Reading in the Information Age. On Hayle’s “How We Think”

If hyper-reading involves jumping from a text to another one, I’m guilty. The moment I read that a group of students had created a project where they gave the characters on Romeo and Juliet a Facebook profile, make them friends and created an event for the party where the lovers met, I stopped reading Hayles and moved to Google to search for this awesome idea: Romeo and Juliet: A Facebook Tragedy.

So my close reading of How We Think by N. Katherine Hayles -an insightful look about the ways digital texts are affecting or benefiting reading in young audiences, as well as the role Digital Humanities can play in developing new methods in which new hyper- and machine-reading can be implemented to resemble the tradition close reading in the Humanities – got interrupted by the end of the chapter “How We Read.” But I must admit that I found it interesting enough to stop and think about where I find myself, and my students, in the tryptic she proposes: close-reading, hyper-reading, machine-reading. First, I would give a brief description of the three to see how they intertwine or detach themselves.

Close-reading, belonging to the field of literary criticism, is “the careful and sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the single particular over the general” (Wikipedia). Practised by the Humanities, the method is becoming outdated, deficiente, and, at the end of the day, slow-moving. Hayles indicates that close-reading, though still needed as to ensure literacy and critical thinking, is no longer applicable for it leads to formulated results or the same conclusions. Moreover, given the great amount of published literary works that we can now explore, the method proves unfruitful. Also, until digital text is understood as an instance to be studied in the close-reading technique, this kind of text is going to be marginalized by the academia. And so an additional method has to be used.

In the age of information a new type reading arises for those who spend their time on a computer: hyper-reading. Defined as “reader-directed, screen-based, computer-assisted reading” (167), its basic mode of operation is a fragmentary reading by which the reader pecks the text, looking for keywords, gathering the main idea in a short time, and moving on to another text usually by a hyperlink. This has become an imperative. However, the need to skim over texts that fast is enacting changes in our brains – leading to an impossibility to pay attention in a close-reading manner. I’ll discuss this point later.

Finally, machine-reading is “the automatic, unsupervised understanding of text” (70), according to Etzioni, Banko and Cafarella (2006). It provides the opportunity to explore larger amounts of texts, along the construction of new knowledge impossible to gain before. Though many scholars have yet to twig the relevance of this type of method, it usually takes researchers from their first intuition to new questions to examine the texts. A good example would be Franco Moretti, who by getting data on a large corpus on British novels then asks questions to further explore the development of the genre.

These three reading  cannot be separated. They intertwine in that the hyper-reading looks for certain passages that can be close-read. Machine- and hyper-reading can identify unknown forms or structures that can later on be also studied by asserting a close-reading on the writings.

Now, how do I read? I do a lot of hyper-reading when searching for information to analyse or write about specific novels in my literature classes. Books that I have first read, closely, and found some particular issue I want to analyse. Right now, I’m also moving on to the third realm. I am learning how to use R language and environment to analyse texts that I might have not read before. How do I think, though? As Hayles points out, I usually know what I am looking for before I begin to hyper- or machine-read, then I interpret what I find. Given my ability to multitask, I wonder if those modes of reading are changing my brain…

…are my students’ brains also changed and unable to perform one activity focusing all their attention to it? I don’t teach literature – maybe in a couple of semesters- but Spanish. I have sussed that students like to have different tasks or modes of reading while learning new vocabulary, for instance. Memorization of a list of words never worked for me either. So I have pictures, games, videos, or sentences ready for them to learn new words. Usually I don’t ask them for a close-reading the day we have a text on culture – they have to hyper-read various texts in order to get the main idea for a new concept. Unfortunately I haven’t yet tried machine-reading with them. So far, it has worked for my classes. Is it negative? Would they be able to later on move on to a close-reading mode when they get to 400 level classes on literature?

As Humanists, Digital Humanists, and teachers/profs, I believe we have to understand the technogenesis Hayles talks about. Technology and humans develop by adapting to one another. Digital media is moving human beings to a faster and miscellaneous mode of communication. It is shaping new patterns of knowledge and research. I guess that we cannot avoid the change. So we have to adapt it and take full advantage of it. 

Works cited:

Hayles, N. Katherine. How We Think. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2012.

Sosnoski, James. 1999. “Hyper- Readings and Their Reading Engines.” In Passions, Pedagogies, and Twenty First Century Technologies, edited by Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe.

A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window

With a small dimension of 83 x 64.5 cm (32 3/4 x 25 3/8 in.) this oil on canvas is nowadays hung on the Gemäldegalerie, in Dresden. It was painted by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer circa 1657 and it marks the beginning of his mature period.

As can be seen, it depicts a young woman reading a letter in the corner of a relatively large room. The corner is lit by an open window on the left side, as many of Vermeer’s paintings. It is said that the painter was influenced by his contemporary Pieter de Hooch, though the latter placed his figures on the foreground rather than on the background. The photographic precision present in this painting, as well as in others, has suggested that Vermeer made use of a camera obscura to work. This device helped him create images that seem a frozen reality to the audience -the human beings depicted look like dissected  or stuff people still in time, preserved for our observation.

It could be possible to describe many characteristics of this painting but the following are the ones I find more interesting:

Johannes Vermeer has often been regarded, together with Rembrant, as a master of light. This always enters obliquely through a window. The light falls on the objects that first catch our eyes: the girl, the letter, fruits and curtain – giving them a sense of stillness.  The audience would like to escape the room, breath some fresh air and look to the street. It acts as a symbol of escape; will she climb down the wall and meet that who wrote the letter?

It is on that window through which light enters that we can see the reflection of the girl’s face. “X-ray images show that the head of the young girl was originally positioned slightly in front and below its present place. In the original profile, the head was turned slightly away from the viewer. That position accounts for the comparatively full-faced reflection we now see in the window.”  On the profile of the girl, it can be said that it matches with that of the woman on Woman in Blue Reading Letter, being it the one of Vermeer’s wife.

The fruit bowl on the front, which shows apples and peaches, is similar (probably inspired by) to that in De Bergh’s Still Life with Fruit in a Wan-Li Bowland a Roemer. A study has discovered that Vermeer also placed a roemer to the right of the bowl but that it was lately painted out in favour of the green curtain. Apples and peaches could underlie the meaning of a love affair.

The green satin curtain does not clearly belong to the space of the scene. “It hovers slightly over the painted surface hung from a curtain rod which runs across the upper border of the composition.” Though it was possible to find this kind of curtain in the Dutch household, it can only be understood as a illusionist technique that was popular among painters who belonged to the Delft School. “There are also precedents for this in religious painting, indicating that curtains also added an effect of mystery and surprise to a scene, and contributed to its lifelikeness in that it confused the painted with the real space. ”
Finally, it is quite important to know that there was once a painting of Cupid on the background wall “just above and to the right of the young woman”. The painting would clearly suggest to the audience that the letter was of amorous nature. Sadly, it was painted out by the painter before he finished the work. Moreover, the vanishing point ofthe painting’s perspective would have been a crucial pictoric element in the painting of our analysis.

The picture here presents the actual picture depicted in Vermeer’s painting Lady Standing at the Virginal.  

I would like to finish the article with the presentation I made in class. 

Sources:

Diferenciar biblioteca electrónica, digital y virtual

Desde que se tiene conciencia de la importancia de la cultura, las diferentes civilizaciones se han ocupado de almacenar el saber para más tarde poderlo compartir (pinturas rupestres, la escritura, imprenta, dispositivos para almacenar audio, vídeo, etc.). La llegada de las nuevas tecnologías ha contribuído a dicho almacenaje en nuevos tipos de bibliotecas, pero sobretodo, al hecho de poder compartir el saber de una forma diferente a la biblioteca tradicional.

Con el avance tecnológico han surgido las bibliotecas electrónicas, las bibliotecas digitales y las bibliotecas virtuales. Este artículo trata de aclarar las diferencias, por medio de definiciones, entre los tres tipos de biblioteca, ya que la mayoría de los usuarios quizá no las conozcan.

En primer lugar, la biblioteca electrónica es aquella que “cuenta con sistemas de automatización que le permiten una ágil y correcta administración de los materiales que resguarda, principalmente en papel. Así mismo, cuenta con sistemas de telecomunicaciones que le permitirán acceder a su información, en formato electrónico, de manera remota o local. Proporciona principalmente catálogos y listas de las colecciones que se encuentran físicamente dentro de un edificio.” Puede estar compuesta de por ejemplo: bases de datos, libros y revistas electrónicas y guías temáticas.

Por otro lado, la biblioteca digital se puede definir como “Una colección organizada de documentos digitales para cuya consulta se precisa de un ordenador, unos programas informáticos y, en algunos casos, de un sistema de internet. ” Los documentos son almacenados en diferentes formatos electrónicos por lo que el original en papel, en caso de existir, pierde supremacía. Generalmente, son bibliotecas pequeñas y especializadas.

Para finalizar, la biblioteca virtual es aquella que “hace uso de la realidad virtual para mostrar una interfaz y emular un ambiente que sitúe al usuario dentro de una biblioteca tradicional. Hace uso de la más alta tecnología multimedia y puede guiar al usuario a través de diferentes sistemas para encontrar colecciones en diferentes sitios, conectados a través de sistemas de cómputo y telecomunicaciones.

En conclusión, hay que diferenciar los tres términos y no usarlos indistintamente, pues cada uno define un tipo de biblioteca, que si bien necesitan de un ordenador y complementan a la tradicional, no son iguales.

Recursos:

Biblioteca Digital y Web Semántica. http://biblioweb.sindominio.net/telematica/bibdigwebsem.html 28 Diciembre 2009, 13:26

Modelo para el Desarrollo de Bibliotecas Digitales Especializadas. http://www.bibliodgsca.unam.mx/tesis/tes7cllg/sec_10.htm 28 Diciembre 2009, 13:30

El protagonista de la Feria de Durango 2009

La ceremonia de inauguración de la Feria Nacional del Libro Durango 2009 se realizó en el patio principal de Palacio de Gobierno y contó con personalidades del ámbito entre las que destaca  una de las figuras literarias más importantes del México contemporáneo, el escritor, cronista y crítico Carlos Monsiváis.

En la feria del presente año se han ofertado más de 20 mil títulos de poco más de 150 sellos editoriales. Además de las actividades propias del edificio Landako, la Feria ha programado más actividades culturales que nunca. Ahotsenea, el espacio de literatura infantil, la sala de presentaciones y el Elkartegia han acogido más de 100 espectáculos y representaciones, teniendo todo una buena acogida por parte del público. También es de destacar la presencia de la cultura Catalana -cuya intención es seguir participando en las próximas ediciones gracias a las ayudas en la traducción y la presencia de autores catalanes.

Pero sin duda alguna, la gran novedad y protagonista de este año ha sido la presentación del libro digital o ebook. Y es que como explican el presidente de la Asociación de Editores Vascos y editor de Alberdania, Jorge Jiménez, ; Enric Faura, responsable del portal edi.cat; e Ignacio Latasa, director de Leer-e, empresa distribuidora del lector electrónico, el libro digital aspira a convertirse en algo imprescindible para los usuarios de la cultura escrita.

Aunque es “un mercado que todavía no ha explotado” y que aún falta tiempo para que se consolide, el e-reader va a suponer una revolución en el mundo editorial. Ignacio Latasa afirma, como ya veníamos discutiendo en anteriores artículos, que el e-book no es una amenaza para los libros de papel y no va a suponer la desaparición del “formato tradicional”. Por otra parte, recomienda acercarse al stan del azoka (feria) para informarse, y afirma que por lo general, el libro digital está teniendo muy buena aceptación.

Dichos stans eran informativos y aunque también se han vendido títulos, la funcion de los puestos era acercar a los ciudadanos a la nueva forma de lectura e invitar a comprar un libro aunque no se tenga el lector, ya que se puede leer en el ordenador.

La feria ha cerrado sus puertas tras cinco días con una valoración muy positiva a pesar de la presente crisis.

Sources:

El libro digital, protagonista de la Azoka de Durango. http://www.eitb.com/radio/radio-euskadi/detalle/308899/el-libro-digital-protagonista-azoka-durango/ Visitado el 20/12/2009, 20:34

Inauguran la Feria Nacional del Libro Durango 2009 http://www.cronica.com.mx/nota.php?id_nota=441653 Visitado el 20/12/2009, 20:35

Cierra sus puertas la 44 edición de la Feria de Durango http://www.eitb.com/cultura/noticias/detalle/309517/cierra-sus-puertas-44-edicion-feria-durango/ Visitado el 20/12/2009

What is Citeulike?

CiteULike is a free service to help internet users to store, organise and share the scholarly papers they are reading. When the user see a paper on the web that interests him, ge can click one button and have it added to his personal library. CiteULike automatically extracts the citation details, so there’s no need to type them in himself. It all works from within a web browser so there’s no need to install any software. Because the library is stored on the server, it can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.

It was created in November 2004 and further developed in December 2006. The site is based in the UK. The service is free and is run independently of any particular publisher with a liberal privacy policy.

In the style of other popular social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us it allows users to bookmark and “tag” URIs with personal metadata using a Web browser. CiteULike normalizes bookmarks before adding them to its database, which means it calculates whether each URI bookmarked identifies an identical publication added by another user, with an equivalent URI.

CiteULike is based on the principle of social bookmarking and is aimed to promote and to develop the sharing of scientific references amongst researchers. In the same way that it is possible to catalog web pages (with Furl and del.icio.us) or photographs (with Flickr), scientists can share information on academic papers with specific tools developed for that purpose.

Sources:

Citeulike FAQ http://www.citeulike.org/faq/faq.adp Retrieved December 17, 2009 14:26

Citeulike in Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CiteULike Retrieved December 17, 2009 14:30

Metadata

Metadata is the data about data, this is, a text, voice, or image that describes what the audience wants or needs to see or experience.It is used to facilitate the understanding, usage, and management of data, both by human and computers. n item of metadata may describe an individual datum, or content item, or a collection of data including multiple content items and hierarchical levels, such as a database schema.

Usually it is not possible to distinguish between (plain) data and metadata because:

  • Something can be data and metadata at the same time. The headline of an article is both its title (metadata) and part of its text (data).
  • Data and metadata can change their roles. A poem, as such, would be regarded as data, but if there is a song that uses it as lyrics, the whole poem could be attached to an audio file of the song as metadata. Thus, the labeling depends on the point of view.

The most popular initiative about metadata is the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, aka DCMI.

“DCMI traces its roots to Chicago at the 2nd International World Wide Web Conference, October 1994. Yuri Rubinsky of SoftQuad (who chaired panels regarding the future of HTML and Web authoring tools) along with Stuart Weibel and Eric Miller of OCLC (who were presenting papers about scholarly publishing on the Web and leading discussions on the delivery of Web-based library services) had a hallway conversation with Terry Noreault, then Director of the OCLC Office of Research, and Joseph Hardin, then Director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). This discussion on semantics and the Web revolved around the difficulty of finding resources (difficult even then, with only about 500,000 addressable objects on the Web).

Their initial brainstorming lead to NCSA and OCLC holding a joint workshop to discuss metadata semantics in Dublin, Ohio, March 1995. At this event, called simply the “OCLC/NCSA Metadata Workshop”, more than 50 people discussed how a core set of semantics for Web-based resources would be extremely useful for categorizing the Web for easier search and retrieval. They dubbed the result “Dublin Core metadata” based on the location of the workshop. Since that time conferences and workshops have been held in England, Australia, Finland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Italy, and the United States.”

the workshop format was broadened to include tutorials and peer-reviewed conference papers and posters, offering the metadata community a greater opportunity for learning, exchange of ideas, and development of DC metadata standards. The Initiative supports the development of metadata registry infrastructure that will provide users metadata definitions and documentation in the languages of its users.

Sources:

Metadata (2009, December 14) http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Metadata&oldid=320011286#Definitions

DCMI History (2009, December 14) http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Metadata&oldid=320011286#Definitions

Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

Twitter Phenomenon

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is “ a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.” Created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, this network has gained popularity worldwide and it is often called as “SMS of the Internet”.

But Twitter is more than a social network. It has already been used in campaining -by candidates in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign; in legal proceedings such as the arrest of Daniel Knight Hayden by the Agents of the FBI; in protest and politics -thousands of NHS users took part in a Twitter campaign expressing their support for the NHS (with use of the #welovetheNHS hashtag) when it was attacked by opponents of Obama’s health insurance reform proposals were made public; to survey opinion -the CBC cited tweets regarding Elizabeth May and Stéphane Dion along with a graph of items mentioned on Twitter as evidence that people were calling for Dion to step down in response to the election results; etc.

But where twitter is really gaining importante is in large corporations and home-based businesses. Companies are using Twitter to grow their brand and bring their exposure -this is, advertising themselves. It is easy to follow a bussiness on Twitter and moreover, companies encourage other Twitter users to follow them. “Even if companies don’t try to sell a product directly on their first connect, they’re establishing a connection that will perhaps serve its purpose later.” Using Twitter in marketing is a way of growing the potential of a business.

Another field where Twitter is being used is in Education. Universities around the Globe are encouraging students to make use of Twitter in some subjects. “Twitter turned out to be “a useful tool for evaluating a course formatively. Because of Twitter’s simple use and the electronic handling of data, the administrative effort remains small.”” The innovative approach gives students the opportunity to express their views in class discussions. Another advantage of Twitter is that the limit of characters forces students to get to the central point. For instance, students in Universidad de Deusto are encouraged to Tweet in the Digital Resources Management subject (with the #rdf0910 hashtag).

Sources:

Twitter in Wikipedia. Retrieved 15:48 15/11/09 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter

The Twitter Phenomenon: Connect with Social Networking Before It’s Too Late!. Retrieved 15:02 15/11/09 http://www.corporate-eye.com/blog/2008/12/the-twitter-phenomenon-connect-with-social-networking-before-its-too-late/

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