Sunday, July 27, 2008

An End and a Beginning...

So now that the topic of my blog has transformed into my day job as a doctoral student, I find most of my reflections on the topic worm their way into my academic papers instead of online. So this blog has been dying a slow death over the last year. As a result, I've made a decision. It's time for an end, and a beginning. This blog is done, but a new one, on my experiences and reflections on the writing life, has begun. And so, for now, I will say goodbye to this blog and direct you instead to my new blog, "Still and Still Moving." For those of you with a feed reader, the address is See you over at the new spot!

Friday, April 04, 2008

A couple of great quotes...

  1. From my Facebook "Deep Thought" generator: “To me, truth is not some vague, foggy notion. Truth is real. And, at the same time, unreal. Fiction and fact and everything in between, plus some things I can’t remember, all rolled into one big ‘thing.’ This is truth, to me.”
    Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

    Deb's thoughts: This one just made me laugh. Especially since it's so similar to my thoughts on the matter after an MA in lit. and almost-one-year of a PhD in communication. Thankfully I've spent a lot of time reading and analyzing poetry, so I'm okay with paradox.

  2. From the blog "95 Theses", by way of Cindy (thanks, Cindy!): "In a conversation between Waugh and Graham Greene, recorded by Christopher Sykes, Greene described the plot of his then impending novel The Quiet American, and observed that it would be “a relief not to write about God for a change.” To which Waugh rejoined, “Oh, I wouldn’t drop God if I were you. Not at this stage anyway. It would be like P. G. Wodehouse dropping Jeeves halfway through the Wooster series.”

    Deb's thoughts: Again, it's funny. Yet profound. I'm feeling poetic at the moment, though, rather than poetry-analytic (perhaps because I'm in the middle of analysis for a paper), so I won't overanalyze the implications of this one. Just enjoy...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Please Pretend It's My Mom's Refrigerator

Okay, so it's been a really long time since I posted here. So what have I been doing, you ask? My slightly stressed PhD student self would say, perhaps, that I've been really busy writing papers about creativity and communication in the digital age rather than blogging about the topics.

It's true, actually, but it's only most, not all, of what I've been doing. I've written a few other things too. They're mostly linkable things, so I thought I'd briefly pretend this space was a spot on my mom's refrigerator and post the links:

  1. This isn't so recent, but the linkableness is relatively recent. In running a vanity search on Google, I discovered the PDF version of my University of Saskatchewan MA Thesis on connections between T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets and Henry David Thoreau's Walden (successfully defended last August) is now Google-able. (Not only Google-able, but if you input the words "four quartets walden" it's the first result in Google Scholar. Ah, how interestingly the search engine is changing the way texts are indexed and privileged.)

    Now that you know it's out there, I'm sure you'll all be glued to the screen, compulsively reading until the momentous conclusion. If anyone does want to read it, here are links to versions someone posted online of Four Quartets and Walden for textual context (try saying THAT 10 times fast :).

  2. I've been writing a lot for catapult magazine lately (well, relatively speaking--2 articles this year plus one in each of the next 2 issues). (If you haven't heard of catapult, it's a very thoughtful online magazine about intersections between culture and Christian viewpoints.)

    The most recent one I wrote was about international cooking and stereotypes and includes a recipe for Ethiopian chicken stew. The one before that is actually connected to the purpose of this blog--it connects some trends in mediated communication to our very human penchant for building imaginary versions of other people. The upcoming one will be posted this Friday and will be about Christian liturgy and the idea of enactment. The one after that, which will go up 2 weeks from this coming Friday, will be about my 10 years of visiting monasteries. I've actually written a few things for them in the past as well (a couple of essays and a couple of poems).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tyrannies Young as the Morning

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebels attack a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true freethinker is he whose intellect is as free from the future as from the past. He cares as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for what ought to be.

--G.K Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World

As I read this quote, I was thinking about the hype about each new technology as it arises--it reminded me of the "tyrannies fresh as the morning" about which Chesterton speaks so eloquently. Then again, since every new technology for the last couple hundred years has the same kind of hype attached to it, it's ironically also pretty antiquated.

The same goes, ironically, for the outright rejection of new technology and the complaints that society is going downhill because of it--those are always new, yet also, as a genre, old as the hills (and as the metaphor "old as the hills").

Technologies are by no means perfect and the panacea for all ills, as the futurist hypers tend to claim. Nor are they the root of all evils as the dystopian futurists claim. As Chesterton suggests, it makes sense that we thoughtfully disengage from both of these potential "will bes" to consider what ought to be.

Not that it would be easy to find our way in the middle ground between these two viewpoints. I suspect it would be particularly hard to restrain ourselves from the utopian side, what with all the keeping up with the latest gadget or trend that's going on in our society. But it's worth the trying.

On that note, I think I'm going to listen to some music on my perfectly-good four-year-old iPod and read a book.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Connections Between Scholarship and the Web

I haven't been posting much on the "im here" blog, but that's because I've been writing academic papers about related topics instead. We had to hand in our most recent paper for our Online Interaction class via a blog, and it's pertinent here, so here's a link to it.

If you want more info before clicking, the paper is called "Footnotes and Hyperlinks: Scholarly Inheritance and the Web." It traces conventions on the Web (and other forms of computer-mediated communication) that have been inherited from academic writing. By tracing the similarities, it's possible to differentiate what's new in online communities compared with scholarly communities.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Electronic Conversations and Simultaneity

So I was playing a game of Scrabble online with my friend Rilla. The game has a little messaging function where you can leave little instant-message-like notes for each other for the next time you make the move, thus enabling a new version of the kind of small-talk you would be having if you were playing the game in person. And as I was looking at a play she had just made in our current game, I giggled at the slightly off-color word she had just made. As I was still doing so, I opened the messaging window and saw that she had written her own giggle into the messaging function.

What was odd about the moment was how simultaneous it felt to me. Even though it was likely minutes, if not hours, since she had written the words (and likely had long since stopped giggling), it felt like one of those moments when as kids we used to say the same thing at the same time and then yelled "JINX!" Despite the reality of the time-lag, it felt like we were laughing together.

This moment left me wondering about the weird mix that's created between the persistence of text, the (at least potential) immediacy of electronic communications media, its conversationality, and textual media's potential for more reflectiveness than a face-to-face conversation.

I'm not sure what new thing's been created in the combination of these things, but it's definitely something fascinating. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Video: 2005 Miami U. Cheezies a cappella: Facebook Song

This video is hilarious, but beyond that, it makes an interesting commentary about social interaction and the Web by its subtext of applying a '50s love song to a new social networking technology, positing through exaggerated means that it's not the people we meet on Facebook that's as important as the social gratification we gain through it.

I can see their point, and yet the implications of the interaction and communication within Facebook are much more complex than that, depending on how various people use the tool.

And then, the "stalking" ethos mentioned in the song alone is a fascinating concept--it's amazing how many people I've heard talk about how they feel they're "stalking" their friends on Facebook, when it's their friends who choose to publish their information for their friends to see. One wonders if the same person who feels they "stalk" their friends on Facebook feel that they're "stalking" a public figure/celebrity by reading their published memoirs...

(And it is a written/multimedia publication, after all, even if the Facebooker in question keeps it to a circulation of the few "friends" of the Facebooker--the same Facebooker who, after all, has a choice about whether their friends list is kept to close family and/or friends or to stretch it to a broad range of acquaintances, and whether to keep the acquaintances from a chunk of their published information.)

It would be interesting to apply some of the media systems theory I was just reading about to people's uses of Facebook, and to see whether younger people used it differently than older people. Ah, the potential research questions so easily multiply...