Month: April 2019

Surprised with How Little I Knew about the Stuff I Know

Here’s a shocking fact from an English major: I don’t remember ever hearing about the book Walden before this class. Now, I know more about Thoreau than I can care for but not all of what I’ve discovered is negative. I had no idea that this man decided to spend two years of his life in a cabin that he built himself in the middle of nowhere and that he documented his experience. Although I was captivated by some of his notions of the comfort in solitude and the respect for nature that is all around us, I was just as surprised at how whole chapters were dedicated to the most mundane subjects like the changes in the color and states of a pond. Since the beginning of the semester, I’ve learned a lot more about Thoreau through Walden and his philosophies that are at times inspiring and at other times disturbingly arrogant. Thoreau wasn’t the only thing that made me take a step back to assess my relationship with technology. The Information which was accompanied by numerous discussions, made me realize just how far we’ve come in dependency as well as how a lack of reliance can also be crippling in today’s society. Now, when I come across news on upcoming technological advancements and even simple everyday activities such as accessing a website, I can stop and think about all the components and customization that when into it. It’s easy to take advantage of all the work that went into what we see in everyday life.

This class has also made my brain spiral into infinite questions. Although I’ve heard the classic, “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” argument, I have never been thrown through such a loop as when I first thought about how information requires information in order to create new information so where did the original information originate from? In The Information and Metadata, there were mentions of this phenomenon and it felt like a knew that logically it made sense but the more I thought about it the more I couldn’t make any sense of it. Recently, my group discussed a part in Metadata that mentioned that a library was more than just a room full of books and how an organized system of categorizing was necessary. This is a perfect example of how I agreed with a statement once I heard it, but I never thought about it before and still can’t quite wrap my brain around it. This has happened multiple time in class and I always find our discussions interesting. Other than these overarching concepts, programs like Virtual Box and Omeka are platforms that I’m not surprised they exist yet I’m surprised by how much you can do through them. I show my friends Virtual Box and they already feel as if that is “hacker level” and they can’t believe it’s just a free program we use to experiment commands with. Everything I thought I knew about the basic function of technology and components of the world was put into consideration through the material discussed in this class and I’m grateful for the eye-openers!

Emilio’s Blog Post #2

I knew about the existence of languages like HTML and XML long before taking this class. However, it seemed like such a foreign concept to me, that one would need to be a genius with technology in order to make anything with it. As we moved further along in the semester I learned that markup and markdown languages aren’t a mystery, they’re a tool, and just about anyone can learn to use them if they had the passion for it. Granted, I myself have a long way to go before I can confidently work with TEI in my group project, but I have the confidence that by the end of the semester it will be no mystery.

What I think is important about markup languages is how valuable they are as tools. As a blacksmith cannot work without a hammer, a web designer cannot work without a universal markup language. Unlike a hammer, XML is only limited by the creative mind of its user. We have seen in class some of the practical ways in which XML and other languages have been used. Some of these include

  • Distinguishing differences, such as what was included, left out, or changed, in writings such as the Gettysburg Address and in Walden.
  • Highlighting certain words in specific colors with TEI, such as proper nouns being blue, in order to determine where something happened, at what time, and telling us who was involved.
  • And building a website to showcase information that would otherwise be hard to find, as seen with Omeka

Granted, on a conceptual level, most of what can be done online can also be done offline, however what I have tome to appreciate is how much easier and more focused studying literature can become with technology. In a novel we read for this class, we had learned that when it came down to computing, the hardest part was the equations. Said equations were not difficult to solve, but it was the effort needed to plug in each and every number, which was all done by human hand, and the amount of time that took which then took time away from research into a topic. With technology, the most laborious factor gets taken away, and this also connects to our study in Digital Humanities; without the difficulty of searching of varying sources of literature, Walden for example, we can instead focus on the differences in those sources which can then be documented through a markup language.

This knowledge has helped me better understand the use of information. Honestly I haven’t changed much as a person, but overall I must say that I am more inquisitive about the ways in which information is used; the idea that, the number of times the word tree or trees are used versus the number of times people are mentioned in Walden and what meaning can be interpreted from it, is fascinating.

The Benefits of Plain Text

My academic experience is and always has been one laden with a great deal of English courses, most of which involve a similar sort of experience; a class discussion, some lecture, assigned reading, are typical statutes of nearly every English course. Though I certainly take no issue with any of these things – in fact, I tend mostly to enjoy them – English 340 is among the first to challenge this framework. Though we do often engage with this model, the manner with which we do is mostly different, typically involving the use of a few programs native to internet bloggers rather than English students. One such program is a plain text editor called Atom, an asset which perfectly embodies the mission of English 340 as a whole.

Atom is a program which takes the very basis of the study of English – text – and opens to it a back door, that which affords the user a greater degree of control and ease than a word processor might. As a plain text editor, Atom allows the user to type, edit, format, and save bodies of text without the clunkiness inherent in many other word processors. It removes the large task bar/button based system of editing and instead reduces the program to more basic forms, presenting on the home screen only a list of files and space in which those files can be opened. Every other function – bold, italics, bullet points, etc. – is accessible through in-text inputs.

For a new user, Atom is a bit intimidating. At the outset of this semester, I was skeptical that anything would become of our use of Atom. I, a devout user of Google Drive, remained adamant that Atom had little to offer that Google Docs did not, and that the seeming “inconvenience” of Atom would not outmatch the corporate code I’d clung to. I would soon realize, however, that Atom as a program is not designed to yield short term returns. Instead, it requires it’s user to play as much a role in the actual functions of text editing as the program does. Until you’ve gotten used to typing in Atom, it can seem like a bit of a chore: text functions can be difficult to remember, as well as certain file types and what they each denote, but these hiccups remain for only as long as it takes one to commit them to memory.

Now, writing this journal in plain text, I enjoy greater ease and creative freedom than I ever could have had otherwise in using Google Docs. Though I do miss spellcheck and auto-capitalization, the functions of Atom allow me to consider my document as a piece of information, separating aesthetics from content, which allows for each part of the process of creation to be considered as two separate functions. For example, I have typed down to this point on my page. If, at five hundred words, I decide to save my work and record the last time I edited it, I can perform the “ins” function in order to mark in plain text the date and time, a note that will appear in my plain text version of the document but will be omitted from the visual version. Likewise, if I want to bold, italicize, or underline, I can use the “strong” and “em” functions in order bold or access text decoration, respectively. In order to separate text based content from brass tacks instructional content, one can insert a horizontal line or a list, or even sequester that information to a separate page. Read more

Terminal

When beginning this class, I had a pretty decent understanding of computers and how to trouble-shoot. I was not extremely confident in my abilities, though. This class has most definitely taught me the art form of patience as well as how to be confident in trouble shooting. A lot of issues tend to be due to updates or glitches in code. If you have an idea what to look for, it is less difficult to find a solution. Now, I am confident in my ability to narrow down if not completely identify certain issues.

VirtualBox is a tool that has helped my growth in computer confidence. It has been a wonderful little world to experiment and start understanding how a computer system works. Initially, I didn’t really use it because I was nervous about what might happen if I did something wrong. The first issue I had to solve, however, gave me more confidence. My shared folder wasn’t really sharing with the VirtualBox and when it did, I had trouble accessing it through the terminal. And even then, it wouldn’t show the contents of the folder. While I never figured out the actual issue (at least knowingly), I continued to toy with the code in the terminal. I deleted the folder and re-shared it. I tried different avenues of code and searched google to figure out what I should do. Eventually I realized I was using the correct code, but I was not imputing the correct username to gain access to the folder. Even though I couldn’t completely figure it out by myself, I was able to realize that with a little more time I probably would have gotten it. And so in the future, I will take more time to figure out the issue, rather than allowing myself to be frazzled and give up.

A big reason I have more confidence as well is learning how to use a terminal. The terminal has given me a new perspective to understanding how a computer is put together and how all the data is filed. Now that I am confident in using a terminal and confident in using resources to find the right code; I am confident that I can troubleshoot pretty much any issue I have. It also has given me more passion for finding a career related to computer sciences. I love research and now that I have a more confident understanding of the inter-workings of computer software, I am excited to find a way to do both (which I know is completely possible thanks to the data-mining project I am working on).

Ownership of Text and Copyright

To be completely honest, this class has tested whether or not I am comfortable with or enjoy coding and I have come to the conclusion that I generally am not and do not, but those are not necessary qualities in understanding the value these skills contain. If anything it gave me a perspective that I previously did not have, and I have a newfound respect for computer programmers and the intricate ways in which they must type in order to receive the expected outcome. However in speaking about what I learned specifically in the class, what truly striked me were discussions regarding the legality of aspects the internet influences, and how these laws dictate the creative process and intellectual property. One thing that I did not know before the semester that I now have a much better understanding of, is the extent to which the copyright term issue in the United States is related to the restriction of creative content by artists and authors. Going to the Lawrence Lessig lecture was a very eye-opening experience, and it ties very much into other conceptual themes discussed in class in regards to the presence of emerging technology influencing the increased monetization of art ruining the sanctity of the individuals text being contrasted with the way in which technology actually makes it easier to share texts and therefore increase the number of people able to contribute to creative discourse. I believe it is important to consider critically where preconceived notions are about knowledge, and about the way knowledge is disseminated. Often times this knowledge takes the form of art or “texts”, which is assigned varying degrees of value based upon the individuals personal beliefs of how art is meant to interact with its audience.

Previous to taking this class, I had watched the final episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling. The series’ enigmatic quality being the political statements made from Serling in the setting of science-fiction as not to cause total controversy for his views. The show began in 1959 with the last episode premiering June 19th, 1964. Despite not being the last episode to be aired, the last episode written and filmed for the show was titled Come Wander with Me. Before this class, I had mixed feelings about the non black-and-white ending, and the general ambiguities of the issues raised by the episode itself. The plot of the episode revolves around a man named Floyd Burney, a slightly raucous young man in his mid-twenties who arrives at a small town in search of inspiration for his latest song. I believed that the message of this episode (along with many others in the series) comes from that eerie gray area of morality, one that Serling has made it his mission to explore and subsequently define. Come Wander with Me plays on the words inscribed on a gravestone that Burney “callously” ignores, “Floyd Burney, the Wandering Man”. When asked by Burney to play the song again, Mary Rachel replies “The song is secret. It belongs to somebody”. What made me think about this episode in particular is the way in which Serling characterizes Burney, a wanderer who abuses the sanctity of the creative process by attempting to streamline and “steal” someone else’s lyrics and melody. He replies with “It can’t belong to anybody. You can’t buy it. It’s public domain”. It is a trope seen many times before in the show, an individual becomes too arrogant in believing they are correct, and the mystical forces which dictate the logic of The Twilight Zone rightfully leaves them with a fitting and/or ironic punishment. While previously watching the episode with a general inkling to agree with the narrator/writer, coming back to it after discussing themes about fair use and copyright law in the United States it made me view critique aspects of the language used to convey this idea of a man stealing creative property to consider a non-biased approach. Obviously Burney is a character that the audience is supposed to have mixed feelings over as his motivations never truly register as mean-spirited, yet his punishment along with almost all other fates the Twilight Zone offers is him receiving a punishment for implying that a songs worth is only measured in a dollar amount. Burney is a man exploring the extents to which he is allowed to borrow from others intellectual property. More specifically he is an out of towner who thinks himself more advanced due to his ability to reason and charm his way out of binds, out of his depth when he realizes his fate is sealed unwillingly by a demure siren who becomes increasingly more of a passive threat. While her physical body itself is not causing Burney any harm, the intellectual property she manifested from her physical body is literally trapping him into a reality of which he does not want to be apart of. He becomes an unwilling participant in her story about romance and murder, ending in his death. The message resonates as a statement regarding the inability to separate the physical body from the mind. Mary Rachel does not agree with Burney’s earlier statement that these lyrics fall under “fair-use”, because she feels that the intimate connection between a body and the creative work it produces is too sacred to be tarnished. The decentralized medium that the internet provides the public with abilities of disseminating information at high volumes, with little acknowledgment or understanding of the ways in which this new and different platform changes the way that individuals analyze and interact with the world around them. Mary Rachel represents the bond between the meta-data and the physical world, humans are the conduits by which these undying servers were born and humans are subject to the (almost always unintended) consequences of this intangible digital space, by nature of creating it. When Burney attempts to borrow from Mary Rachel’s song, he pushes her into singing for him. I believe it is this forcing of the creative process that Serling was critiquing, alongside fears of “fair-use” being used to justify stealing intellectual property.

While the themes raised in the episode seem to contradict Lessig’s own statements regarding pushing for a reduced amount of years intellectual property can be copyrighted, the symbolic representations of an individual enticed by new technologies and ideas to fall victim to an antiquated notion that the physical body and the mind must have a linkage. The commentary Serling crafted being the last written episode of the series shows the inevitability of the devaluation of the creative process. Devaluation in this context meaning losing an intrinsic sense of the sublime, and instead gaining a “useless” monetary value. The episode also focuses on the word “Wanderer”, giving it a negative connotation to be associated with Burney being somewhere that he does not belong when the audience sees it written on his tombstone. What makes the episode so difficult to support or disagree with one way or the other is that Serling’s observations regarding human nature are often so apt and well supported with nuanced dialogue and stark visuals, while this episode felt unsure regarding whether or not the punishment of its protagonist truly fit the subjective offense he had committed by asking Mary Rachel to play her song. This is due to the fact that the primary two concerns Serling has in the episode are regarding the monetization of the creative process, the increased mobility of consumers, and how both of these factors will lead to essential (yet NOT legally defined) “theft” of intellectual property. Serling is attempting to argue to the audience that Burney is not a dignified intellectual of the countryside, he is an urban con-man who refuses to see the ignorance in equating a lifetime of someone’s real experience all culminating to create a specialized personal text to its monetary value. Therefore he must experience what it is truly like to sacrifice for ones art instead of stealing the product of someone’s toils, he must give up his life to repent. However what Serling’s message lacks (especially considering it from a different decade with entirely changed technologies) is that it is increasingly difficult to maintain this artistic integrity in a decentralized age.

What the episode implies is that meaning from a text comes from the physical human experience that went into its creation, rather than the use of the literal words of text itself. Due to this fact, Mary Rachel’s song contains legitimacy in a way that it would lack if it came from Burney’s mouth. Mary Rachel sitting in the woods before being propositioned by Burney is telling, she is in nature, solitary, partaking in the act of transferring her experiences to a lyrical story. Serling is advocating for the same isolation that Thoreau speaks about in Walden, also showing a dislike for how urban life has infiltrated a previously simple one. Thoreau would most likely agree with the general sentiment of the episode, that Mary Rachel had created art not based on receiving payment and that justifies its importance. The issue with glorifying these texts is that it vilifies the individual’s response to increased industrialization or technology being that passions should be monetized to reflect the labor of one’s work. On the one hand Serling places the utmost importance in recognizing the value of creative work, yet fails to admit that individuals need money to live. He demonizes Burney for not recognizing the value of Mary Rachel’s song outside its dollar value, but the elephant in the room is that Burney is not to blame for his need to obtain money. Increased industrialization made it difficult to “live deliberately” unless individuals already had enough capital to sustain themselves. This is a key portion of Walden that I find troubling, that Thoreau fails to emphasize the importance of the gap between the rich and the poor driving this devaluation of art. It is not the laborers fault that he is now forced to work factory jobs instead of providing for oneself in a way that Thoreau or Serling deem “acceptable”. Therefore when an individual such as Barney is conditioned to equate the value of his passion (song writing) with a dollar value, it is not so much a conscious decision to steal away someone else’s property, rather it is indicative that there is an intrinsic divide between how individuals value creative property, and how this ambiguous area causes unnecessary criticism on behalf of individuals who are too economically disadvantaged to consider that there truly is any other value other than the one that keeps them alive. Poor individuals would enjoy the luxury of discovering their passions, but they are victims to a capitalist system that increasingly enforces the idea that an individual’s worth is based upon their wealth. So while attempting to make enough money to survive, intellectuals (such as Thoreau) are promoting a lifestyle that is completely out of touch with the reality of a majority of the population who also sees problems with increased industrialization yet unlike Thoreau, cannot object to partaking in it.

Lessig himself advocates for the loosening of copyright restrictions based upon the fact that it is not the author who receives compensation for their work, rather it is the publishing house who reaps these benefits. By placing the wealth out of the hands of publication lawyers profiting off of someones work (much like the way Burney is attempted to be portrayed as) through the limiting of copyright terms, Lessig is attempting to redistribute the creative material to be “fair-use” in order to increase the overall amount of creative work. The episode ends not with the final verse of the song Mary Rachel sings to signify the death of the protagonist, rather it is Burney inside a musical instrument store he visited in the beginning of the episode covering his ears from the increasing volume of various instruments playing at him in the abandoned store, coming from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Speaking before of Mary Rachel’s connection between the body and the text, Burney is subject to his physical body being undone from the torment of the intangible. Burney as well as the audience is not allowed to hear the final verse of the song, despite his direct involvement in its events at the time of her beginning to sing to him. It is an unsatisfying ending which is of course intentional, the text belongs to some-body. However in the age of the internet, while it is important to recognize the artist and how it is an intimate portrait of their own design, it is exceptionally difficult for text to gain any significant attention without it containing a certain amount of dollar value. For art to have value outside its monetary evaluation, the individual making it must first have enough money to support themselves in order to cultivate an environment in which they can craft their text, have enough self awareness about the systems which dictate socioeconomic class structures as to not fall victim to the impure allure of excess profit off of ones text, have a definition of value confirmed and supported by other individuals (preferably academics who also have the capital to debate ethics of living deliberately), and the platform by which to publish or somehow officiate ones text. By looking critically about the scale between the two extremes of creating art solely for profit and creating art solely for the enlightenment of ones soul, one can find Thoreau and Serling’s views on the side leaning toward embracing art for its physical connection to humans and the individuality of the creative process. Perhaps a few steps to the side of profit from the center would be Lessig, an individual who obviously acknowledges the practical value that sharing ideas causes, i.e. a more creative space for discourse that does not have to be constricted to purely academia. It is Lessig’s extensive knowledge of technology and its applications to law that provide him with the ability to reach this nuanced view on copyright and ownership, while maintaining that individuals should be the people who profit from their intellectual property instead of individuals who play to the advantage of working in a late stage capitalist country. It is the excess created through capitalism that was exacerbated from the industrial revolution and which continues to be from technological advancements today that Lessig wishes to challenge, as he recognizes from his privilege that, for example, the lessening of copyright terms would do more overall good for the freedom that creators have when producing art than the monetary value that they would receive if it was extended.
Ultimately what I have learned from this class is that there exists contradictions that can never be solved, technology is so ubiquitous in the zeitgeist now that conversations about Thoreau’s Walden must be discussed in entirely different circumstances than it once was. Of course that is the nature of text, if it remains relevant throughout many years than individuals will continue to read and analyze it based on the changing context of their personalized experiences with the world. If this is the value that Thoreau and Serling attempt to convey the importance of, it is just as important to recognize that individuals ever-changing perspectives will always lead to some speaking against the system that gave them the voice to do so in the first place.

From Walden to WordPress

I’ll be honest: the reason why I registered isn’t about to blow your socks off. I’m a second semester senior and, well, I needed one last English elective. Anyone else?

That’s not to say that this class has proven to be as mediocre as my reason for taking it. In fact, it’s been the exact opposite. When I think of the most interesting things I know now that I didn’t know at the beginning of the semester, the first thing that comes to mind is the witchcraft that is VirtualBox (yes, I mean witchcraft in the most endearing way possible). I’m mesmerized that we can run an entire “sub-computer” inside our computers. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around a world existing within a world. Another interesting thing I’ve learned is that, according to Gleick in The Information, one of the earliest known “languages” is African talking drums. Maybe this is just me being not musically inclined, but the fact that musical instruments can send complex understood messages back and forth between villages far apart, and over even longer distances by relay, is something I never thought about before. Perhaps what I’ve found most intriguing from this class is what seems to be our takeaway every day. Electronics don’t have to be the pitfall of paper books or even the humanities as a whole. In fact, electronics are arguably the very thing the humanities need to stay preserved.

To be specific, I’d like to discuss our use of Walden in this course. Thoreau wrote Walden hundreds of years ago, but the text is anything but obsolete. It didn’t die with Thoreau because resources such as the Digital Thoreau website have helped to keep it alive (and even bring it more life!). The fluid text edition and the opportunity to annotate are what make Digital Thoreau so interesting to me. The fluid text edition makes me think of Thoreau as a student who is tirelessly revising an essay. This “student” vibe I get illuminates him, in a way, as more relatable than the rather distant persona of one of mankind’s most revered writers. (May I parenthetically add that I think it’s super impressive that Dr. Schacht got access to all these revisions and copies. This may be naive of me, but, how did he finesse that?!) Annotating is the second feature possessed by Digital Thoreau. “[Connecting] with readers in the margins of Thoreau,” according to the description online, is a tool that speaks to the ed major in me. I’m interested in the idea of choice, here: choosing sections of Walden that I find particularly interesting and sections that my brain finds a way to relate to our course. I’ve even seen Walter Harding’s comments scattered. I’m in the Harding/Kelley project group, so seeing this celebrity (for lack of a better term) come to life puts our project into perspective. One of my annotations pulled the following quote from Economy 15-29:

It would be some advantage to live a primitive and frontier life, though in the midst of an outward civilization

In the margins, I explained how this quote makes me think of the argument many people from older generations use to hold on to traditions. Here, Thoreau sides with these folks, claiming it would be advantageous to live a “primitive and frontier life” even as life is advancing around you. I think of older adults who refuse to engage with the technological progress our society is making. I’m not even talking exclusively about our grandparents; my Dad, for example, hates to admit that his iPhone helps him with things he cares about (like talking to my sister and I or looking up dinner recipes).

In this course, we have discussed the importance of holding on to where things came from (as The Information argues) while simultaneously welcoming new advances. It is at this intersection of remembering and welcoming that I’ve learned lives digital humanities. Prior to this course, I knew online textbooks were cool and I noticed the rise of e-readers. If you had asked me to define “digital humanities,” that’s probably the shaky answer I would’ve provided. That was the extent of what I knew to be digital humanities: e-readers. Right now, as I sit and type this blog post, I want to give myself a massive face-palm! I’ve learned the digital humanities holds more significance than merely my trusty Kindle. It is a field that bridges the ever-present gap between technology and the study of humans. It is what allows society to progress. We need this intersection because society is never getting rid of technology, and it’s never going to stop studying humans.

From Walden to WordPress, the humanities are everywhere. I’m sure the iPhone isn’t disappearing anytime soon, either.

Creativity is Key

Not to brag or anything, but the journals that I kept from 2007-2012 probably would’ve gotten me famous. Journaling is incredibly versatile; you can write about the reasons that you believe Chick-Fil A should be on the SUNY Geneseo campus or about a research study you did on television usage. The possibilities are endless. The use of Atom changed the way I think about journaling. It is a code text editor, and it has the ability to display your workings in a unique fashion. The text editor part alone makes my heart skip a beat, so everything else is just an added bonus. Atom puts the markdown style text that you are working on, side by side with the finished piece. Mind blowing. You can see your work progress, but it also appears in a final form. Atom also organizes your work for you, and I feel as if my life has been changed, ever since I sorted my blog posts by date. When I’m writing, I tend to be slightly disorganized, so I appreciate the organizational capabilities that Atom possesses. But most importantly, Atom has rekindled my creative side, and it has inspired me to resurrect my love for journaling.
Consider your time in preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Arts and crafts were intertwined with learning, and soon enough art and design classes became mandated. It was important to have writing and reading workshops and to discuss and share your work with others. Student work was hung all around the hallways; inspiring more kids to use their imagination. Creativity was praised and highly encouraged for almost 11 years. It is most definitely a center of the majority of my earliest memories. I don’t often think back to the math problems or the second language exercises during these years, but I am often reminded of the short story I wrote about bats, or the flower I painted that was inspired by Georgia O’Keefe.
My parents always told me that if I picked a career I loved, I would never have to work a day in my life. Let’s face it, who actually wants to work at all? It would make it slightly easier to have a job that I valued and cared about, though. I was the only kindergartener who chose to write inside instead of going out to recess, so it was pretty natural that I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’ve always considered writing to be a creative outlet for me, and this still remains the same. It has always been important for me to carve out the time to write, no matter how jam-packed my schedule is or how stressed I am. But then I got to high school. “You could really do something better with your life.” “Why would you want to major in English? You can do it on the side.” “Would you ever consider a S.T.E.M. major?” These quotes still float around my head today, when I think back to the distaste of my high school peers and teachers when I told them that I wanted to be an English major. At some point during my freshman year, I decided that I had enough, and what high schooler wouldn’t fall into the trap of peer pressure? I worked really hard in the sciences for the next three years and applied to all my colleges as a Biology major. Funny story, I actually only got rejected from 1 out of 11 Biology programs. Oh, how the tables have turned. This statistic really pleased everyone. My teachers and even some of my friends seemed to be more ecstatic that I was going to have a ‘good’ major, rather than one that made me happy. I couldn’t change my teachers, but clearly, I needed some new friends. To go the extra mile, I decided to go on the Pre-Med track, just to please everyone a little bit more. So there I was, registering and enrolling at SUNY Geneseo in June 2018 on a Pre-Med track. After reading an article that said it’s easier to get accepted into medical school with a major other than Biology, I decided that I would be an English major. Without exaggeration, I can say that majoring in English was one of the best decisions of my life (I love Digital Humanities the most, though). I continually talk about Digital Humanities and the assignments that we have, and I also discuss James Gleick’s The Information and the Walden map project far too much. Atom has forced me to journal again and I could not be more thankful to have enrolled in a class that pushes me to think outside the box and to use my imagination.

Draft to Draft, Tracking The Creative Process

It is amazing how easily one can forget the steps it takes to create a finished and publishable piece of writing. The piece we read on a page is rarely ever the first version of the story. But what happens to the earlier drafts?

We have been reading Henry David Thoreau, mostly his essays in Walden, for the last few weeks. But what we have been reading, the published version of Walden is just one version of it. The essays within Walden were written and rewritten in a span of a few years, which we as a class saw through Digital Thoreau fluid text online which lets the viewer compare multiple drafts of the different chapters of Walden.

Being a Creative Writing major, I am very familiar with the multiple and multiple drafts that come with creating a written piece. These drafts can show the simple correction of grammar or word exchanges to the massive undertaking of adding and removing paragraphs. Sometimes, by accident, I forget what I named the newest draft, so I use Word’s “compare” feature which pulls in two different documents to compare what was added and removed from the “original” draft to the “newer” draft. I have learned through this class that this type of mark-up is called TEI.

We spoke briefly in class about TEI and how to use different code sets to tell the computer to read or set the text up in different manners. Unlike HTML coding, TEI focuses on telling the viewer how the text should look. As in what is the beginning and end of a paragraph, what is a line, as well as how the text was edited. This means particular coding inside the brackets to show what was added and what had been removed from draft to draft.

What I find fascinating about this, is that it allows us to see the fluid motion of one’s thoughts and ideas as they find their way on paper. It’s a way to see an individual’s creative process. Although we can’t exactly use this process to find out why Thoreau made the changes he did (we can speculate but not know for sure). I am curious though if this kind of analyzation can be used to see how and why current writers change their drafts.

What I’ve Learned Throughout the Semester

When I first started this class, I never really thought of how technology came to be, particularly how it affects communication. When I started to read The Information by James Gleick, I become aware of how communication has evolved over time and how technology has impacted that. In The Information, Gleick describes a form of communication that was used within an African tribe, drums. This tribe used drum beats as a way to communicate between members. Each beat of the drum represented a different message. Members of the tribe that were in close range to the drum, would then interpret what message the beat was transmitting. This was their form of technology and communication. Today, the most popular technology is cellphones and communication is through texting. People can send a message within the click of a button to anyone around the world, no matter how far or close the range may be. The tribe in Africa did not have that luxury. The technology they used, drums, only allowed for a message to be sent to people who were within close enough range to hear the beats. Today, we have the luxury of being able to communicate with whoever we want, no matter where they are. Using drums as a form of communication doesn’t closely represent what technology we have today; however, we can see some similarities between the two. With communicating by using drum beats, it was often easy to misunderstand or misinterpret a message. The person sending out the drum beat may have intended for the message to say one thing, but the person receiving that beat may interpret it differently. The same can be true for when we use text messages or email. We can interpret a text message or email one way, but the way that someone on the receiving end of that text message or email may interpret the message in a different way. The tribe that used the drums really had no way to make sure that the message they sent, was the same message the person received. There weren’t any supports that were used to make sure the correct tone was received. Today, we use emojis to support us in making sure the message we are trying to send is the message that is received. For example, if you don’t want to sound too serious you may send a smiley face. Or if you think something is funny, you may use the laughing crying face. Using emojis, is our way of making sure the receiving person understands what we are trying to say, and with what tone.

Looking at communication, I have been able to see how communication has evolved technically. Just like how we use symbols when texting, symbols and codes can be used when working with virtual box. Virtual box is space that uses a command line and a series of codes, and allows for you to access folders and documents within your computer. For example, by typing the command, “cd /media/sf_Journal/” it accesses the folder that contains all of my journal posts from this semester. Then by typing the command, “ls” I am able to see the names of all my journal entries and how many of them I have. I used this command line a lot when putting together my ebook of all my journal entries. One important thing to keep in mind when using virtual box, is that typing out each command line needs to be precise and accurate. If you don’t correctly spell a word or miss putting an under dash when needed, then the command line will not go through in the way you want it to. Making sure everything is precise has helped me with other assignments in and out of this class. It has made me more aware of mistakes and helped me to slow down and take my time whenever completing an assignment.

Learning about technology and communication has made me look at the way I use technology. When I pick up my phone, I now think of how other people have communicated and the different forms of technology that have been used. The way that technology and communication evolved, has transformed our society and will continue to do so. Every day, there’s a new technology device or a different way to communicate such as through new emojis. Learning about the way others have communicated, helps us to look into the way we communicate and use technology. By learning about the tribe in Africa who used drums as their form of technology, has helped me become more aware of the technology we use and how it can relate to theirs. Communication is an key component in every community, and understanding how different communities use technology to communicate helps us to connect to those around the world.

Growing in Confidence and Knowledge With Computers

Since the first day of this class, I have constantly been learning new things and expanding my knowledge of computers. One of the things that has been most interesting to me has been learning how to use coding and Virtual Box to find out more information about texts such as Walden. Rather than reading through the book to find specific things, Virtual Box allows you to easily navigate the text and pick out the information you are looking for.

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