All posts by Naghmeh Rezaie

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.

The Digital Potential of Bookmarks in Further Discussions

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Read by Jason Merkoski is one of the primary resources of my digital essay. Merkoski introduces himself as “Amazon’s first technology evangelist [who] helped invent technology used in today’s ebooks and […] lunched the first three kindle devices.” As a big fan of books in both non-digital and digital form, and as a technician of the field,  Merkoski re-tells the story of ebook evolution, or revolution, while considering and analyzing human confusions, resentments and disbeliefs in that process. At the end of each chapter, Merkoski brings up a related topic discussion, in the form of an online survey, and invites his readers to share their ideas, memories or critical views on twitter or Facebook with other readers of the same chapter. He calls these textual interludes as “bookmarks” and introduces them as bellow:

The “bookmark” at the end of each chapter takes a look at an element of print books we have come to love or loathe and how it will be affected, transformed, or eliminated by the move or ebooks. As used here, the term “bookmark” is a kind of  visual pun. Not only does it refer to an artifact from traditional print books, but  each “bookmark” also is a small interlude that describes the ways books have indelibly marked our lives and our culture of reading.(xvii)

He uses the book’s website as the basic reference:  http://www.jasonmerkoski.com/ and for each Bookmark there is a link like http://www.jasonmerkoski.com/eb/1.html (this is the first bookmark where you can choose Facebook or Twitter to carry the online conversation through.) There are 22 bookmarks in the book and 22 topics for online discussion. Interestingly enough, there is no chapter numbering in this book, and chapters are separated just by Bookmarks. As I read the printed version of Burning the Book rather than the Kindle edition, I was entertained by seeing the possibility of following what I was reading on a page, by joining an instant online community focused on the same topic, knowing where to stop by for each specific chapter. Although online discussions seem to be fragmented and not as categorized as the Bookmarks, I think the author has designed an experimental activity through which he might gather feedback, chapter by chapter, for further enquiries on the same subject. Moreover, I find the direction and pattern of these bookmarks appropriate for various undergraduate activities in our writing classes. We can ask our students to read one specific chapter of this book and then take part in its online activity. Students can also use their experience of an online conversation with other readers and also the author to compose an essay. As an example, look at the last paragraph of Bookmark 11:

Each family has its own story, often partly inscribed in the pages of its books. Does your family have a book with an important inscription? A family bible? Is a chapter of your own history preserved between the brittle pages of an old book?  Care to share your story?

http://www.jasonmerkoski.com/eb/11.html

Bookmark 12 and Bookmark 17 call for sharing personal reflections upon bookstores and book covers. There are also predictive activities which challenge the reader’s imagination; for example bookmark 19 ends with questions about the future of “three major digital media retailers Apple, Amazon and Google […]”  with a “fast-forward a hundred years” assumption. Although these bookmarks do not lead the reader to any new digital space, as they end in either Facebook or Twitter, the experience could be different specifically for an undergraduate student who enjoys posting on Facebook better than taking part in class discussions. However, I find Merkoski’s readers more engaged with Twitter option than Facebook. He also sends a digital autograph to his joined readers, which could be a new topic in digital versus non-digital debates in a writing session. We can even ask our students to read specific number of other readers’ comments and respond to them or analyze them. The digital generation gap, about which I’m writing my digital essay, might come up as a new topic for further discussions, after getting into these bookmarks.

 

 

Close Encounters, First Draft

Dear Groundhogs

Here’s my first draft:

http://naghmehr.wordpress.com/

This is not  a linear essay, you can start in any circle that you wish. The very last word of each post is linked to another post, if you follow them you could have a circular reading of the whole thing. Still you do not have to follow them in order. I’m trying to create interconnected but independent sections about our book-to-ebook transitional phase and our probable encounters in the near future with native digital generations who will not recognize printed books as a part of their formation any more .

I’m still struggling with the format, I’m not sure if it’s working for this content. I have not decided about the amount of hyperlinks to include,  and also videos and images. I’m thinking about minimizing hyperlinks in one post, in order to stimulate the experience of reading a printed book, and  overusing them in one particular section, to stimulate the experience of reading an ebook . Could it be a good idea?

I’m also working on more resources about digital generations, hope to reach a deeper insight into the subject.I appreciate any new ideas or suggestions for its intellectual aspect.

 

New Dimensions of Dialogue

I had a difficult time following Digital Griots central argument. I think Adam Banks devotes a great portion of his book to his own academic complaints, authorial doubts and personal stories which are not that much connected with African American Rhetoric in a Multimedia Age. I can see how he has been trying to play the role of one Griot himself, stimulating the obstacles that one digital Griot would face, by explaining his own pre-writing predicaments when the first voices he heard were not his own (41); Still, the sudden appearance of literature reviews in middle of his personal stories, or the sudden appearance of personal stories in middle of literature reviews, undermines the general narrative and makes it hard for the reader, or for me as the reader, to explore new dimensions of African American narratives in the multimedia age. However, what I like the most in his writing is the basic idea of building “two-way relationships between universities and communities [which] requires something far more than the traditional one-way service model” (67).

Two-way relationships between academia and popular culture could result in ideal moments when neither universities nor communities play the role of mere generators or mere consumers of intellectual debates specifically the racial ones. Banks criticizes the existing gaps between academic theories and people. He desires to “take intellectual work to the people themselves” in a new space “where the vernacular and the theoretical came together and where would be taken seriously” (57). Symbolically enough, although not really intended to be symbolic, this statement challenges any kind of discrimination that prioritizes one community over the other one in having the ability of narrating, analyzing or even preserving the history of a particular culture. Creating new Dimensions of Dialogue (I take this phrase from an astonishing short animation made in 1982) between two potential authorities, academia and communities who not in direct relation with each other, could definitely be a great challenge in the world of established hierarchies.

Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer
Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer

UD’s online community the Colored Conventions is a good example of a new digital space aiming to gather scattered database from different resources on a specific subject, that is “Black Americans and political organizing during the nineteenth century”, in order to “brings buried history to digital life”. The introduction page of this website tells us that “the Colored Conventions team comprises a diverse group of dedicated and energetic scholars, graduate and undergraduate students and librarians at the University of Delaware”. That means there are new dimensions of dialogue and cooperation going on between different levels of academic positions in various disciplines. I talked to Jim Casey, an executive committee member, to ask about the possibility of non-academic communities’ direct participation in this project, and I learned that the process of proving the authenticity of the gathered data would be really complicated. However, it’s interesting to see how this digital resource is going to offer classified pedagogic materials to instructors who are interested in integrating African American debates with other courses, even Eng110 (those of you who had ENGL688 last semester would remember Sarah Patterson’s introduction to this section.) The introductory page asserts that “you  will  find  all  of  the  resources  necessary  for  your  class  unit  on a convention, including sample assignments for lower and upper division undergraduate classes  as well as for graduate seminars.” I think practicing such assignments might generate new materials to be submitted to the same resource. That means having an online community designed not only to collect related materials but also to expand its territory to new spaces by generously sending out its collected, proved and categorized materials to other sections of academia, and even beyond that in the future, hoping to get back new generative responses. Of course not all attempts would receive an instant response; what really matters is to keep the dialogue going on without facing a huge definitive full stop.

Dimensions of Dialogue by Jan Švankmajer

 

 

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

I am concerned about our magical-realism-like position in the transitional phase between non-digital world and the digital one. There are a few generations before us and there would be few generations after us who would experience such a transitional period in their own lives before the digital world conquers the whole territory. Regarding the crazy speed of this transition, I think in our lifetime we would encounter generations who stand in the conquered territory rather than the transitory one, and would not have any experience of non-digital reading and writing, whatsoever. In my digital essay, I want to talk about a probable time in the future when we will have to teach to generations that have never experienced reading printed books.

I wonder if we are going to have a sense of alienation, inferiority, indifference or even superiority in encountering generations who have never experienced our transitory phase and what existed before. What would be the use of our non-digital reading years in facing purely digital readers? Is our background going to be diminished to a fantasy story about recent-ancient times in which books were made of dead trees, to be told to our grandchildren who will not even need us to tell them stories? What could we take with us, besides our nostalgic senses, from the centuries of printed books and our personal experiences of it to the decades of pure electronic reading?

I intend to focus on reading experience more than writing experience as a touchstone to explore the digital generation gaps that would widen when our transitional period is over. I’m thinking about creating an interactive medium, with pictures, videos and hyperlinks, to stimulate the static form of printed books versus the dynamic potentialities of digital ones. I have not decided about the ultimate formatting yet. Do you have any suggestions for that?

To talk about the resources, I am already influenced by most materials discussed in DW685; however, I might get back to Baron and Standage for this essay. Merkosiki’s Burning the page : the eBook revolution and the future of reading , Sue Polanka’s No Shelf Required  (1&2) and John Palfrey’s  Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Nativescould be other primary resources of my work. Also, I would like to review Dr. Miller’s talk in UD, Habits of the Creative Mind, if I have access to its video or transcripts (Could I?). If there are any specific online or printed resources that you think I should see or read before getting into this project, I would be happy to take your advice.

I expect to write an exploratory essay, a mélange of imagination, prediction, and exploration; it might come up with more questions than answers.

 

The Anxiety of Influence, A New Version

Chain-reactionBy publishing The Anxiety of Influence in 1973, Harold Bloom invited both critics and authors to re-read centuries of literary creation as a reactionary act against the haunting shadow of precursors;  a reactionary act from the new author’s side to establish his own voice, already influenced by forerunners, as an original one. Bloom’s theory places a historical anxiety, caused by dead poets, in the centre of both tensions and aspirations of living poets. Each new author is a late-comer shadowed by the whole history of literary creation, haunted by all canonical works, and encircled by gigantic names that have already proved their originality. There is an endless war going on. Driven by the hidden forces of anxiety, a few late-comers succeed in establishing their authorship to become the great precursors for the next generation of late-comers, the rest would be forgotten.

Being the new late-comers of the world of words, we seem to be lucky enough to be the forerunners of an updated version of Anxiety of Influence which does not draw any chronological, linear, or hierarchical lines between subjects and objects. Fitzpatrick in Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy contemplates on the metamorphosed sense of being an author in the digital world while bearing a hidden fear of losing one’s individuality, one’s identity, and one’s distinguished voice. Interestingly enough, this new anxiety is not caused by the precursors any more, as it is the anxiety of being influenced by the contemporary fellows who are suffering from the same anxiety at the same time. This anxiety, according to Fitzpatrick, is partially caused by the fear that “someone else’s opinions might interfere with” the second author’s opinions before letting the second author establish his/her position fully (51). This is not really a pure peculiarity of digital age, even the authors of RW culture could receive influential feedbacks on their serialized or unfinished works before establishing their own intellectual position.  The peculiarity of the digital in this case is the crazy speed by which millions of ideas and words are randomly undercutting each other without establishing any enduring hierarchical orders.

I wonder if the authors’ of digital age are not suffering the historical Anxiety of Influence, described in Bloom’s theory, any more as they are all busy dealing with new fears and challenges of immediate publications and instantaneous responses. Are the shadows of great precursors, those who have been following new-comers for centuries, going to be replaced by the virtual attendance of contemporary rivals who are haunting each other in a collective anxiety? Fitzpatrick’s ideas, along with my personal experiences, imply that a digital author expects to be compared with other digital fellows rather than any non-digital precursors and wishes to establish a distinguished voice in comparison with other digital publications rather than any old canonical works. Fitzpatrick suggests that “we no longer inhabit a world in which originality reigns unchallenged” (78). According to Bloom originality is a distorted offspring of non-original ideas that truly suffered the Anxiety of Influence and tried to get rid of the haunting shadows of the past. I’m thinking about the offspring of our digital anxiety when shadows and authors are coexisting in the same circle without any hierarchical relations in between. Could Harold Bloom, a contemporary and a precursor, be a haunting figure for a blogger who is writing about literary criticism? Or other bloggers, even unknown ones, play a more intimidating role? The new medium seems to  be altering the ancient nature of anxiety.

 

 

Remix or Adaptation

I was really surprised to find out that Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine (2013) was nominated in Academy Award for best original screenplay. I had been seriously waiting for its nomination, but for best adapted screenplay, and its originality was the last thing in the world that I could talk about while thinking about this particular film. I could not, and cannot, understand how such an obvious adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s globally recognized A Streetcar Named Desire could be considered original and even be nominated for that originality. Could an adaptation suddenly become original just because we do not call it an adaptation or we prefer to see it as an original? Is being an adaptation a subjective label or an objective reality? How would the culture of remix, following Lessig’s terms, draw a definite border between originals and adaptations regarding internal content rather than external form?

According to an extreme critical approach which has always been challenging to me, each new act of creation could be an act of adaptation, there is no originality in the world and each apparently new idea  is regenerating itself one way or the other. I try to expand the same view to the phenomenon of remix in digital age, and I tend to perceive each new product as a new adaptation. Then I would evaluate adaptations, as one usually does in basic adaptation studies, as good ones, bad ones, responsible ones, irresponsible ones, cheating ones, faithful ones, cross-cultural ones, historical ones etc. I would also need to open a category for original adaptations , the nominees would be those works that can get beyond the hunting shadow of their resources. However, analyzing a work of adaptation in the culture of remix is not always as simple as discovering or naming the pieces of music that have been cut and remixed with each other. There are hidden layers to original adaptations!

pointing-fingers

A pervasive culture of remix would be able to produce a complex generation of adaptations that are not going to reveal their origins neither to common audience nor to lawyers. To possess an idea or a process, and to prove its possession would be much more complicated than to possess a form or a product. As the smartest works of remix start to get rid of their evident dependencies on other works, there will be no authoritative origin to point the legal finger at easily. If adaptations populate the stage without introducing themselves as adaptations, how are we going to analyze adapted remixes with the same criteria that we usually have for comparing originals and copies? The answer will define our initial approach and ultimate expectation, as adaptations stand on a grey ambiguous territory between originals and copies. Adaptations are not always easy to decipher.