Hello world!

Welcome to Day of DH 2010. 3 Days until the Day of Digital Humanities. I’m excited to be tracking my participation on March 18 because I will be spending the day at the 4C’s conference in Louisville, Ky where I will both present and attend presentations, hopefully related to digital humanities. This is my first year participating in this day. Enjoy!

Almost here

Tomorrow is the Day of Digital Humanities! We made it to Louisville around 4:30, checked into the hotel and walked around for a bit. Tonight, St. Patrick’s Day, we went to Fourth Street Live–an entire block of pubs and restaurants. We enjoyed live music and people watching.

Tomorrow the conference begins in earnest and I will spend the day listening to and having conversations about technology, pedagogy and the digital humanities. I may even do some live blogging. Stay tuned for my thoughts.

to begin

I’m at Einstein Brother’s for a bagel and coffee and free WiFi! It’s odd to be at a conference where WiFi comes at a cost. I had planned to liveblog the sessions I attended at C’s but I can only do so in rooms that have requested technology or pay $9.95 for 24 hr access. Instead, I’ll tweet from my phone and take notes in a notebook, which I’ll type later. I present in 30 minutes on Social Media’s impact on Technical Writing. I wonder how many attendees we’ll have. I hope we have enough to have good conversations, which is, ultimately the point of my presentation: to begin a dialogue.

shifting gears

I just finished presenting my research on Social Media’s Impact on Technical Writing. I focused on the kinds of user-generated documentation, troubleshooting and support available in online forums, work being done by users and not “trained” technical writers. As a society, our growing reliance on technology increases the need for immediate troubleshooting help, or at the very least, a space to understand how our technological devices function. I think the immediacy which accompanies this need creates opportunities for users to offer advice to one another instead of turning to a manual or other expert information. In the midst of the social media revolution, it is the users who have become the experts. This trend is, potentially, problematic. As we become desperate for information, questions arise about who controls the technical information and whose advice we should trust.

This is a brief overview of where my thoughts were during my discussion. You can find the abstract below:

Shifting Gears: Social Media’s Impact on Technical Writing or Where Do We Go From Here?

At its basic level, the field of technical and professional writing typically frames technical writers as experts circulating specialized information to non-experts. With advances in Internet technologies, and perhaps, most significantly, the explosion in social media and its emphasis on user-generated content, however, the identity of “the expert” becomes more complex. In many cases, it is the users not only contributing much of the content in social media such as Flickr, last.fm and Facebook but also writing documentation, usually in the form of troubleshooting, for social media technologies including blog software like Wordpress, social media plug-ins and site applications. Because user troubleshooting may be easier to follow or understand, and is often more immediately available than traditional technical manuals or support, users often seek information online from the communities to which they already belong like a listserv such as Techrhet or they seek the help of expert users in a specific support forum devoted to the software, or social media where their technical issue originated.

Today’s users consistently remix social media technologies and depend on accurate and efficient information. As such, technical writing is evolving whether the profession has acknowledged these changes or not.  As teachers of technical writing, it is essential that we not only understand and participate in this evolution but that we guide it by rethinking and certainly remixing curriculum, assignments, pedagogies as well as our understanding of what it means to be a technical writer in the age of social media. This presentation examines the collaborative efforts in user troubleshooting as an example of the convergence of new media and technical writing and explores how we might approach technical writing curriculum to reflect evolving technical knowledge as well as user expectations.

We had a nice crowd who asked fantastic questions about teaching, about my use of the terms expert v. non-expert and the categorization and professionalization of technical writers.

I appreciate everyone who spent their time with me this morning. Let’s keep the conversations going.

archives, databases, scholarship

I took many notes during the afternoon session I attended (D.24): Scholarship, Remix and the Database. The presentation was, itself, a remix. The three speakers intermixed their presentations, including their power point slides and “took turns” presenting their research. The bulk of the discussion explored archive and database curation in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. Derek Mueller’s opening questions were:

In light of Rhetoric and Composition’s many field narratives, where are our databasic sensibilities leading us?
How might our databasic sensibilities guide us differently with respect to recent or long-standing field narratives?

Mueller talked about the prevailing approaches to archiving: outsourced (JStor, Project Muse, Eslevier) or in-sourced or field-sourced (Kairos, Enculturation, Computers & Composition Online). He mentions and advocates a third approach: network sourced and provides a few examples of this approach:

Blogged reading notes:

A Collage of Citations, Michael Faris, Penn State (http://michaeljfaris.com/blog/)
Digital Bibliography, Ryan Trauman, Louisville, (http://ryantrauman.com/blog)
Revolution Lullabye, Laura Davies, Syracuse, (http://revolutionlullabye.wordpress.com)

Rhet/Comp Carnivals:

John Trimbur’s Changing the Question: Should Writing Be Studied?


Michael J Faris

Richard Fulkerson’s Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century


Karen Kopelson’s Sp(l)itting Images: or, Back to the Future of (Rhetoric and?) Composition


Mueller was quick to point out that though though he advocates an inclusion of these network sourced databases, they, alone are not the answer to realizing a “symbiogenetic relationship between field narratives and databases.”

Alex Reid explored archives as the technical foundation of disciplinary chronology, claiming all archives are remixes. He emphasized the importance of our discipline’s texts being visible, searchable and findable, even by search systems like Google and Yahoo!. Reid discussed Wordle clouds as emblamatizing databases before moving into a discussion of social assemblage theory.

Bradley Dilger emphasized the importance of reconceptualizing the link as a core part of the database, explaining that links are crucial for formal (published scholarship) and informal work (blogs, notes, syllabi). He reminded us that the permalink turned blogs into the blogosphere, after all. For Rhet/Comp. to have a chance at any sort of crosstalk among other disciplines in and outside of the humanities, link stability and feeds are essential.

The Q & A session was lively and focused mostly on the amount of labor required to maintain and curate databases. The question remains who is the best person or person(s) to do such work.

I kept thinking of the process of tagging and the problems on sites like last.fm when songs and artists get mis-tagged. There’s a level of confusion that occurs when you cannot find what you’re looking for. In many ways, this connects to some of my discussion of the troubleshooting forums, but I haven’t figure out all of the threads yet.