Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Snapshot of Student Digital Culture Projects Underway

Our students' final papers and projects are well underway. Here is a snapshot:

In her project, "You Are What You Pin," Aleesha is exploring the issue of online identity and how this is mediated through pinterest. Greg is looking a lot at virtual worlds and emergent digital nations, asking how we can civilize the digital wild. Meanwhile, Paul is continuing to examine video games in terms of the larger literary tradition, claiming that certain games are "neo-romantic pieces that update the ideals of romanticism to the post-industrial state." Kelsey wants Mormons to pay attention to metadata as a way of optimizing online proselyting efforts. Kristen also explores contemporary LDS missionary work. She is creating a blog and set of digital resources for Mormon missionaries who return early from their full-time service. Mele wants to look at technology and family relationships. Lizy's interest in fandom has led her to studying the development of a fandom around Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, while Victoria is connecting fandom with education and the study of literature. Melody is thinking through what it means to be human as transhumanism and the singularity promise and threaten radical change. Brittany sees maker culture and the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement as providing people an avenue to entrepreneurialism within our increasingly digital economy. New formats for books and literature are topics being looked at by two of our group: Shelly is looking at how ebooks and e-readers are more suitable to today's youth and to changes happening in education, while Amber is reformatting Moby Dick and thinking through how new digital formats productively raise new interpretive questions for literature. How technology is influencing education is Cheri's topic. Ashley is writing on digital natives raising digital natives. Kayla is creating an ebook guide for those doing citizen journalism, while Danielle is rethinking editing in the digital age. Mary is investigating smartphones linguistically by examining the problems of speech interfaces to smartphones for those having nonstandard dialects of English. In addition, we have Kylee investigating travel in the digital age, Sam looking at how local bands in Provo have used social media, Heidi looking at gamification in the workplace; Derrick examining how producing a podcast altered his education and developed professional opportunities.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Real Reach of Student Research: Four Outlets

image credit: creative commons 2.0 license by Jesper Rønn-Jensen
Undergraduates learning to write and research are handicapped by the artificially isolated environment of the traditional classroom. With two billion humans a few keystrokes away, many audiences are there for students to address. The real reach of student research should be those authentic audiences and not just a teacher.

Students can find, interact with, and know various interested audiences while researching and writing. Peers, enthusiasts, and experts can and do give feedback to students who seek them out. In the process, students get social proof for their ideas that inspires them to advance and complete their work.

As students formalize their research findings, there is no reason for them not to take their intellectual work to authentic audiences and online communities. This is why I require my students to do more than submit a completed research paper for grading. If they know that they are actually going to submit their work for permanent archiving and access; for formal presentation at a conference, or for publication of some variety; if they know that their work will be circulating beyond the classroom and beyond the present grading period; if they know their research can in fact be a catalyst for ongoing discussion or that it can be content that others will respond to or act upon -- then they will take their own ideas more seriously; they will research better; and they will turn their academic writing into a form of professionalizing.

But students need to have some idea of where they can take their academic work. This post is meant to provide four concrete suggestions:
  1. Academic Archives
  2. Conference Presentations
  3. Scholarly Journals
  4. Guest Blogging

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Moby Dick Model for Deeper Blogging

Image by Palmovish from DeviantArt
(creative commons license 3.0)
When blogging, getting beyond the superficial to the substantial takes conscious effort. After all, as a casual and social medium, a blog can trap us in the tidepools of everyday novelties and low-level commentary. 

But a blog can be used to sound a subject, to go deep. Derrick Clements has already used Moby Dick as a model for better engagement of topics in his "Going Deep in Digital Culture" post. He says Melville's novel is an example of "the type of profound commitment and thoroughness to a subject that twenty-first-century bloggers may employ" and that "just as Moby Dick stands as a testament to the human ability to commit to a single subject for more than a few minutes, blogs can, if one so chooses, be a great way to dive deep – as long as community-minded creators can budget their attention..."

Profound commitment to subject via blogging? Thoroughness? Can these really go together with blogging? Yes they can, but not usually without some conscious effort. Earlier I discussed three phases of academic blogging. A lot of the magic happens in that second stage where one shows diligence and discipline in honing a topic. One can move from the superficial to the substantial (to paraphrase my prior post) by including these four things:
  1. Analysis of primary texts
  2. Use of secondary texts
  3. Curation of content  
  4. Social proof
I would like to use the novel, Moby Dick, to teach each of these four components, on the way to asking my students to follow this algorithm for deepened blogging.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Digitally Mediating Literary Texts

adapted from gHiRo3, DeviantArt
(creative commons 3.0 license)
One of the great changes to literary study in the digital age is the ability to do things with texts previously not possible, or possible only to few. While literature's new digital life has entailed some disorder, it has has generally proven an enormous benefit, expanding the reach and role of literature as never before: providing access to and exposure of literary texts otherwise unknown or unavailable; adding a variety of aids for interpreting and exploring texts; opening new methods and theories of analysis; putting literature to new creative and educational uses; and generally giving new life to old texts. By multiplying the media through which texts are experienced, it has benefited both the creators and consumers of literary works.

What can be learned by playing with literary texts through various new media? Plenty. Using Moby Dick as a test case, I'd like my students to explore various ways of mediating literature digitally. As they do so, I want them to pay attention to how these electronic ways of dealing with literary texts open up the texts to new audiences, new meanings, and new uses. I hope that they will see that meaningful mediations do not require highly sophisticated tools in every case.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Literary Study in the Digital Age: 17 Comparisons and a Provocation

How is the study of literature evolving today? This is a crucial question for the digital humanities. It is a topic that prior students and I explored in our eBook, Writing About Literature in the Digital Age. I invite you to browse its table of contents or download it for free.

I'm taking our thinking from there a bit further. Below, I list 17 specific comparisons between traditional literary study from the print period and the ways by which it is transforming in our digital age.

We who study literature need to come to terms with the new conditions for communication that are operative in our digital culture. I offer these starting points. For good measure (and to invite response), I conclude this post with a spirited challenge to the future of literary study as we know it.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Evolution of the Book Review (part two)

In my last post I discussed how the traditional book review is being updated in the digital age. Here, I would like to look at the way the book review is evolving from a text medium into a multimedia genre with a strong social component. Once again, there are new contexts to apply to this evolution of the book review.

Reviewing in Digital Culture
Those reviewing books online are doing so in a context in which many other things are being rated and reviewed: consumer goods and digital content of every variety, as well as services, sellers, suppliers, and companies. Contributing one's opinion about something viewed or purchased online has become a primary kind of online activity. We "like" things on Facebook, +1 them on Google+, and we assign star ratings to movies on Netflix or to books on Goodreads. We are even reviewing things indirectly simply by expressing our feelings about things. A good deal of time is spent on "sentiment analysis" of consumers as they discuss various brands or products through the various social media (such as Twitter):

The Sentiment 140 service searches Twitter and returns sentiment analysis on tweets for a given brand.
Note how the red-coded negative review is inaccurate.
Note that one can rate the accuracy of the rating (in grey)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Evolution of the Book Review (part one)

The book review's evolution reveals key changes to literacy in the digital age. What has the book review been? How is it being adapted to the new media? What is its future? I want my students to wrestle with these questions by writing a conventional book review (about an individually assigned book in the field of digital culture) and by producing a video book review.  I will give some explanation and guidelines for how they should think about and carry out those assignments. But first, some contexts.

Context #1: The Digital Humanities
A central concern to the emerging field of Digital Humanities is reconsidering the basic objects of study that are the subject of humanistic inquiry: the book or manuscript, the work of art, the musical performance, etc.  These components must be reconsidered because they are newly mediated: the eBook is not the book; the virtual tour of the Louvre is not the same as visiting the Paris museum; the musical performance is a creature quite different than ever before when one can capture, sample, and remix various recordings. Even so late a comer to the humanities as the motion picture is no longer the same cultural artifact or experience it was in the 20th century -- not when one can experience films on a mobile device, on demand, and in computing contexts where audiences are as much creators as viewers.
Is this the Mona Lisa? This is the way it appears on the
official website of the Louvre. Studying a painting becomes
studying digital ways of manipulating its presentation.
(Image credit: Musée du Louvre, used by permission)

What is more, the sense-making frameworks that have been the staples of humanistic study are equally at risk. By such frameworks I mean physical locations (the museum, the classroom); methods of publication; methods of inquiry and expertise; theoretical premises; and finally, the very rhetoric of critique. People discover, learn about, make use of, comment upon, disseminate, and build upon art and literature in far different ways than they did back when we had fixed institutions and clear lines of expertise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

An Algorithm for Reading a Book in the Digital Age

Books are changing. Reading is changing. Research is changing. It's time to think about how to read a book in the digital age. Serious students and the academic of the 21st century need new strategies for dealing with books. I'm going to propose an algorithm -- a recipe for reading and research, if you will. It is not suitable for all genres or purposes. Consider it a way of exploring the alternatives of how books can be experienced in today's information environment.

  1. Use social media to announce your intention of researching a topic by way of reading a book.
    Example: On Twitter, Facebook, and/or Google+, I could post something like "What's going on with copyright today? Starting James Boyle's The Public Domain to figure it out. #amreading #copyright
    Note the use of hashtags (metadata) that identify both what I'm doing and what topic I'm researching.
  2. Start a blog post even before reading your book. In the title, identify that book as an anchor point for researching your topic. Write just a sentence or two in which you introduce why you are reading this and where you hope it will take you.
    Example title: "Exploring Copyright's Confusion with Jame's Boyle's The Public Domain."
    Example first paragraph: "I'm told Boyle is the expert in copyright. I'm also told his book is both very important and somewhat dry. I'm going to see for myself because I am not happy that my wife got one of those take-down notices for singing a cover of a K.T. Tunstall song on her blog. What's the world coming to?

    This post will not be a book review. It will be an in-process post recording early discoveries about your chosen topic by way of a book addressing that topic. You will add to this blog post during the next few steps.
  3. Preview the book. Do this by browsing its table of contents, index, bibliography, and skimming its contents for illustrations, headings, or other clues to the general ideas and approach to the topic. This can be done electronically using Google Books or Amazon. Make a heading in your blog post: "Preview" and compose a very short paragraph.
    Example: After spending 10 minutes previewing Boyle's book, I see that he's going to be taking both an historical and a legal approach to intellectual property. I'm intrigued by his metaphor of the commons and how he's going to be using the idea of the enclosure movement (which I learned about in a history course). Also, he pretty much gives snapshot summaries of each chapter in his Notes/Further reading section at the end. Bonus!
    Note the brevity of this preview, both in doing it and writing it up.
  4. Get early social proof. Check to see if anyone responded to your announcement over social media about intending to read the book or explore the topic. If no one has, coerce one of your homies into listening to you explain the topic you're exploring and the book you've just previewed. Don't drive away your friends with this. Give it to them very briefly and see what they have to say. Make another heading in your blog post: "Early Social Proof" and write a couple of sentences.
    Example: "Nobody seemed to care among my Twitter followers that I'm reading this book or researching this topic. Cretins! But when I asked one of my wife's blog followers about how she felt when my wife had to take down all of the songs she'd posted on her blog because of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice, she encouraged me to do whatever I could to help amateurs be creative online. It was encouraging, actually. I have a cause.
    Note how making the topic relevant to a friend increases my own interest in pursuing the subject.
  5. Find the book's friends. Let the semantic web and recommendation engines do their work. Use Amazon and Google Books to look up your book, then check to see what books they recommend based on your search. Try this on both services and see what's repeated. Look to see if there are books that are more current than the one you are starting with. Take time to click through and read the publisher summaries of a few of those books. Then, make a new heading in your blog post, "Similar Books" and list what you find along with any brief observations. You are curating a very short list: 3-5 books. Consider including the covers of those books as images in the blog post.
    Example: "In searching Google and Amazon for books related to Boyle's, I'm noticing certain authors repeated, including Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler. Plus, I recognized book covers from our digital culture bookshelf (Makers by Chris Anderson and The Master Switch by Tim Wu). After looking at the summaries of four books, it appears the topic of copyright is connected to DIY and maker culture, and to concerns about big media companies, and to issues of creativity and remix culture. I remember seeing remix as a big term in the index to Boyle's book, so I plan to pay attention to that. 
  6. Find the book's social context. Do a social search on your book. This will in part help you learn about the topic and the book's content, but at this stage you are looking for who cares about the book. What are the types of people or organizations that review or reference this book? Search on Twitter, on Google+, on Facebook, and on Diigo. Consider using the book's author or a topical hashtag as part of your search. Then, make another heading in your blog post draft, "Who Cares?" and give a short paragraph that reports on the book's social context.
    Example: "I tried to find people reading Boyle's book on Twitter but found nothing. So I tried the hashtag #publicdomain and it led me to tweets from educators showing great enthusiasm about audiobooks that are in the public domain at librivox, and to news about Getty Images making a lot of their photo archives freely available. I also noticed some other hashtags people used along with #publicdomain, such as #openculture and #dailypublicdomain. Now I want to follow up on those. Since I want to find people who are into public domain issues, I made a Twitter list and added several people (and organizations) to the list that had interesting tweets about public domain. I don't know if they have read Boyle's book, but they are obviously actively discussing the idea of the public domain. Now I'm following @publicdomain, as well as @publicdomainfootage. It's clear people are very excited to have lots of content to play with in their visualizations, videos, and other creative things. When I searched for Boyle's book on diigo, it led me to bookmarks that include Boyle's own website called www.thepublicdomain.org. It looks like he also maintains an intellectual property page at Duke University. Looks like I can follow the author's most current thinking on things through his blog. On Diigo I also looked up some of the people that had curated bookmarks referring to Boyle's book. So, now I'm following Claire Brooks and Phillip Long (chosen in part by the list of tags that these users have commonly used).
  7. Find formal reviews. Find and read a couple of formal published reviews of your book. Use the search term "review" plus the book title and author -- either on Google or via a library catalog. Use these formal reviews as another way of previewing the book before reading it. Take notes, make another heading for your draft blog post, "Formal Reviews," and make a short paragraph.
    Example: Using BYU's library, I found a 2011 review essay that included not only Boyle's book, but a couple other books that I'd seen in Boyle's bibliography and in the recommended books from my Amazon and Google searches, including Tim Wu's The Master Switch (The review is by Lucas Graves in a publication called Global Media and Communication, and luckily the full text was online). Wow, this was helpful, since the reviewer covers Boyle's book succinctly and refers to other major experts in the field. Since I'm looking for people connected to topics, I wrote the list of "scholar-advocates" that Graves mentions: Lawrence Lessig, Jessica Litman, and Siva Vaidnayayathan. I'm going to have to check them out. Graves boiled down the book to a single claim, "that the reigning 'maximalist' conception of intellectual property -- in which enhancing property rights always produces more innovation - systematically undervalues something the constitutional authors of copyright and patent understood quite well: the need to preserve a flourishing cultural and scientific common....Second...that maximalist consensus has only been sharpened by widespread fears of apocalyptic digital piracy, at precisely the technological moment when global computer networks have rendered the intellectual commons more valuable."
  8. Find informal reviews. Use Google Blog Search and Goodreads to find informal reviews of the book you are reading. Create a new heading, "Informal Reviews," and comment.
    Example: I found a review of Boyle's The Public Domain on a blog called Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Through it, I found out that Boyle is a founding board member of Creative Commons. That's an organization that I keep running into references about when researching the public domain. The review also included a two-paragraph quote that sums up the book (useful!) that includes his claim "We have to 'invent' the public domain before we can save it." This intrigued me. Is knowledge really under threat in the digital age? Is this just alarmism? When I searched for reviews of this book on Goodreads, I came across a review from "Bettie" that had a rather blunt statement: "The web was created for science and it works for porn, shoes, twits, farce and books but really stymies science information because of bizarre intelligence bars." Ouch, how can this be? Are we really deciding as a society to let the worst or most superficial stuff circulate online while restricting learned communication? Is the web a threat to science, rather than aid, due to copyright laws?? I liked another Goodreads review from someone named Bruce Sanders, so I clicked through and saw what books he's been reading and reviewing. One of them is called Open Access by Peter Suber. Looks very relevant to my topic. I looked up Suber and he runs an open access blog and is a big authority on all of this.
  9. Find courses using your book. Do a Google search restricted to .edu domains (educational institutions) and include the word "syllabus" plus the title of your book (like this: james boyle public domain site:.edu). See if any courses are using that book in order to find more context for the book.
    Example: "I found a wiki associated with a course called 'Open Source Culture" from Spring 2012 at Brown University. Just the list of weekly topics looked awesome. I want to learn more about "found footage," "hack studio," and remix. 
  10. Find audio, video, or images related to your book. Search YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr, and other media sources to find references to your topic. View or listen to some of this material, then making a new heading for your blog post, "Multimedia," and report on your findings.
    Example: I found James Boyle's book on Audible and decided to go ahead and buy it (after all, I saved money from having to buy the book since he put it up for free in the public domain!). In listening to the accounts of popular culture and how it has thrived through a constant reuse of past material, it made me realize how much companies are locking down creativity that has always been there -- because now they can do so through some sophisticated and automated ways.
  11. Read your book for one hour. Based on all the previewing you have done of the book through these ways, now go back to the book itself and read it -- intelligently and selectively. Look for passages that seem representative of the author's overall point(s), and seek out subtopics of interest to you. You should have a more informed first experience with the book in this way. Copy out key passages that you can then include in yet another section of your blog post, "First Impressions of the Book."
    Example: After all that I read so far, I found myself most drawn to chapters 3 and 8 in Boyle's book (about "The Second Enclosure Movement" and about "A Creative Commons" so I have been reading those more closely. This has made me realize how much market forces are at work in constraining what circulates online and whether people have a right to reuse it. I never appreciated how strong the business aspect of this is, as well as the legal aspect. 
  12. Post and Notify. Review what you've found in the previous steps, reflect and comment on this in a "My Thinking So Far" section to conclude this blog post. State what you intend to do next in your reading of the book and in your researching of the topic. Post your finished post (with appropriate labels, of course), and be sure to notify your social graph (on Google+ etc.) that you have done so. Ask for feedback.
  13. Give Feedback. Read two other students' in-progress posts and give feedback through comments.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Digital Culture Topics to Date

As I ask students to be reflective about their learning, I in turn will be reflective about teaching digital culture. These are the readings / media we've read or watched so far, and the topics that go with them. I've added questions likely to be asked of my students. (Recordings for class lectures can be found here.):

    • Michael Wesch’s “The Web is Us/ing Us”
      How does hypertext differ from written text? How does XML differ from HTML? What is Web 2.0? What does Wesch mean in saying we are the machine, or that we are teaching the machine?
    • Digital Culture Wiki
      What is a topic that you browsed in the digital culture wiki that covers an issue in digital culture we may not have covered in class?
    • A Call for Digital Explorers
      What kind of exploring was exemplified in the video shown in this post? How have you explored digital culture this semester? If we are already inundated with info and distracted all the time, why should we explore or how can we do this meaningfully?
    • Digital Literacy: Consume, Create, Connect
      What are one or two questions surrounding the principle of consuming, as mentioned in the Prezi presentation? Similarly, for creating and for connecting? What is a tool that you have tried, or might try, for consuming content, for creating media, or for connecting better online? Did you look at any of the tools listed in the Backpack 2.0 site?
    • Digital Culture: An Overview 
      • In Dr. Burton’s Prezi presentation and lecture, he cites Charlie Gere’s definition of “digital culture.” What is something Gere lists in digital culture that we have not yet learned about in class OR that you have learned and blogged about? 
      • What were the two distinct sense by which Dr. Burton described the digital as historical?
      • Give an example of one field (besides music) in which the digital has introduced disruption.
      • Describe one digital subculture 
      • Explain a new or emerging digital genre 
      • Give an example of one of the core tensions of digital culture mentioned
    • Collaborative Creativity and Crowdsourcing
      How is Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir an example of digital creative collaboration? Describe the three types of crowd labor Dr. Burton mentioned in his crowdsourcing presentation. Describe the types of laborers these correlate with, and the types of compensation available. Which of these types of crowdsourcing is the LDS church involved in? What is an example of a non-LDS crowdsourcing platform?
    • The Power of the Long Tail in Digital Culture” | “The Long Tail” (Anderson)
      What is the long tail? Why is this concept essential for understanding digital culture? Can you explain what the long tail is either for formats or for one of the long tails listed at the end of this post?
    • "The Three Phases of Academic Blogging" | “Chasing the White Whale of Literary Blogging" (chapter 2 of this ebook. 3)
      Name and describe the three phases of academic blogging, and be prepared to indicate what your plans are to move your blogging along these phases. What are some of the benefits of blogging as described in Burton’s chapter?
    • Consider the Spiral
      How does the concept of the spiral, as described by Burton, tie in with the concept of social proof?
    • Digital Culture and Video Games (from lecture 9-26-13)
      What are some of the reasons we should take video games seriously today?
    • Socially Optimized Research (from lecture 10-2-13)
      What are the steps in a socially optimized research strategy? How does this fit into academic blogging or the process of developing finished or formal content?

    Monday, September 30, 2013

    The Three Phases of Academic Blogging

    As I have taught blogging to students over several years, I've noted that the best academic blogging happens in three distinct phases. This post is written for those who are in phase one of academic blogging and preparing to take it to the next level.

    While I am describing the blogging of undergraduates in literature, I believe these phases to be just as relevant for students in general and for scholars of all disciplines. (See, for example, how Jessie Daniels describes going from a tweet, to a blog, to a published scholarly article). 

    Elsewhere I have written on using Twitter for academic research. While I am not focusing in this post on such microblogging services as Twitter and Google+, they are a significant means for finding and testing ideas and can greatly complement academic blogging. 

    Blogging doesn't automagically result in anything. It requires thought and discipline to lead to something worthwhile academically. It can. Here's how.

    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    The Power of the Long Tail in Digital Culture

    "I celebrate the tail," says Ishmael in a chapter devoted to the flukes of whales in Moby Dick. I wish to celebrate, metaphorically, the concept of the "long tail" as a key way of understanding digital culture.

    In a whale's tail, Ishmael explains, "the confluent measureless force of the whole whale seems concentrated to a point." As we take stock of the new powers unleashed on the world through ubiquitous computing and a liquid market for information, the "long tail" effect first described by Chris Anderson of Wired magazine may be among the most influential forces of the digital order.

    So, what is this "long tail"? The "long tail" boils down to being a way to talk about both diversity of content and a new dynamics of demand for that content that has been opened up through digital means. 

    The term was coined and popularized by Chris Anderson beginning with a 2004 article in Wired magazine which he then expanded into a book by the same name.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Collaborative Creativity and Crowdsourcing

    We began today by considering technological utopianism and a positive sense of possibility to be had through technology today. I referenced the Renaissance and the romantic views of travel and that animated the European imagination and ultimately led to America as a kind of place of possibility.

    In the spirit of optimism about technology, I asked students to read "A Call for Digital Explorers" which included this video about someone figuring out how to launch a camera into space:

    I also showed this short video of a woman regaining her hearing:

    I then showed Eric Whitacre's virtual choir and walked through how that came to be. Please see this blog post which details all of that. For the rest of the lecture

    Monday, September 16, 2013

    Emerging Themes in Moby Dick and Digital Culture

    I'm always pleased at the way students are able to latch onto key themes even very early into a semester. Here is an index to a few such ideas as we have begun to explore both Moby Dick the novel and Digital Culture the phenomenon. I've added my own thought questions connected to each idea, and hope that some of you will carry the conversation forward:
    • Isolation
      In his "The Sea and Solitude" post, Greg Bayles comments that "Moby Dick is full of disconnected, discontented strangers." He links this to "connectivity and how modern technology is shrinking the gaps between individuals." Do you find technology increases or decreases the distance between you and others?
    • Collaboration
      Mele related an experience in which a teacher, upset with how technology isolates, required students to do group work. The students ended up using online collaborative tools like Google Docs. How is digital culture changing the way that people work together?
    • Categorizing
      Dr. Wickman's lecture, problematizing the genre of Moby Dick, illustrates how much we rely upon categories to make sense of things. Amber (in a response to a post by Kayla) claims that "novel" (meaning "new") is most appropriate for such an experimental piece of prose such as Moby Dick. Victoria devotes a thoughtful post to whether Moby Dick is a novel. She sounds a lot like Ishmael at the close of his Cetology chapter when she states "Perhaps we have gone down the wrong path with constantly trying to categorize everything." Her post led to a follow-up post by Brittany who explores the concept of the new and how both the form and content of Moby Dick take us into novelty. Amber in turn responds, suggesting that our classifications are in flux and we therefore ought to consider blogs to be a category of literature. How fitting is the novel as an art form in the digital age? Where do we see categorizing happening within Moby Dick? within digital culture? What is to be gained by being more inclusive in our literary categories? What lost?

    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Thinking about Moby Dick alongside Digital Culture

    I thought my colleague Gideon Burton's presentation on digital culture was tremendous. The previous meeting, members of our class will recall, I introduced Moby Dick. And on the surface, those two subjects are very different.

    But then again, they're provocative to consider alongside one another -- even before we get to the digital afterlife of Melville's text. In our initial discussion of Moby Dick, we posed the question of how to categorize that text, and ultimately, and with the help of Georg Lukacs, placed it somewhere between epic and novel. Such categories tend not to mean much when taken as ends in themselves, but they open new avenues for thought when imagined as windows onto intellectual and literary history. Here we must ask ourselves some interesting questions about the breadth and depth of human expression. For example, what is the logic behind different literary and rhetorical forms? Why do they develop? What do they imply? In the case of Moby Dick, we said, the tensions between epic and novel tell us something not only about literature, but also about the history of the idea of technology, even converting Melville's text into a technology in its own right.

    This is important to bear in mind in a class that perhaps reflexively equates technology with digital culture. So next week, we'll pick up where our discussion last time left off.

    Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Digital Culture: An Overview

    I lectured today on digital culture and gave this overview. Step through the Prezi presentation below, and if you wish listen to the lecture (45 minutes).

    Digital Literacy: Consume, Create, Connect

    I find these three principles very useful for grappling with the many tools and services that inundate us in the digital realm:
    1. Consume
    2. Create
    3. Connect
    The following Prezi presentation runs through these three principles. If you'd like a narrated version, see the video right below it. Also, see this student-created wiki based on these principles, "Backpack 2.0"

    The narrated video version:

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Michael Wesch's "The Machine is Us/ing Us"

    This video is important for many reasons, and I want my digital culture students to watch it carefully -- perhaps a few times. I've actually made it the first of a playlist of videos about digital culture.

    • It introduces some key ideas associated with "Web 2.0
    • Its focus on text -> hypertext is especially apt for students of literature
    • It is an example of (one of the earliest) viral academic videos. Wesch's student project video essentially launched this anthropologist from Kansas State into the national spotlight.
    • It is a very creative use of basic screen capturing, and a good example of issue-based, persuasive video.
    Here are some thought questions to follow up on the video. I'd love to see students do blog posts exploring some of these:

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    Beginning Academic Blogging

    Blogging is still a very new medium, and my students who have kept blogs have mostly kept personal ones. How does one get up and going with a good academic blog? There are some technical aspects, but the most important thing is developing the habits of digital literacy that accompany the best uses of blogs (rather than going by print-based habits that aren't always in keeping with the online environment).

    Technical Basics
    We are using the Blogger platform, for which there are ample tutorials and help pages available online. I tell my students that if the interface is new or confusing, first look up some of those aids and then ask help of fellow classmates. The basics for just posting are simple enough. My students are working off of blogs already created to which they've been invited to be an author, so they do not have to create or set up the blog fresh (though tweaking the design is something to take on soon).
    • Get onto Blogger.com 
    • Navigate the dashboard
    • Create a new post: title, body, basic formatting (including adding in links), using the jump break if their post goes beyond one screen, and adding labels to a post.
    • Add an image to a post
    Post Length
    While Google+ posts should be very short (more quick updates than developed thoughts), blog posts should be longer (a rule of thumb: 100-400 words to start with). Of course, that length is less than two typed pages, double-spaced. It's relative. A good rule of thumb to go by is not to go beyond a screen, or else to front-end what you are saying, since it is a small percentage of those who browse blogs to read past the first screen. (Note that I am violating that rule of thumb right now. There are occasions that justify longer posts, especially as you get into drafting a paper or developing a project. When you do longer post, just be sure that you use the important jump break feature, as I am doing right here before giving further instruction on blogging:

    Wednesday, September 4, 2013

    Welcome to Moby Digital

    This blog accompanies English 326 - Digital Culture, a course taught by Gideon Burton and Matt Wickman at Brigham Young University during Fall 2013. We have created a course wiki to complement this blog where students can find details about assignments, etc.

    Using Moby Dick as our literary test case, we intend to explore digital culture and the digital humanities in particular. How is the study of literature evolving in the digital age? What do the digital humanities offer? How can great literature, such as Moby Dick, help us to "read" the digital age? These are the core questions we are pursuing as students acquire digital literacy skills and investigate the culture, tools, and concepts surrounding digital culture and the digital humanities.

    Some of the readings we will be doing will be drawn from two compilations about the digital humanities (Texts are linked from the images below). Other works we will use for research can be found on our digital culture bookshelf on Goodreads.