Morgan’s pinboard for 20 Dec 2014 through 26 Dec 2014

digital media: why think?

From The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan, 1967 (1951″>caption id=”” align=”alignleft” width=”299″] From The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan, 1967The Mechanical Bride haunts the interwebs.Both texts myopically focus on readers as bored passive consumers and writers as lackeys to the market. While they both cover (rather than question”>/caption]I just looked over two texts from Rutledge for possible use in digital writing and rhetoric courses, and came away disappointed. Saddened. Without anything good to say. Both books give an unintentionally clear look into the cold heart of darkness that is written mass media. Neither delivers what they suggest they will. Both have a distinctive ordour of journalism-as-marketing-the-brand shaping both the texts themselves and the advice they present as understanding.Writing and Editing for Digital Media is misnamed. Its emphasis is on writing and editing for digital marketing.Digital Innovations for Mass Communications has a similar problem in the title: There aren’t any real innovations in the book so much as continuations of the what McLuan critiqued in the 1940s. The Mechanical Bride haunts the interwebs.Both texts myopically focus on readers as bored passive consumers and writers as lackeys to the market. While they both cover changes in media distribution, they do so superficially, and without concern for semiotic changes in affordances, rhetorical function or situation. They build their work on the purported commonalities: this web thing – it’s not that different when you get right down to it, and Good Writing is Universally Good Writing, as it was codified, variously, by StrunkNWhite, Orwell, and Confucius. Their own directive is poorly worded, oddly aligning “a person writing” with “the principles are”: “Whether a person is writing a news story, novel, letter to the editor, or advertising copy, the principles of good writing are the same.” (Writing for Digital Media, 1.)  Gertrude Stein is just below the surface:

Whether a person is writing. A news story novel, letter, to the editor or advertising. Copy the principles of good writing. The same.

Not far off from How To Write.

In keeping with the easy emphasis on The Universal, the text gives the typical (copy and pasted) lists of Advice (active! verbs!). What seems new are tricks of how to generate heads using Wordle, and how to lace up stories with words planted for SEO. But the goal of the advice betrays the mindset of a marketeer, c 1955: Drugstore shelf space and the cover photo used to be the magic for selling pulp; today, keywords are the new currency.

noindent”>You lace up your text, not to create a better article, and not to inform your readers, but to up the article’d search hits. The writers of this text are even chary of suggesting the search-engine optimized article is going to be read: the aim is not reading or any universal but to “further the likelihood of your pages coming up in searches.” Of course, works need to be found, (Morville at findablity.org, now retired, and Ambient Findability) but the aim in lacing up in search terms is to spoof Google into a first-page listing – and readers into clicking the ads.

As for readers: Here’s Digital Innovations’s simplistic sense of audience as content consumer motivated by desire: bored, superficial, but thrifty.

noindent”>And here is the obligatory nod to convergence culture – the very idea that makes both these texts untenable. Digital Innovations gives a nod to Henry Jenkins’s, keeping the focus on his head-shot rather than his ideas:

noindent”>But with the next paragraph, they change the direction, away from Jenkins’s emphasis on the activity of the consumer driven by unnamable desire and towards the institutionalized presentation within museums.

noindent”>This is less a remix of Jenkins than a selective appropriation. Jenkins’s focuses on pro-sumer agency with “A whole range of new technologies enable consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content and in the process, these technologies have altered the ways that consumers interact with core institutions of government, education, and commerce.” But there’s nothing like the institute of a museum to say Hands Off the Content! Stay behind the velvet rope, children. These artifacts are fragile. They need to be handled by the professionals.

noindent”>Digital rhetoric is at cross-purposes with these examples of digital marketing-journalism. So where are these two texts useful? In courses that look at how the print market is driven. In courses engaged in media archaeology. In courses looking at digital rhetoric in order to question what is being presented as mainstream values. In courses that aim at authorizing the digital reader, that aim at giving the digital reader some agency other than consumption.

Morgan’s pinboard for 16 Dec 2014 through 18 Dec 2014

  • List of Physical Visualizations – Prime example of curation – open for additions and set up for remixing. Needs an astrolabe. "This page is a chronological list of physical visualizations and related artifacts, curated by Pierre Dragicevic and Yvonne Jansen. Thanks to Fanny Chevalier and our other contributors. If you know of another interesting physical visualization, please submit one! Or post a general comment. – (dh curation data_visualization visualization )
  • [toread] Some Idiosyncratic Reflections on Note-Taking in General and ConnectedText in Particular – "Looking back at my history of note-taking, I notice that there were two significant or radical changes in the way, in which I dealt with my notes or research information. The first had to do with the change from the analog to the digital ways of recording notes, thoughts, and ideas. I am sorry to say that this change led at first to a kind of disorientation and many false steps. I was searching for a new "paradigm" of keeping my research notes, but this search led to nothing–all I have from this time are Word files of papers I wrote. Notes, insofar as they exist at all, exist only on paper." – (notetaking wiki ple via:shannon_mattern )
  • media archeology – a conversation – CTheory.net – The important stuff is always in the footnotes. "Media archaeology is an approach to media studies that has emerged over the last two decades. It borrows from Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Friedrich Kittler, but also diverges from all of these theorists to form a unique set of tools and practices. Media archaeology is not a school of thought or a specific technique, but is as an emerging attitude and cluster of tactics in contemporary media theory that is characterized by a desire to uncover and circulate repressed or neglected media approaches and technologies. Its handful of proponents — including Siegfried Zielinski, Wolfgang Ernst, Thomas Elsaesser, and Erkki Huhtamo — are primarily interested in mobilizing histories and devices that have been sidelined during the construction of totalizing histories of popular forms of communication, including the histories of film, television, and new media. The lost traces of media technologies are deemed important topics to be excavated and studied; "dead" media technologies and idiosyncratic developments reveal important themes, structures, and links in the history of communication that would normally be occluded by more obvious narratives. This includes tracing irregular developments and unconventional genealogies of present-day communication technologies, believing that the most interesting developments often happen in the neglected margins of histories or artifacts." – (dh theory media newmedia )

Morgan’s pinboard for 15 Dec 2014 through 16 Dec 2014

Desk: Elephants to Catch Eels

Locally, we’re ending a semester and with a new season comes the need (!) for a new blogging app. This one is Desk , with good reviews on its paper-on-a-desktop interface. Writes in markdown. Handles image embeds and placement well – very easy. Affordances of headings, styles, quotation and lists are hidden away a little: select the text and a popup selection bar appears (it visually wars with PopClip for a moment). They’re available by keyboard, too. Preview and publishing options, too, are tucked away until you want them.

I enjoy – yep: enjoy – the minimalist writing interface (sans scrollbar) and appreciate the single-window design over floating palettes. I appreciate, too, the stats: characters, words, and reading time. And because I work across two Macs, using iCloud Drive to store drafts is welcome. There’s also some welcome legibility intelligence built into the interface: Re-sizing the editing window re-sizes the text for drafting.

The weblog setup is a little geeky, asking for the xmlrpc.php address. Not a problem for me, and perhaps a feature to teach a few users what is necessary for logging into a weblog. I approach new apps with the mind that the developers are going to show me something new, and I’m ready to let them, so I don’t balk at geek or new interface moves. Every app another way to think about what we’re doing. Every app a machine to think with.

There are a few things that push towards re-learning. Like the minimalist interface that removes the context. Like the disappearing publishing information that redraws the text when it’s called up and again when it’s hidden. The difficulty in seeing paragraph breaks in the draft window where everything is single-spaced.

It’s a v 1.0 release, so by the time I get used to these new gestures, the developer will have changed things anyway.

The promotional website is over-kill for the understatement of the actual app – a blast of marketing hype on story and empowerment and mission and passion. The first-grade marketing silliness creeps into the app. Publishing a post is rewarded with a gold-star, “Success! Great Job!” Using hyperbole to market understatement is a nice rhetorical irony, well-taken, but when it creeps into interface design, annoyance lies in wait. To get the best feel for the app, look at John's blog.

Update: Editing and resending a post doesn't update the original post but creates a new one. After publishing this post, I edited it further and then updated – I thought. I ended up with seven versions. Desk uses the old-school way of thinking about publishing and updating: Get it right before you publish, then publish once and commit! I'm more of the wiki-habit of development in situ. I deleted the six earlier versions and all is fine.

Update: Turns out I was editing and repeatedly uploading a local copy of the post rather than editing the already-uploaded version. The uploaded post is editable. Look over the navigation bar closely and select the version to edit. Desk is slippery, but flexible.

on pinboard for November 21st, 2014 through November 23rd, 2014

  • DS106: Enabling Open, Public, Participatory Learning | Connected Learning – – (dh weblogs social )
  • Sente for PDF – and the centrality of taking notes – "The Centrality of Note Taking in Academic Thinking and Research

    Note taking is one of the most important and fundamental practices in academic research. Not only does it help you to record, capture, and the collect ideas of others, but the benefits of dialectical thinking truly spring from annotating texts while reading them. The practice and habit of annotation for the majority of academic readers–whether on a separate sheet of paper, sticky notes, subject notebooks, in margins of a book, or in an index-card system of cross-references like Luhmann’s infamous and innovative Zettelkasten, ends up being one’s personal archive of thought and the wellspring for creative intellectual endeavors on the page. Thus note taking is not merely something we do to index and keep track of the ideas of others, but it is an important, deep-seated practice for most academic researchers that ought to be systematized as a kind of extended memory that will serve a lifetime of intellectual work. – (notetaking research sent DH e-learning )

on pinboard for November 17th, 2014

  • Hack Your Life With A Private Wiki Notebook Getting Things Done And Other Systems – WebSeitz/wiki – Many people associate wikis with Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is really more of an exception. There are many thousands of wiki spaces in existence. Many of them are restricted to a specific group of people. Many business project teams use wikis as a way to accumulate plans and progress notes. Many classrooms use wikis for group projects, or for individual student or teacher notebooks.
    But you can also create your own private wiki: nobody else will be able to read it or change it. I've been doing this for over a decade, and I think it's the best type of Notebook to keep. Using a wiki the right way gives you the best chance to refine and connect your thoughts over time, and connect your daily issues to big themes and choices in your life.
    This also allows you to follow multiple systems of self-improvement, such as "Getting Things Done". You can use multiple systems at the same time and connect their commonalities, or switch across systems over time without forgetting everything you learned. And so you can evolve your own personal style of life management that takes the pieces of multiple systems that work best for you.
    So half this book will pitch the general process I believe in, and half will lay out a specific process you can immediately follow to start making progress. – (notebook wiki notetaking )
  • What Iterative Writing Looks Like (and why it’s important) | Hapgood – I’ve been talking a lot about our fascination with “StreamMode”, the current dominant mode of social media. StreamMode is the approach to organizing your thoughts as a history, integrated primarily as a sequence of events. You know that you are in StreamMode if you never return to edit the things you are posting on the web. – (wiki composing wcw )