Posts filed under: curation

The August 31st issue of Rhetsy marks the beginning of a new school year for me, and in recognition of that fact, I sent out a call for lists of 5 a couple of weeks ago, inviting subscribers to submit lists of 5. If you’re not subscribed, you can find it in the Issue Archive available to anybody who clicks on the Rhetsy link above.

I thought I’d add a few lists here, lest I be accused of completely taking the easy way out on this week’s issue:

5 Most recent Amazon purchases (academic):

  1. Jon Ronson, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed
  2. Laurent Pernot, Epideictic Rhetoric
  3. Richard Nisbett, Mindware: Tools for Smart Thinking
  4. Alex Galloway, Laruelle: Against the Digital
  5. Cesar Hidalgo, Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies

5 Farewells:

  1. Jon Stewart
  2. The Fraction/Aja run on Hawkeye
  3. Hannibal
  4. Leonard Nimoy
  5. Summer

5 Terms increasingly likely to find their way into my writing this year:

  1. Emblem
  2. Ecology of Attention
  3. Friction
  4. Amplification
  5. Epidemocracy

5 Smells that remind me of fall

  1. Dry-Erase markers
  2. Burning leaves
  3. Spice Cake candles from Pier 1
  4. Chai lattes
  5. Nutmeg

5 Trips to the well taken too often

  1. Star-making reality programming
  2. “austerity” measures
  3. 1970s/80s Saturday morning television
  4. Marvel comics
  5. listicles



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Today marks the half-year anniversary of Rhetsy, and while half a year doesn’t sound like much to me as I write it out, it means that, for the past six months, I’ve been collecting links on a daily basis and synthesizing them weekly for general consumption. On the one hand, it’s not a lot of work, but on the other, when I multiply by six months the time I’ve spent on it, Rhetsy begins to occupy just a bit more of my scholarly identity. So congratulations to me, I guess.

The feedback I’ve received on Rhetsy has been universally positive, which makes sense, considering that a single (unsubscribable) email per week is a pretty small price to pay for its potential benefit. If there’s one question that people ask me about it, it’s about the process. When I was at the RSA Institute a few weeks ago, the question came up again in a couple of contexts, and so I thought I’d write a little bit about my process, and share it for this issue as a way of marking the milestone.

When I started up Rhetsy, I had in mind a handful of inspirational/aspirational newsletters (which I’ve written about before), and the name itself, which was a mashup of rhetoric and Etsy. With the decline in (my own) blogging, my feeling was that part of what I’d lost was the benefit of link blogs, trusted voices who would point my attention to interesting resources and essays. …

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bluebookSo I’ve got a question, but it’ll take me a while to get to it.

A few years back, here at Syracuse, we overhauled our graduate curriculum, paying particular attention to the core curriculum and comprehensive examinations. When I arrived at Syracuse, our comps process was a fairly traditional major-minor-minor set up. The exams themselves were varied, in a well-intentioned attempt to account for a variety of writing processes, but the idea of generating 3 lists, writing, and being examined over the results is fairly standard practice. There are virtues to this model, not the least of which is that it gives students experience assembling bibliographies, time to read, and ideally, a more focused mastery over the field than perhaps can be achieved in coursework.

Nevertheless, there were problems. The written examination is a genre that only bears tangential resemblance to the writing that we do in our careers. If anything, it intensifies the event model of writing that seminar papers habituate in us (read, read, read, read, then write in a very short burst of eventfulness), rather than moving students towards a more integrated process of research/writing. We also found that, as an unfamiliar genre, the exams themselves produced no small amount of anxiety, and often took up more time than they perhaps deserved in a program where funding was limited. Finally, those kinds of exams are difficult to articulate with coursework–what exactly is being “tested” if the lists are student-generated and potentially have little to do with their …

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Last week, as part of their 10-year anniversary, Facebook released a tool that allows users to create (and later edit) movies based upon their FB usage. The “Look Back” videos offer “an experience that compiles your highlights since joining Facebook.” For a couple of days, my feed (and I suspect, most people’s) filled with “looks back” from a variety of friends, followed by the inevitable wave of parodies (Walter White, Darth Vader, et al.).

Like many of my friends, I went ahead and let FB sort through my photos and updates in an effort to set my “highlights” to music, but I didn’t end up sharing the results. This week in my DH course, we’re talking about archives, so I’ve been reading around somewhat alert to discussions of archiving, and I ended up thinking a bit about my “Look Back” and what it had to tell me about my relationship with FB as an archive of my life. I didn’t end up sharing my movie because I didn’t feel like it was particularly representative–while it did manage to hit on a couple of significant events (such as the fact that I bought a house), most of the updates and images included were pretty random. And so I’ve been thinking on why that was.

One obvious reason is that I don’t share as much of my life with FB as others do, and I say that without judgment. As FB itself notes, the content of the movie “depend[s] on how long …

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I’ll begin by thanking Kathleen, Avi, and the rest of the Mellonaires for posting Open Review, and providing a nice hub for this conversation. Honestly, I have other things I should be doing, but upon reading Alex’s thoughts on the matter, and waiting for the aftermath of today’s root canal to come and go, I hunkered down and did a little reading. Now that I have enough focus to write, my thought is that if I don’t post something now about it, I probably won’t ever. So…open peer review.

I’m not opposed to it in any way, so like Alex, I may not quite be the audience for the piece. That being said, my own rhetorical disconnect differs a bit from his. Alex asks, “What is the problem with existing scholarly review procedures that the open review process seeks to solve?” and his answer is that “The humanities publish work of little interest.” There’s a lot more to his comments, so they’re worth reading in their entirety, but I want to pull out one thread and take it in a different direction. Among other things he notes:

For most humanities scholars (and when I say most, I mean 99%+), review feedback is the most substantive (and often only) conversation they encounter regarding their work. We know something like 95% of humanities articles go uncited. Even when an article is cited, there’s no assurance that the citation represents a substantive engagement with one’s text. So there is rarely much

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Like many, I was surprised and a little pleased to hear about the announcement from MLA that they’ll be updating the author agreements for their publications, allowing copies of articles to be placed in personal and institutional repositories. It’s a nice first step, albeit one that won’t have a huge effect on my own field (very little space is devoted to writing studies in MLA publications). As a symbolic gesture, however, it may prove to ripple throughout related journals and organizations over the next year or two, and it could have very positive implications. We’ll see. I think it will depend a lot on the financial models of those journals. I don’t think the repository step is one that will trouble too many, but whether it’s a “first step” or a stopgap will depend on a lot of factors.

Anyhow, I was interested to read some of the context provided by Inside Higher Ed’s account of the announcement. Therein, Rosemary Feal comments on the move:

“We believe the value of PMLA is not just the individual article, but the curation of the issue,” she said. PMLA regularly includes thematic issues or issues where articles relate to one another. While there will be value in reading individual articles, she said, that does not replace the journal. Further, she said, the individual articles posted elsewhere could attract interest to the journal.

For me, Feal’s comments should have more far-reaching consequences than the actual policy change. Two of those comments struck me as …

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