Zoom University

Over the course for the 21st century, technology has been at the forefront of our work, our advancements, and our newer inventions. Whether it is a new phone to maintain communication with one another or a new machine that allows for better farm cropping, technology has helped developed our society. 

This semester, we learned a lot about technology through Gleick’s “The Information.” We learned about early inventions early on in the chapters and the impacts technology is having on society. I am sure that all of us did not imagine this ongoing situation when we enrolled in a class that would teach us about digital humanities. 

Today, Zoom has become the platform that many uses for their education, personal, and business experience. Many institutions like SUNY Geneseo are purchasing unlimited access for their students to use and many companies have relied on it to hold meetings. Many students have joked on Instagram and Twitter about Zoom University. The Lamron even wrote a satirical article about it as a way to show people how students are feeling. 

As we end the semester, some thought provoking questions I had in mind were:

A) What will be Zoom’s legacy moving forward?
B) How will institutions and companies continue to use Zoom as a means of communication?
C) Will Zoom be published in a book (much like “The Information” about technological advancements in the future?

Overall, I really enjoy using Zoom and count on it for a variety of things including meetings, group projects, check-ins, and most importantly, as a means of communications. Who would have known that this was going to be the “new normal.” I kind of got used to it by now!

Authors of our Own Lives & Writers of our Fate

At the start of the semester, I selected this course due to the nature of what we would be learning about: technology. As someone who is really passionate about always using online platforms to communicate, plan out events, and organize work, I was really intrigued about learning the ways in which technology has transformed the digital humanities. This course was a very difficult journey for me but my initial interest is what kept me from quitting. Early on in the course, I fell behind on work and found it easier to escape instead of asking for support. I hit a brick wall halfway through the semester and was really confused about what was going on in the course. Due to this, it’d be a disservice to me to detail a significant change in my interpretation of the English discipline as a result of my work in ENGL 340. However, my perception of English as a discipline did significantly change as a result of my struggles, obstacles, and most importantly, my ability to continue adapting to a new learning environment that I had not been exposed to before. 

Logistically, this course is set up to introduce new technology platforms to students including Slack, Python, TEI files, timelines, etc. All of the English courses I had taken in the past only focused on readings, essays, short responses, and class discussions. Being a part of the ENGL 340 learning experience was very tricky for me since it took a lot of time to adjust to the tasks I had not been presented with before. However, it also allowed me to be a part of a completely new learning community since many of us had not used any of the platforms mentioned above before. It was such an intriguing experience. From learning how to write journal entries to using VS code, we were all learning everything at the same pace. The memorable looks of confusion and the “ah yes!” moments are what made this class different than others; we supported each other in the process of learning. English as a discipline can most of the time be viewed as essays, papers, and readings, but throughout this course, I learned that it is more. It is learning how to use everything you have read and creating a new learning experience. For us, that was being able to read a text from Gleick’s The Information or Walden and reflect upon what we learn through a blog post, a journal entry, or use technology to analyze the words, patterns, and codes in the text. Working in a group also allowed us to collaboratively share ideas, even if it was remotely, and learn about one another’s interpretations. 

Though I was not the most active participant in class, one of our classroom discussions that I thoroughly enjoyed was when we discussed Sounds by Henry David Thoreau. The sentence we primarily focused on was “much is published, but little printed.” Within my group, we started a conversation about what we see published in libraries, bookstores, and what readings professors use to assign to us. I introduced our group to the concept of the literary canon, which I learned in another course refers to the group of books considered to be the most important and influential during a designated time period or place. Most of the authors we discussed were primarily White men and were introduced to us as “classic” reads in middle school. As we made ties to Thoreau’s “much is published, but little printed” we connected this quote to the lack of representation that is found in literature. Many great authors have well-written pieces ready to be published but are unable to get an agent to release it. This opened the floor to the question of “is everything that is published ‘good’? Would we rather have little printed and find meaning in unique texts? Or would we rather increase the number of authors being published to significantly break the literary canon with new ideas?” It was so amazing to see the different points of views that my group discussed and even more impactful for me because I got an opportunity to share knowledge from another course and challenge my peers to think about the ways in which we’ve grown up and how we want to shape our literary future. 

As Thoreau mentions in Sounds, “what is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen? Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer? Read your fate, see what is before you, and walk on into futurity.” Throughout this course, I believe I acted as a seer, noticing where I was struggling and thinking about ways of reaching out for help. However, I also enjoyed the new experience which allowed me to read the texts in this course with more intent. Though I struggled, I am proud of my ability to be transparent with myself and to analyze what went wrong. In reading and writing about my struggles, I know that English as a discipline also impacts us as the authors of our own lives, and as the writers of our fate.

Power in Language

Through our interconnected world, we have learned to rely on different mediums to obtain different information. Whether it be Google, Youtube, the news, or library books, we are bound to find different resources to learn new information. But, we rarely stop to think about what would happen if the information that has been internalized, in both online and printed materials, was erased and there was no way of knowing past history. As Gleick introduced in Chapter 2, “The Persistence of the World”, “to subtract the technologies of information internalized over two millenia requires a leap of imagination backwards to a forgotten past” (pg 28).  Through my time at SUNY Geneseo, I have been a part of different conversations about the meaning of language and its importance. As an English Adolescent Education major with a linguistics background, I have realized that there is a deep correlation between the ways in which language has shaped our culture, identity, and history. Before understanding the interconnectedness between the impact of language and new information, it is important to understand the processes in which we go about learning new topics. 

Chapter two dives deep into the meaning of “looking up” something online or in printed texts. But, what does it mean when we are “looking up” something? Does it mean that we are researching something for the sake of finding an answer, or are we researching something to learn new information? I would say that there is a distinction between being able to identify an answer to something one “looks up” and being able to understand the new piece of information. Most of the time, we are told to complete an assignment that requires heavy research but in that process, we mostly find answers to the questions we are looking for. Through different research projects, I have neglected to think about where the information originated from, the impact the information had on those that were researched, and the future implications of other readers. It’s important that we sometimes take a step back and think about how what we read, what we research, and what we write plays a role in the ways we are connected through language. 

In one of my linguistics classes, I came across an article by Cambridge University Press titled, “American English: History, Structure, and Usage” that explains language, the importance of it, and how we have developed its power. Within the article, I learned about the term idiolect, which refers to a person’s use of language within a particular context. Most of the time, we think about us either engaging in formal or informal conversations, but it’s important to think about the contexts of different conversations and how we interact within each. The Information by James Gleick brings light to the power of language through the lens of personal knowledge. Essentially, before language became widespread, information was contained within our minds and shared only with those we spoke to. After the writing language was created, the knowledge that many had started to spread. Symbols, pictures, and writing languages were created to represent different concepts.

Today, our words are powerful and when we say something, it is more powerful. Through the sharing of knowledge, we become more powerful and also learn a lot more. It’s important to think that as we keep evolving technologically as a society, we will find new ways to convey different information. But, what’s more important is how we think about how information has evolved and the impact that sharing that information has on us. Language is more than the spread of knowledge, in some instances, it is the communication and unpacking of it. It’s weird to think that the information we have internalized, or rather our technological devices has internalized would require a lot of imagination if it were to be erased.