Category Archives: All day

Social Media

Throughout my day, starting fairly early, I check in with my various social media platforms. For me, this means blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. I use social media to keep abreast of the field; to learn about resources; to read, share and engage ideas; to establish and maintain personal and professional connections; to exist within communities; and to collaborate with others.

I consider Jeff Rice’s Network Academics as a manefsto about why we, as academics, should be users of social media. Rice argues:

I want to draw attention to one aspect of new media (and thus, the Web): the network. Networks foreground the role connectivity plays in content management, information organization, and information production in explicit and implicit ways. What I call the network are spaces – literal or figurative – of connectivity and disconnectivity. They are ideological as well as technological spaces generated by various forms of new media that allow information, people, places, and other items to establish a variety of relationships which previous spaces or ideologies of space (print being the dominant model) did not allow.

These are spaces as databases – collections of information we must, as Lyotard once wrote, learn how to navigate. What I call the network is what Bruno Latour calls “the social” – a series of relationships developed among people, texts, and things. The social, or the network, always circulates and, through circulation, always moves meaning among those factors (people, texts, places, ideas, things) that generate meaning. The network, therefore, is not a site of observation, but a continuing rhetorical process. Our challenge is to understand how to describe and produce intellectual work without always resorting to studying some application, phenomenon, event purely in order to understand it. In other words, working with networks would also mean becoming networks.

A sampling of what I’ve read this morning: Alex Reid’s response to Marc Bousquet’s Chronicle piece on“The Moral Panic in Literary Studies,” an announcement of a white paper on “From Bitstreams to Heritage: Putting Digital Forensics into Practice in Collecting Institutions” (pdf), a cicerone’s answer as to whether draft or bottled beer is better, and Samantha Blackman on the value  of synchronous online communities.  (Sam’s Not Your Mama’s Gammer post hits close to home for me as the Netoric Project’s Tuesday Cafe was also my most important introduction into computers and writing.)

Homeschooling as a Digital Humanist

While I’m not teaching in a classroom this spring, I am teaching. My wife and I are co-homeschooling our 15-year old daughter. Since my wife is gone on a business trip right now, I’m responsible for the whole day rather than just part of it.

A major focus of this week is working through Unit 7 of the Big History Project‘s curriculum.  Big History is an interdisciplinary macrohistory approach that begins with the Big Bang and leads up to the present, placing human history within the larger history of the universe.

While today’s Big History and reading of the House of Seven Gables are largely independent work, we’ve got some hands-on work (for me) with Processing and robotics. We’re using Daniel Shiffman’s Learning  Processing: A Beginner’s Guide to Programming Images, Animation, and Interaction as an introduction to programming and we’re building Parallax’s Arduino-based BOE Shield robot for an introduction to physical computing.

Robot stepper motors
The “brains” – an Arduino and BOE Shield – and stepper motors.

We took a few weeks break from both Processing and the robot while I was at the CCCC conference and while she was on spring break. Today we’ll focus on getting back up to speed with Processing and for me to prep for testing, programming, and experimenting with the stepper motors later this week.

Here’s what the robot will look like once we’re done:

Also up for this today is some joint exploration of Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan’s First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game. Over the past couple of years, my daughter has been developing a growing interest in narrative-based video games, and last week I handed her Wardrip-Fruin and Harrigan’s First Person along with Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media and Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives to see if they might be something she wanted to explore. Today we’re going to start figuring out what she will read in First Person.

We’ve been homeschooling since last September, starting with 9th grade. My wife and I both have advanced degrees in English and have taught both high school and college. My wife, however, considers herself, for good reason,  a working writer – fiction, creative non-fiction, and urban and public policy. I, on the other hand, am an academic. Since I was teaching last fall and my wife has been working at home for a few years now, she’s largely taken the lead with homeschooling, but I’m starting to develop a larger presence within the curriculum, as witnessed by the programming, physical computing, and game studies.