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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. 

Nicholas Carr: I worry but The Shallows is Not Anti-Net

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Professor Joe Harris kindly introduced to me a book by Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and I flipped open during a few hours of break in between exams. 9778945And I began devouring it. Because once started reading, I couldn’t stop. Upon finishing it, although I wasn’t entirely convinced by all the assertions Carr sets forth, the book has many powerful cases and well-crafted passages that it is worthwhile to share with other readers.

Nicholas Carr is the writer of the famous controversial Atlantic article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid and the former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review. His arguments through chapters, though covering a range of online experience-related themes, is not too difficult to summarize into one main focus: the fact that we are spending a big amount of time online jeopardizes us to think deeply, to read intensively, and to remember things – it is not just the content we encounter via the Net poses threat, but, more importantly, is the side effect from the medium through which these contents are transmitted and consumed; more so, Carr says the change is not limited to a deleterious effect on the way we think, but impacts the neural structures in our brains that enable thinking.

What made this book unique is the two notions he puts forward: the loss of “deep reading” (5) and “neuroplasticity” (34)- the discovery that the brain is not hard-wired during childhood, but constantly forms new connections as we acquire new skills, or let old ones lapse.

For the first notion, deep reading, Carr argues that the always-on, clicking-in multitasking online mode is rotting our brains, or at least, rewiring our cognition and “patterns of perception” (3) beyond a function of a tool, which people have believed technology to be. He remarks his concentration in reading “starts to drift after a page or two” and his brain begins “looking for something else to do” (5). The deep reading, the way of immersing oneself into a book and fully engaging with all the twists and turns that used to come naturally, now has become a struggle. He worries that the calm, focused, undistracted linear mind “is being pushed aside by a new kind of mind that wants and needs to take in and dole out information in short, disjointed, often overlapping bursts – the faster the better” (10).

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It is worrisome that the volume of information which we are able to access along with associated practices of multitasking and skimming are resulting in “a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: we are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gathers in the electronic data forest” (138). While it is safe to rebuttal that skimming and browsing literary pieces is highly necessary, Carr tightly follows up his standpoint, saying “there’s nothing wrong with browsing and scanning,” but what is different is that “skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading. Once a means to an end, a way to identify information for deeper study, scanning becomes an end in itself — our preferred way of gathering and making sense of information of all sorts.” (138)

The second notion, neuroplasticity, is building on the scientific researchers’ work such as Michael Greenberg and Alvaro Pascual- Leone upon which Carr argues that maps, clocks, written words, books and other tools human has used is to “support or extend his nervous system” (46) while the impact of intellectual technologies does much more beyond stretching the processing ability of human’s mind as map or clock did upon their invention. Carr’s opinion expressed eloquently in the text:

It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively. It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli — repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive– that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.

The Shallow is however not an anti-technology rant or “a manifesto for Luddites,”  for Nicholas Carr is worrying how much the Net has washed off our undisrupted attention and he is raising up caution to the public that the Net has caused alternations in human brain circuits and functions. Granted Nicholas Carr is wedging through the pessimistic side on Internet and I can also sense the wrapping up of the book exerts a tone that is not uplifting, we at least equipped with better understanding that the Internet enhances certain cognitive skills and deactivates others. For interesting and thought-provoking readings, there are a few resources worth checking out–

Nicholas Carr blog homepage: http://www.nicholascarr.com/ ;

the article he published in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/;

Interview with Bigthink: http://bigthink.com/videos/big-think-interview-with-nicholas-carr

 

Bauerlein–Arguments on Digital Writing, To Be Continued

The resource I would like to contribute to our class is a site of blog articles by Mark Bauerlein. To provide some useful background information, Bauerlein is the author of book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future untitledand later he edited book the Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting and the Age of Social. His blog articles concerns the teaching of English,  topics ranging from why majoring in English, difficulty of recruiting students for Humanities, the destruction of English Language, digital divide, Googlization, so on and so forth. Mark himself is the Director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts, the professor of English at Emory University and a periodical writer for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Chronicle of Higher Education.hqdefault

The point I particularly interested in arguing is concerning the purpose of Bauerlein’s published books, the Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting and the Age of Social Networking that we mentioned in the beginning. I do not completely agree with what Author Jason Jones stated that The Digital Divide functions mostly as an “assembly” of essays by intellectuals, and is best suited for ” anyone who are looking for an orientation about web writing, computing and digital culture.” Jason said people shall spare the money from purchasing Bauerlein’s book, because people can always download these contributed articles contributed to the book online.phobia

Have read the book myself to gain a sense of digital culture’s potential and challenges for our course, I consider Bauerlein’s focus on The Digital Divide is not focusing on “assembling” articles on a common theme, but on “arguments for and against” digital writing and social media. As an editor, he retreated himself from the debate of for or against but used the book to debute supporters and protesters from the canvas of past 15 years to join a conversation about how the web has and will continue to affect society and learning. To me, The Digital Divide is almost a mini-history that offers readers a series of analytical arguments about digital technology and social networking. It delivers to the public like us so that we can read what the most trenchant voices have said on both sides of the issues. Bauerlein acted as the director, who pulls together the intellectuals on two sides to debate. The reason for him to withdraw from the debate is that he intended to come off with balanced volume to present to the readers.

In The Dumbest Generation, BimagesCALPTIKEauerlein already expressed his personal standpoint, which is strongly against digital technology in hands of the young and leisure lives:

We have entered the Information Age, traveled the Information Superhighway, spawned a Knowledge Economy, undergone the Digital Revolution, converted manual workers into knowledge workers, & promoted a Creative Class, and we anticipate a Conceptual Age to be.” (8) However, “while the world has provided them extraordinary chances to gain knowledge & improve their reading/ writing skills, not to mention offering financial incentives to do so, young Americans today are no more learned or skillful than their predecessors, no more knowledgeable, fluent, up-to-date, or inquisitive, except in the materials of youth culture. They don’t know any more history or civics, economics or science, literature or current events. They read less on their own. . . [and] in fact, their technology skills fall well short of the common claim, too, especially when they must apply them to research & workplace skills.” (8)

Yet intellectuals who those who criticized his previous book The Dumbest Generation, such as Clay Shirky, Jakob Nielsen, and Cathy Davidson, contributed their essay to The Digital Divide as the opposite side of the argument (that digital age benefits people) which itself opened up an important questionhow to deal with people who have he raised up the question, how to deal with people who have different opinions than yours on one subject. This is what respect about Bauerlein’s philosophy behind this book, that he did not refuse to acknowledge critics but very well aware it is an open discussion, that anyone who assumes he or she has the final say on a radical topic such as the digital age and social media is arrogant and an attempt to close off the discussion. What I interpreted from reading his introduction is that he wants to stretch the meaning and advance the debate, therefore readers will be provided with more latitude in understanding of what digital age means, and come to their own conclusion during the learning.

Our course Writing in a Digital Age opened a door for further research on how information will be organized and used, and how students desire to attain instruction and how teachers can better  deliver new information to a group of students who think and behave in ways that have been altered by social media and digital technology.

 

 

Draft 1

Here it is!  It’s not very fleshed out now and actually looks quite boring, because all of my sources are (mostly) in print and I’m trying to wade through all of them.

http://haleyvilleumccemetery.wordpress.com/

Summary: Historic cemeteries are valuable resources that hold boundless information and data for modern researchers, as well as sentimental value to families of those interred there.  Sadly, many fall into disrepair due to the passage of time, natural weather processes, and human error.  When this happens, the historic information about the community and the people who lived there vanishes.  While the Haleyville United Methodist Church cemetery in southern New Jersey is well-taken care of, natural and chemical processes are beginning to take their toll and deteriorate the headstones on the site.  My preservation plan will set a course of action that will facilitate current and future preservation goals through 1) identifying the issues and solutions, 2) providing a context for understanding and appropriately approaching this particular cemetery, 3) providing resources and recommendations for care, and finally, 4) arguing for the importance of preserving graveyards as memorial spaces and historic resources.

 

Gaps or Problems: I’m still working on when I’m going to get my family group and deterioration mapping together– hopefully it’ll be done Thursday or at the latest, early next week.  I’m rather unsure how to map things on my own, so this will be an adventure.  Also, there’s not much content up just yet.  A good deal of my sources are currently on paper, so I’m working on pulling them all together and putting them in a coherent digital form.  The text that’s up there is chunks of the presentation I’m preparing for my class on this project, so it covers the basic factual gist of what I’m going for, but doesn’t go into too much detail just yet.  Also, there will be lots more pictures.  I’m going to work more on this throughout the week, so look for more things to pop up as the days go by.

Questions

  • Do you think it would be helpful to have videos from preservation organizations embedded in the pages in order to showcase how the preservation work is actually done?
  • Do you think that a website format is intuitive, in that people can follow the order of what pages they’re supposed to go to as they read more?
  • In terms of my argument, what do you think is the best way to display that?  A separate page on the site?  Argue the point throughout each individual page?  What would work best for you as readers?
  • I know that a lot of this is really technical talk and once the actual content is up instead of just placeholders, it’ll get a lot more detailed.  That being said, I’d like if you see something that isn’t clear or a concept you don’t quite understand, let me know so I can define it. 

 

 

They Were Still Born Digital Essay

Fellow woodchucks,

Working Title: Writing Memories, Making Meaning: Narrating Grief Over Time

Quick Description: I am creating a website to help create a better web presence for my book, They Were Still Born: Personal Stories about Stillbirth, which is coming out in paperback this July. As part of that project, I am writing a reflective narrative about the limits of narratives, particularly about narratives that grow out of grief, loss, and trauma. The essay will not appear on the front page of the site, but on a page under the title “Writing Memories, Making Meaning.” 

Summary of Argument: This essay is more concept-driven than argument-driven. I revisit the impetus for creating the collection and then share the process I’ve gone through to accept the uncomfortable incompleteness inherent in writing personal narratives. I conclude with the realization that my relationship with a published narrative is similar to my relationship with my daughter’s memory in a broader, more diffuse sense.

Questions for my Readers:

  1. I am torn about how theoretical or scholarly this piece of writing should be. My instinct is to keep it spare in terms of citing others because my audience will be people searching for the book as opposed to readers who want to understand how my ideas about this topic of narrative limitations relate to other writers’. However, I also am concerned that my essay may not doing enough. There is an element of self-referentiality (naval gazing?) to this essay that has me concerned. Would you like to see me engage with other texts more?
  2. My piece is intentionally a bit disjointed. Does this form/content connection work for you as a reader, or is it unnecessarily frustrating?
  3. This is a more technical question. I want the website to be a) inexpensive but b) good-looking. I registered the domain name theywerestillborn.com (yay!) but am still working through hosting as well as how the website itself looks. If anyone can point me in useful directions for tools or guidance to improve the aesthetics of the website, I would be really appreciative.
  4. I would like to include links to several pieces of writing my contributors have done about this or similar topics. Does it make sense to include them as links at the bottom of the page with my essay? Or should they be on another page on the site?

Thank you for your time and feedback!

Link: www.theywerestillborn.com

White Students and Black Words

One of the most striking aspects of Banks’ discussion was his advocacy of using digital media and the humanities to bridge the gaps between generations and to form stronger communities.  As a student of historic preservation, these are questions that we work with every day in our efforts to make preservation sustainable and inclusive.  However, like the field of digital humanities and digital writing, preservation is largely dominated by white scholars and professionals.  This isn’t to say that there is no minority presence in the field, of course.

Throughout Digital Griots, Banks is invested in the idea that African Americans should have an evolving rhetoric that is “on their own terms,”  using “social epistemologies and subjectivities” directed towards “Black publics or [. . .] cultural geographies (156).”  Essentially, created for a black audience, by black authors, and engaging with topics that are relevant to their community- an important framework for any culture.  With this in mind, I wonder if the weight of African American rhetoric and sources  or the importance of an individual as a griot/te change if their work is being used or interpreted by someone who is white?

As an undergraduate, I really didn’t do very much work with any sort of ethno-centric rhetoric.  Honestly, it just isn’t something in which I am or have ever been particularly interested.  The majority of the exposure I got to non-white writing or media was through my history classes and later in graduate school, use of African American oral histories in survey work.  While none of the people interviewed were likely individuals who could be formally called griots (and they certainly weren’t the DJs that Banks mentions), their oral histories and tradition are important elements of preservation research that are used at an increasingly regular rate.  Especially where black and minority voices have been oppressed by racism or other forms of discrimination, one of the best ways to gain accurate insight into their community’s experiences for the record of history is to speak directly to individual people and let them share their story in their own way.  In our field, however, the students “remixing” these words and thoughts for their papers are often white.

In the same way that Banks discusses “selection, arrangement, layering,” and “blending” in the context of musical arrangements, different voices in communities perform these same functions to talk about their experiences (35).  Stories are remixed or blended as different people tell and re-tell them, and then again changed as they’re added into various contexts and arguments.  It occurs to me that the stories of black interviewees- and indeed, all interviewees- are authentically, completely theirs until they are remixed and re-used by somebody else.  Despite the fact that the initial words and ideas belong to the interviewee, they are appropriated and taken out of their context for use by somebody else.

I know that’s very likely confusing and doesn’t really engage with the digital aspect of  the book, but I was curious to explore this thought a bit more (and I will probably update this again when I’ve had more time to think about it).