A friend once told me that your dissertation prospectus should be the best piece of speculative fiction you’ve ever written. An advisor concurred, observing that the prospectus is a necessary fiction that one can only hope turns out to be a useful one. In any case, given that some folks seemed to have benefitted from me sharing my qualifying exams list, I thought it might be useful to share at least the abstract to my prospectus, with a few thoughts about the mapmaking process that writing such a document entailed.
Setusko Yokoyama, Purdom Lindblad, and I started up a digital studies / digital humanities writing group this semester through the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, where Purdom works (and where I frequently haunt, playing Seadragon on my advisor’s old Apple II). The purpose of this writing group is essentially peer pressure: to guilt all of us into putting our butts in seats and getting along with the damn work of putting words on a screen. My task for myself during our first session today was to get back in the swing of blogging and put up this post reflecting on having gotten through my qualifying exam process.
There comes a time in a doctoral student’s life wherein they have to qualify to keep going on toward a dissertation. Usually it takes the form of an exam on a comprehensive list of materials. I find these lists useful and interesting not only for how they frame a field of inquiry for a person’s diss, but also how they function as snapshots of what academia looked like for a particular student at a particular time. In assembling my list (my exam’s in September), I found other folks’ lists immensely helpful in thinking about scope, framing, and blind spots. Maybe you’ll find mine to be too.
Facebook fucked up again, everyone. Or rather, the Cambridge Analytica fiasco has put the spotlight once again on Facebook’s data harvesting and profit practices, its exploitative business model, and its overall net-negative effect on human social relations—and maybe this time some of the criticism will stick? I don’t know. Facebook has weathered similar storms in the past and came out just as strong in the end because at the end of the day we really don’t have that much of a choice for social media platforms anymore? What Benjamin Bratton and others have called the “added value” of platforms has borne out: the more we give Facebook, the more “useful” it becomes to us, and the more useful we become to it.1
I’m taking a seminar with Kari Kraus right now on ruins, and we do some regular writing for that class. I liked this blog post I wrote on Anne Carson’s poem “Her Beckett” and decided to cross-post it over here.
I want to try to knit together two things that are discouraging me about the way we talk about the relationship between academia and the world at large, in particular, between academics whose work levies critique against technologized systems and the industries that architect those systems in the first place.
A star-gazing technique: we know that the darkness is full of light too faint to see and too far away. To see fainter stars and galaxies, which brighter stars tend to occlude, avoid looking at a spot in the sky head-on. Rather, gaze just off-center from where you want to see, and relax your peripheral vision. Then fainter stars will begin to appear.
I think blog tags are art.
I know I am not alone in this. There are too many “I Miss Google Reader” posts across the internet and this one comes years too late. But I still do miss it, not just for its functionality but also for how the idea of RSS feeds more generally occassioned a different rhythm to the consumption of online information. It felt just a little bit less like “consumption” back then, even though it was, feed after feed scanned and slurped down only for more to pile up. Heaven forfend you ever went on vacation: you’d just have to hit “mark all as read” and move on with your life. Undoubtedly it had its downsides. But I embarked on (yet another) Twitter hiatus this week, and so found myself once again with occasion to miss Google Reader.
One of the more honorable goals I set for myself during the first year of graduate school was that I was going to write here more. I then proceeded, as do most who set such goals, to write here even less than I did before grad school. I might point to a confluence of factors: writing on Twitter provides much more immediate satisfaction, though at the cost of one’s immortal soul; the nature of grad school is such that one is constantly engaged in all sorts of provisional writing that does not seem particularly suited for public consumption in an unrefined form, and who has time to refine things anymore?; also I adopted a cat, and taking care of her is frankly more interesting than most things, including writing, which made finals season particularly interesting, let me tell you.