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

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?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"The Big YELLOW One Is the SUN!"

If you will indulge me... I just couldn't resist. Watch until about 1:16.
(Ah, the mullet--gotta love early 90's fashion.)

Breakin' some new ground there, Copernicus.

Well, he was, actually. Copernicus, that is. Centuries ago, according to the Ptolemaic system, Earth would've been the center of that little kid's model of the solar system.
"The big BLUE one is the EARTH!"
That just doesn't have the same ring to it, in terms of orbits or phonetics. :)

And sure, Copernicus was the first to seriously entertain the idea that the earth revolved around the sun, rather than the other way around, but it seems like Galileo caught a lot of the heat for it, especially from the Church. And so I began to wonder: Why is that?

Well, according to The Gradual Acceptance of the Copernican Theory of the Universe, by Dorothy Stimson, A.M., the scriptural arguments against Galileo and his upholding of the Copernican view all revolve around the idea that the earth stood still; for example (quote):

  • David in Psalm 89: God has founded the earth and it shall not be moved.
  • Joshua bade the sun stand still--which would not be notable were it not already at rest.
Gee, and it's not like he promoted an idea that changed the entire center of the universe as they knew it. You do something like that, and people tend to get a little uneasy. It made me think of the ongoing controversy between religion and science and how people tend to want to make them mutually exclusive. But frankly, you don't have to do that. By expanding our understanding of both science and religion, we often find that ideas of both can be integrated without compromising the integrity of either. You'd be hard-pressed to find a Christian nowadays that doesn't believe the sun is the center of the solar system. Often, it all works out.

"The one in the MIDDLE is the one that they call the SUN!"
"We KNOW!" :)