainable access to video art as its two chief missions.
Architecture librarian, Hannah Bennett, next described some of the unusual challenges faced by those wanting to preserve records of contemporary architectural works. Long gone are the days of architectural drawings being produced in drafting rooms, with paper being the medium that recorded a building's design from first inspiration to the delivery of final plans to builders. Digital rendering of architecture is now the standard method for design, a method that creates a dense stream of information that originates from architectural offices, and eventually results in documents that builders can work with to construct the building. In fact, the transmission of architectural information from architect to builder these days is commonly referred to as BIM - building information management--where the information critical to making the building is captured, but certain aspects of the design process might not be preserved. This partial capture of data creates a new level of complexity for those who would like to study the entire history of an architectural work.
Most information that is ultimately transferred to builders, Bennett explained, is taken by sampling from the complex array of digital data that is generated in the design process. As illustrated, Bennett showed several examples of architectural renderings, including some of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by architect Frank Gehry. Gehry, in common with other architects currently in practice (including many of Princeton’s faculty members in the School of Architecture), developed a pioneering proprietary software program, CATIA, to realize his particular design methods. Other firms have since developed their own software unique to that particular architectural office or project..
Bennett showed some examples of design sketches made by Princeton faculty member, Axel Kilian, and demonstrated the CADenary software that Killian developed for his own design practice. These tools allow for amazing flexibility in terms of drafting complex shapes, but their uniqueness means that it may be a challenge to read the files they produce in the future. Bennett commented on this reliance on technology, saying that "design language has now become internal to tools, rather than to the form." As enriching as a complex design such as Bilbao is to architecture, preserving the output of many different proprietary software packages presents a set of preservation challenges for custodians of architectural history.
Bennett enumerated the queries posed by these new design tools. "How will they maintain technical currency?" she asked. "How will we archive them?" And, ultimately, "how will we present them to the future scholar?" Bennett concluded her portion of the talk by showing some hanging loops of chain used by Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926) to explore the catenary curves he often used in his architecture - in a photograph someone just happened to take of that experiment. "Older material can be equally valuable" Bennett said, citing this early architecture experiment exploring forms that are very hard to draw using traditional drafting tools. Today's computer-generated architectural designs present a myriad of such capture-able design moments - and librarians need to find a way to preserve them for future scholars.
Darwin Scott, librarian at Mendel Music Library, concluded the Lunch 'n Learn by discussing various online databases used to present digital copies of music and the performing arts. Scott mentioned that rights management is a major consideration in this area as well as in other forms of the arts, even though the resources for presenting them via subscribed services are more numerous.
Rights issues, particularly in the case of theatrical works, become more and more complex as more people (and their intellectual property) become involved in a production. "Most recordings of Broadway shows are illegal," Scott noted. Older forms of media that preserved works such as concerts, or plays were "collectable objects." Tapes, disks, LPs and other media at least provided one way that an event could be captured and preserved--and purchased to form part of a collection. By contrast, streaming libraries of musical and dramatic performances provide subscribers with thousands of recordings for an annual fee, but this model provides an interesting challenge for a library collection, since the library does not in fact "own" the content to which it subscribes. This raises important questions about sustainability and preservation.
Several vendors of streaming services promise that they will provide a form of perpetual access to the material in their library to subscribers in the event they go out of business. This usually means that data files will be available in some form for bulk download, but perhaps not with a sustainable model to preserve the user interface that makes it possible to use them. Scott mentioned some commercial streaming services that are available to retail consumers. Until recently, institutional clients had been shut out of the distribution model for these popular services. However, some distributors are now bridging the gap by providing high-quality streaming subscriptions for libraries and other cultural institutions. Scott demonstrated a few of these services, using the Quick Links section of the Mendel Music Library's home page, and Scott's own Lib Guide list of links to music and performing arts resources.
The Naxos Music Library, various collections from the Alexander Street Press, and DRAM (The Database of Recorded American Music) were among the collections that Scott featured in his presentation. Naxos, a respected record label, offers a large collection of musical recordings of various genres, including classical, jazz, folk, blues and world music; DRAM also offers streaming music; here, the focus is on American composers and performers. The Alexander Street Press offers a wide variety of sound and video offerings, including Opera in Video, Dance in Video, and Theater in Video. The videos offered from the Alexander Street Press not only will play on your computer, but are captured in a high enough resolution to project on a larger screen. A new service from Alexander Street even allows you to stream some of this content of these collections to your compatible mobile device (currently supported are iPhones on a 3G network or better, and devices running the Android OS) by using a link, a text message containing the link, or a QR reader on the device. These links stay current for 48 hours, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the content. Recent enhancements to the library's online catalog also allow direct links to many of these digital assets via searches done in Princeton Library catalog.
Got a QR reader? Get ballet! A screen shot of the ballet Sleeping Beauty, showing the interface to mobile devices
The video content in the Alexander Street databases come from various sources. For the Theater in Video collection, many of the videos are drawn from performances intended for broadcast television, Scott noted. TV content also accounts for much of the Dance in Video collection, whereas the Opera in Video collection has more access to commercial releases. The quality and range of the works offered are sometimes not ideal, although in some cases, they record spectacular performances. Each vendor also uses their own proprietary user interface - there is no standardization--so it can take some time to familiarize one's self with each interface in order to get the best results. Links to the resources mentioned in this post--and many more--as well as tips to help users navigate and search these online repositories can be found in this PowerPoint presentation, which Scott prepared for Lunch 'n Learn attendees.
The session concluded with Darwin Scott's summation about it being an exciting time to be an arts librarian; the challenges presented by the diversity and volume of new media types also make this a wonderful time to be a subscriber to many online resources that make it possible to experience art, architecture and the performing arts in increasingly accessible ways. The fact that old media has little in common with new forms of delivery presents challenges for librarians and for patron access, but as sources for these materials become increasingly more numerous and more diverse the end user and the scholar can only benefit--and enjoy.
Got bandwidth? Welcome to live performances on a device near you!
In this week’s Lunch ‘n Learn on Wednesday, December 1st, Matthew Salganik, an Assistant Professor in Princeton's Department of Sociology, presented some recent research that has resulted in the creation of an open-source polling site called www.allourideas.org. One of the inspirations for Salganik’s project came from an unlikely source-- the popular website, www.kittenwar.com, where visitors to the site vote on which of two randomly paired photos of a kitten is cutest. Given two competing choices--in this case photos of two cute kittens—this site rapidly gathers user opinions in a way that makes it easy to track social signals; the site uses a fun mechanism for gathering information, and allows any user to easily upload a his or her own kitten photos, thereby instantly entering new contestants into the competitive arena of cuteness.
Considering the popularity and broad appeal of the kittenwar site, Salganik reflected on standard forms of data collection that have been, (and still are), commonly used for gathering information in the social sciences. For many researchers, collecting information from the general population depends upon using survey mechanisms that have changed little in the last century. In this traditional method of data-gathering, researchers think of the questions they want to ask their survey audience well in advance of any feedback from the actual survey. Participants in the survey either take all of the survey -- and have their opinions included--or none—since partial data is rarely considered valid for the final results. Although in the 20th century, the mechanism for conducting surveys evolved from face-to-face, door-to-door polling, to random phone calls, to web-based research, this model of assessment has several unavoidable shortcomings. For example, one might ask "what important questions might the original survey have missed?" or, "how can the final interpretation of data be made more transparent to other researchers?" Focus groups and other open discussions methods can allow more flexibility in gathering input from respondents--as well as revealing why respondents make certain choices--but these methods tend to be slow, expensive, and difficult to quantify. Most significantly, all are based on the same methodology of the face-to-face survey, and are merely conducted with increasingly up-to-date and scalable methods of delivery. Web-based surveys admittedly reach many more people with far less overhead than did canvassing door to door, but are such computer-based surveys really taking advantage of the unique strengths of the World Wide Web? Kittenwar.comsuggested to Salganik that there was another, more intuitive way to present ideas and gather data on the web.
Using the model of Wikipedia.org as an example, Salganik remarked upon the internet’s strength in engaging people at their own level of interest. Wikipedia, he said, has become an unparalleled information aggregation system because it is able to harvest the full amount of information that people are willing to contribute to the site. Describing this phenomenon as "the Fat Head vs. the Long Tail," Wikipedia makes it possible to gather knowledge from people who have vastly different levels of commitment to improving the site. On one hand, there are those (fat heads) willing to spend days or months carefully researching and crafting entire Wikipedia entries -- while others, (long tails), are content to insert a missing comma into an entry they happen to be reading at the moment. As such, Wikipedia.org is an example of what might be achieved by an application that truly understands how the internet works best. Traditional surveys can only capture a tiny segment of this range of audience participation and engagement.
So what does the intersection of kittenwar.com and Wikipedia suggest to a researcher who wants to design a 21st-century web-native survey? Salganik's site,www.allourideas.org illustrates one solution: a model that takes advantage of the most essential quality of the World Wide Web – where, according to Salganik, "an unimaginable scale and granularity of data can be collected from day to day life." The development of allourideas.org--funded in part by Google.com and the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University (CITP)-- uses the same” bottom-up” approach of kittenwar.com, paired with an algorithm developed by Salganik and his team, consisting of a single web developer, and several student researchers. The result is an open-source system where "any group, anywhere, can create their own wiki survey.”
Salganik describes the www.allourideas.org website as an "idea marketplace," designed to harvest the full amount of information that people are willing to provide on any given topic. Participants in a survey on the site are presented with random pairs of options, and pick the one they most favor; they then are given a second pair of different options, and vote again. Eventually, the most popular ideas -- either provided by the survey author(s), or submitted by any person voting on the site -- can be quickly identified.
The homepage of www.AllOurIdeas.org
An early version of the site was developed for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at Princeton, as a mechanism to assess the most important campus issues according to Princeton students. Voting began with ideas submitted by leaders in the USG, with additional suggestions submitted by students participating in the polling. In the end, two of the top five ideas that emerged as the most important to the student population were contributed by student voters, and were not among the ideas originally suggested by the USG. The percentage of participation in the poll was also remarkable: 40% of the undergraduate population took part, resulting in nearly 40,000 votes on paired ideas--as well as generating 100 new ideas not thought of by the original authors of the survey. Salganik and his team concluded that using this survey tool on an audience that is already engaged in the issues being presented can result in an incredible amount of quality added to the data generated. "In the old survey method," Salganik explained, "tons of data are left on the table." New methods of data collection, such as allourideas.org, are by contrast inclusive, from the bottom up, and reflect the effort, interest, and participation that engaged respondents are willing to contribute to the discussion.
Since its public release, www.allourideas.org has generated 700 new idea marketplaces and 6,000 new ideas, uploaded over the course of 400,000 votes. Users of the free web-hosted interface include Columbia University Law School, The Washington Post, and the New York City Department of Parks. Anyone with a few ideas and a target audience willing to provide feedback can make their own space for collecting and prioritizing ideas on the allourideas.org site. Results are returned to the survey authors with full transparency, including some basic demographics about the geographic location of voters, the length of participation in each individual voting session, and the pair of choices at which a participant leaves the voting. (Salganik explained that leaving a session is sometimes indicative of the voter's perception that their only choice is between two bad ideas, although in other cases, voters leave because they feel they’ve voted enough.) Voting is anonymous, and voters are encouraged to return to vote as often as they wish.
Salganik described some of the mechanics used to keep the voting fresh and current, such as weighting recently submitted new ideas with more frequent appearances in the polling to give them equal footing with older ideas. The polling mechanism is designed to handle a very large number of ideas, and the more people voting, the better the results.In future releases of the code, idea pairs might even be adaptive to prior choices made by an individual voter. It's important to the success of such a binary voting system, explained Salganik, that voters don't know previous results, because that ignorance avoids the mentality of the flash opinion. The ideal sized group for polling is at least 20 people, although any number of respondents can be accommodated. The poll currently being conducted by The Washington Post on reader feedback and participation is the largest to date on the site. At the time of this Lunch ‘n Learn, the poll had been open for 3 days, and had already generated more than 40,000 votes.
The concept behind www.allourideas.org consists of a few basic characteristics. The site is simple. It's powerful. It's free. It's also constantly improving. It proves, Salganik concluded, that when information is presented and gathered properly, there is wisdom, rather than madness, in the opinions of the crowd – and there needn’t be a cute kitten anywhere in sight.
Free "idea marketplaces" can be created by anyone on the hosted site at www.allourideas.org. If you are interested in creating a site, come prepared with a target audience and a few ideas in mind -- then invite your audience to begin voting and contributing their own ideas.
allourideas.org is also an open-source-code project. The code is available at github.com. You can also follow the project on Twitter and on Facebook.
Few people know that Princeton University’s association with computers and computing predates the ENIAC. Jon goes back to the days of John von Neumann, Oswald Veblen, Alan Turing, John Tukey, and winds his way forward through the memorable days of the mainframes to 1985 when Ira Fuchs arrived to create the University’s high speed network and begin the drive toward ubiquity of access and use. His many stories all have one thing in common… they all used to be funny.
About the speaker:
Jon Edwards graduated from Princeton in 1975 with a degree in history. He got his PhD from Michigan State University in Ethiopian economic history. After a three year stint as Review Editor of Byte Magazine, he returned to Princeton in 1986 to serve as the Assistant to the VP for Computing and Information Technology. He served as the Coordinator of OIT Institutional Communications and Outreach until his retirement on November 11, 2010.
The last decade has witnessed a rapid emergence of larger and faster computing systems in the US. Massively parallel machines have gone mainstream and are now the tool of choice for large scientific simulations. Keeping up with the continuously evolving technology is quite a challenge though. Scientific applications need to be modified, adapted, and optimized for each new system being introduced. In this talk, the evolution of a gyrokinetic particle-in-cell code developed at Princeton University's Plasma Physics Laboratory is presented as it was adapted and improved to run on successively larger computing platforms.
About the speaker:
Dr. Stephane Ethier is a Computational Physicist in the Computational Plasma Physics Group at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). He received a Ph.D. from the Department of Energy and Materials of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Montreal, Canada. His current research involves large-scale gyrokinetic particle-in-cell simulations of microturbulence in magnetic confinement fusion devices as well as all aspects of high-performance computing on massively parallel systems.
All who listen to Jerry Ostriker, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University, come to know that we live in profoundly exciting times. We have learned only recently the age and composition of the universe, and for the first time, we are coming to understand how the galactic structures we observe throughout the sky came to be. Simply put, where do they come from, and how could they form if the early universe was relatively uniform? And how can we use them as standard objects unless we understand how and when they formed and how they evolved?
One of the key findings, said Ostriker at the September 29 Lunch 'n Learn seminar, came from the WMAP satellite. Its observations of the Cosmic Background Radiation show the beginnings of structure in the aftermath of the Big Bang.
Armed with our best cosmological models, asks Ostriker, "Can we start with those initial conditions and our understanding of the standard model of cosmology, add standard physics, compute forward and end with galaxies like those we see about us?"
From 50 years of observations, he tells us, we know that giant elliptical galaxies, galaxies that involve on the order of 100 million stars, form early and grow in size and mass without much late star-formation. He adds that major mergers are uncommon at later times or else disk galaxies would have been destroyed.
Using high resolution simulations of massive galaxy formation, he has computed the formation of cosmic structures. He begins by putting down particles on a dense grid with slight perturbations of the positions consistent with the early large scale structure given by the CBR. He then gives the particles small velocities consistent with the density structure and the continuity equation. He then uses the supercomputers at Princeton to calculate the accelerations of all the particles using Newton's laws.
The simulation updates again and again the positions and velocities and accelerations to find the new distribution of particles, all culminating with a video simulation of the evolution of cosmic structures.
Says Ostriker, "Looking backwards we have been able to reconstruct from the detailed structure of our own Galaxy and from the fossil evidence derived from the study of nearby galaxies a plausible history of how galaxies formed over the last several billion years. In addition, now that we have a quite definite cosmological model, providing us with a quantitative picture of how perturbations grew from very low amplitude Gaussian fluctuations, we can perform the forward modeling of representative pieces of the universe using standard physical processes to see how well we match our local knowledge and the time-reversed modeling based on the fossil evidence. Finally, we can employ large ground and space based telescopes to use the universe as a time-machine - directly observing the past history of our light-cone. While none of these approaches can give us at the present time results accurate to more than roughly the 5% -> 10% level, a coherent and plausible picture is emerging."
"Massive galaxies form in two phases. In the first phase, which peaks at redshift z = 6 and ends by redshift z = 2, cold gas streams in making stars in a small (<1kpc) region, but as the stellar mass approaches 10,11 Msolar, a hot bubble forms which suppresses further inflow of cold gas. But from redshift z = 3 to the present time, small stellar satellite systems are accreted at typically 10kpc from the center and the size of the total system grows by about a factor of three as the mass doubles. This added, accreted component is mainly comprised of old and low metallicity stars. Energy release from gravitational infall in various forms will terminate star-formation leaving the galaxies 'red and dead'. Even in the absence of feedback from SN or MBHs. This physical picture seems naturally to lead to the mass, size scale and epoch of galaxy formation and, increasingly, to a first understanding of the detailed internal structure of these systems."
Jeremiah P. Ostriker has been an influential researcher in one of the most exciting areas of modern science, theoretical astrophysics, with current primary work in the area of cosmology, particularly the aspects that can be approached best by large scale numerical calculations.
Ostriker has investigated many areas of research, including the structure and oscillations of rotating stars, the stability of galaxies, the evolution of globular clusters and other star systems, pulsars, X-ray binary stars, the dynamics of clusters of galaxies, gravitational lensing, astrophysical blast waves, active galactic nuclei, the cosmic web, and galaxy formation.
Most significantly, Ostriker's research focused on the theories of:
Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM)
The First Stars and Reionization of the Universe
Interaction between Quasars and their surroundings
Ostriker has supervised and collaborated with many young researchers and graduates students. He is the author or co-author of more than 300 scientific publications.
Princeton University has created a cyberinfrastructure, says Curt Hillegas, the Director of Princeton's TIGRESS High Performance Computing and Visualization Center, itself a collaboration between the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering (PICSciE). Developed within the past decade, this cyberinfrastructure consists of computational systems, data and information management, advanced instruments, visualization environments, and people, all linked together by software and advanced networks to improve scholarly productivity and enable knowledge breakthroughs and discoveries not otherwise possible.
At the April 8 Lunch 'n Learn seminar, Hillegas noted that the University's research computing activity has grown to keep pace with and to provide leadership for this international trend. Tigress maintains a vast hardware and storage infrastructure. And staff provide support for programming and for the new visualization facilities within the Lewis Science library.
The effort, of course, also involves faculty across many disciplines and departments. This session highlighted the work of two University faculty: Professor Annabella Selloni from Chemistry and Professor Clarence Rowley from Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The session demonstrated how computational science and engineering is enabling and accelerating scientific discovery.
Annabella Selloni’s research activity is aimed at obtaining a microscopic understanding of the property of materials with specific emphasis on surface and interface phenomena. At the Lunch ‘n Learn seminar, she discussed the quest to discover an efficient and perhaps less expensive alternative to platinum as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen. Princeton’s high performance computing systems have permitted her to model and to manipulate functionalized electrodes. At the seminar, she played simulations that illustrate how small surface changes can have a significant effect in the production of hydrogen.
Professor Clarence Rowley is modeling flows past a cavity, as would occur with a sun roof or an aircraft wheel well or weapons bay. Although his efforts have employed the processing power of a supercomputer, his aim has been to achieve workable results and a control design with a much more limited number of equations. Full systems require as many as 2,000,000 equations. Rowley now has control designs based upon just two equations. With such active control, it may be possible, for example, to mimic the fluid dynamics of insects and small birds and to design a controller to stabilize the leading edge of aircraft wings.
Hillegas concluded by inviting prospective users to apply to use the Tigress HPC resources. Users will find all the information needed to select the resources they need as well as information about applying for an account and time on the systems.
About the speakers:
After undergraduate studies at the University La Sapienza, Roma (Italy), Annabella Selloni graduated from the Swiss Institute of Technology in Lausanne-Switzerland (1979). This was followed by a postdoctoral position at IBM T.J.Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights (1980-1982). She has been Assistant Professor at the University La Sapienza in Roma (1982-1988), Associate Professor at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy (1988-1995), and Associate Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland (1996-1999). In 1999 she joined the Dept of Chemistry of Princeton University, initially as Senior Research Staff and Lecturer, and as a full Professor (since 2009). Her research interests are in theoretical and computational condensed matter physics and chemistry, with particular focus on the use of first principles electronic structure and molecular dynamics methods to obtain an atomic scale understanding of the structural and electronic properties of surfaces and interfaces, including organic-inorganic and solid-liquid interfaces, surface reactions and catalysis, photochemistry and photocatalysis. Prof. Selloni has over 160 publications in the area of theoretical / computational chemical physics. She is part of the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Chemical Physics and Surface Science.
Professor Clarence Rowley received his B.S.E degree from Princeton University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Princeton faculty in 2001, and he is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and an Associated faculty member in the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics. His research interests involve modeling and control of complex systems, particularly fluids systems with specific areas of interest including modeling and model reduction for bifurcation analysis and control; numerical methods, both for fluids simulations, and analysis of dynamical systems; and applications of geometric methods in fluid mechanics.
Curt Hillegas received his B.S. in Chemistry from Lehigh University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Chemistry from Princeton University. Curt is the Director of Princeton’s TIGRESS High Performance Computing and Visualization Center, a collaboration between the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering and the Office of Information Technology. He has helped to build a centrally managed research computing infrastructure that includes 65 TFLOPS of computational systems and 1 PB of shared storage as well as staffing for system administration, programming, and visualization support. He also serves on the Steering Committee for the EDUCAUSE Campus Cyberinfrastructure working group. Curt’s past work at Princeton includes managing the enterprise Unix group, architecting enterprise server and storage solutions, designing and managing central email infrastructure, and general Unix system administration.