more than 10 years

I realized the other day that I have been blogging for 10 years, as of June 11th, which seems like an anniversary. You can see my Welcome message here. The WordPress Dashboard tells me I have 1,921 posts which means I have posted approximately once every two or three days. I confess there are times when I think I should just wrap it up and stop the blog as it feels like one more thing I have to do. On the other hand has been useful to me as a place where I know I can find my own notes (as long as I can get to the net). I think I’ll keep on going a bit more.

Posing At the Tokyo Fish Market
Posing at the Tokyo Fish Market is not the first blog I started. Back in 2001-2 when blogs were the new thing (for me) I actually tried starting one a couple of times. The problem was that they were aspirational – I started blogs hoping I would live up to the aspirations for witty commentary I set myself. Needless to say, after a few posts I stopped writing and the blogs thankfully disappeared. worked because I set out only to keep research notes. I set myself a low bar – write stuff that you might find useful later. The second post is an example of that – a list of possible “intersections of mathematics, computer science, philosophy and multimedia” that could make for a nice lecture series or conference. Not a lot of context, no wit, and not that useful to anyone but me.

The question I ask myself now is whether blogging of this sort is out of date. Others tweet such short notes and WordPress is used more for web sites that need a news or essay function.

Perhaps I’ll keep going on a bit more, just in case blogs come back like bell-bottom jeans. alberta@noon Monday June 10, 2013

Last week I was interviewed by Judy Aldous on the CBC programme alberta@noon Monday June 10, 2013. We took calls about social media. I was intrigued by the range of reactions from “I don’t need anything other than messaging” to “I use it all the time for my company.” One point I was trying to make is that we all have to now manage our social media presence. There are too many venues to be present in all of them and, as my colleague Julie Rak points out, we are now all celebrities in the sense that we have to worry about how we appear in media. That means we need to educate ourselves to some degree and experiment with developing a voice.

Larissa MacFarquhar: The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz

The New Yorker last month had a great story by Larissa MacFarquhar on The Tragedy of Aaron Swartz. The net is full of opinions and outrage about the Swartz affair, MacFarquhar gives us a human dimension and a complex web of quotes from others. Another New Yorker story by Tim Wu, Fixing the Worst Law in Technology explains the law that prosecutors used against Swartz,

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the most outrageous criminal law you’ve never heard of. It bans “unauthorized access” of computers, but no one really knows what those words mean.

I must admit, my first thought on reading about this case, was that I would love to have all of JSTOR, though I’m not sure what I would do with it. I think there is a closet collector in every academic who wants a copy of everything they might need to consult late at night.

@samplereality and Twitter fiction (?)

A week or so ago I began to follow Mark Sample’s tweets carefully as his tweeted what at first sounded like a nightmare at Dulles when he went to catch a flight. As he tweeted through the days it became more surreal. It seemed he was sequestered and being interrogated. He reported shots and deaths. It was hard to tell what was going on and then it was all over with a link to a YouTube video of him whispering into the phone. Then when you clicked on @samplereality you got “Internal Server Error” and if you tried to find his page you got a “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

Someone had deleted his account.

Fortunately there was an off-site archive of his tweets that he had backed up here. And, as a useful hint, there was an entry on ProfHacker by Sample on how to Keep Your Official Twitter Archive Fresh which the editors introduced with,

this is a draft that Mark Sample uploaded to Profhacker last week. We have been unable to contact Mark for the final revisions, so we are posting it as-is. Our apologies for any errors.

It seemed more and more likely that the dramatic events in Dulles were a work of net fiction or an alternate reality game, something Mark is interested in and claimed to be working on for 2013 in his blog entry From Fish to Print: My 2012 in Review. I was also suspicious that none of his colleagues at George Mason seemed to be that worked up about his experience. And that’s the fun of this sort of alternate reality fiction. You don’t really know if you’re being taken or not and so you start poking around. Like many I was initially sympathetic (who hasn’t been inconvenienced by delays) and then worried. Eventually I decided the stream of posts were a work of fiction, but of course I’m still not sure. When alternate reality fiction is done well you never know whether This Is Not A Game.

I still don’t, but I’ll risk a guess and congratulate Mark … Bravo! If I’m wrong I apologize.



Literary History, Seen Through Big Data’s Lens

I am seeing more and more articles in the media about text analysis and the digital humanities. Ryan Cordell used the platform of the amazing story of his children getting millions of FaceBook likes to get a puppy to discuss the digital humanities and he studies how ideas could go viral before the internet. (See the CBC Q podcast of his interview.)

From Humanist I found a New York Times article by Steve Lohr on Literary History, Seen Through Big Data’s Lens. The story talks about Matt Jockers’ forthcoming work on Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (University of Illinois Press). Matt is quoted saying,

Traditionally, literary history was done by studying a relative handful of texts, … What this technology does is let you see the big picture — the context in which a writer worked — on a scale we’ve never seen before.

In today’s Edmonton Journal I came across a story by Misty Harris on If Romeo and Juliet had cellphones: Study views the mobile revolution through a Shakespearean lens. This story reports on a paper by Barry Wellman that uses Romeo and Juliet as a way to think about how mobile media (text messaging especially) have changed how we interact. In Shakespeare’s time you interacted with others through groups (like your family in Verona). Now individuals can have distributed networks of individual friends that don’t have to go through any gatekeepers. is Back

Faithful readers will have noticed that has been inaccessible off and on since the summer and that it has not been updated for a while. The reason is that was hacked and my ISP (rightly) insisted on shutting it down until I fixed it. Over the months I have tried a number of things that seemed to temporarily fix the problem, but ultimately failed. Finally I had to turn to a programmer, Hamman Samuel, who has rebuilt the blog from scratch and the associated wiki. These were rebuilt on another server so there are various linking problems that we are slowly identifying and fixing. I will be reflecting on this experience in future posts. In the meantime I apologize to readers that it took so long to fix.

Alberts: On Becoming a Digital Humanist

This week I was invited to give a number of talks at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Crystal Alberts organized the talks (along with others). At UND I spoke on:

  • Incorporating the digital in the humanities. This talk was about incorporating the digital into humanities teaching.
  • Supporting the Digital Humanities. This talk was for librarians and discussed mostly how libraries can support our work.
  • Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities. This talk was delivered by videoconference and went out to a larger state audience discussing cyberinfrastructure in North Dakota.

Crystal has a nice long blog post on participation and inclusion the digital humanities. The post,On Becoming a Digital Humanist talks about Steve Ramsay’s MLA comments and what I wrote on inclusion.