Tag Archives: Goldsmith

The Pros and Cons of Academic Weblogging

In response to the rough draft of my digital essay, wherein I draw from the work of Henry Jenkins in Convergence Culture, Caitlin recommended that I link to his blog, which he updates regularly and where he clearly identifies himself as an “Aca-Fan” (an academic fan). After perusing the first few pages (which cover about two months’ worth of material), I came across a series of posts that I thought provided a useful example for exploring the affordances of weblogging. This series is titled “Why Do We Need to Understand Fans” A Conversation with Mark Duffett” and it includes four parts, from March 3-10, 2014. Upon reading the title, I thought to myself, “How convenient/awesome that a scholar I’m using for my digital essay is having a conversation with another scholar I’m using!” For the sake of this post, let’s focus on just the first part (although the rest are equally as riveting, especially for those of us interested in cultural studies *ahem, Michael*).

The post begins with a personal narrative, wherein Jenkins explains how he first met Duffett on a recent trip to England. Jenkins then moves into a critical summary of Duffett’s work that emphasizes new directions it’s leading us in as fan/media/cultural studies scholars, concluding with the statement that it is something “that we all need to engage with.” The rest of the post consists of a transcription of their conversation.

From an aesthetic point of view, the transcription isn’t all that exciting: it’s an intense amount of text that, while formatted in such a way to clearly delineate Jenkins’ words from Duffett’s, wouldn’t lose much if we were to print it out as a PDF:

Duffett’s actual answer is anything but short (although it is enlightening).

As I was reading through the transcription, I couldn’t help but recall Kenneth Goldsmith’s discussion of the audio/video transcription assignment he created for his “Uncreative Writing” seminar and how difficult he says it was for students to capture the nuances of human speech in alphabetic text. Without using the clunky system of symbols to signify pauses and emphases, the transcription feels extremely dense and static; yet, if Jenkins had used that system, he would have rendered the transcription nearly, if not entirely, unreadable to unfamiliar audiences.

Digital writing offers a simple solution: embedded video. I felt like Jenkins’ does this series of posts a disservice by not including any audio or video because doing so would have allowed us to gain a better understanding of how he and Duffett interacted. Hearing or watching Duffett answer Jenkins’ inquiries would have been more in line with Jenkins’ interest in convergence/participatory culture, would have helped break up the textual monotony of reading such a text-heavy transcription. But as Jenkins’ other posts show, he clearly in no stranger to the use of embedded video, so I wonder why he chose not to include any to enhance this series of posts (the one in part four has little to do with the actual conversation at hand), especially since the linguistic accuracy of his transcription suggests that he recorded his conversation with Duffett in some capacity.

But what I appreciate about Jenkins’ blog as a whole, though, is how it utilizes digital media to escapes the confines of printed (read: hard copy) writing. By creating and maintaining this blog, Jenkins is able to extend his scholarship, to update his previously published work—to avoid what Janel called “the horribly static codex.” As we witness the shift toward Digital Humanities, perhaps Jenkins can provide us a model for how to reconceptualize scholarship and what it means to be a “published scholar.”

Collecting an Argument on Tumblr

A content warning for the digital text below – while not graphically, it deals with violence against women, rape culture, misogyny, and references to self-harm/suicide. Not to bring anybody down or  anything…

A Woman’s Worst Nightmare

This particular post, written by several tumblr users over months and with nearly 70,000 notes (of both likes and reblogs), represents one way in which tumblr collaboratively composes.

The post’s origin was in January 2011 with alullaby posting the quotation from Mary Dickson’s 1996 article hosted on PBS, “A Woman’s Worst Nightmare.” The piece as it currently stands exists primarily in this form, although there will be small variations across blogs as the person reblogging may add to the written material. It is not a static piece of writing, and, at first, I was hesitant to put it forward as a digital “essay” – as I do think of essays as writing with a clear start and end date and that will appear the same no matter who posts/reblogs it. But it is certainly a digital text.

Further, the piece represents one significant mode of writing on tumblr: collection. The collection could be the most ridiculous posts surrounding the government shutdown, the strangest high school sex miseducation moments, or a more serious post such as this, where women (and a couple men) voice their understanding of women’s worst nightmare. This one in particular is a collection because it has been curated in a certain way. Normally, when a post is just reblogged again and again and added to, the final product on your dashboard looks like this:

x11 1

Courtneystoker reblogged the original post from radiantbutterfly and clicking on either url will bring you to the post on those users’ blogs.

This text, however, looks like this on the dash (I’m only showing a section because it is far too large to screenshot and insert the whole thing):

x11 2

Here, the relationship between each comment is unclear; while it’s possible kaitg reblogged and then added to kittencoaster’s comment, it’s impossible to tell, especially as the urls lead only to the users’ homepages and not their reblogged version of the post. This suggests, then, that this is a collection of posts – though the collector seems to be anonymous. (At least at this point, there may be a way to find out the exact history of the post, but it would involve going through its tens of thousands of notes.)

Collections seem to work uncreatively as Kenneth Goldsmith imagines the mode. If we think back to his presentation on the Brooklyn Bridge – he selects various pieces about it to make a clear, but implicit, argument. While the majority of my own tumblr essay differs from the collection as it has one author, a linear structure, and close reading, some of the work outside of the essay’s main body is in the collection of posts around Hamlet and Shakespeare original to the site.

As a collection, this text works similarly to what Goldsmith describes in that there are a large variety of users putting vastly different thoughts on the table, from “Wow” (kittencoaster) and “men, read all of this please. including the commentary. esp if you consider yourself a Nice Guy” (static-nonsense) to the longer narrative posts (someauthorgirl) and references to outside writers (becomingchichi). The comment that indicates how the piece has grown through the various commentary also stays in the most popular version of it (everythingbutharleyquinn).

The collaborative process embraces different writing styles. Some users don’t use capitalization/proper grammar and spelling, some write extremely informally and casually use obscenity, and some take a more academic, critical tone while still describing intensely personal experiences.

And, the writers recognize the writing that they are collecting as unique. Gtfothinspo writes, “I referenced this quote in a discussion I was having with a teacher a few weeks ago. He shifted uncomfortably and didn’t say anything for a few minutes, then told me ‘I couldn’t write like that in an essay.’ The truth hurts, huh.”

Collectively, the post embodies several elements of digital writing: an element of anonymity, a vast range in styles, collaboration, and a self-awareness of its own project.

Class, Fri, 4/25



Uncreative Writing

Goldsmith on Daily Show

Fastwrite: What technique or assignment from Kenneth Goldsmith might you borrow or adapt in your own teaching? Your own writing?To what ends? As always, try to ground your writing in a specific passage from the text.

Moment of Zen

The Apotheosis of Uncreative Writing: David Shields on Stephen Colbert


Workshopping Proto-Drafts

Spend about 20 minutes per project. Authors should walk readers through their projects, with the aim  of getting advice in response to specific questions.

Fastwrite: Write a quick draft of your cover memo for your first draft next Tuesday. Come up with a title for your project, a quick description of its form (and platform), a summary of your argument, and some questions you want to ask your readers.

First Drafts and Responses

To Do

  1. Tues, 4/29, 11:59 pm: Post your first draft with cover memo.
  2. Thurs, 5/01, 4:00 pm: Post responses to your group members’ drafts.
  3. Fri: 5/02, in class: Workshop first drafts.