Note to readers

This is a blog that I'm required to keep that's full of unedited, near stream-of-consciousness reactions to similarly required and related readings in a graduate course in N.C. State University's Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. The way these posts are written help me interrogate and understand what's going on in our readings. I'm identifying what's troublesome so that I can give it more thought, but the posts aren't written in a style that's productive for audiences outside of our class to read. That's by design. I start with contestation, then spend heavens only knows how long researching, recutting, and reevaluating so that I can try and see what potentially productive readings I can extract from these source for use in my own work's contributions back to the field. Comments encouraged, but please, you'll likely need a thick skin if your work is quoted here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One advantage scholars of [historical] literature [versus literature from sources that are still producing, ie, from authors that are still alive] have over some of their brethren in the social sciences is the luxury of finitude. One might want to transcribe all of an author's journals, or find all of the extant printings of a particular version of a book or pamphlet. The goal is to track down every artifact that remains about a work or author, catalog it, and then contextualize.

Contextualization has a tendency to be "reduce" finitude through its critical fads. Most any time someone from the continent has an epiphany -- my line runs me from Spinoza through Emerson and Nietzsche, up through Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, et friends, just to name the seismic shifts; the larger fads are more obvious, like moves gender and identity studies, labels for new periods (are we post-post-non-modern yet?) -- everyone scrambles to wring every last bit of nuance from using that new epiphany as a filter for approaching what was seemingly becoming more and more fini.

Even so, the fads don't make the fields less exhaustible, ironically enough. Instead, aside from situational shifts in the canon, literature largely stays literature. It would be impossible to talk about the American intellectual without going through Boston and Concord, even if one was just to say that there is too much emphasis wasted by scholars on New England thinkers and thought. And there's still plenty to say about reader response that won't be said solely b/c reader response is passe. For now.

For all the turns, the study is fixed. There is a flexible canon.

Elsewhere, I'm finding an increasing number of scholars scrambling after research, and research whose worth is measured by the bottom line. I get the feeling (though not having experienced the period from behind the curtain, I wouldn't know) that the distance between academic work for learning's sake and the financial forces that make the first possible has quickly grown much smaller. Before, research was useful to the commercial sector not because of intent, but because enough squirrels, acting as if they were functionally blind from business' perspective, eventually dug up something interesting enough for business to appropriate. Now, research often isn't funded unless its proposal includes ideas that explicitly talks about how that work will be useful, with "monetarily" only slightly under erasure.

A symptom: Inside of an institute of higher learning being able to make an aggregate case for its usefulness and then having a similarly aggregated bucket of resources (read: dollars) from its benefactor (read: state governments), individual researchers are being told to make the same argument at the micro level. "Find external funds to supplement our primary funding sources." When you aggregate, you can hide. The office of maize production is going to find out something that'll help agriculture, and can be used to argue for the funding of the institution as a whole. An individual researcher asking for money for their specific project cannot as easily or completely hide their personal political biases, even if those amount to no more than "learning for learning's sake." This also seems to make students a secondary priority, not so much because they come after research in the professors' minds (which is expected in a research institution), but because it becomes less about exposing students to great thinkers than proving the worth (and thereby receiving the funding for) of the exposure that they do get. Less about privilege, more about finding mules for money.

This is one of the reasons I particularly enjoy studying fossils like long dead authors. There's enough momentum attached to the worth of these studies, a place where it was and, to a degree, still is accepted to learn for learning's sake, that they can continue to provide something of an alternative to the sorts of zero blind capitalistic influences that have permeated so many other areas of the public university.

(Though that said, I wonder if the folks learning strings at Cambridge and Oxford in the 16th and 17th centuries were just mules to pay for the "research" of those instructors, too. The more things change, perhaps? At least then the -- at worst -- dupes were students, not the taxpayers and, now, professors themselves.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Yahoo kills 90s era amatuer websites.

Don't Wait
Please be aware that after October 26, your GeoCities files will be deleted from our servers, and will not be recoverable. If you'd like to save your files, you must download them now or move to Yahoo! Web Hosting. If you need assistance, please visit the help center.

That's from an email I got in my mailbox this morning. This is actually a pretty big deal. It's as if thousands of self-published books were not only going out of print, but being erased from the face of the earth, 1984 style. Many of these pages are likely linked to email addresses that haven't been good for years, some forgotten by their original creators. They sometimes have great mid-90s style web design, with animated gifs, unnecessary use of the <blink> and <center> tags, and background images that make the text of the page nearly impossible to read. has some 36k+ archived, but there are safely many more pages than that at GeoCities.

How does one archive GeoCities?

The worst part is that, in a world where Gmail gives everyone more than seven gigabytes of storage, that Yahoo can't pony up for these relatively incredibly small sites. They're asking $4.99 for the first year of their hosting service as an intro offer, so they're simply monetizing what accounts are still active. Why not simply freeze all the sites and keep hosting until the original owner says otherwise?

I realize much of what's up is likely trash, maybe even serving up viruses years out of date, but I can't help but feel the long-term benefit of finding research materials for Tom Swift scholars, as a nearly random example of my recent googling, outweighs the benefit of getting rid of some virtual space garbage.


Guess I should add this is not without precedent. AOL closed down its hosting not so long ago as well. Is the best way to measure the birth of Web 2.x that 1.x is being wiped?

Dear AOL Hometown user,

We're sorry to inform you that as of Oct. 31, 2008, AOL® Hometown was shut down permanently. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

leet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

leet - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"After the meaning of these became widely familiar, 10100111001 came to be used in its place, because it is the binary form of 1337, making it more of a puzzle to interpret.[9]"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Identity politics meets the web

From an email describing recent changes to Google's AdSense:

Interest-based advertising will allow advertisers to show ads based on a user's previous interactions with them, such as visits to advertiser website and also to reach users based on their interests (e.g. "sports enthusiast"). To develop interest categories, we will recognize the types of web pages users visit throughout the Google content network. As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we will add them to the "sports enthusiast" interest category. To learn more about your associated account settings, please visit the AdSense Help Center at

So many have noted that the net seems to provide a place for people to exist without the conventional/legacy baggage of race, gender, size, and other appearance-based stereotypes and prejudices. It appears that now, if you keep cookies and don't surf privately, Google has seem fit to start creating and applying its own labels for you based on behavior. It's the ADHD of eAdverts.

I wonder if Google would ever sell your labels to another corporation?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Streaming radio, interface, and choice

I like to listen to talk radio. I admit it. Mostly sports. There's a pretty big difference between the way I listen to radio in the car and the way I listen inside. In the car, I'm a dedicated flipper. If I've got commercials on ESPN, I go to Fox Sports Radio, and vice versa. They stagger just enough that I can, sort of like late night talk shows on TV, end up listening to very few commercials at all.

At home, I don't flip the radio. Two reasons for this, I think. For one, our local sports affiliates are on AM, and it takes a while to get the antenna straight each time I swap. It's also because our radios have tuning dials inside, and it's not a one-button thing. If I had a Boston Acoustics radio with presets instead of a Tivoli and a Wal-Mart special, maybe I'd play around more.

Yet much of the radio I listen to at home is off of the 'net. We have an old iMac now sitting in the living room when I'm at home with great speakers, and often I use it to listen. The interface for streaming sports talk radio is tied directly to a single network. To swap from one to another involves navigating to another web page and running through a click or three. This is a much greater barrier to entry.

I'd like to conceive of this as a change in ownership with respect to end interfaces. I own the radio, and though my Tivoli has the geekiest of NPR badges on it, there's nothing about the innards (hardware and, here nonexistent, software) that's biased to a particular provider beyond that relatively passive badge (it was a gift, I swear!). With streaming radio, the provider owns the software, at least to a point. They might employ Flash for RealPlayer or Quicktime, but the interface is not reusable.

The web streaming audio is like cable, but cable that only provides one feed. It's designed to reduce choice, which I'd argue is partially evidenced by all the gaudy ads you'll often find on the player window. They know you can't leave. (And that's a lot of money for Haynesworth. Hope this isn't Gilbert all over again.)

I think there's some connection to mobile privatization here, specifically that the means of reception are no longer privatized by the consumer. Digital media seems to enable its own appropriation in a way the old nodes of reception don't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Theorycrafting again

Grey Matter - Twisted Nether Wiki:

Since then the blog has grown to include Moonkin related theorycrafting and general moonkin information to help people to play the spec.

Today's Vocab Word: Theorycrafting

Bogost fans apparently might call this "delineating procedural rhetoric."

Posts from the Guides Category at Massively:

Apparently theorycrafting isn't just for hardcore RPGers anymore. Tipa of the West Karana blog put together an interesting primer on the hidden numbers behind kid-friendly (and adult too - don't be shy) MMO, Wizard101.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Arguing that digital is no longer exceptional but normal

From Gruber at Daring Fireball:

I’ll put it in writing: the best motion picture released last year was WALL-E. Like 2001 — which WALL-E pays significant homage to — it wasn’t even nominated for best picture. But it effectively couldn’t be nominated — and that’s the real crime. Instead, WALL-E was nominated for and awarded the prize for “best animated film”.1

But why does this category even exist? Animated as opposed to what? Photographed? Animation is merely a technique. Cinema is cinema.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Playing RTS for credit

StarCraft 2 The Unofficial Site - StarCraft 2 The Unofficial Site! (via

UC Berkeley students with an interest in real-time strategy games and the competitive gaming landscape are encouraged to participate in this class

Free bookige: Wikipedia: The Missing Manual - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Potentially useful for introducing students to the 'pedia.

Wikipedia: The Missing Manual, released as, of course, a Wiki (in addition to a version as traditional book). Of course the first wiki version in the history is the edited book version, afaict.

Perhaps also useful (this from the book's author's wikipedia user page:

Note: I am offering two free copies of the book to school and university projects that have Wikipedia writing assignments. Please contact me via the 'E-mail this user' link on the left side of this page, or via the email address at my website, above, or by posting a note on my user talk page.

Always thought a Wikipedia editing theme would be a good one for a freshman comp class...