Classroom collaboration etiquette

We spent a great amount of time this semester discussing annotation: its history, its intended and unintended uses, our individual approaches to annotation, and discussed *new* forms of social annotation.  We were given the opportunity to play around with a social annotation tool and to use our in-class discussion and reading to inform our engagement with a text online, using that tool. We mastered the use of and created our own, and group, annotations on Melville’s Benito Cereno, which was fun and also a great learning experience.  However, one lingering thought I have about this sequence of the course is that there were very few ground rules set.  I appreciate the freedom for us to play and engage as we saw fit, but I am left with the feeling, for many reasons this semester, of a need for some baseline rules of etiquette and fair play.  I would like to point to some resources that have assisted me with establishing my own personal policy on my approach to belonging in a classroom community and of a netiquette policy for the online work completed during the course.    

I was interested to see if provided a guiding policy on how online discourse, using its social annotation tool, should be conducted, but I did not find anything satisfying.  They do have space on their site dedicated to educational usage, but no mention of etiquette from what I could see:  I turned to searching for a discussion on Twitter that mentioned best practices for online annotation, but instead of a guide focused on, I found a guide to “Twetiquette.”  It appears that Twitter can be used as a model for how pedagogical tools should and can be used as long as “teachers…establish firm guidelines regarding proper online decorum and expectations for student interaction” (“Tweeting in the Classroom”)   

Let me stop for a moment to contextualize why I’m a little hung up on this idea of establishing some ground rules for etiquette and online discourse.  There were some tense moments during class this semester which I had not encountered fully in my other courses so far, nor had I anticipated that there would be “tense” or “tough” moments when we first met back at the end of August.  I’ve been grappling with the interpersonal dynamics within a classroom setting, and trying to work out what has been going on, especially in a time of much public discourse about what is civil discourse. I recognize that we all come from different places with different perspectives, abilities, and motivations.  This is what makes classroom discourse so exciting and interesting, but I personally really don’t enjoy conflict or tension and expect the classroom to be a civil place where everyone has an equal voice and those voices are respected, but I realize that’s the ideal, and it’s not what happens at all times. I’m very shy as a student and rarely share my thoughts unless called on to do so, and thus understand that naturally, some will have different approaches to class participation.  I honestly still haven’t entirely unpacked the observations I’ve made this semester, but I know that I have spent a lot of time thinking about classroom dynamics, both as a student as an education professional who has to stand up in front of a classroom regularly.

I spend many hours of my professional life working out how to approach classroom content and dynamics and how to improve the content and dynamics with technology, but I rarely speak with students directly about classroom dynamics or ask for their feedback regarding the content they’d like to learn, nor do I rarely spend more than one class session with students (librarians are often only invited in to a course for the “one-shot” library instruction session where we’re tasked with providing and overview of a variety of library resources and services in the hour and fifteen minute class time).  So, this semester got me thinking about how I’ve very infrequently been in a classroom situation where *rules* are established, and perhaps rules isn’t the right word, but I think it’s worth establishing a group policy on behavioral conduct both in class and online (since we used many collaborative tools online to engage with one another, not just face to face, and let’s face it, much of the work we do is online, so it might be important to establish an online behavioral standard for oneself). That’s where I’m at and why I’m writing this blog post, and to be clear, as an instructor, I have never done this much intentional groundwork for establishing a code of classroom conduct myself before, but I plan to implement this in my teaching practice going forward.  

Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for on’s site in regards to online behavior conduct, and the use of Twitter is a somewhat established model, I took a look at what kind of resources the CUNY Graduate Center’s Teaching and Learning Center offered on establishing classroom etiquette, more broadly (not just online etiquette).  I was happy to find the following which I’d like to share with everyone. “Discussion Strategies: Creating Policies for Classroom Discussion” was posted on the Visible Pedagogy @CUNY blog March 9, 2017.  I got to this through the Teach @CUNY Handbook version 2.0, Chapter 3: In the Classroom.  Many of the strategies suggested on this part of the Handbook have been used throughout this past semester, but I was most taken with the last section: Creating a Classroom Community.  The classroom is definitely a community I very much appreciate being a member of, but I think educators need to regularly think about establishing ground rules for discussion behavior (in class and online).  I’ll list the “examples of widely used ground rules” here (taken from

  • Listen actively — respect others when they are talking.
  • Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing (“I” instead of “they,” “we,” and “you”).
  • Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks — focus on ideas.  
  • Participate to the fullest of your ability — community growth depends on the inclusion of every individual voice.
  • Instead of invalidating somebody else’s story with your own spin on her or his experience, share your own story and experience.
  • The goal is not to agree — it is to gain a deeper understanding.
  • Be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses — they can be as disrespectful as words.

The author of the Visible Pedagogy blogpost that references this list, Amanda Almond — Assistant Professor at the New York City College of Technology, uses this early on in the semester to develop a collaborative understanding (amongst teachers and students in the classroom) of the ground rules for discussion.  She encourages her students to respond to this list and to come up with their own rules so that there is a communal understanding of what is expected.

In summary, I have enjoyed the many approaches to collaboration we’ve been exposed to this semester, even if there have been moments of tension and misunderstanding, and continue to learn about myself, and others, through collaboration.  I am most appreciative of being given the space and time to riff on my thoughts regarding interpersonal classroom dynamics in person and online in this blogpost which is informing my own classroom practice and understanding of my role as a teaching librarian.   

Zine Union Catalog: Authors and Catalogers as Collaborators

As Jenna indicated, we will be working in parallel to, and in correspondence with, one another for our final projects and working towards a shared goal of approaching and interpreting our ongoing work with the Zine Union Catalog (ZUC) through our use of annotation, collaborative inquiry, and critical analysis of authorship within the scope of our experience with, and approaches to, digital humanities tools and theories.  We have been fortunate enough to work with each on our DH Praxis project throughout our time at the CUNY GC which allows us to practically implement our theoretical and technical knowledge of the digital humanities into our ZUC.

For the final project in Doing Things with Novels, we have decided to address the role libraries and cultural institutions play in authoring catalog records that aid in the discoverability of resources.  Most specifically, we will focus on the role that the librarians play in aiding with zine discoverability and will look for examples within our union catalog prototype that are shared amongst the current contributing collections (ABC No Rio, Barnard Zine Library, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Denver Zine Library, and the Queer Zine Archive Project).  What kind of authority role do catalogers, and more specifically zine catalogers, play in the discovery and understanding of zines?  What similarities and differences are there within the catalog records and how do these differences contribute to the understanding and interpretations we have of zines?  How are the discrepancies and differences mediated, if at all? How will the Zine Union Catalog grapple with, and harmonize, the metadata?

To do this work, Jenna and I will use a variety of tools to collaborate and create the final project.  To start, we created a doc in our Google Drives to collaborate on the final project proposal and we’ve used marginal annotation to have a conversation as our thoughts and ideas evolve.  Jenna and I have tried a variety of tools (i.e. Google Drive, Slack, Redmine, Open Science Framework, CUNY Academic Commons) for collaborating with various degrees of success and utility and have found that for much of the work we do, Google has been the most useful in the drafting and planning phases.  However, additional tools we will use in our final project include, WordPress, Tableau, and Zotero

I anticipate that we will continue to use our ZineCat Blog to communicate with our classmates, the greater community following the Zine Union Catalog’s development, as well as to annotate each other’s work on this final project.  As part of our collaboration and reflectiveness on skills/theories learned in Doing Things with Novels, Jenna and I will use to annotate our contributions (on the ZineCat Blog) as a part of the final project. I’m interested to see how we annotate other online texts and materials as we move through this project, too (i.e., the catalog records of ZineCat’s contributors, the scholarship we discover in relation to our project during the literature review component, etc.).  

Zines are a very creative, and sometimes hard to describe, resource.  Also, very different kinds of institutions collect zines and their approaches to description can vary widely.  I plan to do a literature review on current practices, and understanding of, what catalogers do and how they create metadata (both within traditional libraries and non-traditional).  I’d also like to do a lit review on zine description, so I will look to the many subscription databases I have access to first, and then expand my research net to include resources available outside of the privileged licensed content.

My first search included a keyword search for “cataloger AND author” in Ebsco’s Library & Information Science Source provided by NYU Libraries.  There are 265 results and a screenshot of some of the articles I’ve found can be seen below, but for a more comprehensive list see my Zotero library here.  I’ve found these resources, so far, on zine librarianship and zine cataloging. I am excited by the amount of information about there and plan to make the literature review a big part of my work for the final project.  Whether I get to reading everything is another story, but I am also currently enrolled in Independent Study for my ITP certificate completion and should’ve done a literature review on zine librarianship and zine cataloging as a part of the work for that course, so I’m happy to have dual application for the work I’m conducting this semester.  Also, based on the literature review, I’ve identified many other aspects of research interests including how catalogers are active on social media, cataloging as outreach, metadata literacy, and the history of cataloging, to name a few that have arisen from the first foray into the literature.

To wrap up, I was uncertain at first how Jenna and I would incorporate our work on the Zine Union Catalog into a theoretical literature course especially since I’ve been grappling quite a bit with the theoretical underpinnings of the course readings and discussions.  Additionally, the zine medium is very different from the other literary texts we’ve been engaging with this semester, so it was a leap for me to make the immediate connection of how zines can be used within the context of this course, but through discussion and collaboration with Jenna, it’s become much clearer.  Jenna’s experience as a cataloger is more extensive than mine, as is her experience with working, and making, zines, so I know that she will bring an awesome amount of professional and personal knowledge to this project. I hope that my contributions will include a critical analysis of the digital humanities applications and processes of this project, including the use of annotating tools, and thorough research into cataloging as authorship. I am thrilled that she and I have been able to look at the many aspects of the Zine Union Catalog through different course lenses during our degree progress.  

Mapping Benito Cereno using Story Maps

The second group assignment called upon the class to create an annotated edition of Melville’s Benito Cereno.  We had been informally practicing this over the last few weeks by publicly annotating the text using  I’ve enjoyed the overall experience of social annotation and look forward to future exploration of using annotation to explore material more.  However, after this culminating annotation project, I don’t think I’m any closer to have contributing to a formal annotated literary text, but I do think I was able to explore and play with the affordances digital humanities tools provide, most specifically Story Maps provided by ArcGIS.

First, I want to address my role in the group work.  I was absent from class the day the assignment was first introduced, and missed the opportunity to share with the class any initial thoughts I had about themes or approaches to annotating the text, but I did receive the detailed instructions from Jeff and chose to join the group that was focusing on the mapping aspect of approaching annotations in Benito.  I took a mapping course this past summer and learned to use ArcGIS and Story Maps from a scientific approach and I was interested in seeing where I could take my new skills and apply them to reading of a text within a more humanities based discipline.

The group had some email discussion about how we would collaborate and what we would do with our text.  We settled on trying out Basecamp for our project’s management and I was an eager supporter of this because I had been meaning to identify an opportunity to use Basecamp for a project and am happy I got the chance through this project (thanks, Lisa for arranging this!).  There was some back and forth within Basecamp, but the group decided that as we did not have a unified vision for how to move forward, we should probably meet in person to discuss, so we met up before last week’s class.  We moved a little closer towards a shared vision, but we still left it very open to interpretation.  Essentially, we decided that two members in each group would take one part of the text originally published in Putnam’s Monthly in October, November, and December, 1855.

Segment 1: Kat / Lisa;view=1up;seq=359
Segment 2: Lauren / Jenna;view=1up;seq=465
Segment 3: Raven / Anthony;view=1up;seq=639

We decided to continue using with the tag #BennyTheMap and address “what’s missing from Melville’s work.”  When annotating in the wild during the previous assignment, I was very interested in the context for where this story was first published: Putnam’s Weekly, so I annotated a bit about originally.  In retrospect, I wish I had pursued this more directly and mapped the missing context of the other items published in the same issues of Putnam’s that Benito was released in, but I really became obsessed with the mapping component of this and pursued identifying scholarship in response to Benito.  I found several articles through a Google Scholar search (as I wanted to find material that was available regardless of academic affiliation) and I thought that I would try and identify scholarly articles and use the map to geolocate where the scholarship was being published (i.e. which academic publishers) and where the scholars were located (i.e. academic affiliations).  After gathering this information and beginning to think about how I wanted to use different annotation tools, I revisited Story Maps (there was some early group discussion about each using different tools, but when we met in person, we decided for convenience to keep using, but when it came down to it, was not going to work for me, so I deviated).

I intended to create my own map and locate the scholarly article and link out to them on the map, but when I started playing around in Story Maps, there were all kinds of freely available projects that mapped different aspects of the Slave Trade and I decided to use those as my annotations, while also including links to the scholarship I found (and I should mention that this scholarship was chosen purely on the ease of access through a Google Scholar search and has not been critically curated).  To stick with the agreement I made for annotating in, I have annotated the section I was assigned by linking out to my Story Map.

In summary, it seems I’ve deviated quite far from what the group decided, but I don’t think that’s too detrimental as we left it somewhat open to interpretation (besides, I got to use a new collaborative tool, Basecamp, so that’s a win for the collaborative process in my opinion) and I did use maps which was a very important part of the critical approach we decided to take.  Please check out my map below (hoping it embeds properly) or by going to this site.

Annotating online for the first time

Many of the  questions I had for Jeremy Dean, Director of Education at, had more to do with the mechanics of annotation online than the educational implications of such a tool, or with Jeremy’s particular trajectory as an alt-academic.  In preparing to annotate Roland Barthes this week, I familiarized myself a bit with the platform by watching some of the videos and reading the tutorials posted on their site.  One of the videos provided a talk that Dan Whaley gave at the Personal Democracy Forum in 2013 regarding the potential annotations have to democratize information.  Open Annotation was mentioned during the talk and I had not really heard of this before.  With a cursory web search, I discovered the Open Annotation Collaboration’s website and also wanted to know more about the early failures of open annotation on the web as a massive endeavor.  I located this article on The Scholarly Kitchen site.  It seems 2013 was a big year in online annotations (Open Annotation Collaboration completed the project in 2013 and the article I cited above was published in 2013 and the first iAnnotate conference was held in this year).

Using to annotate was an interesting experience and it was my first go at online annotation.  Writing in books and on printed articles using pen, pencil, highlighter, and post-it note has been my annotation practice, but I enjoyed seeing the variations of contributions from my classmates and can see the potential of this tool for scholarly discussion and collaboration.  Though, as Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker point out in their piece, “Whipping Boys Explained: Literary Annotation and Digital Humanities” annotations could grow too abundant to really mean anything and plenty will get lost in the “noise” of it all.  However, isn’t this true of the web in general?  I am regularly in awe of the sheer abundance of knowledge and information growth in the world today, but I don’t foresee an end to the exponential growth anytime soon and it just because it won’t be found through a search engine’s algorithm, doesn’t mean the practice shouldn’t be undertaken.  Bauer and Zirker have used annotations in their undergraduate classes to increase engagement with texts, but strive to establish a framework for scholarly annotations.  As already stated in previous posts, this course is really my first opportunity to engage with texts at a level considered “close reading” and I fully continue to admit that it makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  I feared that my annotations weren’t making that great of a contribution or that I wasn’t really getting at the point in annotating a Barthes text.  Previously, my annotations were private and for me only, while now anyone on the web could see what I was thinking in the margins.  I’m interested to see how I engage with Melville’s text online: will it be easier to consider than a Barthe’s text? 

Some of the questions I had for Jeremy are:

  • What is open annotation and how does embody it?
  • What other systems are out there and what were their evolution?
  • What problems has experienced along the way?
  • What are the intentions of web annotation?
  • What preservation plans does have?
  • How is different from other platforms?  Inter-operability and Ubiquitous?  Data collection and sales?
  • What is the existential ethos of
  • How does one find annotations outside of the platform?

I realize I am writing this post past its due date, but life got in the way this week.  So, while I did not get to ask Jeremy any of my questions this past week in class, he was gracious enough to encourage the class to reach out to him and continue the conversation.  And, he’s available on Twitter.  On which he shared a video of ours truly, Jeff Allred, discussing social annotation (where I must again admit, that I have great anxiety over engaging with “theoretically dense, philosophically rich, formally experimental text” like Barthes!).  Impostor syndrome?

Technofeminist Bartleby

Image title: Face Cry Robot Artificial Intelligence Sad Woman.  Found at

Face Cry Robot Artificial Intelligence Sad Woman

I was not expecting that we’d actually complete the entire audiobook rendering of Bartleby in two week’s time with just short class meetings to discuss our strategy and each of us having demanding jobs and difficulty working on the project on the same days, but like Jenna, Travis, and our other group mates, I am proud of the accomplishment.  Although our audiobook might not sell for top dollar on Audible, it might definitely get a listen (or two) on librivox!

To give you an idea of where we started, after class on September 13, we drafted this document to organize our thoughts.  It’s evolved since the original creation, and we did our best to contain our thoughts to the doc, but we often veered into long email strings of conversations (continuing even as I write this blog post), going back and forth about creative ideas and varying interpretations and directions we should take the audiobook in.

As the online conversation and email correspondence was not getting us any closer to important decisions, we decided to meet before last week’s class (in the new MADH lounge) in person to discuss and finalize our strategy for rendering the audiobook.  It took us one more meeting after class to finalize our strategy.  There were still some creative back and forth, but we were able to settle on a division of labor:

  • Travis would mark up the script and color code the different voices/characters in the text (in addition to drafting the presentation) so that
  • Lauren could make a text to speech rendering of each character’s voice (using Mac’s accessibility functions) and then pass on the files to
  • Lisa who would string them all together using Audacity, but who would also get human read files from
  • Jenna (Bartleby’s voice was intentionally left as a human voice) & Sabina (who would identify parts of the text where the character’s humanity outweighed their inhumanity).  The final edit would be completed by Sabina which included the human voice overs and other sound effects.
  • Jenna & Travis were the point group members for working on the presentation and for keeping us all on track!

Creatively, we decided to “read” the text using a text to speech approach where all the voices of characters, except Bartleby, were rendered as female robot voices (Jenna narrated Bartleby).  As Lisa pointed out in her post, we were interested in a feminist approach to the text which, for me, has been inspired by a heavy load of reading texts authored by men and written about men (mostly) in addition to being in a collaborative group with a majority of women.  Also, I remember discovering in the ITP Core I course last fall that most of the automated voices used on our devices (GPS, Siri, Alexa, etc.) are female which may have evolved from the traditional role women played in assisting with administrative tasks over the last century.  We also had lots and lots of discussion about the humanity and inhumanity of the characters and our various interpretations.

I am new to reading texts closely like this.  My relationship to reading has mostly been for enjoyment where I find pleasure in the stories authors tell.  I’m still grappling with the interpretations of the text, but have found our in class discussions enlightening.  Rendering the text as an audiobook has provided me with an opportunity to think non-traditionally about reading and the mere experience of enjoying the material.  As a group, we had to impose interpretation of the text and represent that interpretation which has been manifested as a somewhat techno feminist approach.  Nonetheless, we all agreed that we also wanted to represent the many varied interpretations of the character’s humanity, so we experimented with both machine and human read voices.  I’m impressed with the quality of our accomplishments, but there may be a few moments where the interspersion of the audio files may not run so smoothly.  As a group, we created over 100 separate audio files that needed to be edited together!  Quite a task, but maybe in future iterations of this course and this assignment, students can be given another week perhaps or be asked to submit a more polished version at the end of the semester.

Finally, I’ll conclude with saying that with our audiobook, it’s also quite interesting to hear the machine readings of the text.  For our previous audiobook assignment, it was important to me to find a book that was read by the author so that I could hear their voice and their interpretation of the text.  With our version of Bartleby, the automated and human read voices do not match the voices in my head of the character’s!  Nevertheless, that’s part of the interesting nature of audiobooks which Matthew Rubery has discussed in his writing: Canned Lit After Edison & Play It Again, Sam Weller.  I also don’t think I could regularly rely on being read to from a robot voice.  Despite there being a few different voice options, hearing the robot over and over might drive me a little mad and if I had to read texts this way, I might just have to say “I would prefer not to.”

Multi-modal reading

I had not previously been aware that public readings of entire novels had taken place during the age of the Victorians.  It did not occur to me, as someone who has been accustomed to the solitary enjoyment of reading (a la Rubery’s explanation of today’s literary scholarship on p. 60), that public reading would be a fashion.  After reading “Play It Again, Sam Weller: New Digital Audiobooks and Old Ways of Reading” it seems to be an obvious pastime and one that I would most likely enjoy being an audience member of.  I know that I love reading with my nieces and nephews as they learn to be independent readers, but it’s so far been a tradition that ends when they do establish their ability to read on their own.

It also makes sense to me now, that the modern day audiobook has evolved from the practice of reading aloud in audiences, and as Rubery points out that it’s possible the “audiobook is the latest step in the long process of commodifying literature, this development presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how our own attitudes toward reading aloud have evolved since a nineteenth-century inventor first imagined a ‘talking book’…” (59).  Until the requirement for this course to listen to an audiobook, I hadn’t thought about reading/listening to a book in that way seriously in quite a while.  I’d seen the many advertisements for and get occasional emails from Amazon about my first free audiobook, but music and podcasts are what I listen to today, not books.  Nonetheless, I do fondly remember a long car ride to Ohio from New York for a friend’s wedding many years ago where the 8 CDs required to listen to The Memory Keeper’s Daughter kept me occupied (I found the book on clearance in Barnes & Noble which I remember thinking that it was so deeply discounted because no one listened to books, they read them!).  But here I am, after this assignment, newly enamored with the format and want to ask my family if they’ll indulge me in establishing a read aloud tradition for us.  I also want to suggest to the director of the library where I work that we have a series of events around the reading of various literary titles available in our library.

What has me so excited about the audiobook (much like Thomas Edison’s excitement over the possibilities of his invention of phonograph) is the feeling that this could be an entertaining endeavor with my family (Rubery 62).  I am looking forward to learning more about the process of creating audiobooks in the next weeks of class.

When deciding what to listen to this week, I considered several things:

  • What platform would I use?  I looked at Audible (through Amazon), Librivox, and finally the NYPL’s mobile app: Libby (which is what I ended up choosing from as I didn’t want to have to pay for the book)
  • How much time did I have to listen to the book?  I wanted to choose a title I’d be able to complete by class, but saw that many books took hours to read.  At first, I was going to choose an abridged Mansfield Park from the BBC that ran at 2 hours, but I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted an abridged version, despite the all star cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Felicity Jones, and David Tennant.  What I ended up choosing was the unabridged version of Between the World and Me, authored and read by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I was familiar with Mansfield Park, but had failed to complete the reading of Between the World and Me, so I took the opportunity to complete it.
  • I was concerned with who was reading the book.  Librivox is read by volunteers and a famous actress had read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, but I was interested in hearing the author read their own work to me (like Dickens had done many years before).

Thus, I decided on a book read by its author and provided to me free of charge that I could complete in the allotted time for the assignment.  Having read the first section of the book over a year ago, I knew that the author was writing this book as a letter to his adolescent son, but that it was also meant for a greater audience.  It was very personal, and at times I felt as if I had no right to be listening in, but at other times, I felt like this was a book (letter) that everyone in America must read/hear.  Rubery cites Camlot’s study and writes that “the sound of the audio book inhibits our own imagination by performing our potential imagining of the text’s voice for us” and continues “listeners…complain about how unsettling it can be to find a narrator’s voice at odds with their own ideas of how that voice should sound” (72-73).  Yet, for this book, I believe that Ta-Nehisi Coates is the only person qualified to read this book aloud to an audience.  Perhaps it’s the title I chose, that only has one voice, and it’s the author’s innermost personal thoughts, and it’s not a made up story.  Had I chosen a work of fiction, with many characters, Rubery’s statements on the sounds of the readers’ voices might make more sense.  Rubery goes onto describe how “central voice is as a source of meaning” and I do think I’m better able to understand Coates’ book after having had him read it to me (74).

To conclude, we briefly discussed in class last week the idea of the “sage on the stage” and I want to argue that there are times where that model is appropriate in the classroom.  To reiterate, I feel I have a better understanding of Coates’ arguments after having it read to me, much like how I feel after attending a good lecture, but I also think that, as Rubery introduces, that a “multimedia approach” to literature is the “lingua franca” of students today (68).  He goes on: “[t]his fluency with technology stems from years of downloading entertainment, filming with digital cameras, and communicating through mobile phones.  Students have little trouble understanding how these devices shape their communication – the way in which the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan famously put it…” (68).  Reading in a multi-modal fashion (and using technology in a meaningful and useful way) will get students (and hopefully my nieces and nephews, too) to think about literature (and reading, more generally) in new and different ways that opens up the possibilities for interpretations, discourse, and learning in, and outside of, the classroom.


Contributing to a blog has been a core requirement of all the classes I’ve taken so far at the Graduate Center.  So has following and reading various blogs.  I picked up early on how important blogs were to the digital humanities and my academic studies, and I recognize that they are an important tool for sharing and discussing ideas and having an online conversation around those ideas.  Nevertheless, it doesn’t come super easy to me and it’s not my favorite form of communication, but I will do my part to dispense my thoughts and to comment on those of my classmates.  I still relish the face to face discussion and sharing of ideas (thankfully, this class is taught in a classroom and not online).  Perhaps that’s my bias of age showing and I am resisting the “generational shift in cognitive styles” that has been hypothesized due to the rapid development of today’s “mediascape” as Hayles explores in the essay “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Mode” (p. 187).

I know for sure that I get super frustrated when my young nieces and nephews would rather play on their devices than read a good book, but I also know that being connected is an imperative in today’s world and they’d be somewhat at a disadvantage without access to networks and devices (I want them to prefer the solitary enjoyment of escaping into a good book over the rewards of beating their friend in a game of Fortnite, but I might be asking too much?).  What I really hope is that they are able to strike a balance in their development as citizens to be both able to deeply focus and to critically engage (with a book) while also navigating the constant bombardment of information from many directions and screens.  I use the word citizen intentionally here because I was particularly struck by the “Community Reading and Social Imagination” essay’s discussion of civil society and the role that community reading has played in ensuring a civil society.  The authors write:

In coming together to listen to, write, or discuss literature, we ideally develop and hone the skills (of listening to, evaluating, and critically engaging others’ arguments and articulating rhetorically effective positions of our own) that make civil society pleasurable and productive. (p.422)

This leads me to thinking about how some feel that the internet is the “great democratizer” of our time.  Web 2.0, as Liu introduced, allows anyone to be an author or creator or commentator or contributor (if any and all contribute, isn’t that the democratic ideal?).  We can now all come together and write, discuss, and listen online (given that we have internet access and a tool to write with).  Despite my reticence to blog, I still recognize it as a useful platform for communally participating and sharing ideas (although I will still prefer the in person discussion).  I’m not quite sure that the internet really is the great democratizer, but it definitely allows us to have more conversations and to write socially once again.