The following is a short piece written for the Guardian Datablog about what the European Commission’s recent announcement on access to scientific data could mean for science and for public engagement with science.
In his À la recherche du temps perdu Marcel Proust writes of memories unfurling and unfolding like Japanese paper flowers suspended in water – from small seedlike bundles into fragile and exquisite miniature villages. Try as he might to control and artificially instigate the flow of reverie and trance into which he is so often plunged – whether from the confines of his cork-lined room or while he retraces his steps in the twilight hours – he finds that he must wait for the past to descend upon him.
Perhaps the most famous episode in the book is his encounter with a small cake, a madeleine, which brings back a world about which he had largely forgotten. For the great master of remembrance, the world is pregnant with such sensory triggers – madeleines – keys to unlocking forgotten doors which lead to vast networks of significance, cascading layers and delicate schematics of voice, tone, shade and place, that we had forgotten were contained within us, and which we may feel are in danger of dissolving into dust at a touch.
I just published a piece on the Guardian Datablog about ‘what data can and cannot do’, arguing that data journalists and civic data hackers should strive to cut back on data-driven hype and to cultivate a more critical literacy towards their subject matter. Here’s an excerpt.
There are lots of freely available public domain texts on the internet, but not all of them are immediately suitable for use in teaching and research in their current form. The following post looks at challenges and opportunities in this area based on a brief survey of existing online resources.
As an example, I will focus on the works of Johann Georg Hamann, an 18th century German philosopher, who is one of the figures I am looking at in my academic research.
The TEXTUS project aims to address some of these problems and to make it easier for scholars and students to contribute to (i) comprehensive bibliographies and (ii) scholarly editions.
In the introduction to their 1984 volume on Philosophy in History, Richard Rorty, J.B. Schneewind and Quentin Skinner describe their vision of a comprehensive (and incidentally impossible) “Intellectual History of Europe”:
Imagine a thousand-volume work entitled The Intellectual History of Europe. Imagine also a great convocation of resurrected thinkers, at which every person mentioned in the pages of this work is given a copy and invited to begin by reading the passages concerning himself or herself, and then to read alternately backwards and forwards until he has mastered the full thousand volumes. An ideal work of this title would fulfil the following conditions:
The book is an international, collaborative effort involving dozens of data journalism’s leading advocates and best practitioners – including from Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Helsingin Sanomat, La Nacion, the New York Times, Pro Publica, the Washington Post, the Texas Tribune, Verdens Gang, Wales Online, Zeit Online and many others.
Today the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC), an independent charity “integrating research on climate change, energy and economics”, released a set of Climate Factsheets to help to communicate climate science research to a broader public.
There are hundreds of public domain works scattered all over the internet – from well known projects like the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg and the Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikisource and Wikimedia Commons projects, to national and international portals like Europeana and the nascent Digital Public Library of America.