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Author: Jeffrey G. Barlow
Title: "Three Years In..."
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
November 2000

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Source: "Three Years In..."
Jeffrey G. Barlow

vol. 3, no. 3, November 2000
Article Type: Editorial
PDF: Download full PDF [19kb ]

"Three Years In..."

Jeffrey G. Barlow

About this issue

With Volume III, No. 3 the Journal of the Association for History and Computing (JAHC) finishes its third calendar year of production. This is, we think, an outstanding issue. Here I will discuss both its contents, and what we have learned about our audience in the past three years.

With this issue we inaugurate two new features, each of which we believe will be of interest to many readers. The first of these is "Global Computing," written by our colleague from the World Languages Board of the JAHC, Marin Dacos of the Centre Pierre Léon d'Histoire économique et sociale, University Lumière Lyon II. Marin, writing in his native French, ( with an English translation forthcoming) discusses the current state of history and computing in France.

The article is noteworthy not only for its topic—too little is known, in the United States, at least—regarding computing in other countries, but also for its scholarship. Marin presents an exhaustive look at not only computing in the history field in France, but also discusses the influence of American practices and industries abroad.

Many Americans find the assumption that English is the only language of computing and the Internet very comforting. We are aware at JAHC, however, that we have a truly worldwide audience and that our practice of including non-English language abstracts whenever possible is an appreciable advantage to our large audience of nonnative speakers of English. Recently we have been informed that we will henceforth be indexed by the Virtual Library of H-France, also a section of the World Virtual Library in French Studies. We are also aware, by examining the traffic into our servers, that we are now regularly indexed by French and German search engines.

In addition to our usual non-English languages of French, German, Italian and Spanish, we are preparing to add abstracts in Japanese and Russian as this issue goes to post. These languages will cause some browsers to return odd characters if accessed because browsers usually have to be set in the preferences to view languages using other character sets.

Our second new feature is "Archives and Museums" prepared by two new editors, Jennifer Utter and Anne Wynne. This feature will regularly examine sites maintained by archives and museums, assessing them in light of our own standards for electronic documents as set forth in Project Épée. This, in turn, will be a step toward creating a "ring" of sites of a high level of authority and legitimacy for the use of students and teachers desiring assurance of quality control in the materials which they encounter. The first example of "Archives and Museums" begins by examining sites in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

We are also privileged in this issue to post the keynote speech "The Spread of Knowledge" by Harlan Cleveland from the last national convention of the Association for History and Computing, in Waco, Texas. Many feel that Dr. Cleveland is one of the truly eminent intellectual figures of the 20th century. His piece moves so adroitly among such a wide variety of topics and is so thoughtfully organized and written that it is impossible to disagree with that judgment. We are indebted to our colleague at the JAHC, Professor Jere Jackson, for the address and the editorial comments which preface it.

In this issue we also present a very interesting piece "Creating a database of British Public Library Annual Reports, 1850-1919" by a team of British scholars, G.K. Peatling and Chris Baggs, on the process of creating a very large database of British Public Library Reports. This is one of a number of pieces we have posted which have introduced our readers to important resources in the United Kingdom. In addition, this work is "how to" in that it gives good advice derived from the co-authors' experience in creating the application.

We also present an unusual work-in-progress by Suzanne R. Graham of the University of Southern Mississippi. Suzanne's work is a citation analysis of electronic resources as used by historians in major journals and in "Research 1" institutions. The piece is an important one which suggests that work done in electronic documents has not yet become an important part of research at that level.

This piece met all our standards for publication as an article, but our editors wanted to see Suzanne extend the analysis to cover additional levels of journals and of institutions. We think it possible that additional analysis may suggest that different processes are at work at smaller institutions. She agreed to let us publish her piece as a work-in-progress, and to extend the analysis in our next issue of the JAHC, and then to combine those two pieces in a final summative article. We look forward to seeing her subsequent work and we hope that our readers will, in the spirit of a work-in-progress, respond with their experiences and critical analyses to Suzanne.

Suzanne's work also reminds us that the field of history and computing is a rapidly developing one, but one in which there are many potential problems. One problem that we hear about with increasing frequency is the failure of evaluation processes at many institutions to consider or to value scholarly work or teaching done in electronic environments. The Association for History and Computing, working with the Modern Language Association, and the American Political Science Association, has prepared a draft of "Suggested Guidelines for Evaluating Digital Media Activities in Tenure, Review, and Promotion". We hope that you will consider these with care and find them useful in considering such standards at your institution.

David Staley, our indefatigable editor of the feature "Reviews of Printed Resources", challenges us with a largely visual article. He discusses both his own approach to visualizing qualitative information in a graphical form, and discusses elements of his teaching style in "Historical Visualizations."

Also in this issue, A. Paul Kubricht, Professor of History-Political Science at Le Tourneau University in Longview, Texas, reflects on teaching international Cold War history online in his piece in "teaching practices". An additional piece on teaching, this at the K-12 level, is "Getting Beyond The West: The Internet and World History" by our editorial colleague, Mark Newmark of Cary Academy.

Dennis Trinkle, recently an inaugural Frye Fellow, as well as the Executive Director of the American Association for History and Computing, writes a guest editorial, "The Challenge of the Uni-versity, Re-Imagining Our Communities." Dennis challenges us to ask the question "What type of university communities are appropriate for the twenty-first century?" In addition, we present our usual reviews of important sites, recent publications, and e-journal articles.

Three years into the process of posting the JAHC, we now rest comfortably in the awareness that we have become successful, as success is defined for e-journals. We have appeared on a regular schedule with a rich collection of materials for a very wide audience.

Our site has become an important resource for researchers and writers. For the first several years of our publication, a pattern was observable wherein our traffic very quickly rose and fell as new issues were posted. Now these scallops have evened out as the index of the JAHC regularly draws as many visitors as does a new issue, indicating that we have become an important site for those working in our field.

Another element of our success has been the frequent coverage we receive in other journals, the many times our pieces are cited, both on the web and in hard copy, and the many requests we receive for reprints or links to be added to our site or to specific articles. It is now quite common to hear colleagues refer to "Jack" at various conferences, meaning the JAHC. And while we prefer to think of ourselves as "Jacques," as befitting an increasingly international publication, we are pleased at the attention.

Perhaps the most critical area of our success has been our ability to attract new editors. Our two editorial boards, that of the Journal, and that of the World Languages Board, now includes scores of nationally and internationall recognized scholars as well as an important leavening of scholars at the outset of what are clearly promising careers.

About Our Audience

In the past three years, in addition to building the quality of the Journal, we also have come to a clearer understanding of our audience. Our gatekeeper software which monitors our traffic does not always give us the specific information we would like; too much of the traffic on the web is still undifferentiated from an electronic point of view. Too, our traffic has grown so much that logs of certain sorts of traffic information (such as IP addresses or domain suffixes) have become too unwieldy to merit maintaining. Hence, we cannot really state that X percentage of our traffic emanates from specific educational IP's, or from particular countries. We can say that more than eighty thousand visitors have been into our site in the last six months, and that the traffic continues to climb rapidly.

But we can state that our guests spend an extended time in our pages, relative to those we observe going into other sites we maintain. We believe that our usual visitor is quite purposeful in that he or she comes in searching for a work or a review on a particular topic, and then reads it in full rather carefully. As best we can tell, surprisingly, our guests do not take advantage of our PDF (Portable Document Format) files to print out pieces from the JAHC. PDF files can be saved and printed out more or less as they appear on screen. Printing and reading them is much easier, though more expensive, obviously, than reading on a cathode ray tube. The fact that the PDF files are not downloaded more frequently makes us believe that many of our academic guests are not yet accustomed to working with this application; we encourage you to do so. We have prepared a page, "About PDF Files" which will make the process a painless one.

But, however sophisticated our guests may be, they are also inclined to spend the time necessary to load graphic-intensive pages. In fact, the most popular piece of those we published this year to date was Michael Greenhalgh's "An Image Database & VRML Model of Borobudur."

We were initially somewhat concerned about publishing such a graphics-intensive piece. Its size would challenge any "pipe," no matter how fast. And while it is possible that there just isn't enough information on the web on this important Indonesian Buddhist temple complex, we think it more likely that our audience is simply interested in the details of the complicated approach necessary to creating an elaborate project such as that so clearly explained by Professor Greenhalgh.

By the same token, we expect, the piece in this issue by Robert K. Morse, "The Mission is Our Future: Defining a Californian Identity on the Historical Memory of the Missions", to be an extremely popular one because of the superior use it makes of multi-media. It is a dazzling project, created as an undergraduate senior thesis at DePauw University, showing what students with recent training in this field can do. One can only imagine the sorts of work of which they will be capable in the near future.

For our part, we pledge in future issues to be somewhat more adventurous in the applications which we utilize. We will be including sound files and Quicktime video clips as appropriate to particular pieces, and we look forward to learning to cope with the new challenges with which you, our audience, are certain to present us.

Jeffrey Barlow

Editor, JAHC

This page was updated on December 2, 2000