Monday, March 31, 2008

Nice Shirt

Don't Sleep On It

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Patterned Emanations


Saturday, March 29, 2008

H.16orn Tooting

In step with Jenny and Scot, whose posts have alerted me to attend their respective panels at CCCC (although, Scot--8 a.m.?), I thought I should take advantage of the opportunity to promote yet another session at the upcoming convention. So, where should you be at 11:00 a.m. next Friday, April 4? Why, in the Elmwood Room on the Third Floor of the Hilton Riverside in N.O., of course, for H.16 Digital Research Ecologies: How Journal Web Sites Are Answering New Media's Challenges.

Do you need more encouragement? So be it. Here I give you the title slide from my talk.

More still?

We are presenting in room #12, not far from the swimming pool, which means you could bring your towel for a dip before or after the talk (or to hold over your mouth as an ad hoc filter for those sharp, chest-stabbing whiffs of chlorine). If, on the other hand, you skip the H sessions to go swimming, we will see you as we walk by, and perhaps even bear a small, short-lived grudge. Heh, I'm kidding about that last part. Anyway, come along to H.16 and we'll grab lunch afterward. Apparently there is seating enough for between 96 and 176 (depending on whether the chairs are "classroom" or "theater" styled).

Friday, March 28, 2008



Scholarly Sources

Your researched essay must incorporate at least three scholarly sources.

Just had a conversation about what "scholarly sources" might include, might refer to. I suppose it's important in the WC not to be too acrobatic with those high-load words and phrases in assignment prompts. Yet, something like "scholarly sources" does open onto a fairly loaded, dominoed set of issues. Just now: What makes a scholarly source? How do you know when you've found one? Where to look?

A clear author-institution tie is one indicator, no? Or the cast of the publication (i.e., an academic press for a monograph, or a journal, which will usually reflect specialization). But then there are all of the middled venues--journalism, business magazines, literary-styled periodicals--that confuse the category. Is an article in the Atlantic Monthly (e.g., "As We May Think") a scholarly source? What about something in Forbes? The Wall Street Journal? Does it depend more upon who wrote it or who reads it? The differences gray out; we need to consider style, citation practices, register (specialized vocabulary?), and so on. Too acrobatic?

I hope not. But this comes up fairly often. It is a commonplace in the researched essay assignment, which is featured in SU's WRT205 curriculum. I'm out of time (this small window within which to speed-blog), but the convention also calls up questions about the problem of non-scholarly sources--those surprising oddities that can add some snap and crackle to a possibly orderly (even tame) line-up of "scholarly" sources. And, granted, this is a false dichotomy, but one that is noticeably out of alignment in perhaps too many researched writing projects.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anticipatory Lag

I haven't left town in many months. I haven't left Onondaga County since December, when we went with friends on a tree-choosing excursion to a neighboring county. I haven't been outside of New York since last June when I traveled to Phoenix, Ariz. Idle; sitting on my ashcan, working on the dissertation, or something.

But next week, I will board a plane bound for New Orleans via JFK International and commence with a longish (but not growing, I hope) cloud-skipping itinerary for 2008. It looks something like this:

  • New Orleans, La. (CCCC)
  • Buffalo, N.Y. (NEMLA)
  • Seattle, Wash. (RSA)
  • Albuquerque, N.M. (Native Vision)
  • Hershey, Pa. (Family outing; will drive, not fly)
  • Louisville, Ky. (Watson; contingent on acceptance, of course)
  • San Francisco, Calif. (by way of Detroit?) (MLA; as a job-seeker)

Among these fine destinations, New Orleans and Hershey are the two I haven't visited before. Obviously Louisville is still up in the air because Watson invitations don't come out until May. And then there is a remote possibility that we will be taking to the friendly skies for a visit to K.C. in the fall as Ph. makes applications and visits to colleges. As I look at the list today, it makes me feel a little bit tired. Nothing to do but get on with it, which means I should probably root around in the basement for an appropriate piece of luggage for the bayou.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Annotated Bib?

Off and on since Friday--one of the early consulting sessions in the W.C.--I've been thinking a little bit about why we ask students to produce annotated bibliographies. Yes, I, too, have done it--asked students in a lower division writing course or intro to the humanities course to produce an annotated bibliography. Why?

A student on Friday asked me how best to proceed with developing his own annotated bibliography. But he was already in the advanced stages of drafting the project. The annotated bib was an afterthought, a by-product. Probably not the way the instructor imagined it working. It was not organic, not a rigorously-researched advance screening of the conversations or materials in play. It was not done with interest, but rather with a makeshift, this-will-do (will this do?) spirit--much like I've seen in my own students when I served up the exciting annotated bib opportunity.

And underlying question is how to (also whether to) reconcile rigor with pleasure in the processes of collection and annotation. What if the collected thing isn't good enough? What if the annotations do not legitimate its inclusion? (viz., "How did this get here?) In other words, academic collections are too often burdened by preformulation; what goes together is molded by the course, the syllabus, the discipline, the library, and probably the teacherly gestures to clarify--"Oh, but this or that thing fits so well into what you have gathered together!" Topical heaviness pins much of this stuff down, filters it in advance, places a screen in front of the chaotic mess.

Another side of the annotated bib assumes engagement with some sort of conversation. And I am generally in favor of this idea--that reading and annotating produce valuable identifications (summary, etc.) and also help us to have a more or less distinctive take. But I don't know whether the "you enter a parlor" shtick works in all case where writers (who don't know enough of what they need to know). Motive gives way to other questions about how much we must understand discourse conventions, the key concepts getting major play, and so on: Did you realize you entered a parlor? Did you look up to see who-what was there or fixate on the exit? And why did you enter the parlor, anyway?

I know. Just a few mushy thoughts rolling around about annotated bibliographies. I'm not sure I've ever had an annotated bib assignment go especially (memorably) well. I'm not throwing up my hands as much as reconsidering why we have students do them in the first place and whether it is even reasonable to ask students to produce notes on books and articles rather than notes on anything whatever (as a possible alternative). So, through all of this I am thinking about collection and annotation--much in the way Sirc writes about them in "Box Fitting" and also about that which is collectible. These seem to me to necessarily precede the academised annotated bibliography. And so these problems are stoked when academic research and writing (as assigned) do not bear any obvious or self-evident relationship to what drives the passionate, geeky collector.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Comfort Inventory 5

Let's call this the "How Much I Delight in the Overlooked Fleck of Eggshell in the Egg Salad" Edition.

  • There was occasion at 5:00 a.m. to answer D.'s comments on a second wooded-side-of-the-house skunk fumigation with a sleepy but bold declarative: "Bad!"
  • My NCAA bracket has sunk like a heavy ball to the middle of the pack. On the bright side, this means that I can refocus all of the time I have been wasting puttering around with basketball games on the tube.
  • We went to church this morning. The U.U. folks don't do Easter in typical fashion. The "interim" pastor read a kids book about memory and aging (the subject of the story--a woman who was young once and who grew old and eventually died); she also brought up the myths about the parting of the Red Sea. Today the U.U. felt to me like it should be pronounced "uh-uh". Happy Easter to you all the same.
  • I'm about 85% pleased with my CCCC presentation. It is more or less together, but I have yet to share it with another person whose assenting nod would quickly put to rest any worries I have that it builds up reasonably well (through the early framework to the examples). Some of us are doing pre-conference run-throughs on Wednesday, just in time to correct any presentational wobbles.
  • Time for paying March bills. D. usually handles most of this, but there are weird ones this time. Stuff that requires phone calls. One of them, a bill for $53.01, I paid using online bill pay. Everything went through smoothly. But a paper copy showed up in the mail showing that $53.01 was received and that $53.01 was due. This isn't an ongoing service or anything; more of a one shot payment. I logged on to the system for this particular biller. Shows a zero balance. What could this mean? The bill was produced in those few moments between the posting of the payment and the zeroing out of the account's bottom line. Perhaps I'm not alone in feeling impatient with paper bills that reflect system glitches.
  • One week after I present at CCCC, I will drive over to Buffalo to present at NEMLA. On the one hand, I don't mind the back-to-back conferences because I am working with similar ideas and materials that are very much a part of the diss. But I've never done two different conferences on consecutive weekends, and I doubt I'll do it again soon because of how much I dislike the way NEMLA (from my presenterly standpoint) is obscured by CCCC. I mean that I have not been good about giving the second conference's preparations their proper due because the first conference is standing in its way.
  • We ate brunch at a place called "Egg Plant." Not Eggplant. Nothing eggplant in the place. But "Egg Plant." As in egg-foods factory or something. Ph. recommended it. They had framed "Best of Syracuse" awards on the wall, but the longer I live in CNY, the more suspicious I am of "Best of Syracuse" wall hangings. Looked to me like they were done on a 16-pin dot matrix printer with PrintShop Pro Deluxe. Lending support to this speculation was the faintly sour smell of the "Keep Refrigerated" coffee creamers which sat (deteriorating?) on the table in a dry, unrefrigerated ceramic bowl.
  • Y. made a cute little throw-up on the kitchen floor late this afternoon. With Is. and groceries in my arms, I happened to step in it, which dialed my stress level up a full notch because I happened to be wearing socks.
  • A small dose of snow is coming tomorrow. Dreadful: that's what I think of snow in late March--after it's officially "Spring."
  • Just to make sure I don't have an over-productive March, I'm reading Iain Banks' The Steep Approach to Garbadale--a holiday gift back in December. So far, so good.
  • The next commenter (i.e., first on this entry, if there are none to other entries) will win a decorative "E.W.M. 2000th Commenter" button. Quite the conversation piece, that one will be.

Friday, March 21, 2008


As of today, I am no longer twice Ph.'s age. This is because he is another year older, and I am not. 17? 17! I count his catching up to me in age as reason enough to have a second cupcake with blue frosting when I get home later on. But for the fact that I am in the WC all day today--and booked solidly with consulting appointments (more on that later?), I would post a photo of Ph. when he was just a tyke. May he have a happy birthday all the same, even if I don't amp up the frivolity with a humiliating childhood photo.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Big Sky is Falling

Because you will have the impulse to predict the entire NCAA men's basketball tournament this year, I have--for the fifth year in a row, set up a Yahoo! pool just for you. In the E.W.M. pool you get to make picks against the savviest basketball futurologists in all of blogspace. You you you are invited to join this year's private! exclusive! tournament group on Yahoo!, Picken Little (ID# 45974). It's free. If you have questions, send me an email: dmueller at Everyone is welcome, even if you don't have a blog (but you will get suspicious glances: why, in 2008, don't you have a blog yet?). Invite your friends. The group will hold the next forty-nine who sign up.

Yahoo! Tournament Pick'em
Group: Picken Little (ID# 45974)
Password: ewm
Firm up your picks after the selection show on Sunday, March 16. The latest you can sign up is five minutes before the start* of round one on Thursday, March 20.

* - Never mind the play-in game.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Maybe I Need One of These

In case I do need one of them (for research and related work-tasks), if I went ahead and picked one up now, got up to snap with how it works, then I would be fully prepared when the time comes that I actually have to use it. Maybe?


As you can see, there are the great challenges involved when predicting the future (while frittering away a few minutes before the next WC consulting session).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Manovich, "Data Visualization as New Abstraction and as Anti-Sublime"

 Manovich, Lev. "Data Visualization as New Abstraction and as Anti-Sublime." Small Tech: The Culture of Digital Tools. Eds. Byron Hawk, David Reider, and Ollie Oviedo. Electronic Mediations Ser. 22. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2008.

Why render data visually? Lev Manovich, in "Data Visualization as New Abstraction and as Anti-sublime," the opening chapter in Small Tech (reprinted from ArtPhoto, 2003), responds to this with an answer that, in spirit, moves beyond the "data epistemology" of a cumbersome, old (perhaps even mythical) scientism. Why render data visually? "[T]o show us the other realities embedded in our own, to show us the ambiguity always present in our perception and experience, to show us what we normally don't notice or pay attention to" (9). By the end of this brief article, Manovich begins to get round to the idea of a rhetoric of data visualization, even if he never calls it this. Despite being caught up in a representationalist framework as he accounts for what data visualization does, Manovich eventually keys on "daily interaction with volumes of data and numerous messages" as the "more important challenge" facing us. That is, we are steeped now in a new "data-subjectivity."

Manovich provides four sections in his short essay: Visualization and Mapping, Data Modernism, Meaningful Beauty: Data Mapping as Anti-Sublime, and Motivation Problem. The "Visualization and Mapping" section begins with Tufte and Descartes; these are the precedents for the "dynamic data visualization" Manovich wants us to consider as it has spilled over from its origins in the "pure and applied sciences, from mathematics and physics to biology and medicine" to the greater "cultural sphere" (3). Next, Manovich attaches this to a mapping paradigm, considered here as a kind of direct conversion of data into image (1:1 precision in the translation of territory into map). This risks making visualization its own end; I question whether his approach does enough to keep the image open on the side of play, preferring a contingent and flexible (more model- or relay-like) image than one fixed and declarative in its presentation. The section on Data Modernism builds toward an understanding of data visualization as new abstraction. Here abstraction is matched with the same tradition in twentieth century Modernist art: the reduction of chaos into simple patterns. Given my own interest in abstracting practices, I tend to prefer drawing closer parallels between "new abstraction" and network studies. I deal with some of this in the diss; Manovich's take on abstraction might find a small place there. Of course, one of my reservations about "new abstraction" tracing back through art traditions is that it holds onto a faint notion of representable reality as a backdrop against which every movement is defined. Perhaps this is one of the ways a rhetoric of data visualization would do justice to Manovich's interest in subjectivity, agency, and motive, while also offering a greatly expanded vocabulary for complicating strict evaluative rules regarding chart junk and clarity (e.g., following Tufte).

In the third section of the essay, Manovich touches on scale. He describes data visualization as "anti-sublime" as it contrasts with the Romantic art concerned with the sublime." This section seems, again, to position data visualization as an end--an end in an aesthetics and epistemology valuing concretization--rather than a means, a model, or a relay. The stuff on scale is encouraging, but then he ends the section, saying, "Yet, more often than not, the subjects of data visualization projects are objective structures (such as the typology of the Internet) rather than the direct traces of human activities" (7). What's not clear is why this is so or how Manovich knows it. This isn't to dispute his claim as much as to call into question its basis, and also ask how these "objective structures" square with the "data-subjectivity" he introduces in the final section. In the final section, he is concerned with motivations and choices: why this or that design choice when several others are available? An arhetorical treatment of data visualization entertains the prospect that there is always one best way to present the data visually; a rhetorical approach, on the other hand, seems to me to create a situation--a conductive role, an agent, an exigency--in whatever comes between the data and the visualization of it. In other words, while Manovich is concerned that "computer media simultaneously make all these choices appear arbitrary" (7), a rhetoric of data visualization would frame those choices as "available means" rather than an automated function of the computer technology. Manovich: "One way to deal with this problem of motivation is not to hide but to foreground the arbitrary nature of the chosen mapping" (8). Yes, foreground it, but also let the "it" be a "rhetorical nature" in equal measure to an "arbitrary nature."

"Thus data visualization moves from the concrete to the abstract and then again to the concrete" (6).

Phrases: "Platonic schemas" (5), "new abstraction" (5), "reversibility" (6), "organic abstraction" (6), "modernist abstraction" (6), "anti-sublime" (6), motivation (6), "data epistemology" (8), "data-subjectivity" (9)


Hey, is that a glittery Kent State Golden Flashes fan-too on your cheek?

I have filled out my brackets, but the process didn't seem to have the same pop for me that is has had in years past. Game after game, I read hundreds of pages of expert, insider commentary, and still nothing smells like upset.

If there is anything in the brackets this year, perhaps it is something--a maybe--about:

  • #10 South Alabama over #7 Butler.
  • #12 George Mason coming close (but then losing on free throws the end) against #5 Notre Dame.
  • #10 Davidson over #7 Gonzaga: Another seven-ten split and hardly an upset.
  • The winner between #11 K-State and #6 USC pouring in 52 points against #3 Wisconsin in the second round and, thus, outscoring the Badgers.
  • I don't care how many seven-footers #3 Stanford has, #6 Marquette will run a layup drill on them.
  • #5 Drake-#4 UConn winner startles #1 UCLA.

See what I mean? I'm tired of this already. My picks are overwhelmingly top seeds with very few upsets this year. And although I recognize the folly in this technique, I am hard-pressed to identify viable underdogs. To beat me in the pick-'em, you will have to take chances on some lower seeds. Just for you, I recommend Coppin State, Georgia, and Oral Roberts. But you will have to come up with the other Final Four team on your own.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Building Anticipa-NCAA-tion

I just sent out a spa^^ message--Sign Up!--to tens of, uh, tens of prospective entrants in this year's Picken Little tournament pool. If you did not receive the message, it is because your spa^^ filters have kept the invitation at bay, but worry not, for you can still jump in the pool. I hope you will. You really should. You will be glad you did. It's not too late.

Why not?

Go on.

Yahoo! Picken Little 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Certeau's Sieve-order

Lately I've been puzzling over de Certeau's theorization of maps and what they risk obfuscating (e.g., stories, minutiae, detritus, etc.) in The Practice of Everyday Life. His pedestrian rhetoric affirms the viewpoint of the "ground level" over the observation of the whole from the 110th story of the World Trade Center, from which he once experienced a curious pleasure while looking onto Manhattan--seeing it as a "wave of verticals" hovering distantly above the city's "paroxysmal places" (91). De Certeau wonders about the pleasure he felt and, as well, what this bird's-eye viewpoint, with its "scopic and gnostic drive," obscures: "When one goes up there, he leaves behind the the mass that carries off and mixes up in itself any identity of authors or spectators" (92).

From the observation deck, De Certeau says the mass is left behind, that it "carries off and mixes up." Reasonably true. Looking down on the ant-like taxis, the city appears different--further away. But in another sense, the urban observation deck is not less local than the sidewalk, is it? Also, marveling at the city does not make its streets more readily navigable (whatever compels you to go out and about).

Certeau goes on to critique maps, traces, place-names, and flattened projections, lumping them together as totalizing devices: "The surface of this ["suspended symbolic order"] is everywhere punched and torn open by ellipses, drifts, and leaks of meaning: it is a sieve-order" (107). The sieve-order favors stories and localization, and these are thwarted by intervals of distance, from those viewpoints at which the "world's debris" disappears.

Later he admits an oscillation between the local stories and "rumors" (presumably reinforced by a desire for totalizing representations), he is concerned that the relationship between the two has become stratified: "Stories diversify, rumors totalize. If there is still a certain oscillation between them, it seems that today there is a stratification: stories are becoming private and sink into the secluded places in neighborhoods, families, or individuals, while the rumors propagated by the media cover everything and, gathered under the figures of the City, the masterword of an anonymous law, the substitute for all proper names, they wipe out or combat any superstitions guild of still resisting the figure" (108). The overwrought substitution of the one (i.e., totalizing view) for the other (i.e., everyday practices) is troubling: "The trace left behind [on, say, a map] is substituted for the practice. It exhibits the (voracious) property that the geographical system has of being able to transform action into legibility, but in doing so it causes a way of being in the world to be forgotten" (97).

Might the projection--and even the written account--also rejuvenate the action, renew its circulation, and cause it to be remembered again? Specifically, I am thinking about this in relationship to distant reading methods that translate large volumes of data (mined from texts or activities) into visual models--projections in which we can apprehend patterns not identifiable at other scales of contact (such as the "ground level").

Maybe there is a place for de Certeau in Chapter Five. I haven't decided yet. But I am discovering the faint separations between my dissertation and the walking rhetorics he advocates. Something tells me these can be bridged (or filled), but I am still reaching for ideas about how to do that (and also still thinking about whether it is even necessary).

Saturday, March 8, 2008

We Used to Spell Great Words Together

Ran across this clip with Is. this morning. Of course, it's not as though I need more material for my Scrabulous autoludography.

Just reflecting somberly on of all the bingos I might have played if Y had come.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Serial Consulting

As expected, today's Writing Center work was the most demanding yet--eight appointments in seven hours (with a brief break for lunch). I don't mention it to complain. Rather, in those five-minute lapses between appointments I was thinking of the surprise and exhilaration in the unknown of what was to come. What is in store? How long will it take to get our bearings and decide what to do next?

Stacked appointments require a generalist's deftness (even if one is not steadily capable of this)--there are great leaps from this to that, from one thing to another. A first and second appointment do not make the third appointment easier. But the language from the previous hour re-surfaces again and again in subconscious performance residue: how many times did I say "prime" or "primes" between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.? Three? Four? Maybe too many, as if in caught in a strange loop, some phrase or concept pops up unexpectedly in fits of over-talking while searching for the elusive right words. Serial consulting: in certain ways it's like being locked in the media closet with a flickering television set all day, sometimes fancying coherence and intelligibility, sometimes doubting whether this or that thing fits with this or that other thing, and sometimes marveling at the great range of possible directions lurking everywhere in a draft.

Now I can't remember them all: a "professional statement" for a made-for-television movie production internship, an essay on music as argument, a comparison of Hindu epics, Rubin Carter as inspiration for law school, contending worldviews between Hmong Brahmanism and Western medicine, a close reading of Huck Finn (requiring specific references to 'semiotics', 'reader', and 'interpretation'), early planning and exploration on a five-page piece that will get at gender roles, mass media and the Cold War, and, finally, a discussion of Obama's vague references to "they" in the Iowa victory speech. At the end of it, two senses: one is a kind of merry-go-all-directions spinning around--the disorientation in rapid sequence conversations engaging all of this; the other is a (cloudy) surprise at the degree to which a long string of consulting appointments is like drilling a core sample of the curriculum (as if boring into a glacier).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Whiling Away

Now that it's Thursday I'm beginning to feel like I've whiled away the week. I expected to take all week putting an end on Chapter Four, but I lazily splashed the finishing words on it Tuesday--two full days ahead of schedule. The final sentence goes "Need another sentence here." I will come up with the missing sentence before I double the line spacing and print a copy. And then there'll be one more wave of revithargy (a blend of revising and lethargy or drained recomposing) before handing it over.

About whiling away the week: the last two days my work sessions have been split between some tinkering with maps (in Flash of all things) and reading and engaging with a couple of informal responses to a chunk of the diss. Both of these are productive and worthwhile, but for all of the good involved, they are not much like the routine I'm accustomed to. Pum-pum-PUM, pum-pum-TUM. The tempo is different.

And tomorrow!--the Friday before Spring Break--you'd think the Writing Center would be a ghost town and those poor consultants (self-)assigned to work all day would quietly drift around the place, doing whatever they wanted to fill the time. But, no. By Wednesday afternoon, the entire docket was filled--eight appointments coming between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Don't you people rest?

I'd mouse up and change some of what I've written here, but the batteries in the wireless mouse have leaked out their last volt. To them I say, "I can relate."

Over "break": map-tinkering and reading up for Chapter Five (which, with a miracle, I can draft by my birthday for a perfect synchronization of fiveliness in early May), laying to rest article revisions I've been neglecting, reworking piece of Chapter Three for next month's CCCC presentation, and, for kicks, wallowing in NCAA conference tournaments. Should be enough to fend off boredom.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ars Snowpack

A break from harsh winter temps stirred Ph. to a couple of hours outside yesterday. Is. continues to be intrigued by snowpeople, so he worked patiently to replicate our family. Before this, D. and Is. rolled up a single "Mona", but Yoki, for reasons known only to him, kept jumping up on the defenseless creature such that its top two segments toppled not once, but twice. At the time of the photo, Ph. was crafting the youngest two in the family; in the meantime, we decided to have them represent themselves since there is so little to distinguish the human from the snowmade simulant this time of year (around here). Notice that Ph. seems to have arranged us by height, which would put me at the far right--the faceless one. At least the blank-faced snowman isn't working on a dissertation.


The arrangement of the photos here is reverse chronological. The photo below came earlier in the day, shortly after D. and Is. rebuilt the first figure after its dog attack. I'd guess that Is. had just witnessed Yoki's second assault, an attack that included the unrepentant gnashing of the stick-arms after he stole them from the fallen torso. Seems Is. delights in that sort of thing. Right, and also standing on the kitchen table.

Table Topper

I just realized these are the third and fourth photos I've uploaded to Flickr in 2008. I'm not sure this means a whole lot, but it does confirm that my head has been in a drift for the last eight weeks. Also, at this rate, I'll be lucky to reach thirty uploads this year. Maybe March will spark some photogenic activity.