All posts by t3b

Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Rhetoric at Penn State University.

The Ithaka Report: University Publishing in a Digital Age

An organization called Ithaka has published a report on “University Publishing in a Digital Age” that calls on university administrators, faculty, librarians, and presses to leverage changes in technology to re-organize scholarly publication.

The report, published in August 2007, is worth a look. It summarizes and focuses much of the conversation of the past 15 years as higher education has changed its practices, usually in fragmented and incremental ways, in response to rapidly changing technologies of publication.

It’s An Off Year

The local campaigns have produced an unprecedented level of advertising–signs, mailers, and even TV and radio–for what we call around here an “off -year election.” The School Board elections are deliberately scheduled to occur in years when we are not having a presidential or congressional election, partly, in theory, to help diminish the effect of party on the process. Another aspect of this nonpartisan approach is that candidates in the primary may cross-file for the ballot as both Republicans and Democrats. This year, that process produced a single slate who won both sides of the ballot. The write-in challengers, James Leous and Robert Hendrickson, have themselves been collecting donations, and according to the Centre Daily Times have secured the endorsement of most of the State College Borough Council. Here is a mailing from Leous and Hendrickson from last week explaining how to execute a write-in ballot on the no-paper-trail-electronic-ballot machines now in use in the county.

Halloween – it’s not about the candy

2007 Oct 31Canon SD800 001Capn Crunch
This little fellow was our first caller last night for Trick or Treat. As the evening wore on, we greeted, as always happens, some Peter Pans who just didn’t want to grow beyond the age of this ritual, but crowded up to our door, a little ashamed, but wanting to find the fun. Mostly we greeted very small children who came shyly to our door, their parents waiting at the end of the walk and reminding them to say “thank you.”

Up the road a few miles, in Milesburg, Pennsylvania, according to a recent story in the Centre Daily Times, the town council refused to designate an official date and time for trick or treat. Council members apparently were suspicious that children from outside the town might be coming in from other towns to ask for candy.

Penn State Sede di Roma

The CAS summer program in Rome is hosted by Penn State’s Sede di Rome headquarters, where there are administrative offices, a library and computer lab, and several classrooms and studios. The Sede is in several rooms of the Palazzo Doria Pamphili in the heart of Rome’s central historic district, just a short way from the Pantheon, the Forum, and Piazza Venezia. You can browse on this map to wander through Rome, which you can view as a map, as a satellite picture, or as a hybrid.

First Frost

2007 Oct 30 Canon SD800 035 2007 Oct 30 Canon SD800 034 2007 Oct 30 Canon SD800 033 We had the first frost of the season yesterday, October 29, 2007. The days are still warm — in the 50s and 60s, but we’ve been down to freezing and below two nights in a row, and leaves are falling fast.

Shout ’em down!

Here’s a news release from the Penn State office of information today:

Acoustics team documents crowd noise effect on opposition
Monday, October 29, 2007

How loud was the crowd at Beaver Stadium on Saturday?

“They were a lot louder earlier in the game,” said Andrew Barnard — and he has more than anecdotal evidence to back up his assertion. While Joe Paterno led the Nittany Lions on the field, Barnard, a doctoral candidate in acoustics and research assistant in the Applied Research Laboratory’s structural acoustics department, led a team of his own on the sidelines, measuring the noise levels throughout the game.

“The loudest level we recorded was a peak sound pressure level (SPL) of 122 decibels (dB). That is loud enough to cause physical pain on the ear drum,” Barnard said. “The crowd only achieved these levels for very short bursts, on the order of 10 milliseconds. The loudest SPL we recorded averaged over a second or more was about 110 dB.”

By the fourth quarter, with Penn State trailing the Buckeyes, noise readings were down around the 80 to 90 decibel range, roughly equivalent to a noisy vacuum cleaner or a motorcycle. At that level, the Buckeyes were able to communicate fairly easily with raised or very loud voices at distances up to 32 feet. The highest noise reading recorded in the fourth quarter was 100 decibels, which is equivalent to a riding lawn mower and makes communication difficult, but possible by shouting.

The acoustics exercise, while interesting, also serves some practical purposes for Penn State.

In addition to measuring the sound, the team made mono and stereo recordings of crowd noise for the football team to use in their practice facility. The recordings are calibrated to enable crews to set up the speaker system to play crowd noise at the same levels or slightly louder that it was at the game to help the team prepare for upcoming away games at loud stadiums.

The acoustics team also is able to use the data to evaluate the effects of crowd noise on the opponents, and to educate football fans about the amount of noise they create and how that affects communication among the players on the field.

“We recorded almost the entire game, so we will have lots of interesting data to look at,” Barnard said. “The one thing we did notice immediately was the stark difference between when Penn State was on offense and defense. When Penn State was on offense and the quarterback was calling plays, the SPL measured near the student section was about 80 decibels (dB). When the Ohio State quarterback was calling plays at the line of scrimmage, the crown noise was about 110 dB.”

Decibels are logarithmic, so an increase of 20 dB is like increasing the SPL by 10 times. An increase of 30 dB is an increase in the SPL of about 30 times. That means the crowd increases in SPL output by 30 times when the opponents are trying to call plays.

What does that amount to for communication on the field? “When the Penn State quarterback is shouting plays, he can be heard and understood roughly 32 feet away. When the Ohio State quarterback was shouting plays, he could only be heard and understood about 1.5 feet away. This means that their offensive tackles, tight ends, receivers, and running backs likely couldn’t hear the snap count or audibles. That’s a pretty stark difference, and I think it shows that the Penn State crowd is well-educated on when it pays off for them to loud and when it pays to quiet down.”

Barnard’s team members on Saturday were: Lance Locey, doctoral student in acoustics; Jason Bostron, master’s student in acoustics; Stephen Hambric, acoustics faculty member, Barnard’s adviser and department head of the ARL Structural Acoustics Department; and Anthony Atchley, Acoustics Department chair.

Is it possible that encouraging fans to make so much noise (and to create visual distractions) amounts to poor sportsmanship? I was always taught so, but things seem to have changed.

Academic Publishing – author’s rights

CIC universities on Author’s Rights and Publishing Agreements

Members of National Communication Association, my discipline’s primary academic association, have sometimes complained that their access to work they have published in NCA journals has in some ways changed since the organization licensed the journals to Taylor and Francis. In response to a growing trend across many disciplines for copyright ownership to shift from author and academic organization to a large for-profit corporation, the provosts of the CIC universities (the Big Ten plus the University of Chicago) have developed a draft proposal urging authors at their institutions to seek an addendum to their contracts with such publishers.

You can find a copy of the proposed agreement at the Penn State Faculty Senate site.

Related documents may be found on the web sites of other CIC institutions. Here’s is a link to the University of Illinois report to its Faculty Senate.

Some of the Faculty Senates at CIC institutions have, I believe, adopted this draft. Others are still considering it. The outcome of the shifting patterns in the political economy of academic publication will have consequences, sometimes hard to trace, for publishers, authors, libraries, readers (both on and off campus), and for the generation of knowledge itself.