Archive | March, 2012

Reading Notes: 3/26

Assignment #1: A Look at a Canonical Wiki

The Medium is the Massage

In the introduction to the page, the wiki authors write:

In McLuhan’s view, the media used to communicate a message is more significant than the message itself. The media profoundly shape how we perceive the message, how we think about and structure the world, how we function as a society, and how we operate as a culture. Next to this influence, the message itself is irrelevant.
The power of this assertion struck me hard. Is the way our communications received truly more important that the information contained within? I find this frightening in some way. It seems borne out by the way we privilege certain content because of the medium through which it is communicated. For example, Delagrange argues that the word is privileged over the image, regardless of the knowledge constructed by either. I see it in my students who have trouble reading and staying focused without some visual or better yet an interactive element.

I can't help but wonder: What are the implications for our future if we care not for content?

Assignment #2: New Books Project
  • Delagrange, Susan H., Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World. Logan, UT: Utah State UP/Computers and Composition Digital Press, 2011. Web.
I have begun reading an ebook titled Technologies of Wonder: Rhetorical Practice in a Digital World by Susan H. Delagrange. Before I explore the content of the first two chapters, I want to take a moment to comment on the form in which I am reading this text.

The book is accessible through a website ccdigitalpress.org/wonder where the table of contents can be opened and links to pdf files of the chapters is available. I can save the chapters to my desktop as well, or I can read them online. Both options allow for the text to be copied and pasted into a Word document, which saves a lot of time in the addition of quotes to the blog. That's a great bonus for this kind of scholarly reading. As a result, I am trying a new approach. I am going all digital - taking notes in a Word doc, saving quotes there, and blogging. Adding notes to the pdf is only an option if Adobe is purchased.

So far, I like the ebook. I can read it easily (although sometimes the scroll jumps to the next page when I don't want it to), and I don't have the problem of holding a book open while my hand cramps. I don't like that I can't just tuck the book in my purse and pull it out while waiting in the doctor's office or steal a few minutes with it between classes, but I could print the pdf pages if I really wanted to. It would just require a little pre-planning and would revert me back to print. I could probably download the pdf files to my Kindle Fire and read them on the go... Something to look into for sure, but I'd lose the copy and paste function.

One thing I really like is the multi-modal approach. The book is much more interactive with embedded videos and images. Like reading a website, the ebook allows for a new form of discourse that equally privileges the text and the visual/audio rhetorics. Here is a screen shot from the text, showing a link to a video:

Overall, my initial reaction has been positive.

Some Thoughts:
Chapter One: Reading Pictures, Seeing Words

Introduction:

Delagrange is a highly readable, concise, and articulate writer. Her promise to incorporate feminist thinking into her exploration of media studies is highly intriguing.

This chapter discusses the implications of moving from traditional print scholarship to digital forms and the questions that this raises.
"Yet this seemingly irreversible movement from print toward digital, and from words toward interactive multimedia, is accompanied by important questions, some old and some new: old questions about visual representation and argument and about the social and cultural effects of technology; new questions about production and publishing and evaluation of unfamiliar scholarly performances, and about the effects of this shift toward the digital on social justice, equity, and access. How do we strike a balance, continuing to value and maintain the quality and craftsmanship of print scholarship, while making room for new and vibrant methods of scholarly invention and production?" (1)
One aspect of Delagrange's argument I find compelling is her view of new media as a "canvas for new forms of rhetorical production that value process over product, and wonder-induced inquiry over proof" (1). I love the idea that traditional written products produce traditional linear thought while new media provides a space for a new kind of scholarship where the process - however messy (my Individual Tutorial project for example - can be emphasized over a finished piece of scholarship. We can be led through the scholarship by wonder - the true research question that derives from curiosity over conformity. Brilliant!

Delagrange observes a reluctance to work toward this kind of research. She writes, "Nevertheless, while important new media scholarship is already being produced by researchers and students in rhetoric and composition, there is still significant reluctance in English Studies to move beyond the historical privileging of the Word" (2). She calls on us to change these stereotypes that keep new media scholarship and production as a sub-standard mode of discourse.

Here, the author sees a place where a feminist perspective can be useful. As a point of view that has experience discussing the privileging of certain contributions over others, there are many parallels between feminism and new media studies' place in the discipline.
"My perspective is feminist, not because I claim that women in particular are differentially affected by digital technologies, but because feminist optics, feminist ways of seeing that focus on social justice and equity, seem well suited to identify points at which any underrepresented group or individual might be disadvantaged, or left out entirely, by technological change, and to formulate principles and practices of digital media use that are more inclusive and fair." (3)

Technological Anxiety:
I loved this section of the chapter. I exclaimed "Yes!" so many times that I lost track. Delagrange eloquently expresses ideas that have seemed almost taboo for me to speak about, but have so often felt and experienced in my own professional work in this field. She is addressing head on the reasons for having such an anxiety about participating in the field as a woman. She writes,

"Technology is one area that creates anxiety not only among feminists...but also among humanities scholars in general, who are usually most comfortable using words as their tools" (4).

One reason for this is that the language surrounding technology is inherently masculine. The narrative surrounding technology's expansion is filled with terms like "a new frontier," with leaders often labelled "heroes" who use "tools" of technology to solve great social problems. It then becomes easy for the field to "disproportionately empower members of the already dominant discourse community—which in technological fields in the U.S. consists primarily of white males" (5).


 


I was excited to see here how Delagrange builds on the arguments in Remediation, which I explored as part of the wiki projects we did in class - the language is the same, and I am grateful to my collegaues in class for explaining it as it has enhanced my understanding of the text. She sees remediation as a potentially liberating discipline and one in which diversity can blossom.
"Furthermore, re-mediating traditional print-based academic performances—moving them into new (electronic) writing spaces and experimenting with innovative verbal and visual forms—might literally open our eyes to diversity and difference, making inequities visible and therefore available for ethical rhetorical intervention." (7)
Later she revisits this claim, writing, "[through] images and sound,multilinear associative arrangement...we can steer toward new, potentially emancipatory performances made possible in new media" (10).




This is an empowering view - that I can help emancipate scholarly performances is thoroughly exciting. 

Seeing Argument:
In this section, the author focuses on the visual nature of many new media applications and the presentation of most forms of information surrounding us today. She explains, "Places, events, objects, and related beliefs and values are represented by images more often than by words. It also raises the question of the relationship between images and words as sources and means of academic authority, and it focuses attention on the “visuality” of all texts, even those composed entirely of words" (8).
Yet, Delagrange asserts that in scholarship, these visual representations are not as respected in scholarship. She observes, "The demonstrations of knowledge that “count” in the academy are overwhelmingly books and articles in refereed print-based journals that develop linear arguments and rely primarily on logos-based evidence. Images, if any, are simply illustrations: pictures or tables or graphs that merely show what the words have already told. Using images as a substantive component of an argument is suspect" (9). In other words, we tend to only accept images as an appendix to the word, not a replacement or even a corollary.
And if we do choose to present a more visual product, we run the risk of losing authority and legitimacy. She explains that there is a visual reticence.
"Unadorned text, written in plain style and organized in a way that can readily be outlined, has long been the paradigm for scholarly performances, and it has been presumed to fit all “legitimate” academic scholarship. Legitimacy, however, is a conservative, hereditary principle that protects the interests of those who claim it." (10)
How do we move new media into legitimacy? I suppose through the production of new media projects and explorations, submission to the discipline with confidence, and continuing to explore the theoretical underpinnings of new media studies.


She addresses the CRAP guidelines we used in class and categorizes them as an effort to force visual rhetoric into a more legitimate form by imitating the page.
"The mistrust of images, and the emphasis elsewhere on alphabetic text as the most legitimate form of scholarly production, is evident in the ubiquity of the design principles of contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity for web pages (Williams and Tollett, 2005). While these principles provide an initial framework for the novice designer of new media, they are in effect design’s version of the five-paragraph essay. Contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity construct an artificial efficiency and unity of text and image that are a function of form, but not necessarily content, and that make complex visual invention and argument impossible. Like the print conventions of academic journals and monographs, these design principles also assert a claim for a 'culture of no culture.'" (11)
She concludes that in order for "English Studies, which still privileges the Word as its preferred mode of performance, and linear argument as its preferred form...to change, more scholars must move beyond critical verbal analysis of visual texts and become active architects of intellectually engaged (and engaging) multimediated visual rhetoric. Until we and our students see ourselves as producers rather than just consumers of visual rhetoric, we are ceding the authority to speak and intervene in an increasingly multimediated world" (11).


It makes being enrolled in this class, with the kind of fearlessness I've been talking about in my other posts, all the more critically important.


Feminist Epistemology:

I took from this section that we need to more actively advocate for and include elements of visual rhetoric in the classroom.
"Writing instructors can—and should—take advantage of new forms of digital media for creating texts, and assign web pages and other demonstrations of multimodal argument, thus encouraging a rich, diverse rhetoric that responds to contemporary multimediated contexts and incorporates ethical ap­proaches to invention, arrangement, and style. Creating such assignments, producing our own multimodal pedagogical performances, and scaffolding them theoretically are essential if the shift from page to screen, and from alphabetic linear print to multimodal, multi-perspectival images and text, is to be understood and rewarded by our tenure-granting departments." (12)


Chapter Two: (Re)Vision & Remediation


Introduction:

Delagrange argues that a new emphasis on visual rhetoric necessitates a newly developed set of criteria on which it can be evaluated, different from the the traditional, linear, print criteria. She also contends that there is the possibility to create modes of scholarly inquiry that have no equivalent in print, but that are no less significant than the print. 

Remediation:


In this section, the author explores the idea of remediation - the recycling of previous forms into new ones. She uses visual images heavily here - supporting her own argument for the validity of such a presentation - to show examples of remediation from painting to photography, stage to film, and internet and television. She echoes her call for strategies for consuming visual media and for English studies to stop fearing the power of the visual.


For next time:


Academic  Representation & Digital Media:
Techne:
Wonder:
Seeing:
The Persistance of Vision:
Visual Pleasure:
Seeing Bodies:
Seeing Bodies in Space:
Embodied Arrangement:
  

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.

Reading Notes: 3/12

Read and Replies Post:

This week I read and responded to blog posts from four classmates from the first Individual Tutorial posting on February 20th. I am interested in seeing what others are working on; perhaps there are opportunities for digital collaboration in the future.

I have linked to my comments below:

Cheri - Ruby on Rails
Eric - HTML5
Laura - PHP
Sarah - XHTML/Dreamweaver

Reflection:

I love reading my peers' blogs because I see so much of myself in their experiences. It's easy to forget sometimes that we are all students. I see their successes and hear them talk about their knowledge in class, and the fear that I will be found out as a fraud and stripped of my admission in the program surges forward. However, reading these posts I (re)discovered that we all have anxieties, no matter how much we know or not. It is reassuring to remember that we all have fear of the unknown, but we all have something else in common too.

WE ARE THE ZEBRA!



Each person responded that after a moment or two of nervousness, a plan was formulated and followed. Bit by bit, the information is taken in and applied. It just takes a moment of fearlessness in order to take the plunge.

I have a friend who skydives. No matter how many times she does it, there is always a moment of fear before taking that leap out of the plane. Yet once the fear has been overcome, she gets to enjoy the experience of falling. While even writing this strikes fear in my acrophobic heart, I think the metaphor is good. We have to overcome the fear so we can enjoy the fall, the learning process.


Sky Dive Masters 05
CC Image Posted on Flickr by Sky Dive Masters Party




    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!

    Cannonical Books Peer Review Assignment: 3/16

    Canonical Books Peer Review Assignment:

    Here are the links to the comments I made on the wiki pages for the Canonical Books Assignment:

    1. Remediation
    2. How We Became Post Human

    1. What did you learn from reading and replying to your classmates’ drafts?

    • I learned that my classmates are intelligent, creative, funny, and articulate!
    • From Remediation, I was bale to make many connections to Baudrillard. The idea that all media is merely revised versions of earlier media is very similar to Baudrillard's arguments about the recycling of ideas. The points about remediated spaces is also similar to Baudrillard's exploration of simulacra.
    • How We Became Post Human made me happy because I feel that women are underrepresented in this discipline. The canonical texts and theorists we've been reading are predominantly male. I was pleased to see a prominent female so articulately explored by two more female scholars. Again, this is helping my confidence issue - I think we stereotype technology as being something that very smart men have created - Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg. I know it's just a stereotype, but my being surprised by her presence among the texts made me realize how much I've been participating in perpetuating that stereotype myself, at least internally.
    After reviewing their drafts, what do you realize you need to revise in your own draft?
    • From the beginning, I was worried about the length of our wiki page. We were committed to the content and worked hard to make a clear and intelligent treatment of the texts; however, great content gets lost in poor format. The concise nature of the two wikis with charts, columns, and wrapped images to eliminate scrolling to eternity were all key format features of the pages. I realized that we needed to work with our content to better suit the medium. I think Sarah and I are both so used to traditional printed products that it was a challenge to adapt to the conventions of a digital product.
    • In the end, we converted the connections to key concepts section (our longest) into links out to separate pages. This dramatically reduced the length and made the wiki much more readable. We shrunk and/or wrapped images to also decrease the overall length. This way we did not have to sacrifice content while adapting to the digital format.
    Now read the reviews conducted on your draft (please list the names of your classmate’s who reviewed your draft).
    • Our page was reviewed (helpfully) by:
      • Susanne N.
      • Eric S.
      • Mat R.
      • Smitha B.
      • Laura R.
    Did any comments surprise you? Why or why not?
    • I wasn't surprised by any of the comments. The primary feedback was that the amount of information was overwhelming and difficult to digest. The lower-order concerns Eric pointed out were very helpful. I was also not surprised because I had spent a good bit of time searching the site then the web to find out if there was a spell check feature for Google sites. Alas, there is none. I wanted to avoid some of the format problems that occurred for me last time when I cut and paste the text from a Word document. Typing directly into the wiki though prohibits that kind of immediate checking. I was surprised that there was no spell check feature, but definitely learned to either copy and paste text into a word document and more carefully edit, which I find hard to do on the screen. I think I could use a Google doc to help with spelling and a print out to help make it easier for me to proofread.

    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: