Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death makes a perfect reading for Introduction to Humanities this semester, particularly Chapter 4 (“The Typographic Mind”). Unable to find a free PDF or DOC version online, and unwilling to scan one myself, I opted for the Sparknotes because I am a lazy, bankrupt educator. But SparkNotes are better than a YouTube claymation right? I ran into this amusing, ironic, and depressing exchange on a forum. The exchange is started by a desperate student trying to locate a free copy of the book. The haters accuse him of thievery, point him to the library, or recommend he ask a cuteRead More →

New technologies erode the boundary between the personal and the public, as Joshua Meyrowitz observed about television in No Sense of Place twenty five years ago. Since displaying ourselves is de rigeur, thanks especially to Facebook and Twitter, I feel less guilty about doing it on my blog, even though personal disclosure was never my original intent. In class, students appear to enjoy my disclosure. Still, there’s an art to disclosing appropriately in the classroom, one that has taken me years to balance comfortably. As one friend put it, it’s easy “to hold your students hostage” to your personal narratives in class, which is anRead More →

Mix tapes are dead. Among the many dead technologies, I miss the mix tape. The death of a technology and its associated objects and habits can bring regret or relief. Think of letter writing. Often, the only clues to women’s history or the only insights into a previous generation’s thoughts and emotions are found in letters. Writing letters was a habitus, a way of being and doing. Today, our digital documentation is excessive, often thin, and shallow. A constant stream of 140 characters fails to capture the nuances of a traditional letter. Perhaps 19th century upper-class women writing about their tea service (see Veblen on spoons;Read More →

I now own a brand new Amazon Kindle, acquired just before Thanksgiving in a recent tech splurge. Reviews all over the net are fairly accurate. The weight, screen’s readability, size, forward and backward buttons feel great. I don’t like the five-way toggle button or the lack of lighting to read in the dark. I don’t care about lack of a touch screen since I despise fingerprints and smudges in almost OCD proportions. I found a cute Vera Bradley bag that fits the Kindle perfectly. I’m happy. DRM is an annoyance. It’s true, you give up “owning” the book due to intellectual property rights. It’s inconvenientRead More →

Today I am grateful for copy machines. I have to return comments on group projects to students today, and I don’t have to rewrite the comments for each student. I can simply copy each group member’s copy on my magical combo printer/fax machine/copier/scanner. Once, this sort of task was impossible. I remember carbon paper, ditto machines, and mimeographs. Members of the academic generation before mine shared stories about typing their dissertations on carbon paper, and storing copies in the freezer to ensure they would survive a fire. Editing and revising under those circumstances were herculean. Carbon paper gave us the origin of the phrase carbonRead More →

* I can’t remember the last time I heard a busy signal. Busy signals disappeared due to voice mail and call waiting, a phenomenon that happened in the 90s. This is an early step in the direction of 24/7 accessibility and connection via new communication technologies. Although, looking backward,  we can say the same thing for the invention of the telephone, telegraph, printing press, and even writing itself. Still, the loss of the busy signal bespeaks a “jacked-in-ness” unmatched in older information technologies. * The Guiding Light has gone off the air after 72 years. I watched that show with my grandmother when I wasRead More →

We don’t read on line, we skim. According to Michael Agger’s article in Slate, that’s how we read on the web, and he bases the claim on some interesting research. He gives guidelines about making your website appealing to audiences who don’t read, but skim. I don’t follow any of those guidelines, which explains my low readership. But then, I’m journaling, not blogging. Also, this month’s the Atlantic Monthly asks Is Google Making Us Stupid?, which takes a media ecology approach to the web, citing the Phaedrus, McLuhan, and Mumford, among others. The article was a long column, which I had to scroll over, andRead More →

An article about Internet Addiction from CNN.com asserts that internet addiction is a fact, but it struggles to do so, since there is no real evidence to suggest this is true. The term they use is “clinically addictive.” The article states: Red flags should start flying, however, if time spent vanquishing electronic enemies or keeping up on e-mail results in reprimands from your employer and arguments with loved ones. Which is true for anything. What is addiction, exactly? Addicts can be addicted to anything, whether it is the internet, or television, or anything else. At least the article admits this much. You’d think that, afterRead More →

CDs are obsolete. By the time I got my first CD player and my first CD, back in 1985, CDs were already obsolete. Now, if you think about that, that’s just about the dumbest lie ever I ever told you. In 1985, however, the third generation of CD players were on the market already, and CD-ROM drives were released. From there, it’s a downhill slide to Napster, Kazaa, and DVDs. It’s inevitable, teleological. My computer is in the shop. I’m getting a DVD write drive installed. That’s already obsolete. I’m moving offices from one room to the other at home…moving into the bigger bedroom, right?Read More →