Constantly Adapting

In the final days of this semester, I can’t help but look back at how things have changed in how we proceeded. With COVID-19, everyone, not just students, had to adapt to how the world had changed. For many of us, this included going home from campus, learning online and working from home. Now, as the semester draws to a close, we all have to adapt once more; we have to adapt to facing the uncertainty of the time we all live in without the order and structure given to us by our classes, keeping us aware of what day it is through assignments and classes.

With this change fast approaching, I find myself more certain of things than I had expected. This is weird to me because of how much we do not know. We do not know when stay at home will effectively end in New York. We do not know when businesses will be up and running again. We do not know if we will be returning to campus in the fall. Truly, we are in the most uncertain times of our lives, so how come I feel certain? I feel certain because I know that we can and will adapt. After all, if this semester, and this class, has taught me anything, it is that we are more than capable of adapting to whatever challenge comes our way.

While staying at home, working with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, we spent a lot of time looking at and commenting on the many revisions that he had made to Walden over the years. It just goes to show how things could change for him back then. My project group had worked with the “Higher Laws” chapter, specifically paragraphs one and seven. I bring this up because in the first draft of paragraph seven, Thoreau had a line that didn’t survive past that first version. That line was “But practically I am only half-converted by my own arguments as I still fish.” I bring this line up because it illustrates how Thoreau had adapted to his time in the woods. He adapted, meaning that line was no longer unnecessary as the more time he spent in the woods, he adapted to a new form of life that brushed away his doubts. It is that change that I am particularly enamored with. Thoreau was able to live in seclusion and adapt to it, not unlike what we have been doing now. The biggest differences being that our seclusion is not by choice and the fear over our well-being, even still we are secluded and we adapted to this once before.

Moving into this next phase of quarantine, with less responsibilities with classes and assignments being done, it is much like my initial thoughts on using the command line; harder and more confusing than I am used to. But, as with the command line, I feel as though we all can learn to navigate this new situation in time. Times are hard and they are only set to get harder, but we have already adapted to so much, so what’s a bit more adapting to finish getting through this? I may be retrospective right now in the face of another shift, but because of how we have already had to adapt once to this, and with how this class has enforced adaptation, I’m confident in how we will all be able to move forward undaunted and I look forward to going back to campus with this as just another experience to be learned from. Maybe it’s time for us to write our own Walden based on quarantine showing our change in this time and how we adapt to it?

New Views on “English”

The point of this blog post is to discuss how I view “English,” as a discipline, differently as a result of my work in this course. I can safely say that this class has definitely changed how I view aspects of this discipline. Yet I would be remiss if I didn’t state that some of these views changed after confronting the reality of our situation as a result of COVID-19. This class. To me, this class and this situation has allowed me to understand the importance of being able to adapt.

Early on in this class, adapting was very clearly important with the introduction of GitHub, Visual Studio Code, and the other tools we had to learn how to use. At first, I thought that these tools were just harder ways to do various tasks with the computer, as evidenced with opening my file explorer through the command line. But as time went on, I started realizing how these tools were enhancing the experience. Understanding my computer better has allowed me to review how I tackled aspects of this discipline. It has allowed me to open my eyes to how this discipline adapts. By looking at our laptops in a new way, it allowed me to see how the rest of the “English” discipline adapts in many new ways.

That changed, initially, when COVID-19 became a global pandemic and we were all sent home to wait it out. Because of this, I found myself looking at works like “Walden” deeper and really coming to understand how “English” as a discipline can adapt. I bring up “Walden” because it makes me reflect on my views of the English canon. I always used to think that the works in the canon were there because people forced them to change with the times. But looking at my situation, I found that “Walden” lends itself naturally to the changing times. Because of this new view on “Walden,” I find myself thinking this must be the case with most of the canon. But even with that, “Walden” wasn’t static, Henry David Thoreau revised and edited it several times, changing it over the course of a few years. This discipline is all about adaptation, just as we adapted to light levels of coding, authors and their works adapt to the times they are written in, as well as the changes of time. Even Gleick touched on adaptation as he went through the evolution of communication; from talking drums to the telegraph to the transistor. All around us is adaptation.

Because of our situation, adaptation is all that is on my mind. This view has allowed me to look back on what we have looked at in this class and has also allowed me to look at the discipline as a whole. All we can do is adapt, so it is always good to get the practice and come to the realization that we should. By having us look at our laptops in new ways, this class has allowed me to see how we adapt constantly to new situations. Through the command line, GitHub, Visual Studio Code, the English canon, communication, and more, we are surrounded by adaptation.

Digital Humanities and the Advancement of Technology

Mitchell Pace

With the dawn of our digital age, we have been able to do so much; whether it be looking up facts or sending links or emails to multitudes of people. It is easier than ever to spread information and learn from and/or about any culture. It is incredible to think about how through various symbols and alphabets, we can gorge on information from anywhere, sitting at a computer or on a phone or television.

Through this stream of information, we reach out faster and broader than ever before, allowing more cultural awareness and acceptance. We know more about each other despite the distance and language barriers that has made the spread of knowledge a much more daunting and difficult task. As James Gleick points out in “The Information,” technology has changed drastically over the times. What would be used to send signals or just communicate in one’s culture could be completely different from another culture or even how they were in the past. Gleick describes the use of drums in sub-Saharan Africa as a prime example of a culture’s unique form of communication, stating, “While only some people learned to communicate by drum, almost anyone could understand the messages in the drumbeats. Some people drummed rapidly and some slowly. Set phrases would recur again and again, virtually unchanged, yet different drummers would send the same message with different wording.” (15). Gleick also touches on how Europeans would be caught off guard by this form of communication until they were able to figure it out. There was a lot of hard work put into understanding the patterns and messages, but what is even more amazing is that we can now just sit at home and google the drum messaging system to learn more about it and have a better understanding of the culture. Where before, getting to understand people of different cultures was immensely difficult, like with sub-Saharan Africa, through digital technology, it is as easy as the push of a button. Digital humanities has allowed an easier understanding of cultures throughout human history and allows us to sit at home and learn and educate others through the sending of a link or just keep reading up on others, allowing a better understanding.