Sunday, July 30, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
What I didn't love was the fact that the building I was in was leaking. So, I left the upper floor for the fourth floor, and the location of my favorite library. As soon as I sat down on the comfy couch, I heard it behind me - drip, drip, drip - you know the rest. The ceiling was buckling and the drops could be heard, but it hadn't busted through yet. I fetched library staff and pointed out the location. Not long after we found another area where the ceiling had broken through, letting loose a flood of water on the floor. Thankfully, it was by the windows and away from any library materials that would be damaged by the water. So much of campus has been flooded, though, that it will probably take some time before maintenance can get to it.
Back to the story of my not working. There was enough flooding on campus that email, the online calendar system, and the online library services were down. This stalled my research plans for the day, so I went home. Rather than writing or reading things I should, I started a novel.
Not the most productive day, by any means.
Friday, July 21, 2006
- I want to finish some of my work for my last slis class (Management of Libraries and Information Agencies). Maybe I'm just impatient, but I want us to work through the material faster. This includes writing a mission statement, starting my grant proposal narrative, (On that note, I need to come up with a project. It will probably be something related to information literacy initiatives.) and completing all of the readings for next week.
- Read/skim some history overviews related to my dissertation project.
- Wrap up my proposal and get my proposal conference scheduled.
If I have time, I also want to work on some writing related to my ChLA paper - I hope to expand this project into some kind of something. The reception it received at the conference was a real confidence booster, and I needed that. I hadn't been feeling very confident about any of my work for a while. My work seems to fall outside of everyone else's areas, and as a result I don't get much interest or feedback about what I do. Of course, my ADD-induced, scatterbrained girl way of being doesn't always lead to being taken seriously. I can be difficult to be around when my brain is racing.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I groomed Chewie one last time. He can get pretty wild and wooly.
He also seems to think I'm his new best friend.
So starting this week, I need to start thinking a whole lot more about my dissertation. I probably shouldn't have done this, but I chose to not think much about it while I've been here the past month. I was really burned out after the last two semesters - particularly after the hellaciously busy spring semester. I haven't been completely idle academically, but I did choose to focus on other areas I want to read about. Well, my mini Peake Fest wasn't exactly academically motivated, but it was good for me. I needed the diversion.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Early in chapter 3, "Databasing the World: Biodiversity and the 2000s," Bowker writes "The miracle of memory in our time is that memory practices are materially rampant, invasive, implicated in the core of our being and of our understanding of the world - and yet we experience them and discourse about them in terms of their ideal ramifications on some hypostasized entity created to void materiality from the equation: the individual, the nation-state, the people, and so forth" (pg 109).
What Bowker broaches, in this chapter, is the way we as humans often take ourselves outside of nature when we create our ways of organizing and controlling nature. In addition, he examines the ways in which western peoples' have created systems that place other peoples (as a way of colonialization) classified as 'nature,' while placing their own practices as 'culture' and outside of these modes of classification.
As the chapter progresses, Bowker leads up to a discussion of how we can read databases both materially and discursively. Drawing from Derrida's discussions of how technologies can create new kinds of 'traces.' From these premises, Bowker argues that to 'read' databases, we need to look at what isn't categorized or classified. What is classified is considered important, politically, economically, ideologically, etc. By examining what is left out of these systems, we can start to form the context of systems. He notes that "If certain kinds of entities are being excluded from entering into the database we are creating, and if those entities share the feature that they are singular in space and time, then we are producing a set of models of the world that - despite its avowed historicity - is constraining us generally to converge on descriptions of the world in terms of repeatable entities: not because the world is so but because this is the nature of our manipulable data structures" (pg 146). What this means is that those entities that are named are studied, and once studied, are considered relevant subjects for future study. The unnamed become unimportant, and the systems created around those things we name are not created to support a place for the unnamed.
In biodiversity work, researchers from multiple disciplines using multiple discipline-specific methods and contexts deposit data into common databases. In addition, the data in the databases themselves need to be accessible when databases are updated technologically. As a result, the use of metadata becomes central. Metadata needs to be flexible enough to be accessible both today and in the future. And, it needs to be able to provide as much context as possible. Developing metadata standards that can encompass all possible futures while still serving our present (and the present and future for everyone) is still far off into the future.
I just finished reading Geoffrey Bowker's Memory Practices in the Sciences for the book club over at Reading Information Sciences. I gave myself a break and allowed myself to read it at a leisurely pace, a luxury I rarely have anymore.
At the heart of the book, is Bowker's examination of the ways in which "acts of committing to record" are socially imbued practices affecting our conception of the past in ways that. As a consequence, affect our present and future. Bowker begins with the effects of industrialization on memory practices in geology.
For me, what stands out is: The ways accounting practices used during the Industrial Revolution were transferred onto Geology (and geologic ways of deciphering the age of the earth) by Lyell and others. Lyell argued that the earth itself isn't "irregular," rather that it is just a bad archivist. What Lyell constructed was a spatio-temporal systemization that moved away from seeing the history of the earth as a series as catastrophic events. Methods of organizing work and the workplace were used to explain how the earth ages at regular intervals, rather than by events such as earthquakes and floods. He moved away from creationist theories of the earth's age. Bowker discusses how this (and other geologic theories of the time) privileged Western Europe and aided imperial interests and burgeoning globalization.
Bowker follows this approach to memory practices by looking at cybernetics, and its focus on semantic memory - "memory as pure pattern" (pg 76). Bowker sees cybernetics as working from universalism. Theories of cybernetics during the mid-twentieth century posited that cybernetics removes the need for memory as it worked to create a system that could hold all information equally, like a universal discipline. To work, cybernetics must be general. And through cybernetic systems, history becomes just a part of a classification scheme, a way of patterning. And as a result, Bowker argues, memory needs to be destroyed to create unity .
Bowker writes: "First, past disciplines are destroyed: they need to be created anew from first principles Second, an individual experimenter must destroy his or her knowledge of previous experiments. Third, one result of this double destruction will be the discovery by cybernetics that memory itself is epiphenomenal (pg 101).
As Bowker later notes, though, all data is always collected within a context. In cybernetic systems, context is eliminated, eliminating important information about how and why data has been collected. We lose the reason(s) behind collection methodologies which are almost always discipline specific.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Other recipe card curiosities:
- Organization - definitely differs from person to person. And then there are all of the items I find placed in incorrect sections.
- The writing on the card - a number of recipe cards have additional material on them, such as reactions to the recipe, possible serving ideas, and completely unrelated notes. I usually don't transcribe these, but I am keeping the cards.
- One of the questions I've struggled with is one of authenticity. Should I transcribe recipes directly, spelling errors and all? Or should I 'correct' them? I've been correcting spellings, but that is mainly b/c I'm a bad typist and I need to run the spell check anyway to catch my typos.
- Recipe revisions - Some recipes change. Sometimes, I suspect, b/c of increased availability to convenience food items/ingredients. Or, as is the case with one of my favorite pie recipes, an error in preparation turned out to be an amazingly good alteration to the recipe.
- Provenance - I suspect this is true for most (but correct me if I am wrong), my family is very good about writing down the source of recipes. This is culinary social networking. When I make my great-great-Aunt Blanche's pie recipe, or my mom's Uncle Albert's rolls, I know where they come from b/c of the notations on the cards. I see the names of my family's friends - some of the first names I recognize, many I don't. But I do recognize the last names attached to many of the cards (perhaps the benefit of having a family based in a couple small communities - many of the names stay in those communities).
But back to memory.
As I sit in the family room entering recipes onto my laptop, my mom walks by occasionally, part of the physical therapy for that new hip joint. So I ask her if she remembers recipe x. Sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn't. But sometimes it reminds her of another recipe that she hasn't had since she was younger than I am now. And she remembers that it was made a lot and that it might have come from person y.
And that is how we make connections. Through recipe cards, handwritten by my great-grandmother, handwritten and sometimes typed by my grandma, and mostly typed by my mother. And mine are digital (although frequently printed). Technologies have changed the nature of the recipes and the format in which they appear. The memories I have of sugar cookies at my grandma's house are different from my mother's memories of the same cookies at her grandma's house. And that's wonderful. It is how we are connected.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
It gets worse. There is a recipe for pickled fish.
But then, there is also dandelion wine. That makes it all ok.
I also found my mom's baptism certificate rolled up and partially wet. Fortunately, I was able to dry it and maintain the overall integrity of the document. It is a beautiful and really should be framed properly.
I've always wanted to take a course on restoration. I wish I had already taken one before this happened.
Friday, July 07, 2006
For the most part, everything will be alright, but a number of boxes got soaked. I suspect they contained a lot of family photos that she has been planning to 'arrange' (planning for years, now). Granted, she doesn't have a lot of spare time, so I don't blame her for not getting to the project. But it is a shame that a lot of old photographs (some that we got from our grandparents' house after our grandma died) are probably destroyed. I'll go over to check out the damage tomorrow. Hopefully not too many of the photos were in boxes on the floor. I really hope those boxes were on a table or in a cabinet.
Monday, July 03, 2006
The author, Nan Miller - a retired professor of English who taught both literature and composition, argues, among other things, that literature needs to return to the composition classroom, that composition theory and theorists are worthless, and that 'holistic scoring' means that students grade their own writing. That last one has me a bit confused. That certainly isn't what I know holistic scoring to be.
While the author seems to favor peer-tutoring and writing centers, she opposes collaborative work in the classroom, claiming it is an abdication of teacher responsibility.
One of her arguments is that students in upper-level English courses are unprepared to work with literature b/c they aren't taught to do so in English 101. This, it seems, is at the crux of her agenda. She pushes heavily to take comp away from compositionists and to make English 101 a pre-lit course featuring a lot of writing. She adamantly opposes using texts that are not 'high' literature, which leaves out most of the writing our students will encounter (both in school and in life).
What really gets to me is this: "Fallacy 2: The best way to insure quality instruction in English 101 is to hire instructors who are trained in composition theory." AARGHH!!! She continues by stating that "A better measure of writing teacher potential is a love for great works, a knack for writing clear sentences, and a yen for having both rub off on a class of sometimes reluctant eighteen-year olds." Really, I thought we had all gotten past the fallacy that if one can write well, surely he or she can teach others to write well. If we expect a biology professor to be an expert in biology, shouldn't we expect the same for a professor of writing? I wonder if she would want someone to teach those sacred 'great works' in a literature course based on the qualification of liking to read.
I'm not going to get into her section about grammar instruction, because clearly she hasn't fully read the research and I have better things to do with my time. The same holds for her fundamental misunderstanding of student-centered pedagogy.
And, I think at the heart of all of this, Miller falls into the trap of expecting anyone (students) to be proficient or even expert writers after only one semester of study. Returning to the field of biology, I don't think that anyone would call a student a proficient or expert biologist after merely one semester of introductory biology. And this holds true for any discipline.
I see so many problems and misreadings (of comp theory) in this so-called 'study.' I've said enough for now. Anyone else have any thoughts about this, the publicity it is getting (yes, it is) and how we can combat the fallacies of her 'fallacies?'