API Is Good…

October 2, 2006

Knowledge is Good...This weeks readings were, frankly, some of the least satisfying of the course so far.  I’m sure this wasn’t helped by my absence last week when the subject of APIs was first brought up, but this week’s extension of the same subject left me a little confused.  The argument in the Cohen article is that the use of APIs should be spread to the Digital Humanities, because “they encourage the kind of energetic and creative grass-roots and third-party development that in the long run…maximize[s] the value and utility of a digital resource…”.  So here’s the source of my confusion – if APIs are such a good idea for humanities projects, what’s stopping their incorporation?  Is the onus on project programmers, or the project users?  Could the no-ones-in charge “grass-roots and third party” character of the benefit also be its Achillies Heel?

The second reading raises this question again.  By characterizing self-interest inspired data gathering as “anarchic” (a good thing) the author points to the dichotomy of digital humanities – how to engender organization without overlaying discipline.  The author points to Wikipedia as a more accurate representation of knowledge than traditional top-down methods.  This is the first time I have heard of Wikipedia described as a superior – perhaps this is in reference to the purpose of “knowledge representation” as opposed to information repository.  But is there a difference?  Who would the scholar go to for authoritative information – Wikipedia or sources developed through the old tried and true top-down method?

To make this discussion even more contradictory, I’ve just posted my first Wikipedia article on the Battle of Niihau, 1941.  A link to it is on my Blogroll.  My main source is Gordon Prange, one of the most respected of Pearl Harbor writers.

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