Planning for Willard McCarty’s Visit in April

We get a lot of visitors at the University of Alberta. Last year, in the series sponsored by TAPoR and CIRCA, we heard talks by Teresa Dobson from UBC (on e-literature), Sandra Gabriele from York (labels for medicine), and our own Robyn Taylor, a PhD student in computing science working on an interactive project for lounge singers called the Humanaquarium. At the moment, we are planning for a visit in April by Willard McCarty, who will be coming as part of the U of A’s Distinguished Visitors program, which means, apparently, that we get to run him ragged. He has five talks and endless consultations, so there are plenty of things that need to be coordinated ahead of time. So far we’ve set the dates, arranged his flights and room, booked a venue for the town and gown lecture, got some student volunteers ready, and arranged a caterer. Today I hope to confirm the rest of the schedule, then start on promotional activities.

Thesis Defenses Have Their Season Just Like Anything

And one of those seasons is now. I’m on the examining committees of three MA theses at the moment. Some of you will already know one or more of these very accomplished junior colleagues. The first is Alicia Hibbert, an anthropologist looking at what constitutes fairness for players of World of Warcraft. She also sat on the committee to draft the proposal for our PhD program in interactive media. The second is Matthew Bouchard, who is an interdisciplinary student looking at factors that contribute to player enjoyment in any large online multiplayer game. He has a CV as long as your arm, and has been a teaching and research assistant par excellence for a while now. In fact, I know that several of my research projects would not have been successful without Matt’s help, and I believe this year he won the university-wide award for teaching assistants. The third is Kathleen Reed, who is doing our combined MA/MLIS degree and has been studying the information behaviours of voluntourists in Thailand. Her stories of elephant towers, Buddhist universities, and encounters with wild monkeys are second only to her brilliant insights into the lives of people who combine tourism with volunteer work abroad. If I haven’t made it sufficiently clear yet, reading graduate theses is one of the best parts of this job.

Babysitting!

If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it is that graduate students like to have babies, and one of our current interdisciplinary PhD students, Milena Radzikowska, is no exception. She and her husband Chris are the proud parents of Olivia, now in her ninth month on earth, and it happens today that Chris is in training at Apple and Milena is in class, and the person they’d lined up to sit with Olivia isn’t available until half an hour later than necessary. So here I am. If anyone had told me to expect this as part of PhD supervision, I would perhaps have looked at them askance. Luckily, Olivia is one of the most good-natured people I’ve ever met, so although she woke up a while ago, she seems perfectly content to lie on her back and admire the artwork on the walls. And then each of her feet.

Mandalas for Emotion

Conference proposals vary somewhat widely from year to year. One year we are able to submit a good representative sample of the various projects going on. The next year we have what can perhaps best be described as an extravaganza. A third year nothing much has emerged worth talking about, and things look a bit slim. This year it appears that panels are what we’re interested in, with three different panel proposals submitted to SDH/SEMI in Montreal. The current proposal deals with using the Mandala browser in various ways, including today’s experiments involving some stories that children wrote about their recollections of emotions in waking life and dreams. Here is a picture of the 638 stories divided into tension, affiliation, and reward, with reference to family members as the fourth magnet. We see that memories of tension are twice as likely to mention family members as memories of affiliation—a somewhat surprising outcome that will need further looking into.

The Paper Drill

We had a meeting today with Shannon Lucky and Milena Radzikowska, who are two of the interface design team for the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) project. INKE is a 7-year MCRI led by Ray Siemens at the University of Victoria. We’re currently on our first year. The project involves teams working on user experience, led by Claire Warwick at UCL, textual studies, led by Richard Cunningham at Acadia, and information management, led by Ray himself. I’m in charge of the interface design team. Today’s mission was to look at the next set of design sketches for the Paper Drill, a prototype that is intended to help scholars chain through articles to identify the most commonly cited authors and articles. We have a working prototype built by Mark Bieber, and are hoping to talk about it in one of the SDH/SEMI panels we’ve submitted.

Hours of Reading Enjoyment

I think it would be safe to say that I spent three or four hours today reading people’s Day of DH posts, and I didn’t get through all of them by any means. I just couldn’t seem to stop. I had a similar experience last year, and again a few months later when we were going over the posts to create a more robust archive for posterity. From Aimee Morrison’s hyjinks to Julianne Nyhan’s unexploded WWII ordinance to Kirsten Uszkalo’s encomium, I really feel that we are an entertaining crowd to run with. I don’t know if I can speak on behalf of the entire organizing team or not, but in any case, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in this exercise. I loved reading what you had to say.