January 3, 2012

002:365 by daggerquill
002:365, a photo by daggerquill on Flickr.

Day 2



January 3, 2012

001:366 by daggerquill
001:366, a photo by daggerquill on Flickr.

Since I’m not using this space for anything else in in particular at the moment, I’m rolling it only my 365 project. And, who knows? maybe it will get me blogging about other things, again, too.First up: Tara ringin in the new year with her nephew.

Finally getting ready to put this baby to bed. Ironically–or appropriately, depending on your point of view–I ended up completely missing the events around this years Day of Digital Humanities to get the final draft out to readers for review. I post it here on the off chance that someone else might be interested (hi mom!).

“Technography and the Soiciology of Texts: Reading Phenomena in the Digital Humanities” [PDF]


This dissertation explores the intersection between digital and material cultures in electronic texts through the critical lenses of textual criticism and book history. Taking cues from D. F. Mackenzie’s “sociology of texts” and Matthew Kirschenbaum’s “forensic imagination,” I propose the idea of “technography:” roughly, the bibliography of electronic texts. Successful critical discourse relies on an understanding of textual conditions, but electronic texts have situations and histories very different from those of printed matter and manuscripts. Therefore, I suggest a collection of general methods and techniques that enable discussion of electronic texts as such by examining embedded textual features that enable or prohibit investigations of the creation, transmission, reception, and transformation of electronic texts—an analytic technography and histoire du fichier to complement analytic bibliography and histoire du livre. I focus specifically on two areas. The first is examining electronic transmission and reproduction techniques and technologies in the context of contemporary theories of book history and textual criticism that stress the interpretive importance of physical bibliographic features such as typography. The second is the possibility of constructing historical bibliographies of electronic texts. Taken together these two subjects addressed by technography give a good indication of the implications of electronic texts for textual criticism, critical practice, and scholarly editing. To illustrate this technography I explore several electronic texts, through different textual-critical lenses. I compare the print and electronic versions of N. Katherine Hayles’s Writing Machines, a book published simultaneous in print and electronic formats. I examine the impact of technical decisions on editorial policy and production in scholarly archives, specifically The Rossetti Archive and The Walt Whitman Archive. I review the implications of crowdsourcing textual production and the possibilities for historical bibliography in crowdsourced texts such as Wikipedia and the text produced by the Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders. Ultimately I conclude that technographic evidence indicates a radical re-envisioning of the role of the publisher in relation to electronic texts. Where the reader (or “user”) has significant control over the presentation of the text, the ability of text producers to mediate meaning through the physical form of a particular textual artifact is greatly diminished.

Moving On

March 30, 2010

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to do with the space, and what this site would look like in its next incarnation. And the answer is: it’s time to move on. Partly this stems from guilt over my own sense of what the web should look like–I grabbed the engatiki.org domain years a go for a project that never panned out, and simply hosting an underutilized personal blog doesn’t mesh with my idea of what .orgs are for–and partly from the realization that I don’t do enough with this space to make self-host worthwhile anymore, and I might blog more if someone else were doing the dirty work.

So I’ve exported everything here to engatiki.wordpress.com, and I’ll be picking up from there. We’ll see how it goes.


Time Management Software provided by RescueTime

Savage’s Theorem

April 14, 2008

I don’t remember where or when, now, but but a few years ago I came across a piece of advice from a respected security expert that ran something like this: “If you treat your users like criminals, they will invariably prove you right.” Even though I don’t remember who said it or where (I think it may have been an article somewhere by Rob Fickenger), it’s stuck with me, because there are a several important ideas packed into it.

The first has to do with administrator mindset: The network exists for the users, and you should be protecting it for them, not from them. If your users are in your threat model, the problem is probably you, not them (of course, we’re talking about sysadmins, not webmasters of public sites, here). If you’re suspicious and go looking for trouble, though, you’ll probably find it. We’ve all worked with admins like that–and at some point, some of us have probably fallen into the trap of being admins like that–so most of us can recognize why that attitude isn’t productive.

The second idea is potentially transformative: policy and attitude influence user behaviors as much as they respond to them. Part of it has to do with the path of least resistance. If the policy makes it difficult for regular users to do their jobs because of fear that some users will abuse their privileges, then even normal users will start looking for ways to circumvent the system. This is why the RIAA approach to copyright fails so miserably. But part of it also has to do with fostering an general spirit of trust, and with the way technocultural knowledge is disseminated. Users look to policy to establish norms. If the policy implies that most users are devious hackers attempting to subvert the system to their own uses, then that is what users will assume they should be. If, on the other hand, the cues point toward a norm of responsible use, the majority of users will pick on that, too.

This is why CYA is a horrible guiding principle for any organization, and why one of the worst things policy makers can do is write policy for corner cases. There will always be bad apples, but write the policy for the general case–for how to use the system, not for how not to use the system–and deal with the exceptions as exceptions.

This insight, of course, has a much wider application than computing systems. It applies in almost any social setting. It is closely related, for instance, to the problems we see throughout the academy with “helicopter parents” and the resurrection of in loco parentis on campus: if you treat students like they’re not adults, they’ll never start to act like adults.

We talk about people “rising to the challenge,” but we never stop to realize that the reverse is also true. Thus, Savage’s Theorem:

People will generally meet your expectations of them.

Originally uploaded by daggerquill

I just finished organizing the photos from the San Salvador trip, and that seems as good an excuse as any to finally talk a little bit bit about the conference itself. The problem, of course, is that I really don’t have a lot to say about it, mostly because I spent the bulk of the weekend completely out of my depth.

I was expecting it to be heavily focused on professional development, best practices, and other practical aspects of distance learning, and that turned out not to be the case. Instead, it was really three conferences in one, all focused on how to leverage communication infrastructures to to improve the quality of life and education for students throughout the Americas. The discussion centered on things like the development of an international course on Central American poverty, opportunities for student and faculty exchange, and delivering education to remote an impoverished communities using radio and television. One session featured a coordinator from Australian Catholic university making a plea for faculty from the Americas to get involved with delivering a certificate in business to students in Burmese refugee camps in Thailand. The Friday afternoon schedule was essentially scrapped in favor of extending that discussion about organizing a social network to foster coordination of Social Justice initiatives among the organizations represented, and the Jesuit community at large. The entire conference left me dumbfounded, in a good way. It was a far cry from the discussions of Blackboard administration tricks and other shop talk I was expecting, and it really would have taken longer than the few days we had to wrap my head around it.

Attending the conference, though, was a tremendous experience. I met some amazing people who I won’t soon forget, and with whom I hope to work more closely in the future. Simply being around so many people actively dedicated to making the world a better place was inspiring and, I’d like to hope, motivating. And in the end, there were some good practical pedagogy chats, too.

(*The picture is from dinner the last night. It is the second half of a ham and cheese sandwich that came out of the kitchen as an unexpectedly battered, deep fried, and absolutely massive ham and cheese sandwich. In the hands of two of my fellow conference goers, it became first a piece of dorm furniture, then a volcano–that’s cole slaw spewing out the top–and then, with the addition of some strategically-placed sugar, a ski slope, and left be literally laughing so hard I was in tears. That so much was accomplished with so little material is, I think, a fitting metaphor for the entire weekend.)