This is an archive of june 2002 posts from Jill Walker's blog, jill/txt.
blogs i read
recent updates first
bits of a blog in a thesis?
Could I use blog posts in my thesis? I do use the content and many of the formulations, repurposing bits and pieces from my blog in essays and thesis chapters. But I've always rewritten them, edited and adjusted them to merge with other bits of writing, hiding their origin as notes in a weblog. What if I didn't hide their bloggishness?
I'm reading Annette Markham's Life Online, and she uses her research journal entries directly in the first chapter of the book. I presume she's edited the journal entries, and she's obviously taken out a lot; there isn't an entry for every day here. Though she's left the dates in, she's reordered them rather than leaving them in chronological order, which works well. Some places, she's inserted paragraphs in italics, commenting her own observations and choice of words and expressions.
Reading her journal entries reminds me how important these kinds of notes taken in the course of a research project can be, and how ignored they usually are: almost always reworked into a polished final product, all conclusions and few questions.
If I thought of each post to my blog as something that might become part of my thesis, would I write differently here? If I were to use bits of the blog without disguising them as serious research (accepting them rather than hiding them), I would give emphasis to the process of my research, whereas till now I've been thinking of my thesis as a place where I have to pretend to have all the questions always already answered. Perhaps if I stop pretending, and write the thesis in the way that I blog, I'll be able to write it as mine rather than as what I think people expect it to be.
medlidenhet og melodrama
Defence is over; the second opponent was a lovely vibrant philosopher who was sympathetically and constructively critical about Christine's use of Cavell. I'll post more about the dissertation in my reading notes (it's available at the library), but now I'm going home now to see if my freshly uncovered wooden floor is now beautiful and sanded. (This is the first time I've hired someone to do a job like that for me. It feels quite strange and quite wonderful. I'm utterly relieved not to be sanding the floor myself, I've sanded floors before and it's a horrid job. And I'm so happy that I'll be rid of the evil layers of lino and carpet that were on top of the timber.)
academia as the mob
An alternative view of academia is put forth, quite convincingly, by Tinka:
Reading 'The Biographer's Tale' is almost like reading a 'Create Your Own Adventure!' interactive book - "If you embrace Derrida, turn to page 48. If you reject his theory, turn to page 122". Academia is an intellectual version of the Mob. You try to leave, but somehow you remain within the family.
And yes, I've read The Biographer's Tale too. Gawd.
midway through christine's defence
What a dogmatic opponent Christine got! She accused Christine of not being a feminist (!), told her her language was impenetrable and not just because Norwegian is her second language, but because she uses "because" and "therefore" too much, and of course a dissertation should never ever include such words (!!) (strangely, I found the dissertation refreshingly approachable and readable) and finished off by giving her a ten minute undergrad-level lecture on the difference between the narrator and the author and proclaimed that she could not write that the author attempts to remove the narrator in Constance Ring. Though I personally usually quote the narratologists who reckon there's always a narrator whose different to the author, there are plenty who reckon that there are narratives with no narrator. It's not like Christine's the first to claim that, and the idea that you can't say that is just offensive. Especially since a main point of her dissertation is to argue against the fear of intentionality that's dominated literary theory from the new critics through post structuralism.
Which, of course, is why the professors are terrified of it. The first opponent described the dissertation as ambitious, daring, surprising, a new and unusual perspective... Well may they tremble.
Opponents seem to always be at least fifty. It's an amazing literalisation of Bourdieu.
Today I'm going to Christine Hamm's doctoral defence. In Norway you hand in your dissertation, wait six months or so (rumour has it that the hard sciences only have a six week wait, but it's closer to six months in arts), then two weeks before the defence you're given a topic to hold a 45 minute trial lecture on, which you do the afternoon before the defence. The defence is held in the presence of the dean and all your professors dressed in suits, with flowers on the podium. You "defend" and "explain" your position for twenty minutes, then your two opponents (great name isn't it, talk about a conflict-based academic structure) oppose your position for however long they want, while you defend yourself and even answer any dreaded questions ex auditorio, i.e. from the audience at large. After all this the committee decrees that your dissertation is approved (they wouldn't have flown in international opponents and paid for flowers if it wasn't going to be) and then you have to host a dinner for all your professors, your opponents, your advisor(s), the dean, the head of the department, your family, your colleagues, your friends. A wedding-scale dinner, though these days usually a little cheaper and it's tax-deductable. (Isn't that amazing? They've even thought to make it tax-deductable, since you have to host it) The dean, your advisor(s), your opponents, the head of your department and one or both your parents will all give speeches, as will, quite possibly, a representative of the other PhD students and a childhood friend. It's amazing.
I heard a rumour that in Spain there are twelve professors opposing you. In Australia you simply mail your dissertation in and skip the defence. In Cambridge I assume they have the caps and gowns and all (we don't do that, well, only the dean wears a gown).
Any other quaint customs?
I'd better go, it starts in 7 minutes ;)
Browsing the conference proceedings from Hypertext 2002, the conference my paper was at but I unfortunately wasn't. My university seems to have subscribed to the ACM digital library so I can download the full text of this years conference papers, but not older stuff. Strange. Still, thank you university. I wonder whether regular public libraries subscribe to this kind of stuff? I hope so. But suspect not. I think non-subscribers can see information about each paper (which is quite good, with who they link and who links them and stuff. uh, cite, not link. sorry), but not the full text.
I did a search for papers on Google. Just to see. Now, really, what sort of a title is Interactive Internet Searching? My paper's in there, but is only 95% relevant. How sad. The researchindex.org guys I wrote so enthusiastically about last week gave a paper at the WWW conference a few weeks back on Using web structure for classifying and describing web pages. Ooh, that conference was in Honolulu! So, let's look at the full proceedings. Very specialised, isn't it. "Expert agreement and content based reranking in a meta search environment using Mearf". I suppose it should be specialised at a research conference. Well, I'm downloading Topic-sensitive PageRank, but... But of course, these are all proposals for new cunning search strategies and stuff, they're not really considerations of what kind of cultural impact search engines and links and weblogs and all have. Which is what I would be interested in.
My sincere apologies if none of the above links work because you're not subscribed to the library.
epostpoesi og epostfortelling
The talk I gave last week (or was it the week before?) at Kunstnett's seminar on email has now been repurposed (by yours truly, as requested) as study material for artists and can be read, in Norwegian of course, by interested parties. The photo of the author (um, me) is a little less unfortunate than the original one they had up there.
Mentalpropell is a newish Norwegian site showing digital art, often exploring the relationship between image and word. I'm so pleased to see these kinds of sites in Norway!
P mentalpropell.com kan du oppleve digitalpoetiske prosjekter som har bilder som utgangspunkt. Vi nsker at dette skal bli et mtested for utvende digital poesi - samlet omkring et galleri for digitale prosjekter i sin videste betydning.
who sees and who reads?
One of the major nuances of Genette's narratology was breaking the vague Anglo-American* notion of "point of view" into two distinct functions: focalisation and narration. Simply put, this is the difference between who sees the events and things told about, and who tells the story. They need not be the same person (or entity). Here, for instance: "Daylight dispelled from Emily's mind the glooms of superstition, but not those of apprehension." (Radcliffe, Udolpho) Emily is not the narrator (she's not telling her own story), but she is the focaliser. Sometimes Valancourt (who she of course will marry after 700 pages or so of difficulties, including kidnapping, hauntings and unkind relatives) is a focaliser too:
A tear came to Emily's eye, as Valancourt said this, which he observed; and, anxious to draw her attention from the remembrance that had occassioned it, as well as shocked at his own thoughtlessness, he began to speak on other subjects, expressing his admiration of the chateau, and its prospects. (105)
If I remember correctly (and it's a while since I read it, though leafing through the book I'm longing to reread it in all its earnest sentimentality), the narrator remains external throughout the book and never refers to him/herself as "I".
Anyway, I'm reading about focalisers and thinking about focalisers and wondering whether in games and in digital narratives like Online Caroline, where the reader is positioned as a character in the fictional world, it wouldn't be a good idea to not only ask "who sees" and "who speaks" on behalf of the text but also on behalf of the reader. Could we see the reader as a focaliser? Who sees? Well, the reader, but how? What are the restrictions? In Tombraider focalisation is internal, limited by what Lara Croft can see. Well, sort of, actually we can see her back, and logically she can't see her own back, so what does that mean? In The Sims or SimCity focalisation is external, I can see everything. Or is it that the reader-position is external but focalisation is internal... um, cos I can see the hunger and hygiene levels and so on for each Sim, so is that internal focalisation? And what about Online Caroline - her side of the narration is clear, she's both narrator and focaliser for most of the text. But I'm also a character in the story, and I "narrate" by choosing answers, options, advice and so on. So I'm also a focaliser, no? In The Impermanence Agent, I browse the web through a proxy server and the story is told intermittently in the course of a week, in popup windows that change according to which web pages I visit. So am I the focaliser? How about Surrender Control, where I was sent SMS messages for five days, telling me to sit, to stand, to stare at strangers. Was I the focaliser? A focaliser? How can we nuance the ways we think about readers and recipients to describe these texts?
One obvious conclusion to this confusion is that literary theory doesn't work with games and digital narratives. Or that these texts aren't narrative, so scrap narratology. I don't really care whether or not they're narrative, I think that's a fairly uninteresting question. I think that narratology identifies a lot of general elements of text and discourse, whether or not it's verbal, fictional or literary. Newspaper articles have focalisers and narrators, and it has been argued that images do too. I wonder how and if they work with digital texts?
Maybe this is chapter three.
* Yes, anything Anglo-American is per definition vague when you're a continental European. And Scandinavians count themselves as such, at any rate in literary theory, which is predominantly formalistic and extremely thorough here. At least, that is how I have experienced it, and of course, I have pretty much discarded the field in the last many years, so I'm sure there are other ways of focalising and narrating this story. When I was a young comp. lit. student, we had none of that nonsense about cultural theory, common sense and other American superficiality. My fellow MA student who came home from a year in the States gasping "I've never read, written and thought so much in my life" was easily bracketed as an anomaly. And I remember at the dinner to celebrate our newly-awarded MAs, my comp. lit. advisor toasted me with a "and you've always had a fondness for the Anglo-American". Somehow I don't think that it was meant as a straight-forward compliment.
Turbulent Velvet has an interesting piece over at UFO Breakfast about pseudonymity in early British journalism. Interesting likenesses to blogging and the web - though not that many bloggers use pseudonyms, apart from Turb. V. Or rather, not that many in the clusters I frequent. In a previous post, T. Vel. pointed out that "superheroes also have secret identities, and we like it that way".
Digital Arts and Culture 2003
At last: there will be more Digital Arts and Culture conferences! After skipping a year, the fifth of these conferences will be held in Melbourne, organised by RMIT and chaired by Adrian Miles. The dates are May 19 to 23. The call for papers isn't out yet, but the site and the mailing list are up in readiness.
I have a very soft spot for DAC, because I did most of the practical organisation work for the first one, held right here in Bergen, chaired by Espen Aarseth. It was a wonderful conference: fairly small and so enthusiastic and friendly! Look, the website I made for it's still there; and all the papers are there too. One great thing about the DAC conferences is that there's a balance between researchers and theorists and artists and practitioners. Which is quite rare, really. I'm looking forward to MelbourneDAC immensely :)
how are blogs organised?
I'm at home on dialup so can't have a proper look, but Soluble Fish.TV's streaming videos in a blog looks fascinating.
research on linking
Interesting paper (by Pennock, Lawrence, Giles, Flake, Glover; these guys do lots of link research) on the distribution of links: while lots of sites follow the power law of "rich get richer" (i.e. sites with lots of links to them get more links to them, this is also called preferential attachment and is common in heaps of systems apart from the web), in subcategories of sites that have the same topic the power law doesn't apply: for instance, amonog all university home pages and all newspaper home pages. I'm interested to notice that they use money-related imagery such as rich/poor (see page 3, particularly) - fits in nicely with my idea of links as the currency of the web. In the paper lots of complicated algorithms and simulations are applied to this, but (handily for non-programmers like me) heaps of the paper is in plain, even pleasant-to-read English too and it has some interesting points. I suppose in a way the basic point of the paper is not very surprising:
Intuitively, the two growth components can be viewed as capturing two common behaviors of web page authors: (a) creating links to pages that the author is aware of because they are popular, and (b) creating links to pages that the author is aware of because they are personally interesting or relevant, largely independent of popularity. (page 3)
But it's all framed really well, there are piles of references to related works, lots of good examples, very serious-looking use of mathematical notation, confidence-inspiring reports of simulations to prove it all and it's very relevant to stuff bloggers have been talking about. For instance, should we be worried that tools like Blogdex and Daypop increase the "cohesion" of the blogosphere, making more of us link to the same stuff?
The paper is called "Winners don't take all: Characterizing the competition for links on the web", and has its own website at modelingtheweb.com.
Wow. Researchindex.org is an stunning digital library! I found it half an hour ago and have been amazedly uncovering new stuff there ever since. It indexes scientific papers that are online (only PDF and PS files I think, and possibly only freely available ones) and lists and links to all the citations to and from, co-citations (i.e. papers that cite the same papers as that paper), shows a summary etc - and (!) lets you correct or suggest a summary, rate the paper, see how many other people viewed the paper, comment on the paper etc, etc, etc. It uses autonomous citation indexing, which means that people don't have to do it, somehow the machines work it out. I don't think I've seen half of what this system does, yet. Here, have a look at the page for a paper, and rummage around a bit from there. It's run by Steve Lawrence, who's an Australian migrated to Princeton (as you would, unfortunately) and who's written all these fascinating papers about the web and structure and searches and links and self-organisation (he's one of the co-authors of that paper about a self-organising web and communities stuff), and how papers that are online get cited more, and C. Lee Giles and Kurt Bollacker.
Would we need a separate digital library for papers from the humanities and social sciences? No, surely it would be better if they co-exist.
Us non-computer scientists will have to find tools so we can read gzipped and PS files. And why do they not index html files, I wonder?
licence to link?
Good heavens. NPR have a form you're supposed to fill out to request permission to link to them. Quaint, isn't it? The matter is, of course, amply discussed by bloggers. And Wired has a piece on it, too, with a useful reference to the one court decision on the matter, which (thankfully) unambiguously states that links, even deep-links, are not a breach of copyright. Wired wrote about that too, of course.
disappointment: it's a human!
Amusing take on getting a human answering service rather than a machine from Speedysnail :)
Did you know that
people pay closer attention to peripheral motion onscreen than they do to motion that is visually centered. "The evolutionary significance of this is easy to see," the authors state. "Motion that we aren't directly looking at (motion to our sides) is potentially more harmful than motion that we stare at." (page 225)
What does that mean for web design? (Is it well known among designers?) I suppose it means people will be easily distracted from the main, centered content if something flickers on the outskirts of the screen, but ooh, you could do stuff with that. And it would also mean that visually we're very well-adjusted to moving our eyes between different windows, following different things happening in different places. I doubt you could make that kind of evolutionary argument for textual hypertext (or MTV fragmentation distraction young people today sustained argument shocking lack of), but if this is true, it would mean we've evolved to deal wonderfully with visual montage, wouldn't it?
I found the quote in a brief review of a book I've just ordered on inter-library loan: Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass: The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places. Cambridge University Press, 1996. It's the same book that talks about how people are polite to their computers.
Jeff quotes Kathleen Welsh writing about Isocrates. She argues that Isocrates's written (therefore preserved, I suppose) speeches are misunderstood today because of their orality, which a print culture has not understood:
Todays readers frequently find texts such as this long-winded, repetitious, digressive, and finally, annoying.
The prose is associative, as of course much important prose has been, so for him the kind of logic invited by linearity is not privileged. Isocrates introduces issues, leaves them, returns to them, leaves them again, and cumulatively builds on them, in a manner not unlike the speech genres of a lecture or a sermon. . . .
The reader both ancient and modern will find as well an absorption with the lines that Isocrates writes, lines that are worked over, woven, in ways that are beautiful to decode when one stands away from print-dominant formalism that necessarily mocks this writing.
Jeff's comparison of this to blogging seems spot on. The scepticism Welsh describes people have to Isocrates is so similar to the standard criticism of blogging, which is clearly presented in this comic, for instance. And I think I'm starting to see what Jeff means by blogs being oral (Ong and so on come to mind), which does not necessarily mean that blogs are "conversations".
small pieces in norwegian!
The kids' version of David Weinberger's book about the web and blogs and all is available in Norwegian! That's just gorgeous. Thanks, Jorunn, for translating it! (and for telling me about it!) It's called Vitsen med veven in Norwegian and Jorunn's done a great job. [The English version, What the Web is For, is online too of course, and it's aimed at kids who are around about eleven or a bit younger or older.]
Until this minute, I was unaware of the campaign to make USA-amerikaner the correct Norwegian usage, instead of amerikaner. I guess anyone who can read English or Norwegian can see that the word refers to people from the USA. Not yet governmentally approved.
the grammar of blogs
Jeff Ward comments on Meg Hourihan's recent article on blogs, where she argues that it's not the content that's important but what blogs allow us to do, the structure (disclaimer: I still haven't read her article properly, sorry, so that might be misunderstanding it). Anyway, Jeff is in search of a grammar of blogs, and writes:
Simply put, the structure imposed by the grammatical rules of timestamps, permalinks, etc., results in paratactic information exchange. Each day adds another level of and then. (..) The first generation link blogs are entirely paratactic, compared to the hypotactic, subordinating [dare I say tree-like] nature of first generation personal home pages. Hypotaxis was derived from print literacy. Link blogs are in essence far more oral and conversational.
Parataxis means putting terms next to each other without coordinating or subordinating connections (Webster definition) (so A and B rather A, because B or A if B). But isn't the chronology of and then and of timestamps in blogs an implicit causality? And then means more than just and. The timestamps in blogs could mean (sometimes mean?) "first I thought A, then I considered the matter further, read several other ideas in other blogs, and then I thought B."
Come to think of it I've published about this. Sort of. In my narratological reading of the hypertext fiction classic afternoon, I talk about Genette's concepts of how bits of stories are tied together. He calls connections between events forms of syllepsis, and he reckons they're usually chronological, but can also be geographical or thematical and so on.
What's interesting about blogs, and about what Jeff's writing, is that blogs are chronologically ordered. Quite systematically so; it's a defining quality of the genre. Yet the chronology doesn't drown the separateness of the posts. Is the difference then that blog posts are ordered according to the time of writing but not necessarily according to the time and logic of the story or argument?
I like this snippet by Roland Barthes - you know how he organised many of his books as collections of alphabetically ordered fragments rather than as sustained linear arguments? I think that's not much different from the way blogs are organised by the chance chronology of when a thought was captured (though doubtlessly Barthes edited his books quite deliberately for order, and blogs aren't edited in that sense):
The alphabetical order erases everything, banishes every origin. Perhaps in places, certain fragments seem to follow one another by some affinity, but the important thing is that these little networks not be connected, that they not slide into a single enormous network which would be the structure of the book, its meaning. It is in order to halt, to deflect, to divide this descent of discourse toward a destiny of the subject, that at certain moments the alphabet calls you to order (to disorder) and says: Cut! Resume the story in another way. (in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, page 148)
I think Jeff's on to something important in understanding how blogs work - but I guess I'm not convinced that this makes them oral conversations. Plenty more thinking to be done on these issues, I think.
If you're in Norway or nearby and attached to a university (especially if you're working on a PhD) have a look at this research course and see if you'd like to go: Undisciplining the Academy, with J Hillis Miller, Ina Blom, Thomas Docherty and Ludmilla Jordanova as well as several local scholars. Themes are "the increasing erasure of divisions between disciplines of study, and the problems and challenges of writing an academic thesis in the postmodern age." If you're interested, sign up fast because they need more participants by the end of the month, or it'll have to be cancelled. And that'd be a pity. I've been looking forward to the panel discussions on academic writing and the place of the thesis in a postmodern cyberworld.
Came across a group of would-be authors who've set up a site together where they write about their journeys towards becoming real authors, which of course is done by being published. It's not quite a blog, though it could have been, but they post scraps of news at times ("I sent the manuscript to the publisher! It cost 150 kr in stamps."), extracts from their novels and so on. I'm thinking that a site like that could potentially be a lot more interesting than the novels, once finally published. If published. In Norwegian: Realitywriters.
searching for narratives
In today's mail:
Is this thing working? I'll call you tomorrow.
Do you think this is someone I actually know and have forgotten about, a mistake, or the beginning of an email narrative I've forgotten that I've signed up for? I'm hoping it's the latter, cos I'm already hooked. IT in the subject header probably means the techies but it could mean "it" and be code for something fascinating. And who is Barry? And who does he think I am?
why do you...?
My sister is an excellent musician. Talking with her about practicing and preparing for an audition or a concert I'm realising that so much of what I've learnt since I started my PhD is about performance and trust in myself. The constant performance of blogging has been one of the ways in which I've developed my belief in the worth of my own ideas. Giving talks to people with very varying backgrounds as well as to my collegues has been another.
On my sister's bookshelves (borrowing her flat in Oslo last week I raided the CD collection, the videos and the bookshelves) I found The Inner Game of Music, which emphasises awareness of experience over worrying about technicalities, and I'm reading it, transferring every example to academia: writing, presenting, teaching, reading, learning, blogging. At one point he asks why musicians are musicians. When Annette Markham told me she always talks with her postgrad students why they want to be academics (and she includes herself and her own reasons and flaws in the discussion), I was shocked. I've barely dared ask myself that question; the idea of discussing it with other people terrified me. At the same time the very idea that that the question can be asked feels positively liberating to me. I honestly do have a passion for my field, and I think it would be absurd to be a researcher without that. And I love the reading and (mostly) the writing. The occasions on which I feel others sharing my enthusiasm, or I join in the enthusiasm of others are intoxicating and I can live on them for a long time. There's definitely an evangelistic streak to me at times, and I want to make the world a better place (yes, I know, by increasing our knowledge of digital narratives and blogs? Well, you know, I care about these things). And yes, I'm a bit like my lovely daughter, who told me today that she wants to be famous when she grows up because then everybody will look at her. "First I have to find a dragon that other people can see, then there'll be lots of hard work, and then when I've trained the dragon to dance with me everyone will admire me and think I'm wonderful."
Barry Green asks the question in The Inner Game of Music, too, with a beautiful quote by Schubert that could be transposed to any field:
"People choose music for many reasons," the composer Schumann once remarked: "to become immortal; because the piano happened to be open; because they want to become a millionaire; because of the praise of friends; because they have looked into a pair of beautiful eyes; or for no reason whatsoever."
Why do you love music [research, blogging, whatever]? What was the last time you even asked yourself the question? What part does music play in your life? What is your overall musical goal? Do you intend to make music your profession? To play for your own delight, or that of your friends? Or is it that you glimpsed "a pair of beautiful eyes"? (68-69)
Why do you want to do whatever you do?
whose ideas are they?
To be in academia you're supposed to be original, right? Have your own ideas. We're carefully trained to trash other people's ideas so that we can present our own glorious conclusions. But what if that's not how ideas work? What if ideas grow alongside eachother, simultaneously in different places and in different ways? I've spent years learning that attack is not a good way to argue. Being attacked myself was a major lesson. I've still not found a style of discussion I'm happy with, and I still often fall into the old habits so carefully taught of tearing another writer to pieces to show how wrong they are and how right I am. Most of those attacks stay in the graveyards of my harddrive. Some get published and make me ashamed when I reread them. The ethics of treating other people with dignity whether they're subjects of a research experiment, other bloggers or philosophers seems so right and yet sometimes hard to combine with critical engagement.
Right now I've decided to ride with the flow and enjoy that my ideas are not new, that they are simply expressions of collective forces that arise several places. It's scary letting go of the need to own my ideas. (Do you think it can be done?)
In no more than a couple of years, probably a lot less, conferences will seek out people who write weblogs to broaden the reach of their conferences. (Dave Winer in a fairly lenthy piece on conference blogging and real-time weblogs)
I've blogged conferences a little (NIC 2001 from the "net caf" and the Ethics conference in Trondheim using Tinderbox, posted after the conference) but I'm aching for a computer with wireless so I can go to trendy conferences and blog live... Next year, next year. And the next conference I'm in charge of will indeed have live bloggers.
writing across spaces
I'm much more comfortable blogging than participating in a mailinglist discussion, I've discovered after the last couple of weeks on empyre. Rory Ewins writes coherently about why he prefers writing in his invidual blog to participating in discussions on Metafilter and other busy community blogs. He relates it to identity: in an often volatile open discussion you have to either take a great deal of care (and a lot of words) to present your position fully, or fully enough. Or you lurk, or post one-liners. Rory also mentions that he doesn't like spreading his writing around, he likes to keep it in one place. His own site that he controls. Now, I'm paraphrasing and perhaps creatively misinterpreting a little here, to fit my own ideas, so read his words, he has a nice blog, with a nice title too: Speedysnail. Of course, I came across Rory in a discussion at Blogroots so none of this should be taken as absolute...
grep, grok it?
Heard of grep but never quite groked it? Textism explains how to find and replace words in capitals and how to search for patterns and move them around. Highly recommended. And quite an amusing read, too.
links and power
Links are crucial to the web. That's obvious, has been obvious for years. What's changing is that links are becoming objective items of value. They have become our currency and a means of power. Links are measured and exchanged into a perceived value. Google, blogdex, even bookwatch all count links to sites, items, ideas, notions, memes, and translate the number of links and, sometimes, the worth (or PageRank) of the individual links into numbers that determine a site's visibility. A site that has no links, or no valuable links, is invisible. You can't find it on search engines. It's a site non gratia, it's in exile or perhaps it has never been granted citizenship at all. It forms part of a bad neighbourhood that other sites must be wary of, so say some. Sites that break the linking laws (by link prostitution, or extended link slutting, or by trading on the black market of links, or by counterfeiting links in link farms) are penalised by Google. Their PageRank is set to zero. That exile from the nation of the web is as real as the exile of convicts sent to Van Diemen's Land. The link priesthood guard their rituals and insights jealously, and cults have formed around them, desparately trying to interpret the rhythms of their secret dances.
That's what my short paper for Hypertext 2002 is about: Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. Unfortunately I can't present it myself but Stuart Moulthrop will do an excellent job, I know. I've tucked away the powerpoint presentation (with notes) so you can have a look if you want - and hey, I've even installed comments (and you know I'm so sceptical of them) so you can say what you reckon!
Looks interesting: a mixture between hypertext fiction and online comic: Sixgun (Frank sent the link).
"Metafilter on prozac" is Leuschke's description; another is that it's a place to discuss blogs run by some of the veterans from Pyra (you know, the gang that made Blogger that most-famous tool for blogging): Meg, Matt, etc. That article in the NY times that tried to invent a great rift between the two opposed factions of bloggers (yeah, I know, I didn't realise that bloggers were divided into two teams, either, I think the journalist must have been a wannabe war correspondent) set Blogroots up against "the new, right wing warbloggers". Not sure about that. But anyway, there are some interesting links from it.
my outboard brain
Any comment to Cory Doctorow's piece on blogging (My Blog, My Outboard Brain) from me would simply be a "me too." A lovely, short, succinct explaination of how blogging helps knowledge workers. "It's my personal knowledge management system, annotated and augmented by my readers." Read it and add my signature to it; I second this (or fiftyfourth it because just a few other bloggers have already linked to it actually).
No, I don't have blogger's block, it's just mailing list poster's block. I should should should respond to the posts on empyre about blogs. I can't for the life of me think what though. Is there such as thing as context specific writer's block; mailing list block? Blogging feels nice and comfortable as always.
Ironically I spent the day at an enjoyable seminar about mailing lists. I spoke about email narratives and poetry.
I'm so tired after my short holiday in Oslo (with stunning weather, good friends, late nights and adorable children waking at six) and then a seminar and flying home. More tomorrow.
I'm off to Oslo for a long weekend. Might not be blogging till Tuesday night after the email seminar. Which, btw, will be streamed, if you're extraordinarily interested ;)
discussing blogs in a mailing list
Mailing lists are different to blogs. I love the differences between individual blogs, the autonomy of each and the sometimes unpredictable emergence of clusters and conversations that may shift as groupings change or ideas converge. Mark's artificial life experiments suit this genre perfectly. Mailing lists are pre-defined spaces, where everyone's words are made to look identical and the audience is known though changeable. In mailing lists I often feel intimidated by the weight of other peoples' words. So I remain silent. In my blog my audience is both potentially wider and pragmatically more limited. I'm completely confident that bored or uninterested readers will not stay. I love that. For me, blogs are so much more liberating of free discussions than mailing lists. I imagine some others feel oppositely?
I'm a guest on empyre this month, a networked art mailing list, talking about blogs, which is already fascinating. Brandon Barr and Mez have been discussing it too, and some others; wonderful. Perhaps you'd like to join in too?
Are these conversations different? The one in blogspace and the one on empyre? I speak to you as if you're not on empyre, and on empyre, I imagine people don't read this, but are the spaces (spaces?) really that different?
Whylog is a site devoted to people's answers to the burning question: Why do you blog?
more research blogs
Now that I've got a place to collect them, I'm finding research blogs everywhere. One interesting blogging project is Christopher Robinson and Joseph Duemer's reading journal of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. Blogs can be very specific, or very open.
guest on -empyre-
I'm going to be a guest on -empyre- for the next couple of weeks. -empyre- is "an arena for the discussion of media arts practice"; a mailing list moderated by Melinda Rackham. Melinda invites a new guest once or twice a month, which is a great way of keeping the list active, interesting and thematically somewhat coherent. It's great to have a chance to explore a topic or an artist's ideas in some depth. Anyway, I've been invited to talk about blogging, which apparently has been called "an inappropriate art form" - the idea of inappropriate art is in itself stunning. In a couple of weeks time Adrian will be taking over, talking about his vogs and the relation of video and blogging.
I'm both flattered to have been asked and a bit anxious because, well you know, I'm not exactly an artist. Though "being an artist" is largely a matter of deciding to be one, isn't it? Would I get to be an artist if I called this blog art? Would I want to?
blogs in research
I've been coming across more and more researchers' blogs recently. When Torill and I were writing our article about blogging as a research tool we'd practically only seen the blogs in our own cluster, written by people we know f2f anyway. It's great finding more, but I'm already losing the URLs - so last week I started collecting them in a separate folder, and exporting them to a nice annotated list of URLs. Feedback, criticism and suggestions welcomed.
I've got Tinderbox generating an RSS feed for this blog again. RSS feeds are XML files that have the headlines for news sites, like blogs, and links to each news story. They're metadata that computers can be programmed to read and present back, filtered, to humans. I don't do anything clever with other peoples' feeds yet, but it's clear that systems for managing information and helping us find connections and related ideas to whatever we're working on or interested in will need metadata. I've also adopted the new metatag standard for telling machines where my RSS feed is. Mark of diveintomark.org has some interesting ideas about all this, and about how you could get a software agent to suggest other blogs that might interest you. You know, just in case a machine is curious ;) (Leuschke pointed me to the standard)
what weblogs aren't
Leuschke handily provides a list, with links, to some of the weird things blogs have been claimed to be, but aren't.
notes from the ethics conference
Did you know that ethical guidelines for internet research are mostly inspired by guidelines for medical research that stems out of the Nrnberg trials and the response to the Nazi's horrid medical experiments in concentration camps? Informed consent, beware of harm, preserve human subjects' autonomy (I think that more or less means their dignity and their right to decide over their own bodies and selves). At the conference this weekend Charles Ess, a philosopher and the head of the Association of Internet Researchers' ethics committee, explained the differences in ethical approaches in different disciplines and in different cultures. For literary scholars, people online are often seen as authors deliberately publishing, and so of course one should cite them fully and state URLs and proper names or pseudonyms. View the same people (bloggers, for instance, or usenet posters or chatroom participants) as subjects of medical or psychological experiments and the ethics change completely. Historians, a third group approaching internet research now, don't traditionally worry much about anonymity, "The task of historians is to un-dress not to dress up!", Dag Elgesem quoted a historian as saying, and the historians in our group fittingly enough argued that everything on the web is published and therefore up for grabs for researchers. Changing the analogy completely changes the ethical assumptions.
Cultural differences are even more complicated. For instance, though both Americans and Europeans mostly agree that ethnographic researchers should ask informants before using their data, Americans are often utilitarians, arguing that it will benefit the researcher through the improved relations with the informants, while Europeans are "deontologists" and base their decision on peoples' basic right to privacy (examples provided by Charles Ess). The cultural differences between West, East, North and South are even greater.
Annette Markham talked mesmerisingly (she's one of those rare speakers who can read a manuscript so beautifully that you wish she'll never stop) about mindfulness, reflection, awareness. She spoke of how things we often think of as givens, like locating the field, deciding what counts as data, and of course the choice to participate or observe are ethical choices. Googling her, I see that Torill has just written appreciatively about her book, Life Online - what a nice cooincidence. Annette spoke, too, of perspective taking as a basic ethical guideline in practically all religions and cultures: how would you like it if it was done to you? How much do our texts represent us? What does it mean to represent somebody in our writing?
Even well-meaning ethical choices can have damaging consequences. Sometimes informants don't want to be protected. Charles Ess told us about a research project that pseudonymised a research project on a lesbian community site, but after publication, the subjects furiously complained: the attempt at protection was reinforcing the marginalised status of their discourse. (I think he said the researcher's name was Christine Hine?)
I found so much to take note of, especially in the keynotes, that I made a patchwork quilt out of what I had thought would be linear notes. Tinderbox was a brilliant tool for relating the speakers to each other, letting me stitch together an ethical map for myself that is more related to themes and to my connections than to who said what when,rithi as notes usually show. Download it if you're interested, or just trust me ;) Oh, and Charles Ess was in Copenhagen last week: Lisbeth commented on his lecture there.
How I Was Played by Online Caroline. In First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Forthcoming from MIT Press in 2003.
Makten forrykkes på nettet. Kronikk i Bergens Tidende om blogging, nettdagbøker og makt. 22. september 2002.
Epostpoesi og epostfortellinger. Kunstnett, juni 2002.
Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web. Short paper presented at Hypertext 2002. In Proceedings of Hypertext 2002, Baltimore: ACM Press. 78-79. PDF.
Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as an Online Research Tool. With Torill Mortensen. In Researching ICTs in Context, ed. Andrew Morrison, InterMedia Report, 3/2002, Oslo 2002. Buy the book at gnist.no.
Reisebrev fra NIC2001, publisert i Kunstnett Norges nettkunstmagasin. November 2001.
Do you think you're part of this? Digital texts and the second person address
Men er det litteratur?
Men hvorfor virker ikke musen?
How to learn MOO programming Annotated links for non-programmers, 1999.
Jeg taster, derfor er jeg
Piecing together and tearing apart: reading afternoon, a story.
Hypertextual Criticism. Comparative Readings of Three Web Hypertexts about Literature and Film