Designing for Consistency: The Issue of Unbundling iTunes

I ran into an issue the other day that involved syncing my podcast list from phone to computer — at the time, I didn’t realize that iPhone’s Podcasts app was integrated with iTunes, and all I had to do was open iTunes on my Mac to get the unplayed episodes. This realization (which came days later) was on par with my feelings around discovering that pickles are not their own thing, but actually cucumbers mixed with other ingredients.

I’m sure everyone has experienced some “why didn’t I think of that?” moments, but what we often fail to recognize is that when it comes to technology we are usually valid in our misunderstandings. In the book Information Architecture, the authors start out with an example of how organization systems for music collections have evolved over time. With LP records there is a one-to-one relationship between information (the music) and the containers (vinyl discs). Then we saw the rise of compact discs (CDs) which stored music digitally and allowed for randomization of song-play order. Music was no longer tied to its container, but could be ripped (copied to computer), mixed, or burned (copied to CD). The information had dematerialized.

iTunes furthered capabilities in organizing and managing our music, but soon grew more complicated with the addition of new features such as TV shows, podcasts, audiobooks, and more. On a Mac computer, these features are bundled in the iTunes app, but when we got to the iPhone, the features were unbundled into various apps (iTunes Store, Music, Videos, App Store, Podcasts). This is where my issue occurred, there is a breakdown of coherence across digital channels.

I mainly use the streaming service, Spotify, for my music, but for podcasts I still use the default iPhone application. Out of curiosity, I did a quick search to find the iTunes Music app and it took me at least 30 seconds (which is a considerable amount of time to be searching through your phone applications). It was stored in some miscellaneous folder of apps that I never use, yet Podcasts is in a space that is easily visible and accessible, next to my Spotify app.

Podcasts and Spotify are situated next to one another, whereas the Music app is in a folder on a separate screen.

The field of Information Architecture seeks to address these issues by focusing on organizing information environments “for optimum findability and understandability.” As the abundance of information continues to grow, new organization systems are also developed. With the expansion of digital services and products across multiple devices, digital design should be informed by information sciences – to be consistent, findable, and understandable.

By Alexandra Srp, INFO 653-02


Rosenfeld, L., Morville, P., & Arango, J. (2015). Chapter 1: The Problems That Information Architecture Addresses. In Information Architecture: For the web and beyond. (4th ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

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Memories Archived: Preserving Our Stories in the Library of Congress

I recently came across some old journals I’ve kept over the years — although I was never consistent with them, they do reflect the history of my young adult life. I flipped to an entry from around this time five years ago, May 2014. That was the month my grandmother passed away. Just days before her passing, my mom and I flew to Chicago for Mother’s Day to visit grandma Delia in the hospital she had been in and out of for months. The journal entry is sparse, a few notes on which relative shared the news, my feelings, my last memories of her – just a paragraph. That brief paragraph may be of little value to others, but to me it’s a moment I’ve recorded in my family history, a piece of my story.

Everyone records their stories in different ways, through journals, photographs, video, audio, and more. My mom keeps an old voicemail from her mother, from before her hospital days. The manner in which we tell our stories, whatever the medium, is personal to each individual. But what happens to those records once we’re gone? I haven’t digitized my journals, so if they get damaged, that’s the end of them. We have recorded histories of prominent people from historical figures to celebrities, but how do we record the histories of everyone else?

Image and caption from StoryCorps mobile application

Last summer during a trip to L.A., I visited an exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography, Not an Ostrich: And Other Images from America’s Library. The exhibit was partnered with StoryCorps, an organization whose mission it is to record, preserve, and share stories to build connections between people.

In one room of the exhibit was a silver Airstream trailer equipped with a table, two chairs, recording equipment (two microphones, headphones, an iPad), and a box of tissues. Visitors were free to step in and record an interview or conversation with a friend or family member, or just themselves. StoryCorps submits each recording to be included in the audio archives of the Library of Congress. Each story is an invaluable resource for generations to come. A father and son share their family history, two people share the story of falling in love, some share stories of friendship, and others of trauma and grief.

The voice of our nation comes from the stories of its people. All its people. Advances in digital technologies gives people the opportunity to record conversations, share our life stories, and preserve the knowledge of everyday lives to be passed on into the future.

Image and caption from StoryCorps mobile application

By Alexandra Srp, INFO 653-02

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Posted in Archives, Library, Preservation, Uncategorized

The Real Dogs of Instagram: Photo Collections of the American Kennel Club Library and Archives

Screenshot of American Kennel Club Library instagram post, black and white portrait photograph of seven Miniature Schnauzers sitting.
“Tauskey portrait of 1940s gaggle of Miniature Schnauzers” via AKC Library & Archives Instagram, @akclibrary

To all you canine-lovers out there, did you know there is a library dedicated to all things dogs? Situated in the heart of NYC, The American Kennel Club (AKC) Library and Archives is home to one of the largest collections devoted to dogs, and is the only national repository for items on the art of the purebred dog.

As a specialized library with a relatively specific audience, mainly those interested in dog sports, the library itself is run by a small team with limited resources. Plans for digitization and providing access to the vast quantities of information housed both on-site and off-site is a real challenge. While the team has recently gone through their first round of collections digitization, currently the only public-facing access to photographic holdings is through their Instagram account @akclibrary. Although there are plans for an online digital collection space, there are benefits to using social media platforms, like Instagram, that go beyond just sharing images. Social media for libraries can be beneficial in community-building and advocacy (both internally and outside the organization).

American Kennel Club Library & Archives Instagram account

According to a report on library technology, “sixty-seven percent of US citizens ages 12 and up use social media of some type,” and 12 percent of adults use Instagram (King, 2015). While many libraries struggle with seeing the importance of social media, the truth is that we are in digitally-connected world. Using social media to develop and maintain connections to your audience can assist in promoting and marketing for your library and expanding reach beyond traditional users.

In terms of using social media as a marketing/promotional resource, Instagram is a terrific space to broadcast organizational news and information. The AKC library can share and engage with people of common interests, spreading to a larger audience than just people interested in dog sports, but dog-lovers all over the world. Personally, I have no interest in sporting events, but as a dog-person I was captivated by the historical photographs and rich history the library shares on their feed. Through furthering their reach in socially connected spaces, the library increases the value of their collections.

Post from the AKC Library & Archives Instagram

When it comes to advocacy, organizational leaders love numbers. If you can show the higher-ups that more people are engaging with the content, you are advocating for the value of that content. This is where social media analytics can come in handy. The ability to track audience and engagement enables an organization to track their growth patterns over time. In the case of AKC Library, with thousands of followers and hundreds of likes per post, it’s clear that there is high interest in the library’s photographic holdings. Advocating for the ability to share this content more easily and effectively, may help the library obtain the resources needed to streamline the digitization process.

The shift in how people find information puts more emphasis on digital collections. In today’s world, social media platforms are tools that can help support the access and sharing of a library’s informational resources, but they do not replace the value of dedicated spaces for digital holdings.

Click here to follow AKC Library and Archives on Instagram and stay up to date on their digital collections.

By Alexandra Srp, INFO 653-02


American Kennel Club Library & Archives:

Young, S. W. H., & Rossmann, D. (2015). Building library community through social media. Information Technology and Libraries, 34(1), 20-37. King, D. L.

(2015). Managing your library’s social media channels. American Library Association.

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Classification and Sustainability: Creating Standards for Renewable Resources

About a month ago, environmental researchers from the UN Environment World Conservation Centre introduced a new classification schema specifically for renewable and non-renewable resources. The purpose of this standardization was to “harmonize existing approaches and create a system that is practical for decision makers in the public and private sectors.”

The classification system will help foster a wider understanding of what climate change is and what resources are most at risk and what each specifically needs to avoid becoming endangered.

The system contains seven main categories that are evaluated: mineral and energy resources, land, soil resources, timber resources, aquatic resources, other biological resources, and water resources. Although the categories are easy enough to understand, they are not quite comprehensive enough to encompass all of the necessary natural assets. Large entities, such as volume of the water in the sea, are not included because of the overwhelming size.

There are a few systems already in play, such as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework.  The system is structured hierarchically and is meant to be a framework for databases evaluating green investments. Specifically, it classifies entities related to natural capital assets, which are rapidly declining. Because different habitats and species respond to different stimuli, the classification scheme is as granular as possible, breaking down habitats to their smallest components.

The new hierarchy in place contains four levels of organization and examples of what is being described. For instance, level one is the most category, denoting assets as either abiotic or biotic.

The system allows the user to see the various relationships between different ecosystem components and decide the best way to invest their money. As I thought about this, I thought about the semantics of climate change and wondered why a universal classification system and taxonomy had not already been implemented, given the urgency of climate change. Human beings tend to perceive climate change as what philosopher Timothy Morton refers to as a “hyperobject”—something defying temporal reasoning. There is still not a universal way to discuss climate change, and many crucial policymakers that have the potential to help abate its effects deny that it is happening at all. I think that a universal classification system is the necessary first step in deciding what to do next. I only wish that one existed at an individual, more colloquial level outside of the world of finance/big business so that citizens could clearly see the relationships between at risk environments, the species that inhabit them, and potential solutions.

By Sarah Goldfarb, 653-01


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The Remarkable Story of a Woman Who Preserved Over 30 Years of TV History

A new documentary film about activist archivist Marion Stokes and her work just debuted at Tribeca! Stokes passed in 2012, leaving her son, Michael, a legacy of more than 70,000 VHS and Betamax tapes with continuous, 24/7 recordings of many news channels, including CNN, C-SPAN, Fox, and MSNBC.

In 2013, Michael donated these materials to the Internet Archive. They moved the collection across the country from her properties in Philadelphia to their headquarters in San Francisco in 4 shipping containers (!!!) The Internet Archive began a $2 million digitization project, which is still underway.

This fun and informative article by Noor Al-Samarrai tells an abbreviated version of Stokes’ story. I’m interested to know more details about the ongoing digitization process!

– Owen Cobey, Info 651-03

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Care, Code, and Digital Libraries: Embracing Critical Practice in Digital Library Communities

I just saw this great article written by Kate Dohe in In the Library with the Lead Pipe. She presents a thorough dissection of the limiting and restriction of digital resources along existing hierarchies of power and oppression within knowledge organization structures.

“The digital library landscape,” she asserts, “has become a re-enactment of local power dynamics that privilege wealth, whiteness, and masculinity at the expense of meaningful inclusive practice and care work.” In response, she proposes a more “user-first” system of governance and an overhaul of digital library management with the principles of inclusion, transparency, and intersectionality.

-Owen Cobey, LIS 653-01

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The Watercolour World

The Watercolour World recently launched, with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as patrons, with a bold vision: to ‘creat[e] a digital database of all pre-1900 documentary watercolours in the western tradition.’ As they explain, the database is strictly limited to documentary watercolours, by which they mean works documenting scenes, people, and places from real life, which tell us something about the world the artist knew. Though it is unclear how many works they currently have in their collection, at launch the site already had 80,000 works. The site includes works from institutions such as the British Library, The Met, and Louvre, as well as smaller institutions and private collections.

Not only is TWW’s goal itself bold, but it also has taken on some substantial tasks, as well, such offering, in partnership with Fujitsu, free digitisation services for those who wish to contribute the database. But more importantly for the purposes of this blog, they are also offering assistance to collections to identify which works to include on the site, as well as the cataloging of their watercolours where necessary.

In addition, regardless of whether a collection is already adequately catalogued or not, TWW creates its own metadata for the site’s own purposes. In each case, the added metadata is descriptive of the painting’s ‘contents’, so to speak. Whereas the traditional cataloging data might describe the work qua work, the metadata that TWW is adding is trying to verbally convey and categorize what the work is ‘about’. For example, each work is put into one of six categories (each with a dual title, as it happens): Landscapes & Seascapes, Buildings & Architecture, Travel & Transport, Industries & Professions, People & Portraits, and Flora & Fauna.

In addition, the location documented in the work is identified, as well as a note about the certainty of that location. Finally, each work is also tagged using a miscellany of additional descriptors. (It is unclear if there is a finite thesaurus governing the tags or whether, because they note that volunteers do the tagging, they constitute an indefinite, ad hoc folksonomy.)

Given that the purpose of the site is to collect specifically documentary watercolours, this sort of documentary metadata makes sense for this database, because the purpose of the database is not simply to collect the works for their aesthetic but also for their value as historical documents, depicting particular objects or places or people. Thus a natural approach for the site is to not only engage in descriptive cataloging, but also subject cataloging, description, and analysis of the content of each work.

Steven M., INFO-653-02

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An Archive of Autonomy: RomArchive

Botoló (Stick Dance) Tf.3823
Zsuzsanna Bene | photography | Hungary | 1955 | dan_00072

Launched at the beginning of this year, RomArchive is a digital archive dedicated to collecting, preserving, and uplifting the cultural contributions of Roma people. Just as the Roma have been subject to misrepresentation, diaspora, and marginalization, so too have the records of their cultural contributions. Driven by principles of autonomy and self-representation, RomArchive aims to combat the issue of misrepresentation by including narratives from the Roma, organized and selected by Roma, using a self-determined vocabulary. It counters the issue of information diaspora by collecting together ten categories of archives covering a range of cultural mediums and contributions in one accessible location – the Internet. The archive further increases accessibility through digitization and through translation into English, German, and Romanes. As described in an eflux announcement upon the project’s launch, “RomArchive provides an opportunity for majority societies to ascertain the richness of their culture, to which Roma have contributed much more than most people are aware—and a way for minority representatives to reclaim their own arts, their own art history and their own cultures.” For more information, read the full text of the eflux announcement here or check out the archive

by Anna Flinchbaugh | INFO 653-01

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China’s National Library to Archive 200 Billion Weibo Posts

The National Library of China will archive over 200 billion public posts on Weibo, the country’s popular Twitter-style microblogging site. Photo: Reuters

Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website and one of the biggest social media platforms in China.  It will contribute 210 million news articles and 200 billion Weibo microblog posts to the National Library of China (NLC).  It’s a way to build a comprehensive record of internet data and preserve China’s digital footprint.  Archiving online data has become an increasinglu popular means of recording the cultural and intellectual legacy of the modern digital world.  The database would be used for scientific research and “national strategy” according to Wang Gaofei, Weibo’s CEO.

While the article doesn’t explain the methodologies used for archiving such a big collection, they are aware of potential problems they could face.  The U. S. Library of Congress and Twitter project was discontinued due to the platform becoming too visual for archivists to handle.  They also face privacy concerns from bloggers and whether Weibo has the right to turn over posts to third parties like the NLC for research purposes.

To which Weibo states that users’ personal information, social networks and self-deleted posts would not be included in the NLC’s digital archive.  The National Library of China is part of the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC); an international organization of libraries and other organizations that preserve internet content for the future.  It seems that it’s important for organizations to record our digital cultural and intellectual legacy.

Access to link:

Heyrling Oropeza / Spring 2019/ INFO 653-01

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Building a modern data registry: Go beyond data classification – Help Net Security

Help Net security

The focus of the article is privacy, particularly meeting privacy requirements to keep people’s data safe.  With privacy regulations being introduced globally there seems to be a surge in urgency to comply with the new laws.  A delicate balance must be met when an organization decides to become data driven while ensuring data privacy.  It seems that the current tools for data classification and cataloging are not able to fulfill the need to find, map and inventory data assets accurately and efficiently.

Building a functional and operational data registry
A possible solution might be to create a data registry that can list what data is kept, where and why. An organization should build the registry in an index-like map that focuses on five key functionality and operational characteristics:
Content granularity,
Usage context
Data source coverage
Ability to scale
Dynamic not static

Creating a full accounting and inventory of your enterprise’s data assets A hybrid approach to content discovery and contextualization can be achieved by considering four key requirements:
Entity discovery and resolution
Entry correlation and contextualization
Entity classification by type and category
Metadata capture and cataloging

An organization needs to be able to account for what data they hold and who the data belongs to.  The modern data registry looks beyond simply classifying and cataloging data to show the correlation and association of data to a data subject.  Understanding the connectedness of data to high-value identities no matter if they are located in the data center or the cloud is crucial for establishing and aligning the organization to meet the privacy regulations.

Access to link:

Heyrling Oropeza / Spring 2019/ INFO 653-01

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information