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Grokker knowledge maps
Grokker software is designed to give a pictorial view of large collections of text documents. Using metadata, the software builds a visual display of document contents in the form of a group of colored spheres. Each sphere represents a collection of documents on a particular subject, which is announced by a text label. A sphere may contain smaller spheres, representing subtopics. The size of each sphere indicates the number of documents it contains. Users can zoom in and out to display various groups of spheres and documents. The documents are represented by circles within the spheres. One early adopter, the Stanford University library, is using Grokker to view its Socrates catalog system. Grokker software, capable of creating maps of up to 2,000 items, is available for $99.95 from: http://www.groxis.com. Users can choose to create visual maps of computer-based document files, or of Internet sites, and can collect displays based on keywords or phrases.
DSpace preserves diverse documents
MIT's DSpace digital repository (http://www.dspace.org) is now available to the public. To retrieve documents, users can enter a search phrase, or they can browse the collection by title, author or document date. The initial set of documents is supplied by MIT's Department of Ocean Engineering; Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development; Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems; and the Sloan School of Management. Each contributing source uses its own methods to format and submit material. To preserve all documents, DSpace maintains a list of supported formats that are to be kept available and readable for the future. For documents with non-supported formats, the ones and zeros of the original documents are stored. If software to read these documents should ever become unavailable, programmers will still be able to design new access software. To handle updates to prepublication versions of documents, DSpace uses tombstone markers to indicate that the earlier versions still exist within the system, but are no longer available for public access.
At present, the Dublin Core standard is used to create the metadata that describe the documents within DSpace. A three-year project is now under way to provide metadata that are customized to specific disciplines but can still be used for searches across the entire system. DSpace uses the Lucene search engine to handle both text and document metadata.
Initially, DSpace holds two terabytes of data, but even that much storage is not enough for all the material MIT faculty now have on their own hard drives and CD-ROMs. For example, one faculty member has offered ocean floor maps that take up 30 terabytes (30 trillion bytes) of data. DSpace will add more storage capacity to meet demand as it increases.
Plans for the system include making research beyond MIT available through DSpace. Columbia University, Cornell, Cambridge University in England, Ohio State University, and the universities of Washington, Toronto, and Rochester are the initial participants. More than 30 other institutions are interested in installing DSpace on their campuses. Plans include MIT interconnection with the eScholarship digital library at the University of California, which currently holds more than 1,200 titles, including books and articles. Corporations and government agencies have also been in contact with MIT.
Campus library use is down
A study sponsored by the Digital Library Federation, found that undergraduates now spend only a third of their study time in the library, while half of their study time is spent at home. Faculty members said only 10 percent of their work time is spent in the library while 85 percent of their work is done in their office or at home. Of respondents, 35 percent said that they use the library significantly less than they did two years ago; and that figure was 43 percent among faculty members.
To counteract these trends, there have been some efforts to expand the usefulness of online library resources. For example, over 200,000 students and faculty at seven academic institutions were given access to local and external information resources through a unified Scholars Portal in the third quarter of 2002. The Portal gives users a direct means of fulfilling their information needs without having to use several different tools and applications. The aim is to reduce frustration from lengthy search processes. The initial focus of the Portal project is to deliver cross-domain searching of licensed and openly available content in a range of subject fields from multiple institutions. The Portal aggregates the results of the search, and supports delivery of the content to the user.
The Scholars Portal is a project of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), a not-for-profit organization that represents 123 academic and research libraries in the USA and Canada. Participants in the initial trial of the Portal are the University of Southern California, the University of California-San Diego, Dartmouth College, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Iowa State University, and the University of Utah.
Many universities have invested large sums of money in e-journals or in access to electronic resources, only to find that users turn to less accurate and less timely information because it is easier to access. The Scholars Portal hopes to overcome this problem by giving users easy-access licensed and restricted-access information resources as well as unrestricted resources. In future, the Scholars Portal project plans to add services such as integrating the Portal with local online course materials and linking the Portal to consultations with reference librarians.
Handheld devices are being used to improve rapport between college lecturers and their students. At Erskine College in South Carolina, students of physics professor William F. Junkin are using their handheld Palm devices to show how well they understand his lectures. Junkin sends a set of multiple choice questions to the students' Palm devices, which are equipped to send and receive infrared signals over a distance of 50 feet. Their answers come back within a second or two and are displayed for the professor. The display can correspond to the lecture seating chart, or can show up as a histogram illustrating how many students choose a particular answer. The professor can view a spreadsheet that shows which students are having difficulty and which are giving the correct answers. Often Junkin displays the histogram of responses for the class to view. With this display, students can see how their answers compare to those of the rest of the class, yet no individual student need be embarrassed.
Tablets for students
Tablet computers that use Microsoft Tablet PC software provide a new way for students to take classroom notes in their own handwriting. The handwritten material can be stored, searched and reorganized by tablet computer functions. Using recognition software, the handwritten notes can be converted into typed text. The tablet search capability is particularly valuable, since it allows students to easily locate desired information within both handwritten and typed material. When charts need to be sketched or mathematical expressions written, the tablets easily outperform laptop computers. In the lecture hall, students who download an instructor's presentation from an electronic whiteboard, using tablet wireless capabilities, can mark up the downloaded material with their own handwritten notes. In addition, tablets provide a convenient and readable display for viewing e-books, since these devices can be held and moved around like printed books.
Tablet units using Microsoft Tablet PC software currently sell for more than $2,000, but lower-cost units are already appearing on the marketplace. For example, a tablet priced at about $500 is scheduled to become available from Lindows.com (www.lindows.com) by early 2003. This tablet does not do handwriting recognition, and its ability to display e-book formats such as Microsoft Reader and Adobe eBook Reader is uncertain, but it is being offered in recognition of the fact a price below $1,000 would attract many potential tablet users who are put off by the current higher prices.
The DocuNote tablet from StepUp Computing became available at the end of 2002, priced at about $1,000 and offered through resellers in the USA and Asia. This tablet has an 8.4 inch screen and a built-in digital camera. It relies on pen and touch-screen inputs and has no attached keyboard. The operating software is Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP, not the Tablet PC software that gives more expensive tablet units their ability for handwriting recognition and searching. However, a wireless communications card can be added to the StepUp tablet. In early 2003, StepUp plans to offer a tablet with a Linux-based operating system.
Microsoft is working with the publishers of six major magazines to help them publish electronic versions that will be available for download to tablet devices in 2003.Forbes, theFinancial Times, theNew Yorker,Slate and two foreign economic magazines, France'sLes Echoes and Germany'sWirtschafts Woche, all see this as a new opportunity to appeal to their advertisers. The magazines will be displayed in traditional formats familiar to readers. Users will be able to read pages as they would in a magazine, going from page to page by clicking displayed buttons. Viewers of a print ad shown on a tablet PC can click to display added material, such as a video commercial, via the Internet. The publishers do not see the tablet PC as a replacement for print editions, but they support it as an experiment that combines traditional and digital publishing.
Journal publishers try to lure librarians
Academic librarians and researchers who are profoundly dissatisfied with the current system of commercial journal publication will be the target of a public relations campaign aimed at polishing the image of the publishers. The goal is to reinforce the notion that commercial publishers are allies of the academic world and to dissipate the idea that librarians and publishers are adversaries. The campaign is sponsored by the Association of American Publishers and will be run by Edelman, a public-relations firm based in Chicago and New York. Mailings, advertisements, summits between librarians and publishers, and speakers at conferences have all been proposed.
The campaign will try to dissuade those who advocate open distribution of research results on the Internet. It will attempt to convince academicians of the importance of the prestige of well-known journals, the expertise and mediation of editors, and the commercial management of peer review. However, the campaign will definitely not focus on the sharply rising cost of journal subscriptions, which have gone up an average of 8.5 percent per year since 1986, while library budgets have risen 5.6 percent per year. Nor will the campaign discuss the fact that faculty members want the widest possible audience for their works, while commercial publishers want to restrict access to online scholarship, using technologies such as pay-per-view.
Library patrons download e-books
More than 35,000 e-book titles are now available for downloading by library patrons, based on services from OverDrive (www.overdrive.com) a company that provides retail fulfillment to e-book publishers.
OverDrive uses techniques, based on Adobe Content Server software, that can limit the number of times an e-book file can be copied and also limit the time period during which an e-book can be viewed by a user.
With such controls in hand, OverDrive has obtained permission from publishers to sell e-books that libraries can allow their patrons to download. Over 400 publishers have made agreements with OverDrive to make their copyrighted e-books available.
Microsoft Reader e-book catalog
An online catalog (http://www.mslit.com) of e-books in Microsoft Reader format is now available. The catalog allows users to search for over 15,000 e-books and to display brief book descriptions and cover images. The site is designed to collect and add new e-book releases on an ongoing basis. E-books can be browsed by category, or searched by author name, book title, publisher name, publication date, ISBN, or keyword (within the text descriptions). Users can click to link to Web pages where the e-book may be purchased. Over 1,500 free e-books can be downloaded directly from the site.
Digital media Bill of Rights
The Technology Consumer Bill of Rights, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representative Chris Cox (R-CA), aims to allow consumers to use digital media as freely as analog media at home. E-books, CDs, DVDs and digital TV are covered by the proposed legislation. According to Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, the bill would pave the way for legalized hacking so that every movie would be fair game to copy without limits and without penalty. However consumer advocacy groups are encouraged by the bipartisan sponsorship of the legislation and they intend to work with Cox and Wyden to move it forward in 2003.
Howard Falk (email@example.com) is an Independent Consultant based in Bloomfield, New Jersey, USA.