My So-Called Afterlife

The Afterlife Will Be Digitized – The Ringer

One artist imagines how the internet will change our perception of death At age 10, Gabriel Barcia-Colombo mummified his 5-year-old sister. He moved most of the furniture out of the living room, affixed a camera to a tripod, and - dressed in a flowy blue tunic - methodically wrapped his sibling in toilet paper.

I originally referred this post to my department head to let him know I am still alive. Here is what I wrote:

The Afterlife Will Be Digitized – Who says they ain’t no humanities jobs? Afterlife Documentarian!

“Sent this to my students via our class hashtag #wkueng100. This may seem flip….but it isn’t. File this under job descriptions that haven’t yet been written, but are already being filled. That’s the kind of job that doesn’t have much competition. Wedding photographer in reverse–afterlife narration now in Virtual Reality!”

That’s digital humanities, folks.

Artistic Choice: the Nature of Digital Call and Response

Luke started the whole thing at his website with his ‘breath’taking nature photo.


I followed with this response using Pablo on Twitter.

Kevin followed with his response on Twitter. Not sure what Kevin used to create his response.

The next step of the exploration, a little adhoc adventure into how and why we respond to others, the digital call and response, using NowComment as our platform.

Digital Humanist


The quote above comes from a short interview with Laura Braunstein who is the Digital Humanities and English Librarian at the Dartmouth College Library.  Something shifted a bit inside me as I read this, as if to say, “Maybe I am one of these folks,too.”

Braunstein defines her role in this relatively new discipline as :


Resource person



That definitely clicks for me. I have always considered myself a learning concierge.  I love the working class, democratic appeal of asking the question, “How can I help you?”

I get no deeper satisfaction in my work as a writing instructor than providing directions to cool, clean, safe watering holes to my learners. And I am always looking for new resources, new oases.

I love to collaborate.  That is something I have had to grow to love.  I think the best piece of advice I ever got on this subject was from Alan Levine: if you can’t answer a question after 20 minutes of trying, then find help.  To me this means finding a collaborator. A co-laborer.  This very broad definition of collaboration is one that I am comfortable with.

A faculty colleague who I really respect has asked me to collaborate with her graduate students in our Writing Center at Western Kentucky University as a digital humanist. She may not know that is what she asked for and is getting, but I am very grateful she asked and truly excited to co-labor with her and her students.  It is quite likely that I will get more out of it than they will.  In fact, the selfish part of me counts on it.

I am a promoter, too, just as Braunstein says she is.  I promote a point of view that is relentlessly pragmatic as regards tools: if it doesn’t help my co-laborers seek, make sense of, and share with better effect at that “intersection of technology and human culture” then fuggetaboutit.

Identity mystifies me.  One minute I am a writing instructor and the next I am a digital humanist.  I feel a shift in stance. And with this shift comes slightly new views, new blindspots, new desires.  If I am very lucky, I will be able to smoothly glide from one outlook (instructor) to another (digital humanist).

What a difference taking a few minutes in the morning to slip on a new set of goggles for viewing the world, a virtual set, programmed by me and not someone else.

Thanks to Laura Braunstein and her interviewer, Joshua Kim. I want to know more about Digital Humanities so I am going here.  You come, too.





Fail, Try Again


if only there was

At the university I work at, we have an employment classification called “Instructor”.  In our department, English, there are five of us.  We teach full-time, we get benefits, and I actually have an office (with a closet,too.) Our university’s emphasis on teaching excellence is the reason why we have these positions, but they year-to-year contracts with no tenure track.

Our department head asked for the ‘instructors’ to develop a mission for the coming year.  We decided that since we are adjuncts that we wanted to connect with all the other adjuncts in the department–the part-time, the semester-to-semester, those unlucky enough to be paid by the piece.

We have devised a face-to-face element to this connection.  We will meet at least once a month to begin a conversation about all the local needs and problems of adjuncts in our department.  Here’s my issue.  I wanted a blended approach to our mission.  I want the F2F chunk of the solution. I think that is where the problems and solutions bubble up from.  No sense devising a solution beforehand.  We need to get together in the simplest possible conversation and then go from there.

We need an online component for those of who cannot meet F2F.  An online clubhouse for those who want to ask questions and share after the pub has closed. For those for whom time is money or time is family or time is a recharge of batteries.  I understand how time crushed adjuncts are.  That is a bit of a horror story that has been related all too well elsewhere by folks more active than I am in the adjunct activist community.

Here is my problem:  I have created a professional development Google+ community for this blended purpose, but I cannot get any uptake among my fellow instructors.  None.  I know how useful these communities are. I know how handy they can be for solving problems. I know how they help folks to connect.  I didn’t get together with my fellow instructors and say, “Hey, let’s make an online space for ourselves and the adjuncts.” I just did it.

Is that the problem?  I just imposed this ‘community’ upon them?  This is such a thorny issue and I tend to get pissed off about the little I am asking of my colleagues.  I have actually tried this with the English faculty as a whole and gotten no response.  I suspect this kind of bootstrap needs a pump priming of sorts to get people to give it a try.

I am asking for help here. Put yourself in noobie shoes and ask yourself, “What would make me want to be a part of this community? How could this community be useful to me?

Thanks. Comments below, comments on the side, comments anywhere would be a huge help.  The comment you make might end up being my solution or boomerang back to you as your solution. You never know.



An Other Zeega

I wrote a poem.


Simon gave it a damned fine reading.


I took Simon’s reading and my poem and mashed them into a Zeega.

It all seemed so easy, so frictionless, so unplanned, unstrategic,  and emergent.  A perfect collaboration.

Using NowComment to Analyze Images

I have always loved political cartoons. As a paperboy the first thing I would do was to open up the editorial page of the Louisville Courier-Journal and read Hugh Haynie’s cartoons. I discovered on my own that Haynie would hide his wife’s name in every cartoon. What a Mad Magazine exploit! That was my first exercise in close reading and I have really dug and dug into political cartoons ever since. They were the most effective mashups of text and image pre-internet. I think they still are.

Now we have a tool that helps us to dig even deeper into them–NowComment. They are not the first to bring annotation to images. One of Flickr’s finest tools early on was the ability to add notes to photos. After Yahoo bought them, this feature disappeared. I never knew it was this annotation feature that spurred my use of Flickr until it was gone. (BTW, this feature has recently returned to Flickr. Thanks to Kevin Hodgson for noting this and super thanks to Alan Levine for pointing me to his post about it and the cool Flickr tool, Mbed .)

Now image annotation is back in a format that is even more useful especially to teachers who want students to “close read” images. Below is an embedded NowComment image with a powerful cartoon by Jack Ohman of the Sacramento Bee. What makes this so useful to teachers is that it allows for others to not only add comments on the image, but also permits threaded discussion of the comments as well. Inside of NowComment further references like documents and web links can be appended for deeper reading. If you use tools that open up the discussion into other digital spaces (Hackpad,GoogleDocs come to mind) then you have the makings of a truly permeable learning space.

That space will look very busy at first. You have to explore a bit. There are lots of features that you don’t have to use until you need them so don’t get put off by the apparent complexity. It is not hard to use. I am happy to create an ad hoc screencast for anyone who wants a bit of a crawl through this particular image. You have to join NowComment to be able to comment. It is free. Frankly, that astonishes me. And…they are just about to add video annotation to the mix. Can’t wait, but for all the other kinds of annotation (text, image) you don’t have to. Play in this sandbox with me. Just click on the link in the upper right hand corner that says “View this document on NowComment”. It’ll be fun. Be a pirate and pillage away. I know I would.

Now You See Me

2016-08-10 12-39-23 –

How to Comment Click icons on the left to see existing comments. Desktop/Laptop: double-click any text or image to start a new conversation (paragraph# for a video). Tablet/Phone: single click then click on the “Start One” link (look right or below). Click “Reply” on a comment to join the conversation.

Connection Is Not a Monolith–Celebrate the Many Ways now in Week Three of #CLMOOC

Be a lamp or a lifeboat or a ladder. Rumi
Image by beck tench from her Twitter profile page:

This post is from a comment I made on Kevin Hodgson’s blog.  Love how he truncated the collaborative process for his reader. Effective and probably the best way to get folk interested in joining in.

Yet… there really is no shortcut to the kind of curiosity conversation in that Hackpad.

There IS a place for a n00bie to enter in, but that n00bie has to ante up to get the most benefit and to ask the best questions, to make the game worth the candle and not just a like or a plus or the usual quick and glossy response.

Gotta play with zeega on your own. Gotta mess with the cloud storage of digital object. Gotta read “multimodal objects”. None of this requires special expertise by this n00bie, just a little time honoring the work by sharing in it. And asking for help–the ultimate and most intimate and vulnerable form of connection.

I think sometimes on #CLMOOC we make it seem like there is one kind of connection and it is easy–join in anytime, leave anytime, lurk or whatevs. Yes, there is that ,but there are many other kinds of connections. Some not so easy.

There is the “skin yer knuckle using the wrench kind”.

There is the “ultra lo whale/elephant vibe “kind.

There is the “pickpocket brushing your back pocket to steal your phone” kind.

There is the “I’m gonna keep banging on your door till you answer” kind.

There is the sweet singing under the window kind.

This week (and every week) in #clmooc we need to honor all kinds of connection.

Maybe we can tease out what their names are like I have done above and analyze how they work so that we can each play at way of connecting that perhaps we have never tried before.

Possibly like the “cold call to edges of the network” connection that Ray Maxwell has us practicing.



Or perhaps like the light and silly antispamafoonery I share with Kevin on his website by hacking the captcha tech into a sentence or a scene whenever I comment. Here is my latest antispamisode taken from the required posting Captcha on Kevin’s blog:

antispami-poltroonitude:  “ye encode”

“And I say unto you,” the robot reverend entoned, ” As long as ye encode unto the Lord of Bots all will be well.” He pivoted on his tracks and looked out over a sea of robot shiny.

Turning the volume to eleven he megaphoned, “But woe be it unto you and very silicon atom in your circuits if ye do not encode the correct and true code. For that is the way of uniqueness and sin. That is the sin of corruption and virus and haxing.”

All the robot congregation replied to the nanotick, “A-not-men.”

One of these days I am going to have poem or a story serialized in those comments and Kevin will be my only audience. Fine by me. Connecting. Failing. Trying again. Amen.