Week 16: Final Recap

In my last blog post for this class, I would like to reflect on my final project.  Being a bit frazzled that I had accidentally deleted my presentation as I tried to save it in the shared folder, I rushed through my delivery more than I intended.  In response to Dr. Jones’ question on where I would get the examples for students to analyze and imitate, I would like to do a mix of inventing/imitating documents myself and finding a corpus of data.  In order to show the nuanced and detailed shifts in tone and word choice in shorter documents, I would create what I wanted students to use.  In response to longer proposals and reports, I would have to collect examples I had the rights to use.  I have a great deal of professional writing and editing contacts, so perhaps I could start by asking for samples.  I would also explore if any uploaded documents from MyReviewers could be used.

One aspect I failed to discuss was my project’s platform and hosting.  Similar to my classmates, I have not solved this yet.  In my case, it might be worth exploring this project in conjunction with USF’s resources.  This project will relate to and support my written dissertation, so I wouldn’t necessarily need to port it to my next position.  I have discussed this project with my advisor, Dr. Meloncon, and she suggested I could even pilot test classes using imitation.  If I were to complete this project, I would like to do a case study where one group sees the documents to imitate and one does not.  To prove my theory that imitation can spur invention and lead to positive outcomes with other cannons of rhetoric such as style and arrangement, I would like to compare the outcomes of two classes side by side.

As someone who is painfully analytical and practical, this class has helped me find ways in which I could explore DH in ways that suited my need for practicality.  While the literary and mapping side of DH may be too explorative for me personally, this class helped me discover practical projects such as archives, online repositories, and pedagogical-related websites.  For example, Stephanie’s contemplation of an archival repository of a playwright that has not received proper academic attention was immensely interesting.  I am working on archival research this summer and would very much like to find a data set I was interested in enough to create an online repository.  Additionally, I was really drawn to Erica’s Holocaust work and think an educational/art-house style game would be a really interesting way to explore a Holocaust survivor story.

Lastly, I thought Christine’s archeological work lends nicely to DH type catalog or archive. However, her issues with how to handle viewing objects online in a 3D viewer will make it an ongoing ordeal. As with all DH archival-type projects, it’s not enough to digitize once and believe it will be saved forever. Using current technology to digitize and save, it may only be safe for 50 or 100 years.  We don’t know.  Even if a company promises storage for hundreds of years, who’s to say the company won’t go out of business.  The entire act of digitizing artifacts needs will be ongoing and the people interested in it will likely need to be flexible to learn new programs and explore storage options for their entire career.


Week 15: Electronic Literature

This week’s readings on electronic literature show new avenues for literature to occupy as physical copies of books lose mainstream appeal.  So many times, my students looked at me like I was crazy when I suggested they go to the library to find a book.  While the learned scholars will likely always appreciate printed books, I’m not sure that will be a constant for the masses.  Many people prefer reading on tables and e-readers.  Not everyone is interested in carrying around a physical copy of a book.

While this week’s readings went well beyond an elementary discussion of book vs. digital copy, it was a good place for me to start and begin thinking it through.  Rettberg suggests a connection between creative writing and digital medias, which seems like an easy to digest connection.  However, he explores it beyond simply a ‘creative’ project and discusses how these projects can also be “experiments in the scientific sense, sometimes in multiple disciplines simultaneously” (Rettberg, 129). As someone mostly interested in literature as a part of a multidisciplinary project, I like that the creativity moves beyond the actual means of composing.

Additionally, he moves on to discuss critical analysis of e-lit texts.  I am interested into his discussion of bringing “several digital humanities reading methods into conversation” (133).  I could image students at USF being interested in electronic literature as a course, as it feels to be pushing the boundaries of the historical tradition of literature.  As part of an emerging, rather than traditional, field– students may gain more agency and exigency into crafting their own research.  It opens up completely new territory and niches for both scholars and students to occupy.

I also think games are a great place to spur learning, especially as part of multidisciplinary studies that blend literature and history.  Serious games and educational games are used in the history and archeology fields.  However, many of the ones I’ve seen are missing a narrative.  Instead of making up a narrative, I think pairing literature in a serious game would lend to a richer understanding of the period and culture.

Week 14: Books, Books, Books!

While I am far from a literature person, I appreciated this week’s readings for their historical value and contributions.  Stauffer’s comparison of the 10 different copies of An Old Sweet Heart of Minewas interesting because rarely do we compare, or even contemplate, the changes of a certain book throughout the years.  As a budding historian of sorts, this was very interesting to me because I enjoyed seeing the minute changes.

The Agrippa Files website was super cool.  Even though the content of that book was not of importance or particular interest to me, I was able to see the interesting way of curating this type of site.  I appreciated that they found and organized all sorts of different related types of content, which ranged from videos, simulations, emulations, and academic articles.  The archived section was especially neat because it contained such a vast array of materials from press releases to the original floppy disk code.

As a type of genre, the Agrippa Files, was of interest and could be one good model for my work in the history of rhetoric.  I would like to work toward creating online repositories of ancient and more research historical documents.  For example, I am particularly interested in WWII rhetoric.  When designing online collections many aspects of curating should be carefully thought through.  While I am not a library science person, I do believe sites like the Agrippa Files can serve as exemplars or models to emulate.  The ancient sense of imitation (from Dionysius, for example) advises to use imitation to examine models for their virtues and to identify failings to avoid.  In this sense, I would like to examine a number of these types of sites to determine what aspects make the sight strong (likely in several categories such as easy to navigate, easy to use, logically organized, etc.).

Week 13: Editing & Coding

As a former managing editor, I have spent a great deal of my life editing, so I easily related to this week’s readings.  At my last job, I edited 2-4 weekly publications, online posts, and marketing material.  While I was using basic WordPress, I have encountered some of the issues mentioned in Dr. Jones’ Electronic Textual Editing.  At the time of publication, the authors contended, “At present, no single mark-up scheme is fully adequate to address these editorial complications” (Jones). While I image new programs have emerged, we are also living in a time where technology changes rapidly from day to day, week to week, and year to year.

Embarking on digital editing from a scholarly perspective means we are faced with balancing work as a librarian and as an encoder. While encoding may scare experienced and established editors, it’s actually not all that different.  To truly be a good editor is not as easy as it sounds.  It takes rigor and practice.  I was trained to copy edit in a professional setting, but by a woman with a Ph.D.  She was relentless and would re-edit and correct all my work.  Finally, at the end of the second month, it clicked for me; like Keanu Reeves, I could see the Matrix.  The errors lifted off the page and jumped out to me.  While few people are probably trained in this manner, there’s something to be said for constant practice and feedback.

As with any type of editing, as explained above, coding is essentially no different in terms of how to learn it.  A good coder/editor must be rigorous and constantly self-checking. Eventually the eye becomes attuned to paying close attention to the small details.  Really, all editing is in the small details.  However coding editing is not as easy as Word where what you see is what you get, as with coding there’s a layer beneath that also needs to be considered.

With all this being said, I am not sure social editing by amateurs is in the best interest of the data.  While, yes, crowdsourcing is free and likely better than OCR, I strongly believe there needs to be people overseeing projects (especially any project used for empirical or scholarly work).  As Price’s article pointed out, something so fine-tuned as Emily Dickenson’s dashes can be an area of debate.  Projects need consistency and uniform style.  If multiple people are working on data, they need a solid and easy to negotiate style sheet or default to an established style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, Gregg, etc.).  Prince makes solid points that we need to adjust our methods to account for the future of editing and mutual exchange of information, but, in my opinion, this should be done through professionals, not amateurs.

Week 12: Data Mining

I have learned a great deal about data mining since coming to USF.  My first semester at USF, I took Dr. Norbert Elliot’s class on empirical research.  Prior to this class, I had zero knowledge on this topic.  I quickly learned the definition of a corpus and how to use tools such as SPSS, NGram analyzer, Atlas.ti, Voyant, RandLex, etc.  My project in that class ran a corpus of cover letters (in MyR) through different tools to see if I could figure out what words or phrases signaled ethical stance.

Background: I was a hiring manager for many years at a publishing company.  My best hires were always people that had a good work ethic (typically honest, sincere people), but it was very hard to detect those qualities in application material or even in interviews. Anyone can practice the “right” answer for an interview, so it’s really just a type of performance.

So, my project aimed at detecting if you can find ethical qualities in cover letters.  While one semester was hardly enough time to perform the actual analysis, I wound up focusing on the use of hedges and boosters.  Did words such as “have” or “believe” signal ethical stance? While my project was interesting, it needed more time.   In our readings this week, Sinclair and Rockwell made good points about what to expect from using these types of tools.  The authors remind us that the tools “do not procude meaing – we do” (288).  They also suggest that we need to try things out to see how one tool can help us explore one aspect, while anohter can do something, and a third may not be useful at all.  My project did just that, I got interesting results from a combination of an ngram analyzer and Atlas.ti, but nothing useful from my analysis with RandLex.

And building on Rhody’s piece, I dig because I’m interested in the ways to dedect ethical or historical trends in across a corpoa.


Week 11: Media Archaeology

After seeing some initial work on Dr. Jones’ digital recreation of Roberto Busa’s facility, it was interesting to understand the context behind this project.  Through the lens of reverse engineering, Jones positions his research as an exploration, as he looks to “grapple with what we don’t know about Busa’s practice” rather than simply reproduce a model (4).

While the project’s goals are to uncover Busa’s practices and use of technologies, I was particularly interested in some of the social discoveries.  Through this examination of Busa’s facility, the study uncovered aspects of gender fueled by the human actors.  Busa’s photo collection show expose “a two-tiered structure: technical workers down at the factory, and scholarly or intellectual supervisors up at the college” (9).  However, through  photos and interviews with former workers, it became clear that the women typically workers in the factory, while men were the intellectual scholars.  While, yes, this would have been typical for the time period, Jones also uncovers that Livia Canestraro was an exception, as she held senior roles and crossed over to the scholarly side.  This type of outcome is interesting and important to discover, while some of the workers are still around to contribute.

By utilizing digital technology, this project can begin to unveil the history of digital humanities (DH). Using a media-archeology approach, Jones begins to create and situate DH in a historical narrative.  As a rhetorical historian, I strongly contend that we should explore and find inspiration from our field’s past.  Whether we look back 2,000 years to rhetorical antiquity or 50 years to the beginnings of DH, there is value in exploring the past.  Through reverse engineering, we can try to understand the history and development of technology to more properly situate contemporary studies.

Week 9: Possible Scenarios

Will we be so lucky to end up in Greenfield’s interpretation of “Green Plenty”?  After an entire book that introduced technology and the ways in which society is currently and could potentially deal with it, he finally introduced some possible outcomes.  The first possible outcome would blend “equal parts habitat and ecosystem” (Greenfield 289). In this scenario, society has worked out the best uses for bitcoin, digital fabrication, automation, machines, all with a blended focus on the environment.  However, Green Plenty has not found an end to capitalism.  Of all the scenarios, this seems the most favorable and possible the most possible (though nothing will happen exactly like we plan).

The rest of Greenfield’s possible scenarios get less and less ideal with the last one not even worthy of a name.  In reality, one notion rises above the rest.  We need to be more involved with, aware of, and critical to technology.  Society is not giving up their smart phone or fitness tracker anytime soon.  Additionally, it’s unclear in which ways society will accept digital fabrication, non-government currencies, automation, machine learning, etc.; however, it is clear that some of these technologies will prevail.

To me, the biggest win will be incorporating technologies that drastically reduce harm to the environment.  For example, if we move toward automated vehicles, we need to utilize more renewable energies sources than gas.  Perhaps they can come up with solar or wind powered vehicles.  Fixing the problem with exhaust fumes will be the first step in the right direction for living with our environment, not just on it.  Digital fabrication can help cut down on waste, pushing society to focus on sustainable and biodegradable products.

Again, the takeaway is understanding our relationship to technology and technology’s relationship with society. We need to stop being complacent with the latest trends and start questioning and pushing back to help direct the future.

Week 8: Automation

This week’s readings were interesting, as each one explored how the future of automation could unfold.  Greenfield suggest we will use automation to get rid of rid of jobs that are: “dull, dirty, difficult or dangerous” (184).  It seems warehouses and trucks will soon catch up and offer driverless transportation.  While the exact unfolding of automation could develop in a number of ways, it’s already happening: we’ve all heard about Amazon’s drone deliveries and USF’s autonomous shuttle.  With all the crazy drivers, especially on the road here in Florida, it’s hard to contest this future of autonomous vehicles.  I would happily ditch my car for an autonomous vehicle.  I could work, while commuting!  An academic’s dream come true.

While cost is surely a huge concern, Greenfield gives numbers to show how it will be less expensive to opt for automated machines in place of human labor.  One example he gives is the cost associated with a warehouse operator ($36K/year) vs. the same cost for a palletizing robot ($15K).  Plus—I’ve heard of the vending machine craze in Japan, where most everyday items can be purchased from a machine.  And touch screen ordering can already be seen in many eateries. Restaurants (such as Stacked in San Diego) play up the novelty of the tablet ordering system, which makes the food completely customizable.  One drawback is that it takes much longer for a group of say 4 people to order when each person wants to spend time looking over their options and typing it in. Does this lead to longer table occupation times, thus losing the establishment money?  Many touchscreen ordering systems get customers interested by the customability, but I bet that will go away once they get more popular (in an effort to save money from the time it takes to order).

This week’s fiction story, Social Services, detailed an automated future.  It was interesting to see how a woman could interact with an artificial program, as her supervisor.  The story hit on the idea of no more cars on the road, but failed to explain how people get around in that version of the future.  With so few cars on the road, it appears people either don’t leave the cities or use public transportation, rather than use the autonomous vehicles?! I had many other questions about this future, that were not explained.  Instead, it took a horror story turn to show how the women could be lured into a bad situation because of all the automation.

The theme in Greenspan’s piece discussed this utopian vs. dystopian future.  All of this week’s readings seemed to hinge on this question of this is what could or might happen.  Greenspan toys with this concept of speculation.

Week 7: Bitcoin

My prior understanding of bitcoin was admittedly limited, yet I had not realized this form of currency had missed its peak, according to Greenfield, at least.  Greenfield compiles an especially convincing list of issues with bitcoin.  Among the more interesting issues, he claims the transactions take too long (up to an hour); it’s limited in the ways it can be used for a large purchase, say a plane ticket; there’s too many choices/options for a novice user; it requires a new address for each purchase; and it’s not as anonymous as it would like people to believe.  More practical issues include a lack of BTC ATMs. Additionally, bitcoin transactions peaked at 3 per second, coming in after 112 transactions/second from PayPal and upward of 3,000 transactions/second from Visa (Greenfield 136).

However, with all of those issues exposed, Greenfield suggests the biggest obstacle is the 51% attack (139).  Essentially, any group controlling 51% of the network’s processing power, they could control the actual ledger.  This sounds like the plot of a bad ’80s movie, where the yuppies steal a company out from under someone by this type of loophole.  This 51% rule of controlling a company is a common trope in pop culture (shows: Arrested Development, Silicon Valley; movies: Mr. Deeds).

Week 6: 3D Printing

After spending a semester in a graduate seminar for digital archeology, I bought into the concept of digital printed surrogates of ancient artifacts.  For one, a 3D print allows archeologists to manipulate the object ways that would never be possible with the original. Most of the time, archeologists have very minimal time and access to original artifacts.  With digital fabrication, over time the printed copy may become more valuable to researchers than the original.

With this being said, I truly see the value in digital fabrication for some sectors, like the archeology example I just used.  My archeology class visited the 3D printing lab at USF’s engineering building. We were told that they print nearly everything in non-biodegradable plastic.  For this reason, I had a hard time conceiving value beyond printed objects needed for scholarly research. However, Greenfield’s chapter shifted my ideology on this subject.  

For starters, Greenfield suggests that digital fabrication could actually help solve our problems with sustainability and trash.  I see his argument of his as threefold. First, if we use biodegradable materials for everyday needs we’d have unlimited materials.  Second, less waste would occur from production, with the leftover materials being reused. Third, we could print broken pieces and fix existing objects, therefore also reducing waste.  If and when our society reaches this point, it seems like digital fabrications could be a great way of reducing our trash problem.

The main objection to digital printing is the access to one-time-use guns.  While Greenfield explores this issue, he really doesn’t settle the concerns around it.  He agrees, it’s a risk and it’s scary, but he doesn’t offer a plan to deal with it, nor does he offer an argument that we should do what’s better for the greater amount of people.  Instead he offers this prolepsis without properly refuting it.