I-Search and Quantified Self

I am 70-percent committed to a plan for ENGL326: Research Writing this fall revolving around research networks. I’ve been reading over the syllabus and materials Geof Carter generously shared with me from a similar class he taught at SVSU recently. The basic idea here is to begin with a key (or keyless, as circumstances warrant) scholarly article in a given field of study (i.e., the student’s declared major, probably) and then trace linkages from the article to/through the various places (inc. schools of thought), times, affinities (inspirational sources, pedigree/halo re: terminal degree), and semantic fields (inc. contested terms) out of which it was written.  We will probably adopt a workshop model, maybe use CMap Tools for representing these research yarns, develop reading and research logs in something semi-private, such as Penzu, and, if things go well, lay some groundwork for a relatively focused going over of what entails “research” in their respective areas while also doing a lot of reading and writing, including some sort of an update or response to the first article. We could even write those in Etherpad for the way it lets us present a document’s evolution as video (video which invites a layer of commentary and reflection, a­­­­­s I imagine it possibly working out). If this sounds like June thinking for a class that starts in September, well, it is. Anyway, what good is early summer if not for breezily mulling things over?

Now, had I to begin again, I might create a different version of Research Writing tied in with the Quantified Self stuff. Monday’s entry on Seth Roberts’ work reminded me about this. Here is a small slice of Roberts’ article abstract, which is posted on The QS blog:

My subject-matter knowledge and methodological skills (e.g., in data analysis) improved the distribution from which I sampled (i.e., increased the average amount of progress per sample). Self-experimentation allowed me to sample from it much more often than conventional research. Another reason my self-experimentation was unusually effective is that, unlike professional science, it resembled the exploration of our ancestors, including foragers, hobbyists, and artisans.

Although the QS projects are rooted in quantification, they are not exactly bound to traditional science or notions of experimentation and measurement for public good.  Instead, they assume a useful blend between quantitative tracking and personal knowledge.  I don’t have in mind a QS-based research writing class concerned so much with “optimal living” or with diet and exercise, although I guess there’s no good reasons these things should be excluded from possibilities.  I’m thinking more along the lines of Quantified Self meets McLuhan’s media inventories meets Macrorie’s I-Search.  The class would inquire into data tracking, narrating spreadsheets, rhetorics/design of data visualization, and the epistemological bases of the sciences, while it “grabs hold of the word ‘authority’ and shakes it to find out what it means” (Macrorie, “Preface”). Again, just thinking aloud, June thinking for a class that, depending upon how things turn out this fall, starts in September 2011 or 2012.

Method’s Con-trails

Caught a small
blip of discussion
yesterday concerned with whether or not Google Earth


the lost city of Atlantis
. Remnants of the elusive, underwater cityscape?

According to Google Maps Mania,


It’s true that many amazing discoveries have been made in Google Earth
including a pristine forest in Mozambique that is home to previously unknown
species and the remains of an Ancient Roman villa.

In this case, however, what users are seeing is an artefact of the data
collection process. Bathymetric (or sea floor terrain) data is often
collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea floor.

The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data. The fact
that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how
little we really know about the world’s oceans.

How little we know, indeed. Is this Atlantis? The conspiracy doesn’t interest me all that much.
Instead, I’m struck by the impression: the stamp left by the "systematic"
tracing, the residue of the surface-to-sea-floor method (a term others
have smartly untangled it into meta-hodos or something like ‘beyond
ways’, even ‘ways
beyond’; this etymological dig lingers with me). The deep blue grid of
"bathymetric data" elicits questions: why don’t we see these in the adjacent
areas? What was it about this boat, this collection process,
translation from sound to image, that left behind the vivid trails?

Robert Sarmast
elaborated on the image’s trail-grid, noting:

The lines you’re referring to are known as "ship-path artifacts" in the
underwater mapping world. They merely show the path of the ship itself as it
zig-zagged over a predetermined grid. Sonar devices cannot see directly
underneath themselves. The lines you see are the number of turns that the
ship had to make for the sonar to be able to collect data for the entire
grid. I’ve checked with my associate who is a world-renowned geophysicist
and he confirmed that it is artifact. Sorry, no Atlantis.

More provocations here: the grid’s unevenness, its predetermination, the
inability of the sonar devices to see (erm…hear) directly below. And
yet, a telling illustration of method alongside method: seems to me a subtle
allegory in the adjacency of ocean floor imagery with lines and without.
Presumably, the surrounding ground was measured similarly. Why no lines?

Lose and Lose and

Philadelphia Eagles (3-0) def. Detroit Lions (2-1), 30-13

But I didn’t watch much because, instead, I was piling word by carefully
chosen word through a summary of the last chapter from The Order of Things
for class tomorrow night. I’ll post it in the extended entry area since I
wouldn’t want to misrepresent this as aToo Orangey
academic blog exactly.  Not yet.  Plus, the summary is
terminologically hip-boots marshy; it gets by on borrowed terms, awkwardly
jumbled, squishy.  But it’ll do the trick, I think, and I was just so
Fouc-ing relieved to be at the end of The Order of Things that a bit of
disorderliness was due.  Seriously, though, I hope we will sort out whether
F.’s rhetoric as epistemic tags him as a sophist (au wisdom) or a skeptic
(au infinite regress)…or neither.  Both?


When I clicked on the slogan
this morning, it brought up "Too Orangey For Braddock
Essays."  A’right!  However, I’d never heard the slogan. 
Found it gets play in this fun advertisement (mpg,
) for Kia-ora.  Is it orange soda?  


Eating baked potatoes for tonight’s meal when Andy
came on the tube.  I haven’t watched 60 Minutes in a long
time, and tonight, having caught only the end, it was 5 Minutes
The guru crabster was carrying on about disingenuous efforts to mobilize the
votary public.  Get out and vote campaigns, he grumbled, are a crock; they
stir disinterested, uninformed dummies, rustle the lethargic from civic
slumber….  Like-always Rooney.  Pure crust.  But then he

I’d be willing to bet that it’s the dumbest people among us who are least
likely to vote too, and that’s fine with me. I don’t want anyone dumber than I
am voting.


If you’re a new citizen, wait another four years until you understand
English well enough to know what the candidates are talking about before you

Way to go, CBS.  How completely asinine does it have to be before you
relieve his crotchety-ness from making a total, hateful fool of himself? 
At once I felt a tinge of pity because he’s so confused and a wave of
shock because he spoke in such unapologetic and  irrevocable seriousness to hundreds of thousands of viewers saying, insomanywords, that non-English speakers, despite U.S. citizenship, ought to learn English before voting.  


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