Monday, May 30, 2011

Free, Simple, Quick, Painless ebooks (I think)

While we do have the option of just using an online converter to change a Word doc version of our book into HTML (More specifically XHTML, Nyssa - my husband says the only difference between HTML and XHTML is that XHTML conforms to higher standards so you have to remember to close all your tags and such but it's essentially the same), the converters are not always perfect and then we'd probably need someone to double check the coding for us. Assuming (pretty sure this is a safe assumption) that none of us are fluent in XHTML coding, this could pose problems.

Nyssa found a way to use Adobe InDesign to export to ePub, but I'm not sure any or enough of us are familiar with InDesign. Besides, I think we (my genius husband and I) have found a way to convert directly from a PDF to ePub format. This would not only skip the XHTML conversion step but also put most of us in a format that we're probably more familiar with: the PDF. Here's the article that explains this.

It looks like it's originally intended for users who already have ebooks in PDF format and are frustrated that their chosen ebook readers don't support PDF format, and so can use this platform to convert their book into ePub which is supported by most ebook readers. Interesting note: the article says the ebook situation is similar to when the music industry was trying to find a uniform format and now ePub is the closest format we have to the comparable music Mp3.

The article has directions for how to use this "free and cross-platform ebook management tool," Calibre, to accomplish the task and it looks relatively painless and quick. I think we should at least give it a shot, though we may need to understand more about PDF/ ePub formatting of ebooks so we know what is allowed, like what Nyssa discovered about graphics in the ePub format, etc.

Anyways, check out the article about this process and the demo video on the Calibre home page to learn more. Let me know what you all think!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Response to Legitimate Literary Criticism

I wrote the following as a response (just my thoughts typed out as I think them) to Dr. Burton's post today on Legitimate Literary Criticism and thought since it was such a long comment it deserved the attention of a blog post.
Are the conventions of an ebook the same as online writing or is it more like a go-between for the two mediums? I think our ebook feels more formal to me than most online writing and I feel almost compelled to make it longer than not. Interesting. 
Also, thank you for this post. It finally does what I feel like I've been waiting for this semester, a justification of the way this course is taught and of what we are doing (ie. "The ubiquitous, media-rich, interconnected, networked online environment is in fact our default intellectual medium, and therefore our literary criticism must be responsive to the conventions of communication developing there." and "I want my students to write "legitimate literary criticism" not according to expiring standards, but by the emerging standards that emphasize frequent, informal, formative, media-rich, interactive prose. Better a living literary criticism than a dead or dying one.")
I've been trying to explain how this class fulfills the parameters of it's original intent as prescribed by the English department and found myself at a loss, but these arguments are pretty sound. They frankly address the tensions or issues the class presents. I do wonder (like our discussion about library database interfaces) if the academic world and its literary criticism can be driven by demand though -- I suppose I'm not as convinced that for everyone in the academic world (or even most) that their "default intellectual medium" is mapped out in the online sphere. Also, is legitimacy most largely determined by audience? or is that a more modern way of thinking? It sounds like our demand/ supply thought. 
I don't mean to be contrary ... or maybe I do. These are just all the questions I'm coming up with as I read and respond to your post. 

E book Project Thoughts

So I've been looking at the wikipedia page for ebook formats and I think we're going to have to know some kind of computer language to even create this thing. That's slightly daunting. I mean, we could just create a PDF but then that isn't dynamic as we want it to be. I wonder if there's a site out there that is like blogger for people who want their own blog type webpage, but for ebooks. 

It brings in questions again about scope*. Can we really complete this project within three weeks? Do any of us know any web markup languages? I was thinking just creating the content for my "chapter" and trying to tie it into a legitimate theme with the rest of the ebook for a legitimate stakeholding audience was going to be time consuming.

As for authenticity I don't think it'd be that difficult to make our book like a collection of essays about digital literary research and to have the essays track our journey in researching each individual book and learning to use the new tools that we've been becoming accustomed to. I don't think writing such an essay (each of us write one) is outside the scope of a 3 (really only 2) week project. I think this definitely lies within the focus and scope of the class in preparing us for "additional literary study and for life-long learning". If we could figure out the ebook format (something I'm a little afraid is beyond us), it'd be a really valuable project to show to future employers. 

I'm presenting a problem without coming up with a solution but I'm just not informed enough to know what that solution is. I've sent out feelers into my "networks" to see if anyone has any ideas, but in the meantime ... what do you guys think?

*bolded terms refer to the parameters of the project that Dr. Burton outlined in yesterday's post


Post Script (added after publishing): I forgot to mention that I still think it's really important to include things like photos, video, links, footnotes (that you can jump down to just by clicking on them) etc in our ebook. I just don't know how we'd be able to do this.

The Only Way to "Climb the Ladder"

This will be interesting I think to many of you though perhaps not in line with our current goal of academic blogging and trying to tie all our posts together. It is somewhat random but really interesting.

According to my Political Science professor this semester, we all think we're middle class and we're all actually somewhere in the lower class. Professor Coffey (sweet older guy) says that middle class starts with a salary of about $250,000 (Say what?!) and the reason many families think they're there is because they're getting closer to that mark with a joint income (both parents working). And I thought I had it made at age 16 when Subway gave me a $0.50 raise from minimum wage. 
Image courtesy of Christop | flickr
Dr. Coffey, my polysci prof, also informed us that the only sure way to ascend socio-economic classes is education (you know ... unless you create facebook).  This leads me to an interesting link I found by following BYU IPT professor, Dr. David Wiley on twitter. The link (click here) displays a dynamic graphic that shows you the median income of each college major based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Pretty incredible. The thing I found most interesting is that not a one of these median bachelor salaries exceeds 120K. So how much education do you really need to climb the ladder?

Thoreau's Education in ABELL for James Matthews

After many dead ends, at least online, I've decided to start tracking my progress in searching out a useful article for James Matthews who is studying Henry David Throeau's Walden.

2. I have been using ABELL to look for articles about Thoreau and education or teaching (unsuccessfully at least in full text carried at BYU for the past hour I might add).

3. The Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature contains 860,000 records, covering monographs, periodical articles, critical editions of literary works, book reviews and collections of essays published anywhere in the world from 1920 onwards. What I am confused about is why the library site, when I click on ABELL's database takes me to LION and uses that platform to search ABELL. Rather confusing.

4. I searched terms like "thoreau" and "edu*" in the keywords box and "throeau" and "walden" in the subject box. I turned up a number of "brief records" but in order to determine their usefulness to the project I wanted abstracts. I tried looking up several of the journals on the HBLL site but without sucess. Once the journal was in another language, once not listed, and the last time I found an article that from the title looks as though it'd be very pertinent to James's research but is only available in hardcopy at the library. I thought I would list it here for James's to determine it's usefulness.

5. Dillman, Richard H. "Thoreau's Harvard Education in Rhetoric and Composition." Thoreau Quarterly (1981): 47. Print.

6. I assume the article to explore Thoreau's Harvard education though I could not access an abstract of it presently. I thought it might be interesting for James to check out the journal it is in though as that may be a valuable (if dated) resource. The journal is the Thoreau Quarterly and the HBLL has a copy of the journal, including the issue containing the aforementioned article at this location: PS 3053 .T5

7. About his research, James wrote, that he'd like to "analyze Thoreau as a teacher and an educator, that's actually what he did right after he graduated from Harvard. To the casual onlooker of his life at that point, he was rather unsuccessful at it. I want though to look at his mode of teaching in Walden, especially as a spiritual/moral/ethical teacher." An article on Thoreau's Harvard education would certainly be a great entry point into James's research and who knows what other valuable articles he might find in the Thoreau Quarterly.

Good luck James! (P.S. Are you still in the class? I see you haven't posted since the 17th.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Huck's Bloggophere and Cussin'

2. My purpose is to explore LION (Literature Online), a literary database, in order to pursue my research on connections between current hot topic discussions of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the online writing environment and higher education.

3. LION (Literature Online). This is a resource indexing multiple databases about English poetry and drama, some fiction, and Shakespeare. It has reference works and lists of selected web resources.

4. I searched "Huckleberry Finn" and scrolled down to a list of criticism on the text. The title of one article caught my attention but they didn't have the text, only the "full record". I might've been tempted to count this as a dead end but I'll never tell. However I was so interested in what the article had to say that I went to the library website, looked up the journal that the article was in - Chronicle of Higher Education - and found we had the full text online through EBSCO host so I linked through the journal with the rest of the publication information and then scrolled down till I found this article. I clicked the full text link and there it was!

5. "The Redacted 'Huckleberry Finn': 'Chronicle' Bloggers Respond." Chronicle of Higher Education 57.21 (2011): B4. Print.

6. A compilation of sorts of blog posts by different bloggers from this journal on the deletion of the 'n' word in Huckleberry Finn by editor Alan Gribben of NewSouth. 

7. This article is all about the hottest topic of discussion about Huck Finn today, that Mark Twain scholar, Alan Gribben, has replaced the word "nigger" in a new edition of Huckleberry Finn with "slave" so as not to offend readers and open up potential audiences (i.e. high schoolers) that the book might not have had before. I followed the lead in the article to the Chronicle's original blog posts on the subject and found a listing of several. I'm interested now to know what audiences outside of higher education are having this debate, if any, and what they're saying. 

Posting and Blogger

Couldn't get my post on here yesterday because of blogger errors but you can check out my academic post for yesterday at my other blog.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Final Project

I couldn't make it to class today but I wanted to quickly voice an opinion about the final project.

We talked about the issue of whole class v. small groups and I encourage the latter because I think people will be able to be more enthused about a project they get to choose to participate in rather than on something the whole class is doing that they may not be as passionate about. As for each of us having so many cool individual backgrounds that could really make a group project cool, that is still applicable in small groups and perhaps there can be some crossover between the groups as well.

My opinion on advising the library about their research tutorial? I don't know about you but I don't know how much I have to personally contribute to that project. I feel more like we'd just be reiterating research methods that Dr. Burton has been teaching us rather than creatively coming up with new stuff for the library. I feel the main flaw in the research tutorials is the interface and how difficult it is to maneuver as well as a few information flaws but I couldn't tell you how to fix that because I am neither a design expert nor very savvy with researching using the library system.

I would really like to do a project that would incorporate what we've already been doing: our novels. This is why I think doing something that teaches would be most beneficial. I'd hate to try to double task something like the library project along with my own personal project involving the novel or try to somehow force my novel to fit into a project where it doesn't really belong.

Just my two cents. I don't know if you'll have a chance to read it before you discuss this, but that's what I have been thinking. Sorry I couldn't be there to express it in person. Have a good class!

Map of Literary Theory

Here is my pathetic attempt to understand the connections between different literary theories. It's a work in progress and still need a lot of help but I'm not an amazing prezi designer. I'll have to find someone to collaborate with. Plus I need to make sure I'm correct about connections. The map is a remix and elaboration of KSU's map of literary theory.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Literary Inquiry (gone digital)

I gotta say, I appreciate Dr. Burton's efforts to focus us towards literary research of late. At the beginning of the class, we were focusing so much on where literacy is headed and what digital literacy meant that, to be honest, I was a little leery about the whole approach. After all, literary criticism is a huge field full of writers, professors, and critics and to ignore that when the title of the course is Writing Literary Criticism seemed incredibly bizarre to me. Yes, the topics we began with in this class have value, but it's not entirely the purpose of a course like this, is it? (No, Ms. Granger. It isn't. Why don't you step outside with me so I can hex you and hide you in a closet so as to benefit the rest of us who are enjoying class the way it is?)

Lately, I think we've been focusing more on doing research on literature in the critical age which feels a bit more comfortable to me. Anyways, I looked up the course description on BYU's site: "How to address an academic audience, support arguments, and engage effectively in critical conversations about literature." I think we're getting closer to this goal with the class focusing more in general on doing research. I know the library instruction will be largely focused on this.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Researching Huck Finn

Today I went to OER's site to find out more about Huck Finn. After narrowing my search to the humanities and searching the terms "Huckleberry Finn," I found a plethora of resources for exploration. First I found two courses taught at MIT with their syllabi and course information (Course 1 | Course 2). This is valuable information because it is so recent and gives me some idea of where to head with my own research. One of the courses had links to other resources that might be helpful including this awesome site from the University of Virgina that places Mark Twain in his context. I also stumbled upon the site for the Mark Twain museum which I didn't even think of including on my site till now! I've created a "list" with my diigo account to start accumulating these resources so I can delve into them at more depth when I'm ready and add them to my site as I do.

Friending Huck: Making Mark Twain's Novel Universally Accessible

Photo by Jiaren Lau | Flickr

I have valued friends that don't read. That's what they tell me. They are digitally literate: they have deep social network available at a twitch of their fingers on their mobile phones and computers, they can find any information they need at the click of a button, but they "don't read" least not literature.

That's why I want to create an online platform that makes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and the discussion surrounding it available and interesting to people who "don't read". Literature professors always encourage us to understand the discussion surrounding a work before we add our own voices to that discussion and I want to create a platform for the average person to have all that information at their fingertips in one place, not having to understand how library research works and the scholarly terms thrown around in critical articles in order to be able to read and participate in a meaningful conversation about the novel. I also hope this to be an excellent resource for those teaching about the novel in public and homeschool environments.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Response to Dr. Burton's Thursday Post

I am hesitant about building off of the DigCiv digital literacy presentation and trying to expand it to other students. I have the feeling that we can be more effective in helping other students improve their digital literacy on a face-to-face, or facebook-to-facebook basis rather than trying to change the curriculum at the school itself.

I believe students are interested in learning about any tools that will help them get their homework done more quickly. ;) (For a list of such tools and tutorials, you can see the blog I created for the Digital Civ course here). As Dr. Burton argues, we're all digital natives with varying degrees of literacy, and I theorize that the best way to increase digital literacy at large for our fellow students is to be better collaborators ourselves; to spread what we've gleaned from this class throughout our social networks, rather than create a series of tutorials or pressuring the administration to adapt to the changing times. I think there is a lot of interest in gaining skills in these areas among BYU's student body already.

Dr. Burton has written about the inflexibility of the department (because it is an institution which by definition is slow to change) in adapting to digital literacy, and I am pretty sure I heard someone in the audience at the DigCiv presentation call students who adhere to these theories "Gideonites" or "Burtonites" in the same vein as Dumbledore's army ... I think you get the idea. (And I'm trying to imagine older, more established professors here at the university being encouraged to change the way they have taught their whole lives - stand and lecture from your notes - to include some of these newer ideas in education ... I just can't.)

Photo attributed to Rainer Ebert | Flickr

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How much I is TMI?

This question came up in class today and I keep hearing it pop up all over the place. How do judge when you're giving out too much information about yourself too often? What information is inappropriate for posting? Someone in class complained about the person who posts all too often about what they're eating or that they're tying their shoe. I know I have been annoyed by those who use what seems to me the wrong social media for the wrong 

too frequent updates

what you share and classmate's post about geotagging

Monday, May 9, 2011


I am falling more and more in love with Goodreads social reading site. Is anyone familiar with a social movie site of the same veneer? I've found blogs, like this one, that recommend many different films of a particular genre. I wonder if there is a similar site where you can see what your friends are watching, review it, and even recommend films to others. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Photo attributed to Judy **| Flickr

Must Reads

Have you ever gotten an email forward with a list of 100 books you should read or posted on your blog a long list of books from the Western Cannon and checked off the ones you have read? It seems these lists are becoming even more ubiquitous as social reading sites crop up all over the place. Sam McGrath's post for today got me thinking more about what we should read.

I clicked over to wikipedia's article about the Western Cannon. I didn't know there were so many different versions of it and these lists are not short. It is somewhat overwhelming. Take a look at St. John's reading college reading list. It's pretty amazing. Sam asked if we think we should try to read everything. The problem is, the cannon itself is controversial: should it include more works by women and other minority groups? Should we abandon it altogether? Is the notion of universal truths as represented in these works of fiction a load of nonsense in itself?

Friday, May 6, 2011

That's it?!

Rainbows EndRainbows End by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

That's it? It's over? So many loose ends left untied. I felt very unsatisfied when I finished this book last night. It seemed like the book was more an excuse to explore certain issues like the rise in technology and different things about security and such, but in the end the author was like, well, i think i made the points I wanted to so I'm done. No obligation to explain himself. I mean maybe he was leaving room for a sequel? Maybe?

I thought Ceredwin's review (see community reviews on goodreads) of this book was particularly humorous. She said having a famous + living + poet was like including a fairy princess unicorn. You just can't have all three. In a sense this shows the predictability of this book. I give definitely give Vinge points for clever expansion off current technology and creative naming for stuff (I had different names stuck in my head for the whole two weeks I was listening to this book and was like, where did that word come from, oh yeah...). Also, the book gives plenty of fodder for discussion about the future of books and technology so it serves its purpose. But I don't know how cleverly it really accomplished it's goal as a story or a work of great fiction.

(I should also add as a side note that I listened to the audio version of this book and did not read it on paper.)

View all my reviews

The Benefit of Writing Paraphrase

In my post Goodbyes, No Tears, I paraphrased John Donne's poem, A Valediction: Forbidden Morning. One of my commentors asked what benefit I gleaned from the paraphrase.I thought I'd respond in a new post.

The most obvious answer is that I was able to see how clearly form is tied to meaning. You just don't get as much out of my three paragraph summarization of what happens in the poem. The connotations behind the words in the poem, the flowing rhymes and the feel of the meter; these all contribute unique meaning to the poem itself and cannot be accurately captured in a paraphrase.

Despite this, I still found that paraphrasing the work forced me to spend more time digesting it. I looked up words instead of glossing over what I thought the intended meaning was. One example is the word melt in the fifth line. One definition of melt is actually to soften as in to make more mild. I was then able to understand the intended meaning of the stanza better. My interpretation of the poem greatly depends on the meaning of this word: that Donne would like his lover's and his parting to be soft and sweet, not stormy and emotional. So, paraphrasing was very useful to me in understanding the poem.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Developing an Online Presence Bit by Byte :)

A classmate, Taylor Gilbert, recently posted that he felt a little daunted by having to create an online presence in a social media world that has become somewhat of a leviathan and mentioned the presence that I have created for myself online. I commented that I've had a year and a half or so since I joined the social media scene to build up an online persona and advised him to try doing it a little bit at a time, as most people do. In this class, it must feel a little like being thrown into the deep end of a pool without floaties for the first time. I can't imagine learning all these myriad tools at once.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This semester I am more unplugged than ever before.

I am Personal Computerless. It's a new experience for me at BYU. I've always had that link to the greater world at large via instant internet access that I could plop down and use anywhere I was. Two semesters ago, my personal laptop broke, last semester the one I was borrowing from my husband broke, and now we share a laptop that stays at home so as to preserve its life. In past semesters, in addition to these personal computers, I've always carried around two work computers as well. Probably between 70-90% of my days at school were spent "plugged in". Far from being over-worried about the "evils" of technology, I enjoy using it to my purposes and I feel I have a relatively high degree of digital literacy.

However, lately I have found I rather enjoy the lack of instant access. Albeit I recognize having a cell phone (though I have what is deemed a 'dumb phone', not even comparable to my husband's iPhone with its dataplan) still allows me quite a bit of plugged-in-ness, I find that I really like having to walk to a computer, sit down, do my work, and get up to do the next thing. It's nice having to share one computer at home, because we try to get whatever we need done on it quickly so the other can use it and then we can both be done and do something together.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Goodbyes, No Tears

I want to share my paraphrase on John Donne's A Valediction: Forbidding Morning that I wrote for ENGL 251. Here is a link to the original poem. I'd love some feedback. Let me know what you think.

Good men die so gently that their friends are not even sure if they have gone. Just like their souls part quietly from their body, let’s be mild in our parting, not dramatic so as to show off our love. Crying and raging would profane all the joys of our love. Earthquakes are dramatic and give people cause for concern, but by contrast the motion of the spheres surrounding the earth, even though much greater, goes mostly unnoticed.

Lovers of this world possess a love that is created out of tangible togetherness and their five senses, and so their love cannot permit their being apart because it is created out of being together, but our love is so sure and faithful in the mind that it doesn’t matter if we’re physically separated.

Our souls are like one soul, so when we’re apart, it’s like one soul expanding, not two breaking apart, much like gold when beaten, flattens really thin but doesn’t break. Even if our souls are two separate entities, you are like the side of a compass that stands still in the center while I, as the other side of the compass, draw a circle around you. You attend to my movements while I must go away and circle you, but by staying where you are, you draw me back to you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Rainbow "Connections"

First I should say, I'm in chapter 15 of Verner Vinge's Rainbows End, a scifi novel set in the future and full of almost magical technologies that set the framework for how we're going to be thinking about writing in the digital domain for ENGL 295 this semester. I recommend the book so far as it offers a lot of food for thought about the ways technology is shaping our culture and world. It even offers the balancing viewpoint of an old man who has been cured of alzheimer's and is suddenly cured and thrust into this world of technology though his values greatly differ from those of the hightech world he's been thrown into.

Today in class I was thinking about the digital theme of "connect" for our class as seen in Verner Vinge's Rainbows End. For those not in the class, the theme connect in our class is about connecting digitally with others: collaborating on projects, the effectiveness of working in groups or sharing as a community. One of the ideas behind a research blog is that it allows you to connect with an audience beyond the classroom and get their feedback on your ideas as they are in progress.

In Rainbow's End, the main character, Robert Gu (not sure about spelling since I'm listening to the audiobook), the old guy suddenly thrust into technoworld, critiques the younger generation as knowing nothing. He is frustrated that they are just constantly able to google and look up things they don't understand and seemingly know nothing for themselves.