Friday, October 7, 2005

Into the Long Tail

Considering that this entry ends my longest blogging drought since early July, you might have wondered what's been happening lately.  I've gone and followed up a personal-best thirty-one entries in the month of September with a three-day lull in blogging.  To be completely honest, I devoted a lot of time and energy this week to developing and fine-tuning a paper I shared late this morning at the Contesting Public Memories Conference here in Syracuse.  The cross-disciplinary conference continues tomorrow, bringing together folks from a variety of specializations, a variety of places.  In the paper, "Networked Writing as Micro-Monument: The Long Tail's Nested Memoria," I was going for a three-part argument about the persistence of social/shared memories in the niches of blogspace.  To attempt the triple leap, I discussed John Lovas's weblog, micro-monument in relation to Chris Anderson's articulation of the long tail, and ways in which memorable personal intensities punctuate the long tail by applying Barthes's studium/punctum.  That's where my mind has been--stuck in the long tail for three days or so.

On a related note, I'm thinking through a few of the lessons I've learned related to this project and this week:

  • Mid-semester conferences are difficult when they include writing significant pieces of the paper and the paper doesn't match with other coursework and teaching demands.
  • The power law and long tail are immensely useful concepts for network studies, but they're difficult to introduce with any crispness to people who haven't heard of Anderson's project.  I suspect that this problem isn't unique to the long tail.  A similar bind comes up when we try to generalize a complex idea in application to a subject people are hearing about or thinking about for the first time.  I should be clear that this isn't a direct response to anything that came up today.  It's more like a sense I have that I didn't do enough to develop the long tail's relevance as a model for social memory.
  • I have a new self-improvement project: write more small pieces that, with some revision and tuning, can gel into usable material for future conferences.  I haven't decided that everything should be published to the weblog, but it's clear enough that I need to work on two things:  (-1-) periodically aerate the ultra-condensed grad-student style and (-2-) start thinking about blog entries as mini-series or concatenations of developable projects.

That's probably enough for now, although it doesn't exhaust the dim sense of ought-to's.  For the remainder of the weekend, I'm on with reading I've neglected--the rest of Tufte on data visualizations and Dunnier's Sidewalk.  Also, in 307 on Monday we're starting The ClueTrain Manifesto and attempting our own collaborative Writer's Cluetrain. Going to shine some attention on that as well.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at October 7, 2005 7:00 PM to Networks

It occured to me yesterday evening, before reading this, that the 20 minutes of a presentation really isn't enough time to do anything but ski a dark surface.

That the panel presentation is a strange genre. One we don't really get *taught* how to put ourselves into.

I still contend your content, delivery, and slides were all sharp, well-done, and (for me anyway) eye-opening.

Posted by: madeline at October 8, 2005 11:10 AM

It it strange, M., and it's double-strange at an interdisciplinary conference where our positions or stances are even less easy to anticipate. Thanks for the nice words. I was just thinking--like we talked about--that my bit was shaky because I skimped on explaining the nuances of Anderson's project.

Posted by: Derek at October 9, 2005 5:57 PM