Kamenetz reading for Oct. 6

Hi all,

It has been brought to my attention that the selections from Anya Kamenetz’s book, DIY U, aren’t up on the group site with the other readings for Oct 6. As it turns out, we don’t have access to this text to post it in time for class. As an alternate, I am posting a PDF of her e-book, The Edupunks’ Guide, which outlines strategies for students to acquire high-quality education and credentials outside of the traditional classroom.

This is optional reading, but you are encouraged to peruse The Edupunks’ Guide and evaluate it as a response to the current cost, access, and quality crises in higher education.

Memex as Icon

In my reading in digital humanities over the past few years, I have encountered what seems to be countless references to Vannevar Bush’s article and Memex— his suggested design of an information retrieval system using microfilm—on multiple occasions. Bush and Memex are held up as historical forebears outside the academy as well. A Google search for “Memex” retrieves 2.6 million results, the top-most referring to new software being developed by the military. Perhaps more revealing of the cultural reach of Memex as a meme is that a search of Google Videos retrieves 46,000 results (!). I have become increasingly impatient at the iconic stature that Memex has achieved and the use of Bush’s article as a historic marker in the field of information science as well as, to an extent, in digital humanities.

Although, I should mention that Belinda Barnet wrote an excellent DHQ piece about Memex and Bush, noting that Bush’s machine had never been built and “All we have of Memex are the words that Bush assembled around it in his lifetime, the drawings created by the artists from Life, its erotic simulacrum.

In 1980. Linda C. Smith performed a citation analysis of Bush’s article (which was reprinted several times) to “assess the impact of Bush’s ideas on the subsequent design and development of information retrieval systems.” Her analysis jibes with my impressions of references to Bush’s article. She indicates that while it was highly cited as a historical turning point in computing and information science, the majority of these attempts to historicize information retrieval vis-à-vis Memex, were “perfunctory,” and may indicate a lack of acquaintance with the article and Bush’s ideas. (Smith, Linda C. “‘Memex’ as an Image of Potentiality in Information Retrieval Research and Development.” Proceedings of the 3rd Annual ACM Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval. 1980. 351.)

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Wikipedia Workshop 9/26

Hello everyone–

As you know, the Wikipedia workshop will be held this evening in the Library Basement Mac Lab C196.01. Here is a quick agenda of what we will cover. Also, the handouts we will use (I will bring print copies): Editing Wikipedia and Instructor Basics. (See also the brochure created for student editors).

If attending the workshop, please create a Wikipedia account beforehand. To do so, go to a Wikipedia article page and select “Create Account.”

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What Does It Really Mean to Be Human?

Information Management: A Proposal (Provocation)

It’s clear reading this piece (and watching his TED talk) Tim Berners-Lee was simply trying to solve problems around communication, information sharing and data management when he created the World Wide Web. He’s so genuine, you almost forget the military implications.

I arrived to a similar place/question as Lisa (around what capitalism does to “free” things like the internet). More specifically I am interested in how “human” or the difference between human and machine gets branded nearly 30 years after the creation of the internet. How does it get communicated in a capitalist space?

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The Amorphous Identity of Digital Humanities

When I first started at the Graduate Center, one of my classmates mentioned that she was pursuing a double concentration through the MALS program in both Fashion Studies and Digital Humanities. Not being familiar with Digital Humanities at the time, I asked her what exactly that term meant. It seemed to be a bit of a surprise to her that she was unable to find a concise, clear answer to this, ultimately leaving it at “it kind of touches on everything.” This encounter was one of the primary reasons that I had wanted to tackle this Steven E. Jones piece from The Emergence of the Digital Humanities.

I don’t have a lengthy post, as I feel the author, even in the context of this being the book’s introduction, plainly laid out his goals for showing the how’s, why’s, and struggles within academia that has produced digital humanities as the popular and growing field that we now know it to be. I do however want to give further consideration to this subject of identity.

On its own, humanities is already a sprawling classification that would also fit into my classmate’s definition of “it kind of touches everything”, so when in combination with the technology-based aspect, it’s legitimate to question what it does it and what it doesn’t constitute the digital humanities. In one of his responses to this, Jones uses very appropriate imagery of a flower with many overlapping petals to elucidate the complexity of assigning firm boundaries when dealing in such a rich, and perhaps subjective area.

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Netizen Kafka?

The late Roy Rosenzweig’s review essay on histories of the internet (I refuse to capitalize it) presents so many thought-provoking opportunities for reflection and discussion, and I find it hard to narrow it down for a blog post.  He very deftly weaves his way among these ideologically disparate yet overlapping histories in a manner that creates what becomes a far more comprehensive–and far more plausible–origin story than any single account. It took on the shape of its subject: rather than a linear meta-history of the internet-as-paradigm-shift, driven by Great Men and Their Ideas, the essay created a kind of rhizomatic or collage-like narrative, governed as much by personalities, events, and ideas as by their critical intersections or juxtapositions in time and space.  As I followed him through this more “networked” history of a network, one question recurred:  at these various junctures, who had the power, how were they using it, and why?  (OK, that’s three questions.)

In fact, the subtext of this review essay seems to be all about the issue of control. And its composite history of the internet takes on a familiar dialectical rhythm around control and decentralization.  Brief and totally oversimplified, it goes like this:

The internet developed from Cold War communications infrastructure that required integration, to ensure centralized command and control over defense systems. The Department of Defense (DoD) developed tools, in conjunction with well-funded research institutions, that enabled different types of computers within its systems to communicate with each other. As these embryonic networks of computers developed, it became clear that the networks themselves needed to be integrated. ARPANET seemed to solve that problem, and once again the government had centralized control over computing-as-communication in the service of national defense. Until groups of users affiliated (or formerly affiliated) with these partner institutions also wanted in. Disgruntled hippie scientists created Usenet to be “the people’s ARPANET.” Now there was a parallel network  for information that wanted to be free. Soon the DoD retrenched, established a hippie-free private net-fiefdom,  and made the resources of ARPANET available to Netizens for further independent development. This decentralization prompted the establishment of protocols to integrate and govern a “meta network”–the internet more or less as we know it now. Yet this ultimately created new opportunities for control: highly lucrative opportunities for individual Netizens who favorably positioned themselves. Personal computing was the next big thing. It wasn’t long before the market was awash with hardware, operating systems, and software (much of them incompatible with each other).

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Thomson: “Time, Work-Disipline and Industrial Capitalism”

Thomson in this articles asks how technological improvement in time-keeping changed ordinary people’s experience of time. This reminds me of a novel I read in my early teenage years: Momo or also known as The Men in Gray written by Michael Ende (1973).

This is the story of Momo (from wikipedia)

“In the ruins of an amphitheatre just outside an unnamed Italian city lives Momo, a little girl of mysterious origin. She is remarkable in the neighborhood because she has the extraordinary ability to listen — really listen. By simply being with people and listening to them, she can help them find answers to their problems, make up with each other, and think of fun games. The expression “go and see Momo!” has become synonymous with panacea and Momo has become the friend of everyone, especially honest street- cleaner Beppo and poetic tour guide Guido (also known as “Gigi”).

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The True Cost

Hi class,

In light of last night’s discussion on production, I though I’d post a link to a documentary about what is currently going on within the garment industry, in case anyone is interested. This film does a pretty terrific job of showing how the environment and people’s lives are being affected by various irresponsible fashion practices, as well as the reasons why they are happening.


from point A to B – Schivelbusch Provocation

A recent internet phenomenon features a photo in which of a clumsy steam locomotive lugging a slim streamlining modern bullet train out of a typhoon affected station in southern China where the entire region lost its electricity power due to the natural catastrophe. In a country where most of its steam powered engines retired to museums, this photo caused quite a nostalgia among various generations, majority of whom interestingly chose to overlook the practical function of that locomotive. Though perhaps no longer culturally dominating, an old technology or organic power rarely just extinct globally, it either becomes less noticeable into the infrastructure, or transit into a role that is less function prominent but experience based. Schivelbusch discussed the psychological attitude we had transitioned through towards traveling in trains, which was relatively new at that time, I wonder whether that makes it a binary transition towards the roles of “out-dated” machines as well?

“As the new technology terminated the original relationship between the pre-industrial traveler and his vehicle and its journey, the old technology was seen, nostalgically, as having more ‘soul’.” This quote is also appropriate when applying to traveling by trains and airplanes. Now that the time it takes to cover the same amount of geographic ground is further drastically reduced by engines that are even more powerful, the lengthy, rhythmic railroad seem more expressive all of a sudden. One solution is “transferring the economically obsolete old technologies to a new realm, that of leisure and sports”. As the modern vision of traditional traveling, railroad companies now offer from sight-seeing routes, of which destination is no longer a priority, to Writer in Residency program during which writers are invited to enjoy the inspirational landscape while being productive in an enclosed, distraction-free environment.

One intriguing perspective the book touched upon but did not elaborate is the impact on locality and the formation of globalization from industrialized transportation. The enclosed space and the certain amount of time of limited mobility (not to mention the commodity culture within that space and time) forms its own unique cultural environment. Shortened perceptual distance resulted from decreased time spent traveling from point A to B, of which another byproduct is the instant access to a different cultural “world” from that of connectivity of industrialized traveling, especially now in the form of air travel.

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