Category Archives: Digital Tools

Roads to Take

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About a month ago we were writing metadata for issues of Aspect magazine. Working with our archivists Rodney and Zach, you were learning how to work with print materials in the archive. One of the interesting challenges for many of you was writing descriptive commentary. We then had a discussion in class about an image on the cover of the November 1971 issue of Aspect.

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Following our conversation I received a letter from Seal Beach, California. The Letter from Roger Camp began by telling me that he had read notes from our discussion posted on our blog “regarding the cover photograph by Roger Camp. I enjoyed reading the comments and wanted to add my own since I took the photograph.” You will remember that I was asking us to distinguish between interpretive comments (about an image that “looked like a moon” to descriptive comments about an illuminated circle. Roger continued, “The woman in the photo was my wife and the ‘moon’ was a hanging lamp in the shape of a ball.”

Roger and I exchanged a couple of letters. In the Second Letter from Roger he shared some of his memories of working with Ed Hogan:

At that time, I used to send out about five photos at a time. They were 5×7 prints and labeled on the back with a title and my name and address. What people don’t realize is that the prints themselves were made to the same high standards as an art print which as a fine art photographer I would be making for exhibitions or gallery sales. I still have a few of those 5×7 prints in my files (in fact three different versions of the hands/light (moon) shot. Magazines at the time rarely returned photos even though I supplied them with SSAE. A couple of years ago I got in touch with the editor of Truck, one of the few journals of the 1970’s that was non university affiliated and was perfect bound printed. He still had drawers of my photos!

He also shared additional information that is useful for our understanding of literary journals in the 1960s and 70s:

Another aspect of literary magazines at the time was what we would now find as primitive means of printing. But they were typical because professionally bound and printed journals were horribly expensive. There was no such thing as color images at the time. To give your students an example. To have a color postcard of an exhibition announcement printed even in the 1980’s was a $1,000 dollars. The same postcard today would be $50-100. Printing costs have declined 90% in the digital age, one of the few things I can think of that has gone down in price! A color image printed in the 1970’s was probably double that.

One of the developments that revolutionized submission to little magazines was Len Fulton’s Directory. I suspect I was one of his earliest subscribers. Prior to that my only resource were the stacks of various University Libraries. I would look at the various magazines on the shelves for ones that might publish my photos. He made it so much easier to submit both photography and later poetry.

This correspondence exemplifies how questions (about the difference between interpretive and descriptive commentary) and a research project (on primary materials in an archive, in this case Ed Hogan’s Aspect magazine) begin to take shape. And the correspondence, and what might follow, affirms a model of open learning and teaching that can make use of the affordances of digital technology to facilitate research into American literary and cultural history.

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There are roads to take when you think of your country, to once again borrow the words of the poet Muriel Rukeyser. After we talked about another cover photos in Aspect Magazine, January 1972 by Roger, a rocking chair, Roger and I kept talking and he sent a note about his earlier comment. “I wanted to make one correction. I substituted Evanston for Charleston, Ill. which is where the abandoned railroad hotel was located.” He also sent along his Photography Web Site.

So where might a student of American studies go next? A quick online search will remind you of the good fortune we have to be living in a world with digital tools and digital archives. For in fact  The Online Archive of California (OAC) will take you to the University of Santa Barbara Special Collections Roger Camp Collection. The metadata includes a descriptive summary and the size of the collection (9 linear feet: 7 boxes, 7 oversize boxes, and 1 map folder) and an abstract:

Correspondence, mainly editors’ letters of acceptance or rejection, to poet and photographer Roger Camp, copies of poems by him, and issues of literary and poetry journals and reviews, usually containing poems or photographs by him. Correspondents include Ansel Adams, Robert Bly, Thom Jones, and Lawrence Willson (UCSB English professor).

The collection includes, more specifically, a collection of forty-eight letters between Camp and UCSB English professor and friend of Camp’s family Lawrence Wilson written between 1968 and 1995. The archive includes notes with advice about writing poetry from Robert Bly; a letter regarding a story by Thom Jones in the New Yorker, short story writing, and possible novel about Vietnam, 1992; a letter from the photographer Ansel Adams admiring a color image (including one postcard with typescript message thanking Camp for the color photo he sent, noting that he usually does not enjoy color prints but does this one, Oct. 24, 1978); and “issues of literary and poetry journals and reviews, usually containing poems or photos of Camp’s, along with typescript copies of poems, and editors’ letters of acceptance or rejection.”

 You can access the Guide to the Roger Camp Collection. But were we to spend time with the materials, we would need to go on a field trip to the library at UC Santa Barbara.

Knowledge – Tech – Identity

“The cleanest expression is that which finds no sphere worthy of itself and makes one”

-Walt Whitman, “Preface” the 1855 Edition of Leaves of Grass

“Instead of critiquing the current system, you have to make a new system that will render the previous system superfluous or irrelevant. So as artists we need to build institutions, we need to be institutional.”

-Pablo Helguera

Allow me to circle back to Nick’s question about Sommer’s reference to the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, who used the terms ‘War of Position’ and “War of Manoeuvre” to describe two different phases in the class struggle. The “War of Manoeuvre” is a phase of open conflict between classes with the outcome determined by direct clashes between revolutionaries and the State. The “War of Position” is an incremental hidden conflict where forces seek to gain influence and power.

It is interesting to think with the war of position metaphor when considering the question of cultural agency and identity in digital networks. Interested? Well, consider this: on Thursday, April 6, at 4:00pm, in Rhodes S203, Dr. Bonnie Stewart, from the University of Prince Edward Island, will present “Digital Identities and Citizenship: Leading in the Open.” Here is a description of the talk, which I hope you will consider attending:

Today, the issue of digital citizenship is paramount to how we think about citizenship generally. How can we teach our students to utilize the web in addressing social and political problems and in creating healthy, responsible communities? How do we get our students to think about who they are when they are online? Who is responsible for teaching our students about web literacy and fact checking?

Stewart’s work investigates the intersections of knowledge, technology, and identity, and what networks mean for institutions. She examines networked scholarship, digital literacies, the tensions between open and closed learning practices, and the changing realities of contemporary higher education. Her research also explores community and issues of equity and influence in digital networks and digital publics, and examines the implications of social media models for learning.

Stewart is a founder and leader of the Antigonish 2.0 movement– a global, networked project on community capacity-building through a lens of citizenship and media literacies to address the current information ecosystem. It’s a global, networked project, working to build an open resource hub and a model for community adaptation…anywhere, anytime. Antigonish2 is based in the adult education tradition of the Antigonish Movement in Maritime Canada. Also see Ragged University and the Babel Working Group for comparable models.

If you are second-guessing your project, there is definitely one lurking here!

The Little Magazine

Among the resources for students of the literary and cultural history of the United States are primary documents. These documents are most often collected in university archives. Increasingly one can find digital archives. As it happens, we will be working together to build out a digital archive for Aspect magazine. As we begin this work, I want to share a few thoughts about resources and methods for students in American and cultural studies.

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For students of poetry and poetics in the United States it does not get any better than The Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo. The Buffalo collection includes first editions, broadsides, reference books, and audio files. The Collection also includes over 9,000 titles of past and current little magazines, literary journals, university reviews, newspapers and other poetry periodicals. These documents provide a finer-grained insight into the formation of literary communities and the intellectual exchanges in print networks, as the Buffalo collection explains:

Throughout the 20th century, “little magazines”—magazines usually noncommercial in nature and often committed to certain literary ideals—have been a primary organ for the dissemination of poetry and for the formation of literary communities across the aesthetic and political spectra. Consequently, they offer a rich and largely unexplored resource for researching the material and social networks in which poetry takes shape as well as the genetic evolution of individual poems.

The practice of democratic culture is alive and well, as anyone studying these materials will tell you. If you are continuing your study of poetry and democracy, for example, you might explore PennSound, an ongoing project, committed to producing new audio recordings and preserving existing audio archives. In fact, there is an audio archive of hundreds of Adrienne Rich’s Readings—available in the public domain as full readings, or by individual poems. For an overview of PennSound—including a discussion of the project’s pedagogical implications —listen to the PennSound podcast #6.

img_1290To learn a bit more about Aspect, read Doug Holder’s Essay on Essay on Aspect Magazine. To think a bit more about the little magazine as a genre, have a look at Steve Evans’s lively 2006 essay The Little Magazine A Hundred Years On: A Reader’s Report. Evans includes a list for further reading if this is a subject that interests you.

Who knew? We are both studying and practicing what we have been calling democratic culture. What is more, your work on Aspect magazine will give you first-hand experience creating an archive that will be available for use be students, teachers, and scholars.

Two Jobs of Work

You have two jobs of work to complete before spring break: curating your blog and working on the Aspect Magazine project.

Curating Your Blog It is imperative that you are working on your writing. The schedule for this work is up to you. But you need to keep in mind that between class on Thursday March 2 and class on Tuesday March 7 we will all be annotating your blog with our thoughts and suggestions.

We have had a late February thaw, and the rivers in New England are at flood stage. Yet a few of you appear to be caught in an eddy. You need to get back out into the flow. Please read the most recent posts, “Linguists and Contenders” and “Feeling Thinking Doing.” These posts are offering some organizing commentary and metacommentary on our intellectual work. We have read a lot of material, and there are stories to tell about those materials. As you go back over your writing, makes notes on what you wrote and how you can now see what you have written differently. You have read a lot. You have been thinking. And we have talked about your writing–in class and in our conferences.

To borrow a formulation from the poet Ezra Pound: You have broken wood. Now it is time for carving.

Your reflection (reading over what you have completed) and shaping, or curating, the writing on your blog will prepare us for 1) reading all the course blogs and annotating them using “Open Space of Democracy” group on Hypothes.is and then 2) participating in a “Blog Charrette” where we will exchange ideas, play with options, and further refine your writing.

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Working on Aspect Magazine On Friday I met with the College Archivist, Rodney Obien, who is looking forward to welcoming you to the Keene State College Archives. On Tuesday Rodney is going to talk about his work as an archivist and talk about cultural work of archives. And he will introduce you to some of the materials in the Social Justice collection. (Remember, class will meet in the Mason Library Archive.)

We will also turn our attention to Aspect Magazine. We will make the paper copies of the journal available for browsing on Tuesday and Thursday. You will also receive a digital copy of two issues of the journal. We will then introduce you to a method of abstracting information from a document in an archive.Using a template I will provide, you will be responsible for creating “metadata” for two issues of the journal. The document you produce for each journal will be published with the digital copy of the journal. Your work will be available for anyone, including graduate students, professors, and independent scholars, doing research in the archive. And you will receive credit as a Contributing Editor on the web site.

Before Tuesday have a look at the Description of the Aspect Magazine project on the Projects Page. Reading the materials on the Aspect Magazine Project site before we meet will give you additional context for your work. In brief, Aspect magazine (1969-1980) was the creation of Edward J. Hogan, of Somerville, Massachusetts. Hogan was a history major at Northeastern University in March of 1969 when he launched a magazine featuring social and political commentary by a small group of university students. Hogan subsequently expanded that magazine to include poetry, fiction, graphic design, and literary news and reviews. Aspect published many writers, poets, and artists that represented the “Boston Scene” of the late 1960s and 1970s.

For Thursday I have assigned some reading that will further your understanding of the intellectual and creative collective of people involved in Aspect, Leora Zeitlin’s compilation of materials in “Remembering Ed Hogan” (1998)

Annotation Inc. (etc.)

Because we will be working with web-based materials this semester and one of the tools we will be using to discuss, collaborate, and organize our thinking about what we are reading is an annotation tool called Hypothes.is. Most of you registered for hypothes.is in class on Tuesday. If you have not, to get started, you need to

  • Create an Account: The Quick Start Guide will guide you through the steps. All you will need is an email address and a user nam
  • Open Hypothes.is and add an extension (if you are using Chrome browser, which is the optimal browser for the application) or make a bookmark
  • Annotate: navigate to web pages and activate the Chrome extension through the icon in the right side of your browser window

You will be annotating as part of the group “Open Space of Democracy.” I have sent you an invitation to the page and the URL will be the space where we can gather documents and annotate them as members of a common group.

Do you have questions about the annotation tool Hypothes.is? The tutorial Annotating with Groups should answer most of your questions.

A quick note on reading and making notes on a text

The activity of reading is a complex process. Making meaning involves the formation of and testing of inferences about the internal relations of the work and about the external relations between the work and the world. And much of the activity of reading remains tacit; that is, we do it for the most part without being conscious of what we are doing.

Reading as a Writer most often involves putting the process of reading to work in writing. The process can include a number of strategies: comprehension (summary), analysis (recognition and use of features of text), interpretation (construction of meaning from a text and recognize ways of reading), and evaluation (identifying and analyzing assumptions and judgments). Consider the following heuristic to help you think about the things you (can) do as a reader of texts:

Summary: a reader formulates a brief restatement that omits concrete details, in the case of a narrative, in order to isolate the significant actions and formal divisions in the work. We summarize a text so that we have a sufficient understanding of the character(s) and action(s) of the work.

e.g. (exempli gratia or for example) here is a schematic summary of Hart Crane’s The Bridge (a seventy-six page poem): The poem begins with an introductory proem and then is divided into eight parts. In the poem, a young man awakens at dawn, gazes out over the harbour and city, and then spends the day wandering in the metropolis, gradually becoming involved in its corruption, and, after agonizing disillusionment and drunkenness—a kind of spiritual descent into Hades—comes, in the final part of the poem, to an apparently illuminating vision of order or transcendence.

Marginalia: the reader is focused on her response to the work—what springs to mind and into body in the course of your reading. Its purpose is to register your feelings and thoughts as you read to examine, deepen and perhaps change them. We respond to texts in the mode of marginalia when we draw on our own emotions, life experience and intellectual competencies

Annotation: the reader brings to the work factual information from an external source. Its purpose is to clarify apparent ambiguities, obscurities and references. We annotate—or at least we should—when a term or reference in the text slows us down, confuses us or presents an interpretive problem

Explication: the reader proceeds word-by-word, phrase-by-phrase, line-by-line, with the intent of describing the work’s formal features—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic and sequential choices of an author. Its purpose is to generate awareness of the formal features of a work so as to be more accountable to how the work is put together.

We explicate to make explicit the immediate indices of our attention—the lexical, grammatical, syntactic choices of an author; we analyze, relying on all the previous modes—marginalia, annotation and explication—to communicate to your reader something interesting and significant about the passage(s) under discussion

Analysis: the reader isolates one or more elements of the work for closer attention. We use analysis to separate the work into parts, or into cause and effect relations, in order to probe different relations, to generate questions, and more fully understand the whole.

Interpretation: the reader sets forth one or more meanings of a work according to a programmatic set of assumptions or ideological beliefs. We interpret in order to make a persuasive case for a meaning of the work.

Create Manage License

Create Your Blog Your blog is a process portfolio in which you will be thinking and writing in this course—a site where you will be sharing your intellectual work with members of the class, and other interested readers. You have created your digital portfolio using the open-source digital content management system (CMS) Word Press (WP). And you have begun the process of designing a space that will make visible your intellectual contributions

In creating a WP blog you are creating a space to gain some control over your digital identity. Using basic digital tools and technologies will allow you to share your ideas in a public space and to consider ways of using the web in meaningful ways

Manage Your Blog The first step in managing your blog is to experiment with digital tools—to take up design questions about organizing and presenting information, to play with the relations between text and image, to cultivate habits or protocols (using categories or tags, or thinking about style) when publishing a post. More broadly, in managing your blog you are exploring the implications of how you represent yourself in a public space—empowering you to move beyond the passive consumption and toward more active production of content in the digital commons

The checklist below will develop your skills (such as adding images and links) and establish habits, or protocols, (such as including categories and tags when you publish a post

  • Clean up your theme delete default pages, links that are not relevant, widgets in sidebars or footers that you are not using; organize the sidebar or footer to make the site easier to navigate, making sure there is a list of “Recent Posts” so that a reader has a table of contents; try a “sticky post” that will welcome readers to your site and will be “above the fold” for visitors of your site;
  • (Re)consider your theme You are welcome to experiment with different themes. Word Press has hundreds of free themes for you to try. Don’t worry: you can try one out and if it does not work you can always switch back to your original or default theme
  • Edit your “About” or “About page: Readers want to know who is writing and you are in control of what a reader will know. Remember that you want to be taken seriously and so what you say (or do not say) will shape a perception of you
  • Add an Image to your About page Consider Justifying image left or right and wrapping text using image editor. If you choose not to use an image of yourself, choose an appropriate image that you would like your readers to associate with you
  • Learn to use images in your posts Use your own. You can use Google Search to poke around on the web and find images that free to use.
  • Add or Modify your Blog Header You don’t have to have a header. And what you can do with a header is in some cases determined by the the theme you have chosen. Still, headers are attractive and can serve to reinforce or echo the blog theme.
  • Add a Links or Blogroll Widget (if you do not already have one) Delete default WP links that do not seem relevant or necessary. Consider context, perhaps adding the College home page (Title of the link should be the name of the College). Link to course web page. As your projects develop later in the course you will likely want to add to the list of links.
  • Consider conventions and style Practice and play with conventions of writing on a blog; consider microstyle, including brief but suggestive post titles, simpler sentences; when writing and curating your prose, find a voice less constrained by formality or informality, perhaps by questioning familiar distinctions between formal and informal distinction, but without going too far toward either pole; consider spaces (as opposed to indentation) to mark paragraph breaks; consider the use of bullets to organize information
  • Revisit and Revise Your First Post: To add a Category, open edit for your first blog post and add a category; Add Tags Go through your first blog post and identify key words and concepts, people, place names. Add no fewer than three Tags to the post
  • Add one or more LinksHighlight text > add a URL > save (or command + K on a Mac). Link to a text (de Tocqueville or another?)

License your Content Add a License to your blog As authors creating and publishing content on the web, you need to think about copyright and the commons, digital communities, collaboration and sharing. Here is what you need to do:

  • Choose a license. I recommend and use the least restrictive license. The 4.0 License  lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon our work, even commercially, as long as users credit us for the original creation. You retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make non-commercial uses of your work. Once you have chosen a license, add a Text Widget to your Blog. I recommend placing the text widget at the bottom of the widget sidebar or in the footer. Paste into the Text Widget Window the following code:

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0;” src=”https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/4.0/88×31.png” /></a><br />This work is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License</a>.

Starting Out

All of the writing you complete in the course will be on a blog (an abbreviation of the phrase “web log”). We will be setting up your blogs during week one of the class. Your blog is a process portfolio–a working space for your reading, thinking and writing. The blog is a tool for making visible your thinking as well, for your peers and anyone else who might be interested. Finally, the blog is a product, a portfolio that I will use to assess your learning in the course.

Setting Up Your Blog Go to WordPress.com. You will be prompted to move through a series of steps:

  • Let’s get started: choose the theme “A List of My Latest Posts.” Choose Twenty Sixteen as a theme. You will have the opportunity to change the theme later
  • choose a domain address: use the following convention (first initial + last name + democracy). If you are planning to use a pseudonym (pen name, nom de plume, or alias) use the first initial and last name of the pseudonym.
  • Select the Free option plan
  • Create your account

Once you have registered the blog, you will be prompted to give the site a title and a tagline (or subtitle). For now consider the course as a context for the title. For example, I might call my site “Thinking and Writing Democracy.” You will have the opportunity to revise your title, and add a tagline or subtitle, as you get further into the course.  If you have a laptop or tablet, please bring it to class on Thursday. We will talk about configuring and personalizing your blog, using the Reader feature to follow each other’s blogs, and answer other Word Press questions.

Write a Professional Bio Compose a 100-200 word description that represents you as a college student.

Once you have created the blog and written your bio, send an e-mail with the blog URL and the bio to Mark at mlong@keene.edu. Please send them no later than noon on Thursday.