Wednesday News: 2017 Pulitzer Prize, Google Book Search, 19th C African American activism on record, and autism on Sesame Street
Here Are The Winners Of The 2017 Pulitzer Prizes – The 101st Pulitzer Prize winning works and artists were announced on Monday, in a process somewhat different from other literary prizes, in that the finalists are not announced until the final Prizes are. Although the journalism prizes have gotten particular attention this year, the literary prizes are listed below. You can also view the finalists here, which, for fiction, include Imagine Me Gone, by Adam Hassett and The Sport of Kings, by C. E. Morgan.
Letters, Drama And Music
- Fiction: The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
- Drama: Sweat, by Lynn Nottage.
- History: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy, by Heather Ann Thompson.
- Biography or Autobiography: The Return, by Hisham Matar.
- Poetry: Olio, by Tyehimba Jess.
- General Nonfiction: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond.
- Music: Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun. – NPR
How Google Book Search Got Lost – Interesting piece by Scott Rosenberg on the current state of Google Book Search, 15 years after it promised to revolutionize digital archive searches. A loss of momentum caused in part by the Authors Guild lawsuit, changes in the digital horizon over those years, limited funding, and other factors led to the slowdown. However, it’s not that Google isn’t still paying attention to Book Search – just that most of the updates are now backend, and not necessarily visible to the user. Still Rosenberg discusses a lot of issues that help put the 15-year shift into context in way that is, I think, useful to think about, even if you don’t necessarily agree with everything he argues.
Two things happened to Google Books on the way from moonshot vision to mundane reality. Soon after launch, it quickly fell from the idealistic ether into a legal bog, as authors fought Google’s right to index copyrighted works and publishers maneuvered to protect their industry from being Napsterized. A decade-long legal battle followed?—?one that finally ended last year, when the US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the Authors Guild and definitively lifted the legal cloud that had so long hovered over Google’s book-related ambitions. . . .
You’d think a Supreme Court victory would have meant a renewal of energy for Google Books: Rev up the scanners?—?full speed ahead! By all the evidence, that has not been the case. Partly that’s because the database is so huge already. “We have a fixed budget that we’re spending,” says Jaskiewicz. “At the beginning, we were scanning everything on every shelf. At some point we started getting a lot of duplicates.” Today Google gives its partner libraries “pick lists” instead.
There are plenty of other explanations for the dampening of Google’s ardor: The bad taste left from the lawsuits. The rise of shiny and exciting new ventures with more immediate payoffs. And also: the dawning realization that Scanning All The Books, however useful, might not change the world in any fundamental way. – Backchannel
Photos of 19th-Century Black Women Activists Digitized and Put Online by The Library of Congress – Speaking of digitization and history, we’re clearly not done with revolutionary potential. This archive at the LoC is hardly comprehensive, but it has certainly been inspiring, even giving rise to a personal archive loaded onto Twitter by myriad users. It’s going to be interesting to see what survives our social media/selfie-obsessed culture in 100 or 200 years.
Pictures of Tubman and Truth have made their way into every elementary school history textbook. Far less well-known are the many other African-American women activists of the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who fought for the rights of black Americans in education, at the voting booth, and everywhere else. During Reconstruction especially, many such activists rose to prominence in academia, journalism, and civic leadership. Women like Fannie Barrier Williams, at the top, whose wise, direct gaze illustrates her fearlessness as an educational reformer and suffragist, who, despite her maiden name, broke several barriers for black women in higher education and prominent public events like the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Against paternalistic claims that former slaves weren’t ready for citizenship, writes the Rochester Regional Library Council, Williams “called on all women to unite and claim their inalienable rights.” . . .
These images come from a Library of Congress archive of nineteenth-century African American activists from the collection of William Henry Richards, a professor at Howard University Law School from 1890 to 1928 and a staunch campaigner for civil rights and liberties. Most of the portraits are of the formal, staged variety, but we also have the more relaxed, even playful series of poses from activists Elizabeth Brooks and Emma Hackley, above. Richards’ collection, writes curator Beverly Brannon at the LoC site, includes many “people who joined him and others working in the suffrage and temperance movements and in education, journalism and the arts.” The photographs “show the women at earlier ages than most portraits previously available of them online.” – Open Culture
The Quiet Strength of Julia, the First Muppet with Autism – Although Sesame Street’s move to HBO has pulled it out of the reach of proposals to kill public television in the U.S., with all of its free-to-view educational programming, this profile of Sesame Workshop’s three-year campaign to get Julia on air is a poignant reminder of how important representation, especially for children’s television (and literature) really is. A thoughtful, comprehensive, and informative chronicle of Julia’s development and transition to television.
It might seem simple on paper, but that brief exchange took Sesame Workshop more than three years to research, conceptualize, and execute. In depicting a character with autism, the show has consulted with more than a dozen autism organizations, painstakingly reviewed Julia’s behaviors and dialogue, and enlisted the talents of several crew members who have been personally touched by people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.
If Julia resonates with viewers, it could be the beginning of a radical change in how the general population perceives autism and the reported one in 68 children who are diagnosed with the developmental disorder. The week before her premiere, Julia’s puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, appeared in front of Congress—in character—to help raise awareness of Julia and the challenges faced by children living with ASD and their families. – Mental Floss