Volume 50, Number 4 (Nov/Dec 2015)

Sound Information: Sonification in the Age of Complex Data and Digital Audio

Alexandra Supper


In recent years, sonification – the auditory display of data – has received increasing media attention and been presented as a solution to the challenges posed by large, complex datasets. By analyzing the development of the sonification research community, this article shows that specific historical configurations have led the community to concentrate on technical solutions for the design of sonification technology rather than on analyzing and interpreting sonified data. Consequently, sonification still struggles for scientific acceptance and does not offer any ready-made solutions to the problems posed by complex data; indeed, it echoes, rather than solves, these problems.

The Politics of Sequence: Data Sharing and the Open Source Software Movement

Hallam Stevens


The Bermuda Principles (1996) have been celebrated as a landmark for data sharing open science. However, the form that data sharing took in genomics was a result of specific technological practices. Biologists developed and adopted technologies of the nascent World Wide Web and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) communities for sharing biological information. These technologies supported decentralized, collaborative, and non-proprietary modes of production in biology. Such technologies were appealing not merely because they were expedient for genomic work; they also offered a way of promoting a particular form of genomic practice. As the genome sequencing centers scaled up their sharing efforts, a small group of computer-savvy biologists used these tools to promote the interests of the public genome sequencing effort. The agreements at Bermuda should be understood as part of this attempt to foster a particular form of genomics work.

Atlanta between the Wars: The Creation of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, 1918-1936

Ciaran B. Trace


Building on prior work that has examined the formation of southern archives and memory as a form of political endeavor, this article examines the life and early career of Georgia archivist Ruth Blair, first female director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History. Her life story is used as a lens through which to examine the contribution of southern women to the establishment of state archival agencies, and in doing so, looks at the role of women in the workplace in the first half of the twentieth century, specifically the entry of women into the information professions.

“To Support the Southern Medical Public”: The Medical College of Georgia as a Southern Information Agency, 1828–1861

J. Brenton Stewart


A traditional perspective situates nineteenth-century Southern academic library culture as a late-century phenomenon. This paper challenges that assertion and traditional beliefs about the South’s indifference to cultural advancement by examining the print culture of one of the South’s leading educational institutions, the Medical College of Georgia. An antebellum information agency, the Medical College of Georgia leveraged its medical library, museum, and journal to transform medical information production, dissemination, and consumption in the South and represents an important symbol of Southern modernity. This article presents a distinct analysis of early nineteenth-century Southern medico-scientific information culture.

Playing Checkers with Machines – from Ajeeb to Chinook

Peggy Aldrich Kidwell


Chess-playing automata that also played checkers were built in Europe from the late eighteenth century.  One of these, named Ajeeb, came to the United States, spending much of the time from 1885 into the 1930s in New York and taking occasional tours around the country. The advent of electronic computers in the mid-1940s encouraged attempts to play games using machines, both in Britain and the United States. By the late twentieth century, a Canadian-written computer program, Chinook, had defeated world champion and mathematician Marion Tinsley. More recently, developers of Chinook announced that checkers could be played to a draw against any opening.

Misunderstanding the Mongols: Intercultural Communication in Three Thirteenth-Century Franciscan Travel Accounts

Kathryn A. Montalbano


This article shows how the travel accounts of three thirteenth-century Franciscan friars provide a window into intercultural communications of the medieval world. The three accounts are written by John of Plano Carpini (1245-1247), William of Rubruck (1253-1255), and John of Montecorvino (1289). Each of the friars traveled from Europe to the Mongol Empire. The article has two themes: first, how the friars’ encounters with new lands, peoples, and cultures prompted them to reconsider, but ultimately not recast, their vocational identities; second, how their participation in long-distance networks reinforced their assumptions about Christianity and human nature.

This issue is available on Project MUSE