Not long after I joined GW Libraries I read about the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism study "How Mainstream Media Outlets Use Twitter" researched in part by Kimberly Gross of GWU's School of Media and Public Affairs, part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. This work caught my interest because I had been swimming in Twitter data in my prior position, where I had supported the Library of Congress project to preserve all public tweets. Before I came to GW, I enjoyed working on that large project because of its long-term impact, but it was clear that in the short term our team was unable to respond to the hundreds of requests for access to historical Twitter data from researchers all over. And here was a GW researcher getting important work done with some of the same data - I had to know more.
I reached out to Professor Gross and learned quickly upon meeting with her that her data collection techniques were essentially manual - she and her research assistants were copying and pasting tweets one at a time. We agreed this wasn't a sustainable model, and I offered to develop a small app that would automate the collection process using Twitter's public API. After making some progress on this app and reviewing it with Professor Gross, it became clear that there were many more opportunities to put a tool like our app -- rudimentary though it was at the time -- to use in other research contexts on campus. She introduced us to colleagues doing similar work and all of a sudden we had several new connections with faculty and graduate students to support their research and studies. This aligns well with a key role libraries have always served, in our case connecting people at GW with information resources and facilitating their use. In this case we are automating data collection from Twitter, or Weibo, or YouTube, but that's just a new take on the kind of relationship we've always worked to build in research libraries.
Not long after this, our colleague Mark Phillips, assistant dean for digital libraries at the University of North Texas, visited GW Libraries to talk about web archiving and pointed out to us that this project, which we called "Social Feed Manager" (that's what it does, after all - find it on github at https://github.com/gwu-libraries/social-feed-manager), was something that other institutions like his could put to good use. Mark encouraged us to apply for an Sparks Ignition Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We took this advice to heart, sent in a proposal, and were lucky to be awarded a grant from IMLS (#LG-46-13-0257) in the summer of 2013. As the first grant we've received for software development, we're still pretty excited about it. More importantly, in the months since, we've made several improvements to the app, put it to use with more researchers and students here at GW, and started to see its adoption at other institutions.
As we wrote in the proposal abstract (attached here as a PDF), with this grant "we will develop our prototype Social Feed Manager application into a well-documented tool that can be implemented and used at diverse cultural heritage institutions." We've been making progress toward this goal and we plan to tell you a lot more about it, so please stay tuned to this channel, as they say, and don't hesitate to get in touch.Files: 20130717-imls-sparks-abstract-final.pdf
On March 17, 2014 the Data & Society Research Institute, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and New York University’s Information Law Institute co-hosted “The Social, Cultural, & Ethical Dimensions of ‘Big Data.’“ [See conference speaker video presentations on the web site.]
This conference helped inform the White House report Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values released yesterday and available here 90 Day Review for Big Data.
Because we will need a growing cadre of data and social scientists who are able to encode critical policy values into technical infrastructure, we support investment in fields such as Science and Technology Studies which emphasize teaching scientific knowledge and technology in its social and ethical context, and the teaching of module courses to data scientists and engineers to familiarize them with the broader societal implications of their work. p68
Post expires at 8:47am on Saturday August 2nd, 2014
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On April 28, 2014, the symposium “Reston at 50: Looking Back at Forward Thinking” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Reston, Virginia, and the 25th anniversary of Reston Town Center was held at The Reston Community Center, Reston, VA. Co-sponsored by George Mason University Libraries and the Reston Museum and Historic Trust and presented with the support of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the symposium featured a presentation by Jordan Patty, Archivist as well as other Mason students in history and art history. Read more…
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