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Reading Notes: Class Meeting 2/4/14

Thoughts on the Readings:

Literature Review as Network:

Carolyn Miller begins her article, "Genre as Social Action", with a literature review of previous scholarship on genres. I was struck by how a literature review can function as a network. Miller writes that Campbell and Jamieson's understanding of genre as having important "social and historical aspects" (151) "leans on" the Burkean terms "motive" and "situation" (152). Then she links their explanation to Bitzer's idea of exigence requiring response and even Aristotle's situation-based rhetoric (152). She argues that their work is indebted to, but differs from, the work of Frye and Black in their privileging form over situation (153). She traces Burke's influence on Fisher in terms of the idea of motive; then continues to credit Fisher with influencing Harrell and Linkugel (154). In this way, the literature review places nodes (authors) within a network (genre discourse). She describes the connections, proximity, and relationships between the nodes. 

Genre as Network:

I am struck by the similarity of genre in Miller's work to Foucault's discussion of fields of discursive events - a space into which events are dispersed and understood by their connections to one another. Miller seems to suggest this as well, asserting that "genre...becomes...a point of connection between intention and effect, an aspect of social action" (153). What is a node, if not a "point of connection"? Genre is a node in the discursive field of social action; it provides the meaningful "features that create a particular effect in a given situation" (153). Miller suggests that if we have an intention to create an action, we rely on our understanding of genre to create an appropriate product to achieve the desired effect. For example, I have the intention of completing a doctoral program of which this course is one requirement. My understanding of the situation as academic in nature and my understanding of certain genres like blog posts, journal articles, or conference papers is necessary if I want to translate the intention into result. Without the ability to navigate through and (re)produce these recognizable forms, I would not be able to complete the program - the desired effect.

Miller later offers this same idea of genre as a node where "intent" is replaced with the "mind" and "effect" can be replaced with "society". In essence, we need genres to translate what exists in our minds into tangible objects that potentially effect society. 

Miller's rethinking of genre from "Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre" (71)

Bazerman Organizes Genre:


Bazerman positions genre in a larger network of human activity in his chapter "Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems". The triangle below is a visual representation of the hierarchy described in the text, placing social fact as the foundation of text-based action (311). It seems that social fact could be equated with exigence (Bitzer) or motive (Burke). It is the problem or awareness of an action needing to be taken. The response to these facts is a speech act, and there can be a collection of many speech acts into longer forms. These speech acts can take recognizable forms, genres, which can themselves belong to groups of similar forms or with similar producers, genre sets. These sets are connected in systems that facilitate the flow of communication between them, genre systems. Then ultimately, these genre systems can be understood as modes of participating in patterns of human activity.


Bazerman's hierarchy of text-based action (311)

Implications for Research:

This week, two ideas emerged that could be potentially helpful to my research.
  • Bazerman's method of conducting a genre investigation (326): This concept could be applicable in the sense of studying the underground press as a genre, which had not occurred to me before, and would be an interesting avenue for exploration. He gives three points when conducting genre investigation - framing the purpose, defining the corpus, and selecting and applying tools. It occurs to me that this method privileges the role of the investigator, forced to make edits and selections at every step of the process - reminds me of Vatz's emphasis on the role of the rhetor in constructing discourse for that very reason of the power of selection.
  • Miller brings the scholar Herbert Blumer into the discussion, author of the 1979 text "Symbolic Interaction". She explains his position that "social action exists in the form of recurrent patterns of joint action" (qtd. in Miller 158). This quote stopped me in my tracks as relevant to the underground press movement. The movement's goal was social action and it channeled this intention through the reoccurring pattern of the dissenting voices in self-published pamphlets or newspapers belonging to communal, or joint, action in its collaborative nature. I intend to find the Blumer article to explore more of this idea that communal actions follow historically repeating patterns to effect social action or change. It feels like the kind of theoretical underpinnings needed to ground my research in the discipline.

A Note on Process:

This is my brain tonight. Synapses firing. Memory centers lighting up like fireworks. Ideas flashing like lightening. This blog is an attempt to organize these tangents and connections into a coherent discussion.

Image posted on tumblr by Silicon Garden
I did something slightly different this week. In the past, I have printed the pdf files of assigned readings and dutifully underlined meaningful passages, took notes in the margins, and scrawled summaries at the end of chapters. But this week, I didn't print the articles since my printer won't print black and white documents until I replace the cyan cartridge.


Screen capture of comic strip from Oatmeal

But I digress. Instead of my usual method, I used the unlined printer paper that my printer refused to have anything to do with and took notes about the articles on the sheets. It was strangely beneficial. I wrote out interesting quotes by hand. I found myself drawing little pictures or diagrams. I drew lines and arrows between bullet points. I easily flipped between my pages to find places of connection that might otherwise have been missed if I had to navigate a complete pdf.

I just wanted to pause here to reflect on the process of reading this week that I used, and to credit this process with the more fluid thinking that accompanied the reading.

Scans of some of my notes liberated from lined paper and marginalia:




Works Cited:

Bazerman, Charles. “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People”. What Writing Does and How It Does It: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Eds. Charles Bazerman and Paul Prior. Taylor and Francis e-library, 2008. 309-340. Print.

---. “Systems of Genres and the Enactment of Social Intentions”. Genre and the New Rhetoric. Eds. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. 79-104. Print.

Miller, Carolyn R.. “Genre as Social Action”. Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 151-167. Print.

---. “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre”. Genre and the New Rhetoric. Eds. Aviva 
Freedman and Peter Medway. London: Taylor and Francis, 1994. 23-42. Print.


Popham, Susan L.. “Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Business”. Journal of Business and Technical Communication 19 (2005): 279-303. Print.

Individual Research Reflection: 4/30

Final Reflection:

Perhaps my feelings about this project could best be summed up in song:



In all seriousness, this project has been the realization of long held dreams, and even though it is in its infancy, I am thrilled with the process so far. Just as the radicals and idealists of the Sixties believed they were at the dawn of a new era in human peace and equality, so too do I feel as though this ending is merely the dawning of a new age. This is my Digital Age, and even if I am late to the party, I do feel that I have arrived there.

Applications Used:

  • Primarily a WordPress website, I have used the various applications available to me after having the site externally hosted. I have made extensive use of plug-ins and widgets to customize the page. The BuddyPress plug-in has been integral to the community aspect of functionality I wished to achieve. I have became proficient in finding solutions to functionality issues through the use of and adaptation of plug-ins. Most recently I added a plug-in to work around the issue of tagging on pages where my publication issues are as opposed to just being able to tag posts, which I use for project updates.
  • I have been using Acrobat recently to divide my pdf files and will continue to use it going forward to process OCR and possibly allow for readers to comment within the text - especially useful for the author attribution I am seeking.
 
Rhetorical Requirements:
 
 
  • When I started this project, I wanted to create a research tool. I knew very clearly that my audience was made up of scholars, writers, and readers of the underground press. Many who work with the subject have lived through the era in question or participated in it first-hand, while others, like myself, are what Ken Wachsberger calls "intergenerational peers." With that audience in mind, I believe that the process I have begun to tag content to allow for locating points of interest is the best example of meeting the needs of that audience.
  • Additionally, the BuddyPress feature meets an additional purpose behind the project, namely community. I wanted to create a research tool, and that is happening, but I also wanted to create a space for discussion and reconnections. I wanted to preserve and make available this work that holds a significant place in history; however, the nature of these publications was always social. To have a research tool that does not have room for the social aspect of alternative media is lacking. Having groups and forums and places to comment throughout the site is the function that distinguishes this from other digital archives.
 
Getting Stuck:
 
 
  • Getting stuck has become a habit for me (and I've written extensively about that in previous posts), but it is no longer one that causes me stress. I got stuck at pretty much every point along the way, especially figuring out how to get BuddyPress installed (external hosting and domain registration) and figuring out how to divide pdfs and add page tags (free trial download Acrobat X Pro). I discovered that there is a system (yay for my linear brain!) that I can follow whenever these inevitable obstacles pop up. I work my resources:
    • Internet - Someone, somewhere has probably had the same problem. And they probably posted in a forum. While not always easy to wade through, I have often been lead to the solution or answer I was looking for.
    • Humans - My favorite resource of is other people. Whether it's a phone call or online chat with tech support or customer service (Bluehost tech people are amazing) or a friend in person or online, people with expertise are out there and willing to help. I try people after I try to find the solution on my own because it is important to me to learn and not just follow directions without knowing why.
    • Codex - When all else fails, I go to the codex, which is the online manual for WordPress and BuddyPress. It isn't as straight forward as the previous two sources, but with time (and an Internet connection to look up all the words and phrases I don't understand), it can be helpful.
 
Theoretical Connections:
 
 
  • Delagrange: For me, this project has been about overcoming the anxiety of technology creation, learning that I can learn how to make digital products, focusing on process over product (almost converted), and becoming more proficient at techne, which Delagrange defines as producing technology. She advocates repeatedly for increased making of technology by New Media scholars and less talking about it. This project has been something I made, from the ground up, where no website or blank template existed. Her encouragement and call for women especially to take up ground in the field was invaluable in helping me situate myself in the field. 
  • Archive: This key concept resonated with me from the very beginning of class. However, I have come to start using an adjusted term: social archive. For me this is a combination of collective memory building, public archives, social networking, and interactivity. Because the project has both preservation and connection at its heart, I think social archive is a better descriptor of the work.
  • Ecology of Culture: My project is part of the scholarship surrounding the underground press; however, much like Delagrange's calls for an increase in the prestige of New Media products in comparison to print articles, the underground press must also fight for equal footing within the discipline. There is a culture that dismisses the work as the insignificant ramblings of a sex, drugs, and rock n' roll counterculture. I have even heard this voiced in my own interviews with people who participated in the creation of these newspapers.  There is a growing number of scholars who argue for an increased emphasis on alternative media (especially since the role that these sources played in the social movements like Arab Spring and OWS). They, as do I, argue for recognition of the work done by these publications in reflecting and effecting social change, to view them as important historical documents, and to examine them with the same scholarly lens as other canonical texts in an effort to legitimize and increase the study of the underground as a whole. The Ecology of Culture is slowly shifting with new scholarship examining dissent and social media, self-publication and social change, and alternative media's influence in society overall. I feel that my work contributes to shifting the culture, and I look forward to the continuation of the project in the future.


Individual Research: 4/23

Project Updates:

This week was all about Adobe Acrobat X Pro.

Here's the saga:

I as seriously overwhelmed at first (can you say Persistence?), but like my previous experiences, I took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. First of all, what I wanted to accomplish was breaking up the pdf files of the issues into individual pages. This would start the process of OCR for in-text searching. In the meantime, I could apply tags to the pages and give users a better research function.

But there are so many different Adobe products. Which one do I need? I tried to use the "Compare Products" chart, only to discover I really didn't know what the different criteria meant. Automate multistep tasks? Integrate with Microsoft SharePoint? Insert furrowed brow here.

On to the next resource (and my favorite) - HUMANS! No luck on my Facebook post plea for help. And the customer service number is only open during the day. When I was able to call someone the next day, I told her what I wanted to do (you can actually select "help choosing a product" from the automated menu when you call - I am obviously not alone in my woes). She told me I need X Pro. Great, how much? $199? Oh. There's a student/educator discount? $119. Hmm. And you have to send in forms and wait for them to be reviewed and approved.

Sigh.

But wait!! There is a 30 day free trial!! Yes, please! Then this:


Screen Shot of my Facebook Wall
 Tried on my husband's computer. Still no luck. Firewalls up and down. Pop-up blockers on and off. Cookies allowed and blocked. Restarts and pounding the keys as though it would work if I just click hard enough or enough times. Trolled forums and FAQs and random internet sites from a Google search of my problem. Somewhere by some miracle a suggestion caught my eye. Like a voice of an angel.

"Try using a different browser"   


Chrome? And like magic the free trial worked. Damn you Internet Explorer!! I was able to split my pdf files, load them on the site, and start tagging. I have two of the nine issues uploaded and tagged so far.

I have tags in the following categories (oh, and I had to search for and download a plug-in to allow tags on pages as well as posts - that was a gem of a few hours):

Author
Theme
Genre (prose, poem, political cartoon)
Serial (for repeated articles and features)
Format (images, image and text, cover, etc.)

I also included a tag called "Needs Attribution" that I will tweet and post about in an effort to find authorship for the anonymous pieces. 

It's amazing to see this abstract dream come to fruition. I am revelling in the process not the product, which ain't easy for a product-oriented girl like me!

Oh, and Ken Wachsberger (author and scholar - on the additional resources page, basically an annotated bib I did as part of an Independent Study for Dr. Depew) is now my friend on Facebook. He sent me a very nice note, and it is amazing to be called his "intergenerational peer."

The saga continues....

Individual Research: 4/16

Project Updates:

The project is in full swing now. I tackled several issues that arose since beginning the BuddyPress powered site. As with everything, it is a time-consuming process for me since I am having to teach myself as I go along.

First, I activated the membership function of BuddyPress, so anyone who wished to register to the site would be able. The site recommended a plug-in called Akismet to prevent spam in the comments and prevent registration of spammers. I ignored it because this was yet another annual subscription totalling another $60.00. So far I have spent my own money for the hosting and the domain, and I will have to purchase the acrobat suite soon. I ignored it. But then a friend left me a comment that he was having a hard time registering. I tried to do it myself and everything was fine except no confirmation email was ever sent out.

A few hours over a few days later, I learned that I needed to create an email account through the control panel of my hosting service (admin@southernundergroundpress.com) then install a SMTP plug-in to the website through its dashboard. However, anyone who had attempted to log-in prior to the SMTP activation was receiving an email that the user name and email were already in use. I found the place on the dashboard where I can manage the registered users. I saw over twenty users with strange email addresses - many from the same domain. I also had several comments - strange and in oddly worded English - awaiting moderation. I'd been spammed!

I had to break down and buy the Akismet code to activate the plug-in. This led me to think I needed to create a way for people to help out until I can get a grant. I found a Pay Pal plug-in that creates a Pay Pal widget. That was easy enough, but the widget was then appearing on every page, which was not the desired effect. I created a "Help Us Out" page which was the only place I wanted the donate button to appear.

I first tried to use the codex to find the answer. It suggested that I create a custom page template by writing my own code. I bravely attempted to follow the instructions, watched a video tutorial, and got as far as creating a blank template through the control panel of my hosting service. When it came time to add the content however, I was unable to get that working. After a good bit of time, I decided to get some help the next day from a friend at work.

That night I decided to google the problem, rather than the solution given to me by the codex. I found a thread in a forum that directed me to a different plug-in, My Custom Widget, that allowed the user to create his or her own widget with the promise it would be customizable. I spent an hour or so trying to copy the code (I opened the page with Firefox and used the feature that allows the user to view the code of a webpage, then copied the pay pal widget) and use that to make my own donate button. I couldn't get that to work to even get to the step where I could try to get it on only one page. Back to google.

Another thread. Another plug-in. Widget Logic. This one promised filtering capabilities through conditional tagging. After activating the plug-in, I finally figured out that what it did is add a field in the edit box that opens when I click on a selected widget. The only thing I could find from the website were some bits of code - is_page ("Page Name") and in_page ("Page Name"). I tried the in page code first only to make the entire website crash. Sweet. I tried the is page code bit and nothing happened. I searched some more. One site had spaces after the quotation marks and the page name. I tried and...


Actually, it was more like "I am the "code-master!" But the general feeling is spot on!

Individual Research: 4/9

Individual Research Project:

I have been working steadily on my website and have started calling it a community archive. In the proposal, we were asked to connect our project to two of the theorists' work that we've read in class so far. I think that the concept "archive" has been the critical driving force behind my work. Arjun Appadurai's work with archives and collective memory, briefly discussed in Beer and Gane, is especially helpful in theoretically underpinning my research. He explains that interactive archives create a space in which collective memory can be stored. My community archive is not only a research tool, which I have seen and used, but it is an active. living organism of connection and collectivity. That is what excites me about the work most.

Plan:

After initially creating the site, which was a tremendous learning process in terms of navigating the transition from free blog to a registered and hosted domain, I got stuck about what to do next. I added plug-ins and tweaked the theme to be a social network using BuddyPress, and I added group functionality and worked to spread awareness through Facebook and Twitter marketing. When Professor Rodrigo gave me the advice to focus on functionality, things began to fall into place.

I made a mind map to show what I have done and intend to do:

Individual Research: 4/2

Project Proposal:

I would like to take the opportunity to use this project as a stepping stone for work on a dissertation project discussed here.

Through the tutorials project, I was able to complete the following work:

  1. Create a WordPress blog and post a description of the project with pdf files of an underground publication.
  2. Publicize the blog and have it included in a library research guide.
  3. Purchase a domain and acquire hosting through Blue Host.
  4. Transfer blog content to web site.
  5. Add a Buddy Press plug-in to allow for the creation of members, groups, and forums.
  6. Created two groups for the publications I have worked with so far.
  7. Created custom background and header to basic Buddy Press template.
I have started to publicize the domain, but have yet to ask anyone to join. I want to make some progress getting digitized versions of Bragg Briefs and continue working with Laurie Charnigo at Jacksonville State University on building the digital collection of Southern papers.

I am not sure where to go from here. I know that I want the pdf files to be searchable documents. In the tutorials, I had some leads on ways to get that going - namely CONTENTdm, which powers the database of Great Speckled Bird.

I am wondering if it would be possible to start working toward that goal for this project?

Confused
Image posted on Flickr by Giulia Torra

Individual Tutorial Notes: 3/19 (Or – Domain Thing is Not to Panic!)

This Week's Inspiration:

This week I am inspired by...

ME!

Okay, so at the risk of sounding arrogant, I am tooting my own horn here. Last week on March 19th,  I uploaded the scans of Inquisition to my WordPress site. I was toying with the different menus and widgets until I was pretty pleased with myself. I shared the site on my Facebook page and tagged three of the original editors in the post. By the end of the day, a librarian in Alabama included a link to my page from the university's underground press research guide.

It went like this:

  • 6:25 p.m.: Facebook post with link and tags
  • 7:52 p.m.: Paul Jones (Inquisition poet and Chapel Hill professor in Information Science) tweets page
  • 7:55 p.m.: Center for the Study of the American South retweets Jones's post
  • 8:15 p.m.: Jones posts on Facebook
  • 8:30 (guessing) p.m.: John McMillian, author of Smoking Typewriters, shares link to my page on FB with Laurie Charnigo (assumingly a share from FB from Jones)
  • 8:33 p.m.: Charnigo asks if he knows who created the page and he gives her my name, which he got form Jones who had met at a conference (I have since added contact information to the page)
  • 8:45 p.m.: Charnigo updates JSU library page with link to my page and reaches out to me with an offer to help gather publications for digitization

The Internet is an amazing thing. But I am inspired by my success. In a short time, I have made a lot of progress and have gathered a good bit of attention. It's terribly flattering and exciting. I am more motivated than ever to work on this project!

Tutorial Activities:

This week I decided I would dedicate myself to transforming my WordPress site into a BuddyPress site to allow for community forums. Little did I know that I was opening a can of worms. But let's start at the beginning.

I started by exploring BuddyPress.org and looking at some examples of BuddyPress sites like tastykitchen.com.  I was excited to see the community features and decided to push ahead with adding this feature. I started by clicking the download for BuddyPress. It downloaded easily enough, but the next step was to go to the dashboard and activate the plug-in (this terminology by the way was something I had to learn about on a basic definitions page). After many minutes of not being able to locate any such tool from the dashboard, I returned to the definitions page. I read there that plug-ins are not available on blogs hosted by WordPress for security reasons. Externally hosted pages can support this, so I would have to change my host to get BuddyPress.

At that point, I still didn't understand what hosting meant. I thought it had something to do with what WordPress was advertising from the dashboard, which was to register a domain. I understood domain to be a website and thought this would be what I needed to do for BuddyPress to be added. I paid the $25 and upgraded my blog to a website: southernundergroundpress.com. I tried again to find the BuddyPress plug-in to no avail. My website was still being hosted by WordPress. I learned I would need external hosting, and WordPress directed me to Bluehost.

I spent a lot of time here. I chatted online with a customer service rep who informed me of the difference between registration and hosting. Eli explained that I could host my site on Bluehost for $85 a year. I signed up for hosting and attempted to follow the "basic" instructions for transferring a domain.





I watched this many times. I was overwhelmed. This is the tutorial? The four things I am supposed to do before I even start the transfer was a complete foreign language! Unlock from my current registrar? Change privacy? Locate my EPP code? Point DNS to bluehost? Dear God! What have I done?

I called the help line, much like Tom Cruise screaming for tech support in the movie Vanilla Sky.

They walked me through how to find the place on the Wordpress dashboard where I could access these settings (Dashboard - Store - Domains - click on domain name to open domain manager). I got off the phone and set up a log in and password for the domain manager. I waited for a confirmation email then clicked on the link to verify the account. I went into the domain manager and unlocked it. I couldn't figure out how to change the privacy setting frustratingly. Nothing would happen when you click on that. Oh well. I requested the EPP code to be sent to my email. I even changed the DNS (domain name something or other) to the Bluehost codes or address or whatever "ns1.bluehost.com" is called. 

Now what? Hmm. Everything is still the same. Back to the website for Bluehost.

I discover that a new domain name cannot be transferred to a new host for 60 days after registration according to a federal law. Since I had just registered the domain on WordPress that day, I would be unable to transfer it for two months. But I need BuddyPress now! I was instructed on Bluehost that some registrars allow for cancellation, then the domain can be registered and hosted on Bluehost.

Back to WordPressBluehost to register the domain with them and get BuddyPress going!

Only, the domain is not available. I call. I am directed to who.is, a site that will let me know if a domain is available. When the domain southernundergroundpress.com is available again, I can get it. Apparently this can take days or even longer once a cancellation has occurred. I was also informed that if I had just waited 24-36 hours for the DNS change to take place, I would have been able to proceed. Nice.

southernundergroundpress.org is available and I have thought about taking that domain. I could just register that and get going, but it is more expensive to be a .org than a .com.

So what have I learned....

Reflection of Learning:

I have learned that patience is key and panic helps nothing. The domain registration (new concept) and the web hosting (new concept) will get sorted out soon enough. As soon as the domain is available, things will go smoothly.

The good thing about Bluehost is that they have unlimited storage space. Once I get going, I will be able to upload all the media and files I need.

I didn't get to enable the BuddyPress plug-in, but I am excited to get that going. I think this week, despite nothing to really show for it except some charges on my debit card, has been actually productive in helping me understand how the business of website creation works.

I also learned that interest and help is out there. Check out my comment:

http://southernundergroundpress.wordpress.com/posts/about/

and some other work in the field:
http://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/protest-history-underground-press-syndicate/


Closing Thoughts:

At this point, the tutorial activities are no longer required and the project work is to begin. I have a lot left to do and learn and need to continue working on various tutorial projects as I go, but I am excited to move forward with BuddyPress (hopefully soon, if the domain becomes available!) and try to build the community feature of this project. Bluehost told me once I import the blog, I will have to rebuild the theme and set-up and will probably have to reload the pdf files. I'd like to make some progress on obtaining the next set of papers to digitize. I have a lead on a collection in Greensboro of Bragg Briefs, a military base publication.

It's hard for me to summarize what I've learned. I've learned a lot about myself in this process, being fearless and jumping in to something new with both feet, despite the overwhelming amount of information that is new. However, I found that I can learn it - methodically - and practice it - even as a novice, which is a new thought. In the past, I felt like I would have so much to learn before I could have a tangible product, but the truth is that with only a bot of knowledge, a creation can come to life. The Internet is infinitely open to revisions. Nothing I post today can't be updated or added to tomorrow. That is a comforting thought. I don't have to roll out with a perfect finished product; it can and will move in stages of increasing functionality.

I learned about technology as well. The definitions and the business of publishing a website. The speed at which information is disseminated. The terminology associated with these things (my last phone call to Bluehost was so much easier because I was able to use the terminology to explain exactly what I had done with registration, hosting, and the DNS changes - actually, I was really proud of that conversation!).

All in all, I am thrilled and excited by the progress, and I can't wait to keep going.

Product Analysis: Great Speckled Bird Database 3/12

Individual Tutorial Assignment: Product Analysis

The assignment this week is to examine, explore, and analyze a product that utilizes the technology we have chosen for the research project. Since I am looking at the creation of an archive and community for underground press publications, I decided to explore the functionality of a digital archive.

Georgia State University Library currently has a digital collection of media that can be searched, and it is very similar to the kind of project I envision. I also selected this archive because Georgia State University is home to history professor and author of the underground press book Smoking Typewriters, Dr. John McMillian.

Here is a link to the database: GSU Library Digital Collections

Although the collection includes many different types of media and various titles, I am primarily concerned with Atlanta's major underground publication, The Great Speckled Bird. There are far more issues of this newspaper (having run from 1968-1976) than there are of the papers I have been involved with thus far; however, there are many functions of this database that I think would apply to mine.

A Walkthrough:


From the database's home page, you can select the publication or collection you want to browse. I selected Great Speckled Bird. This screen shot shows the results: a list of titles with thumbnails of the cover and date of publication. Each has the same description and subject. At the top, there are options for doing an advanced search, setting results preferences (number of hits per page and format), and saving articles and entries to a favorites section by clicking the box beside the thumbnail.



By clicking on the advanced search tab, I was able to search for key terms within the collection. I could limit the search to one title or select multiple media to search across the entire collection. There are some various search options like searching for an exact phrase or all of the words. I searched "Charlotte" in just Great Speckled Bird.



The search produced a list of hits. Each issue that contains the term is listed in the same way as before, but when the title is clicked, the page that contains the term is highlighted in red.




Here is where my heart started beating a little faster. There are many amazing features shown in the screen shot below. First, the database is able to list each issue's pages separately down the left hand side of the screen, clearly indicating in red the page that has the key term. The viewer wouldn't have to scroll through a lengthy pdf file but simply click the page he or she needs.

The next feature that I like is that the key term is also highlighted, so the viewer can see exactly where the term appears without having to read the entire document. An additional tool bar appears to the immediate left of the document. Here, the number of instances that the keyword appears on the page is given as well as the file paths for each instance. By clicking on the file paths, the highlighted box will move between the various instances on the page. The page being viewed can also be searched for a different keyword.

Finally, in the upper right hand corner are a series of tabs. The tools tab allows the viewer to create a pdf of the page and export it by email or with Adobe SendNow, convert the page to a Word document, or create a new pdf. These tools are available after signing up for Adobe membership, which the viewer will be directed to before having access to these features. Comments can be added and text can be highlighted by selecting the comments tab.



Why This Rocks:

There are many aspects of this database that are impressive, particularly for a researcher:
  •  The completeness of the archive is great. They have done a lot of work in compiling, preserving, and digitizing such a vast amount of issues.
  • The thumbnails of each cover makes the results resemble a digital catalog, which helps the researcher more readily scan through the various issues.
  • Organizing each issue with a list of links to each individual page is an excellent research tool.
  • Searchable text is the key feature that takes this from being a reading resource into a true research tool for scholarship. Being able to look for a certain event or person allows the archive to be used by multiple disciplines.
  • The quality of the scans makes it very easy to read each issue, and the zoom features on each page allow the online viewer to closely simulate the first-hand experience.
  • The researcher is also able to use Adobe tools to annotate, save, and export in a text document. This would allow for the text to be easily incorporated into a paper or blog. Not having to retype passages can save a lot of time.
  • There is a place to click for a reference URL. A new window opens with a URL address directly to the page being viewed that can be copied and used in citations. Another great research tool.
It really seems as though the database was built with the needs of a scholar in mind. The kind of searching, saving, annotating, and exporting functions it provides are excellent research tools. This helps me see the difference between a website dedicated to just reading about or having a forum about a particular title and a research archive designed to further the scholarship in a particular academic discipline. While I want the forums as a place for author attribution and connection, I don't want to lose sight of the scholarly purpose.

A New Lead:

At the bottom of the screen, there is a little link that says "powered by CONTENTdm" (a php site by the way). Here is the link: http://www.oclc.org/contentdm/.

can handle the storage, management and delivery of your collections to users across the Web." The storage of archive could be a great solution to my eventual problems of space, and the conversion to searchable files is something they could potentially help with in addition to building the interface for the archive like the GSU collection.

I am really excited to have come across this new lead!

Individual Tutorial Notes: 3/12

This Week's Inspiration:


Scan of February 15, 2012 Article on Charlotte Observer


I came across this article while looking through the newspaper a couple weeks ago. I clipped it out and put it on my refrigerator for inspiration. You can read it online here. I find it inspiring because the article describes a project that is very similar to what I envision.

The 573 letters exchanged between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were previously only available to people who went to Wellesley College and viewed them in the library. However, in a collaboration between Baylor University and Wellesley, the letters have now been digitized and made public.

The whole world can now access the letters here: www.wellesley.edu/browning

The article continues to explain that,


"The website set up for readers to see the correspondence includes both the handwritten letters and transcriptions, as well as a zoom function for readers to try to decipher faded or illegible words. The body of letters will also be searchable by keywords."


I plan to explore this more in a deeper analysis in a separate blog post.



Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/02/15/3013203/browning-and-barrett-love-letters.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy
Tutorial and Project Activities:

The Project:

I began this week where I left off with my project. I couldn't rest until I figured out those menus across the top! I have trouble moving forward if things aren't just right. I used the WordPress "Support" page search to find a tutorial on making a static home page - also called front page - so the blog will have a more traditional web site feel. I found this page: Writing & Editing - Front Page.

I also finally figured out that the tabs across the top, with this theme, are not considered "menus," like I thought. Each "page" I create is tabbed across the top. I was able to create two tabs: one for publications and one for project updates. The publications now has tiered pages - a main page with the story of the magazine, then each issue has been uploaded as a link to a pdf. The updates tab will be where my blog posts are stored. I can use this to keep readers updated on progress. I converted the first post - a basic overview - into a static front page. This is important because it will prevent the overview from being replaced with newer posts.

I also figured out how to space the title, so I know have this:

Screen Shot by Suzanne Sink of southernundergroundpress
I'm still not happy with the widgets along the left hand side of the page. I like the search feature, but I am not sure if I should have more or different widgets and plan to work on that later.

Also on the agenda is to find out if there is a way to have the pdf files be visible on the post without having to link out to them. I need to add description to the pdf files posts and tags, so people can be directed to authors and content they are interested in.

The Tutorials:

This week I decided to investigate OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology. This technology is designed to take a pdf, or other text-based document, and create a file behind the text that recognizes the different words. This will allow the text to be searched  for words, show the reader where those words appear, and help the search engine locate the different texts containing the search terms. This is a major part of the project's functionality as I envision it, and it is what makes the Browning database so helpful to scholars.

My goal here is not only to preserve and archive these cultural artifacts, but to make them useful to scholarship in literary, sociological, artistic, and historical fields of study. If the user is unable to search for his or her particular topic - the draft, for example - then the archive is just an interesting read. I need it to be a tool. OCR is at the heart of that function.

OCR:

Being the novice (fearless novice, but novice nonetheless) that I am, I started this exploration on Wikipedia's page on OCR. As I tell my students, Wikipedia can be a good place to get some background information, but it doesn't replace further research. I needed a primer - something that would help me understand the vocabulary and terms surrounding these products.

OCR - technology that coverts an image or scan of text into machine encoded text, or computer recognizable characters. This allows data to be searched by key words and is required for text mining.

Text Mining - deriving information from texts with the ability to categorize and summarize that information. This is a function that may be useful in the future of this project when there are multiple publications to search and analyze for patterns.

OCR vs. ICR - An important concept for me was the difference between OCR and ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition). ICR is necessary for converting handwriting to machine encoded text. Many of the publications are a combination of handwriting and typing, so ICR capabilities will be something to have in a purchase of software.

Error Rate - There is a great variation of accuracy among the different OCR software. I expect that the more accurate the software depends on the quality of the image to be converted and the sophistication of the software. Since I have older texts in various stages of readability, to get a low error rate, I will need a more advanced system for OCR.

Digital Libraries - I fell into a bit of a black hole on WikipediaNC ECHO - North Carolina  Exploring Cultural Heritage Online. This could potentially be an excellent resource for assistance in the process of gathering texts and publishing digitally. They provide some grants, but like NEH, grants are only awarded to institutions and not individuals. However, I could certainly look into partnering with a local library or work through ODU to obtain this kind of funding. This site is one I will need to revisit when funding becomes more of an issue.

Edit vs. Search - One potential area for further research is in locating software that doesn't simply allow for the editing of a scan but for the ability to search within in. For example, there are free versions of software that will convert a pdf to a Microsoft Word document. I have used this before to take an older worksheet and put it into a Word document. In my experience, this process resulted in a high number of errors and no option to search the text. It is something to consider when shopping for OCR software.

Search on my Computer vs. Search on the Blog - I found one resource that at first seemed promising. It can be purchased from a company called Lucion. I was very excited when I started watching the videos about how it works. However, the problem is that it converts pdf files to tif files, which is not a file type supported by WordPress. WordPress will support odt files, so I need to do more research on software that will convert pdf files to odt files.

Zotero - A professor of mine suggested I look around the resource Professor Hacker. There I found the suggestion that I look into using Zotero to store and organize my pdf files. I downloaded the software and plan on exploring that in the upcoming weeks.

Reflection of Learning:

This week was very productive for me. I learned a lot about what kinds of problems I will need to overcome to realize my vision. In particular, I need to find a way to make my scans searchable documents - easy enough to do if I want to have that function on just my home computer. This becomes problematic when thinking about making this a function of a website or blog. I am on the trail though, and after looking at the archive of the Browning letters, I am reassured that it is possible.

However, I can't help but  feeling like I am trying to reinvent the wheel. How do I connect with the people who have already digitized and made texts searchable?

Ironically, I now have a follower on my blog. She is a librarian at Jacksonville State University where there is a very large collection of underground press publications on microfilm. There is also a tab where users can see a list of links to digitized publications. Here is what I saw:



I posted these scans earlier today. Later the same day, I find that I have been added to a college library research guide! It's so exciting!

But I see from the her guide, that several papers from the South already exist in digital form. Perhaps collaboration with many projects will be necessary in the future.

Individual Tutorial Notes: 2/27

This Week's Inspiration:

At the beginning of this semester, I have to admit that I had many fears about taking a course in New Media. I consider myself an adept user of technology, but I was concerned about my ability to be an adept producer of technology. With some limited experience with Microsoft Frontpage back in 2003, I knew just enough about writing code to be aware of how very little I knew about writing code.

Then last semester, a discussion of the term "digital literacy" brought up this notion that in order to be digitally literate one most be able to produce digitally. It stuck with me, and I know now that I have to overcome the fear and doubt about my abilities to become fully digitally literate for myself and my students.

When my mother found the photograph below, I felt rather inspired. There I am, blazing a trail on the TI-99 home computer in 1983. That girl was unafraid. She was ready for anything, and so am I.


1983 - Suzanne on the forefront of New Media!

Tutorial Activities:

This week I am working on developing a WordPress blog that I can use as a starting point for creating a database. The name of the blog is southernundergroundpress.wordpress.com. This domain name is also available (and hopefully will remain available), and I hope to eventually establish a website for the archive of underground press publications.

At first I thought I could just get started, like I have been learning as I go with Blogger, but I quickly realized that WordPress has far more customizations, technological capabilities, and advanced features. This week I have been working on getting myself familiar with the site. The first stop was this handy little tutorial located on the bottom of the home page:

Screen Shot by Suzanne Sink from http://www.wordpress.com/
This looked like a promising place to start, so I clicked on it and it took me here:


Screen Shot by Suzanne Sink from Word Press Article "Master the Basics and Beyond"
The article includes information on how to:

Get Started: This written and video tutorial walks the user through the creation of a WordPress account from selection of a domain name through to setting a password. I had been able to do this without the tutorial, but it was nice to know I didn't miss any steps.

Get Acquainted: This section is dedicated to the "Dashboard." This is described as the back-end, the part that the reader will not see. This is where I can control the blog, and it is also as far as I went before realizing I needed help. There are so many options from the dashboard, so I was reassured when WordPress told me:

"If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the menus here, don’t worry – you only need to know your way around a few key parts of the dashboard to start publishing content and personalizing your blog’s appearance."
Thanks WordPress! After spending time on the PHP.org pages, having technology that speaks to the novice is actually very empowering. It instructed me to find my way to the "Settings" controls and play around with the features and then repeat that exploration with the "Privacy"controls, which I did. I made the page able to be indexed by search engines and adjusted the tag line to:

"The Project to Archive and Rebuild the Communities of the Southern Underground Press"

Get Focused: This section is full of advice for choosing a blog topic. I just skimmed since I have a clear idea of my purpose here.

Get Customized: Now I am ready to give my blog a "unique personal design." The advice that jumps off the page is, "It may be tempting to choose a theme just because you like the aesthetics, but don’t forget about functionality." Since I want to have a home page with a description of the project then links to the database search and community areas, I decided to use the filter to help narrow theme choices that had a side bar. I chose "Greyzed," which has an urban, edginess to it that I like for the project.

Then things get difficult. After an hour or so of battling with widgets and menus, stubbornly trying to figure it out on my own, I decided to leave things be for now and look for further guidance on the subject in the support page - here. I chose to use Search, Archives, Categories, Pages, and Meta for now.

Get Published: I learned here that I can write "pages" as well as posts. These are not organized chronologically, but are suitable for stable content. I'm thinking that each publication could have its own page? For now, I used an edited version of last week's blog in the "About" page and used a portion of a paper on Inquisition on another page.

Get Flashy: Adding images and video works much in the same way as Blogger, but I like the Zemanta feature, which intuitively recommends images and articles that are free to use based on the content of a post as well as tags. Cool!

Get Connected: Here I found some general advice about how to find blogs I might be interested in reading and how to use tags to help readers find me. The Zemanta application I activated in the last step has already helped me with the tags, and I added a photo and a blurb to my profile.

Get Famous: This section has tips for boosting exposure and readers. I will certainly look into this more when I get the page more established.

Get Mobile: I can use my HTC phone powered by Android to work on my blog.

bookmarklet to my favorites bar, so I can automatically keep track of content on the web I might want to include in my blog. Way cool!

After the Basics:

I still have questions about having a static home page, menus, Buddy Press, and adding pdf files. I am continuing to work on learning about the various functions by using the WordPress Codex page, which is the online manual for the site.

Screen Shot by Suzanne Sink of WordPress

I still have more work to do of course, but I think I am off to a good start.

Screen Shot by Suzanne Sink of southernundergroundpress

Reflection of Learning:

This week, I have learned to stop being afraid. There may be some questions that linger (how do I get those menus at the top the way I want them?) and some frustrations on how long it takes to set something up, but in the end, I am excited to take these first small steps on this journey toward realizing such a grand dream.

Perhaps for some, messing around with a WordPress site would be no big deal, but for me this has been quite an undertaking. It is much more involved than this Blogger site, and it it has exponentially more functions than what I have been happily doing here. I learned that while it will take time, a work in progress is better than no progress at all.

I hope to continue to channel my fearless self and refuse to be intimidated by what is challenging and unknown.

Next up, I will continue to build the site, but I want to explore the world of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, At some point, I would like the uploaded publications to be searched by content and not just tags.

Reading Notes: 2/27

Canonical Books Assignment:

Baudrillard, Jean. The Illusion of the End. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1992. Print.

The Event Strike:

"What we seek now is not glory but identity, not an illusion but, on the contrary, an accumulation of proofs - anything that can serve as evidence of a historical existence" (21).
Baudrillard opens his chapter with this claim. Replacing the generationally repeated tales of epic glory that represented immortality, we turn to a frenzied gathering of personal history to assure ourselves that we exist and propel ourselves into immortal remembrance.

The source of the frenzy, this need to collect history, can be traced to our construct of time as linear. As Baudrillard explains, there can be no idea of something as history unless it exists as a point along linear time. Once that point has passed, the linear structure forces us to accept that the point can not be returned to; it has passed into a historical "event." And if all of our lives we hang between a past that has disappeared and the threat of an inevitable "end of the line" - the event strike itself, then we are never reassured of our existence or survival. Thus the frenzy.

It immediately reminded me of the new Facebook time line displayed in the screen shot below. The new feature is set up in a linear fashion, with the years someone has been a member listed on the side and with the ability to organize photos, interests, relationship statuses, and all the other various "proofs" of his or her existence.

CC Screen Shot of Facebook Timeline from Suzanne Sink

However, Baudrillard argues that instead of these accumulations working to create a linear (the word time line itself suggesting such a linearity) history, they merely "fall into the order of the recyclable" (27). He does not see time in this linear fashion; therefore, he concludes that the historical events are not gone. They merely await resurrection, so as friends view time lines and interact with the past in this way, the ideas and events will inevitably be recycled again and again.

He might argue we need not expend energy gathering tidbits of remembrances, which is rather a liberating argument to make in this age of hyper-documented living.


The Thawing of the East:

This short chapter outlines Baudrillard's belief that the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe will allow for a cultural exchange and expanded communication between the West and the East. However, he warns of the danger of such rapid expansion that is generally followed by rapid collapse. He sees in the new openness a disruption of balance that could bring freedom to the East but eventual economic instability to the West.

Another potential problem is in our revisionist impulses, which he covers further in later chapters. This communal (re)creation of the past "whitewashes" our history, allowing us to retract the violence of war and revolution and return to an "initial state" from which we can begin again, clean and fresh (32-33).

If we forget our past, will it liberate us to forget all the slights and grievances, start new and on equal footing? Or does it mean will be doomed to recreate it, having unlearned its lessons?

I am prone to believe these are not mutually exclusive results. Can we ever really wipe the slate clean? Should we? I for one would like to know what had been on the slate. What knowledge had we acquired and attempted to share before it was made clean? The emptiness does promise possibilities, but those possibilities include the repetition of previous mistakes. Perhaps we should do what I do in my own classroom. Start writing on the board along the side of the room, leaving the other notes in tact.

Chalkboard
CC Image Posted on Flickr by nokozin

The Strategy of Dissolution:

Michael Jackson replaces Stalin
CC Image Posted on Filckr by Jonathan Marks

Michael Jackson replaces Stalin
"There used to be a statue of Stalin in the communist period. It beamed across the river into the old town from a park on hill just North of the old town. The statue was removed and replaced with a sort of metronome. I climbed the 254 stairs to the top to find a skateboard park and a sort of shrine to the late Michael Jackson." - Jonathan Marks, July 2, 2009

I think the photo above proves exactly the kind of cultural exchange that Baudrillard claimed would develop between the East and the West after the fall of communism.  However, this exchange does not come without Baudrillard's repeating conclusion that these communication advances have a diminishing effect (see the discussion about the void from The Ascent of the Vacuum Towards the Periphery) on the value of the information and culture overall. He argued that "if democratic values spread so easily, by a capillary or communicating vessels effect, then they must have liquefied, they must now be worthless" (44). The values that had once been "held dear and dearly bought" are now so easily bought and sold that their worth is cheapened. Without struggle there can be no appreciation. Something given and taken so freely and easily can have no value.

It is clear that Baudrillard was rather prophetic in many aspects:
  • He sees how the overwhelming amount of information that is so easily bounced over the globe and into the void so instantaneously has brought an emptiness to our culture. We long to find meaning, but so often anything of worth is lost in the crushing information wave that inundates us at every waking moment. "Language seems to wish to go beyond its intentional operation and get caught up in its own dizzy whirl" (37).
  • Baudrillard sees the spread as infectious and causing dis-ease.  
  • He posits that the "model of viral collapse" initiated by the fall of communism will be passed on to other countries desirous of "a virulence of destructive power" (38). In this new era of free-flowing information and exchange, his prediction is borne out by the collapse of power during the Arab Spring of 2011, quite a virulent spread with technology given much credit for making information widely-known and organization possible.
In the end, I am more optimistic than Baudrillard. While I see many of the same cultural losses as he, I also see the many more benefits that technology and the new media have brought about. Perhaps this is where the text becomes dated. Had Baudrillard written this today, would he be less pessimistic about the cultural ruin he so often alludes to? I do feel there is a saturation point that makes it difficult to process the information, a lack of depth to make room for breadth, and a devaluation of information that is so quickly and readily exchanged without consideration. However, for technology and media, the same rule applies that applies to all other things in life: moderation is the key.

Perhaps the take away message is that we all need to remember to step away from the keyboards and screens from time to time. Stop and move at the non-technologically-enhanced pace of humanness. I do not want to lose the value of experiences in my rush to document them and follow the documents of others.

Perhaps it is best to leave this post in the hands of another great thinker/poet/theorist/philosopher....





I think Baudrillard would approve.


Also Read:

The Timisoara Massacre:

The Illusion of War: