Yesterday, I reached a milestone of sorts: My YouTube channel surpassed the 20,000 view mark. I couldn’t have done it without you (well, I suppose if I had never uploaded the content in the first place, you wouldn’t have had anything to watch, so yay me!). To celebrate this moment of Internet D-list celebrity status, I thought I’d take a moment to remind us of where it all started:
From this past year’s Digital Media And Composition program (DMAC) comes this pair of profiles of our Visiting Scholars for the year (program participants invited to attend based upon their specific research agendas). As the two-week digital media-intensive program was wrapping up, I sat down with Melanie Yergeau (U of Michigan) and Elaine Richardson (OSU) for a brief chat, and here’s what they had to say…
ENG 269: Digital Media Composing
M/W 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
5 credit hours. Fulfills GEC requirement for: Arts and Humanities, Analysis of Texts and Works of Art, Visual/Performing Arts. Meets group elective requirement of professional writing minor. COURSE DESCRIPTION:
Web 2.0. The Cloud. Social Networking. Twitter. Podcasting. Ten years ago, we would have been scratching our heads trying to figure out the meanings of these cryptic terms, but today, they are becoming increasingly commonplace for us. More and more, we have a hand in actively shaping the landscape that creates such terms: the Internet. For this course, we will focus on the issues associated with creating digital media content (in other words, using computers to make meaning by combining words, images, and sound). In addition to examining the formal properties and social implications of digital media texts (the various genres of online discourse and how they circulate through the web), we will also investigate the practical , rhetorical, and ethical dimensions of composing in a digital world. No experience with digital media is required for this course, but during the quarter, you will develop a digital portfolio that includes a variety of larger and smaller projects using different combinations of images, audio, and animation. Texts TBD.
I’m by no means a Twitter power-user, nor am I a neophyte, falling somewhere comfortably in between. My tools of choice include Twitterfox and I also tweet via SMS from my phone… My Facebook status updates are tied to my Twitter account, and I’ve been known to play Spymaster a time or two. I know what @ and # are used for. On the other hand, I don’t use Tweetdeck, I’m a bad twitizen when it comes to things like “Follow Fridays,” and I only occasionally send out a retweet.
But I’m fascinated by the “twipping point” (okay, I’ll stop that right now, I promise) the Twitter app has reached really just this past year, marked by moments such as CNN vs. Ashton Kutcher in the race to garner a million followers, the Mars Rover Tweet stream, and the deluge of Washington politicians, Blackberries at the ready, tapping out their sometimes ill-formed (and ill-advised) thoughts about their political opponents or questionable legislation. Certainly, this has trickled into the artistic world as well, sometimes as farce (see the Twitter stream of Homer’s Odyssey or Joyce’s Ulysses), sometimes as a legitimate experiment with artistic form and narrative (see, for example, Brent Spiner’s noirish microblogging). Short-form writing seems well suited for this stage of the web–interconnected social networks, interconnected devices (many of which place limits on the amount of text you can/want to input), divided attention spans…
Which brings me to my point about Twitter in scholarly contexts. Already I’ve seen expected and *useful* applications of Twitter, such as real-time updates and session notes by conference attendees, buzz-building around interesting articles in a newly released journal, and even as a synchronous communication option for in-class discussion. These are all well and good, but I wonder if Twitter has the capacity to become something more for scholarship. As with the literary examples alluded to above, I wonder if, for example, one might create a one-off Twitter stream that has the heft and weight of, say, a journal article or book chapter. Aphoristic writing, for anyone familiar with the work of Wittgenstein or Neitzsche, is an already recognized form of intellectual expression (if, admittedly, a bit dated). Mix in some Twitter multimedia capabilities like Twitpic, and you have added value that makes it potentially “more than” its print counterpart. A possible metric of how well received such a piece is might be the account’s number of followers in addition to traditional quality markers such as citations. Such projects might eventually get re-worked and remediated into print, since it’s still very much the medium of choice in academic circles (see here for yet another analogue).
Of course, we may be confusing a “tipping point” with a peak, and this whole trend of microblogging may go the way of the Pet Rock or Limp Bizkit: noise overtakes signal, and everyone packs up and goes home.
…but “toot! toot!” Hot off the University of Michigan presses is the edited collection Wiki Writing:Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom, edited by Matt Barton and Robert Cummings. Yours truly has a chapter buried somewhere in there, titled “GlossaTechnologia: Anatomy of a Wiki-Based Annotated Bibliography” (more on that cryptic title soon, so stay tuned). I should add that the book is out on the Michigan’s digitalculturebooks imprint, so check that space periodically for updated content related to the collection in the very near future.
So I’m a sucker for all these new data visualization trends emerging on the Web of late (in fact, those who know me in meatspace probably want me to shut up talking about it by now)—I think they offer us the potential to reimagine how data (including language, of course) actually functions in our crazy networked world, and they’re pretty cool looking to boot. Here are a few pieces of eye candy that have been on my radar recently:
Viewzi (meta-search engine offering several different visual mash-ups of search term results)
Visualization Lab (NYTimes and IBM team up for this sandbox where users can generate their own reps based on an available database of census data, speech transcripts, etc.)
Windowshop (Amazon’s slick new interface lets you navigate through a space of quick-loading media “tiles” representing new music, movies, games, books, and other digital goodness)
Image Credit: naesyllek, via flickr (CC-licensed: by-nc-nd).
…And thanks to everyone for their well wishes and congratulations—we had a wonderful time, and I hope those in attendance did as well. But that is not the express point of this post, dear readers. To take a bit of a tangent, I was amused to see the extent to which the event was digitally “lifestreamed” in various ways. Let me count some of them:
Real-time facebook photo uploads!
Tweets! and more Tweets!
Several iPhones present, snapping away all the while!
A digital photobooth, complete with feather boa!
A Flip Mini video camera, passed around the crowd!
Various and sundry other digital cameras, of both the still and moving-picture varieties!
Of course, the event itself had a very old-world, low-tech aesthetic: the reception was in a rustic barn, the ceremony was held outdoors, and we hired a bluegrass band (Faces Made for Radio). The incongruity tickles me, is all. Apparently, we and our geeked-out guests are inextricably linked to our gadgets, and in this case, I think it has really enhanced the experience. Way to go, technology…
So over the past few weeks, I’ve really gotten into Google Reader, the web-based RSS feed aggregator. In the past, I’ve tried Slashdock, Yahoo’s portal page, and similar products, but none of those hit the spot in quite the same way as Google has. For those of you who’d like a glimpse into my predilections, with the occasional pithy commentary, feel free to follow my shared feed, where you’ll be privy to all sorts of fantastical posts on matters ranging from zombies, robots, and hacking to intellectual property, digital media, and 8-bit retro-gaming. And so much more. Also, note the link in my blogroll for those times you’re wanting a Bubbling Cauldron fix, only I can’t be bothered to update it. Cuz yeah, I’ve been busy.
The Semantic Web just got one step closer with Mozilla Labs latest project, Ubiquity. If you’re a fan of contextual keyboard-based apps like Quicksilver or Growl, this will make sense to you. If not, take a look anyway. It’s like glimpsing the future.
The computer interface experience of the not-too-distant future? Mozilla and Adaptive Path join forces for this proof-of-concept video featuring Aurora, what they describe as “one possible future user experience for the Web.” And as an added bonus, the video has a touch of drama scripted into it: two rival farmers arguing about rainfall data and subsequent crop yields (it gets pretty nasty boring).
(Sidenote: I’ve really been digging Vimeo lately—their site design is clean, load times are quick, and video quality is pretty good. Watch your back, YouTube.)