THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

99 posts categorized "Collaborations"

04 August 2017

BL Labs Awards (2017): enter before midnight Tuesday 11th October!

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Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of of British Library Labs.

The BL Labs Awards formally recognises outstanding and innovative work that has been created using the British Library’s digital collections and data.

The closing date for entering the BL Labs Awards (2017) is midnight BST on Tuesday 11th October. So please submit your entry and/or help us spread the word to all interested and relevant parties over the next few months or so. This will ensure we have another year of fantastic digital-based projects highlighted by the Awards!

This year, the BL Labs Awards is commending work in four key areas:

  • Research - A project or activity which shows the development of new knowledge, research methods, or tools.
  • Commercial - An activity that delivers or develops commercial value in the context of new products, tools, or services that build on, incorporate, or enhance the Library's digital content.
  • Artistic - An artistic or creative endeavour which inspires, stimulates, amazes and provokes.
  • Teaching / Learning - Quality learning experiences created for learners of any age and ability that use the Library's digital content.

After the submission deadline of midnight BST on Tuesday 11th October for entering the BL Labs Awards has past, the entries will be shortlisted. Selected shortlisted entrants will be notified via email by midnight BST on Friday 20th October 2017. 

A prize of £500 will be awarded to the winner and £100 to the runner up of each Awards category at the BL Labs Symposium on 30th October 2017 at the British Library, St Pancras, London.

The talent of the BL Labs Awards winners and runners ups of 2016 and 2015 has led to the production a remarkable and varied collection of innovative projects. In 2016, the Awards commended work in four main categories – Research, Creative/Artistic and Entrepreneurship:

  • Research category Award (2016) winner: 'Scissors and Paste', by M. H. Beals. Scissors and Paste utilises the 1800-1900 digitised British Library Newspapers, collection to explore the possibilities of mining large-scale newspaper databases for reprinted and repurposed news content.
  • Artistic Award (2016) winner: 'Hey There, Young Sailor', written and directed by Ling Low with visual art by Lyn Ong. Hey There, Young Sailor combines live action with animation, hand-drawn artwork and found archive images to tell a love story set at sea. The video draws on late 19th century and early 20th century images from the British Library's Flickr collection for its collages and tableaux and was commissioned by Malaysian indie folk band The Impatient Sisters and independently produced by a Malaysian and Indonesian team.
BL Labs Award Winners 2016
Image: 'Scissors and Paste', by M. H. Beals (Top-left)
'Curating Digital Collections to Go Mobile', by Mitchell Davis; (Top-right)
 'Hey There, Young Sailor',
written and directed by Ling Low with visual art by Lyn Ong; (Bottom-left)
'Library Carpentry', founded by James Baker and involving the international Library Carpentry team;
(Bottom-right) 
  • Commercial Award (2016) winner: 'Curating Digital Collections to Go Mobile', by Mitchell Davis. BiblioBoard, is an award-winning e-Content delivery platform, and online curatorial and multimedia publishing tools to support it to make it simple for subject area experts to create visually stunning multi-media exhibits for the web and mobile devices without any technical expertise, the example used a collection of digitised 19th Century books.
  • Teaching and Learning (2016) winner: 'Library Carpentry', founded by James Baker and involving the international Library Carpentry team. Library Carpentry is software skills training aimed at the needs and requirements of library professionals taking the form of a series of modules that are available online for self-directed study or for adaption and reuse by library professionals in face-to-face workshops using British Library data / collections. Library Carpentry is in the commons and for the commons: it is not tied to any institution or person. For more information, see http://librarycarpentry.github.io/.
  • Jury’s Special Mention Award (2016): 'Top Geo-referencer -Maurice Nicholson' . Maurice leads the effort to Georeference over 50,000 maps that were identified through Flickr Commons, read more about his work here.

For any further information about BL Labs or our Awards, please contact us at labs@bl.uk.

21 July 2017

Russian Language Books Research Project by Nadya Miryanova

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Finding digitised books in the Russian language in a collection of 65,000 books

Posted by Nadya Miryanova BL Labs School Work Placement Student, currently studying at Lady Eleanor Holles, working with Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs.

Background

Although there are 200 million items in the British Library, contrary to popular belief, only 1-2% of these items are digitised. The ‘Microsoft’ books are 65,000 digitised volumes - about 22.5 million pages, and they were published between 1789 and 1914; digitised in partnership with Microsoft. They cover a wide range of subject areas including topics such as philosophy, poetry and history and they include Optically Character Recognised (OCR) text from the millions of pages.

In discussion with Mahendra Mahey, Project Manager of BL Labs, we explored making a ‘sub collection’ from this larger set which will hopefully be of use to the library in the future. At first, I simply brainstormed possible ideas and looked at different possibilities for this project, and I thought that since 2017 celebrates a century since the Russian Revolution, I would do some research into the concept of ‘revolution’.

Revolution

Definition - A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system.

Etymology - Late latin ‘revolvere’, meaning to roll back, which turned into the Old French or Late Latin ‘revolutio’, from which came about our contemporary English word ‘revolution’.

Revolutions date back to as early as 2730 BC, where there was a set rebellion against the reign of the pharaoh Seth-Peribsen of the Second Dynasty of Egypt. The most recent revolution actually happened only last year in 2016, when there was a Turkish coup d'état attempt.

About the Russian Revolution

The British Library have recently opened an exhibition perfectly capturing not only the events that took place in this particularly intense period in history, but also the atmosphere that was omnipresent at the time and on my very first day here at the British Library, I got the chance to explore and study this fascinating exhibition in great depth.

The Russian Revolution was initiated by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who hoped to create a socialist government, and in 1917, they successfully dismantled Tsarist autocracy in the hope of making society less stratified. The revolution resulted in the rise of the USSR and in the words of Karl Liebknecht, “The Russian revolution was to an unprecedented degree the cause of the proletariat of the whole world becoming more revolutionary”. However, this revolution also led to months of social and political turmoil and provoked the tragedy of the Russian Civil War on an unforeseeable scale, in which 10 million lives were lost. The revolution also produced myths that entered the artistic and intellectual fabric of the modern world, which the exhibitions uncovers and investigates. Learn more about the Russian Revolution by booking your tickets for the Russian Revolution Exhibition at the British Library on the website http://goo.gl/FL9FFt.

Russian Revolution Poster
Russian Revolution Exhibition Poster at the British Library

As part of my research project, I also wanted to incorporate some of the other subjects that I had studied at GCSE, and so I thought this would be a brilliant opportunity to compare the Russian Revolution to the French Revolution, both French and Russian being subjects that I wish to at A-level. The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799, and was partially carried forward by Napoleon during the later expansion of the French Empire.

Below is a mind-map I made detailing the differences and similarities between the French and the Russian Revolution.

Russian and French Revolution Research
French and Russian Revolution Comparison

Although my initial focus for the project was revolution, we soon established that it was too specific a topic and it would be more beneficial to focus on something broader, that would be useful to a larger group of researchers.

I soon discovered that the Russian titles within the digitised collection had never previously seperated and categorised, and being a native Russian speaker, I thought that this would be a better avenue to go down and explore. This would be a project in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which would hopefully help researchers looking at books in the Russian language in the future.

Facts about the Russian Language

  • Largest European native language.
    • 7th most spoken language in the world.
  • There are only 200,000 words in the Russian language in comparison to 1,000,000 in English.
  • The stress pattern in a word can drastically change its meaning, e.g. :
    • я плачу  (emphasis on second syllable) - I pay.
    • я плáчу (emphasis on first syllable) -I cry.

Approach

My first task included examining a huge spread sheet containing information about the 65,000 books in the collection.

  • In order to make this task a little less daunting, I first used the ‘Filter’ function in the language column of my Excel spreadsheet, and selected the Russian language. As a result, I found 583 books in total that were written in the Russian Language.
  • I now had to think of a way to organise these books. The possibilities seemed endless, should I sort them into history books? Science books? Books about Russia?
  • In the end, I decided to establish two broad categories as a starting point, fiction vs non-fiction, as this seemed like a logical place to start.
  • In order to access the Russian keyboard, I went onto the site translit.net, which turns normal Latin letters into Cyrillic.
  • I typed in a Russian word, using the English keyboard, that related to one of my two categories, e.g. for non-fiction, I wanted to find history related books, so used the simple word ‘history’, which translates as история.
  • I then copied this word, and pasted it into my spreadsheet.
  • I used the filter function on the 'Titles' section, and this would hopefully produce a number of books that included the word history in their title.
Spread Sheet Screenshot
Screenshot of my spread sheet.


Challenges

In this project, I found that I had to overcome a number of difficulties.

  • In Russian, nouns can have up to 12 inflections and adjectives can have as many as 16. This clearly shows that looking up different versions of the same word was necessary.
  • Like I previously said, I first experimented with simple words, such as history. You would think that there would definitely be books relating to history lurking somewhere in a collection of nearly 600 Russian titles. However, when I conducted my search, the spread sheet had no results. Confused, I tried another simple word, and once again had no definitive results.

Scanning more closely through the list of books, I soon noticed that there were certain spellings and letters that I did not recognise. I decided to research this matter more closely, looking at the history of the Russian language, and found out that the Russian of the 19th century does not directly resemble the Russian language used today. Why? Because of the Russian Revolution, of course.

1918 Spelling Reform Research
Bolshevik Spelling Reform of 1918 Research, detailing the causes for the reform and the changes made to the Russian language

Suddenly, everything made a lot more sense.

This discovery meant that I had to change my approach a little bit, so rather than typing in the Russian words in the spelling that I knew today, I would have to go for a sort of hunt throughout the spreadsheet, looking for words in the titles of the books that could encompass a number of books. In a way, this made the process of my project even more interesting, despite the fact that it took longer.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, the majority of the Russian language books were actually non-fiction. As a result, I decided to create sub-categories for the non-fiction set, which can be seen in the speech-bubble I created below.

Non-fiction categories
Speech bubble containing non-fiction categories

To help me in this task, I decided to create a colour-coding system for classification, so that I could keep track of my progress.

  • Yellow=Classified
  • Purple= латиницa (latin letters)- quite often I found titles which where written in Russian but using latin letters. Purple also used for titles written in another language
  • Blue=unknown classification
  • Orange= near classification
Colour coding system
Screenshot of my spread sheet showing the colour coding system that I used.

Evaluation

In conclusion, I managed to categorise the Russian language books into two broad categories, fiction and non-fiction, and I created 25 sub-collections within the non-fiction category. This project has been extremely enjoyable to work on, and although there were many challenges involved in the process, I have learnt lots during my research journey. In order to improve this project, I would definitely say that more work needs to be done on splitting up the 'history' sub-collection of my non-fiction title, since it is very broad and covers political accounts, as well as books about Russian History. Additionally, I think that this project would also considerably benefit from undergoing a thorough check with curators, in order to help classify some of the books I have not organised into separate collections yet. 

Picture from Russian Book
An illustration from one of the Russian books, По Сѣверо-Западу Россіи, available in the digitised collections. Image can be accessed on British Library Flickr Commons.

 

 

17 July 2017

A Wonderland of Knowledge - Behind the Scenes of the British Library (Nadya Miryanova work experience)

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Posted by Nadya Miryanova BL Labs School Work Placement Student, currently studying at Lady Eleanor Holles, working with Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs.

British Library
Introduction to the British Library

Day 1

It was with a mixture of anticipation, curiosity and excitement that I opened the door to the staff entrance and started my two week work placement in the world’s largest library. I have been placed with BL Labs in the Digital Scholarship department, where I am working with Mahendra Mahey (Project Manager of BL Labs) for the following two weeks. After the inescapable health and safety induction, I am now extremely well acquainted with the BL’s elaborate fire alarm system, and following lunch at the staff restaurant, Mahendra provided me with an introduction to the British Library and explained the work undertaken by the BL Labs.

When most people hear the word ‘library’, conventional ideas typically spring to mind, including a copious number of books, and, of course, a disgruntled librarian ironically rather loudly encouraging silence every five minutes. I must admit that initially, my perspective was the same.

However, my viewpoint was soon to be completely turned around.

BL interior
British Library interior

An extraordinary institution, the British Library is indeed widely known for its remarkable collection of books, it is home to around 14 million. However, contrary to popular belief, these are only a small section of the Library’s vast collections. In fact, the British Library actually has an extremely diverse range of items, ranging from patents to musical scores, and from ancient artifacts dating as far back as 1000 BC to this morning’s newspapers, altogether giving a grand figure of approximately 200 million documented items. I was also delighted to discover that the British Library has the world’s largest collection of stamps! It is estimated that if somebody looked at 5 items each day, it would take an astonishing 80,000 years to see the whole of BL collections. 

I learnt that the objective of the BL Labs is to encourage scholars, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs and educators to work with the Library's digital collections, supporting its mission to try to ensure that the wealth and diversity of the Library’s intellectual digital heritage is available for the research, creativity and fulfillment of everyone. At BL Labs, anyone is invited to address an important research question(s) or ideas which uses the Library’s digital content and data, by entering the annual Awards or becoming involved in a collaborative project or even just using the collections in whatever way they want.

Although initially a little nervous when entering this immense institution, my fears evaporated completely, when on my very first day of working here, I was brought immediately into a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, promoted by the sincere kindness and interest that I was met with from each member of the Library's staff. 

Books Image
The George the IV British Library book collection

Day 2

At precisely 9 o’clock in the morning, I found myself seated at my office desk, looking at the newly filled out Outlook calendar on my computer to see what new and exciting tasks I would be faced with that day and looking out for any upcoming events. My Tuesday consisted mostly of independent work at my desk, and after a quick catch-up with Mahendra at 9.30, where we discussed the working plan for the day and reviewed yesterday’s work, I sat down to start my second full day of work at the British Library.

BL labs symposium
British Library Labs leaflet

Between 2013-2016, the British Library Labs held a competition, which looked for transformative project ideas which used the British Library’s digital collections and data in new and exciting ways. The BL Labs Awards recognises outstanding and innovative work that has been carried out using these collections. Mahendra had previously introduced me to the Labs Competition and Awards pages of the BL Labs website, and my main objective was to update the ideas and project submissions on this page, specifically adding the remaining Competition 2016 Entries, reviewing the 2015 and 2014 entries and checking that they were all complete with no entries missing. The competition entries can be accessed on the website http://labs.bl.uk/Ideas+for+Labs.

This was an excellent opportunity for me to work on a new editing platform and further enhance my editing skills, which will doubtlessly prove very useful in everyday life as well as in the future. As I worked through editing and updating the pages, what struck me most was the incredible diversity and wide variety of ideas within the competition entries. From a project exploring Black Abolitionists and their presence in Britain, to the proposed creation of a Victorian meme machine, and from a planned political meeting’s mapper, to a suggested Alice in Wonderland bow tie design, each idea was entirely unique and original, despite the fact that each entry was adhering to the same brief. I was mesmerised by the amount of thought and careful planning that was evident in every submission, each one was intricately detailed and provided a careful and thorough plan of work. 

Victorian Meme
An example of a Victorian meme

After finishing lunch relatively early, I found myself with half an hour of my allocated break still left, and took the opportunity to explore the library. I walked down to the visitor’s entrance, and took a moment to admire the King’s library, a majestic tower of books standing in the British Library's centre. Stepping closer, I was able to read some of the inscriptions on the spines of the books, and was delighted to see that one of them was a book of Catullus’ poetry, poetry that I previously had studied in Latin GCSE. The scope of knowledge that lies within this library is practically endless, and it led me to reflect on the importance of the work of the BL Labs. I thought back to the competition entries, they prove that the possibilities for projects truly have no limit. The BL Labs are able to give scholars, academics and students the opportunity to access some of these digital collections such as books very easily and in any part of the world. Without this access, many of the wonderful projects that the BL currently works on would not be possible.

With that thought fresh in my mind, I was brought back to reality, and returned to my desk to continue working, this time on my mini-project. My last task for the day involved brainstorming ideas for this project. A direct focus was soon established, and I decided to explore the Russian language titles in the 65,000 digitised 19th Century Microsoft books. Later on, I shall be writing a blog post detailing my experience of working on this project.

Day 3

As the Piccadilly line train arrived at St Pancras, I actually managed to step and head off in the completely right direction for the first time that week (needless to say, my sense of direction is not the best). Feeling rather proud of myself, I walked with a skip in my step, ready to immerse myself in whatever plan of work awaited today.

I looked at the schedule of the day and my heart leapt, I was to be attending my first ever proper staff meeting. It was a very technical meeting, started off by the Head of Digital Scholarship, Adam Faquhar, who talked about current activities taking place in the Digital Scholarship department. Everyone made contributions to the general discussion in the meeting and Mahendra talked about the development of the BL Labs work and the progress made so far. It also provided me with an opportunity to talk about some of the things I was presently doing and I found that everybody was very receptive and supportive. I found it very interesting to be introduced to people who work in the same area on a day-to-day basis with the British Library and enjoyed hearing about all the different projects currently being undertaken.

SherlockNet Web interface
SherlockNet web interface

I then began working on some YouTube transcription work on the winners of the 2016 BL Labs competition, the first one being SherlockNet. The SherlockNet team worked to use convolutional neural networks to automatically tag and caption the British Library Flickr collection of digitised images taken largely from 19th Century books. If that doesn't sound impressive enough, consider the fact that this entry was submitted by three people, who were just 19 years old (undergraduate university students). My work involved listening carefully to each one of the interviews, and typing on a separate word document exactly what Luda Zhao, Karen Wang and Brian Do were talking about. This word document would then be used to make subtitles for the final film and would prove invaluable when creating a storyboard for the final cut down interview. 

BL poster
British Library Alice in Wonderland Poster

Day 4

As I turned the corner of Midland Road and stood to face the traffic lights, my gaze wondered over to the now familiar Alice in Wonderland poster that had the ‘British Library’ printed on it in block capitals. I smiled as I looked up at the Cheshire cat that was perched neatly on top of the first 'I' in the words 'British Library' and the cat smiled back, revealing a wide toothy grin. Alice, likewise, was looking up at the Cheshire cat, and in that moment, her situation was made very credible to me. She was surrounded by this entirely new world of Wonderland, and in a similar way, I find myself in a parallel world of continuous acquisition of knowledge, as each day I am learning something new, with the British Library being the Wonderland. A wonderful and well-known literary extract from Lewis Carol came to mind:

 “`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?' (Alice)

That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't much care where--' said Alice.

`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.

`--so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.

`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'

With this in mind, I briskly walked over to the doors of the office.

The beginning of my day consisted mostly of working on my own project, further classifiying a sub collection of Russian titles from the digitised collection of 65,000 books mostly from the 19th century. I worked on further enhancing the organisation and categorisation of these books, establishing a clear methodical approach that began with sorting the books into 2 categories-fiction and non-fiction. Curiously, the majority of the titles were actually non-fiction. After an e-mail correspondence with Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections, I discovered that most of the books that were part of the digitisation were acquired at the time when they were published, so they were selected by Katya’s distant predecessors, a fact I found remarkable.

Nicholas II abdication in Russian
The Act of Abdication of Nicholas II and his brother Grand Duke Michael,
published as a placard that would be distributed
by hand or pasted to walls (shelfmark: HS.74/1870),
an example of a Russian language title that is now digitised

For the second-half of the day, I focussed once more on the YouTube transcriptions work and managed to finish transcribing the interviews for SherlockNet. I then discussed with Mahendra how I would storyboard the interviews in preparation for the film editing process. First, I would have to pick out specific sections of the interview that were most suitable to use in the film, marking the exact timings when the person started speaking to when they finished, and I then placed the series of timings in a chronological order. I was also able to choose the music for the end product (possibly my favourite part!), and I based my selection of the music on the mood of the videos and my perception of the characters of the individuals. I concluded my day by finding a no-copyright YouTube music page and discovered an assortment of possible music tracks. I managed to narrow down the selection to four possible soundtracks, which included titles such as ‘Spring in my Step’ and ‘Good Starts’.

Day 5

As I swiped my staff pass across the reader which permits access into the building, I checked my phone to see what the time was. It was 8.30am and concurrently, I caught sight of the date, Friday 14th July. I stopped in my tracks. Today was marking my first full working week at the British Library, I could hardly believe how quickly the time went! It forcibly reminded me of the inscription on my clock at home, ‘tempus fugit’ (time flees) because if there’s one thing that has gone abnormally fast here at my time at the BL, it’s time.

Hebrew manuscript
Digitised Hebrew Manuscript available through the British Library

In the morning, I attended a meeting discussing an event Mahendra is planning around the Digitised Hebrew manuscripts, and I was lucky enough to meet Ilana Tahan, the Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections. The meeting included a telephone call to Eva Frojmovic, an academic at the Centre for Jewish Studies in the School of Fine Art of the History of Art and Cultural Studies in the University of Leeds. The discussion was centered mostly on an event that would be taking place where the BL would be talking about its collection of digitised Hebrew manuscripts in order to promote their free use to the general public. The very beautiful Hebrew manuscripts could actually have a very wide target audience, perhaps additionally reaching outside the academic learning sphere and having the potential to be used in the creative/artistic space.

Contrary to popular belief, the collection of 1302 digitised manuscripts can be used by anyone and everyone, leading to exciting possibilities and new projects. The amazing thing about the digital collections is that it makes it possible for someone who does not live in London to access them, where ever they may be in the world, and they can be looked at digitally, and can be used to enhance any learning experience, ranging from seminars or lessons to PhD research projects. The actual hard-copy of the manuscripts can also be, of course, accessed in the British Library. The structure and timings of the event were discussed, and a date was set for the next meeting and for the event. To finish the meeting, Mahendra offered an explanation of the handwriting recognition transcription process for the manuscripts. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and each individual handwritten letter is recognised as a shape by the computer, though it's important that the computer has ground truth (i.e. examples of human transcribed manuscripts). Each letter and word is recognised and processed and will very cleverly convert the original Hebrew handwritten-script written into computerised Hebrew script. This means it would then allow someone to search for words in the manuscript, easily and quickly using a computerised search tool. 

Ilana looking at manuscripts
Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections,
looking through Hebrew manuscripts

For the majority of the afternoon, I was floating between a variety of different projects, doing more work on the YouTube transcriptions and enhancing my mini-project, as well as creating a table of the outstanding blogs that still had to be published on the British Library's Digital Scholarship blog.

At the end of the day, I did a review of my first week, evaluating the progress that I had made with Mahendra. Throughout the week, I feel that I have enhanced and developed a number of invaluable skills, and have gained an incredible insight into the working world.

I will be writing about my second week, as well as my mini-project soon, so please come and visit this blog again if you are interested to find out more about some of the work being done at the British Library.

 

 

04 July 2017

Game Library Camp

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This post is by BL Labs collaborator Gary Green from Surrey Libraries, on twitter as @ggnewed. Gary collaborates with Digital Curator Stella Wisdom on games and interactive fiction initiatives and events.

Stella and I have organised and been involved in a range of games and libraries events and initiatives over the past few years, including International Games Day in Libraries (now International Games Week for 2018), pop-up board game parlours at Library Lates events, WordPlay festivalOff The Page: Literature and Games; a London Game Festival fringe event, and interactive fiction workshops at places including MozFest. During these events we've also had the opportunity to showcase games that have either have a literary or writerly theme to them, or have been inspired by British Library collections.

At the Off The Page event we had the chance to share what's going on in libraries in relation to games with a wider audience, including highlighting The British Library's Off The Map competition for student game developers; online game jams such as Odyssey Jam (where some entries used British Library digitised images); and plans for International Games Week in Libraries.

However, we are fully aware that we are not the only ones running game related activities in libraries. Other librarians and library staff are just as passionate about games as we are, and you'll find libraries throughout the UK running table-top, board game and Minecraft clubs, along with other types of game related events, including game making workshops and the use of games for learning and literacy.

With their common themes of narrative and storytelling, games and libraries are a great fit.

It's not only libraries in the heritage sector that are promoting the benefits of games and game play. We're also part of an online discussion group Games & GLAMS set up by British Library collaborator, Sarah Cole, that focuses on game related activities in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector. It's open to anyone with an interest in games in any of these areas. There (amongst other things) you can find out about activities such as The National Archives and University of York's Great Steampunk game jam; and games commissioned by the Wellcome Trust to promote their work and collections. There is also an associated Games & GLAMS Twitter account: @Games_GLAMS.

With all of this game related activity throughout the UK we, along with Darren Edwards of Bournemouth Libraries and lead on International Games Week in the UK, thought it would be a great opportunity to bring folks interested in gaming in libraries together for an event, to share ideas and develop the network of interested people and organisations.

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-07-04/26978e29-dddc-44f4-a83b-6666bf8e1027.png

So we've organised an event to do just that - Game Library Camp and set up a blog to document planning and discussions: http://gamesandglams.blogspot.co.uk/. Places are free, but you do need to book.

The event is happening on Saturday 12 August, 12:30 to 16:30, at the Knowledge Centre, The British Library, 96 Euston Rd, London, NW1 2DB. For info on how to get there, go to https://www.bl.uk/aboutus/quickinfo/loc/stp/

This event is also intended as a warm up to International Games Week in the autumn and to inspire librarians and library staff from all sectors to host their own game events. As the name suggests, this event is a game themed Library Camp. Library Camps are unconferences that are participant led and enable informal discussions. For more information about unconferences go here

The key thing about unconferences is that the programme isn't set by the organisers - participants propose and facilitate their own sessions to be run throughout the event. The only requirement for a session is that it fits within the theme. Game Library Camp participants can propose ideas for sessions on the day at the event, or if you already have an idea you can propose them beforehand on this page: http://gamesandglams.blogspot.co.uk/p/game-library-camp-sessions.html. We'll have the use of a number of rooms at the Knowledge Centre, so will be able to run a few sessions in parallel during the event.

Programme:

  • Registration from 12 noon
  • Introduction and session pitches 12:30pm
  • 1st session 1pm - 1:40pm
  • 2nd session 1:45pm - 2:25pm
  • 3rd session 2:30pm - 3:10pm
  • 4th session 3:15pm - 3:55pm
  • Closing session 4pm
  • Finish by 4:30pm
  • Post-event social meetup (nearby location to be confirmed)

Please note lunch is not provided, but there are ample cafés on site, or bring your own snacks.

We'll be using #GameLibCamp17 to discuss the event on Twitter etc.

So, if you're into games and libraries, come and join Darren, Stella and myself and other like minded game/library enthusiasts on the afternoon of 12 August at The British Library. 

Places are free, but must be booked via: https://gamelibcamp.eventbrite.co.uk, see you there!

28 June 2017

Ambient Literature

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Does where you read affect how you read?

How can digital media create a bridge between story and place?

Ambient Literature is a project seeking to answer these questions.  This is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the University of West England, Bath Spa University and the University of Birmingham, investigating how situated storytelling is changing through pervasive and ubiquitous computing. Drawing on literary studies, creative writing, design, human-computer interaction, performance and new media studies it is examining emergent forms of literature; challenging the locational and technological future of the book.

Forming the heart of the project, three authors; Kate Pullinger, James Attlee and Duncan Speakman are each creating new experimental works that respond to the presence of a reader, and aim to show how we can redefine the rules of the reading experience through the use of technology.

The first of these works to be made available is "It Must Have Been Dark By Then" by Duncan Speakman, this is an audio walk, within which each reader is invited to reflect on their fragile relationship with the world around us. Field recordings and stories from the edge of the Sahara, abandoned Latvian villages, and the disappearing swamplands of Louisiana weave into the audience’s drift through a landscape both familiar and foreign. 

Here at the British Library we are delighted to be hosting sessions for members of the public to experience this work. These will be taking place 4-8 July 2017; to book a free place go to http://www.bl.uk/events/it-must-have-been-dark-by-then. Participants will need to bring their own smartphones (iOS or Android), but headphones and instructions will be provided. If you book a place, to get started quickly once you arrive, it would really help if you can download the app on your smartphone before coming to the library: iOS and Android. Also please open the app, and download the additional content once prompted. These are the audio files that accompany the app itself, and are about 200MB. We also advise to make sure your phone is well charged and if you have a portable power bank it is a good idea to bring it with you!

Furthermore, on 5 July 2017, we are hosting an evening panel discussion about the relationships between digital technology, location and literature. Join Ambient Literature project leader Tom Abba and writers Kate Pullinger, James Attlee and Duncan Speakman for a fascinating event talking about location-based reading experiences using pervasive technology, which respond to the reader and use digital media as a bridge between story and place. To book your place, go to https://www.bl.uk/events/ambient-literature-panel-discussion. Hope to see you there.

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Ambient Literature writers: Kate Pullinger, Duncan Speakman and James Attlee

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom and member of the Ambient Literature Advisory Board.

12 June 2017

Odyssey Jam Games

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This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom & BL Labs collaborator Gary Green  from Surrey Libraries, on twitter as @ggnewed. Gary and Stella are interested in many things including games and interactive fiction.

Earlier this year we blogged about the game jam Odyssey Jam, which Gary organised, as part of Read Watch Play. The idea behind it was to encourage people to create a text based game or piece of interactive fiction based on Homer's The Odyssey over a 2 week period. The purpose of the game jam was to support literacy and the development of readers and writers.

After the two week game making period entrants were encouraged to upload their entries to itch.io so that others could play them. Anyone around the world was able to enter, and at the end of the game jam there were 10 entries, including from people who had never made a game or written a piece of interactive fiction before, and who had never previously been involved in a game jam.

It was great to see a variety of style and content in the entries and how each developer had interpreted the theme - no two were the same. Some chose to create pure text games (The Long Ing Blink; Islands and Witches), others focused on creating entries that were more visual but still included text (TaithA flower from Hermes). There were humorous games (108 suitors; The Perils of Penelope), games set in their original setting, and others which re-set the Odyssey in a new context (Come Back Home; Hyperions Wake).

Game developers were also encouraged to share their work in progress on Twitter, and a few did just that. It was great to see how their games were taking shape and how enthusiastic they were about their involvement in the jam. A college in Milan encouraged students on their creative writing course to participate and a couple of their entries were submitted to the jam. 

As part of Odyssey Jam we also encouraged entrants to make use of the digitised images on Flickr that The British Library had released under a creative commons license. We identified a number of ancient Greece themed images from the Flickr collection. A couple of entries used these images, e.g. No One and 108 suitors.

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Scene from 108 Suitors by Lynda Clark

The games are available to play online or download, so please try them out and share. You can also watch short play-throughs of the entries thanks to video game blogger Jupiter Hadley and Emily Short wrote about the game jam on her excellent blog. Thanks to all the game developers involved in Odyssey Jam; it was fun playing your entries, and thanks to all who helped promote the jam.

If Odyssey jam has whetted your appetite and you are interested in writing interactive fiction,  we are pleased to share news that the British Library is running a new course:  The Infinite Library: Interactive Fiction Summer School 17-21 July 2017. This is led by multi-award-winner Dr Abigail Parry and will be taught by specialists in fiction, interactive fiction and games writing, including:

Dr Greg Buchanan, Writer of Paper Drumpf and No Man's Sky
Jerry Jenkins, Curator for Emerging Media, British Library
Rob Sherman, Writer and Games Designer
Richard Skinner, Director of the Fiction Programme at the Faber Academy
Jon Stone, Writer and Games Researcher
Olivia Wood, Narrative Editor, Writer and Content Manager at Failbetter Games

With their expert guidance attendees will tackle dialogue chains, reader choice and multiple endings. Plus given technical support to explore the possibilities offered by Twine, a simple open-source programme for managing branching text. More details on the summer school can be found at https://www.bl.uk/events/the-infinite-library-interactive-fiction-summer-school

06 June 2017

Digital Conversations @BL - Web Archives: truth, lies and politics

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Next week we are spoiled for choice here at the British Library with two topical and fascinating evening events about data and digital technology. On Monday 12 June there is the first  public Data Debate delivered in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute about the complex issue of data in healthcare, for more details check out this blog post.  Then on Wednesday 14 June there is a Digital Conversation event on Web Archives: truth, lies and politics in the 21st century. Where a panel of scholars and experts in the field of web archiving and digital studies, will discuss the role of web and social media archives in helping us, as digital citizens, to navigate through a complex and changing information landscape.

Web archiving began in 1996 with the Internet Archive and these days many university and national libraries around the world have web archiving initiatives. The British Library started web archiving in 2004, and from 2013 we have collected an annual snapshot of all UK web sites. As such, there are rich web archive collections documenting political and social movements at international and local levels; including the Library of Congress collections on the Arab Spring, and the UK Web Archive collections on past General Elections.

The Digital Conversation will be chaired by Eliane Glaser, author of Get Real: How to See Through the Hype, Spin and Lies of Modern Life, the panel includes Jane Winters, Chair of Digital Humanities, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Valérie Schafer, Historian at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Institute for Communication Sciences, CNRS), Jefferson Bailey, Director of Web Archiving Programs at the Internet Archive and Andrew Jackson, Web Archiving Technical Lead at the British Library.

For more information and to book tickets go here. Hope to see you there!

Grow the real economy ijclark
Image credit: Grow the real economy by ijclark, depicting the Occupy London protest camp in 2011, CC BY 2.0

This Digital Conversations event is part of the Web Archiving Week 12-16 June co-hosted by the British Library and the School of Advanced Study, University of London. This is a week of conferences, hackathons and talks in London to discuss recent advances in web archiving and research on the archived web. You can follow tweets from the conferences and the Digital Conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #WAweek2017.

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom, on twitter as @miss_wisdom.

31 May 2017

Series of public Data Debates delivered in collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute

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Data has become part of our everyday lives and we are increasingly getting used to dealing with consequences of our personal data being accessible to a myriad of different services, from banking to social media.  Some uses of data, however, remain more complex and more difficult to understand for the majority of us, possibly nowhere more so than when it comes to our health.  Will more data about us improve our healthcare in the future?  Or does it compromise our privacy in a new way that we hardly understand?

As a part of the British Library’s collaboration with the Alan Turing Institute we are organising a series of Data Debates over the coming months.  In our next event on 12 June 2017, we are discussing the complex issue of data in healthcare.

Introducing this event, Angelo Napolano from the Alan Turing Institute writes:

Can we safeguard our privacy while using health data for better medical care?

It is clear that data-driven technology is transforming medical knowledge and practice.

Innovation is taking place on many levels, for example devices such as fitbits are helping to monitor heart rates, blood sugar levels and sleep cycles, and IBM’s A.I. system, Watson, is giving scientists insight into how genes affect our health.

Data is also being analysed to generate new medical findings, for example scientists at The Alan Turing Institute, are collaborating with the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, to investigate how to apply machine learning techniques to their data to help improve healthcare for people living with the life-limiting condition.

However, despite the benefits for medical research, incidents like the care data breach and subsequent fears around protecting personal information mean there is legitimate public concern around how to share health data safely.

In a special Data Debate event, we will ask a panel of experts:

  • How can we balance the potential benefits of using personal data for healthcare research, with the ethical dilemmas they provoke?
  • Should we allow companies to use medical data for technological developments and interventions that may improve our lifestyles, or does this contravene our privacy rights?
  • How can we ensure a future in which health care data is used in a way which ensures the public trust?
  • Can we safeguard our privacy and regulate the use of health data while making medical practice and discovery more effective through technology developments?

Speakers include:

Luciano Floridi, Turing Faculty Fellow and Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute. His research areas are the philosophy of Information, information and computer ethics, and the philosophy of technology.

Sabina Leonelli, Co-Director of the Exeter Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences (Egenis), where she leads the Data Studies research strand. Currently, Sabina focuses on the philosophy, history and sociology of data-intensive science, especially the research processes, scientific outputs and social embedding of Open Science, Open Data and Big Data.

Natalie Banner, Policy Adviser at the Wellcome Trust. Her focus is on how to get the best use and value from health and genetic data while ensuring it is well protected, responsibly managed and ethically used, both in the UK and internationally.

The panel will be chaired by writer and broadcaster Timandra Harkness. Timandra presents BBC Radio 4 series, FutureProofing and has presented the documentaries, Data, Data Everywhere, Personality Politics & The Singularity. Her recent book Big Data: Does Size Matter? has been published by Bloomsbury Sigma in June 2016. She is Visiting Fellow in Big Data, Information Rights and Public Engagement within the Centre for Information Rights at the University of Winchester.

Data Debates are a collaboration between The Alan Turing Institute and The British Library, aiming to stimulate discussion on issues surrounding big data, its potential uses, and its implications for society.

You can book your place from: https://www.bl.uk/events/health-data-fit-or-failing

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