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
    .  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
.  Also, in 307 on Monday we’re starting The ClueTrain
and attempting our own collaborative Writer’s Cluetrain. Going to
shine some attention on that as well.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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