July
17th 2014
Thursday round-up: because the internet edition

Posted under: American history, jobs, students

cowgirlchapsDistractions, distractions, distractions!  How am I ever going to finish this damn book without moving to a remote Scottish village, a mountaintop cabin in New Mexico, or a Colorado ghost town without the internets?  Ironically enough, the internets have a lot to say these days about how the internets are scrambling our brains and changing our understanding of our own humanity.

  • First, we see via a link from Karin Wulf (@kawulf) Maria Konnikova’s “How to Be a Better Online Reader,” which argues that readers haven’t learned to cope with the distractions of reading online.  According to  Maryanne Wolf, “‘Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time,’ she says. ‘And the digital milieu speeds everything up. So we need to do things much more slowly and gradually than we are.’ Not only should digital reading be introduced more slowly into the curriculum; it also should be integrated with the more immersive reading skills that deeper comprehension requires.”  In other words, reading comprehension is shaped by factors other than the words on a page or a screen–the materiality of the text is fundamentally important.  But instead of chucking out our screens, we have to learn to adapt and teach online reading skills to our students.

  • Next, over at Religion in American History, Laura Arnold Leibman writes about her digital humanities course, American Dead and Undead, and discovered through her work with her students that the internet is changing the ways in which Americans perceive and experience death:  “Since I am primarily a scholar of early America, we deepened my own sense of what is happening right now, and for me this was the most interesting aspect of the course.  Most scholars of twentieth-century American death hadn’t historicized the advent of the digital age, and we discovered this was their loss.  The internet, my students argued, changed everything, including how we mourn and our sense of eternity.”
  • Finally, @GayProf reminds us that a Comcast account has joined Death and Taxes as inescapable.  Pro Tip:  If you want to disconnect from Comcast, tell the “customer service” rep that you’re moving out of the country.  It’s the only way to avoid a lengthy argument and get on with your day.
  • Small offline accomplishment:  I finally uprooted and threw away all of the unwelcome yarrow in my garden!  It has taken me all summer to do this, but I did it and now it’s done.  ProTip:  Never plant yarrow.  Ever.  It is the internet spam of your garden.  It becomes a voracious carpet four inches thick that will swallow everything good and decent that you have nurtured, including potentially pets and small children.

Now, I really, absolutely, indisputably must get back to chapter six and tend my relationship with some dead eighteenth-century women.  Memo to myself:  break up with adverbs.  (I use too many adverbs in my first drafts, and maybe in my final drafts too.  Do you?)

9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Thursday round-up: because the internet edition”

  1. GayProf on 17 Jul 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Oooh — A mountaintop cabin in New Mexico sounds like a wise choice. There has to be somewhere that Comcast does not reign like a cruel tyrant, right?

    I don’t know what yarrow is, but I will dutifully not plant it as commanded.

  2. Indyanna on 17 Jul 2014 at 9:24 am #

    On the remote cabin part, read the NYT profile on Burt, of Burt’s Bees, from somewhere in northern Maine. I’m not sure I’d get much writing done there either, although not having to cringe when a contractor truck arrives across the alley at 7 a.m. would be great.

    On dead and undead, I’m discovering that Find-a-Grave is slithering into my research experience more frequently than I would have imagined. Although a lot of the “content” there seems to be swiped from other sources. Still, a scoop here, a scoop there…

    I can see the Comcast Tower from my tower. Soon there will be a twin standing right next to it. Why would they let you unsub before they’ve topped that out? :)

    Been missing reports from your garden, Historiann, the dolls, the cats, the soup-starter stuff… But best with that chap!

  3. Anon on 17 Jul 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Unless you removed all of the underground parts (basically impossible), you probably have not seen the last of the yarrow.

    I got more writing done yesterday on a three hour flight that I did in the last three weeks.

  4. Historiann on 17 Jul 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Say it ain’t so!!!!

    I think I’m getting most of the underground bits, as my method is like removing turf. The part of the garden I ripped up in May or June is staying pretty yarrow-free, except for some roots that must have clung to the irises and daylillies. Regular weeding & patrol seems to be working.

  5. quixote on 17 Jul 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Adverbs. ZOMG. Definitely, a very seriously massive issue with adverbs, I have. (I continue to work on it, though!)

  6. quixote on 17 Jul 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Oh, and about yarrow: count your blessings. It blooms. That’s a high class weed. Now, nut grass … then you’re done for.

  7. Susan on 18 Jul 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Worse than yarrow is mint. And pachysandra. The roots of pachysandra become a multiple inch thick mat. We had a house with masses of it, and it always depressed me, so we gradually dug it up. But that was *painful*.

    Meanwhile, one of my goals for my sabbatical is to get rid of Comcast, at least for TV. (My colleagues tell me that AT&T is worse, so I’m not sure the choices are great.)

  8. undine on 20 Jul 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    One more vote for mountaintop cabin. On another note, how about a garden cage match? Mint, yarrow, and chives in one square garden plot. At the end of the summer, see which one wins.

  9. Feminist Avatar on 21 Jul 2014 at 12:29 am #

    I lived at the top of a mountain in a remote Scottish village, where during winter you regularly got snowed in and couldn’t leave. It was very picturesque and got a pretty decent internet connection. Hence my book did not get finished whilst living there.

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