Thursday, January 25, 2007

It Was Only a Matter of Time...

Text message novel published in Finland: Well, since emails have long since become stock parts of now-being-published novels, it was only a matter of time before someone thought of doing this. Of course, it would only work in a country where text messaging was mainstream enough for a large audience to be able to decipher all the abbreviations. If the Finnish prime minister broke up with his girlfriend through a text message, then the time is probably ripe for this publication in that country, at least.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Technology's Effects on Historical Studies

The Lost Art of the Letter: Although this article raises it in a science history context, the author raises a point that academics involved in all areas of historical study will have to face at some point.

Electronic formatting and communication make things more capturable (in the sense that IM conversations, for instance, can be so easily saved). But as I've mentioned before on this blog, they also make them more fragile, in the sense that hard drives crash and people regularly delete and overwrite electronic drafts of things they're working on--or letters they've written.

This article raises the difficulties for science historians this process creates, and the same is true, if not magnified, in other historical disciplines such as literary studies, where drafts of work as well as correspondence are often key to disentangling the "authoritative edition" of a literary work.

As the author notes, the quickness of electronic media is a boon for collaboration, for quick capture of creative ideas, and for an author/scientist keeping track of the latest edition of a work. But with the author I hesitate to fully embrace this medium without thinking about the potential limitations electronic media places on future historians' processes and potential discoveries.

There have always been large gaps in the historical record, but the move to largely electronic storage for documents--and our corresponding shift to a more casual approach to destroying them--is something more people interested in history (of all types) should be concerned about. It's a problem librarians have been working on for years, but it's a big enough problem that they shouldn't have to shoulder the burden alone.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Update on the GRE and The Postal Service

For those of you curious about my throes with the GRE and the postal service (see my earlier post), I came back from Christmas to find an envelope with scores in it from the GRE. Alas, however, the scores were from the computer-based General Test I took on December 12, not the paper-based Subject Test in Literature I took on November 4. Apparently technologically-based exams have an "in" with the Canadian-American postal systems or something.

Ah, well, according to the helpful admissions websites that tell me the state of my supplementary applications materials, the programs themselves seem to be receiving my scores. And as my reasonable friends remind me, it's more important that they know my scores than that I do. And that's true. So I'll wait--I'm sure the postal service will deliver the scores sooner or later.

In my more enlightened moments, I tell myself that in this instant age, it's actually a good discipline to have to wait for this. It's hard to remember at times, but fast communication is a privilege, not a right.

Stuck at Home, but not Disconnected

On weeks like this one, in which I've been stuck at home with Influenza A (the bad kind which I'm not supposed to share around), I've been intensely thankful for communications technology. The phone, particularly. Also email. IM. I've been going a bit crazy as it is, without face-to-face social contact, but it would be worse without the possibility of talking to people I like who help me from getting too far into my head. Solitude is good, but only for so long.

The whole thing, particularly since we had a big old prairie blizzard on top of it all, has made me think of those Little House on the Prairie sketches of pioneers, in which they were housebound and isolated from each other and those back home.

This week I can imagine the loneliness they felt, and I'm thankful that I don't have to go into that level of cabin fever (defined, incidentally, by the Alaska Dictionary and Pronunciation Guide as "a twelve-foot stare in a ten-foot room"). And it makes me think that for all the craziness that is brought on by our world of instant communication, I'm rather glad for the connectedness it allows for, particularly on weeks like this.

So thanks to all those who have been in touch. It's helped. I'll be mostly sequestered for a few more days yet, so keep it coming.