Internet Resources: August 2016 Edition

The latest selection of Choice-reviewed collections and resources found on the web.

Each month, Choice compiles a selection of reviews of internet resources and makes them available in the Internet Resources newsletter. The following four reviews originally appeared in the August issue and are also featured on Choice Reviews.

Capitol Words, from the Sunlight Foundation
[Visited May’16] Despite being bombarded daily with sound bites and quotes from political candidates, one may not be aware of what those already elected to office discuss while going about the business of governing. By data mining the Congressional Record, Capitol Words collates the most frequently used words or phrases and visually represents their usage chronologically and by party, state, and mentions by particular legislators. Results link to specific instances within the full text of the online record, displaying the full citation and related entries providing background context for the remarks. One can also browse each elected official’s record in search of favorite words or phrases, displayed in ranked order. Originally launched in 2009, the site received an overhaul in 2011 by developers of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Sunlight Foundation (CH, Sep’10, 48-2368).

Files are downloaded daily while Congress is in session, which means that results may be only 24 hours old; retrospective files go back to 1996. At the bottom of the home page, “Recent Popular Words” highlights trending usage by date, so users can quickly grasp what lawmakers are talking about on any given date. Perhaps the site’s most powerful tool is the comparison tool. A user may quickly juxtapose particular words/phrases or drill down to compare use of terms by Democrats or Republicans or by party members of specific states over time. System-generated graphs and charts provide an instant overview and reveal (by hovering over portions of the display) the specific number of times a term appeared in a given month. Results may be easily shared and/or embedded, and the Sunlight Foundation allows developers to register to obtain the API to create mash-ups with other data sets/services. This engaging, well-organized site will be useful to anyone who is interested in knowing exactly what Congress talks about.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries/levels.

[Visited May’16] The Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) has been a valuable resource for choral directors, faculty, and students since its inception in 1998. CPDL was transformed as a collaborative volunteer organization and the Web presence renamed ChoralWiki in August 2005, and it has grown considerably ever since. As of March 2016, the resource hosts public-domain scores of more than 22,200 choral and vocal works by 2,600-plus composers. Users may easily search by composer and title and can conduct broader searches using pull-down options to select specific score categories, including sacred and secular genres, voicing, and accompaniment. There are numerous browse options, including a way to locate information on composers by birth and death anniversaries. Access to multicategory searches is also possible for choral directors who want to build their repertoires. Finally, there is a section for church musicians, which provides links to liturgically appropriate scores.

Most scores are printed in PDF format, and MIDI audio files are often included. The majority of the scores are copyrighted by CPDL or by the editor, and in nearly all these cases, copying, distribution, modification, or performance are allowed free of charge. General information, including details concerning voicing, genre, language, and instrumentation, is also provided, as is the text in its original language and, occasionally, in English translation. Editorial quality is excellent for the most part. The resource offers a trove of information for advanced students, choral directors, and singers searching for vocal sheet music.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, faculty/researchers, professionals/practitioners.

FBI Crime Statistics
[Visited May’16] The FBI is a prolific publisher, and the FBI Crime Statistics website is the agency’s attempt to offer more reports to the public. For many years, the FBI has made freely available annual reports under its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, of which Crime in the United States (CH, May’13, 50-4777) is perhaps the best-known example; notable others include Hate Crime Statistics and the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) reports. The FBI has steadily expanded the list of free offerings to include reporting of financial crime, terrorism, and human trafficking.

Each major report is complex and difficult to navigate because of the sheer volume of variables. Resources are generally accessible as web pages or sometimes in PDF format. As there is no easy-to-use, conventional search engine, the complexity of such research may deter inexperienced users. What has been added is a new online UCR data tool at that allows users to interact with the data by selecting their own variables to create customized data sets and tables. Though some FBI documents or introductory web pages offer descriptions, glossaries, methodologies, and summaries, the majority of crime reports are strictly compilations of dry statistics with little analysis or discussion. The website contains the most current data; readers familiar with the printed or even web-based publications know there is a gap of one or more years between the availability of particular series and the final published version. Overall, the current FBI Crime Statistics website is a vast trove of raw data, and librarians should know about this resource because it offers primary source material. Its usefulness, however, is more geared to research institutions and libraries serving graduate students and professionals and less so to undergraduates or the general public.
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students through faculty/researchers; professionals/practitioners.

Positive Negatives, from Benjamin Dix
[Visited May’16] With the goal of making real accounts of social-justice and human-rights abuses more accessible, the Positive Negatives website uses the power of journalism, literature, and the art of the comic to tell the stories of actual immigrants and asylum seekers. Visuals are either commissioned or the products of inspiration by the creators themselves, who travel to interview people about their traumatic experiences, take photographs, and conduct immersive follow-up research to produce the final work. While Web comics are abundant, their production does not usually involve ethnographic research, as this site does. Updated as new material is released, the site also promotes the organization’s methodology to document sometimes appalling lived experience without endangering the security of the people involved, as journalism sometimes does. One can read endorsements, lectures, and reviews, see photos taken on research trips, make a donation, or connect via social media. There is information provided about the artists behind the initiative and links to the funders and collaborative partners (news outlets, nonprofits, and higher education institutions); a quick Google search reveals that director Dix is a former UN worker with a background in photojournalism and visual anthropology.

Currently six comics are available, and others are forthcoming on topics ranging from human trafficking to drug addiction. Most stories feature extra resources such as concept art, maps, interviews, and animations. Some have been promoted on sites such as Huffington Post and The Guardian. Despite the image-heavy nature of comics, these illustrations are fast to load. The site, though lacking search options, is not overwhelming and is easy for newcomers to browse. Students who love comics and those teaching courses in sociology, journalism, literature, and the visual arts will find in Positive Negatives a unique mix of research, stories, and visuals that confront the many social issues surrounding international conflict and migration.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All libraries. All levels.

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