A varied and sometimes erratic record of what I'm learning inside and outside of the classroom

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Final Look Back on Digital Civilization

Wow--what does one say after a semester such as this? Looking back, I've learned so much from this class, both in terms of content and in terms of my classmates themselves, and I know that the principles I have learned here will shape my future as a student and as a citizen of the digital age. So, as a farewell to Digital Civilization, I present the semester in review in the three content areas we focused on in this class. These are the posts I'm most proud of that I feel met the learning outcomes the best.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sad Day

Photo credit: jaliyaj
So I have to admit, I've kinda been avoiding the blogosphere lately. Why? I guess it's because I don't like going back to places where I know everything has changed and nothing is going to be the same anymore. It kind of depresses me. I am really going to miss this class--I feel like I learned something new every single day and was challenged in ways I've never been challenged before. But more than that, I will miss the people. My classmates (and my professors as well) are such a vibrant, intelligent, diverse, and talented group of individuals, and I will be sorry to lose the interaction I have enjoyed with them all semester long. Good luck to everyone--I am honored to have been a part of our journey together.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

As Promised...

THE Stick of Power and Glory
It's the moment you've all been waiting for!! No, not the Digital Civilization event. And no, not the end of finals or Christmas either. It's the OTHER moment you've all been waiting for! Announcing...the unveiling of my paper on Brian Regan!! Ta-daa! Please, enjoy.

Linguistic Elements in the Humor of Brian Regan

This was fun to write, but admittedly not as well done as some of the other things I've written. Speaking of which, while I have your attention, I would really love some feedback on another paper I wrote awhile ago--I consider it the crowning achievement of my freshman year. :) I've been thinking about perhaps getting it published somehow, and would appreciate some suggestions as to where and how to do so.

This paper, explicating my Theory of Inherent Attraction, was done for an assignment in my freshman Honors writing class; we had to sell an intrinsically worthless item on eBay, basically off the power of our writing alone. I chose a stick. Mine was the highest-selling item in my class ($9) and the paper accompanying it received an A. I'd love to hear what you think.

Theory of Inherent Attraction

P.S. I've never met anyone who has refuted my Theory yet. :)

Come One, Come All...Making Connections

I think I'm actually getting better at this whole "Connect" thing; maybe it's a sign that I'm becoming more socially competent! Anyway, I've been a little surprised at how easy it has been to invite people to our big event on Thursday night and how much interest people have shown so far. (Not that I doubted the collective awesomeness of my Digital Civilization class; I just had less confidence in my own abilities to spread the word.) I have found that if you are passionate and excited about something, it is easier for other people to get excited too. Here are some of the things I've done to spread the word and share the love.

  1. I asked Dr. Burton if I could make a pitch to the other class I'm taking from him, which I have on the same day as Digital Civilization. We've been using the same learning objectives of Consume, Create, and Connect in that class, which made it a little easier for me to customize my approach to that particular audience. I told them that this class has really revolutionized my approach to learning, and I believe that digital literacy will be critical for students to be most effective in the digital age. That same day I also pitched to my American Lit class with Dr. Phil Snyder, who knows Professor Burton and endorsed attending the event (he says he might come too!) I gave out all of my flyers that day--I was pretty proud of myself. 
  2. I brought up the class and our event in conversations with friends and acquaintances whenever I could, and invited everyone to come. There's a guy in my ward who's a computer geek and knows all about open-source software and writes code and runs LINUX on his computer and the whole nine yards. He expressed a lot of interest when I invited him. I've also talked to coworkers, roommates, and friends who have said they would like to attend.
  3. I have yet to make my online pitch/invitations, but just this evening I talked to my mom on the phone and told her that she could watch the event video streamed live on JustinTV.com, as Dr. Burton describes on his post (Thank you, Eric Collyer!). She plans to attend. After I finish writing this post I'm going to get on Facebook and send some personal invitations to old roommates and friends from back home to see if they would like to come or, if possible, watch it live via video stream.
I am getting excited for this event. Honestly, I have done my best to base my approach on the fact that I believe this information to be useful, and not just on the fact that there will be milk and cookies at the end of the presentation. This is something I care about that I believe will be worthwhile, because it certainly has been for me. Like I've said before, learning is discourse; let's get as many people as we can involved in the conversation.

So You Want To Make Your Own Mormon Message?

Photo credit: Stef48 
The journey has been long, but well worth it. Here are some tips for making a Mormon Message of your own.

  1. Come up with an idea. Decide what you want to do and how you want to do it. Do you want to illustrate a gospel principle through a conference talk? Make a Mormon music video? Know someone with an incredible story of faith? Decide on the message you want to convey and the tone you want your video to have. We decided to do something along the lines of the classic Mormon video, "Out of the Mouths of Babes," and interview little kids about love in their families. See the contest website, lds.org/videocontest, for more ideas, rules, and guidelines.
  2. Decide on a plan of attack. Evaluate your ideas and resources--make sure you will be able to accomplish what you want to do in the time frame allotted.
  3. Gather your materials/people. Find a camera and make sure you know how to use it. If you don't, find someone who does. Having a friend or relative with video making/editing expertise will help you immensely in the process. Our group is very grateful for the help of Dave Potter's sister, a recently graduated film major, who lent us her camera and generously allowed us to draw on her expertise. Keep in mind that for all distinguishable locations and for all persons in the video you will need to have signed location and model releases.
  4. Film. Make sure in the process that you continually evaluate the intended purpose of your message and that the footage you take will convey what you are trying to get across. Also, you may only use music under the categories listed on the contest website, and any copyrighted material (such as logos on people's clothing) is not allowed.
  5. Edit. This part takes a LONG TIME, so keep that in mind. Our group used the program Final Cut Pro, available on the computers in the BYU Harold B. Lee Library Multimedia Lab (mmlab.lib.byu.edu), which was handy because there's a technical assistant in there who can teach you how to use the program. You could also use another program such as iMovie, which is a little bit simpler than Final Cut. We had huge issues with downloading and transporting our files--make sure your hard drive is compatible with the computer you will be working on, and that you will have enough space to save your files. Helpful tip for BYU students: Reserve the same computer for the entire time you will be working on your project and save yourself a lot of hassle. Ugh. Back up your project in a couple different places, if possible.
  6. Upload your finished video to YouTube. You submit your Mormon Message by putting the video URL on the electronic entry form (available through the website).Contest judging begins February 1st, 2011, and you will be notified if there are issues with your video or if you have been selected as a finalist. 
A project like this takes quite a bit of time and effort--not gonna lie. But I have learned so much and don't regret my time invested at all. It is my hope that even if our video is not selected as a finalist that we will be able to share it and use it to uplift others and help them to feel the Spirit each time they see it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Potential Presentation Introduction

I've been put in charge of introducing our video/giving the presentation for our event on Thursday, and as I've thought about what I might say, there are a lot of different directions I could potentially go. This is one of them--let me know what you think.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Protestant Reformation could not have happened without the printing press. Reformation ideas had been circulating for quite some time, but it was not until the years following the advent of the printing press around 1460 that those ideas were able to take root. Martin Luther, reformer, commandeered the printing presses in his area, and the printed material that circulated as a result sparked the Protestant Reformation, which was an important event in paving the way for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth.

Once again, in the 21st century, we find ourselves faced with a new means of spreading information: the Internet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has made tremendous efforts recently to improve their use of this new media in sharing the gospel and educating members in ways that they can do the same. One of these ways the Church has provided is the International Video Contest , running from October 18th, 2010, to January 31st, 2011; members can submit their own Mormon Messages, like the ones shown on lds.org. The site (lds.org/videocontest) reads:
The purpose of this video contest is to give more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints an opportunity to strengthen their testimonies as they share their talents with worldwide members and to “join the conversation” in sharing the gospel with the world. This contest will also help gather videos and material that could be used in future Mormon Messages and other Church video projects.
We must join the conversation; we must use this new media to share what we know to be true and let our voices be heard. The Church as an organization is wonderful, but it is in the lives of our members that we find the true manifestation of our faith.  We can make this known by taking advantage of opportunities such as this contest to use new media in ways that will touch peoples’ hearts and invite them to come unto Christ by sharing personal testimonies. This has been our goal in the making of our own Mormon Message, which we have entitled, “The Greatest Joys,” based on the talk by President Henry B. Eyring entitled, “Our Perfect Example.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

An Exercise in Problem-Solving (and Patience!)

If only sleep was in the foreseeable future... Photo credit:

jpockele on flickr

 
 






You know how when something is difficult/stressful someone will often quip that "it builds character?" Well, I am building character all over the place with our Mormon Message project. I have wished ruefully that things would just cooperate, the stars would align, the universe would turn in our favor, and we could work happily along on our project and everything would go smoothly. But alas, no rest for the weary.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Frustration

So we've run into some technical difficulties saving our video files to a hard drive. It looks like we should be able to figure out a solution, but it has been a little stressful.

Remember the days when your projects consisted of making posters and stuff and how the only computer problem you had to worry about was your printer running out of ink?

Yeah--sometimes I miss those days.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

And Ariel's Blog Post Nominations Are...

What could they be?? Photo credit: gAbY on flickr

Drum roll, please:
  • Historical Content: One of the (many) strengths of Kristi Koerner's blog is her demonstrated understanding of historical content. A great example of this is her post called Leading Up to Mormonism, in which she discusses the way historical concepts previously discussed in class are reflected in the Mormon faith; it is obvious by the way she discusses each principle that she fully understands it, and she has provided a valuable reference point for those of her classmates looking to improve their own historical posts.
  • Computing Content: Alex Gunnarson's post about lynda.com is an ideal example of the digital literacy lab blog entry. He begins with an overview of what the tool is (a website of video tutorials for a plethora of software programs, like Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) and why it is useful, and then goes into how he found the tool and his purpose in using it. With multiple screencasts, he walks the user through the process of finding a tutorial (he uses Adobe Flash Catalyst as an example), making the process clear and easy to follow. Thanks to his post, I will be using lynda.com in the future.
  • Self-Directed Learning: Jeff Whitlock is passionate about economics, and it shows in his extremely well-informed, well thought-out blog posts that combine in-depth research with personal experience. Two of my favorites are about cell phones in developing countries and  microfinance. Clear and concise, Jeff's posts show a great deal of personal investment in his topics and help even a lay audience (i.e. people like me, who know relatively little about economics) understand and feel enlightened.
It has been a privilege for me to interact with so many people with so many great ideas over the course of this semester. Like I've said before, learning is discourse, and I appreciate the way that each of my classmates have improved the quality of my learning by getting their ideas out there via their blogs. As others have expressed, there were so many exemplary posts that it was difficult to choose just a few. Great job, everyone!

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Beyond Blackboard: Making A Personal Connection

    Do I love Blackboard? Not really. But it was the logo
    with a personal touch. :)
    Photo credit: Barry D on flickr
     I feel like this Digital Civilization class has really revolutionized my approach to learning; I can see the Consume, Create, and Connect mindset that we've worked hard to cultivate in this class cropping up in other areas. For example, it occurred to me to use the connection Blackboard provides between students for a purpose other than bombarding everyone's email with requests for missed notes.

    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    The Point We're At in Our Final Project and Web 2.0

    A little girl (who also happens to be Dave's niece) that we
    interviewed for our project. Isn't she precious??
    First of all, a big thank you to Dave Potter and Shuan Pai, my group members, for being so much more on top of posting about our final project than I am. I'm striving to mend my ways, as evidenced by this post. :)

    We discussed Web 2.0 in class today, and how, as opposed to, say, Web 1.0, it is less about selling products and posting information and more about building community between people of shared interests. More and more websites are incorporating user generated content, creating a sense of community among their viewers, whereas before all content came from the maintainers of the website themselves. Web 2.0 is, in a word, INTERACTIVE. This interactivity is not just between the user and the computer (and the information it provides) via the interface, but also between the faces behind the interface.This kind of person-to-person interaction through the Web is what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is moving towards through their new website (made official today) and use of digital tools to share the gospel. My group is becoming a part of this interaction through our creation of a Mormon Message for the Church's International Video Contest (see the site for our project here). I'd like to discuss our project in light of a couple Web 2.0 concepts from our reading, the article "What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education" by Paul Anderson.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Future Shock & Facebook Etiquette

    In Digital Civilization class on Thursday we discussed the ideas of Alvin Toffler as set forth in his book entitled Future Shock. In his essay entitled "Future Shock Re-assessed," Richard A. Slaughter explains,
    Writing during the late 1960s Toffler summarised this thesis thus: in three short decades between now and the turn of the next millennium, millions of psychologically normal people will experience an abrupt collision with the future. Affluent, educated citizens of the world’s richest and most technically advanced nations, they will fall victim to tomorrow’s most menacing malady: the disease of change. Unable to keep up with the supercharged pace of change, brought to the edge of breakdown by incessant demands to adapt to novelty, many will plunge into future shock. For them the future will have arrived too soon.
    So basically, the idea of future shock is that the world around us is changing so quickly that we are unable to keep up; besieged by a tide of technological information, we are left confused and scrambling, trying to understand what just happened--and what keeps happening. Call it cultural whiplash, if you will. I'll admit it--I've gotten Future Shock pretty bad. Sometimes it makes me want to lie down with my feet up and a cold compress on my forehead, just like they teach you in Boy Scouts. (Not that I'm a Boy Scout or anything, but with five brothers going through the program, you pick up a thing or two.) Anyway, an idea we discussed in conjunction with this was that the constant change makes it difficult to establish social norms and rules of conduct for Internet interaction. Now, we can all see where this is leading: Facebook. Out of curiosity, and in the name of bettering the lot of mankind by educating the world (okay, at least the readers of this post) on Facebook etiquette, I have searched through and compiled a list of  a few of the more popular results (taken mainly from these three sites):

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    The Wonder of (Clean) Water

    Photo credit: Roger McLassus
    Today I was reminded to be grateful for something that I hadn't thought about for a long time--the ready, constant supply of clean water we have available to us. It also seemed fitting considering I got sick last night, and I am grateful to know that the water I'm drinking isn't going to be riddled with disease-carrying organisms and make me sicker or even kill me. People living at the beginning of the 20th century didn't have the same assurance, when sewage and other waste was dumped directly into streets, as well as rivers and other sources of drinking water, leading to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. The purification of urban drinking water on a large scale is the product largely of the last 100 years, and it is an ongoing process as developing nations struggle to provide clean, safe drinking water to all of their inhabitants.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Peer Blog Review: The Epicness of Andrew DeWitt

    Photo credit: Wakalani on Flickr
    Okay, so this is a little bit late; I had to work right after school today, and I apologize for not being more on top of things. Anyway, for our midterm evaluation in Digital Civilization I had the pleasure of evaluating my classmate Andrew DeWitt's blog, entitled "Epic Doesn't Begin to Describe."

    First of all, the artistic part of me can't help but comment that Andrew has a very clean, cohesive interface; all the factors of his page work together for a pleasing effect: the color scheme, the titles, the background, etc. I can tell he is using digital literacy tools, because he has incorporated them into his blog; along the side are widgets for Diigo, Twitter, and a Creative Commons liscense. His incorporation of all these things has made me want to be as cool--excuse me, EPIC--as he is and do some of the same. I'll work on that. :)

    In reading through Andrew's posts, I see how these digital literacy tools have helped his learning; for example, he refers to his Diigo bookmarking in his post on Modernism. This particular post (and his posts in general) are well researched and well thought out, often referring to classmates' blogs and discussions in class. He often chooses a starting point from a blog, discussion, or article, fleshes it out with his own research, and explains why it is significant. He displays an excellent understanding of the historical content we have covered, and does a great job of implementing his own interests and personality. One of my favorite posts? The one entitled "Math, Computing, Logics, and Me." Entertaining and enlightening at the same time. :) His posts are also frequent and timely. Kudos to you, Andrew--the "timely" part is something I'm trying to improve. I also thought the book club project, a video of his group giving a review of The Count of Monte Cristo, was a unique idea, and implemented well the principles of consume, create, and connect as well as displaying digital literacy. (I enjoyed the natural flow of conversation in the video, by the way, and the implementation of historical and digital concepts.) In summary, Andrew does an excellent job of meeting all the learning outcomes, which are clearly evident in his blogging.

    So that is my evaluation, but in order to get the full experience with Andrew's blog, you must visit it yourself; for, if epic doesn't begin to describe, then I certainly can't. :)

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Reflections: Round 2

    © Copyright David Maclennan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
    It's interesting to look back and see how far I've come and the areas I still need to improve in in this class. Sometimes I still feel a little overwhelmed with the nature and volume of everything I need to do and fitting that all in the time I have to do it, but freak-out sessions are becoming fewer and far-between. I've learned to focus my learning more and not worry so much about all the content I can't cover in my blog posts. I still feel like I come to class every day and learn something that blows my mind. This is a good thing. I still feel like I'm digitally illiterate, but though I don't have all the digital skills I would like at this point, I feel that I know better how to acquire them. I still feel like I need to improve in every area--blog posts, self-directed learning, commenting, digital literacy labs, and so on--but I am definitely better at managing these things than I was before. It's a continual process, and I am trying to be patient with myself and remember that I can't make everything perfect all at once. So, that said, I've evaluated myself in the three areas listed below.
    1. Historical Content: I do my best to hit every historical period within the week it is assigned with a post on my blog; frequency has been a bit of a challenge over this evaluation period due both to some trying personal circumstances and the fact that I've been without a computer for the past month (I can hear your gasp of horror). I've been using the ones at the library and/or borrowing from other people, but I FINALLY got down to the computer rental place this week and now have a laptop, even if it is an older PC and extremely slow. Oh Mac, I miss you--how far I have fallen. Anyway, through my own research, reading my classmates' blogs, and going to class, I feel that I have a pretty good sense of the ideas and events that constitute each period we cover. I have also been able to make connections to the material we are covering in my other classes and use what I've learned to increase my understanding--for example, I'm writing a paper on Romanticism (see my post on the subject) right now, and I have a much better idea of what I'm doing due to what we covered in this class.
    2. Computing Concepts & Digital Culture: I think due in large part to Dr. Zappala's ability to explain computer concepts effectively to non-computer science majors, I now have some basic knowledge of important concepts to understand for the average computer user (for example, the importance of password diversification) and can now have an intelligent conversation with those who have always known more about computers than me (i.e. my younger brother who likes to ask such things as Stump-the-Ariel questions, but will now be foiled in his attempts). This knowledge has also come in handy in the ongoing quest to get my computer fixed before the semester is over.
    3. Self-Directed Learning: I still sometimes have a problem with the wild horse of Consume running away with me, but I have come to realize that part of the beauty of this class is that I don't have to cover everything by myself; I focus on one or two things in my blog post, and then I learn about all the other things my classmates have done by reading their blog posts and listening to the discussion in class. Hey--it's like Adam Smith's invisible hand; I do what is my self-interest, producing what I can do most effectively, and by all my classmates doing the same thing and trading information, we all come out better off than we were before. And economics isn't even my best subject. Nice. And I have learned to focus my consuming better because I've gotten a better feel for the strengths of my classmates and can draw on their knowledge; Jeff Whitlock is quite the economics whiz, for example, and his post helped me to better understand Keynes idea of the government spending multiplier. However, commenting on my peers' blogs could use some improvement, as could digital literacy labs, although I do know what kinds of things I want to do (Twitter, connecting my blog to Facebook, Wordle, etc.) and have explored a few things that I have not yet reported on (new web browsers, Goodreads, and blog search).

    Honestly, I feel that this class has revolutionized my approach as a student. Like I told Dr. Burton in my interview for his other class, I've had to change my thinking; Digital Civilization has figuratively dragged me out of my little learning box by stretching and challenging me in ways I've never been challenged before, and once I stopped fighting it and learned to roll with the punches, I could stand up and realize that the view is actually a lot better out here. (Please excuse the mixed metaphors.) For example, I had a huge epiphany last week about social discovery--lights going on, bells ringing, sparks flying, etc.--when I realized that our learning becomes more meaningful and significant when it is part of a larger discourse between people, whether by digital or other means. Knowledge does little good in isolation. This realization has motivated me to seek after ways to connect with people not just in my classes, but in general, to share what I know and to learn from them as well. I still have a long way to go to take advantage of all this class has to offer, but I am pressing forward, and enjoying the view along the way. Onward and upward!

      Thursday, November 11, 2010

      2010 Flashback to the Cold War Era

       I thought I was done blogging for tonight, but it was not to be.

      So I'm sitting on the couch pounding away at an essay when my concentration is broken by my roommate's startled exclamations from behind her laptop, where she is looking at the Yahoo news site..

      "Whoa--look at this! I'm so out of touch!" She reads me this headline:

      Top Russian spy defects after unmasking U.S. ring

      Apparently a high-ranking Russian foreign intelligence official betrayed the entire ring of Russian spies in America he was over into U.S. hands back in June, and he has now defected to the United States. It blew our minds to learn that things like this still happen in 2010, a couple decades after the end of the Cold War with the arms race and space race and tension over communism.

      Hunt for Red October, anyone?

      Navajo: The Unbroken Code of World War II


      So our discussion about code today in Digital Civilization and a recent article I read for my linguistics class got me interested in the Navajo code talkers of World War II, and this afternoon I happened to walk by a bulletin board with a flyer advertising a presentation at BYU to be held this evening by one of the few actual honest-to-goodness Navajo code talkers still living. How cool is that? It was especially appropriate with today being Veteran's Day. So I show up at the appointed time, only to be told that the presenter was involved in a minor car accident earlier today; he is fine, but the event is canceled. Darn, darn, darn. I was so excited, too. So, due to this unfortunate circumstance, my research will have to suffice.

      Monday, November 8, 2010

      Economics: Where Is the Key?

      First of all, I would like to point out that I took high school economics in summer school for a reason--to get it over with as quickly as possible. But I think we would all agree that it is important to understand the basics of how the economy works, despite the fact that some of us (i.e. me) have little natural affinity for the subject. So here goes my attempt at understanding.

      A lot of the material I looked at regarding Keynesian economics and the American economy today had a very negative view of the effects of Keynes' system, as evidenced in this rather biased video explaining how Keynesian economics works, with an emphasis on its shortcomings.



      It seems to me that there are only long-term solutions with few immediate effects (i.e. unpopular solutions), or short-term solutions with immediate results that do nothing to fix the long-term problem; if anything, they make the problem worse. Economic solutions are, in a word, sticky. Complicated. Complex. There is no over-arching solution that will magically fix all economic problems with the waving of a wand or the signing of a bill. I think Arnbjorn Ingimundarson, CFA and stock investor, puts it quite nicely in his article on Seeking Alpha.com (P.S. Thank you, Dalton, for sharing this on Diigo):
      At the heart of the problem is what I consider the main flaw in Keynesian economics: it only seems to work in one direction. Politicians who seek re-election have an incentive to give their voters instant gratification. Since people do not feel the pain of fiscal deficits as immediately as they feel reductions in government benefits or a general slack in the economy, it makes political sense to roll the problems forward and let someone else deal with them. When times are good, there is rarely much talk of reducing government expenditures to cool the economy down and reduce the public debt.
      This is one reason some people lose sleep over the national debt; it keeps growing, and what are we going to do about it? What will happen if we keep going the direction we're going? It probably won't be pretty. It seems like the long-term solutions are always the least popular and therefore least likely to happen with politicians seeking re-election. Would the economy benefit from disentangling from political influence? Or would that even be possible with the government and its influence growing every year?

      Echoes of Freud


      This post could also be titled, "How to Find Freud in a Book Where His Name Isn't Even Mentioned Once."


      I was studying for my American Literary History midterm this past week, and my study group was going through authors/poets like Walt Whitman, Sarah Jewett, Emily Dickinson, and others. Inevitably, our Norton Anthology of American Literature would say something in the biographical information of these writers about their sexual relationships and how it affected their works.

      "Oh my goodness--" I thought to myself, "It's FREUD! We owe all of this psychoanalytic thinking and examining the sexual aspects of these writers' lives to FREUD!" It's amazing, really, how deeply Freud's ideas have penetrated modern thinking.

      As I said in one of my earlier blog posts, there is really no excuse to be ignorant about anything, considering how much information we have available to us via technology. So it's time to take my own advice and apply it to the understanding of Freud. I've heard some things about his theories that have repulsed me, and as I've researched more I don't necessarily agree with him, but I can at least try to understand where he's coming from and take a more ethical approach instead of immediately condemning things I don't understand. I was curious to know about Freud's impact in the Western world, and I found an intriguing article entitled Freud's Impact on Modern Morality. It's interesting that Freud himself shares a little of the mindset of taking the approach I was talking about. Robert Holt, the author of the article mentioned previously, writes,
      "[Freud] makes it quite evident, in his clinical writings, that he had to suppress or to hold in abeyance his own repugnance for deviant sexual practices or fantasies...and the like, in order to be able to help the patient to confront and to understand these unpleasant and threatening phenomena. Freud has often been misunderstood on this point. He did not say or mean that 'anything goes,' or that the analyst should in any way encourage or condone most forms of socially deviant behavior, even in the realm of sexuality" (pg. 39).
      So basically, Freud avoided passing moral judgment on his patients while in order to help them in the best way he knew how. It doesn't mean he condoned their "socially deviant behavior." (The article does go on, however, to explain that Freud's theories had consequences he did not intend, and could be in part responsible for the current moral state of society.) As I have grown older, I have found that tolerance and open mindedness do not necessarily constitute acceptance/embracing of all other ideas. Sometimes I will consider all sides of an issue and realize that in light of all this information, I believe my original stance to be best. That said, I still have a lot to learn about Freud and his ideas, but I'm not sure I will ever agree with some of them.

      Thursday, November 4, 2010

      A Passing Thought

      Wow--today I've been so preoccupied with all my thoughts about this Digital Civilization class and its content and applications that I've been walking around my apartment lost in thought for the past few hours. So preoccupied, in fact, that I keep forgetting what I'm doing and doing stuff like leaving my dinner half eaten and forgetting my laundry in the dryer so long that by the time I remember I'm just in time to make it to the laundry room before it gets locked for the night.

      I'm beginning to understand the stereotype of the absent-minded professor. This class and the ideas it presents have a way of pulling me in sometimes and making me forget about whatever else I'm doing, for better or worse.

      Oh yeah--I was supposed to do that one other thing today too. Oh well. :)

      Digital Illiterates Anonymous (But I Don't Want To Be!)

      So you know how the first step of those recovery programs is admitting you have a problem? Here goes my confession.

      I am digitally illiterate. I read Dr. Burton's post on social discovery, and my thoughts were, "Wow--I'm guilty." Of what, you ask? Of writing research papers in isolation. Of not taking my own ideas seriously. Of blogging "into the void." Of not connecting well with other people via technological reasons and just in general. Guilty of the whole gamut. ("Guilty, guilty, GUILTY!" I can hear Bernie from Pixar's Incredibles yelling in my head.) So, to paraphrase Dr. Burton's concluding question, what is keeping students like me from connecting to other people out there? Well, I'll tell you.

      ERROR

      HALTING PROBLEM: Hardware belonging to server <title>ARIEL'S BRAIN unable to compute if mental program run to comprehend content for Class: DIGITALCIVILIZATION 11-4-10 will finish.


      Result: UNSOLVABLE. 


      Program will now shut down. 

      Saturday, October 30, 2010

      Modernist Principles in an Interpretation of Shakespeare's Sonnet 133

      We talked in class about how Modernism was a rejection of form in both literature and art, and art in particular became non-representational and subjective as opposed to objective. A couple points that Professor Burton listed in his post on Modernism that came from the handout he found from a course taught by Sarah Brouillette were that Modernism (A)"emphasizes individual experience and perception [and is] concern[ed] with how the world is experienced (rather than what the world is)" and (B) that it exhibits a "blurring of the boundaries between popular art forms (photography, advertising, later film) and 'high art’ categories." With this in mind, I found a video on Vimeo that interprets Shakespeare's Sonnet 133 in a unique digital representation.


      Sonnet 133 | The new Media with Shakespeare from iNEEDaDAMNgoodJOB.com on Vimeo.

      This is definitely a departure from a way Shakespeare's sonnets are traditionally interpreted! No spoken words--just the exploration of a virtual representation and music that conveys the strong emotions present in the poem. (Honestly, it scared me a little bit with its intensity.) So, is this art? Art as the Modernists defined it? After all, it is a radical departure from tradition in form. But are we losing something in this departure? Is it so subjective that we are losing critical aspects of Shakespeare's original work? What is the value of originality and the concept of "the original" anyway?

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      Mormonism and Tools for Seeking Truth

      Boise Idaho Temple

      I'm going to go off on a little bit of a rant here, but it will be made relevant, I promise.

      So I'm sitting in my New Testament class this morning listening to my professor go off on one of his tangents--this particular one is about his being from Idaho. He talks about the way some of his colleagues in other places have told him that he can't possibly have learned what he knows now if he is truly from Idaho, which some people apparently think is a podunk rural place where people live in sod huts on potato farms and ride horses to the country school to "get them some learnin.'"

      I took a little bit of issue with this--I happen to be from Idaho, actually. No, I do not live on a farm. But even if I did, farming is a respectable profession (goodness knows we need farmers--they happen to be vitally important to our survival on this planet, after all) and it doesn't mean that I would be forever doomed to remain a hopeless country bumpkin. I couldn't help but think that if people would take a few minutes and Google my hometown, Boise, a lot of their misconceptions would be cleared up in a hurry. Yes, we even have a university! Which is affordable enough that a lot of people from Idaho can go there and enter the realm of higher education! Amazing, isn't it??

      Actual picture of part of Boise State University. Please note the cars, rather than horses, in the foreground.

      So, after blowing off a little steam, I started thinking with a cooler head. There really isn't a good reason to be offended because of misconceptions people have about us; learning about them gives us the opportunity to clear things up, and they, in turn, can enlighten other people. The same principle applies to us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

      I guess the point here is that with the nearly limitless amount of information and means of sharing that information that we have available, there is no reason for people to be unable to find the truth about us if they take the time to look. The Church has taken advantage of diverse forms of media in order to spread the gospel message, and we can help through our own efforts. Making a profile on Mormon.org is a fairly simple way to share the gospel, and sharing things of a spiritual nature seems to be less intimidating sometimes writing on Facebook or a blog rather than face-to-face.

      I have a very dear friend who is devoutly Catholic, and due to my interaction with her I have come to realize the value of going to the source to find the truth of what people believe. Want to know what Catholics believe? Ask a Catholic. Want to know what Mormons believe? Ask a Mormon. If they don't know the answer to a question, they can find someone who does. If we as Mormons wish to be understood and want people to come to us to learn about our beliefs, in accordance with the ethic of civility we must extend to others that same courtesy and have the courage to go to them, rather than to other sources, to find the truth.

      Evolution of Language

      I found this two-minute video on YouTube from the Berkley outlining the basics of evolution--what facilitates it, and some brief supportive arguments. Please--enjoy.



      So I'm watching this video, and little lightbulbs start going off in my head indicating current connections (haha--sorry about the pun; I couldn't resist) between evolution of biological species and evolution of language. I know we're supposed to go historical on this topic, but I hope I'm not too far off the beaten path.

      A Week of Thoreau Rejuvenation

      In Walden, Thoreau writes,  "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." As much as I hate to admit it, that phrase has described me as of late.The pressures of life, magnified by some difficult circumstances, increased to the point where I felt like I was going to lose it, and it wasn't going to be pretty.

      So, at the advice of my professor, I took the week off from two of my classes. No class, no homework--no THINKING about homework, even. No NOTHING.

      Thus began Rejuvenation Week.

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      Book Club Project: A Peek At Prezi

      So I've never made a Prezi before, and so the "create" aspect of our book club project seemed a perfect opportunity to try it out, especially because Dr. Burton, my professor, has basically hailed it as being the future of presentation tools.

      Our book, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, is basically an urban dictionary of 19th century England, explaining different aspects of life at that period of time. We each chose a section to focus on; mine is entitled "The Private Life." So, in kind of the spirit of the book itself, I decided to make my Prezi an explanation of a few things essential for one to know if one wishes to be a lady or gentleman of the time.

      The Process:
      1. I logged on to Prezi.com and created an account by clicking on the Sign up link on the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Super easy.
      2. I watched the video tutorial to get some basics, some of which are:
      • Click anywhere on the canvas to add text. 
      • Click on the text: when the zebra circles appear, the outermost ring can be used for rotation, and the inner for scaling. Click and hold the central one to move the text.
      • Click on the Insert circle on the menu in the upper-left-hand corner and click Upload file to add pictures. These are scaled and rotated the same way text is. I recommend using Creative Commons or personally taken photos for all images.
      • Once you have added, moved, scaled, and organized content to your heart's content (hahaha) click the Path circle on the menu to determine the order of your presentation. Click on content (text, images, etc.) to number them.
      • Click Show on the menu to see your finished Prezi! Here is mine:


      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      Recall and Reissue: Mini Book Club

      So, our book club group ran into a series of issues in obtaining our desired book (we found out that only 30 pages of it are on Google Books, the one copy at the library is MIA, and none of the bookstores close by have it) so after a quick meeting, we have decided on a NEW book: What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox-Hunting to Whist: The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth Century England by Daniel Pool. Click here to take a look on Amazon.com.

      This is the time period of the Industrial Revolution, and it kind of takes the "day-in-the-life-of-" approach, as evidenced by its title. We believe it will be an engaging read, and will also provide some valuable historical background for some of the movements we've been studying in class. It's really going to be a sprint through for us, but I am confident that we will be able to handle it.

      Due to time constraints and the organization of the book, we've each decided to take a particular section to focus our creative efforts on, and the final goal is to have four separate projects that we can link in such a way as to produce a multi-media/multi-faceted picture of the whole. It's gonna be good--I can feel it.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      A Decision Has Been Made! (I Know You're Excited.)

      Our group has decided on our book! We actually decided last week, but since my computer is out for the count I've been a little slow on the uptake. The official decision was the book suggested by Katherine, entitled, Transforming Women's Work: New England Lives in the Industrial Revolution by Thomas Dublin.

      In the preface, Dublin writes, "I began in 1893 a broader collective biographical study of New England women workers in five occupational groups. Out of that initial study, with numerous detours, emerged this book." A quick perusal of the table of contents promises a detailed explication of this study complete with tables and pictures. I hope I'll be able to do this wealth of content justice in our quick sprint through this book. Click here to take a peek inside on Amazon.com.

      Thursday, October 7, 2010

      Romantic Confessions/Reflections

      I've fought the label for a long time, considering some present-day connotations of the term, but I might as well admit it; maybe I am a romantic. In some of the literary romanticism movement senses of the word, at least. A few self-observations have led me to this conclusion, among which are:

      1. I find meaning and solace in nature and the physical world. Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that I feel technology is against me lately--my laptop is in the shop (not fun, especially with this class), and the screen of this library computer I'm on has been blacking out randomly ("Display driver stopped responding and has successfully recovered"). At least I'm not the one paying to fix the problem. Anyway, I believe that the internet and digital world provide amazing possibilities in so many ways, but sometimes I just want to sit down and read a book with a hard cover and paper pages. Is that so much to ask sometimes? I also keep a handwritten journal; short of misplacing it or losing it in a fire or something, I always have a hard copy and will never have to worry about not being able to read/convert the formatting. As far as nature goes, I love looking up at the mountains every day as I walk to school, watching a good thunderstorm from a dry place, and looking at the reflections of the trees in the puddles afterward. Nature, as the romantics discovered, is conducive to quiet introspection and evokes a sense of being closer to the divine. Sometimes I get tired of all the technological intricacies and feel like walking away from it all and just sitting underneath a tree for awhile. And then I remember that I have to keep my grades up for my scholarship and turn back to the computer screen with a sigh. Ah well. Life goes on.
      2. I have an artistic/aesthetic sense, both in literary and art form--I have always been drawn more to the arts than to the sciences, though I did enjoy biology back in high school. Give me a witty pun or a masterfully crafted art piece over a calculus problem any day. Although calculus does at times have sort of an aesthetic appeal as well... Maybe I'm just weird.
      3. I am a very emotionally based person; though I value logic, I operate primarily on an emotional level. I saw myself a little bit in the romantic sense of self--the isolated, sensitive individual that Dr. Burton described in class today. Sometimes I need a little solitude to sit quietly and think, sometimes about deeper things and sometimes about nothing at all.
      "Yeah," you're thinking, "she's a romantic. It's even evident in the ambiguity she shows in parts of what she just wrote." Maybe so. But if I truly am a romantic, I think I'm in good company: Hawthorne, Shelley, Wordsworth--I can deal with that.

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Books Worthy of Consideration

      I must admit that one of my main concerns when faced with the task of finding potential books for my Digital Civilization mini book club assignment was to find something to read that would be genuinely interesting/engaging. So, from trawling through Goodreads, Amazon.com, Curriki, and my classmates' blogs, these are what I came up with:


      The Renaissance: A Short History by Paul Johnson. This is, well, a short history of the Renaissance focusing on the economic, social, and technological developments that led up to it and examines key historical figures. Only 208 pages. Short.


      The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein. Since I'm interested in editing and publishing as a career, this caught my eye; it explores the way print culture became an agent of change in Europe. Click here to read a few pages on Amazon.


      Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. (Which I seem to be having trouble uploading a picture for) Yes, I borrowed the idea for this book from one of my classmates (thank you!); it seems appropriate given the time of year and its "warning against the expansion of modern man in the Industrial Revolution, alluded to in the novel's subtitle, The Modern Prometheus." (Wikipedia).

      Thursday, September 30, 2010

      Editing/Publishing and the Digital Economy

      Danny's comment on Professor Burton's post on Traditional vs. Digital Economies caught my eye; I want to pursue a career as an editor, and if in regards to books and literature, information was free, what would that mean for me? How is the publishing business being affected by the digital economy? I mean, I want to get into a career with a moderate amount of job security, ya know? So I did some research.

      I suppose there are a couple perspectives on where, exactly, "free" should be: the book could be free to the consumer, and/or the services to publish said book could be free to the author. In either instance an editor would be out some cash.  However, based on Dr. Burton's lecture last Tuesday and Kevin Kelly's manifesto Beyond Free, I have reason to believe the publishing business can breathe a sigh of relief in some respects. Of the Eight Generatives described by Kelly in his manifesto, the publishing business employs/could employ five:
      1. Immediacy: "Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover.
        First in line often commands an extra price for the same good."
      2. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the
        publishers to reflect your own previous reading background.
      3. Authenticity: People want to know that the text they're reading was actually written by the person whose name is on it.
      4. Embodiment: "PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good."
      5. Patronage: "Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators."

      I found an interesting post on a Publishing Perspectives blog talking about the Digital Economy Bill that passed in the UK in April of this year. The post is discussing the online censorship that could potentially occur as a result of this bill, which isn't a good thing, but on the other side, "People and companies that make a living on content and intellectual property have a very real need to protect their investments and creative assets." So what is to be done? Well, as Edna in Pixar's The Incredibles says, "I'm sure I don't know, daarling." It will be interesting to find out where this all goes.

      Tuesday, September 28, 2010

      Reflections on the Journey Thus Far

      Well, this has been quite the journey. When I signed up for the Digital Civilization course, I don't think I knew quite what I was getting into. (Translation: I really had no idea.) This class has proved a challenge for me, but I am making progress and have learned a lot so far.

      First of all, I feel like my basic computer literacy has moved up a notch. I had no idea what bytes were or what programming meant or even what hardware and software were. Well, now I know; in fact, I've even been able to identify the problems my laptop has been having as hardware problems (which have led to software problems and little adventures such as the one described in my earlier post). Have I been able to fix them? No, I'm not there yet, but at least I have a basic idea what's going on so I can kind of understand what the computer geeks at the Apple store are telling me.

      As I commented in class the other day, this course has made me constantly reevaluate my algorithms for learning. And I have come to the conclusion that one of the keys to managing the vast amount of information that I need to sift through for this course is to, if I may coin an acronym, Find Your Own Focus, or FYOF. :) As we have moved through the course content, drawing parallels between historical ideas and the digital revolution happening now, I have found most interesting the aspects that apply to me as a journal writer, book lover, an English major, and an aspiring editor. The OCR software I found through my research on print culture and Project Gutenberg was an exciting find because I had wondered about the possibility of computers translating handwriting to text because of my journals (see earlier post). I'm thinking my next post may be about exploring what the increasingly virtual economy might mean for me as an editor... which would probably be good to know, since that's where we seem to be going.

      One of the most fun parts about this class has been connecting with other people and seeing how ideas have sparked off one another. As Kevin commented in his reflective post, a comment I made on his Printing Press=Internet Press? post sparked another post by him and more research and still other posts (on my discovery of OCR and Distributed Proofreaders) by me. The interconnectedness and continuance of the discussion outsider of class via digital means offers new and exciting methods of learning from our peers.

      I've also enjoyed putting my new digital tools to use and showing them to other people who might find them useful as well. After learning about Google Docs in our Digital Literacy Lab Meetup last Thursday I immediately put it to use for assignments in a couple of my other classes; it has been especially helpful because my laptop has been touch and go, and with Google Docs I can easily access and edit documents because they're stored on the Internet and not my hard drive. Diigo has also been a delightful little tool in tracking my online research for my other classes. And after learning about Quizlet from Sarah Willis, I've used it to make flashcards for this class and other classes and recommended it to a girl I visit teach as well. It eliminates writer's cramp and saves time and trees. Everyone's happy. :)

      So, while I still feel slightly overwhelmed sometimes, I am constantly learning and reevaluating, and by choosing to face the challenge of this class I feel I will come out better for it, and leave a much more digitally literate person. And even more than that, I feel like I am learning how to learn about technology and our digital culture, which I suspect will be an ongoing process even when I am no longer in this class. The journey never ends...

      Monday, September 27, 2010

      Help Change the World... One Page At A Time!

      Remember when I was geeking out about OCR that I came across in my Project Gutenberg research earlier?

      Allow me another geek-out moment, if you will.

      In the same article by Marie Lebert that I linked to in my earlier post, I read that Project Gutenberg is entirely powered by volunteers...and guess what? YOU can become one of them!!

      Wednesday, September 22, 2010

      The Nature of Knowledge

      Shaun's comment on Kevin's intriguing post about organizational and collaborative learning got me thinking: What is the true nature of knowledge? What do we define as being "smart?" Is knowing something actually "knowing" it--having a specific piece of knowledge stored in our brains and being able to regurgitate it on demand--or is it knowing how to procure that information quickly using other resources? Or, to put it another way, are the algorithms we use to seek knowledge as, if not more, important than the knowledge itself? As I commented on Kevin's blog, in high school when taking the standardized tests, I felt that my test-taking skills (in other words, my algorithms for finding the answers) were almost more important than my background knowledge I brought with me as I attempted to come up with the correct answer.

      Kevin pointed out that we can't possibly know everything, especially as our access to knowledge becomes ever wider. So the question is, in our technological age, is it more important to have a mental store full of information, or is it more important to have effective systems, or algorithms, for retrieving that same information through other resources? Intriguing questions indeed.

      Friday, September 17, 2010

      Entry Level to Higher Level; Autocratic to Democratic Forms of Government

      In my Digital Civilization class on Thursday we discussed the concept of a walled garden: a centralized authority controlling every aspect of a certain thing, and people must pay a price to have access to it. Apple was cited as an example of one such walled garden; its applications are often much more user friendly than those of PCs because Apple has control over every aspect of its products and is able to make them work together to the entry-level user's advantage.

      Dr. Zappala, one of my professors, mentioned that often people use Apple's entry-level features as a starting point, and then as they gain confidence, they move on to something a little more complicated. We also discussed open vs. closed government in this class period, and that got me thinking:
      Don't we see the shift from entry level (autocratic: people have little say) to higher level (democratic: people have much more say) with government too?

       We see in American history the shift from colonies under the British crown to an independent nation with a democratic republic form of government. Of course, we are not a true democracy, because to have every citizen give an opinion on every issue would be far too inefficient and cumbersome.

      Or would it?

      A Side Thought

      So one of the computing concepts for this past unit of Digital Civilization was scalability--"the property of a computer system that enables it to handle a substantial growth in the amount of work required to be accomplished."

      I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed in this class (hence the long time, no post) and the thought came to me that I need to upgrade my learning system in order to be more scalable; if it was, perhaps the server that is my brain wouldn't seem to crash quite so often from information overload. I'm working on that.

      Tuesday, September 14, 2010

      IDEA: Digital Literacy Meetup!

      To my Digital Civilization classmates:

      So I had an idea (I posted this on our class website discussion board too, by the way):


      Since we're supposed to teach our digital literacy labs to other people in order to receive full credit, I was trying to think of a way to meet up with someone who would be genuinely interested in listening while I taught them.
      In the spirit of the Meetup digital literacy lab I just did in my last post, what if we organized an informal meetup (i.e. not through the actual meetup site) to teach our digital literacy labs? Whoever is interested could stay after class for 15-20 minutes on Thursdays (since I'm pretty sure there aren't any classes in the auditorium until 11... we'd have to check on that. We may have to find a different venue in order to have more time) and teach and be taught. We could have sign-ups, and/or whoever wanted to go could go, depending on how much time we had. And we could open it up to all BYU students--invite friends and all people who want to increase their digital literacy. Someone who has done a lab on social networking or something could provide some ideas on how we could get the word out. Or we could just keep it to our class. It all depends on who is interested. What do you guys think??

      Meet(up) & Greet

      This morning my classmate Megan and I met up to educate and enlighten one another on our assigned digital literacy tools. Megan expanded my understanding of a nifty little group site called Meetup.
      An example of one such meetup

      Meetup is a type of social networking site designed to help groups of people with the same interests, well, meet up. On the site you can search for local groups by interest (such as Bollywood, board games, or bicycling), join the group, see when the next meetup is, and go if you wish. Or you can create your own group. It turns online networking into face-to-face connections; you join the group online, and meet up with them physically, which is interesting considering a lot of social networking sites aren't geared towards that physical aspect.

      Personally, doing this kind of thing and going to a meetup would be way out of my comfort zone, but if I'm ever feeling particularly brave, I may give it a try. It seems like it would be valuable if you had just moved into an area and wanted to find and interact with a group of people with similar interests, or if you wanted to learn something new it would help you find people who could help you in a more informal group setting. Or you could go just to make new friends and have fun.

      Saturday, September 11, 2010

      FOR YOUR JOURNAL: New (And TOTALLY Cool) Software Update Available NOW!

      I keep a journal, and while it's a wonderful source of personal reference, sometimes it can be hard to find what I'm looking for. I've wondered in the past if there isn't some way journals and other handwritten manuscripts could be transferred to computers and converted to searchable text without going through and manually typing each word.

      Turns out, there is.

      An Adventure in Digital Illiteracy

      My Headache in a Cardboard Box
      Today I realized just how computer ignorant I really am.

      Answer: Very. EXTREMELY, even.

      What follows is the story of my quest to solve an essential computer problem and the insights and knowledge gained thereby, which may be of use to any as computer illiterate as myself. Please--enjoy. 


      Wednesday, September 8, 2010

      To Petrarch

      Dear Sir:

      I, like you, am a writer. You wrote hundreds of letters, both to contemporaries and to those in the past; you sought out and copied ancient records for the benefit of those who would come after you.

      I have felt recently that I have generated a great deal of writing; I write a personal record, which I have kept since I was ten years of age; I write letters to my brother in his military endeavors and to my best friend who is on a religious mission, and soon I will be writing to my sister as she departs on a mission of her own. I write down lists, thoughts, impressions, quotes, things to do--everything. I wonder if you, like I, ever got the malady known as writer's cramp because of time spent holding a pen, or ever looked down to find ink-smeared hands. I imagine you did.

      So why write? What drives me to scribble down words concerning nearly every aspect of my life?

      I want to remember.

      Because frankly, my friend, as I'm sure you have discovered, what is not written down, we forget.

      Great ideas, even entire cultures have been lost to us, because we have no written record of them. To leave a record grants a kind of immortality; our ideas and thoughts can be read and shared by those who come long after we are gone, and we can read the writings of those who have come before us. To remember them and remember what we have experienced ourselves in the past makes us better able to shape our futures and realize our potential because we remember the knowledge we have gained and build upon it. Surely you, credited as the father of Renaissance humanism, can see that.

      That, sir, is why I write to you now, and why I will continue to write.

      Written from the great library of BYU in Utah, in the month of September, the year of our Lord the 2010th.

      Tuesday, September 7, 2010

      A Pause In Prevention of Cranial Explosion

      There's a great line in the movie Ever After, when Prince Henry says (in a British-sounding accent, oddly, even though the story is set in France):

      "I used to think that if I cared about anything, I'd have to care about everything, and I'd go stark raving MAD."

      I'm beginning to see what he was talking about.

      This digital civilization class I'm taking challenges me every single day to break free from my perceptions of how I think about learning. The class is structured to put us in charge of our own learning experience; we have more leeway as far as what we choose to research, and the methods of sharing what we learn are somewhat unconventional, involving multiple technological tools. I feel like I'm standing on the shore of this vast ocean of information that I possibly could use, whereas before, in other classes, I only had a little glass of the water from the fountain of knowledge to absorb. And it has been a bit difficult for me not to think in terms of the little glass even as I'm confronted with the ocean. That's the part when I feel like I'm going crazy because I think I have to go through ALL this information, and there's just too much.

      Time for a paradigm shift, Ariel.

      Today in class we talked about how the Renaissance humanists revered language, recognizing that unlocking its secrets releases new and powerful modes of expression. Well, I'm learning a new language in my quest to become digitally literate, and I'm sure that doing so will bring immeasurable benefit in the technological world we live in now. I just need the courage to let go of my old perceptions and dive in.

      Monday, September 6, 2010

      Um, Actually, Sir Thomas, There IS Something More...

      While reading an excerpt of Thomas More's Utopia concerning the Utopians' love of learning, I came across this line:
      "When we had given them [the Utopians] some hints of the learning and discipline of the Greeks (of whom alone we instructed them, for we knew there was nothing among the Romans, except their historians and poets, that they would much esteem), it was strange to see with what avidity they set about learning that language."

      Nothing among the Romans? Well, I think Monty Python may have some perspective on that.




      Well, okay, that may not have been exactly what Sir Thomas was referring to, but STILL.

      In all seriousness, Petrarch, the father of Humanism, devoted a great deal of time to studying and copying Roman classics; he, to his great sorrow, was unable to learn Greek, and this led to "modern tendencies to overemphasize the Roman classics at the expense of the Greek classics" (Petrarch's Books). So, to be fair, there are valuable things to learn from both.

      This makes me think of the formation of the literary canon; what does it constitute? A number of texts have generally been omitted from the so-called "canon" by societal and other factors like the one mentioned above. What valuable perspectives are we missing out on because of our own limited point of view? Can we, like Petrarch, see "the whole span of history as one great divine epic" (Petrarch's Books) and be willing to explore our literary history from different, less traditional aspects?