idea machine



Cease conceiving of education as mere preparation for later life, and make it the full meaning of the present life.

– John Dewey, “Self Realization as the Moral Ideal”

This quote from Dewey is a good reminder that education can do more than just get us ready for the job market. After all, few literature students enter the field because of the booming employment rates.

Does this quote affect the ways you think about humanities education? About how and what you teach in the classroom?

The University of Florida’s Public Humanities projects, and others like it, work to open the apparent door between the academy and the public. As we have recently discussed, and defended in our class discussions and our own blog posts here, there is an apparent push in academia for engaging students in both academic and public discourses. UF uses a Tumblr page for one public platform. That begs the question, though, how public is Tumblr? While it is user friendly, it seems to me that Tumblr may not be the best audience for these initiatives. UF also has a Twitter account. As academics try to shift toward a more accessible, public readership, how much of that is trial and error in finding a space to occupy both within and beyond the Academy?


video game

Did you know there was such a thing as videogame criticism? Well, there totally is and it’s surprisingly fascinating even for someone who refuses to play anyone but Toad in Mario Cart and only dabbled into World of Warcraft during an awkward stage. But, videogames are a part of culture, so shouldn’t they be studied critically?

Ian Bogost is one humanist who studies videogames and even wrote a book called How to Talk About Videogames. Also published last year, Carly A. Kocurek produced Coin-Operated Americans: Rebooting Boyhood at the Video Game Arcade and Michael Clune wrote Gamelife, all discussing videogames in extensive detail. An even further form of criticism is Matt Margini’s article “How to Write About Videogames” published on Public Books (a platform I wrote about in my previous post) (I’ve been exploring this site all morning and I’m slightly obsessed because it’s awesome). Read more about this sort of research:

A Shift in the Weather

Inspired by Sarah Tindal Kareem’s lecture and a following conversation with another TA, I think it’s interesting to ponder the shift in weather scale. Kareem’s lecture focused on the weather in Jane Austen and how it exerted agency over the characters; a rainstorm could fundamentally alter the days activities. However, today we find a different situation. If it rains, we simply grab an umbrella and hop in our cars.

In this way, have meteorological events shifted to meet human’s increasing ability to defy the agency of weather. We’ve talked a great deal about the Anthropocene in this course. Could we view it as the weather maintaining agency as humanity becomes more resilient to ‘lesser’ weather?

How would Frankenstein change if it were based in 2018?  How would the Digital Age inspire changes in the plot? How would the weather be different? What forms of communications would change?

As a fledgling English instructor, I immediately began thinking of how I might adapt the ideas of Lynda Barry’s Syllabus, those of repetition and the construction of groups of images. How can Barry’s ideas be be adapted for an English class, for the creation-spurring, understanding of text’s constant presence in our world? This has been on my mind for quite some time now.

Here I’ll present a loose idea for a composition notebook for strictly textual items and the subsequent writing about these found instances of text in our daily lives. Students will be urged to choose from texts they know well, so well in fact they’ve probably overlooked their very existences, as well as favorite instances where text itself is used as a design element–logos and trademarks, for instance. Some texts will be replicated and others added to the notebook permanently. One objective of having students build a book like Barry’s is the physical act of seeking the text and the conscious choice to engage with the words and the writing, as well as the juxtaposition of the imagery of their fonts and the hidden power of the word-as-image.

This idea is still under construction, and I am still working toward activities based around text in our environment, and the commentary or meta-commentary of the journal writing. Now the list consists of texts, tweets, facebook posts, advertisement text, packaging, instructional texts and owner’s manuals, descriptions of youtube videos and google site descriptions, favorite Bible verses photocopied, song lyrics, the list literally grows larger the more one simply looks at his or her environment.

Having students interact with texts that have, in one form or another, been produced by human beings, may better show those who have never given any thought to what exactly writing is, cause to reflect.


Necessarily Considering DH on an International Scale

Is it necessary to consider Digital Humanities on an international scale? Do certain facts or claims about the Digital Humanities only apply to the US or European educational systems? If emphasis on humanities education and research is becoming more popular in Asia, should literature professors simply move where they will be appreciated?

I was recently speaking to a good friend of mine who now works in Singapore creating curriculum for an international high school. His job is to help students be more creative, with a focus on design philosophy and fine arts projects. What struck me most about his experience was the fact that creativity, critical thinking, and aesthetics were deemed essential to the student learning experience. In many instances, the sciences seemed to take a backseat to the humanities. One question that occurred to me while talking to him was: are the Digital Humanities less promising in other countries and/or cultures?

Continue reading “Necessarily Considering DH on an International Scale”

On the brink of artificial intelligence’s arrival, I pose a question. Will machines read? Will they move past programming, either that which is given to them or that which they construct at their own behest, into the same choices we make as readers? Will they form areas of interest that drive their decision-making as human beings do? Will artificial intelligence not only replicate but also reflect the nuanced workings the human brain? How about the human heart?

I ask these questions before making a stark confession: I have text mined for the purposes of literary research at a personal level. There, it’s done. During a certain hectic three month period, a time of shifting theses and the bottoms falling out of ideas, I used my kindle to search for passages pertaining to my thesis, one involving Virginia Woolf’s Between the Acts and a frothing Afghan hound. The terms ‘dog,’ ‘canine,’ even the vague ‘animal’ were systematically pulled from the text and lined up on a separate screen (if you’re thinking ‘big deal,’ I’m thinking ‘run a check on your bookgeek street cred’). Why do I feel as if I cheated, or at best robbed myself of what Gaston Bachelard labels the ‘true reading’ of any novel, the second, third, and fourth passes, when the work’s genius and beauty leap out, when you move past the narrative into the connections and symbols you can’t believe you missed the first time through. Did I cheat? And, if I did cheat, who fell prey to this specific, brand new breed of corruption? More importantly, in the spirit of Michael Witmore’s addressability, what can we learn from this difference between the human reader and the machine pulling the same passages from a text? And, where does the guilt come from and what does it mean to the future of literary research-by-machine?

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