Here we go…





So I’ve thought a lot about various scholarly
archiving ideas, some of which even leak into ideas of pedagogy. One thing that
has persisted in all my thoughts is the way new media archiving that we perform
on a set of data never translates to a ‘finished product’ or anything of the like;
in fact, online archiving allows students, without the ability to grasp
materialized documents, books, narratives, photos and etc., to see their
selected data for a scholarly paper, a text, as more contingent than
perhaps they’d like to imagine.

is the online utility that I’ve focused on. It has a lot of potential. The
first cool thing is the “Notes” option and ability to annotate on any selected
data. I think it’s also cool because there is a library function through the
program where numerous individuals can meet, collaborate, and participate in
creating a field of data. Its downfall, if I would make a critique, is that its
collaboration tools outside of collecting data pretty much do not exist. For example, there
is no commenting, chatting, or tagging options for peers. Even Flicker has
developed a tag option that is easy and interactive, but Zotero has no such
thing and so any kind of networking has to be done third party. This is why I
added a chat through my La Paraula site, which can be seen here: Addressing
networking deficiencies with a chat forum is also an attempt to have students,
myself included, collaborating during the process of data collection,
instead of after selections have been made. This is critical to me, especially
for an eventual class assignment I might likely give for a composition class at
a college. The difficulty of a chat forum is it gives the responsibility to
students in actually meeting together at a particular time outside of class,
and I don’t think it will work and so a discussion form like Ilearn is probably
a more adequate address to Zotero collaboration on data such as theory or

briefly to the idea of annotating data, I think Zotero is unique in addressing
theory, and for theory classes that I’ve had it would have been interesting to
assign a Zotero annotation from each student, that way when we
read, for example, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” students can
review each other’s definitions and concepts to create a discursive
conversation that is broad but necessary in creating better understanding.

my thesis on Norman Mailer and the Post-war Novel, I think Zotero will help me
keep track and review theory which I want to integrate into my work. I think
the tag cloud within the web utility and stand out (but not seen by peer collaborators)
is cool in grouping together data on subjects like ‘post-Marxism.’ This
clustering function of tagging data really allows for a creation of a milieu of
information to engage with, both personally and collectively.

I’m keen on Zotero, but there is so much more that can and should be used. I’ve
had series hang-ups with Media Wiki, but I think as time goes on it will become
more accessible to students because of the influence of the Wikipedia project.
Media Wiki sites, however, have the same problems with networking ability as
Zotero does in some senses. It’s awesome seeing the history of editing on a
page, and user’s contributions, and the discussion form is interesting too, but
I think its seriously lacking in conversation. What do I mean by conversation?
Facebook commenting, for example, is an instant comment dialogue which occurs
between persons. This is what I’m ultimately looking for included in an
archiving interface – an immediate
conversation during the process of gathering data.

With the acknowledgement
that Wikis might be an alley way to explore for student assignments in
archiving, I am forced to confront another deficiency of Zotero, which is the
difficulty in critiquing a group member’s contribution. If for example, I add
Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to a group George Herbert archive, how can another
member address is adequacy as a contribution, and against what model? Why can’t
there be a discussion forum like Wikipedia where I can argue that “’Kashmir’ is
the only real way in understanding Herbert because XYZ, and here is some of the
evidence for that within the data (CITATION BLAH-BLAH).

the take-away, then, I guess I’ll say I know that Zotero is lacking certain
things which we discussed over the semester, mostly collaboration and critique.
But I will definitely use it during my theses because of the ease in sorting
through annotations and subjects.








belated Scholarly Project

So, for a scholarly new media project, I got to thinking about interfaces. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest the interface is some new kind of art form as Steven Johnson does in his “Bitmapping: An Introduction” article, I do see the interface as one of the most, if not the most, powerful tools in the spectrum of new media as it relates to pedagogy.

One last time (for this class anyway) I’ll turn to video games for my point. Consider what the interface does for video games. It shapes how we see the world, provides us with the information we need to interact and succeed in that world, and directs us toward our goals. In class we spoke about the pros and cons of platforms like Ilearn and Facebook and how they reflected their respective audiences. I see such reflection as a bad thing. The problem with such designs is that they’re built around the lowest common denominator. That is, they tend to sacrifice flexibility and customization for ease of use. Now I’m all for ease of use, but if we can struggle in a class to grasp a difficult concept in order to further our education, I fell that we should be willing to put forth the same effort in order to engage ourselves with a learning platform that helps us learn better, interact more (with both teacher and colleagues) and express ourselves more fully.

By now you might be wondering “Well, that’s great Brendan, but how is this a scholarly project?” I’m glad you asked dear reader. Allow me to explain. What I’m thinking about is a user friendly interface for teachers. A kind of social media platform for classes. I think there is a huge amount of untapped potential in this area. If students could spend just a portion of the time they use on Facebook, Farmville, or World of Warcraft plugged into a media interface that actually works with a class they’re taking, the possibilities are…well who am I kidding? Apathy is a powerful thing, and it will take more than an HUD for teachers to get student excited about a class. But I think with a redesign, platforms like Ilearn or Moodle could from something students (and some teachers) use because they have to, into something they choose to use.

But for a specific detailed example, which I have yet to put together, I’m thinking about laying out a webpage for something similar to the ARG concept I spoke of in my Pedagogical project. What I was speaking of there was a website somewhere along the lines of Chorewars. A site that could operate as a platform with which teachers could design ARGs around projects and assignments. The problem with Chorewars is that it’s not really tailored for teachers. I think with a little tinkering a similar site could go up that is more practical for Teachers to use. I was thinking of a site with integrated forums, wikis, and the ability to post and grade assignments online. All of this with the added interface element of an alternate reality game. Now, whenever I speak about games, especially in regard to teaching with and about them, I always feel the need to justify them. I’m not suggesting that an idea like teaching with an ARG would compose a whole course, or even a majority of it. But I think with an easy to use interface, something like that would be perfect for extra credit, or additional low-stakes assignments.

I think the best part of this is it could likely be setup with existing platforms like wordpress or php forums. I’m not a coder and I would have difficulty setting something like that up from scratch. But with the plug and play nature, or “mashup” as it were, I think something like I described would not be all that hard to setup.

Final Scholarly Project: New Beginnings

Here I go, getting a bit filmy again. I don’t know if any of you watch The Celebrity Apprentice, but it is one of my favorite shows. It portrays celebrities competing with one another to win money for their charities by performing tasks as advertising for companies, organizing events to showcase companies’ strengths, presenting demonstrations, etc. I have embraced a similar role of advocacy for the open source reference management software, Zotero. In addition to making my life so much easier, it has completely reformed my scholarly project into something bigger and better.

On the first day of class, we were advised to choose subjects for our pedagogical and scholarly projects. In the Shakespeare class I had taken the previous semester, I presented on an adaptation of Othello called Omkara. Shakespeare meets Bollywood, this was a match made in heaven for me. I wanted to know more! Since I had little opportunity to do research in my Shakespeare class on the subject, I jumped at the chance of discovering Shakespeare in India in this class.

To be honest, it was the combined efforts of my presentation on Omkara and my pedagogical project that made me realize the potential of my research. This is what I want to write my M.A. thesis about, Shakespeare in India. As I have mentioned many times before in my other blog posts, Shakespeare was used as a colonizing instrument by the British to impose colonial modernity. Using adaptations as the medium, I would like to showcase how by reimagining the Shakespearian text, colonial modernity was/is rejected by the Indian population during colonization and post-colonially. Some other questions I am considering are: By creating the divide, was this another way India was striving for independence during colonization? Is this India’s way of claiming Shakespeare as theirs?

In doing research for my pedagogical project, my scholarly project (M.A. thesis) has already been reshaped from what was originally a presentation on Omkara. But, a tool that is currently assisting me in my research endeavors in addition to sparking new ideas is Zotero.  Zotero is defined as an “easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources” (  Before I go any further in explaining how it is in the process of reshaping my scholarly project, I want to showcase what it has already done for me.

Before this class, I did not know what Zotero was. Actually, I didn’t know half the things that we covered throughout this class that now are very useful to me. I had a disorganized method of collecting. I either wrote my discoveries on a piece of paper, or added them to my “Favorites” list online. As you can see in the image above, my “Favorites” queue is very colorful since it varies from one favorite to the next. School + life = Saved forms, articles, YouTube videos, class schedules, vampire sightings (I am not crazy, it’s something we had to do for another class), Kung Fu Panda movie, etc. I have a tendency to be very vague in naming my discoveries, so half the time I didn’t know what I had saved. I have hundreds of items saved in my queue, e-mail, Word document, and on paper, all forgotten about.

I knew I had to get serious when it came to my research for my M.A. thesis, which is why I am very thankful for being introduced to Zotero. Zotero lets me neatly organize the research that I have done for my thesis. Since my research will be on multiple adaptations, I have the ability to dedicate a new file/collection to each of my adaptations, as showcased in the image above, by pressing the “New Collections” button. Furthermore, when I come back to my research in the future, I don’t have to read the entire source to see if it’s useful to me, I can simply read the brief summary I have included in the “abstract” box. When reading or rereading the saved resources, I can take notes on the side panel about important points that may be useful in supporting my claim. Since this project is on adaptations, I am also able to save images and YouTube videos that will support my thesis.

In order to take my research to a new level, I have created a group on Zotero called “Reimagining Shakespeare in Colonial and Post-Colonial India” that will showcase all my research. I have made this group public to anyone who wants to join. I have already added research on an adaptation of Macbeth called Maqbool that is available for viewing. The purpose of this creation is that I want the group to serve as an open forum for sharing information and engaging in discussions. I will update the group library whenever I discover new sources, and post thought provoking questions that may spark interesting debates via the group discussion link. I would like to document the different perspectives that people have about the reimagining of Shakespeare, which may come to serve as an integral part of my thesis. Furthermore, group members and the public viewing the library can add to my on-going research by recommending sources and adding sources that I didn’t consider before. I am very enthusiastic about this group because it will gather individuals interested in the subject at one location, creating an online community working collaboratively to support my endeavors. Plus, I am very eager to see whether my thesis is reshaped by the time I am ready to write.

I am very pleased to know that my efforts, in addition to the efforts of the group members, will be archived by Zotero via the group library. I know this is something I want to work with even after my thesis, which is why I will always try my best to add new sources to the library and initiate new discussions. I am also glad that the group is available for others to reference, learn from, and join.

Zotero, in collaboration with my pedagogical project, has further inspired a new direction for ideas related to my project.  In addition to the group that I have created for my thesis research, I have also created another group called “Localizing Shakespeare.” Parallel to the documentation of Shakespearian adaptations in India, this group will archive the localization of Shakespeare by different cultures around the world. Similar to the collection I have initiated in the group library called “Indian Appropriations,” group members will also be able to create a collection for different regions. In order to prohibit the amalgamation of different adaptations in a single collection, a sub-collection could be created for each adaptation, or to condense the list, each genre. Through the collaborative efforts of the tight knit community, group members will be able to share information with each other in a controlled environment created by Zotero. Even though the group library is available for public viewing, access will only be granted to group members to store and reform the knowledge presented in the group library. The reason I have set the privacy settings to closed membership is because I only want serious scholars who may add to the collective intelligence at work, not otherwise. This truly is collective intelligence at its best! Our ultimate goal will be to share the knowledge by creating a database composed of reliable sources related to adaptations of Shakespeare around the world. But for now, Zotero will serve as a great archive in itself for the public in search of useful resources.

Thanks to this class, this is the start of something new and exciting! Even though the work is in its preliminary stages, I am enthusiastic to see what the final outcome is. Let’s wait and watch.

Please click on the names of the groups above to access their individual libraries. Here are the URLs just in case you are not directed via group names.

Scholarly Project

Since its beginnings, my scholarly project has become a less specific undertaking than I first outlined. I’ve already touched on the following issue in previous blog posts, but I’ll say again that I’m having a hard time assessing the greater value of timelines and maps in scholarly work. To backpedal, my initial idea for the scholarly project was to place James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” and Go Tell It on the Mountain in the historical context of jazz and the blues, by way of a geographical timeline of some sort.

The tools offered by new media shed important light on how I might go about creating the piece described above. In particular, the mashup concept comes to mind. With the help of Google Maps, I might set up two different map/timelines. I’d want to have a map of the easternmost half, I suppose, of the United States, with links marking the emergence of notable artists and notable innovations in jazz and the blues, eg. Delta Blues, bebop, Louis Armstrong, or John Coltrane, to name a few. Additionally, I would want a map of Harlem, where Baldwin grew up. I might then mark specific points (links) on the Harlem map denoting where and when the innovative artists from the first map emerged onto the Harlem scene, if ever. This could visually and temporally place Baldwin and his texts in a framework of influence. It would be fascinating to look at the ways his work responds to the wildly dynamic progression of jazz music; for example, how might Baldwin in his work figure Charlie Parker, one of his contemporaries, versus Louis Armstrong, his predecessor? Furthermore, what kinds of cadences and rhythms appear in his writing that are specific to one or another phase of music? Furthermore, some sort of map/timeline of Baldwin’s experience in Europe, prior to writing his most notable works, could be valuable too. Do any Parisian musical styles manifest in his work in any way?

So those are the ideas I’d like to explore. After a semester’s worth of immersion in new media, though, I’m not sure that geographical timelines are the most fruitful method of exploration. I guess these timelines would not exactly be exploration, but rather, they might be products that illustrate my exploration. Or maybe they would qualify as exploration. I’m not quite sure. Maybe I’m having a hard time with the value of literary timelines/maps because I’m not necessarily a visual learner. For me, tools like maps and timelines are of course visually stimulating, and sometimes help me to understand the development of ideas in a context. But I would absorb even more about these ideas and contexts by reading about them and then drawing them out in my own mind in a way that works for my own learning process. Of course, there are plenty of visual learners out there. So I know I am wrong to say that this kind of project wouldn’t have intrinsic value. For a visual learner, looking at a geographical timeline could probably be crucial to that individual’s process of understanding abstractions and concrete ideas at work behind the timeline, in a way that I can’t myself grasp since I think I learn in a different way. But now this question arises: Can I consciously adjust the way that I learn, particularly in relation to new media?

I’m not sure about the answer to the above question. Actually, I imagine that I’m already adjusting the ways I learn and understand, without realizing it. And perhaps I only think that I learn a certain way because I’ve been conditioned to think about learning in that particular way–read, ingest, understand, reflect. Since this is how I think I learn at this point, a Zotero collection is what I find most useful for my own process of understanding. This collection will be particularly handy next semester when I begin work on my thesis. Should SFSU permit me to hand in as my thesis a compilation of geographical timelines such as those described here, I would die and go to heaven a happy woman. However, since this is a highly unlikely scenario, Zotero is helpful for rounding up the information that will lay a good foundation for my examination of jazz and blues in Baldwin’s work. This is what I’m imagining for my thesis, so far, at least. Thinking of Zotero as a digital file cabinet is comforting as I begin thinking about writing an M.A. thesis. So much of our time as students, and as humans in general, is spent organizing and categorizing, both mentally and physically. Before Zotero, one would be forced to physically organize his or her research information on the computer, by way of the bookmark function or something similar. Even this would only be a minimal form of organization, though. Where could you write in the margins of an article or webpage if you had a lightbulb moment? How could you highlight the text’s key points? It seems like all the things that were once done by hand during research sort of fell into a black hole, until Zotero. And now, Zotero takes care of the physical order and organization for us, in a digital manner that requires minimal effort on our part. By freeing us of the work entailed in categorization and ordering, Zotero allows scholars and avid researchers to be one step removed from internalizing the implications of “order” as a practice and a mindset. I find this exciting. Maybe this is why I prefer a platform like Zotero, whose organizational strings are behind the scenes and out of my sight, to a geographical timeline, where as the creator I would be forced to engage in the activity of order. Obviously, I can’t sit here and claim that I condemn all order, since I’m advocating an ultimate platform for ordering information. My thoughts on the matter are paradoxical, since the order provided by Zotero is advantageous for me and I cherish it, yet, I feel uncomfortable when I think about actively constructing systems of order and rank, myself.

Edwin Drood Fan Fiction IV

I uploaded two stories to I am not quite sure how put the link in this blog because I think it connects only to my profile (I tried it earlier and the link was basically my profile and asked for my password).

Edwin Drood as a Zombie

Here is the newest piece I wrote. I continued the story of Jasper meeting Edwin in the crypt but instead of a happy ending (which was inspired by The Angels are the Reapers, a very violent but very sad ending so I was disenchanted and tried to think of a way where zombies can live happily ever after but reading it again I realized no, that the undead are meant to be dead in a way and that Victorian England could not just accept the living dead so I decided to make the ending a little more violent).


He looked upon the dawn of the morning. The fog circled a cathedral in a loving embrace. He had been in the dens last night, or was it the night before? John Jasper could not remember. He sat up and remembered what was plaguing him. His nephew was gone, Rosa Bud was gone, the joy of singing was gone. Even his journal which had been a source of secrecy and confidence was also gone. He was alone. He laid back on the bed in his room and closed his eyes which felt so heavy and fell into another opium induced sleep.

He woke up from hour to hour. He remembered rising from his bed, calling for a meal from Mrs. Tope, sitting and eating like an automaton but always feeling like he was looking at himself from afar. He moved slowly as if he was in a dream. And he was. At least he hoped he was in this dream.

He heard a noise. Heavy falling footsteps. Which sounded familiar as if he had heard them all his life. He peered out the window. A young man wearing a hat and a coat passed by in the street below him. The slump of the shoulders, the long strides, it was Edwin! Back from the dead? He couldn’t be. Without thinking, John Jasper grabbed his coat and hat and sped down the stairs and spilled out into the street like water from a vase. The hat and the coat bobbed in front of him, in slow motion. With the opium it felt like everything was moving underwater slowly.

Unaware of where he was going, unaware of the steps falling in stride behind him, and the next thing he knew, he was in front of the same crypt door which he had laid his nephew to rest over six months ago. The key was still in his pocket. He fumbled to fit it in the lock but the lock was already broken. He opened the door and standing there was his nephew. Alive.

The shock took a full minute to take hold of his brain.

The first words to come out of his mouth were “I saw you dead”

Edwin, looking pale and worn, said “Yes you have seen me dead.”

Jasper was at a loss. “I saw you dead,” he repeated, “You were not breathing. You were dead.”

“When have I ever been breathing? When have I ever been alive?” Edwin twitched under Jasper’s gaze.

“Edwin, tell me…please…I didn’t mean to kill you. I must be dreaming. I dreamt it so many times. I don’t know what I do under the influence” Jasper stammered. Jasper felt as though this was a dangerous moment. He had tried to kill his own flesh and blood and now this was his judgment. He considered the lines from the Bible he sang every week in the cathedral about murder, deceit, disrespecting family and God’s will.

Edwin looked straight at him in the face. Jasper couldn’t read his expression. Was it a mixture of fear and pleading? Jasper could hardly see straight.

“Jasper,” Edwin began, “I am a zombie. This is why you could not kill me. This is why you could not tell if my body was alive or dead.”

“But you can’t be. I know you. I’ve known you all your life. You don’t look any different.”

“My father was a zombie. He was bitten in Egypt along with your father and Rosa’s father. He survived the terror of the zombies in the pyramids. He came back changed. He was the only one to come back.”

Jasper tried to digest this information but it was almost too much. All he could do was nod along and listen.

“My father came back to us in England. He had made promises. That Rosa would be taken care of and his two friends would be avenged. The only way he could think of doing this would be to make me like him. The bite was terrible. But I was so young. It was my destiny, the lot had fallen to me.”

“And why not me?” Jasper asked, “I’m older than you. I could have taken this burden.”

“Oh Uncle Jack, that would not have worked. Your father wanted you to sing just like you always had. I was so much younger than you, I had a better chance of surviving and adapting. So I made my plans to go to Egypt, to avenge and put things right. But you tried to kill me. Knowing you wanted me dead, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I came to Grewgious and Bazzard. They helped me to conceal me. I didn’t dare go to the ports. I wasn’t ready to let go of this place and leave Cloisterham. I had to make sure Rosa was thriving.”

“Edwin….” and then a fog glazed over his eyes. Like so many times before, Jasper transformed into a different person controlled by opium and not a sound mind.

At that moment, Helena, Crisparkle and Neville burst through the door. Seeing Helena dressed as Edwin, Jasper felt the old rage come back. Two Edwins! This was a nightmare, this was his dream, one of them needed to die. He failed before, he would not fail again. It had to be like his dream.

He was awakened from his dream as he heard a scream, “What are you?” Jasper turned to see Neville staring white faced at Edwin.

“It is me, Edwin Drood. I am not alive.” Edwin put his hands in front of him in a peaceful gesture, “I was never alive.”

“What are you?” Neville repeated, this time with that glare in his eyes that the small group of people gathered there had seen before.

“I am a zombie.”

Neville stammered, shaking his head, “You…a zombie?”

“Yes. I am peaceful. I have not hurt anyone.” Edwin could tell that this unstable youth could lash out at him at any moment, as he had done in the past.

“You who acted like you were better than me. You are a zombie! You insulted me! You made fun of me!” Neville’s temper rose, “You knew you would always be wrong for Rosa and a danger to her and yet you carried on with your engagement!” Neville clenched his fist in the way that was so displeasing to Crisparkle.

“Neville, you do not know what you are talking about.” Edwin said slowly. “You don’t know why I am this way….”

Neville did not listen. He lunged at Edwin, wielding his clenched fist. He threw punches at his face, kicked his legs like a man gone mad with rage who did not know how to control his limbs.

Crisparkle threw himself on Neville, trying to restrain him.

“Neville, stop!” Helena shrieked, “You don’t know what you are doing! He is not human! He may bite you!”

Edwin turned his face away, determined not to bite Neville. Neville threw his knee into Edwin’s stomach, causing him to double over.

“Stop!” Helena continued to shriek. She bounced on her toes as the fighting between her brother and the zombie continued.

Neville turned and grabbed his sister. He reached into her coat pocket. Helena tried to grab his hand but knew what he was searching for: he had armed his sister with a small pistol before she went on her nighttime masquerade as Edwin Drood, just in case she came into trouble. Neville aimed it at Edwin’s head and before anyone in the crypt could move, he pulled the trigger and the brains of Edwin Drood splattered the wall behind him.

All four in the crypt winced as the bloody mess of a body lurched forward and fell to the ground.

“Neville,” Helena whispered, “We did not know if he was bad or good. He said he never hurt anyone. How could we have known why he came back to us.” She stood, wavering on her feet like she was about to faint.

Crisparkle took the gun out of Neville’s hand as it hung limp by his side. “A zombie is a terrible thing to behold but we always knew Edwin as a peaceful young man.”

“He was bad,” Neville sighed, “I knew it.”

“No you didn’t!” Jasper screamed from out of the shadows. “You killed my nephew!” Jasper grabbed at Neville but Neville was too quick. He dodged Jasper’s grasp and ran out into the courtyard.

“You killed my nephew!” Jasper continued to run after Neville. Neville ran up the stairs to the cathedral tower. Helena and Crisparkle followed.

Neville broke out on the tower. He looked about him for an escape but in a flash, Jasper’s hands were about his neck and he was slowly losing the ability to breathe.

“Jasper! Get off of him!” Crisparkle threw himself on Jasper and tried to pull his arms away. Jasper was stronger and by the time Crisparkle wrenched him off the poor boy, he was dead.

This death did not yield the blood that was seen in the crypt and yet there it was. A body and a guilty. A sister without a brother. A man without a nephew. Vengeance served for one death but not for the deaths of his father, his brother in law and the father of his beloved.

Jasper was hung for the murder of Neville Landless six months later after being imprisoned. He reverted back to his opium haze through his sentence even though he did not smoke the opium. The motive of the murder was merely that Jasper believed Neville killed his nephew and thus he murdered Neville out of revenge. Crisparkle and Helena did not share the story of the zombie who came to Cloisterham for reasons unknown. They promised to keep the secret and promised other vows, marriage vows to each other.

Rosa Bud married Tartar. She did not know the destiny that had been placed on the boy she was formerly betrothed to, nor whatever had happened to him.


I have learned many valuable skills over the course of this semester and making seminar each week has helped me to the many potentials and perils of integrating new media into our pedagogical practices. One of the major issues discussed in class was how much control we were willing to give up as instructors and I feel like this is one of the bigger concessions I will have to face in the future. I would like to think that my expertise in a particular subject area has some semblance of merit and value (isn’t that part of getting a credential?) but I also see the vast potential of giving up some authority to allow for alternative types of teaching and learning.

I think that one of the most valuable things I walked away with was a stronger understanding of how knowledge is formed and constructed in shared spaces, be it online, in a mob, or in the classroom. It’s fascinating for me to think about how information can be broken down into component parts and then built and rebuilt to create something much larger than the sum of its parts. I now understand why the specialized lego piece that completes the Millennium Falcon holds far less potential than a small building block.

lego art!

In the age of rapid fire technology, it’s interesting to think that what innovators are doing on the internet has in many ways mirrored the ways that information is collected and pooled together organically in the material world (ie: the hive). Clearly, human students will be operating with far more complex mental capabilities and socio-cultural imperatives than bees or ants but the hive analogy helps when considering how to tap in and harness the potential of a group.
The importance of participatory culture seems to be at the heart of the emergence digital humanities 2.0, I see the use of technology in the classroom as a great opportunity to test and improve upon how students can collaborate with one another in the learning process. I think one of the biggest challenges is how to bring new media into the classroom without essentially neutering and institutionalizing the dynamic nature of the tools themselves. I admit that I was extremely skeptical about the use of technologies such as Twitter in the classroom, but then I read this article, “Students Speak Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media” by Trip Gabriel in the Times a few days ago and was glad to see exactly how implementation of the use of social media in the classroom has worked in various institutions. In the article, Gabriel explores how teachers have been using tools like Twitter and other microblogging technologies so that students can reply to class material in real time as discussion is taking place. High school English teacher Nicholas Provenzano explains that, “in a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel” (Gabriel). In this case, it seems as though new media is providing a way for shy and less confident students to participate in class discussions. I definitely am excited to see how a particular online tool has disrupted the 20/80 dynamic of having a small group dominate the majority of a discussion. As current and future educators, I think that it’s necessary for us to think about how these new technologies can be used in a practical way in the classroom to encourage and foster real learning.
As for making seminar? I really liked being able to experiment with a wide range of online teaching tools and I don’t feel like using technology in the classroom seems as daunting to me anymore. I feel like I’ve walked away with a set of tools that may come in very handy in the future. While our classroom discussions were extremely interesting and helpful, I appreciated being able to go into the lab and have hands-on experience in a friendly environment where I could ask questions and get help right away rather than slamming my head against my desk in frustration at home. It also helped to be able to work with my peers who were often times sharing the same frustrations with learning basic blogging skills. Overall, I feel like I am now better equip and willing to experiment with new media in the classroom and I am excited to see the effects of incorporating technology into my pedagogical practices.


Open source intelligencia?

Okay, this will be a random mix of sites and articles I’ve been reading lately:

I’ve been browsing around, looking at sites that offer a humanities-discussion platforms, &etc. Here is “ARCADE,” a site created by Stanford. CHNM offers more research tools (there is more than Zotero?) I also read an interesting blog post by Dan Cohen about why academics should spend time blogging (warning: it’s from 2006, which makes it archaic in internet-years). Okay, that should do it for now.


Feel free to tell me what you think.  Cheers!

Scholarly Project

The Project

I added "In Search of Shakespeare," on of my favorite Shakespeare resources, to my Zotero library.

For my scholarly project, I opened a Zotero account with the main goals of collecting and organizing resources for classroom lesson plans and my thesis, which is on teachers’ and students’ underlying suppositions about students’ capacity to grasp the flowery, seemingly inaccessible language of Earl Modern literature, how these assumptions inform classroom activities, and how the assumptions coupled with the activities lead to learning experiences that are “successful” or “unsuccessful”  (“success” being defined by how much the students engaged directly with the language, what they learned, and if they were excited about the unit).

Click here to see my Zotero library in its nascent stages. I hope at least some of these resources are useful to anyone who might visit my library!

Why Zotero?

There is simply no one platform or device in the analog world that can compare to Zotero, for the following reasons:

1.) Zotero collects all sources in the same place and allows users to organize them with tags and notes, for fast and easy perusal and referencing. Compare this to my former, analog-based method, as described in a previous post in

Zotero has allowed me to save resources in an organized way so I don't lose them!

which I raved about the merits of Zotero: “My method for collecting and storing electronic sources when working on a paper is typically to copy the URL into a word document or email draft. I currently have 75 email drafts (and I don’t even know how many word docs) with subjects such as, ‘For Macbeth Paper’ and ‘For teaching Plath.’ Oftentimes I have several electronic ‘source lists’ for the same paper, which makes things pretty disorganized. And, sometimes I forget about these lists altogether, so I deprive myself from using potentially valuable sources. I’m usually not able to utilize these source lists for later papers because I only copy URLs and don’t note what specifically about the source might be useful, and also because I usually forget about them and / or delete them eventually.”

In my life before Zotero, I prevented myself from easily using sources, and often from using them at all, because of my former method was so disorganized; none of the resources were in the same location, and I didn’t know of what use many of them were. Now, my resources are being stored in the same place and I can instantly ascertain which resources I want to use by searching and filtering based on their tag(s) and note(s).

2.) Zotero allows the most important information to be captured with snap shots. The analog equivalent of this would be taking and saving a screen shot, which would most likely not show the information clearly or largely enough to be read or viewed easily, if at all. Or, the desired content could be copied and pasted into a document that could then be saved. However, the content would need to be in the appropriate format, and many aspects of the page

Zotero's snapshot function might be my favorite because it preserves copies of webpages that have URLS that could expire.

would likely be lost, such as links, comments, and photos, things that are often of secondary importance but still influence the presentation and interpretation of the written content.  In either scenario, the content would not be as easily captured or as well-preserved as a Zotero snapshot, which saves a full-sized picture of a page complete with links, comments, photos, advertisements, etc. Furthermore, before I began using Zotero I usually didn’t take the time to try to permanently save web-based information that was really important; I paid little attention to the fact that URLs change or expire, and consequently have lost valuable information. For instance, several years ago I wrote a paper on teaching Shakespeare, and I wanted to add the resources for that paper to my Zotero account, along with the actual paper. Unfortunately, a couple of the resources I had used no longer had the same links. If I had had snapshots of the desired information, I would still have those resources. I don’t expect all of the websites I add to my Zotero list to be static, and there are a few pages from particular websites I would be loathe to lose access to; because of this, the snapshot function is invaluable.

3.) Zotero expands users’ access to potential resources because users can make their libraries public. Without Zotero, I could still mine people for

One of my future goals for Zotero is to start a group library for users interested in studying and teaching Early Modern literature.

resources similar to the ones I’m collecting, but it would be much more difficult. I could only show my library to people whose email addresses I have, and my resources would be in a very inconvenient format, such as a Word Document with a list of resources attached to an email or pasted into the body of an email. My friends would then need to look at all of the websites individually to understand what type of information I’m seeking and make appropriate recommendations for additional resources. With Zotero, people can easily see what resources would be potentially valuable based on tags and notes, and can make suggestions accordingly. Even better is the fact that I can peruse others’ public libraries; I know that other peoples’  libraries contain resources that I would not come across on my own, and ideally I would be able to share some of my resources as well. Additionally, I could start a group library — I would love to start one for people interested in studying and / or teaching Early Modern literature.


Prof. Hanley asked us, when developing our scholarly projects, to consider “to what extent media has helped defamiliarize or illuminate an essay, conference

Zotero makes sharing resources effortless.

paper,” or in my case, researching for my thesis and potential future profession.  Considering my previous method of accumulating resources, the Zotero method of researching, collecting, and categorizing is completely unfamiliar to me and has made me realize that researching has changed; researching 2.0 is highly organized, systematized, and dynamic. And, researching is no longer a lone endeavor. In my Pedagogical Project write-up, I wrote that new media has made me reconsider the traditionally singular nature of homework. Similarly, Because Zotero has connected me to other users’ resources and mine to them, and made it incredibly easy to share my resources with peers, new media has made rethink the role of sharing in activities that were (at least for me) usually very individual.


I’m going.

Mostly Finished Pedagogical Project

Here’s dressed-up version of my previous post

SLAP CHOP…this changes everything

A lot of what I’ve read of New Media makes it sound like the second coming (which incidentally, is next week some time apparently). Some academics speak of New Media in hushed and reverential tones. Maybe because it represents our future, or maybe because it represents how technology can help us reach more students and teach them faster, better and stronger. But where does literature fit in? What place does static text have in a world of moving flash media, massively multiplayer environments, or crowd sourced and group-think’d(thunk?) information? It still has its place, although the real estate of its influence in the the humanities is certainly shrinking. In fact, going through both composition and literature graduate classes, I’ve found that one of the defining questions of teaching English these days is a defensive one. The outside world aka ‘the real world’ has been asking Literature departments: what have you done for me lately? The answer, besides repeated cries of ‘critical literacy!’, seems to lie in New Media. Maybe it’s because we feel that with an updated interface, a new coat of paint, and brand-new stainless steel kitchen appliances, we can finally sell Literature to the general public for the cultural value we English majors think it’s worth. Or maybe we feel that with all the flashy new Blog software, and crowd sourcing theories we can win back that publicly funded humanities-money that’s been disappearing faster faster than our 401k’s. A cynic? Maybe. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Celine. However there seems to be no denying that Literature departments need a shot in the arm. What can save us you ask? Video Games. [pause for laughter] No, really. I’m serious. Now, this isn’t to suggest that video games should be a replacement or substitute for literature. What I’m suggesting is a class modeled on video games. This course would contain traditional literature texts like Twain, or Conrad, or Shakespeare, but would be taught in a form resembling a game. So how will this save literature you ask? Well, it won’t. I think this is really up to individual teachers. But what I think it will do, is engage students, get them into the class and the text, and (no…don’t say it…don’t say it) make learning fun. (Yeah…I said it)
So let’s begin with backwards design. This is an idea that’s neither new nor revolutionary whether we’re talking about teaching or planning, or video games, or web design. The concept of starting with a goal in mind, and tailoring the journey to suit that end goal is, as I said, not a new idea. Which is why it might be a bit counter-intuitive to make a class modeled on video games. How are we to have a backwards designed class when the class is built first around the method as opposed to the content, or the end result? Grant Wiggins talks about this in his article “What is Backwards Design?”

How, then, do these design considerations apply to curriculum planning? We use curriculum as a means to an end. We focus on a particular topic (e.g., racial prejudice), use a particular resource (e.g., To Kill a Mockingbird), and choose specific instructional methods (e.g., Socratic seminar to discuss the book and cooperative groups to analyze stereotypical images in films and on television) to cause learning to meet a given standard. (Wiggins ¶13)

The answer is simple. A class modeled on video games is merely a means to an ends or a tool. I’m not proposing video games as a subject (at least not in this paper) nor am I suggesting this as an all-encompassing teaching strategy. I just think this would work as an interesting part of an overall teaching strategy designed around getting students engaged, involved and enthusiastic about the subject matter.

So, the next question becomes, why video games? What about games should make anyone think of modeling a serious subject like teaching after them? For the answer to this I turn to Jane McGonigal and her book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World.
In the book she lays out a strategy on how we can effectively utilize the model of how games are designed and use it to make our live more productive and happier. She uses an assortment of psychological and sociological studies to back up her work. But her main ideas boil down to the basic assertion of the title: reality is broken. Remember when we talked about interface and how it would be the revolutionary new language of the 21st century? I believe that what Jane Mcgonigal is talking about is simply a matter of interface. Says Mr. Steven Johnson:

Worst. Interface. Ever.

More often than not, this representation takes the form of a metaphor. ;A string of zeroes and ones – itself a kind of language, though unintelligible to most humans – is replaced by a metaphor of a virtual folder residing on a virtual desktop. ;These metaphors are the core idiom of the contemporary graphic interface.

What’s he’s speaking about here is a kind of shift in perspective. The interface as metaphor or semiotics. After all what is an interface but a tool designed to help us look at, and interact with, something. What I’m speaking about here is also a shift in perspective or a shift in interface. Reality, or how we look at reality, is broken. In other words, our interface with reality is outdated. What I’m suggesting is looking at teaching with a newly designed interface. And this interface is designed around and modeled after video games. What McGonigal is talking about is actually pretty simple. It merely shifting our perspectives to look at things (or in the case of this essay, teaching) in the same way we look at games. Games provide us with clearly laid out goals and clear and meaningful consequences if those goals are or are not met. Games engage our abilities and allow us, even encourage us to make mistakes and fail. It’s all part of the game. But it’s also learning. What we’re doing when playing games is learning. But more on that later. For now, McGonigal outlines a few of the things that are wrong or broken with our interface with reality:

1: compared with games, reality is too easy. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and help us put our personal strengths to better use.

While this isn’t completely true as a blanket statement, I see it as a way of keeping ourselves engaged with tasks that might otherwise be…less than challenging or fulfilling. And that is what McGonigal is talking about here. Most of us aren’t the astronauts, authors or superheroes we imagined we would be when we were kids. And most of us can’t be constantly operating at the fullest of our mental and physical abilities. How is it we can stay engaged, enthusiastic and interested in our tasks? We can do this by being challenged.
In other words, in a good computer or video game, you’re always playing on the very edge of your skill level, always on the brink of falling off. When you do fall off, you feel the urge to climb back on. That’s because there’s nothing as engaging as this state of working at the very limits of your ability (McGonigal 24)

2: compared with games reality can be depressing. Games focus our energy, with relentless optimism on something we’re good at and enjoy
It’s no great leap of logic to suggest that boring and unfulfilling work is depressing. So how do we turn that work into something interesting that engages our abilities and makes us happier? Games. Now of course there is the caveat of too much of anything is unhealthy. And although video game addiction is still a controversial topic as to whether it’s real or not, there’s no denying that too much playing of games, just as too much TV, too much reading, and too much of anything done over and over is likely to be detrimental to a health and happiness. But the idea is, that we can use games as a model for engaging people in tasks they might otherwise find boring, or uninteresting. Is this helpful for a literature classroom? For teaching literature to those who will go on to work outside of the humanities, yes I believe it is. For those who are literature or english students? Well, there’s no need preaching to the choir so to speak.

3: compared with games, reality is unproductive games can give us clearer missions and more satisfying hands-on work.
Now anyone who reads this might disagree with the assertion that reality is unproductive. And technically that’s true. But games are no more unproductive than literature is. That is we get no physical product that we can hold in our hands out literature, just as we get no physical product out of games. But what McGonigal is talking about is how we see our work and how we see games. When going into a game the player is eager, hopeful and motivated to complete the task. We feel productive and we feel like we’re accomplishing something even if that something has little or no weight in reality. This isn’t necessarily true of work. Much of the time in our Jobs we spend working toward an invisible or immovable goal. We don’t see the impact our contribution has toward the goal, and as such can feel our work has little or no meaning or purpose. What McGonigal is suggesting, what I’m suggesting, is applying this model of games to teaching to help lend a sense of engagement, purpose, and productivity to those who might not necessarily see the value in the subject they’re learning about.
So back to teaching and what, exactly, all this has to do with pedagogy. What I’m suggesting is this: Consider the potential of a course designed like a game. It’s really not that much different than how courses are designed now, and I believe there’s a huge potential to engage students. Let’s think about what a game is doing when it provides us with a mission. First, it gives us a goal. This is hardly revolutionary for teaching. In fact, Wiggins speaks about this when he talks about backwards design. Start with a goal and work backwards. Say for example our goal is for students to develop a working familiarity with the concept of Critical Literacy developed through reading Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the surrounding associated criticism, both for and against teaching it. This is our quest. The ultimate goal of our journey. Next we need to know why the goal matters. In a game this would be the part that connects your goal to the overarching story or background narrative. Should Mark Twain be taught in High School. Is Jim merely a racist caricature? Or is he a remarkably sympathetic character for a time when sympathetic characters of color were few and far between. Is it better to remove the text and the associated questions it raises about slavery and its legacy in the United States? Next we need to know where to go. In the game this gives us explicit directions to reach our goal. This could be a fairly simple equivalent of an outline of how we will reach the the goal of the class. Which is to come to a relative understanding of the subject matter and demonstrate that familiarity to the satisfaction of the teacher, and the class. At it’s most boring this could simply be the syllabus for the class. Although I feel there are all kinds of creative ways to play around with this.
In a game, next would come step-by-step instructions on how to reach that goal. For example: kill 20 of these monsters, or collect 10 of these items. Again this is related to the previous step, but slightly different. This is the details of how the class would reach an understanding of the subject matter. Instead of killing 20 monsters, student will kill 2-3 papers. Instead of collecting items, the students collect ideas and demonstrate those ideas in daily writings, discussions or assignments. For example for an understanding of Critical literacy and Mark Twain, I would have students read articles from both sides of the controversy about whether Huck Finn should be taught in class. For example students could read Margot Allen’s “Huck Finn: Two generations of Pain” and John Wallace’s “The Case Against Huck Finn” for the “against” argument, and then read Ann Lew’s “Teaching Huck Finn in a Multi-ethnic Classroom” and Jocelyn Chadwick’s “Why Huck Finn Belongs in Classrooms” as the “for argument. These texts would be the “directions” for the “quest.” That is, coming to an understanding of Critical Literacy by reading Twin and some surrounding criticism of his most famous work. Finally in the game you reach your goal and receive proof of completion. This could be as simple as receiving a passing grade for the class, or demonstrating to fellow students one’s grasp of the subject matter through conventional assignments like presentations, posters, power-points, speeches etc.
Broken down like this the idea of modeling a course after a game seems to actually be sort of boring and conventional. But the challenge is making it engaging. I think the important part that might set this apart from conventional unit/class plans is a way of providing students with feedback or a sense of achievement. This could be done in different ways: I was thinking about some sort of overarching narrative for the course which would tie the assignments together. Especially with all the new media tools and multimedia platforms and interfaces out there, there’s almost limitless potential for teaching projects like this.
There are also real world equivalents of games called ARGs or alternate reality games. That is fictional goals are provided for real world tasks to make them more appealing, or engaging. The example provided in the book is Chore Wars. I think this could potentially be a good motivator for students. Imagine setting up virtual avatars or adventurers for each class. Quests are assigned: You must study the ancient tome to page 34 and pass the 5 riddles of doom at the end to earn gold, xp, whatever. For those that participate, there could be redeemable benefits: maybe a few days or week extension on a paper date. Or first pick of time for when group project or presentation is due. Or maybe a peek at essay questions, or possibly even a half-grade boost. And if they don’t want to do it? There’s could always be an abridged list of goals for those who want to skip all the bullshit. Also I imagine some sort of group competition with teams involving collected points, either those collected through Chore Wars or through some other kind of virtual competition. Some of my colleagues raised questions about how I would judge students had learned the material with a system like this. I suppose I didn’t really make clear that there would still be traditional assignments associated with the texts: essays, shorter low-stakes writing assignments, and a presentation.