Are you excited for Superstruct? The massively multiplayer online game about building the future will be up in a few weeks (Oct 6) though the story is up now. The game, to be played in familiar internet spaces, is, according to organizer Institute for the Future, based on scenarios of the near future in 2019: “By playing the game, you’ll help us chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how we might solve the problems we’ll face. Because this is about more than just envisioning the future. It’s about making the future, inventing new ways to organize the human race and augment our collective human potential.” This is a super imaginative and fun way to think about the history and future of technology and human societies. Here’s a nice article about it.

The AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums is urging museum professionals to play Superstruct. They even provide some dire museum-based stories to think about:

It’s 2019. Your museum is informed that an international group currently touring your building was exposed to the latest deadly strain of Respiratory Distress Syndrome. You are instructed to lock down the museum and shelter staff and visitors in place while authorities determine whether anyone is infected. Are you prepared to deal with this?

Other snapshots from 2019: Is your museum ready to help your community cope with an influx of refugees fleeing climate change, food shortages and political upheaval? How will your operations change in the face of soaring energy prices or collapse of the food production and distribution system? Your museum depends on its website to deliver information and attract visitors, but your content has been corrupted repeatedly in the past few months by hackers attempting to undermine your credibility. How do you adapt?

According to the CFM, “AAM will work with IFTF to summarize and report on your solutions, and use them as the basis of further planning and discussion with you and with the field.” At hanging together, Gunter imagines another dire museum scenario.

Keep this on your radar, folks! I’ll try to report on (and create) museum and history stories on Superstruct as the game progresses.

Well, folks, I apologize for my absence.  I’ve been dealing with a family emergency back in Detroit, and while I’m not back to dissertation-writing, I had to post regarding this news that will impact–if not local history museums directly, seeing as many are still struggling to catalog their holdings, period–the museum/archives/library/digital history communities, which is that Google has bought OCLC and all its holdings, including RLG.  As other bloggers are saying, combining OCLC’s metadata with Google’s fulltext initiatives could make major changes for folks who use online information, which is to say, a great deal of us. 

Here’s a few links regarding the news (h/t museumatic).

Brett started with a huge laugh from the crowd saying that he didn’t want to steal IMLS’ thunder but that NEH Program Officers would be waiting in the lobby after the conference, with checkbooks in hand, making immediate grants.

Holly Witchey has all the details over at Musematic.

Update:  Gunter Weibel has more at Hanging Together, and notes that podcasts will be up sometime in the future.

I love the tools developed by the SIMILE folks at MIT, open-source tools that make interoperability between data collections a key focus. They have lots of neat tools that are more meta, but two in particular could be very useful to off-the-shelf digital historians.

The first is the Timeline tool, which I’m planning to use in an upcoming project. It’s basically an API for visualizing historic events, but there’s nothing to download. All you need is to mark up your data in XML. It doesn’t need to be fancy XML either–you don’t need to have a super sophisticated DTD–or you can mark up the data as a JSON file. They even have a tool (Babel) for switching data formats, so you could dump data from a spreadsheet and turn it into a JSON file, and then feed that into the Timeline tool. And the timeline is pretty and it scrolls in a nice ajaxy fashion, quick and smooth. The developers compare it to google maps, and it seems similarly useful, except you don’t have to know any javascript or download a key. Why isn’t everyone using this? The other open-source timeline tools are a bit clunkier and not so user-friendly.*

The other tool is Exhibit:

Exhibit is a lightweight structured data publishing framework that lets you create web pages with support for sorting, filtering, and rich visualizations by writing only HTML and optionally some CSS and Javascript code.

It’s like Google Maps and Timeline, but for structured data normally published through database-backed web sites. Exhibit essentially removes the need for a database or a server side web application. Its Javascript-based engine makes it easy for everyone who has a little bit of knowledge of HTML and small data sets to share them with the world and let people easily interact with them.

This is terrific. Not only can you show your data as a timeline, you can organize and display it in any number of other ways, all helpfully discussed for you on the exhibit wiki and tutorials. And you don’t have to know anything about databases! This is a big hurdle for public historians with little resources in the way of money and time for web stuff, who probably know a bit of HTML but have no interest at all in learning mySQL or ASP or anything else.

I’m thinking that Exhibit would be a great and easy way for local historical societies to make their basic regional history data interactive. If they have nothing else in the way of data, local history museums and societies usually have a page on “History of ____ County,” usually a long, unformatted block of text (sometimes with paragraphs). With a little bit of data mining but no new research or writing, this could be turned into a neat web exhibit that will keep people on your page longer and inspire folks to learn more about local history! Good work, folks. I’d love to talk to local historical organizations that have been using these tools already.

Just a note: A Companion to Digital Humanities, an edited volume from 2004, is now online. Check it out. (via UIUC GSLIS)

*I’d also love to hear about other timeline tools!
**Update: Thanks to Sheila for telling me that the CHNM has a Flash timeline tool in beta.

Well, I’ve been excited to get Zotero, the new web citation manager, but it requires Firefox 2.0, which is unavailable for download at the moment. Obviously, the world is telling me to get back to writing and worry about new toys tools later.