Category: Uncategorized

Digitalizing Deliberately

Throughout our digital thoreau photo illustration finalproject, we had to utilize various new technologies that many of us were not familiar with.  A majority of our in-class planning time was spent writing scripts for our videos, and deciding what information was vital for using the site, and therefore warranted a video.  We used the preexisting help page to guide us in deciding how to break up and designate the videos.  We pulled from our knowledge of help pages we’ve used in the past, and came to the conclusion that one of the problems we’ve encountered with video help pages is that it’s difficult to pinpoint the instructions that directly address the individual problem.  We considered a table of contents for our video but even that seemed too inefficient. We endeavored to create a more productive tutorial that could offer users instant and specific guidance. As a result, we decided to make a multitude of shorter and more direct videos, to establish that the help page is as user-friendly as possible.  It was up to us to condense as much aid and instruction into a series of short tutorials. It was not a simple feat since the previous year’s group could compile their detailed instruction into a drawn-out text. Additionally, we searched for a way to put our own spin on it.

Once we decided how to break up our videos, we scheduled a time to meet with the Digital Media Lab assistants.  Our preliminary meeting was simple: we asked what kinds of tools we could access if we were to use the Digital Media Lab and how easy this technology would be to operate.  We were introduced to Camtasia, a program that allows you to capture and record screen activity as you navigate. A microphone records your voice to provide simultaneous narration.  In essence, Camtasia allows for the user to be “present” by being able to visually and audibly learn what the instructor is doing. We decided to use Camtasia to make our videos; we planned to create an account and record us chronicling the step-by-step.

We booked a time to meet in the DML and recorded a video on our first visit.  Aside from a few last minute script rewrites to ensure fluidity, everything was going according to plan.  A funny note about a problem we had was when realized that the DML itself shares a wall with a bathroom in Milne, so there were some times where we had to wait to record to make sure no sounds of running water or hand dryers made their way into our video!

We faced a few administrative troubles, including a time when the Milne staff could not find the key to the DML, but after some discussion and searching, our plans went off relatively without a hitch. There was also the instance when Dr. Schacht denied our example account entrance into the group forum after mistaking it as spam. Without access, one of our videos could not be produced. This mild setback halted progress for that video by a day or two, but we hold no grudges. sounds like a pretty faceless email address. We would have done the same.

We had to do a few retakes, but the reasons were nothing more than verbal stumbles; minor edits were accomplished through iMovie.  iMovie was another technology we used, as stated before, mainly for smaller edits and some decorative polishing, such as the title slides.

In retrospect, it is interesting to consider what Thoreau might have thought of our videos, and the Digital Thoreau website in general.  Would he think that those who need the videos should not have access to the information, much like he thought that the Classics should not be read by those who did not understand the original language? Or would he be pleased to know that his work was being spread to a larger audience? Thoreau’s revulsion towards innovation and technology is apparent throughout Walden, but his encouragement for advancement through learning is evident as well. In his conclusion Thoreau writes, “Things do not change; we change,” and we can justify our digital work with this maxim. As a future generation we have access to the technology and modernization of the 21st century, which we have employed in order to spread Thoreau’s teachings. Thus, a man who promoted learning and acknowledged change would deem our efforts worthy.


Group 3: Allison Fox, Aran Fox, Maya Merberg, Kaitlin Pfundstein and Grace Rowan

A Walter Harding Chronology

Walter Harding was a professor of English at SUNY Geneseo for several decades and was appointed chair of the department in 1959. One of the most influential and decorated scholars to have spent time at Geneseo, Harding specialized in all things Thoreau.

Walter Harding
Walter Harding

Milne library has created an extensive archive of both Harding’s writings on Thoreau, and documentation of the various honors and recognitions he received both during and after his time at Geneseo. Our group sought to carry on the project that previous semesters’ groups had begun of digitizing this archive and making it accessible to a larger audience.

We began the project by familiarizing ourselves with the physical archive and gaining a sense of who Dr. Harding was as both a scholar and a person. Each of us were immediately struck by Harding’s contagious enthusiasm for Henry David Thoreau, and impressed by the sheer amount of knowledge he had about the man. Then we were all floored by just how extensive his work with Thoreau was. We quickly discovered that Harding was a founding member of the Thoreau Society and served as its secretary for 50(!) years. Harding carried his enthusiasm for Thoreau across oceans during his time spent lecturing students about Thoreau in Japan. It was abundantly clear to us from the Walter Harding Archive that Walter Harding’s life work needed to be preserved.

That was when we began familiarizing ourselves with Omeka: the digital archive tool that we would use to help preserve this information.omeka Essentially we gathered the physical documents we deemed fitting for the exhibit we wanted to create, which we titled “A Walter Harding Chronology,” and then scanned them. After being scanned, each item was uploaded to the website with its metadata being updated as well, including a title, source, description, contributor, publisher, date, language, etc.

Metadata editing tool in Omeka
Metadata editing tool in Omeka

After finding, scanning, and uploading items to Omeka, we began the process of tooling around with the appearance of the site, and made a few organizational and aesthetic changes to the theme.

Here is an image of the landing page of the website:

landing page


And here is a link to visit the website yourself:

The students working on this project for the Spring 2015 semester were Julia Kinel, Kelly Langer, Casey Vincelette, Melanie Weissman, and Emily Peterson

A Thoreau Approach to TEI

       Why Encode the Journals?

Thoreau has several journal entries from his life in the hands of the scholarly community, but these entries are not encoded, existing only in manuscript and transcript form. This makes it very difficult for scholars to analyze, search through, and work with the texts as they strive to learn more about him and his work. The journal entries provide information about Thoreau that is absent from his books and other published works, and so are of great value to the community. Encoding these entries will make it easier for scholars to find patterns in who he interacted with, where he went, what he observed in nature, and what he did throughout his life.


The Process

Receiving the Journals

Our group got off to a rather late start, in part due to our lack of resources and lack of knowledge about XML and TEI. Within time, we received the files of Thoreau’s journal entries from Beth Witherell over Google Drive, including manuscripts, transcripts, and notes. After receiving the files we began to look through them in search of patterns and themes that we could focus on. Beth Witherell shared sets of journal categories and information so that we would have a starting point for our journey.


The Google Doc

Once we determined the themes that we wanted to focus on, we then created a Google Doc containing the journals that we were going to encode. From here we had to split up the elements that we wanted to identify, and to do so used a color coordination method that consisted of us highlighting the specific words in different colors to make it easier for us to locate them. These elements included dates, activities, times of day, possessions, animals, plants, weather, people, and places. We each picked two elements and went through the document, highlighting their occurrences in several entries.


Going into Depth

After a discussion with Dr. Schacht we decided to elaborate on the elements that we had identified by providing more information, rather than tagging more elements. This process required us to assign an XML:ID to proper names of people and places, and also include the “ref” attribute within the tags that would link to a website with more information. To do this, we created a spreadsheet listing the tag, XML:ID, name in the text, place in the text, and reference link.


Starting to Encode

We divided up the documents amongst ourselves and started coding with the text editors on our own computers. For this we used both TextWrangler and Notepad ++. We each had approximately sixteen lines to encode and referred back to the spread sheet and GoogleDoc to keep track of our tags.



We ran into several roadblocks because TEI does not have have specific tags for elements such as animals, weather, plants, activities, and possessions. With Dr. Schacht’s help we were able to find ways around this problem and use alternative methods to tag plants and animals; however, we were still unable to find tags for weather, possessions, and activities, and had to leave those elements out. This would be more possible for more advanced TEI editors who have more time to focus on this. We also struggled with tagging names, because in the entry we focused on, Thoreau references vague and ambiguous characters, including a person only referred to as “C”.  We had to make several decisions on what each element could apply to within the text. For example, did a “salt marsh” count as a place, or should only proper places be included?


After we tagged the elements individually we combined our individual sections using the more advanced text editor, Oxygen, including a header that was created by Dr. Schacht. We downloaded Oxygen as late as possible into the process in order to utilize the thirty-day free trial. Oxygen was especially helpful because it validated our document as we worked, and gave hints at the source of any issues.



At one point, we found that several of our XML:IDs were not accepted by Oxygen, and we didn’t know why. Dr. Schacht updated the template he had given us, and explained to us how to include the XML ID’s in the heading rather than within the body of the text, as well as how to have references within the text itself.


Final Meeting

We met with Dr. Schacht with some final inquiries and adjustments to our document. We discussed referring to IDs from the header within the text and tagging geographic features, as well as tagging drawings and uncertain text within the entry. We also adjusted the spacing and formatting of the document. By the end of our meeting, the XML document was complete and validated within oxygen.



Throughout the process, we had several questions that Beth Witherell may have been able to answer, or possibly provide guidance on. These include:

1. How important is preserving the format of the original journal entry manuscript? For example, we didn’t encode any of the line breaks, page breaks, or paragraphs that were in the manuscript. Additionally, the paragraphs were not included in the transcript we worked from, and the page breaks were not clearly defined.

2. Is the quantity of elements tagged more important than the depth of information provided? For example, we tagged a very general list of elements, but provided further information through the use of reference links. Because of this, there were many tags suggested by Beth Witherell that we did not include.

3. Are there some elements that are more important than others, that you think would provide more insight to Thoreau and his work than others?

4. Are there specific journal entries that would be more beneficial to Thoreau scholars to encode than others?

What We Learned

We learned a lot about encoding throughout this process, especially about the limitations of it. There were several element tags that seemed simple to us and relevant to the text, but the TEI guidelines could not provide. Although these elements could have been customized by us, we did not have the skill nor the time to do so. We also learned that interpreting the manuscripts written by Thoreau is a delicate and difficult process that includes a lot of decision making and judgement on behalf of the interpreter. Finally, we learned that there is a sort of authority given to the encoder, because she decides how elements should be organized, what is important, and what is not.

Group 4 Members: Daisy Anderson, Emily Buckley-Crist, Darby Daly, Melissa Rao

What is the Author’s “Text Message”?


This past weekend I attended the Young Authors and Storytellers Festival here at SUNY Geneseo. The children in the community were invited to attend the festival and enter their own poems into the poetry contest. It was a great day full of learning and appreciation for children’s poetry.

Literacy for this generation is defined differently than from even five years ago. The keynote speaker, an artist from Arkansas, showed the children a slideshow explaining ekphrasis, a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art. She began by showing what I thought were random shapes, and she went around the room and ask different age groups what we thought the image was. The adults had no answer, the college students labeled the image “art”, and the younger children yelled, “GOOGLE!” After looking at the image a little harder, I could make out the word “Google”, but the parents could not. I found this interesting and concluded that the children knew it was Google because of technology, whereas if the woman showed a blurry picture of Webster’s Dictionary cover, the parents would recognize that, while the children may not.


Because the keynote speaker was an artist, she related poetry to her favorite paintings to show that every piece of art has a story. As she went through the poems, she would ask the children, “what is the text message the author is sending us?” I was very confused by this question. Text message? This poem is from the 1800s, how could the author send me a “text message”? In that moment, I felt very old because the kids did not find anything wrong or strange with that question. She continued to teach the students about how each poem has a text message the author is sending to you to explain what is happening. This interpretation was bizarre to me, but it was an effective strategy because the students knew exactly what they were being asked.

The term literacy is constantly evolving. I think that as long as children are reading, it shouldn’t necessarily matter what they are reading from: a book, a magazine, an iPad, an iPhone, or a Kindle. Reading is a vital part to survival in our society and in the classroom. It is our jobs as teachers and role models to find what makes children excited about reading in order to ensure their interest in being life long learners.


Social Media in the Classroom


After reading the article “5 Unique Uses of Twitter in the Classroom” by Ryan Lytle, I thought about how beneficial Twitter really is in a classroom setting. The article discusses the use of Twitter mainly in universities for the purposes of conveying messages to students, to broaden their technological ability, and how to expand businesses. Although the article focuses mostly on how to build a business over Twitter, I think one important takeaway is the importance of social media etiquette. Because social media is still relatively new, we have not created a social etiquette of what is appropriate and what is not including when you should and shouldn’t use social media, and what is and isn’t appropriate to post.

In our class, we use Twitter during and after class using #engl340. This, in my opinion, is a great resource to continue the conversation out of the classroom setting. It enforces the fact that learning does not end once you leave the class. The article discusses the importance of maintaining a professional Twitter in order to spread your ideas as well as become more marketable.


I think that this topic is now relevant to all ages, whether it be in a college or a high school. Technology is a topic that must be taught, and well, in order to maintain an appropriate social media image in future endeavors.


Developing A Healthy Learning Environment With Technology

As I think back to the times when I was most interested in school, I remember it being when interactivity was involved in the classroom. The best way that interactivity was involved was through technology. In my sixth grade math class, we would play “quiz-up”, which was a buzz in answer game in which the students could anonymously post their answers. This lead to a sense of security, where I would not worry if I got something wrong because no one would know, and I was also awarded the ability to see if I was getting my answers correct. I have never been so engaged in a subject that I was so disinterested in, and this is why it is important to place technology within the classroom.


Making our students become “digitally literate” will allow them to become more focused on school, as well as be able to see learning through a different lens. Typically students associate technology with leisure time, and this allows them to relax. This will be beneficial to the average learner in their classroom. The articles that I am sharing display how to incorporate social media into the classroom, and allow students to realize the pros and cons of using the internet to learn. An example of using the internet in a positive manner is through using twitter. In the article, the idea of tweeting as if you are a character in a piece of literature is used as an example. This allows the students an outlet for creativity, and humor, which will thus allow them to be more engaged in the classroom. This engagement will lead to better knowledge retention because the students are actually enjoying what they are learning.

In the article, the students were also shown some of the negatives of learning with the internet, which may show them the cons of free knowledge. They were shown this with a funny video clip which is presented below, and while it displayed the negatives of the internet, it did it with a funny anecdote in order to further help the students learn.

Items such as quiz-up and “Google A day” will help students in their learning environment. This increased emphasis on interactive learning will allow students to become more engaged in their learning. This increased engagement in learning will make for a happier, and therefore smarter, student.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

A few weeks ago Apple had its March Keynote address and announced during that highly publicized and talked about event was the Apple Watch.  Whether you love or hate the idea of Apple products taking over the world and being on your desk, in your pocket, and now on your wrist, there is no denying the fact that with the advent of this new technology there is the possibility for great strides to be made in many fields, especially health, wellness, and nutrition.  The HealthKit thapplewatch3at is present on every Apple Watch will allow many people to be able to monitor their health with a greater sense of ease and precision than ever before.  Not only will the Apple Watch be able to help the average joe remember to get up from his desk every hour and move around a little bit, but it has the ability to help people with diabetes get an even tighter control over their blood sugar.

With the help of a new continuous glucose monitoring app by Dexcom, a person with diabetes can significantly decrease the amount of times they would have to finger stick themselves to find out what their blood sugar reading is.  Having your blood sugar readings available to you at all times is an astounding technological advancement that people with this disease could never have imagined twenty years ago.  This would also be an extremely helpful tool for parents of young children with diabetes who would now be one hundred percent aware of their children’s hDexcom-newealth at all times.  For the millions of diabetics around the world the Apple Watch is the latest, and definitely greatest tool to aid in the management of the disease that is a part of their lives twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year.

TechDay 2015

A few years ago in my school district on Long Island, history was made when a then-19 year old boy was elected to the Board of Education.  As my district (as I’m sure many others do) has experienced issues with the Board of Education and school administration communicating, a large majority of the town was excited to have someone fresh out of the very same school district there to make decisions.  The boy, who is still serving on the BOE, is named Peter Mountanos, and is actually a close friend of mine.

How does this relate to ENGL 340? Peter ran for the BOE with a platform of increasing the knowledge of the entire community about technology, spreading information during his campaign mainly through his website,  which he coded himself.

This January, for the second year in a row, Peter orchestrated a very successful TechDay event.  Being a friend of Peter, when he expressed a need for college aged volunteers, I offered my assistance in any way that I could.  Peter knew I was attending Geneseo pursuing English education and psychology, and that I had no computer science background whatsoever, so I assumed I would be manning the registration table or running snacks around to some little kids.  However, when I went to the first meeting for all of the volunteer staff, I found out Peter had assigned me to co-teach a class of 5th graders along with Chris, who had a strong technology background, as well as Lindsey, one of my friends who was equally as clueless as myself.

In about a week and half, Lindsey and I worked with Chris to master MIT’s Scratch, a very basic coding language, and learn how to code a Super Mario game we would be teaching to the kids.  While this was a very daunting task, the whole experience was really rewarding.  I realized that computer science, and coding in general, should not be limited only to those with a strong STEM background and mind.  The principles of coding are very simple; breaking down a task into a variety of smaller tasks.

After reading the syllabus of English 340, I immediately sent it to Peter, who was intrigued by the whole concept.  Personally, the concept of digital humanities is something that interests me greatly, especially as something to bring into a classroom.  Honestly, after finishing my TechDay experience I was a little disappointed I wasn’t going to be able to continue with any sort of technological or coding.  In that respect, English 340 was exactly what I needed.  I really like the idea that the digital revolution is not lost in humanities.  For TechDay, I was the only volunteer not studying a STEM field.  However, I really do think there is room for technology and, coding in particular, in different fields.

Literary Translation in the Digital Age

Literary Translation in the Digital Age

Thoreau famously proclaimed, “Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.” He went on to write, “Those who have not learned to read the ancient classics in the language in which they were written must have a very imperfect knowledge of the history of the human race.” This brings to surface the important question of translation. Thoreau thinks that the only “right” way to read literature that’s not printed in one’s native tongue is to learn to read it in its original language. This seems a bit unreasonable today, when very few people learn Greek and Latin and instead read the Classics in English.

Unfortunately, though many English books are translated into other languages, very few books in other languages are translated into English. The University of Rochester runs a website called Three Percent—named after the tiny percentage of books published in the U.S. that are translated works—that keeps a database of all the fiction and poetry in the U.S. that is translated from another language into English. The website’s “about” page states, “The motivating force behind the website is the view that reading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures… To remain among the world’s best educated readers, English speakers must have access to the world’s great literatures. It is a historical truism and will always remain the case that some of the best books ever written were written in a language other than English.” My guess is that Thoreau would agree with that.

In that same vein, though Thoreau would have no idea, computer coding can also be seen as a form of translation. An academic paper entitled “Digital Code and Literary Text” by Florian Cramer explores the idea of innate textuality of the language of digital systems, and therefore the interconnectedness of all languages, including those of computers. The paper reads, “Zeros and ones are an alphabet which can be translated forth and back between other alphabets without information loss. It does, in my point of view, make no sense to limit the definition of the alphabet in general to that of the Roman alphabet in particular when we can the same textual information in this very alphabet, as Morse code, flag signs or transliterated into zeros and ones.”

Cramer writes that though it may be tempting to categorize language into either machine readable or human readable, it’s important to keep in mind that machine language is still relevant to human art and literature. Furthermore, computer code isn’t computer created. Rather, humans write all language. Cramer draws a comparison between computer code and musical notation, which is also a “written formal instruction code” yet is a creative human art form.

He writes, “Literature and computers meet first of all where alphabets and code, human language and machine language intersect.”

Podcasts killed the Radio Star

Podcasts anywhere anytime

Podcasts are nothing new and have existed since the first Apple iPod, but now they are gaining popularity in large numbers. According to USA TODAY, “Apple just surpassed 1 billion subscriptions for podcasts via its iTunes app, which is a major milestone for a category that had been considered an also-ran.” Podcasts are gaining popularity due to the ability for people, like comedian Marc Maron, to run them out of their garages or basements and they are a lot easier to download than they had been. “Last year, Apple said subscriptions of podcasts through iTunes reached 1 billion. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago.” Podcasts had first been downloaded first from iTunes, if they could be found, and then transferred onto iPods. The ability to create a podcast in a garage does not seem like a feat, but considering where podcasts began it definitely is.

Podcasts: Humble Beginnings


The word podcast is credited to first appearing in The Guardian in 2004 in reference to and its downloadable radio programs. Two-thousand and four does not seem like that long ago, but in the digital age eleven years is a long time. In the digital age the formatting of the internet has changed, been upgraded, and download speeds have rapidly increased!  It is thanks to these speeds that downloading podcasts is as easy as hitting a button.  Podcasts first began as hobbies and less as money making occupations, which seems strange in an age when there are over 150,000 podcasts.

Podcasts and RSS 

Podcasts are digital media files, either audio or video, that are typically delivered via a Web feed (RSS feed); however, they can also be directly downloaded. ” We have seen RSS feeds and how they can be used in our Digital Humanities class, RSS-Logo-[Converted]but what are they again? “Rather than constantly visiting websites to check for new information, the user subscribes to various information sources, and the RSS feed delivers new content to the user automatically, allowing the user to streamline information and stay updated with minimal effort.” So, when a podcast is in hot demand and rather than crashing a website because too many people keep clicking the ‘refresh’ button or too many people are viewing the site itself, it would be more beneficial to download an RSS feed and then look for the newest podcast to appear there or it will automatically appear under the ‘podcasts’ app on a smartphone or tablet and also under the name of the podcast, too. If a person is lucky enough they do not need to download an RSS feed and the newest podcasts will be automatically downloaded to their smartphone or tablet! “Smartphones and Bluetooth-enabled cars have made it easier than ever for listeners — who are still mostly men — to load up their favorite programs.”

Intelligent Podcasts or Just Farce? 

Joe Rogan
Joe Rogan

Podcasts have come a long way from where they first started, but in a world of podcasts that “embody what is arguably the essential promise of the Internet: a means for surprising, revealing, and above all ennobling encounters with people, things, and ideas we didn’t know,” is there room for podcasts that are not intelligent and thought provoking? There has been a sudden surgof podcasts created by comedians, like Joe Rogan, Bryan Cook, and Cameron Esposito, and shock jocks, like Bibb and Yaz.

Cameron Esposito
Cameron Esposito

After listening to their podcasts nothing is learned or gained other than a good laugh. Podcasts are an escape for listeners like a good book or an audio book with more than one speaker, but they are painting a picture for their listeners. Both thought provoking and laugh provoking podcasts make their listeners think- thought provoking podcasts are more noted as being revealing and discussing new ideas, but laugh provoking podcasts discuss new ideas too just in a different formats.

Goodbye radio, hello Podcast

In this world of podcasts and their ever growing accessibility is it possible for radio to survive? Is it a dying media? “Adapt, adopt, improve,” quotes John Cleese of Monty Python, so that’s what radio did. Clear Channel Radio did indeed do so with their iHeatRadio app and now their radio programs can now be downloaded onto any smartphone or tablet. In fact iHeartRadio has become so successful that it has become a yearly festival in which the most talented and up and coming musical artists are featured. Unfortunately, there has been a fear among radio talk show hosts that their listeners will drift off to podcasts and will leave radio behind in the dust. However, if they follow in the footsteps of Clear Channel Radio then perhaps they will not have to worry about this after all.