Some Grimm Coffee: “Grandma’s Gone But the Coffee’s On”

I’m lucky to have a number of people in my life who are incredibly supportive of the work I do. One of them happens to be my sister-in-law, who sent us a bag of [Raven’s Brew Gourmet Coffee](http://www.ravensbrew.com/) called “Wicked Wolf” which had the slogan “Grandma’s Gone but the Coffee’s On” emblazoned across the bottom of the front of the bag:

WickedWolfCoffee-front

The blurb on the back begins: “Got big eyes, big ears, big teeth? Are you cross-dressing?”

WickedWolfCoffee-back

It’s really good coffee, too. And I say that as someone from South Louisiana who has drank his fair share of “gourmet” coffees and/or “strong” coffees that were really nothing more than burnt. I don’t know what the folks at Raven’s Brew do, but somehow they get a strong, bold taste which really does have some fruit in it — I know, I know: I sound like a wine aficianado — or a coffee aficianado, I guess — but in the case of this coffee, it’s true, I tell you! (I would gladly accept any of their coffees as gifts. If it was available on Amazon, I’d already have it ordered by now. As it is, I’m already doing comparison shopping in my head to see how much I have to buy to justify the shipping cost.)

Flickr apps for iPhone

Macworld has a review of three iPhone apps that allow you to work with your Flickr account. I don’t see anything that transforms my current workflow, but it’s nice to know they are there. [Here’s the review.](http://www.macworld.com/article/138500/2009/01/flickr_apps.html)

Project Bamboo Review

A number of my pre- and post-Workshop 1 essays are on the blog. Links are below. I also promised everyone that I would post a version of the 4/6 presentation I gave. It’s [here][pb46], but I’ll warn you now that it is only the slides. I am working on a transcript as well as a “slide-cast” version. (I’ll post an update as soon as possible.) There are three options when it comes to the blog: scan the main page or click on the individual links below. For all Project Bamboo posts, anywhere on the site, you can simply click on the “projectbamboo” tag, which can also be found in the right-hand navigation bar. UPDATE: The [slidecast version of the talk][pbsc] is now ready for download. It’s 8.7MB, so you’re best downloading it with either a fast connection or a nice cup of coffee. (With any luck, both.) * The first thing I posted was “[Some Ideas I’m Taking with me to Chicago][ids].” It collects together some projects I have either started or imagined in the last few years that an improved information infrastructure for the humanities would, I believe, make more possible. * In the post titled “[Pre-Workshop Notes][pwn]” I offer a synthesis of a wide ranging conversation that Clai Rice and I had one afternoon which focused on what we imagined were some of [our central concerns][pwn]. * In the [next post][hwk], I did my assigned homework, where I outlined a [scholarly practice][hwk] that I regularly engage in and that I also feared might be somewhat overlooked.

Digital Humanities Sites

* [Arts-Humanities Net](http://www.arts-humanities.net/).

[pbsc]: http://johnlaudun.prg/share/pb46-medium.mov
[pb46]: http://johnlaudun.org/assets/2008/5/20/4-6_Laudun.pdf
[ids]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/12/some-ideas-i-m-taking-with-me-to-chicago [pwn]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/13/pre-workshop-notes
[hwk]: http://johnlaudun.org/2008/5/14/my-scholarly-practices

UCLA’s Manifesto for the Digital Humanities

Those folks at the Mellon Foundation are a busy lot. Apparently they have funded a [seminar at UCLA on the digital humanities][ucla]. The manifesto that the seminar has produced/is producing currently runs 20 paragraphs, with an additional 4 paragraphs that have “REMARKS ON THE FINITUDE OF DISCIPLINES.” They offer up a new departmental regime for the humanities:

* **Department of Print Media Studies**: Replacing literature departments, the purpose of this department is to study the materiality of texts, constructions of authorship, linguistic forms, the history of the book and book publication, antecedents to and descendents of print, as well as the relationships and tensions between print culture and digital culture.
* **Department of Discourse Analyses**: The purpose of this department is to study the history of the triangulation of knowledge/discourse/power, paying particular attention to discursive structures, knowledge making, and the specific media forms in which knowledge is produced, disseminated, encountered, and valued.
* **Department of Comparative Media Studies**: The purpose of this department is to study sonic, visual, tactile, and immersive media through a comparative framework. This department replaces the division of humanities departments by media form (departments of art history, musicology, film, etc).
* **Department of Digital Cultural Mapping**: The purpose of this department is to examine the junctions between space/time, information, and culture. It brings geographic analyses together with historical methods, visual analysis, and the presentation of knowledge. It also examines the cultural and social impact of digital mapping technologies and the significance of these mapping technologies for understanding cultural phenomena.
* **Department of Cultural Analytics**: The purpose of this department is to bring quantitative analyses from the math and sciences together with large-scale, complex social and cultural datasets.

As is usual with many of these humanities manifestos — it’s certainly present in some of the Project Bamboo discussions — there is interlarded in these various assumptions that the humanities only study in detail the realms of arts and literature. Ordinary humans seem consigned, in this particular matrix, to only be worth examining as part of a large dataset. So much for my own interests in material folk culture and folklife. Cultural anthropology, too, would seem to be outta here.

[ucla]: http://dev.cdh.ucla.edu/digitalhumanities/2008/12/15/digital-humanities-manifesto/

The Future of Scholarly Publishing from an Individual Perspective

I’ve been thinking about the future of scholarly publishing rather intensely for the past year or so. Before then, I was simply an individual scholar pursuing my own career, trying to make the best of not only a changing landscape (in terms of what remains print and what goes digital) but also a bewildering interdisciplinary landscape — a humanist who studies material culture that isn’t conventionally artwork has to search a lot of niches.

I got more involved in the future of scholarly publishing, which is a phrase I’m going to stick with for the time being, when I was asked to sit on the Publications Committee of the American Folklore Society. My participation in that group led to the development of a plan for a new website (set to “go live” on May 1) of which I now find myself editor. Since then I have become my university’s liaison to [Project Bamboo][pb], a [Mellon Foundation][mf] initiative to develop a digital infrastructure for humanities research.

So I’ve spent a fair amount of thinking about scholarly publishing from an institutional perspective, but now I want to re-turn the tables and think again from an individual perspective. My thinking really began with a simple forecast — and one I should be sure to emphasize that is only my own and does not in any way reflect the American Folklore Society or my own position as editor of the new site: that the *Journal of American Folklore* will one day simply be absorbed into the larger communications platform that the Society maintains.

How did I arrive at that forecast? I imagined the publication/communication landscape of the future from the point of view of an individual scholar. From the point of the view of the individual practitioner — we’ll leave groups for another time — there are three obvious places where one’s work should be featured:

* A personal site
* An employer’s site
* A professional organization’s site

Or, to concretize things a bit. There are three places an interested reader should be able to go to find my work:

* [*my personal site* ](http://johnlaudun.org/) (`http://johnlaudun.org/`)

* [*my university faculty page* ](http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~jjl5766/) (`http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~jjl5766/`), which should have a human-readable address like this:

`http://louisiana.edu/faculty/jlaudun`

* Or [*my member page of my professional organization* ](http://afsnet.org/) (`http://americanfolkloresociety/members/johnlaudun`) — that link is only to the current AFS website, which doesn’t have anything like what I’m writing about here.

Publishing, or cross-linking, to those three pages should be a central part of my work-flow as a scholar. Two of those three allow for *green* sources and the third for *gold*.

[pb]: http://projectbamboo.org/
[mf]: http://mellon.org/

“Helvetica” on Flickr

We watched [Helvetica][] today in the documentary seminar, and though the 80-minute film overflowed are 75-minute class, everyone had interesting comments to make:

1. For one, how reliant type designers and graphic designers are on metaphors and metaphorical language to describe either type faces themselves or their use in various applications.
2. How even a topic as seemingly “off the wall” as a type face could be handled readily by following established documentary film guidelines. That is, the film is fairly conventional in form: it alternates talking head interviews, sometimes *in situ* but sometimes in a kind of abstract visual space, with images of Helvetica out in the world. This is about as traditional as you can get. (Is there a kind of reverse relationship here: do more traditional documentary subjects allow for more non-traditional forms? Would pursuing non-traditional form and content simply push things too far for viewers? What would be an example of such a latter case?)
3. What made the documentary so compelling was the passion, and articulateness, with which the designers spoke. Their language, their vision, brought us into their world and then back into our own.

After the film was over, we were all drawn to comment on how we now wanted to “go see for ourselves” instances of Helvetica in our own lives. I suggested that we do it by posting things to Flickr and perhaps tagging those images with “helvetica.” Guess what? As of today on Flickr, there are 8855 images [tagged with “helvetica”](http://flickr.com/search/?w=all&q=helvetica&m=tags). And so I am going to suggest that we create a group on Flickr and this is just one of a number of things we will post there before the semester is done.

[Helvetica]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000VWEFP8?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000VWEFP8

The Cultures of Intellectual Property

TechDirt has an [interesting write-up and commentary](http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090114/0831213405.shtml) about a recent [Brookings Institution conference](http://www.brookings.edu/events/2009/0114_patents.aspx) on software patents. The writer suggests the real problem is that the members of the different fields present — lawyers on the one hand and economists and technologists on the other — simply have very different experiences, and thus understandings, of the nature of the work and of the problems associated with it. One commenter to the write-up pointed out that a fourth field, businesses that pay for software to be developed, is implied and that it probably falls in line with the lawyers.

I have yet to make my way through Zizek’s [Parallax View](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0262240513?ie=UTF8&tag=johnlaudun-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0262240513), but I suspect that it’s describing a similar phenomenon.

“I Love Alaska”

In 2006 AOL mistakenly released the searches of thousands of its subscribers. As I understand it, the information was anonymized, in that no names were used, but still identified: an individual subscriber had a number attributed to them. AOL quickly “retracted” its release, but by then the information had been copied all over. Two Dutch filmmakers pored over the information and discovered that the information we submit when we search for information reveals things about us that we perhaps would rather not be known in composite. The searches of one particular individual, user 711391, told a particularly interesting story all on their own.

They released their documentary as a series of short videos, each one nothing more than an image of an Alaskan landscape, shot in HD video, while a woman’s voice reads out, fairly flatly, the contents of each search. If you watch the videos in sequence, the searches unfold chronologically and reveal that the searcher is a woman with a snoring husband, who has conducted an affair over the internet, and is looking to escape her life in Houston by going to Alaska.

Her searches are interesting in that they are often phrased as rather personal questions or statements: “Has anyone ever praised you for being who you are?” The starkness of the represented Alaskan landscapes would seem to reflect the starkness of the searcher’s life, as she seeks to live life more fully.

This is the first episode:


I Love Alaska – Episode 1/13 from SubmarineChannel on Vimeo.

This kind of archeology of ordinary life as it is being lived reminds me of the *garbology* craze that hit a decade or more ago, where researchers would go through people’s trash, usually in the context of teaching a course on archeology or sociology, in order to show how much we can know about a person through the things they throw away. In both the cases of garbage and internet searches, what I think is really compelling is that we typically think of them as discrete bits of information, which they are, which reveal relatively little about us. Where they become compelling, even disquieting, is in their aggregate:

* a single piece of garbage reveals relatively little
* a kitchen trash can reveals a few days of living
* a household can at the street can reveal an entire week’s worth of living

The same goes for internet searches. Just think how much information Google knows about you — perhaps not you as in named you but about the on-line you, your avatar if you will — from days, weeks, months, even years of searches. Chances are the longer period is possible if you have any Google accounts and tend to log on to check your GMail or for your personalized iGoogle page which gives you local weather and news.

I think I’m going to log out and clear out some of those cookies. Maybe give birth to a new user id. Break my on-line self up into smaller pieces. I might even like Alaska.

Quick Video Resolution Guide

This post is really for my wife, who is helping to organize a conference. A number of presenters want to use media as part of their presentation. The problem is that everyone brings not only a range of equipment but also a range of expectations and knowledge about what it is they are doing and what can be done. I passed onto her a recent development in my own professional organization: in the last year, the [American Folklore Society][afs] has recently decided to standardize what audio-visual equipment it can afford to provide to its members at our annual meeting. The core of that equipment is an LCD projector with a VGA connector. (No resolution is provided, I suspect, because that would require more sophisticated conference/convention AV vendors than currently fill those ranks — feel free to correct me if you’re a vendor and you do provide resolutions: I’ll write about you and I’ll suggest we have a meeting in your town.)

In the particular case of this conference, they will be using two projectors that I know fairly well. Both of them are XGA resolution, or 1068 x 764. A quick run-down of 4:3 aspect ratio resolutions is as follows:

Name | Resolution (pixels)
:—–:|:———-:
VGA | 640 x 480
SVGA | 800 x 600
XGA | 1024 x 768
SXGA | 1280 x 1024

The 4:3 aspect ratio is the one we are all used to seeing everytime we look at a regular, old television — the resolution of which, in case you wanted to know, is something like 720 x 480, but what was actually viewable was something less — remember the black bars you would see when adjusting the *Vertical Hold* knob (usually awkwardly located on the back of the set)?

Now, as if all those acronyms aren’t bad enough, especially for people who still think PowerPoint presentations have to have bullet points, there is also the matter of how you connect your computer to the projector. Here’s the port that most Windows laptops have on them:

SVGA_port
*Windows PC VGA Port*

The VGA port will carry all of the resolutions above, despite the fact that it seems like an acronym mismatch. My advice to her and the conference organizers was to say something like this to presenters:

> The conference will provide an LCD projector capable of 1024 x 768 resolution in the room in which you will present. The projector will be equipped with a VGA cord. Please plan accordingly.

So, presenters will have to determine two things:

1. Are my materials in a format that will view well at 1024 x 768? and
2. Do I have a way to connect by VGA?

If they have a port on their laptop like the one above, they’re in good shape. If they have any other kind of port, they are going to need to bring some sort of dongle.

Mac users, who have suffered the slings and arrows of Apple trying either (a) to advance video display technology and/or (b) look for ways to sell add-ons, are long used to the idea of dongles. My new MacBook comes with the new mini-DisplayPort port, which, with any luck, just might stick around and become a standard. For now, however, every time I travel to a conference, I have to carry around this dongle:

MDP-to-VGA-dongle
*My new conference companion: Apple’s Mini-DisplayPort to VGA adapter*

This conference attendees will need to make sure they are similarly equipped. Some new, higher-end laptops may very well not possess the blue VGA port above but may, instead have a white DVI port. They make converters — or, if they bring a cord, our LCD projectors also have a ***DVI In***.

*Good luck!*

[afs]: http://americanfolkloresociety.org/