Videos and Video Games

One of the biggest reasons why I chose to take this course was out of pure interest. An English course focused on technology? Sign me up! I was mostly intrigued on the idea of how Humanities, and English specifically, contributed to aspect of technology. Growing up, I always saw English as merely the study of history through literature, with high school as the biggest offender; William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Charles Dickens were merely seen as names to recognize with the occasional passage or two that needed to be read. Naturally, coming to Geneseo as an English major, this perspective quickly changed as I began to understand what the study of literature actually entailed. Despite this, I kept the mentality that computers were in a whole other ballpark than English. In fact, some of my classes reinforced this idea, with nearly all of my professors banning technology during class time, and all of them requiring physical copies of the texts we planned to use, the separation of the humanities and technology became normalized for me.

Depending on your definition, I could either be very knowledgeable about my computing skills, or a complete novice. I was never particularly savvy with the inner workings of a computer or its base functions. The most complicated function I have been able to accomplish, previous to this course, was to use the command line to find and connect the Public Toshiba printers to my laptop so that I could print from anywhere. As someone who grew up playing video games, I am much more proficient in using software than anything else when it comes to using a computer. Perhaps one of my favorite things to do in a video game is to add a modification to it. All mods are made by the community of people who play the game and depending on the popularity of the game, there can sometimes be hundreds, if not thousands, of unique mods made by different people. A great example of this is a game from the popular series, ‘The Elder Scrolls’, Skyrim. This game, which is a fairly typical role playing game set in the standard fantasy setting. In this game there will be a variety of non-playable characters including, people, monsters, and animals. One such animal is the ever-so-famous mudcrab. As can be seen below, one of the many mods you can install takes the crab and make him seem much more…sophisticated.

The free time I spend on a computer includes things other than putting top hats and monocles on crabs. I new hobby of mine would include the usage of video editing software. One of my longtime dreams was to take certain aspects of my favorite media, such as a TV show or movie, and combine it with something else. The video below demonstrates exactly what it is that I had in mind. For context, what you see is entirely from a trailer for the previously mentioned Skyrim. The sounds, however, are all replaced and are instead from the cartoon show, “Ed, Edd, and Eddy.”

As I have mentioned before, I play a lot of video games. Some people have game consoles, however I play a majority of my games on a computer and so have become very attached to my laptop. I care for my laptop much in the same way that someone would feel towards a stuffed animal or an old blanket. It is for this reason that I am always hesitant to take my laptop out of my room, especially when it’s for a class. Having my laptop be damaged or stolen is a fear that always creeps into the back of my mind whenever it is in a place that isn’t deemed secure by me.

My Relationship with Computing

       Coming into this course was one of the first times I truly had no idea what to expect, but I was undoubtedly excited to see what was in store. Truthfully, the main basis for my decision to take this class was because I needed an English class for my major, it seemed particularly attractive being a Monday/Wednesday class, and Dr. Schacht had a high “RateMyProfessor.com” rating. I would liken my relationship with computing to my relationship with mathematics. In middle school and high school, I was never the biggest fan of math classes, simply because I found them to be the most difficult. Whenever I could not figure out a problem I would get unnecessarily stressed out. However, on the same token, whenever I did do well in my trigonometry, algebra, AP calculus classes, etc., it was an amazing feeling that made me want to keep learning and do more math problems. This is the same way I feel about computers. I don’t know how to do a lot of things with my computer, and previous to this class, I often didn’t try to learn, because it would stress me out when I inevitably couldn’t figure something out. But whenever something works for me in ENGL 340 and I’m on the right track, it makes me excited and eager to explore more new apps, networks, features, tricks, etc.

        The extent of my knowledge and capability with computing prior to this class was essentially just using the basic social media applications that most people have on their phones, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. As for the applications I had installed on my laptop prior to this class, I only had two other than those that are pre-installed: Spotify and Grammarly. As for coding, the earliest and only previous experience I had with it before taking this class was the copy and pasting of HTML code I would do to create the theme of my Tumblr in middle school.

       Now, it is only the fifth week of this class and I feel that I have learned so much and am still learning new things every day, specifically with the software applications Atom and VirtualBox. Before using Atom in this class, I had not only never heard of it before, but I had never really coded before, let alone know the differences between languages we’ve used in class like markdown and HTML. Another topic that I never thought much about before this class is the relationship between computing and the humanities. I always subconsciously considered the two mutually exclusive, and never really considered how each contributes to the other. I find it very interesting and new that this is the first English class I’ve taken at Geneseo where I’ve used my laptop for more than just to take notes, write papers, or look something up. Our work in class along with our reading of Gleick’s The Information has made the relationship between the humanities and computing much more apparent to me. I’ve learned that the digital aspect of “digital humanities” allows us to expand the power, accessibility, and speed of the things that are already being done in the humanities, such as preserving the past, analyzing texts, communication, etc. Computing is a prominent contributor to the preservation and the progression of the humanities, and I am eager to continue to learn and expand my knowledge of the digital humanities in this class.

Me and My Computer: A Toxic Relationship

As far as I’ve ever been concerned, computers and general technological work have been a source of constant struggle and frustration. The first computer I ever owned, at the ripe age of five, was a 1999 Dell Dimensional. Bought at a neighbor’s garage sale, this piece of machinery is probably in a museum now, regarded as the slowest and most nonfunctional computer in history. This computer (which was sans internet due to my parents’ legitimate fear for me and my two brothers surfing the web precariously), was used primarily for the applications: Microsoft Word and Paint. The fond memories I have of this technological masterpiece we dubbed the “Kid’s Computer” (because of it’s lack of operation and it’s primary users being myself and my two brothers), are predominantly comprised of me spending the entirety of my allotted thirty minutes hitting the side of the monitor, slamming on the keyboard, and screaming just about every bad word I knew to really let the computer know how I felt. As you can probably imagine, having this be the start to my relationship with computers was not especially beneficial, as well as super annoying to my poor parents.
To get an image of what this bad boy looked like

In the fourteen years following, I have learned little about computers. I have always tried to avoid extensive use of these elusive machines. For the most part, my computer’s sole operation has been for online shopping. This strategy worked well for me for a while, but proved to be incredibly difficult, and quite frankly very frustrating to maintain when I started college. In my first semester of collegiate education, my laptop was mainly used for Microsoft Word and Google. Microsoft Word to type up important papers, and Google when I didn’t know how to perform a certain function in Microsoft Word. Whenever I needed assistance beyond Google, I would contact a close friend of mine (who builds computers for fun) or bother the associates at Milne Library’s CIT Help Desk for hours.

It was in a physics lab when I realized I couldn’t keep up this inability, and truthfully, fear to use extensive computer functions forever. In this lab, we were required to enter several data sets into Microsoft Excel and produce multiple different graphs and tables. While our lab instructor did walk us through basically every step, the lesson was fast paced (assuming that most people of college-age have used Excel before, a fair assumption to make), and apparently easy for me to miss one step and become completely lost. I called the instructor over to my desk a total of eleven times that day. Eleven times. I asked myself the question, “Is it acceptable to cry during a lab out of confusion and frustration?” About an hour in, I found that my personal answer was indeed: yes. After this incident that I’ve deemed the “Excel Debacle”, I concluded that I needed help. I want to work as an English teacher after graduating college, and in today’s ever changing technological world, it is essential that I learn basic functionality with computers.

While browsing Geneseo’s course catalog for the 2019 Spring semester, I came across this class: ENGL 340: Lit & Lit Study in the Digital Age. I didn’t know quite what this meant but knew that it would most likely have something to do with computers. This fact, of course, intimidated me. However, having known Dr. Schacht from a previous course, I knew that his passion for technology and indefinite willingness to assist his students may just be exactly what I need in my journey to learning how to use my computer more efficiently.

Upon entering said course, I learned quickly that I would learn much more than basic computational functions. In fact, our introduction to this course was focused heavily upon the “digital aspect of the humanities”. My instinct was to question this. Being a life-long lover of the humanities, and self-proclaimed humanist, I was dumbfounded by the correlation between the digital age and the humanities. How could something with such a strong focus in before computers were even a thought harmonize with the digital world? Throughout the introductory weeks of this course, I have learned the basic association between these two elements. Humanists are essential to technology in order to give humanistic meaning to the mathematics and computing that works behind the scenes in computers. However, I am admittedly still unclear of the deeper meaning of the connection of these elements. Nevertheless, I am excited about the prospect of what this class, Lit and Lit in the Digital Age will teach me about both the inner workings of my computer, as well as the humanistic relationship to the digital age. Hopefully, after the conclusion of this course, Geneseo’s CIT employees will be seeing a lot less of me!

In Search of Convenience

In my family, I’ve always been the humanities kid. I like stories and the way words can be strung together to form a rhythm. I think perhaps the main reason for my affinity towards the humanities is that I’m relatively “good” at it; I read quickly while retaining information and I have a lot of opinions so I’m good at adding to and continuing discussions. That’s why, for me, there has always been a distinction between computers and the humanities: I was at least relatively competent at the latter and an amateur regarding the other.
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Learning the Digital Humanities

In English 340 we have been collectively discussing the digital humanities. Some topics we have touched on have been the transformation or development of language, the technological influences over our communication and specifically how our communication has many different means of channels. Prior to coming into this course, my view of the relationship between computers and humanities was not nearly as strong, developed, and thoughtful as it is now being four weeks into this class. I often thought of the two as entirely separate happenings. Having taken a humanities course that related to nothing in the technological world but rather the development and analytics of cultural and societal aspects did not help connect the two, but only distinguish them from one another. Before reading some chapters of the book, The Information, I thought of the connection between computers and humanities from a vague and broad perspective. That being said, the only connection I had thought of involved how people have grown to be dependent on computers or technology in general. Computers are put at our fingertips, I mean literally in handheld devices that seem to barely leave our hands. That being said, the relationship that we have with them is a strong one as it seems as though they have been ingrained as routine in our everyday lives. Coming into this course, computers and the humanities were barely connected. The only ways I thought of, and not necessarily thought of in relation to one another, was the use of media and different ways of coming of information and sending messages (basically the technological influence on the world). Being in this course, I have learned so far that the digital humanities is so much more than that. It conveys a much bigger idea of the development of this digital and humanities connected world we live in. This class has been knowledgeable in portraying the development of the language we so very speak and further analyzing how this impacts our everyday lives.

Coming into this course, I have to admit I was nervous. I cannot say that I was truly confident in my technological abilities, and I still cannot say that at this moment. The truth is, I am learning something new every day that is a little out of my comfort zone with technology. I came into class knowing very basic computer skills. Yet these computer skills seem to get me through the modern day just fine. The skills I brought with me into this class include using different browsers, imports, exports and downloads or converting documents were ones that I quickly learned are definitely below average in computing skills. However, with these skills, I have always felt as I can hold my own when it comes to general aspects of technology (you know, I feel like a genius when explaining things to my Grandma). Yet, this class has brought me to realize how behind I am with the understanding of general computing. I have never even heard of the software, coding, and markdowns we use. Through the beginning weeks of this class, I have gotten more comfortable coming out of my comfort zone with the digital humanities. I have learned some very cool aspects that I did not know of before like coding, atom, html, and virtualbox. One area of weakness I can identify for myself is potentially trying too hard to keep up. I sometimes feel like I will miss something simple because I am focusing so hard on every individual step to make sure I do it right. For example, two weeks ago I copied something from google docs into a discussion post and noticed the format was funky. Later realizing avoiding that issue was simple. I now know other techniques like markdowns in atom, creating links to pictures, italicizing, and even create emojis simply by typing in a code. Some other things I learned about, through my peers, were different programs and apps that are useful in everyday digital life. One thing I really am enjoying is the book, The Information. Learning about how communication, messaging, and information has grown over time and the processes of different cultures and ways of communicating has been so intriguing.

My relationship with my computer coming into this course is definitely one considered a “love/hate” relationship. I often beat myself up because I know my MacBook is capable of such cool features that I have not taken the time to learn about. Spending so much money on this computer only to use the basic functions of it seems as if I am doing a disservice. The only functions I use my computer for are mostly schoolwork and leisure. I am your average user of Microsoft, google drive, PowerPoints, Netflix, and social media on my electronic device. Through this class, I am happy to be learning more functions and use of my computer because I have never used programs like we are. However, that speaks to the fact that my relationship with my computer coming into the course was not really a strong one as I never really understood complex concepts of coding and other computer science aspects that we continue to learn in this course.

To conclude this reflection, I want to quote Dr. Schacht when he stated, “A huge part of doing something is being willing to devote the time and developing some expertise on finding information on the web by either the product itself or the community of people who use it.” I feel as though this is such an empowering message as we continue through this course to keep in the back of our minds.  Everything we need to know, we can essentially figure out. So, folks, that is my push for everyone, if you seem to be having trouble with something! Reach out to people, do some research to help you find what you are looking for, and with this you will begin to better yourself as an information technologist!

An Unusual Relationship: Computers and the Humanities

Prior to taking English 340, I never associated computers with the humanities. In most of my classes that have been related to the humanities, I have used sources such as textbooks and the teacher’s notes to gather new information. When it comes to using my computer for classes such as English or History, I typically only write papers or do simple research on it. It is almost unheard of to have a class about the humanities that revolves around using a computer. In fact, most professors expect students to put their computers away during class because they are viewed as more of a distraction than a helpful tool.

English 340 is the first class I have taken in which we have studied the ways computers and other technologies have influenced the humanities. Given that most of the events that are studied in the humanities took place many years ago, computers did not have much of an influence on how the situations played out. I believe this is one of the main reasons why I have never associated computers with the humanities.

Since Kindergarten, I have been taught how to interact with computers. Even though I have been using computers for nearly my entire life, I often wonder how much I truly know about them. During middle school and high school, I had to take courses on how to make better use of my computing skills. When I think back on this, I realize that most of the skills I was taught were very basic and I typically did not learn anything riveting. In fact, most of the times I took a computing course, I was learning information that I had already been taught. During high school, I was required to take four computing courses per year. Two of the courses were about how to use two types of research websites to find information and sources. The other two courses were about two different computer programs that were meant to improve my writing and typing skills. The information taught in these courses was the extent of what I learned about computers before coming to college. In reality, extensive programs and skills should be taught to children at a younger age so that they can gain a better grasp of computer knowledge for the future.

Even though I did not learn much about computers in high school, I had the opportunity to gain knowledge from other sources. The summer before I started college, I interned at an organization called Explore Buffalo. One of my duties was to help organize events that took place throughout the summer. While doing this, I was taught how to use several different programs on my computer that I had never heard of before. By using them, I was able to create marketing posters and plan certain events very quickly. This internship allowed me to realize how much more I could do on my computer than I had previously thought. Learning how to use these programs was very rewarding, but I continued to mainly use my personal computer for the internet, to check my email, and to write essays on Microsoft Word. I still feel as though I only know how to use a small number of computing programs. After recognizing that there are simple things I could do to use my computer in more extensive ways, I gained the desire to learn more about computing.

Once I heard about the Digital Humanities class, I realized that this was my chance to learn more about computing. I decided to enroll in the course because it interested me and I realized that I would gain skills that I could use in my future career. During the first week of class, I recognized that my knowledge of computers had already started to expand. I find it exciting that we are learning how to use programs that I have never heard of before, such as Atom and DigitalBox. The new tricks and shortcuts that we have learned how to use make it easier to interact between several programs on the computer. I look forward to using this new knowledge to become better at using my machine in more ways than I ever thought possible.

My Computing Life

“Lit and Lit Study in the Digital Age” was my top english class that I wanted to take this semester. Coming into this class I knew it would be different, one that would cover topics I have never covered in any other english class. That is the biggest reason I was so intrigued to take this class. Although I am not very good with computers or technology, I wanted to improve my skills. I feel that I am average in being versatile in technology, but every now and then I need to ask other people for help with tasks. Read more

Understanding Technology

Before coming into this course, I never really thought about the connection between humanities and technology. When I thought of humanities, I thought of hard cover books and reading articles that discussed different cultures. I thought of people analyzing the way people lived by using hands on materials and artifacts to due so. When I was introduced to this class, I began to see humanities in a different way. Using digital humanities, instead of normal humanities, makes it easier for people to stay connected. One way people can do this is through social media. People can share ideas back and forth with each other within a matter of seconds. Conversations can occur between people, which would encourage people to share thoughts and gain other’s insights. There is also access to blog posts and online articles that give people more of an insight into what the humanities involves.However, I think that the relationship between computers and humanities can have negative qualities. For instance, using the internet gives anyone the opportunity to post whatever they want and the information that they post can be false or misleading. I think it’s important to make sure that when using the computer or internet to learn about humanities, that it comes from a reliable source. Now looking at the relationship between computers and humanities, I think that it provides people with easier access to information, making it easier to stay connected and learn about those around us.

Coming into this course, I did not really know anything about computing. I have seen people use different networks and apps that allowed for basic computing but I never really experienced using it for myself. In high school, I took a computer class in which we created our own websites. We got to design the layout of our websites and determine what material we wanted to feature. Creating our own website got us familiar with how to navigate the internet, as well as creating our own web addresses. Besides for the experience with creating my own website in my computer class, before this course I have not been introduced to any other form of computing. Throughout this course I am hoping to increase my knowledge on computing. As an education major, I think that it’s important to have a general understanding of computers and how to use them. With the advances in technology, it is likely that the students in my class someday will use computers, therefore I hope to have enough knowledge about computers so that I can support them.

When I first came into this class, my relationship with my computer was very minimal. I used very few apps on my computer, mostly just Chrome, Spotify, Safari, and Microsoft Word. I mostly used my computer for school work and when I wasn’t using it for school work I was using it to watch Netflix or online shop. I very rarely explored the different features of my computer and would only stick to using the basic features. Now being a few weeks into this course, I have begun to explore the different features my computer offers. I like being able to use different apps and networks, such as Slack and Virtual Box. I never knew that these networks existed, therefore it is exciting to explore something new. I hope that through this course I am able to expand my knowledge on computers and be able to use my computer in ways that I have not been able to before.

Knowing but not Understanding

On the first day of class when we were asked about the relationship between the humanities and the digital age/computers I thought that the relationship was one that was growing with the advancement of technology and the way in which we consume information. I found the connection of the humanities and computers to be a concept that I had never once thought in depth about. This I found to be especially interesting because the humanities is being changed because of the growing prevalence of technology. As a digitally based society we are in constant exposure to information and the way in which we receive information is different now than it was 50 years ago. When coming into the course however I never truly had to think about and connect the two subjects of humanities and computers together, they were always two separate entities addressed separately in my previous courses. When exploring the humanities I have always focused on texts and related that to the subject instead of focusing on the more broad definition of the humanities in which were brought to my attention on the first day. The only thing that can possibly connect the humanities and the digital age that I have participated in is the finding of primary sources using the Milne library databases. These archival databases act as a sort of digital library full of information and texts that pertain to the humanities.

My knowledge of computing that I brought with me into this course pertains to my love for video games. I from a young age loved computer games, I would sit at our family computer for hours as a child playing games. This is a hobby that could classify myself as a “nerd” in modern society but I had always found the computer and the internet to be fascinating. I had many games as a child that I would modify or “hack” if you will by downloading files and moving them to a folder in the games hard-drive called “mods”. I would do this “modding”  for a game called The Sims (yes I know, nerdy), where I would download custom content online and they would show up in the game after I had downloaded them and put them into the games hard-drive. This knowledge has helped me a great deal in knowing the inner workings of games, especially on a computer. I have always been the person in my family who was able to solve “tech” issues, if someone has a problem I am usually able to solve it, (unless it is an issue pertaining to the Mac computer in which my skills would be rendered useless).

If I am given a task pertaining to my computer I am generally able to solve it however, I find a lot of the time especially in this class I am doing something, and understanding how to complete the steps and get to the end result, but at the same time I have absolutely no idea what I am actually doing. When I would download custom content and drag it into the mods folder I understood that by putting these files into the modifications folder in the games hard-drive I was then putting these files into the game where they would show up. However, in class where we are downloading various programs such as the virtual box I am able to follow the steps and get the end result that I am supposed to I just don’t truly understand what it is I am doing. This class is in turn helping me develop more of an understanding of my computer and what it is capable of. My relationship to my computer coming into the course was one of simplicity. I would use my computer for gaming, YouTube, course work and simply to surf the web. A computer can be compared to the human brain, it is speculated that humans are only using a small percentage of their brain when we are capable of using much more, it is the same with a computer. Humans are only using a certain percentage of their computer when it is capable of doing so much more. I feel as if this course will help me to see just how much my computer is capable of and how I can use it in ways that I have not previously thought of. At the beginning of this course I thought I was very familiar with my computer and how to use it and at this point in the course I am finding that assumption to be incorrect.

On Voyant

After having read Walden and used voyant tools I have developed a greater appreciation for Thoreau and his devotion to living life deliberately. There is no better way to visualize this than through the trends tool on voyant. If one looks closely at the trends tool one would see that the most popular word other than “like” is “man”, shortly followed by “life”. The word that peaked my interest was “pond”, because if “man” was everything that signified civilization, then pond was everything that signified life in the woods. There are a few interesting connections I would like to make between the words man, life and pond. The first observation being that in the beginning of the book man and life are closely connected while pond is hardly ever mentioned. This tells me that at the very beginning the idea of being a man, and being part of civilization defined what it meant to live, and the fact that pond was low mean that Thoreau had yet to learn how to live deliberately. As the book progresses three major things begin to happen. The first thing is that the ideal of manhood takes a giant plummet and loses importance. While man began to plummet, pond began to rise in importance. And finally, throughout the book life remained moderately low in importance. From this I was able to deduce the following: as Thoreau struggled to find his place between civilization and life in the woods, “man” and “pond”, the purpose of life became more and more ambiguous and thus lost importance. What is even more interesting was that a general trend in the book was that the importance of man and pond had an inverse relationship. When man was at its highest, pond was at its lowest, and vice versa. I interpreted this as Thoreau’s struggle to find a happy medium between living life in the woods and everything that he used to know. And lastly, the resolution to all of Thoreau’s struggles can be seen in the end of the trend chart, where one can see the union between life, man and pond. And I think that this is the best visual representation of living life deliberately and in the woods. By the end of the book there is only a 7 point difference between pond, life and man, where in the beginning there is a 44 point difference. In the end Thoreau was able to successfully live life in the woods and accomplish hat he set out to do. I believe voyant tools played a major role in better understanding the significance of Walden.