“Blogging month” is over; what have we learned here?

Just over a month ago, I set up academicipad as a web site/blog where I would post regularly for a month, kind of in honor of National Novel Writing Month, which also happens to be (coincidence?  I think not) National Blog Writing Month.  How’d it go?  Eh, so-so.  What did I learn?  A few things, I think:

  • For an academic-type, November is a terrible month for any sort of “here’s something a little extra for you to do every day” month kind of event.  November and April are the busiest months on the academic calendar, at least in my experience, and November is made all the more busy in my life by Thanksgiving, which is more or less a holiday of obligation for seeing extended family.  I think the only thing I might be able to attempt to do in November like this again is grow a beard, but a) I think the holiday of obligation (which also requires pictures) would cut that effort short, and b) beards are itchy.  I have a good friend who did NaNoWriMo on his own in January once, and that seems a better time for me, too.  Maybe next year– or really, the year after.
  • I had what I thought was a surprisingly difficult time writing on a regular basis in the form of blog posts about iPads.  It might have been the subject matter, because really, how much could I say about the iPad that is interesting, especially when my focus is on the academic?  I found myself just not all that motivated to get up in the morning to write about how I use the iPad to mark up readings or take notes or whatever.
  • The other thing I learned I thought was interesting was I was much more interested in getting up every morning and writing for 30 or 40 or so minutes on what might (maybe, someday) become a book in the form of my old dissertation.  I don’t know if this is because of the subject matter or what, but it seems to me that blogging is one of those things where I spend an hour (or so) writing a post and then that’s that.  They are sprints– maybe ones that can generate better and longer ideas later, but still short and quick pieces that are not meant to be sustained over a month or more.
  • On the positive side, I did manage to get academicipad off the ground with 17 posts and 11 pages about iPad (mostly academic) stuff, and it did find some traffic– 358 visits from the time I set it up, according to the WordPress “Jet Pack” plugin that follows these things.  That’s obviously not a lot– I get about that many hits here a week, usually more than that many hits every day at emutalk– but it’s something.  In fact, from an advertising point of view, it might be better because I think more of the traffic coming to academicipad is a result of some sort of search for iPad related info, whereas most of the traffic coming to this blog or emutalk is the same people over and over.
  • I did a little talk yesterday in the art department about iPads in academia, and while the talk was scheduled before I set up the blog, I was able to use that site in my talk.  So that was nice, too.
  • So we’ll see.  I think I’ll keep that site up and running and indeed iPad-centric with a few related (for example, iPhones in academia) kinds of things, and I think I’m going to try to set up some Google ads on the space to see what comes if it.  It was definitely worth the experiment for a month, though I’m also looking forward to getting back to the immediacy/electronic/digital situation project, too.

iPad and daily blogging goes so-so

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been taking the inspiration of National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting Month to start a new blog/web site of sorts, Academic iPad.  And I’m also doing this because a) as a part of this EMU eFellows program, and b) I’m giving a very informal talk at the end of this month about iPads and art/academia for a forum in the Art Department here.

So far, I’ve noticed three things:

  • I’m not particularly inspired about blogging daily about iPad things, I suppose because I’m not sure what else I can say about using iPads that I haven’t said or that don’t strike me as pretty obvious.  Use the iPad for reading; use it for writing; use it for everyday internet stuff (e.g., email, light web browsing, searching); use it for some notes; use it for fun.  I suppose there are “fine points” to be made about all of these things, but I’m not sure how interesting those finer points really are for anyone.
  • I have been motivated to monkey around more with my iPad(s) and try some new tricks, which I suppose is also a good thing and/or good unintended consequence of this little project.
  • Between the iPad thing, this blog, and EMUTalk.org, I pretty much blog every day anyway.  So I’m not sure it’s much of a challenge for me.

Anyway, we’ll see how it pans out.  I’m not going to be giving up on this little experiment mainly because of I still feel like I owe something to the eFellows and the Art department crowds, but I am also not assuming that this is going to turn into a regular and ongoing site after this month.

In honor of national novel writing month, a new blog (for a month or more)

I’ve been trying lately to follow my own advice to my students in English 621 by working on a project in small bits and pieces as time allows instead of doing what far too many of us do far too often, which is to think “oh, I’ll get to that when I can really spend a solid couple of days on it,” which translates to “never.”  And I’ve been making decent enough progress on revisiting my dissertation to see if I can’t re-see/re-shape it into something for now.  The basic premise of the complexities of rhetorical situation in the digital age are still true, and if nothing else, I’ve been enjoying going back to poke at something that I wrote a long time ago.

Anyway, while that “touch it every day” project is going well, I’ve decided to kind of put it on hold and/or let it compete for time with a new blogging project about iPads (and similar mobile devices) and academic work.  I’m calling it Academic iPad.

Why, you ask? Well, three reasons, basically.  First, while I have always been a bid admirer of National Novel Writing Month and the “just do it and stop over-thinking it” attitude behind that project, I really don’t have a novel in me right now, and November is anything but a “slow month” in terms of work stuff.  So I thought I’d try something a little more modest, and I figure I can write a blog entry a day for a month.

Second, to the extent that people find this blog through a particular search for something (as opposed to those who read this blog once in a while because they might know me in “real life” or through my work at EMU or in computers and writing or whatever), it tends to be about iPad stuff and usually academic iPad stuff.  I figured that perhaps that justifies a whole new space.

And third, I thought I should do something tangible for my participation in EMU’s mobile computing/eFellows initiative.  There is a longer/insider story behind this that I’m not going to go into now, but last winter, I got involved in an initiative here where faculty were supposed to be doing things to learn more about incorporating mobile devices into their work.  But other than getting an iPad from EMU (as a loaner, at least in theory), I haven’t done much of anything with all this.  So I thought if nothing else, I could create a blog/web space that could serve as a place for resources and reflections on the role of iPads (and other “mobile computing” technologies) for academics.

So we’ll see how it goes.  I make no promises that this continues beyond this month, which might also be a good thing, a blog/web site that has a definitive ending point.

The Situations of Occupy Wall Street

Just the other day, I came across this useful post from Jill Walker Rettberg, which is also discussing this useful post from Mike “Rortybomb” Konczal, both about the use of social media and the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Walker Rettberg is more or less summarizing Konczal’s analysis of the Tumblr site We Are the 99 Percent and also of the site Occupy Together, which is a sort of hub for all things “Occupy-ish.”

The point here with Walker Rettberg’s post and these (and other) sites is that these sort of events are perhaps only possible nowadays with social media of the sort you are reading right now, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.  I’m inclined to agree, and I’ve been thinking about all that lately because I have been fiddling around with finally getting off my butt and doing something book-like with my dissertation.  I don’t want to make promises here; saying that I am going to write this book is a little like saying I am going to stay on this diet, both the kind of things that are probably wise to bet against.

In my diss, I used the term “immediacy” to suggest both the profound sense of intimacy that can happen in these situations from proximity (albeit electronic proximity at times) and chaos that results in the immediate speed of these situations playing out.  The Arab Spring uprisings are another good example of this, of course.  The other aspect of the Occupy Wall Street movement (and the Arab Spring, for that matter) is that there is a lack of a singular rhetor/leader offering a single message.  This is probably more true with Occupy Wall Street, though that’s the point of Konczal’s post:  he’s trying to analyze the text on that Tumblr site to ascertain the concerns of the movement as articulated there.  And in brief, those concerns are student loans, children (which I also think might be interpreted as “the future”), unemployment, and health care.

As for my own thoughts about the whole Occupy Wall Street thing:  I am very torn.  On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the broad concerns about student loan debt, jobs, taxes on the rich (or a lack thereof), health care, and I guess what I would describe as the just general frustration that makes people think “nothing else is working; I’m going to go out into the street and beat a drum.”  On the other hand, the lack of a unifying message and leader(s) makes it unlikely that this group is going to get a lot of traction in the analog and very traditional situation of government:  that is, I don’t think the federal government is going to pay a whole lot of attention to these folks until they are able to swing elections.

The other issue I have is the “99 Percent” depicted on Tumblr and other places is that who is in that group is a little problematic to me; or maybe a different way of putting it is there is a certain level of inequality regarding who has it worse.  Most/many of the folks on that blog have legitimate “that sucks” kinds of stories, but there are also many that frankly look like college kids looking for something to protest/join.

Of course, I suppose all of that is just normal and is not a reason to not be frustrated.  I mean, I’m not in the 99 percent of most of the people depicted here– that is, I’m securely employed, I’m not worried a lot about debt, I have decent health insurance, etc.  At the same time, I want to help folks not as lucky as me, and I do worry about the future for my son and his generation, I worry about stupid government cuts in taxes to rich people, etc.

The rise of the web as the source of knowledge– in a book to be released soon

I went to the JSB Symposium with Derek on Monday over at the University of Michigan, which was an event that featured David Weinberger as the speaker.  Weinberger is the author of books like The Cluetrain Manifesto, the excellent Everything is Miscellaneous, and a forthcoming book that was more or less the topic of his talk, Too Big to Know.  It was an interesting talk, though not as provoking (for me) or as popular as the last one of these I went to in 2009 with danah boyd.  But I digress.

Weinberger talked about a lot of things, but I think it’s fair to say that his new work continues in the same vein as what he talked about before, and how, in a digital age, knowledge is no longer expensive, rare, logical, and locked into books, and that the problem with books is they as objects freeze knowledge at the point of printing.  And he talked through Darwin quite a bit as a pretty good example of how knowledge used to work and how it works now, how nowadays Darwin would probably have a blog.

A lot of what he was talking about here reminded me of an article on Prof Hacker I had been meaning to blog about here for quite some time, “Do ‘the Risky Thing’ in Digital Humanities” by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who is the “director of scholarly communication” for MLA.  Basically, Fitzpatrick is offering encouragement to dissertation writers to “be bold” by producing dissertations that distinguish themselves potentially in form if not also content.  For example, she writes:

Writing a standard dissertation that meets everyone’s expectations for what a dissertation should look like, how it should argue, and what it should say is the safe path to a completed degree. But having taken that path—the path to a book—the candidate is likely to find herself on the job market with dozens of other Ph.D. holders with prospective books. Getting her work out of the pile is helped enormously by having done something more than what was expected. That is not to push experimentation for experimentation’s sake, but it is to say that reining in a project a graduate student really wants to do to conform with a traditional structure is counterproductive, deflating both the student’s passion and the thing that makes her work distinctive.

On the one hand, I don’t disagree with either Weinberger or Fitzgerald, and Fitzgerald is pretty much praised in the comment section on ProfHacker.  I’m all for “breaking the rules” in terms of scholarship, my dissertation has been online now almost as long as it has existed in print, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve published lots of stuff online.

On the other hand, let’s check in with reality.  By definition, taking the experimental/alternative path is a risk, and I don’t know if a dissertation is a good place to take that risk.  There are a lot of variables here, of course.  When I was dissertating 15 years ago, there was no “taking a risk” in that dissertations were double-spaced and bound chunks of text by definition.  My assumption that much of this has changed nowadays with electronic publishing possibilities and it is more normal for even traditional dissertations to reference web-based content.  But if someone doing a dissertation on the use of multimedia in the teaching of writing and then produced it only as a web-based chunk of video, then I think that person would probably have a difficult time having that work taken seriously by scholars or the job market.  The cautionary tale that already Alexandra Juhasz tells about her multimedia work/book on YouTube “A Truly New Genre” outlines the problems for an established scholar in publishing this kind of work; freshly minted PhDs just entering the profession would have an even bigger challenges.

Hey, I don’t make the rules.  I’m just telling you what they are.

As for Weinberger:  well, he’s telling us about the powers of the web and its transformations of what constitutes knowledge based on a book.  He isn’t working at Harvard and hasn’t been invited to the University of Michigan to give a speech (one that he has and will surly repeat at other similar venues) because he keeps a blog.  I don’t know how much money Weinberger makes from his books, but I guarantee you that in direct and indirect ways, he makes a lot more from them then he does from his blog.

So, while it is true that we technically don’t need books anymore (though there is something to be said about the permanence and unalterability of print as well) and we might not even be buying books like we used to, books have far more capital in an information economy than anything in the blogosphere.

Past Tense Blogging

One of my quasi-productive/quasi-procrastination projects right now is going back through my previous unofficial blog and official blog (both of which I haven’t kept in over three years because I kind of combined them both here) and seeing what’s there worth saving before I delete that database to make a little more room for other databases/projects on stevendkrause.com.  I suppose I could take the time to figure out how to merge those past databases into this one (I don’t think it would be that hard to do), but it’s not all worth saving and it’s kind of therapeutic and fun to go back and read through all these old posts.  So sooner than later, I’ll delete those old blogs and redirect them (maybe) to a wordpress.com site I’m calling Past Tense Krause.

A few interesting (to me, at least) observations in looking through a bunch of old posts:

  • I’ve been blogging for a long time now.  I guess I knew that already.  I kind of was blogging right after my CCCOnline 2002 article “Where Do I list this on my CV” piece came out, but I think it’s fair to say my more formal blogging began in August 2003, wondering around with blogger and then MoveableType on my own server space, and then back to a domain name of my own (aka, here).
  • It is amazing how writings that are less than 10 years old seem super-duper out of date now.  Internet time, especially in talking about anything having to do with technology and tools.
  • Facebook has replaced a lot of the posts I used to make, especially just posting links to things, and especially on my unofficial blog.
  • A lot of what’s worth saving might come in handy for other chunks of writing later (or not), which I guess is one of the points of keeping a blog in the first place.  Of course, it’s pretty useless to say that if you never go back and look at old posts….
  • It’s amazing to me the number of links I have from just a year or two ago that are gone, and some of these are for pretty big sites that seemed at the time to be promising services/ideas or something that you would think would still be around.  All of which leads me to think:
  • The thing about the internets is that while it is true that it’s hard to “get rid” of something online once it has been posted there, simultaneously, it is so often so hard to find things from the past that no one bothered to save.  So while I do agree that putting anything out there on the ‘net means that it could come back to haunt you forever (I’m talking to you, Anthony Weiner), it is also can be a haystack full of needles.  I talk about this paradox a bit in version 2.0 of “Where Do I List This On My CV” piece here, but basically, while the web allows for access to text to zillions of people, the low access paper text has a better chance of “living” “forever.”  Lots of people (still!) stumble across my dissertation online and I suspect it has never been checked out of the BGSU library; and yet with a few shifting server spaces here and there, my online diss would be gone and the print would be left (note to self– move diss to stevendkrause directory).  I can still lay my hands on diary entries and old clips from 20 years ago that are in a box in my basement, while some of these internet files are a kicked plug away from vanishing.
  • Which makes me think that one of my other projects will be to print some of that Past Tense Krause out and stick it into a binder….

“I’d like to thank the academy” and other prequels to C&W 2011

The other day, I received an email informing me that I’ve won the John Lovas Memorial Weblog Award for 2o11. Go figure!  This comes after I’ve decided (or, employing the passive tense, it was decided) to shelve my research on blogs as writerly spaces, and at the conference where, on a panel I organized around the question “Are Blogs Dead,” my answer is “maybe” (see below).

But in all seriousness, I am honored and thankful for the recognition, and I am happy to once again point to the memory of a blogger that influenced many of the past winners of this award, John Lovas.  I touch on John’s blog in my presentation briefly:  his work (along with a lot of the past winners of this award) represents a very different kind of blogging then what I see going on now.  If you look at John’s blog from way back when (this link is from the Wayback Machine) just for a moment, I think you’ll see what I mean.  John’s blog (and many others from back then, including my own) have a decidedly more autobiographical, “diary-like” turn to them, more than ones nowadays, I think largely because of Facebook.  So it’s interesting for me to be getting this award about “Weblogs,” something that sure seems a lot different to me now then it was back then.

Anyway, thanks again.  And I also really want to point people to what I think is my most successful blogging project, EMUTalk.org, which receives many many more hits and comments than this site and which is devoted to local issues about Eastern Michigan University.

In other prequel for C&W news:

I’m of course looking forward to the fact that the conference is about seven or eight miles from my house and in a town that I know reasonably well.  I kind of will miss out on some of the dorm/hotel/late night “hijinks” I suspect, but it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed.

Either before, during, or after the conference (I don’t know which), check out the “unconference” space I put together with some of my former students, something I’m calling “Is There a There There? A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video.” We’ll see what happens with that.

Thursday, I’m planning on golfing– which I mention because if there are others out there who are interested in potentially joining us, let me know.  Right now we’ve got a 3-some, and I could probably get two tee-times if there’s interest.  I’ll probably get us on at either the EMU course or at a more user-friendly (read “easier” and “cheaper”) course in the area.

Friday, I’m going to conference stuff, and Saturday morning, I’m chairing a roundtable I set up called “Is Blogging Dead?  Yes, No, Maybe, Other.”  It’s at 8:30 AM, and it is going to feature Aaron Barlow, Bradley Dilger, Virgina Kuhn, Carrie Lamanna, Liz Losh, Brian McNely, Brendan Riley, and fellow local and certainly non-academic blogger Andre Peltier.  We’re going to stick to a strict three minute (or less!) opening statement format followed by lots of discussion.  I think it’ll be pretty good. Here’s my talk, all YouTubed and captioned:

By the way, adding those captions was bizarrely easy.

Saturday night I’m thinking about getting out the word to convince some folks to come over to the Ypsi side of things– Depot Town, The Corner, etc.– though that might be a hard sell since there’s plenty to do in Ann Arbor and I am sure that plenty of people will not have a car.  And then there’s bowling, too.   So we’ll see.

And Sunday?  Well, the conference goes on Sunday, though I may or may not partake.  Depends on how far behind I fall in my pesky spring term teaching.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing various C&W types soon.

Yet another collection of miscellaneous links

With all the news about delicious going belly-up (or not?), it seems more important than ever for me to park some links here that I want to keep track of:

Misc. Browser Links

I’ll post sooner than later (yet this weekend, certainly) about Thanksgiving at home this year, but in the meantime, it’s time once again to post a ton of links to stuff open in my browser that I want to and/or need to come back to sooner than later.  In no particular order here: