Dan Cohen

News and Reviews
News from the digital humanities and shameless plugs for things I'm doing or writing.



Equations from God
Posted to News and Reviews on 25 April 2007, 3:45 PM EDT

"On September 23, 1846, the Berlin astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle scanned the night sky with a telescope and found what he was looking for—the faint light of the planet Neptune. Excitement about the discovery of an eighth planet quickly spread across Europe and America, generating a wave of effusive front-page headlines...Neptune was the first heavenly body found by mathematical prediction. Without peering into the sky at all, two mathematicians independently calculated the location of the planet through geometrical analysis and the laws of gravitation [after noticing] Uranus's orbital irregularities [and told Galle where to look]...This remarkable aspect of the discovery of Neptune was not lost upon contemporaries. To many it signaled a new era of human knowledge [in which mathematicians were] potent sorcerers who conjured and commanded the supreme realm of Truth." So begins Equations from God, my new book. I've been careful on this blog to stay on topic, i.e., only discuss digital matters, but as many of you know I also do work that is very much analog. And since one only comes out with a book once in a while, I'm taking the liberty of using the blog today as a platform to tell you why you might want to pick up a copy of Equations from God and read it... [Read on...]


Digital Campus Podcast Launches
Posted to News and Reviews on 7 March 2007, 9:04 PM EST

I'm excited to announce the launch of Digital Campus, a new podcast that explores how digital media and technology are affecting learning, teaching, and scholarship at colleges, universities, libraries, and museums. In the inaugural podcast our feature story covers the controversy over whether Wikipedia is a useful or problematic resource for students. In the news roundup, we wonder if the launch of Windows Vista has any significance, ponder the rise of Google Docs as an alternative to Word, and cover recent stories about Blackboard's patents and their social bookmarking site, Scholar.com. And at the end of the podcast, we share links to the best wiki software and sites on digital maps and books... [Read on...]


Understanding the 2006 DMCA Exemptions
Posted to News and Reviews on 3 December 2006, 11:36 PM EST

If Emerson was correct that genius is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in the mind simultaneously, the American legal system just gained enough IQ points to join Mensa. Already, our collective legal mind was showing its vast intelligence trying to square the liberties of the people with the demands of government and industry. For instance, in Alaska you can possess up to an ounce of marijuana legally, but can be charged with a felony for possessing more than four ounces or for selling the "illegal" drug. (Lesson: don't buy in bulk.) If you're gay you can legally join the United States military, but you can't talk about being gay, because that's illegal and you will be discharged. And now, more pretzel logic: as of last week, it is illegal to break the copy protection on a DVD or distribute "circumvention" technologies, but if you're a film or media studies professor you can break the copy protection for pedagogical uses. But how, you might ask, would a film or media studies professor with no background in encryption, programming, and hacking crack the copy protection on a DVD?.. [Read on...]


Zotero Needs Your Help, Part II
Posted to News and Reviews on 18 October 2006, 11:11 AM EDT

In my prior post on this topic, I mentioned the (paid) positions now available at the Center for History and New Media to work on and promote Zotero. (By the way, there's still time to contact us if you're interested; we just started reviewing applications, but hurry.) But Zotero is moving ahead on so many fronts that its success depends not only on those working on it full time, but also those who appreciate the software and want to help out in other ways. Here are some (unpaid, but feel-good) ways you can get involved... [Read on...]


Zotero Is Here
Posted to News and Reviews on 6 October 2006, 2:18 PM EDT

For those who haven't heard yet (it's amazing how quickly the word spreads through the blogosphere and beyond): On October 5, 2006, at 10:47 p.m. ET, the public beta of Zotero went live on our spiffy new site. In addition to releasing the software to all comers, we've also expanded the documentation and set up areas of the site for Zotero users and those who want to build upon the software. If you have a question or want to discuss Zotero, we have some forums too. A few other release notes:.. [Read on...]


Zotero Needs Your Help, Part I
Posted to News and Reviews on 25 September 2006, 11:15 AM EDT

We're ramping up here at Zotero headquarters for the big release of the public beta (it should be out next week). But we're already thinking ahead to great new features—including nifty ways to share and collaborate, as I mentioned in my last post on Zotero—and to building not only a large and active user community, but also a community to help disseminate, support, and further develop this free and open software. In short, we need your help! In this post I'll let you know about the official George Mason University announcements for full-time positions at CHNM (sorry for the officialese and also for the repetitiveness; it's necessary to post these as they are recorded with GMU Human Resources). In the next post, I'll let you know about other opportunities to help out... [Read on...]


Zotero News, Big and Small
Posted to News and Reviews on 19 September 2006, 2:53 PM EDT

So much for a modest, stealthy launch of Zotero. I promised a couple of weeks ago that I would return to my blog soon with a few updates about user feedback, some hints about new features, and perhaps some additional news items. With a modest private beta test and a few pages explaining the software on our new site, I assumed that Zotero would quietly and slowly enter into public consciousness. Little did I know that within two weeks I would get over 400 emails asking to join the beta test, help develop and extend Zotero, make it work better with resources on the web, and evangelize it on campuses and in offices around the globe. (Sorry to those I haven't responded to yet; I'm still working on my email backlog.) Better yet, we received some fantastic news about support for the project, which is where I'll begin this update... [Read on...]


Introducing Zotero
Posted to News and Reviews on 4 September 2006, 9:54 PM EDT

Regular readers of this blog know that over the last year I have been trumpeting our forthcoming software tool for research that will enable vastly simplified citation management, note taking, and advanced scholarly research right within the Firefox browser. Over the past year, I have called this tool SmartFox, Firefox Scholar, and Scholar for Firefox. The domain for the original name was already taken, and the latter two names were too confusing ("Is that the same as Google Scholar?"). Last Friday, a final name was given to the project, a website launched, and a lucky group of people received the first beta. The word that will be on everyone's lips this fall: Zotero (zoh-TAIR-oh)... [Read on...]


The New Center for History and New Media
Posted to News and Reviews on 26 July 2006, 1:42 PM EDT

This month the Center for History and New Media moved into a wonderful new space on the campus of George Mason University. We couldn't be more delighted; it's a tremendous new building (provisionally named "Research I"; if you have several million dollars lying around and want a building named after you, please contact GMU). CHNM takes up about half of the top floor, where we are neighbors with the ominously named "Autonomous Robotics Laboratory." Perhaps the most amusing part of the building is the sign in the lobby listing the other tenants. Needless to say, we're the only historians in the building... [Read on...]


ACLS Fellowships, Chicago Colloquium, Scholar for Firefox Update
Posted to News and Reviews on 21 July 2006, 3:41 PM EDT

I'm back from vacation and have lots to catch up on, but wanted to pass along some quick notes about upcoming opportunities and deadlines that might be of interest to this blog's audience... [Read on...]


The Last Six Months
Posted to News and Reviews on 30 June 2006, 5:50 PM EDT

I'll be away from my blog for the next two weeks, so until then, here's a look back at what I consider to be my best posts from the last six months. As I explained when I started this blog, my goal has been to try to avoid adding yet more echo to the echo chamber of the blogosphere, and instead to try to write mostly longer pieces on the intersection of computing, scholarship, and the humanities. I haven't always succeeded—I have occasionally succumbed, like so many others, to mindlessly blogging about the latest moves of the Googles and Microsofts—but for the most part, I'm pleased with most of what I've written, especially the following list. More importantly, I hope you've found this blog helpful... [Read on...]


The Final Four's Impact on Websites
Posted to News and Reviews on 31 March 2006, 3:03 PM EST

I work at George Mason University. Unless you live off the grid (and if so, how are you reading this?), you've probably heard that our basketball team is in the Final Four this weekend. There has been a great deal of talk around campus about the impact this astonishing feat will have on the university's stature and undergraduate admissions. But what about its effect on Mason's websites? A bit of unscientific evidence from Alexaholic, which creates website traffic graphs using data from Amazon.com's Alexa web service:.. [Read on...]


Job Openings at CHNM for 2006-2007
Posted to News and Reviews on 17 February 2006, 10:29 AM EST

Do you have technical skills and would like to apply those talents to expand and improve online learning and scholarship? Does your inner geek thrive in an academic setting? Do you want to be on the cutting edge of digital research? The Center for History and New Media is hiring! We have three openings for jobs that begin in the summer of 2006. The Center is a fantastic, exciting place to work, as I can attest. Here are the job descriptions; please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, and please forward these descriptions to others who might be interested... [Read on...]


Doing Digital History June 2006 Workshop
Posted to News and Reviews on 14 February 2006, 3:01 PM EST

If your work deals in some way with the history of science, technology, or industry, and you would like to learn how to create online history projects, the Echo Project at the Center for History and New Media is running another one of our free, week-long workshops. The workshop covers the theory and practice of digital history; the ways that digital technologies can facilitate the research, teaching, writing and presentation of history; genres of online history; website infrastructure and design; document digitization; the process of identifying and building online history audiences; and issues of copyright and preservation... [Read on...]


Digital History on Focus 580
Posted to News and Reviews on 1 February 2006, 9:41 PM EST

From the shameless plug dept.: If you missed Roy Rosenzweig's and my appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, I'll be on Focus 580 this Friday, February 3, 2006, at 11 AM ET/10 AM CT on the Illinois NPR station WILL. (If you don't live in the listening area for WILL, their website also has a live stream of the audio.) I'll be discussing Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web and answering questions from the audience. If you're reading this message after February 3, you can download the MP3 file of the show... [Read on...]


First Impressions of Amazon Connect
Posted to News and Reviews on 18 January 2006, 9:35 PM EST

Having already succumbed to the siren's song that prodded me narcissistically to create a blog, I had very little resistance left when Amazon.com emailed me to ask if I might like to join the beta of program that allows authors to reach potential buyers and existing owners of their books by writing blog-like posts. Called "Amazon Connect," this service will soon be made available to the authors of all of the books available for purchase on Amazon. Here are some notes about my experience joining the program (and how you can join if you're an author), some thoughts about what Amazon Connect might be able to do, and some insider information about their upcoming launch... [Read on...]


Kojo Nnamdi Show Questions
Posted to News and Reviews on 10 January 2006, 3:46 PM EST

Roy Rosenzweig and I had a terrific time on The Kojo Nnamdi Show today. If you missed the radio broadcast you can listen to it online on the WAMU website. There were a number of interesting calls from the audience, and we promised several callers that we would answer a couple of questions off the air; here they are... [Read on...]


Digital History on The Kojo Nnamdi Show
Posted to News and Reviews on 8 January 2006, 9:50 PM EST

From the shameless plug dept.: Roy Rosenzweig and I will be discussing our book Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web this Tuesday, January 10, on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. The show is produced at Washington's NPR station, WAMU. We're on live from noon to 1 PM EST, and you'll be able to ask us questions by phone (1-800-433-8850), via email (kojo@wamu.org), or through the web. The show will be replayed from 8-9 PM EST on Tuesday night, and syndicated via iTunes and other outlets as part of NPR's terrific podcast series (look for The Kojo Nnamdi Show/Tech Tuesday). You'll also be able to get the audio stream directly from the show's website. I'll probably answer some additional questions from the audience in this space... [Read on...]


First Monday is Second Tuesday This Month
Posted to News and Reviews on 13 December 2005, 10:05 PM EST

For those who have been asking about the article I wrote with Roy Rosenzweig on the reliability of historical information on the web (summarized in a previous post), it has just appeared on the First Monday website, perhaps a little belatedly given the name of the journal... [Read on...]


Welcome to My Blog
Posted to News and Reviews on 14 November 2005, 3:05 PM EST

Like so many others who enjoy the sound of their own voice and the sight of their own words on a printed page—I would estimate this group as a majority of humanity—I have increasingly felt the urge to write a blog. Blogging has obviously emerged as one of the remarkable, unique products of the web, providing for the first time a nearly frictionless way to immediately reach a worldwide audience with your thoughts... [Read on...]