Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Starting Friday, March 9, Austin, TX, will play host to a couple of exciting conferences which will transform it temporarily into a bustling international information, technology, and culture hub.
Just as South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) gets underway the Austin Mini Tools of Change (TOC) Conference will take place down the street, inviting digital publishing experts of all stripes to convene, talk shop, and learn from developments in other arenas of the technology sector.
I’ll be attending and reporting back to Digital Book World all weekend. I will also be on the look out for iPad 3s and keeping a tally.
To kick things off, I thought I should introduce some local talent. I interviewed Megan Winget, my professor at the University of Texas’s School of Information, who studies fan behavior, participatory culture, and the ways that readers are engaging with ebooks. She’ll be talking about the (as of yet) unrealized potential of structural metadata on Friday afternoon at the Mini TOC, just before Magellan Media’s Brian O’Leary takes the stage.
Winget began working with digitized books in the late 90s as a master’s student and wrote her thesis on issues related to marking up scanned texts with XML. She then worked in the tech sector for three years before returning to school for a PhD in information science, this time focusing on description of non-text objects. She has been teaching at UT since 2006, and recently wrapped up a project in which she examined methodologies for representing and preserving experiences of video games.
After a consulting job last year brought her back to books she became interested in working on a book recommendation system that would be based on rich data analysis.
“It is not just about coding, it is about capturing the way people are interacting with system and trying to represent that,” she told me. “How do you describe a piece of music, a piece of art in any way that’s relevant to anybody who is looking at it? Traditional methodologies are hugely problematic. It’s totally obvious for non-texts but I think it’s just as true for texts.”
Perfecting the technology is not the most important thing, she points out, “because the technology is always going to change.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exploit it, and push the bounds of what it can do.