Thursday, April 24, 2008

Last class!

I recall a colleague of mine saying, not long after I started teaching at Emory, that the best thing about semesters is that they end. At the time, I may have thought that was a little cynical. But now I think I understand him better. I take genuine pleasure in the ending of a class. There is something deeply rewarding about participating in something that has a definitive conclusion; of course, its the same pleasure that narrative affords in novels and films. As you all know from narratology 101, that pleasure has to do with the fact that our real lives do not have the kind of definitive conclusions that short stories and survey courses do. (And as you know from narratology 102, the ending is never really an ending, but still.)

Anyhow, I'm pleased to have finished teaching for the semester today, and looking forward to the season of endings and beginnings.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Prof. Bauerlein's pans

If you were thinking of getting Mark Bauerlein that Quentin Tarantino boxed set for his birthday, think again. See his list of bad films that academics (mistakenly) like.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The coming crackdown on e-reserves

According to the AJC, Cambridge UP, Oxford UP, and SAGE have joined together to sue Georgia State for making copyrighted material for download. It's a short article, but it sounds like the contention is that the publishers claim the university was exceeding fair use in the amount of material it made available via something like e-reserves. (If the Ga. State system is different from ours, I'd be curious to know it, since that could make a difference.

It will be interesting to learn more about the particulars of the suit, and also see how vigorously the University defends its practices (if at all). In my opinion, the trend has been for universities to crumple at the sight of lawyers instead of vigorously defending their practices as falling under the fair use doctrine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Research, the easy way

Speaking of projects that have implications for the way we write, this article in the NYT yesterday really threw me for a loop. Philip M. Parker, a management professor, has "written" over 200,000 books using computers to compile information publicly available online. Why waste our time laboring over a monograph when a computer could do the research for us?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Insert clever reference to Hogwarts here

I am wondering if this case about a Harry Potter encyclopedia could have ramifications for other works of literary scholarship, particularly "companions" to other books/authors.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A little precision...

If there were any justice in the world, or if the world were just, you know, more fun, the academic blogosphere would be more like the London Underground in the mid-1960s and people would be filling random comment boxes with the anonymous tagline, "The Little Professor Is God." (If you don't get that reference, don't worry, the important part is next.)

Unlike, well, just about everyone who has been puffing up over Wm. Deresiewicz's recent piece on the decline of English majors, The Little Professor (aka Prof. Miriam Burstein) actually went in search of some data. She doesn't comb through it all, and in fact she notes that some data that she would like doesn't seem to be easily available. In particular, she would like to see what kinds of institutions are producing English majors, and in what number. However, she does identify something crucial: The raw number of English majors is actually on the rise. It's the percentage of college graduates majoring in English (or the market share) that's on the decline.

She does link to more data than I've seen any of the other Deresiewicz posts do. Anyhow, read it here. This reminds me of the wonderful posts that she wrote collecting data in response to the "Vanishing Shakespeare" report.

Think Inside the Bubbl

If you have not yet seen this interesting little tool, take a minute to check out, a free, online, flash-based idea-mapping application. The "Features" page does an excellent job of using bubbl itself to explain the basics of the bubbl interface, which is both minimalistic and intuitive. As with most technologies, however, it's best to jump right in and start playing around, which thankfully you can do without having to create an account first.

Bubbl may seem at first glance to be yet another instance of technology making a simple pen-and-paper process exponentially more complicated. But account creation allows you not only to save, print, link to, export, and embed your maps, but also to share and collaborate on them with other bubbl users, who may be given either read-only or full access. Unfortunately, the map is "locked" while one user is editing it, so users cannot collaborate in real-time, a restriction similarly imposed by most wiki platforms.

I can see bubbl having a variety of pedagogical uses, both individually and collaboratively, both inside and outside the classroom. From teaching brainstorming in composition courses, to having students collaboratively trace the genealogy of the novel, to providing a graphic representation of intertexuality or patronage networks to accompany a lecture or in-class discussion, potential mapplications of bubbl abound.

P.S. According to their blog, the administrators of bubbl are working on adding features and modifying the user interface prior to a beta release in the next couple of months.

P.S.S. You may also want to look at Mindomo and Mindmeister, two other mind-mapping apps.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Mourning our loss

I'm trying to think of an event that could have more terrible implications for the graduate program than the sudden, unpredicted closing of Inman Perk.

I've been in denial about this all week, and am now moving to the other stages of grief.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NEH goes digital

Inside Higher Ed has a good article on the creation of a new NEH Office of Digital Humanities and the history of digital humanities projects. Here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pandora for Books?

So I'm prowling the Web 2.0-verse today in connection with ECIT, and I just came across Booklamp. It is project that, since 2003, has been scanning books and developing software that allows them to determine plot, pacing, characterization, and more of individual books. Apparently the project began existed, but the developers have now decided that describing their works as "Pandora for books" is an easy way to describe it for others. Another good summary article can be found here.

So what can you do with the tool? Well, eventually you could use it to find books that have a similar plot structure to one that you already like, but that, perhaps, are paced a little quicker. Because the system is based on their algorithms, it is supposedly impervious to advertising, instead delivering information only about the literature.

Booklamp is now trying to figure out what they should do with their technology, but I think it raises interesting questions for our profession. What would we learn from something like Booklamp that we can't learn from concordances? What role should computer-assisted reading play in determine a text's literary quality? Is it possible to outsource art criticism to a machine?

You can watch the video here.