|Author:||Jeffrey G. Barlow|
|Title:||Introduction to Volume IV, Number 1|
|Publication Info:||Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
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Introduction to Volume IV, Number 1
Jeffrey G. Barlow
vol. 4, no. 1, April 2001
Introduction to Volume IV, Number 1
With this issue we begin the fourth year of publication of the Journal of the Association for History and Computing. The issue is a milestone in several regards. It is the beginning of our fourth year; it is far the largest issue we have ever published; it is the first time that we have missed an editorial deadline and posted late. These are the three issues we shall discuss here, as all are important to the JAHC, and perhaps to many interested in the field of history and computing.
The Beginning of the Fourth Year at the JAHC
That this is the beginning of our fourth year perhaps merits little comment. We have become accustomed to our success and find it less surprising with every issue. The primary reason for that success, we feel, is that we publish not only solid "traditional" scholarship, but also pieces relying upon innovative uses of computers to produce new understandings of familiar topics. In this issue, see for example, George S. Vascik, "Computer-Assisted Plotting and Analysis of Village Returns in German National Elections, 1893-1912." George uses GIS techniques to produce new information on a well-studied topic, introducing new dimensions to it as he does so. In addition, of course, we also publish studies that explore entirely new areas within the field of history and computing. In this issue, we have Terry DuBose presenting the "Polybiography of Diagnostic Medical Sonography" which discusses computer-aided dissemination of materials in a relatively new and important medical field. Jason Lantzer offers "The World Wide Web and a World Wide Church: The Use of Email Surveys in Studying the Anglican Communion. " This article presents a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of electronic communications for the Anglican church world-wide. We are particularly pleased to publish this piece because Jason published earlier a Work in Progress with us, "Electronic Episcopalians?: The Results of the Episcopal Email Survey of 1999." Jason's new piece shows not only a significant increase in his coverage of the topic begun in 1999, but also a new maturity in his scholarship, illustrating the important of a venue such as the JAHC where scholars can try out their ideas and analysis as Works in Progress prior to later publication. In another of our pieces, Anne Rothfeld of the U.S. Mint gives us in her article, "History meets Marketing: Imaging the U.S. Mint's Historical Collection," a new multi-media approach to one of history's oldest fields, numismatics.
But in addition to such treatments as those listed above, our success comes in great part from our exploration of the significance of the computer, and particularly of the Internet and the World Wide Web for history and for historians. In this issue we publish , Jeffrey R. Yost's piece, " Overcoming the Discipline Divide: Knowledge Networking and the Advancement of the History of Software." In this piece Jeffrey studies both the historic and contemporary disparity between the use of networking technology to advance scientific and engineering fields relative to areas in the humanities and the general failure to capitalize on interdisciplinary research opportunities made possible by the Internet. Two of our editors, Deborah Lines Andersen and Dennis A. Trinkle in an extensive research report entitled "One or Two is not a Problem" Technology in the Tenure, Promotion, and Review Process A Survey of Current Practices in U.S. History Departments" give us what we so often lack, hard information on the use of computers by historians and the consequences of such use (or lack thereof) in the assessment processes usually encountered in our academic institutions.
Another reason for our success has been our willingness, and ability, thanks to electronic communications, to reach out to new audiences, including the K-12 audience, and non-North American scholars at all levels. In this issue, for example, our indefatigable K-12 editors D. Antonio Cantu and Mark Newmark . present "A Web-Based Left & Right Brain 4MAT Approach to Teaching Middle and High School History", and "Some Appetizingly Straight-forward Uses of Technology." Respectively. Martine Cocaud, Maître de conférences en Histoire Contemporaine at the Université Rennes 2, France, presents a bilingual piece, "From the Text to the Data Base: the Libriciel as a Tool for Producing and Diffusing Scientific Texts. A Case Study of Breton Hagiography." This case study is of an innovative French project, the aim of which is to preserve the traditional methods of text writing while at the same time gaining the advantages of electronic media distribution.
An increasing percentage of our audience resides in countries other than the United States, reflecting the rapid expansion of the Internet, and of the use of computers by historians, world-wide. While we welcome dual-text articles published in English and another language, our primary attempt to accommodate the audience of non-native speakers of English is to publish as many of the abstracts in our issues in as many tongues as possible. Toward this end, we have recently further expanded our World Languages Board, the group of hard-working scholars who labor to translate often difficult new concepts.
But as important as the above issues are, our success is ultimately due to the labors of our editorial boards. For this issue we add to our board Ken King of Northern Illinois University, Pauline McCormack of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Laura Micham of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University, and Gary .K. Peatling of the University of Wales Aberystwyth. And to the World Languages Board, we add a young German scholar, Peter Moritz of the University of Frankfurt. It is the editorial board which permits us to conduct a full double-blind peer-review process in a timely fashion, and this is your ultimate assurance of the value of both the materials we publish, and of yourself publishing in the JAHC.
IV, 1, Our Largest Issue to Date
This is our largest issue by perhaps a factor of two; we have enjoyed a markedly increased number of submissions for publication in the last several months. This increase reflects in considerable part the success of our last conference in Indianapolis, held in February of this year. In Indianapolis we hosted eleven concurrent sessions as well as many demonstrations or discussions by practitioners and product developers. Bell & Howell (Xanedu), Gale Group, AtomicDog, and M.E. Sharpe all sponsored some of our activities. Academic sponsors included DePauw University, Indiana University (Indianapolis), Purdue University (Indianapolis), Ball State, Butler University, Pacific University (Forest Grove, Oregon), Cincinnati University, and the Indiana Council for History Education, which held its annual meeting concurrently with ours.
The number of attendees was comfortably in the triple digits and included scholars from Russia, Turkey, England, and the Virgin Islands among just those whom I met personally. These presented an exciting variety of academic explorations and activities. This issue includes revised and peer-reviewed versions of many papers initially presented at the conference, and others are in editorial process for our August issue.
In addition, like all things historical, simple survival has its own advantages. As the JAHC now has been regularly published for more than three years, we have an increasingly larger audience, and a correspondingly higher flow of submissions. This leads me conveniently to our last topic, our failure to publish on time for this issue.
IV 1 Posts late...
Of the nine issues we have published in three+ years, IV 1 is the first one to be posted markedly late. Although it is dated throughout "April 2001," in fact we are posting in the second week of May. This is a fact which bears some explanation. We also, of course, apologize to our audience for being late. But in addition, we think it important to explain the causes of our tardiness because it bears upon history and computing. One reason is simply that the greater flow of submissions stressed our work procedures. They simply broke down as we tried to send more materials out and receive more comments from our editors back. Too, the labor on the translators of the World Languages Board proved also to be much increased. These factors, however, are perhaps understandable if not excusable. Another factor, however, is more threatening to projects like ours.
As we receive materials from all across the United States and many European countries (as well as occasionally from Latin America and Asia) we see a variety of software formats. These have always been a problem, but usually we have managed to work out some fix to these difficulties. Recently, however, there seems to us to be a deleterious process of concentration underway in the software industry. We have worked for our entire period of publication with an HTML and server-management suite originally titled "GoLive Cyber Studio." Most of our submissions, of course, come in to us on a Microsoft product, usually an iteration of MS Word. Now this range of Word products has a history of many years and is continually developing to take advantage of the greater processing power and speed available to many users who can regularly update their computers. We thus see very old versions, highly localized versions such as "Swedish Word," and the several different versions of Word found in Microsoft Office, suites, etc. The first owner of GoLive, Cyber Studio, perhaps as an upstart start-up, was concerned to be fully compatible with as many products as possible, and we rarely experienced any particular difficulties. For its part, Microsoft, too, seemed concerned with compatibility.
But GoLive was acquired by Adobe. And Microsoft began reaching to embrace in a proprietary manner a larger share of the Internet applications. We now find that compatibility is becoming a major issue. One would think that as such large players as Adobe, Microsoft, AOL (Netscape), and others tried to expand they would be careful to maintain the largest possible compatibility with others' products. Our experience, however, suggests that this is not the case. We have been late in producing this issue largely because of compatibility problems in our usually faithful core programs and applications. This has required frequent revising, taking texts through repeated attempts to clean them up, sending them off to editors who feel they can solve particular problems with fonts, accented characters, etc., and paying the cost of frequent delays.
No doubt some of these gigantic players will see fit to provide updates to their programs that will deal with these compatibility issues, but at present each seems primarily intent on a more proprietary approach that will permit it to integrate with an increasingly larger application that works seamlessly with other related corporate products while causing more frequent compatibility problems with not only suites produced by others, but even with earlier versions of their own product. The end result of this will inevitably be a sort of Balkanization that will make today's jocular platform wars between PC and MAC users a mere skirmish. And this is not even to touch upon the issue of European corporations which may enter the fray with their own localized applications. It is our sense that rather than getting easier to communicate with our foreign editors and those submitting work, it is in fact getting ever more difficult.
It is hard to know what we as individuals might do about this problem. But most of us, as individuals, have a share in decision making at very large institutions (Read "markets" from the corporate perspective.). We should be careful that our updates in fact serve our purposes, and we should do everything we can to encourage the development of applications that pay serious attention to compatibility both in terms of previous versions, other applications, and other languages.