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Algorithmic Rhetorics #rcdh14

This week in RCDH, we focused our reading and discussion around algorithms. As I mentioned last week, the topic felt kind of transitional for me—databases, archives, and metadata blend together fairly well (for me, at least), and they’re not topics that feel overwhelmingly technological for people. Whether or not we work on the back ends of those kinds of projects, the concepts themselves are not immediately intimidating, I don’t think.

That changes a bit with the shift to algorithms, which have a more machinic flavor. Whether that’s actually the case is something I was thinking about in class, and it’s persisting with me this morning.…

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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.…

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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.…

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The Limits of Facebacking

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.…

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Should I tweet this? Campus visit edition

Yesterday, there was a minor squall that swept quickly across my Twitterological system. One of the departments in my field that maintains its own, somewhat official Twitter account trumpeted the names and schools of the finalists for a senior search in their department. I do have a screen shot of the tweet, but figured that I’d have to redact so completely that there wasn’t a lot of point in sharing it here. But it read:

Delight! Our job search found exceptional candidates: [candidate1]- [school1], [candidate2]- [school2], [candidate3]- [school3]. Job talks coming up!

The post has since been removed, appropriately, but not before it was linked and critiqued by some folk with pretty substantial numbers in terms of followers.…

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Moretti, Franco. “Operationalizing: Or, the Function of Measurement in Literary Theory”

[It occurred to me that, after sharing my Reading Notes assignment, I should be doing more of this myself. I don't know that this will last, but in the interest of walking my talk, I'm going to try to contribute some entries to my class's shared bibliography. I'll post them here and at the course wiki, and I'll be covering essays that I wasn't able to include in the syllabus itself. My goal is to average an essay a week for the semester--I doubt that I'll do this evenly, but we'll see. I'll probably work ahead a little this weekend.]

Moretti, Franco.

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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.…

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Penumbra & Digital Humanities

In a little less than 24 hours, my spring graduate seminar on Rhetoric, Composition, and Digital Humanities will begin (syllabus). I’m not typically the kind of professor who gives his students assignments to complete prior to the first course meeting–it always struck me as a little mean-spirited to bite into what little break we have between semesters. This year, however, I broke form, and suggested to my students that they read one or both of a couple of “fun” reads: Charles Soule’s graphic novel Strange Attractors and Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I may talk later about Soule’s book, which shares some features with Sloan’s, not the least of which is the apprenticeship that form the social core of each, but far more digital humanities folks that I’ve seen recommend Penumbra as the DH novel par excellence.…

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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.…

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Etymologoholic

Apropos of positively nothing:

I was thinking just now about -aholic as our kludgy suffix for addiction, as in workaholic, chocoholic, danceaholic, Brookaholic (okay, that last one isn’t real). I figured that it must have come originally from alcoholic, but alcohol doesn’t match up with my spotty recollection of Greek and Latin. Briefly, I wondered (given the al-) if the word wasn’t originally Arabic.

Lo and behold, it is. It comes from the Arabic al-kuhul, or “the kohl,” which was ground ore used as mascara. Later it generalized to mean something like the pure substance of anything, including liquids, and it only acquired its modern sense in the 18th c or so.…

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