Category Archives: blogging

academic death squad

Are you interested in joining a supportive academic community online? A place to share ideas, brainstorming, motivation and inspiration, and if you’re comfortable, your drafts and freewriting and blogging for critique? If so, Academic Death Squad may be for you.

This is a Google group that I believe can be accessed publicly (although I’ve had some issues with signing up with non-Gmail addresses) although you appear to have to be logged in to Google to view the group’s page. Just put in a request to join and I’ll approve you. Or, if that doesn’t work, email me at mdesjardin (at) gmail.com.

Link: [Academic Death Squad]

I’m trying to get as many disciplines and geographic/chronological areas involved as possible, so all are welcome. And I especially would love to have diversity in careers, mixing in tenure-track faculty, adjuncts, grad students, staff broadly interpreted, librarians, museum curators, and independent scholars – and any other career path you can think of. Many of us not in grad student or faculty land have very little institutional support for academic research, so let’s support each other virtually.

In fact, one member has already posted a publication-ready article draft for last-minute comments, so we even have a little activity already!

Best regards and best wishes for this group. Please email me or comment on this post if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions.

よろしくお願いいたします!

*footnote: The name came originally based on a group I ran called “Creative Death Squad” but the real origin is an amazing t-shirt I used to own in Pittsburgh that read “412 Vegan Death Squad” and had a picture of a skull with a carrot driven through it. I hope the name connotates badass-ness, serious commitment to our research, and some casual levity. Take it as you will.

blog link: the inferiority of blackness as a subject

I don’t do nearly enough (or any) linking to other inspiring blog posts. Today that will change. I came across an eloquent and inspiring (not to mention blood-pressure-raising) post today critiquing a Chronicle of Higher Education blog post that clearly should never have been published – which attacked doctoral students’ dissertation titles as a statement on the illegitimacy of black studies departments as a whole. Seriously. Picking on PhD students, by someone with no graduate education, as though black studies is a complete waste of time because it doesn’t meet the writer’s standards of legitimate, relevant topics. By the way, did you know that racism is dead? We’ve got a black president! Clearly studies that focus on race are no longer relevant. Especially topics in black studies that are written on by, you know, black scholars.

Anyway, what I will link to is not that offensive and – hey – less than worthwhile post. I link to a much better one.

“The Inferiority of Blackness as a Subject” at Tressiemc <– Click that link; read and weep for humanity. Get mad. Sign the petition. Share to your own audience. Let’s not put up with this kind of thing being posted at Chronicle of Higher Ed.

the internet is free for the taking

Right? Right?

As I sometimes find when I check out my Flickr statistics, I’ve got a picture with an abnormally high view count and that means only one thing: it’s been posted on another site with a link to mine.

Usually, I am totally thrilled. I love links back to me. I love for people to see my work and that anyone liked it enough to put it up on their own personal space. Good!

And 9 times out of 10, there is a nice caption with my name under it. For, this is the only thing I really ask of someone using one of my photos. I hold the copyright, but I use a Creative Commons license.* I am leaning toward changing everything to a more lenient one, but in any case, the real point of it is the “BY” clause.

You can use my photos without permission as long as you credit me (and I appreciate a link back to Flickr, which all of the people so far, good and bad, do – this is how I find their postings). I’m sure there are people out there who posted them with no link, but it seems that they generally want to not host the image themselves, and also want to post a small version with a link to the gigantic ones (and mine are non-watermarked full-size images). So I find them in my stats.

This is only the second case of someone borrowing an image, placing it on their site with absolutely no credit at all, and totally making me annoyed at 7:30 am in the morning when I see it happening.

The first time, it was an architecture blog and site, which will remain nameless because they rectified the problem after I commented on the photo (there was no other way to contact!) asking for credit or to take the image down. I never heard back, but lo and behold, after a few months someone must have saw the comment because now it has a very nice caption. I get a fair number of hits from this site so it makes me very happy.

Well, now some person on Tumblr has stuck one of my images in their blog, at least with a link back to the original, but with no caption at all. I hate that. But what makes it really bad is that I can see visibly how many people “liked” and shared the post. “Great, others are seeing my work!” Yes, there is this part of it. I’m not the kind of person who wants to hide my stuff unless I personally am showing it. Far from it!

But here’s the thing that really upsets me. The people sharing this post are sharing it as the work of that blogger – at the very best, as an object found by that blogger. They may be sharing it because they like the photo, but the implied attribution stops at the blog itself. I’m thinking big-picture about “authorship” here, as I am wont to do. I have stopped being the author at this point, without an explicit caption marking it as not the blogger’s work, and not as some anonymous, possibly public-domain thing that he or she happened to find. Something pointing out that the hard creative work was not, in fact, looking on the internet and finding something interesting and sharing it, but was rather my finding the scene, situating myself, taking the picture, editing in Aperture, and creating more metadata than you can shake a stick at. (As usual.)

And on top of it? As you can see from the two screenshots below the cut, these are not only being viewed quite a few times, but they’re being shared – ie., reposted as-is on other Tumblr blogs, also with zero attribution.

A reaction that I have gotten in the past to someone lifting my artwork (including selling it on a T-shirt without permission, even though they defended it with “but we’re not making a profit) is that I’m getting bent out of shape over nothing, or that I can’t expect my work not to be stolen and re-used as people see fit because I’ve put it online.

Here is my response to that: Of course I can’t. But that doesn’t make it right, just, or legal, and I don’t give up my rights the minute I upload something. I am well within my moral rights to address this as a problem and to take polite action to correct the situation. We need a lot of calming down these days: We don’t need laws like SOPA and Protect-IP (I am getting nightmares), and I don’t think the DMCA is an appropriate law either, but that doesn’t mean that taking others’ work and reposting it without attribution – or passing it off as your own, or selling it without permission – is okay.

I think we academics know a word that comes quite close to describing all of this: plagiarism. Mixed with copyright infringement. What a fun situation.

Conclusion: The internet is not free for your taking. But the majority of it is, especially from those of us who are rabidly pro-Creative Commons, if you just ask us.

 

* I toyed once with making all of my photos public domain, but while I’m still alive and while they’re still taken within the past 5 years, I don’t think I can emotionally deal with it yet.

Screen shot 2011 11 17 at 8 44 43 AM

Screen shot 2011 11 17 at 8 44 24 AM

Screen shot 2011 11 17 at 8 37 25 AM

phone destroys blog

When I have a hiatus (as I periodically do from online life, and especially something as intensive as a reflective blog such as this one), it can be due to all kinds of things. Real life nuisances take many forms: moving (sometimes transcontinental moves); frequent travel, back to back is even worse; getting bored of the Internet; someone visiting. Well, for the most part, it involves being overly mobile: I’m just not at the computer engaging with the world via Web browser, and that ends up killing my blog, Facebook activity (as though there’s a lot of that anyway), my nascent G+ activity, sometimes Twitter.

So what has destroyed my Internet life these days, outside of email and intermittent Twitter usage? It’s my phone! Being mobile kills again.

Here’s the work I do 90% of the time: teaching (which involves reading, writing, and talking), and reading/writing for my dissertation. This stuff doesn’t even use a computer.

More than half the time I don’t bring a laptop with me when I travel to and from school, or on little coffeeshop trips to work. Why? It’s because I have used my smartphone as an Internet substitute for so long that a laptop has become overkill for everything that isn’t computer-demanding work. Everything else gets done on my home desktop, and since I don’t bother to turn it on unless I need to Do Stuff.

Thus, my Blackberry has killed my blog. You may ask, how is it that you write pages-long email on that thing and can’t just write a blog post here and there? It’s much less to do with the Blackberry Web browser (which we all know sucks) and much more to do with the format itself.

Here’s the problem: a phone is great for doing one thing at a time; at best I bounce between 4 separate things. (Typically, Twitter, email, Web browsing, and weather – or substitute weather with “talking on the phone” more rarely, because I have Sprint and I can do all that stuff at the same time.)

When I’m writing things for the Internet? I have tabs open like they’re going out of style. I have different articles sitting there waiting for reference; I may be using a text editor or looking at dissertation notes; I am linking my photos from Flickr; I am posting the links to my new posts via Twitter, Facebook (which doesn’t work well on my phone), and G+ (which doesn’t work at all – it has no usable mobile site). I work in a flat and non-linear way. I wouldn’t call it multi-tasking; I would call it working. Rarely do any of us simply have one window open, doing one activity. That’s like having a blindfold on while you listen to music, and also carefully not allowing yourself food or drink, or mobility. That’s not how we live.

I’m not really specifically blaming my phone, or saying that if I had a bigger-screen, touch screen (ugh), or Android/iOS based phone that things would be different just because they are prettier and can render the Web more effectively. Actually, I wouldn’t get nearly as much writing done if I weren’t using the Blackberry – its ergonomics and keyboard are second to none. I would have even less of a Web presence if I didn’t have it with me.

But as long as I’m using a phone (or hey, if I were using a tablet down the road), the lack of true multi-tasking ability is going to prevent me from doing real work outside of constantly emailing. You might argue that with a big enough tablet, I’m basically working on my iBook. You’re right that the screen is similar, and that tablets try to be more than giant smartphones, but as long as they’re trending toward one-thing-at-a-time style usage, it’s never going to be more useful for me than a cell phone. In other words, useful for some daily communication (and so much so that I use it exclusively as my regular device for communicating), but totally inadequate for getting real work done.

Now that I remembered to charge both my laptops’ batteries and am getting back to doing lots of daily notes for work, that backlog of posts will start clearing out – but when real life interferes and I’m back on the phone, my online life will go silent again.

DH2011 – onward!

Hello blog readers-

I’m leaving for DH2011 at Stanford tomorrow. It looks like it will be a great half-week: I’m leaving early to attend two workshops over the weekend (Information Visualization for Literary History, and Network and Topical Analysis for the Humanities). There are amazing panels every day that I wish I had three of myself to send to cover them all. The keynote speakers are really something to look forward to. And most of all, it will be wonderful to be around so many people from my small field, with a great community and energy, and to get a chance to meet them in person.

I’ll be trying to keep up with blogging every day – I am not a live blogger and I don’t like to post notes without context. So plan on receiving a series of posts from me that give you a rundown of each day of the conference, reflections, or just pictures of any large scary bird or plant I come across. I will keep you updated.

Of course I will also be on Twitter, the most convenient way of broadcasting thoughts since passing notes in middle school. If you’re not already following me, I’m at @mdesjardin. And the hashtag is #dh2011.

See you at Stanford!

a new kind of autonomy

As I was driving home tonight, I was idly listening to The World on my local NPR station and passively taking in their news tidbits (maybe a topic for another post, but something I find a truly bizarre development – possibly fueled by methods of discourse on the internet itself?). One in particular made me metaphorically stop in my tracks – I had an initial reaction of “hah,” but then my thought process kept going.

The tidbit in question was a minor dispute among brothers that stand to succeed a leader who recently died in the United Arab Emirates. (Forgive me for forgetting the name, but in this case it’s more or less immaterial.) The one, younger brother was apparently already chosen to succeed his father. However, the older, half-brother had thrown his hat into the ring by declaring that he was the successor – via “an internet video.”

Amazing how naturalized this has become for us already: that YouTube, etc., have become a norm for communication between not just those of us dancing, doing ridiculous stunts, or taking videos of our cats. No, it’s also the medium of choice for leaders ranging from Osama bin Laden to Barack Obama. (I wince at putting them in the same sentence given our political climate, but mean no association by it other than their tremendous use of new media in the form of internet addresses to the public at large.)

We have already passed a point, it seems, where we have – in general – taken the internet as a place where we can exercise some autonomy, where we can address, potentially, the world.
Continue reading a new kind of autonomy

series proposals

In lieu of actual content (which I promise I am actually working on in draft form), I have a few proposals and I’d be interested to hear some feedback on them.

As a beginning professional blogger (and by that I mean “blog about my profession,” not “it’s my job”), I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach it. How do I attract and retain readers? How much substance is enough, is expected, or is too much? Do I act as a link referral service, commentary, or something closer to my academic work?

I could do all three, but what I am coming to think is that I need serious consistency. I am thinking of it in the following ways:

  • posting frequency
  • posting content consistency
  • focus on my academic and professional work, big picture style
  • currency/timeliness

But I think a fine and perhaps necessary addition to this kind of stream of consciousness style posting is a series. A series or two?

My ideas boil down to these three:

  • weekly On the Media review and commentary
  • monthly Moratoria highlighting terms and methodology within my fields that “I find problematic” (that’s academic slang for “they piss me off and I can’t believe people actually use them in this day and age”)
  • perhaps most important, Read the Fine Print (the original title of this blog, stricken for being too forgettable), highlighting the complexities of ownership, intellectual property, contracts, power relationships in publishing, publishing customs, assumptions and their reality, and issues in authorship.
  • I spoke too soon – on par in importance, Librarian Alert, covering topics that are less well-represented in the library blogosphere and academic literature – some examples are net neutrality, thinking of plagiarism from the standpoint of student authorship rather than source evaluation, and critical information literacy theory and practice in instruction.

What do you think? Is there anything else related to book history, librarianship, journalism, communication, information science, Japanese literature, literature in general, or my fascinating (read: not) life that you’re interested in hearing about regularly? Topics I haven’t covered or seem to be unintentionally avoiding?

Thoughts?