oblique visual text box

It’s visual but not random. Size has meaning. The page illustrates (or illuminates?) what users are tagging at the moment using text size to indicate popularity.

As an added benefit, the page creates a random noun generator. Take any two or three words in sequence to create a compound that we pretty readily assign meaning to:

  • freeware productivity inspiration
  • language images
  • wireless ebooks
  • stock illustration weblogs
  • cms library forum

Related (loosely, by the kind of box logic that engages) is Eno’s Oblique Strategies.

Listening to Chicago from the album “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens.
box logic

again in London

Annie Mole and confederates have some of the best immediate reactions. And this from Leslie (of Hackney Proper):

I want to know what they’ve got against Hackney? The number 26, another local bus. I was heading to the tube at Highbury & Islington when the police stopped us and told us that bombs had gone off. Decided to walk home – it’s difficult to get on a bus at times like these. Feet throbbing as was wearing cruel shoes – so that’s really my only injury, sore feet.

Well, for a start, Hackney is nearly unreachable by tube.

Repeat to Fade from the album “The Debt Collection” by The Shortwave Set

chronicle article on wikis

In the Chronicle article that mentioned Mark Phillipson’s use of wikis in teaching lit, Brock Read gave my work a nice word, too. An extract –

Wiki writing, according to Mr. Phillipson, is “a different kind of skill” than traditional long-form essay composition.

Mr. Morgan, of Bemidji State, says that is true. But he argues the wikis can play a prominent role in teaching the finer points of traditional composition, too.

Mr. Morgan has been using wikis in class since 2001, when he happened upon one such site and “saw an immediate connection with teaching freshman composition.” In that course – and in a course called “Weblogs and Wikis,” which made its debut the following year – he has encouraged students to adopt the technology for some surprisingly ambitious writing projects. (In “Weblogs and Wikis,” one student wrote a wiki novel, which he continually edited online, while another used the technology to help her mother complete an autobiography.)

Writers who understand the technology, Mr. Morgan argues, can use wikis to look at their craft in a new way. Traditionally, writers complete a draft or two, proofread their work, revise it, and consider it finished. But wiki writers, Mr. Morgan says, are more likely to use a process he calls “refactoring”: posting shards of text, spinning them off into larger pieces, reworking material constantly instead of doing so at set points during the writing process.

“On a wiki, the writing space is just a browser window,” Mr. Morgan says. “Students see it as pretty plastic, and they’re less apprehensive about throwing things out or reorganizing themselves than when they’re using Microsoft Word.”

Romantic Poetry Meets 21st-Century Technology (by subscription).

That’s nice. Made my day. Here’s the obligatory
link to the Weblogs and Wikis course mentioned in the article.

post-midsummer reading

Update on summer reading:

  • Kress, Literacy in the New Media Age.
  • McCloud, Understanding Comics
  • Analyzing Prose, Lanham – for ENGL 6700
  • Shuster, Breaking the Rules – for ENGL 6500
  • Patrick Allett, I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student
  • more from Visual Rhetoric in a Digital World, Handa

And listening to Dance Me In from the album “The Repulsion Box” by Sons And Daughters.

on thursday in london

We heard about the bombs at 4:00 am local time when Radio 4 reported “a significant event” in Tavistock Square. We turned on the television, looking for BBC World, found something on CNN, and started combing the the web for information. Annie Mole started blogging early, and the BBC site was running some live video, but information from everywhere was sketchy until late in the day.

The bomb sites in west london are so ordinary, so pedestrian, and that makes the whole affair scary. Edgware Rd station (webcam of the flyover) is a 10 minute walk from where we lived in Maida Vale. It’s two stops from our flat (Warwick Ave), and about as plain and quiet as they come. DItto the Russell Square station: it’s not a central station like Oxford Circus or Charing Cross. Not a station you’d take note of so much as pass through.

Tavistock Square and Russell Square, Bloomsbury, are non-descript green spaces I used to walk through on the way to the Brit, but of no particular interest (a panaramic photo, pic of the tube station. (It sounded odd when it was reported that a bus had been bombed in Tavistock Square: busses don’t run in the square. Later, I found out that the bus had been diverted from its route by the Kings Cross – Russell Square explosion.)

The first year I lived in London, two bombs went off. One in the underground car park of the Tottenham Court Road YMCA early in the morning; we heard it in Maida Vale. The other was the assassination of Airey Neeve in March, 1979, at the Houses of Parliament. I was on a bicycle on Hampstead Heath at the time.

It’s the sudden imposition of violence in the routine, mundane places that’s most frightening, the sense that it happened where you used to be.

We have a friend in Hackney, Leslie, who we emailed. On Wednesday evening, she was on the bus that was bombed (the #30 Marble Arch to Hackney). She was shook up, but safe at home.

Annie reconnoitered on Friday, and Neil visited some of the sites on Saturday.

Listening to Christopher Marlowe from the podcast “In Our Time” by BBC Radio 4

return to eveleth

Last fall, we visited Eveleth, MN, and saw the hockey stick – because that’s what you do when you visit Eveleth.

We were so impressed and awed, we went back for the 4th of July and saw The Eveleth Clown Band.

And that’s how I spent my summer vacation. More pics here.

it’s parody, got it?

While listening to Live8 at Hyde Park, I had a quick look at some text generators this morning.

SCIgen generates computer science jargon – complete with graphics! What’s interesting about SCIgen is not what it generates but that the MIT grad students who are working on it are using it to spoof conferences – with only moderate success. The text falls apart when it tries to work from cause to effect, and when it tries to bring in people.

Another structured intent in this area is the development of concurrent technology. The basic tenet of this method is the evaluation of interrupts. This outcome at first glance seems counterintuitive but has ample historical precedence. The usual methods for the synthesis of superblocks do not apply in this area. Indeed, A* search and RAID have a long history of colluding in this manner. This is a direct result of the understanding of hash tables. This combination of properties has not yet been harnessed in prior work.

But the authors know the limitations of the generator and – in one of the papers I generated – openly parody the conference paper / academic essay form.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. We motivate the need for courseware. Continuing with this rationale, we place our work in context with the related work in this area. Third, we place our work in context with the existing work in this area. Ultimately, we conclude.

Closer to FYC home is this essay generator. It comes up with a fair parody of five paragraph theme intro (on slavery) –

An essay on slavery
To delve deeply into slavery is an exciting adventure. At one stage or another, every man woman or child will be faced with the issue of slavery. Given that its influence pervades our society, it is impossible to overestimate its impact on modern thought. Often it is seen as both a help and a hinderence to the easily lead, who are yet to grow accustomed to its disombobulating nature. Keeping all of this in mind, in this essay I will examine the major issues.

– and outro (this time on sexism) –

We can conclude that the sexism must not be allowed to get in the way of the bigger question: why are we here? Putting this aside its of great importance. It brings peace, ‘literally’ plants seeds for harvest, and is always fashionably late.

Let’s finish with a thought from star Beyonce Schwarzenegger: ‘I would say without a shadow of a doubt: sexism ROCKS!!! [3]

The themes are (predictably) divided into three factors – social factors, economic factors, and political factors – and each section develops as a micro-parody. Here is a consideration of Economic Factors on my topic of birdbaths:

There is no longer a need to argue the importance of birdbaths, it is clear to see that the results speak for themselves. The question which surfaces now is, how? Even a child could work out that the cost of living plays in increasingly important role in the market economy. Perhaps to coin a phrase birdbathseconomics will be the buzz word of the century.

The paragraph follows the same pattern of non-development as the entire essay. Because the generator can’t give evidence or bring support to an assertion, it asserts that there is no need to make an argument: the answers are clear, so there’s no need for development. It’s a common rhetorical move in five paragraph themes: writers seek to defer argument by asserting that “everyone has a different opinion” on the matter, or that it’s “a matter of personal opinion.” The assertion deflates the rhetorical need for exposition. And given that way of defining the rhetorical situation, any old set of commonplaces will work – even a theme generator.

Ulitimatly, I conclude.

when wiki works

Apropos the LA Times wikitorial experiment, MattBarton gives us one of those generative, guiding insights that finds a home in the classroom:

A wiki that hopes to be successful needs to find a subject matter that people can relate to on another level besides the personal.

I’d changes that a little to “an approach to a subject matter,” but Matt’s way of thinking is going to make life on the wiki easier and more fruitful.

Read the whole thing: LA Times Yanks Wikitorials — My Reflections | Kairosnews

Or, again from Matt, with more exposition:

As I see it, the “problem” that wikis pose is not how to write, really, but how to collaborate with other writers–how to be rhetorical without being Rhetorical. In other words, just as Renaissance painters worked hard to “efface” the evidence of their artifice and present a “seamless” picture of reality, wiki authors work to “efface” evidence of their political strife and “voice,” even though we all know it exists no matter how innocuous the subject matter. Just as we know a painting is artificial no matter how natural it looks, we know a wiki can never truly represent consensus. The *best* wiki pages are those that *look* finished and complete–perfect. However, this perfection is an illusion. With a click we can trash the page. Sure, it might return a moment later, but we remind ourselves of the medium. We don’t see truth, we see a very easily edited representation. There is no real effort in wiki to deceive. It’s more honest. Obvious exceptions aside, Plato might find it groovy.

And the difficulty in collaborating is learning to reign in that personal voice for the project, learning to speak from the chorus sometimes.