Class, Fri, 5/16

E688 Spring 2014The Gang

Blog Stats

  • 174 posts [27 by JH (15%), 147 by class (85%)]
  • 583 comments

Process, Affordances, and Constraints (9:05—10:35)

Let’s talk about your experiences in writing your digital essays in groups of four, talk back, and then move on to the next group.

Arcade (10:45–12:05)

We’ll move up to the third floor, set up our essays, read, and talk.

To Do

Come see our garden in New Castle! 32 E 4th St

A Day in New Castle, Sat, 5/17, 10:00 am–3:00 pm

 

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Final Draft: Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

My digital essay is about our place on the spectrum of non-digital to digital transition, with basic focus on book to e-book transformation. It’s about our imminent encounter with purely ebook reader generations who stand beyond this transitional spectrum; and about being encountered by them. By elaborating on our status as Digital Immigrants, this essay challenges the definition of  Digital Natives and highlights the digital generation gap that would occur between us and our students in near future. One of the main concerns is the adaptability of our non-digital skills ,of reading and writing, in our future digital classes and the possibility of using our unique background as an active knowledge rather than passive nostalgia.

Through our Digital Writing course, I have become a true believer in Digital Revolution. As a big fan of books who is becoming a small fan of ebooks, I have been observing and studying undeniable reasons, information and data that confirm the ultimate mastery of ebooks over books. I have started to believe in ebook revolution in the core of Digital Revolution. I have been thinking about digital generations who would start reading on screen rather than page, and about a hypothetical, but highly probable, time in near future that I should be teaching them. Therefore, I started this essay.

books

This is not a linear essay, it has not been written in a linear way either. The reader can start or stop reading it on any topic circle. The very last word of each post is linked to another post and by following them one could have a circular reading of the whole thing. But it’s not necessarily needed. I wanted to simulate the closed circle of non-digital texts by trying to keep my reader inside the circular blog. Therefore, I have not provided any external hyperlinks in my essay. On the other hand, I have been dealing with the playful but distracting nature of digital text. I have indulged myself with the pronoun “I”, personal references, colors, pictures, single line paragraphs, short block quotes, etc. It is fascinating to be able to adjust the form to the content.

The flexibility of digital space turns to be tricky. I spent a lot of time looking for an appropriate medium, before choosing the WordPress, and I tried to improve the aesthetic quality of my blog, after choosing the WordPress. Dealing with limited free options and their disappointments, I downloaded several harmful programs by mistake! My digital essay experience tells me that a digital author is not only a writer, but also a painter, musician, researcher, web designer, photographer, and computer programmer! I enjoy being all these but it would be exhaustive and also impossible. Moreover, as I was composing a non-linear work, it was difficult to move forward without losing the focus. I had to look at each post as a potential introduction, body or conclusion as my reader could read each post randomly. Although there are just six entries in my essay, the experience has been like walking into a labyrinth.

Final Draft- Stories in Stone: A Justification for Preserving Cemeteries

Here it is (apologies for the slight lateness)!  I’m having some problems with images and formatting, so there will be more changes before tomorrow morning.  The preservation-oriented pages are also forthcoming.

http://haleyvilleumccemetery.wordpress.com/

Overview: My essay argues, with the support of a conditions assessment, that historic cemeteries are worthy of preservation not only for their physical historic resources, but for the information they contain about the individuals that made up a community throughout its history.  Drawn to the spooky atmosphere of run-down cemeteries, and perhaps frightened off by the daunting task of restoring them, people are inclined to let them deteriorate.  In doing so, they put at risk valuable information about historic burial customs and memorial aesthetics, as well as data that helps construct the past lives of locals.  I used the cemetery at the United Methodist Church in Haleyville, NJ, as a case study.  My argument is supported by my own survey work, as well as preservation recommendations from professional archaeology firms and the federal government. 

Process: I began this work for my capstone class in January, beginning with a field survey, in which I took pictures and assessed the deterioration that had already happened.  I did research on the different types of problems that I noticed, as well as the appropriate ways to deal with them.  

I didn’t quite know what form I wanted this to take when I decided to use this project for my digital essay, but I knew that I wanted to put together some sort of essay on what cemeteries meant to me in conjunction with pages about the more scientific methods of actually doing conservation work.  

Affordances: Wordpress lends itself really well to having several different pages set up to your liking, which is how I wanted to divide up my digital space. 

Constraints:  I ended up not being able to do the level of survey work (mapping, videos, etc.) that I wanted to do, simply because of time and my own abilities and skill levels.  Additionally, the more scientific aspects of a conditions assessment and a preservation plan are meant to be just that: scientific, objective, and not really open to interpretation if they are going to be carried out correctly.  I eventually decided to just leave them be as non-subjective pieces and stand for themselves as part of the essay. 

Following Socrates Online

Main

Following Socrates Online: What the Humanities can Learn from Philosophy’s Successful Online Adaptation

Link: https://sites.google.com/site/685dwcats/

Description
Using digital media to communicate ideas is too often looked down upon by those in the humanities. It makes perfect sense. After all, creating digital things which aren’t just “fluffy” or “empty” takes a lot of work and thought. I can’t just take an essay and make it into a blog and then expect the blog to become well-read. Though some of us humanists have been bumping around with this concept awkwardly for a while—still debating over issues like “is technology a good thing for academia”—philosophers have transitioned really successfully online. My website examines how philosophers have managed to do this so successfully, with hopes that those of us in other, related fields can take hope and think about how we can do the same.

Process
I began with a conversation with my partner (a philosopher) about why philosophers are all over the internet. He knew how to find out all sorts of field-gossip, as well as what universities to avoid applying to (for jobs), and he had a really sophisticated sense of some of the important issues in academia. I wanted this for English, but it’s not really there in the same way.

I did lots of consulting David for important sites (and discussing them with him) during my conceptual process. The actual writing was mostly done in two days (I never felt really ready to write this website), but I’ve been tinkering with the website since before spring break.

Affordances and Constraints
The medium of the website is one of my favorite things about this project. As a person who loves having control over certain things (creative projects ESPECIALLY), it was really important for me to be able to, say, change the font size or pick the exact color scheme I wanted. The website allowed me to do this. I also like the flexibility of adding/subtracting pages at a whim, or even making pages invisible while I work on them (also, I can put them in any order I want!).

There were two constraints which really bugged me, though. First, I could not get the header to look exactly the way that I envisioned (stupid search bar). Second, I haven’t figured out yet how to get a blog to post as one of my pages (I want to avoid the whole “click on this link to see my blog” thing). This will be a summer project.

Shakespr: (Re)creationally Writing Hamlet Online

shakespr

 

 

Shakespr

Overview:

My project argues, through a case study on Hamlet, that tumblr users in the Shakespeare fandom have constructed their own Shakespeare that reflects both the demystification of the exception Author and the deconstruction of a monolithic, culture-controlling Academy. While tumblr users genuinely seem to enjoy Shakespeare’s work and value the texts immensely, they do not bring a sense of reverence to Shakespeare as typically presented in high school and college classrooms. They engage in the queer readings some academics pursue but that never reach a first-time reader of Hamlet. They place Hamlet next to Ke$ha without batting an eye. And they turn Hamlet‘s narrative into a series of emojiis. (Among other things). Often through collaborative writing , tumblr re-presents, remixes, and remediates Shakespeare. Along the way, the site recreates Shakespeare’s body of work as fun and flexible, and Shakespeare becomes Shakespr.

Process:

I suppose I can say that I started this essay (without really knowing it) before I started this course. I have been on tumblr for several years now, and I have been pursuing Renaissance literature (particularly Shakespeare) for about the same amount of time. So, before the course began, I had already had on my blog several posts from other users about Shakespeare. Posts I found fascinating to view.

When I began this course, I knew early on that I wanted to work with tumblr. As I’ll talk more about below, I think that tumblr’s interface – though it might take a bit getting used to – allows for variation in digital composition.

In looking at the Shakespeare posts, I first continued my collection work. I followed as many Shakespeare blogs I could find, reblogged a bunch of posts about Hamlet, used my tumblr at first to curate.

I then went through these posts to categorize the different modes users employed in discussing Shakespeare. It was at this point that I made the divisions: re-present, remix, and remediate. I organized the blog by dramatic vocabulary: preface, dramatis personae, three acts, an epilogue, and source materials. I then got a lot of excellent feedback from my group on how to guide my audience across these divisions.

Affordances:

For me, the main appeal of tumblr is the way in which posts are divided. A post can be text, photo, video, a chat, a link, a quotation, or any variation/combination thereof. Tumblr can be extremely visually appealing as it integrates all of these sources.

But, I would say even more than that, tumblr is immediately public in a way other blogging sites are not. If I tag a post “Shakespeare” the post immediately moves into the website tags, where anyone who is scrolling through or tracking the tag can see it. Users on tumblr also, then, read differently. They usually read in their dashboard – looking at tracked tags or what the people they follow reblog. Generally speaking, they do not encounter a blog by going to the blog home page, but by seeing one post by that user and then looking for more. The interaction this enables made me view my writing as much more public than I otherwise would (especially when I was writing my commentary directly on the posts of other users).

Constraints:

Tumblr is not designed for a linear essay. One of the constraints I dealt with was how to link clearly and easily across all of my posts so that users both familiar and unfamiliar with the site could navigate my essay. The other main constraint is in the writing process on tumblr; when things are posted, they are (generally) complete posts. So I did have to respond to one confused (and slightly aggressive) anonymous message about how my blog was working.

Overall, I have absolutely enjoyed this writing process and project, and might have already started a more long-term blog about being a graduate student more broadly…(plug).

I look forward to talking about my work and hearing about everyone else’s!

Final Draft: Remix as “Concept, Material and Method” in FYC

Overview:
My digital essay project asks what we stand to lose–as scholars, teachers, and students of writing–by insisting that multimodal composition and traditional academic writing participate in fundamentally different modes of making meaning. Though many other scholars have productively registered the dissonances between these two kinds of composition, in my essay I consider what we might stand to gain by listening for the resonances. Ultimately I suggest that the lens of “remix” can help us, and our first year writing students, to see academic and multimodal composition as founded on a set of shared intellectual practices– and so doing, help us to find new ways to bridge past and future, academic and public discourse, alphabetic and non-alphabetic writing.

If that didn’t convince you to check it out, in my essay I do close readings of the two texts below, and argue that they participate in very similar intellectual practices of making meaning. Don’t you want to see me try to make that move?

Todorov

Development:
This essay really developed out of a blog post I wrote for this seminar in response to Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Though I was completely on board with his enthusiasm for possibilities of free, open, remix culture, I was troubled that he felt it necessary to argue that multimodal/digital remix is somehow more complex than alphabetic/academic writing. As I thought about it more and dove into the scholarly literature, I realized that Lessig made two assumptions that were widespread in discourse on multimodal comp: 1) that these are two completely different practices of producing meaning, and 2) that alphabetic (and academic) writing is our past and multimodal comp is our future. These realizations led to the first two parts of my digital essay: “The Same Refrain” and “History/Futurity.” The next two sections, “Textual Layers” and “Resonance and Dissonance” developed out of my attempt to define what I saw as the real similarities between the two seemingly disparate types of texts.

Affordances & Constraints
In my essay, the most obvious affordance I took advantage of was the ability to embed video, which allowed me to isolate and showcase pieces of the music I was close reading. (Close listening?) But I also tried to make strong use of links throughout my essay, which I found to be a much more elegant and rich form of citation than clunky scholarly citation styles. Also, although there are few images in my project, I tried to use them suggestively rather than literally, to correspond to the kind of theoretical/conceptual work I was trying to do. It’s something that seems to work in this medium, but would probably look ridiculous in print. Lastly, no other medium would allow me to extend this project over time in public as a website permits me to do. I’m really looking forward to sharing my remix-focused teaching materials and blogging about my teaching experiences in the fall!

The biggest constraint was trying to manipulate the architecture of my website. WordPress themes are incredible, on the one hand, because with very little effort, they make your work look polished. On the other hand, they are unreasonably difficult to alter or customize in any way. It reminded me how badly I want to become proficient at writing code (I took a couple of intro-level courses on Python and Java, and absolutely loved it). This makes me think that to get serious about digital academic work and making best use of its affordances, we’re going to have to get a lot more technologically proficient.

Turning Over a New Leaf

Link: Turning the Digital Page: An Exploration of Remediation and Online Archives

YB cover photo

Overview: In my digital essay, I aim to analyze the (method)ologies of online resources which compile and remediate archival texts, using The Yellow Nineties Online as a case study to examine the ways in which digitizing encodes form and content, and therefore changes the audience interaction. As per the site’s “Welcome” page, it logically centers itself not only around the study of decade of the 1890s, more specifically around the periodicals of that decade, and more specifically still about the particular periodical that gave the decade its “yellow” moniker–The (infamous) Yellow Book. My digital essay discusses these digitally re-born texts and deals with issues such as form, adaptation/homage, simulation/skeuomorph, and materiality.

Process: This project began its life as a traditional 20-page seminar paper I had done for a class in Fall 2012 so I’d already done a lot of research, writing, and thinking about digital archives in general and The Yellow Nineties Online in particular by the time I decided to revisit the topic this semester. The main challenge for me was taking that first incarnation and looking at it from a completely different angle–not that of “genres” of digital archive (my initial argument, tailored to said class), but rather looking at the ways in which the site frames content, form, and user engagement. These three themes are the one that I have tried to thread throughout each of my posts and which tie the digital essay together as a whole.

Affordances: This project works so much better as a digital essay than a paper that I’m profoundly glad I had the opportunity to transform it! Because I am working to analyze an online resource, it was helpful to work in the same medium–particularly as it is one that facilitates greater use of images (something I’m always looking to do since I work so heavily in visual culture) and enables the use of hyperlinks– these two affordances (or rather, the lack thereof) were the main constraints in writing this up as an seminar paper in the first place.

Looking back at my original paper, I also noticed that it formed less of a coherent argument than a series of observations about the site and its methodological moves. The project worked well enough as a traditional paper, but splitting it into sections in my digital essay not only helped me to re-think the different topics I was actually considering, but also allowed me to make those points much more succinctly without worrying over-much about whether I was presenting a unified whole–it was unified by virtue of admitting its nature as a looser collection of interrelated facets.

This project is something I hope to tinker further with and link to my as-of-now under-development professional WordPress site. I also plan to send the link to the creators of The Yellow Nineties Online (which I am simultaneously excited and terrified to do).

Constraints: The infelicities of my chosen Wordpress theme (including but not limited to problems with font size/color, spacing, linking, arrangement and display of pictures, etc.) did take some amount of time and troubleshooting to wrestle into submission (I won’t say all of that wrestling was particularly good-humored).

Besides technical difficulties, the second challenge (mentioned above) was how to “digitize” my original essay, particularly in terms of organization. I cannot even guess how many different subheadings I created and discarded, split, and combined as I tried to organize my themes as clearly as possible without feeling like I was spending too much time on one and giving short shrift to others. These many changes to page themes (and therefore titles) unfortunately also had the unintended effect that most of my body pages still bear now-defunct titles in their web address. This annoys me somewhat, but I don’t think there’s anything I can do about it now.

Overall, however, I’m really pleased with how the essay turned out, aesthetically and organizationally.

Harris | UD | Spring 2014