May 2007
Socializing Cyberinfrastructure: Networking the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Suzy Beemer, University of California Humanities Research Institute
Richard Marciano, San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego
Todd Presner, UCLA


The project is in its early stages, with Marciano and his team currently digitizing data and exploring all software involved, including open source GIS software servers and viewers, open source databases such as mySQL and PostGRES, Greenstone digital library software, and other tools. As no integrated toolkit exists, they are designing a framework that will work across the various environments of GIS servers, databases, grid technologies and digital libraries. Ultimately, the project will enable public desktop access to the historic records themselves with search and analysis tools “on top” as a user interface.

The archive and preservation technology is based on the use of data grid technology to manage distributed data. A central metadata catalog (MCAT) at SDSC, based on Oracle technology and capable of managing preservation metadata for tens of millions of electronic records, manages preservation metadata for each electronic record. The preservation metadata includes authenticity, integrity, and descriptive information about the electronic record. The data grid technology maintains consistency between the storage locations of the electronic records and the preservation metadata.

Through the HASS community grid in development at UCHRI, each participating University of California site has access to a separate preservation environment that allows them to define preservation metadata unique to their digital content, with their own structural organization. Each site controls access and updates permissions for its preservation environment independently of the other participants. Metadata administration is off-loaded to the central MCAT catalog at SDSC. Sites are able to leverage common software and hardware resources for the management of the data and metadata, which lowers their cost of participation.

Marciano was drawn to the project because of his interest in applying technology to the humanities and social sciences as well as his desire to unearth the traces of urban zoning in the US. He finds the collaborative aspects the best part of the project and looks forward to developing this further. “I would almost say that putting digital content ‘out there’ is minor, compared to the potential for interactions and discussions,” he says. “Technology creates opportunities for contact and dialog with scholars in related fields (history, black studies, planning, ethnic studies, etc.). Conversely, these interactions impact the development of the interfaces and more importantly the use of the technology. This is the biggest thing we want to learn: how to represent the information to enable ‘community’ and dialog.” Meetings of experts on the California cities are being held at UCHRI, convening scholars and professionals from many fields to collaborate on developing the project to its fullest potential.

Marciano is acutely aware of the need to design access and storage tools that open the use of the content, not restrict it. “In some sense it is the responsibility of the ‘digital curator’ to be true to the collection and not create new ‘digital’ barriers. The collection needs to drive the process, and as a computer scientist I feel I have a deep responsibility to nurture the content and keep it alive and relevant. Falling into the trap of creating a digital ghetto would be redlining the content all over again,” he explains.

He and co-PI David Theo Goldberg, director of UCHRI, expect eventually to extend the T-RACES resource to include the data of many more redlined cities across the US. It is anticipated that other historical, cultural, and legal documents can be overlaid as the project progresses. The project will result in increased knowledge through access to previously remote data, and will transform possibilities in HASS research and pedagogy. Furthermore, the PIs hope the project’s importance will extend beyond academia, with the availability of this content benefiting communities and neighborhoods. The federal implementation of redlining has had a lasting impact on the shape of American cities, the decline of urban cores, urban sprawl, suburbanization and racial segregation in cities. The knowledge to be gained from the dissemination and analysis of this content is significant to many constituencies.

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Reference this article
Beemer, S., Marciano, R., Presner, T. "Seeing Urban Spaces Anew at the University of California," CTWatch Quarterly, Volume 3, Number 2, May 2007. http://www.ctwatch.org/quarterly/articles/2007/05/seeing-urban-spaces-anew/

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