Author: Madyson Gillanders

A Day Without My Phone

Is it easier to live with technology or without technology? Technology unarguably reduces tediousness. It is much more efficient to use Google Maps than a paper map when you need to get to a specific location. Likewise, it is easier to search up a recipe online, rather than thumbing through a cookbook for it. Sure, technology makes life simpler, but is living really easier?

Last summer, I went one whole day without my phone. I could lie and say that I did this on purpose, but in reality, I actually lost my phone. I woke up to an IHome alarm clock that I dragged out of my basement. It was humbling to hit a physical snooze button, rather than tapping a home screen until my phone stops buzzing. I took my dog on a walk to the beach after I got out of bed. Usually, I would use walks with my dog as a prime opportunity to post on social media, but without my phone, I took in the moment. I ran errands. I stood in line and observed the people around me; what they were doing, what they were wearing. This was my first time in a while where I was able to take in my surroundings, and not bounce from app to app on my phone while I pick something up, or while I shop. I listened to the radio in my car, rather than my music on the AUX, and I learned that the radio actually isn’t that bad. To some, a day without their phone may be one of the worst things imaginable. I’m definitely addicted to my phone, but the day I spent without it was actually one of the most calming and peaceful days I’ve ever had.

I would say that life is easier with technology, it assists us and guides us in many different disciplines. However, I would argue that living is easier without being constantly glued to my phone. I can take in the world and see the things that I would often miss. I am able to learn more and do more in my personal life. It’ll probably be a while before I go another day without my phone, but I’m bound to lose it again in my lifetime. When the time comes, I think I actually might look forward to it.

The Perks of Digital Humanities

I’ll admit that I signed up for Digital Humanities because it was the only class during Add/Drop week that fit my schedule. I enrolled in the class at 7 a.m. on Monday morning (or maybe it was Wednesday) and by 12:20 I was sitting in Bailey Hall waiting for class to start. I was skeptical at first, to sign up for a course that had digital in the title, since I don’t exactly consider myself to be a technology mogul. I decided to give the class my best shot, and I can safely say that I have not been disappointed. Every class I learn something new. I guess that’s the point of all classes, but I continuously find myself being able to learn and apply the skills that I learned in Digital Humanities. I made my own Google Map for my trip to Florida, in order to remember all of the places I wanted to go. I used Atom to write a prompt for my History of the English Language course. I signed up for Omeka, and over the summer I am planning to create my own digital exhibit that will most likely detail my Freshman year at Geneseo. I believe that Digital Humanities is extremely versatile and I have found that it has helped me expand my knowledge into an array of other disciplines. It is unique to take a class where you can learn new skills and be able to use them outside of the course. For example, I didn’t exactly find myself using my knowledge of covalent and ionic bonds outside of Gen Chem I. I already recommend James Gleick’s The Information and WordPress to all of my friends, and from this point on I think I’ll start recommending Digital Humanities as well.

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.

Walden in the Real World

Ever since we started reading Walden, I’ve begun to make connections to today’s society. Even though Walden was published in 1854, it has more similarities to the present day than we may recognize. Thoreau states that “We discourse freely without shame of one form of sensuality, and are silent about another,” which reminds me of social media today (Walden, Higher Laws). On social media, many individuals openly post whatever they deem necessary whether it be a photo or a comment. There is rarely filtration on social media, and Thoreau states that during this time there were not many restrictions on debate or speech. Additionally, Thoreau says that “I had more than ever come within the influence of those books which circulate round the world, whose sentences were first written on bark and are now merely copied from time to time,” and this quote can be compared to the evolution of literature in society. It is interesting to think about all the literature that has changed from the creation of society until now. Books used to be handwritten on stone, and now you can even speak into a microphone that will type on your laptop for you. Books used to be very scarce, due to their cost, but now they are widespread and it is rare to not have access to literature. Thoreau’s ideas in Walden, while unique to the novel, coincide with many elements of the world today.

Free Culture (Extra Post)

Consider the information that is all around us. Whether it is from the internet, on the App Store or even on a music site such as Spotify. Have we ever taken into account how much of the content that is accessible online is free? Ever since Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture discussion, I have thought deeply about the content in my life. Sure, I have paid for my Spotify membership and a few apps here and there, but the majority of information that I have accessed has been free. I feel now that I owe something to the artists whose works have been readily available on the internet. Think about working so hard on a piece or a project, and barely being reimbursed for all your time and effort.You would want to be paid in a teaching or law profession, right? So why not as an artist or a musician? As someone who has always written short stories and novels, I would be upset if someone utilized my work for free that I intended to make money off of. I have never thought about the excess of information that is floating around the internet that does not technically belong to us. I have a newfound respect for all of the content creators whose information is readliy available online

My Machine and I

I had never considered that Digital Humanities can act as a link between computing and the study of human culture. I’ve developed an array of computation skills over my lifetime and they have helped me find a platform to express myself, and also see the ways that others have expressed themselves. Our machines provide a means for us to access any kind of information we choose; whether it be a paper, photograph, or a song. All of these materials that exist online have been created by an individual who intends to document their personal human thoughts, relations, and feelings, and I love producing and sharing the forms of documentation that I have personally created; whether it is posting a picture on Instagram, or sharing a short story that I wrote on my blog. It is powerful and meaningful to be able to contribute to the collection of culture that exists online and to add to the mediums that help us study the human experience through our past, previous, and future selves. I have now become aware that Humanities enables us to understand others through their languages, histories and cultures, and it adds a dimension of questioning and deep thinking as we attempt to decipher the world around us.
While I do not have much prior knowledge about computing, I know that computers are very effective tools for research, recreation, and socialization. Computers are machines that allow us to access a seemingly infinite amount of information, which is crucial for discovering and developing new ideas. This is an essential tool for students, including me, but the appeal of computers extends far beyond academics. Computers are taking over. Not literally, but they are so widely available in the United States that it is difficult to avoid incorporating them into daily life. I don’t remember a time in my life where I was without a computer, quite honestly. Computers provide numerous ways of relaxing because they harness the power to play movies, television shows, and video games (or e-books, which are totally better, just saying). Finally, through communication technology such as social media and messaging services, computers allow us to stay connected to friends and family all across the globe. When I miss my family and my friends, they are just one Skype call away. This would have been practically unthinkable one hundred years ago, but today, the ability to instantly interact with people hundreds or even thousands of miles away has become accepted as the norm. Plus, the role of computers is immensely important even beyond my daily life, as governments and corporations rely on the power of computers to perform many of their administrative functions.
As a college student, my computer fills a critical niche in my daily life. I consider my computer to be an extension of myself, and aside from the fact that I rarely go anywhere without it; I use it to send emails, complete assignments, and compile research. My machine allows me to easily gather all the information that I may need for an assignment, and many professors assign online only work. Having my own computer is a lifesaver, as I always have access to it, which makes it rare to have to rely on a library computer or a friend’s. I am very aware of the fact that if I were to lose this computer, I would lose a vital part of my everyday world. When I need to unwind on the weekend or after a long day of class, I immediately make a beeline for my computer. My friends are always available for FaceTime or iMessage and my favorite shows are always on Netflix. My computer feeds into my online shopping addiction, and I have gained so much appreciation for online ordering and Amazon since coming to Geneseo. Personally, I have taken many of the functions that my computer can perform for granted. It is easy to type a paper on Google Docs and use the italics and bold buttons. However, it takes time to learn how to use markdown language, and insert the same commands yourself. It seems simple enough to create a journal on Microsoft Word or Pages, but it is extraordinarily different to keep a journal in Atom, a plain text editor, where specific functions are no longer automatic. I am thoroughly enjoying learning more about the machine that does so much for me. I think it is fair to say that my computer is an absolutely essential component of my life, and while it’s something that I can survive without, its absence would make life a lot more difficult.