Posts filed under: tools

Relearning to Write

my new writing set-upI would describe myself as a deep writer, not in the sense that what I have to say is any more profound than anyone else’s thoughts, but in the “deep sleeper” sense. That is, when I write and it’s going well, I’m pretty able to shut the rest of the world out and focus on little else. For most of my life, this has included my body itself. I haven’t had to think about posture, arm angle, or things like that, unless they happen to impinge upon my ability to focus.

That changed with my back surgery last fall. I’ve discovered, to my dismay, that there are certain seats in my house that are worse for my back than others, and chief among the offenders is my desk chair, or maybe my desk more broadly, since I’ve tried multiple arrangements and chairs there. Among other things, I’ve learned that when I focus to write, I have the bad habit of wrapping my ankle around a table leg, or wedging my left arm a certain way, and when I do that for more than about 15 minutes, I pay the price in the form of hours, if not days, of subsequent pain. And woe betide me if I find myself in a position where I have no choice but to push through and do desk work despite that pain. I spent most of RSA using a cane to recover from the time I had to spend putting the online program together.…

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Metadata, Procedurality, and Works Slighted

Whenever I put together a course, I like to imagine that there’s some sort of narrative thread running through, whereby early topics and readings lead to the ones that follow. Sometimes that thread is brute chronology, but most often, it’s thematic, and I suspect that more often than not, the thread is one that only I can see, although I do try to suggest it at various points during the semester. In the case of RCDH, this has been a little tricky, not least because DH is still emergent, somewhat interdisciplinary, and my own field’s engagement with it is uneven. In my head, though, after we’d gotten an obligatory week of definitions out of the way, the first “unit” of the course was a trio of weeks gathered under the headings of database, archive, and metadata. (Here’s the schedule, if you haven’t seen it.)

We’re turning now to a week that didn’t necessarily fit that well as I was originally putting the course together, a week that combines Stephen Ramsay’s Reading Machines, some work on procedural literacies, and a few pieces/performances of algorithm. It’s an ambitious little week in its own way, but as we were working our way through a discussion of metadata last night, it got me to thinking about the transition between this week and next. Some of this I raised in class somewhat tentatively, but I wanted to write through it a bit today, partly for my own memory, and also because …

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Mining the JIL

This week, in Rhetoric, Composition, and Digital Humanities, we’re reading a series of essays about metadata, so that’s where my mind has been as of late. And one of the things that I’m asking my students to do each week is to imagine projects that they might do based upon the readings and resources for that week. So I spent a little time this afternoon messing around with the fabulous dataset that Jim Ridolfo has shared, the OCRed archive of MLA Job Information Lists.

I wanted to do something that had some kind of hypothesis, but also that I could do fairly quickly, without too much technological overhead. I settled for the question of how the job search process has changed over the past 10-15 years with respect to technology. When I was on the market for the first time, in 1997 (!!), I don’t recall whether the online version of the JIL had been introduced yet. But certainly the job seeker’s experience, even allowing for the online JIL, was predominantly paper-based.

I don’t think it’s particularly earth-shattering to suggest that this has changed. But can we find that change reflected in the JIL itself? I tried a couple of angles. First, I tracked all mentions of the word “postmark” (including postmarked). I was working mostly with basic pagecounts, and while I tried to be good about eliminating those few occasions where it appeared twice in one ad, I almost certainly missed some of them. I also …

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Reading Notes

There’s a phrase that I got from Laurence Veysey, via Gerald Graff (although it appears in other places as well): “patterned isolation.” Veysey uses the phrase to explain the growth of the modern university and the way that disciplines grew without engaging each other, but I tend to apply it on a more “micro” scale. That is, there are many things we do as teachers and scholars in patterned isolation from our colleagues, tasks that call upon us to reinvent wheels over and over in isolation from one another. Fortunately, with the Internet and all, much of that is changing, as folks share syllabi, bibliographies, and the like online.

But I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to short circuit patterned isolation. For me, reading notes are one of those sites. I’m not a great note-taker and never have been–I’m too reliant on visual/spatial memory and marginalia. Disconnecting my own notes from the physical artifacts that I was processing didn’t make sense. Now, of course, I’m lucky sometimes if I remember having read a book, much less what I scrawled in its margins, so I wish that I’d been better about taking notes and I admire those people who have already internalized the lesson that it took me 20+ years to figure out. So one of the things that I like to do in my graduate courses is to aggregate the note-taking process. Rather than asking or expecting each student to take a full set of reading notes for the …

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Telescopic Text

So I’ve been slowly reading S by Abrams and Dorst, and slowly expanding my Twitter horizons with respect to bots, and today, I came across a really interesting app/tool that crossed the streams, so to speak.

It’s called Telescopic Text. Not unlike Tapestry, it’s an application that lets you write and store texts. Those texts, though, are like that word game where you create a ladder of words by adding a letter at a time (a, an, pan, plan, plane, planet, etc.). You start with a tweet-length sentence, highlight particular words, which then “unfold” as they’re clicked on. It’s like drilling down into a text to find more and more details.

The TT site itself starts with an example:
http://www.telescopictext.com/

The tools for building one, and saving it, are at:
http://www.telescopictext.org/
(registering for an account is free, which you’ll need to do if you want to save your efforts)

I ended up finding the site from a link to Tully Hansen’s “Writing,” which is located here (you’ll need to scroll down):
http://overland.org.au/previous-issues/electronic-overland/

It reminds me too of Jon Udell’s classic screencast about the WIkipedia entry for the heavy metal umlaut:http://jonudell.net/udell/gems/umlaut/umlaut.html

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll be using this, but it’s been a lot of fun to play with this afternoon…

(x-posted from Facebook)…

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On the un/death of Goo* Read*

It feels like a particularly dark time around the Interwebz these days–I don’t think it’s just me. I’ve been studying and working with new media for a long time now, and so you’d think that I’d be sufficiently inured to bad news. For whatever reason, though, it feels like the hits have kept coming over the last month or so. There’s plenty to feel down about, but since this song is about me, I wanted to collect some of my thoughts on the changes that are happening with two pieces of my personal media ecology: the demise of Google Reader and the recent purchase of GoodReads by Amazon.

I’ve been soaking in a lot of the commentary regarding Google Reader, ever since it happened while I was at CCCC, and while there’s a lot of stuff I’m not going to cite here, there were a couple of pieces in particular that struck me as notable. I thought MG Siegler’s piece in TechCrunch was good, comparing Google Reader’s role in the larger ecosystem to that of bees. Actually, scratch that. We’re the bees, I think, and maybe Reader is the hive? Anyway, my distress over the death of Reader is less about the tool itself and more about the standard (RSS/Atom) it was built to support. I understand why there are folk who turned away from RSS because it turned the web into another plain-text inbox for them to manage, but as Marco Ament (of Instapaper fame) observes, that was …

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Migrating the MLA JIL from list to service

I left a comment over at Dave’s excellent discussion of the MLA Job Information List, and part of it was picked up at Alex’s equally worthwhile followup, so I thought I’d expand on it here. Here’s the comment I left:

I was going to make the same point that Alex makes vis a vis the costs of the JIL vs. the costs of the conference itself for both interviewers and interviewees, especially all those years that we were forced to compete with holiday travelers for both plane seats and hotel rooms. The list is the tip of a very lucrative iceberg that has supported the MLA for a long time.

I wanted to second your comments about opening up the job list database, which for all intents & purposes is the same (inc. the crappy interface) that they used in the mid-90s. A much richer set of metadata about the jobs could be gathered by MLA (and made available to searchers) if the arbitrary scarcity of the print list is set aside and MLA were to take their curative obligation seriously.

There’s been no small amount of buzz lately surrounding the MLA JIL, our fields’ annual posting of open academic positions. For a long time, that list has been proprietary to MLA. At one time, institutions paid to have their positions appear in the list, and prospective applicants paid for a print copy of it. I don’t remember the exact year that the online database version of the …

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Add technology and stir!

Apropos of little other than some background reading that I’ve been doing this week, I think I’m just about finished with the arguments about how we need to be careful about “not letting technology drive our X.” Right now, the arguments I’ve been scanning are about pedagogy, but this would just as easily apply to any other set of practices.

Actually, maybe it’s a little apropos of the whole kerfuffle happening at UVA right now. I was certainly struck by the astounding media illiteracy of the UVA Board of Visitors, whose sense of kairos needs an upgrade from its current early-90s version. The idea of pulling out the old “news cycle” trick–making major decisions/announcements after 5pm on a Friday and hope no one notices until next week–was some pretty dynamite strategery on their part.

One of the undercurrents of the blowback has been their apparent infatuation with other elite institutions’ efforts at staking out MOOC turf, and the dismissiveness with which that infatuation has been described. So maybe it’s that attitude that has been resonating with some of the reading I’ve been doing lately. (And while I’m taking issue with that dismissiveness here, that’s not to say that I condone any part of what happened at UVA–I think the tech stuff is a symptom of a much deeper problem.)

And yeah, I get it. The correct answer is that technology should be adopted cautiously and with sound pedagogical reasons behind that adoption and for better reasons than novelty and/or change’s …

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Mecology 2012

It occurs to me that, if I start trying to toss out manifestos on a daily basis, I’m going to burn myself out pretty quickly. So I thought I’d reflect today on some of the changes brewing that led me to resuscitate my weblog.

I really have no idea if the term is mine, but a long while back, I started using the word “mecology” for a couple of different purposes. It crams together the phrase “media ecology,” but also “me” and “ecology,” which put me in the mind of Ulmer’s mystory (among other puns). I’ll have you know that mycology is taken–insert “fun guy” pun here. :)

Anyhow, for about 7 or 8 years, I’ve been occasionally asking students in my (technology-oriented) courses to do what I call either mecology or T+1 assignments. I ask them to take stock of the various platforms, media, tools, software, et al., that they use to process information. It’s something like a literacy autobiography, I suppose, but one that is more focused on their present-day habits and usually their engagement with contemporary ICTs. It’s a nice opening assignment, one that gets them thinking about how they structure their activity, and it’s a great way for me to get a sense of what they’re ready to do in my courses and where we might focus our attention. The T+1 assignment (where T is their current distribution/structure of activities) asks them to choose one application, add it to their mecology for the semester, make a …

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The Tweetability Index

wherein I consider the hows, whats, whys of Twitter at academic conferences

I am decidedly pro-Twitter, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time apologizing for it or even necessarily advocating for its use. Though if you push me, I will. I think that Twitter in particular (and FB to a lesser extent) provides an extra social layer of activity for conference goers, much better access for folks who aren’t there, and a crowdsourced guide to the area (making the academic conf less of a non-place a la Augé). And honestly, for those who aren’t interested in using it, there’s no real loss in either direction. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t need to be.

RSA is kind of an odd bird in our field, conference-wise, which is part of what’s got me thinking about this:

 

RSA, for those of us on the comp side of things, is the one conference that steadily and selectively publishes conference proceedings. As a result, I think that many people write the “publishable” version of their talks (and subsequently read them aloud), rather than versioning them out. I have to admit, the last thing I have time to do when I’m prepping for a conference is to write a whole separate version. I’m at a place where I simply do the presentation version, without worrying about the published volume. I still have my slides from 2010, for example.

All of this is by way of explaining why I …

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