Final Portfolio---Ever!

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Welcome to my last blogging portfolio for Topics in Media and Culture: The History and the Future of the Book!  In fact, it is my last blogging portfolio ever!  Although this makes me a little less happy than I thought it would, it is nice to be able to showcase my accomplishments during the last third of the semester.  I have included some of the blogs I wrote for class, some that I wrote for other classes, and finally, a blog about my final paper.  I hope you enjoy it!


-Topics in Media and Culture blogs:


I Really Don't Get What the Big Deal Is:  In this blog, I discuss my initial reactions to the Memex as well as my thoughts about Michael K. Buckland’s essay “Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush's Memex”


Will iPads, nooks, or Kindles be a Common Sight in Classrooms of the (Not So Distant) Future?: Here, I discuss my thoughts about eBook readers in future classrooms, as well as my experiences with them.  


eBook Readers and the Future of Education: This blog that made up part of my creative presentation is based on some of the ideas in the previous blog, so take a look at my thought process.



-This section based a project that my Senior Seminar class created.  Take a look at what I gained from it, as well as what others learned:


My Visit with Margie


Seniors Helping Seniors


-This is a blog about my final paper for Topics in Media and Culture


Text as Art: An Examination of the Development of Typography and a Dualistic Analysis of Text


Take a look at what others have done this semester

Text as Art

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For my final paper, I was inspired by the calligrams I had learned about in a course called Islam: Religion and Culture and by one of Chelsea’s creative projects where she introduced her ideas to us by showing us a piece of artwork by Stephanie Wytovich.  Chelsea related artwork to text, which made me wonder why text never seems to be viewed as art.  At first, I was so excited about the topic that I had a very broad focus.  I thought about researching everything from hieroglyphs to emoticons.  However, as I began my research, I decided to focus on the development of typography and how it allows text to be viewed as artwork.  I discussed early typography from the medieval era and calligrams from the Islamic traditions, moved on to print calligrams and George Herbert’s “Easter Wings,” and discussed how this development would relate to the development of current typographic texts in film and kinetic typography and the development of text in the future.  Although the research process was somewhat difficult because there are not very many people who have written about this topic specifically, it was rewarding because I was able to link ideas about the four stages of communication which we discussed in this class to an idea that I was developing based on research, but extending beyond current research.  I think that I was able to successfully synthesize what we have discussed in class with my own research interests to create an interesting and academic paper.  



eBook Readers and the Future of Education

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After experiencing the Kindle, I was inspired by this technology to research it a bit more.  This research got me wondering, what is the future going to look like with eBooks in it?  I think that anyone who has studied the development of books over a semester like I have could tell you that eBooks will definitely be a major part of the future of communication.  Will they replace physical books?  As I have seen throughout the semester, none of the forms of communication are ever replaced, just reworked and developed.  If you would like to read more about this development from me, my classmates, or critical authors, take a look at our blogs.  The real question that needs to be answered, however, is how will eBooks have to develop to meet our needs? 


One major way that they will have to develop in relationship to my own field of education, and I am sure in relationship to many other fields as well, is in the presentation of the texts.  Right now, the Kindle, the Sony Readers, and the nook seem to have very basic features when it comes to the presentation aspects of their products.  These areas include color, text and format issues, and reader capabilities that need to be addressed before they can be conducive to use with young children.  If you are interested in reading more about these subjects, follow the links below.


ROYGBIV Isn’t Just about Looking Pretty


Text Standardization, but What Does It Mean?


But Teacher, Aren’t We Supposed to Share?


Of course, these companies may not be especially concerned with offering products to this specific target market.  However, if I were these companies, I would definitely begin to think about how to market my products to these target audiences.  Also, the needs that I discussed are not necessarily needs of only educators and children, but may be very important to other groups.  If I were Amazon, Sony, or Barnes and Noble, I would be thinking about these developments (as I am sure they are) before LeapFrog develops its own eBook reader that will appeal much more to parents and educators than these standardized and text-heavy eBook readers do.


Looking for more information about the eBook readers in the classroom?  Check out these links.


“E-Books in Higher Education: Nearing the End of the Era of Hype?”Although two years old, this article from Mark R. Nelson and EDUCAUSE has interesting ideas for educators, even if they are not post-secondary educators.


3 Reasons eBook Readers Should Be a Part of Every Education”This may be just a blog with personal opinions, but isn’t that what every blog is? Sevastian Winters has great reasons for included eBook Readers in the classroom. 


Amazon, eBooks, and Teaching Texts: Getting to the "Knowing How" of Reading Literature”—If you’re not crazy about non-fact based opinions, take a look at this essay by Barbara G. Pace from CITE (Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education).  Although this essay is a bit older than the other two, it is scholarly and peer reviewed.




Use the technology yourself!  Google “Education and eBook readers,” and you will find many opinions for and against their use in the classroom.  You could even try them out like I did, see how you feel about it, and leave a comment here.   

But Teacher, Aren't We Supposed to Share?

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One of the other major issues with eBook readers is that once a book is bought, it cannot be shared.  The only reader that offers these capabilities (at least according to my basic research) is the nook, which allows you to share your books with friends for up to 14 days at a time.  This is a critical element that is necessary in classrooms where funding is limited and where picture book libraries offer important supplements to the curriculum.  Yes, free copies of books in the public domain are available, but few of these are picture books or books for young people.


This idea of sharing brings up many other questions too.  For instance, what are libraries going to do?  Barnes and Noble offers free in-store access to reading, but this technology is not yet available to libraries.  One benefit may eventually be no more late books, but not unless libraries are given or develop a way to loan eBooks to patrons.  Also, how many friends can share the same book at a time?  These are all issues that will have to be addressed as eBooks develop.


Read more.

Text Standardization, but What Does It Mean?

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As I explored the Kindle as well as the websites for the other eBook readers, I noticed that they all seemed to have the same, generic text in their advertisements.  I don’t mean they all said the same thing, I mean the typeface itself was identical or similar for all three readers that I have been discussing.  To explore this a bit more, I returned to the Kindle viewer for the PC. 


What I found was surprising, but I understand why it occurs.  I found that the text of each book usually became the same typeface.  This standardization allows for easy transfer, but part of the experience could be lost because of this.  More disquieting, however, was the fact that when font sizes were changed by those who format the text before it is received, words from one page will move onto another, making words and the pictures that are supposed to accompany them on separate pages.  When children’s literature, or any literature with pictures, is considered, this is not only annoying, but also detrimental to allowing for (especially in the case of children) the display of appropriate meanings. 


Yes, having clearly printed and readable text as the advertisements for all three of these readers suggests is really great, but what happens when the author wants a certain typeface that is not compatible with the readers?  And, what happens when the reader needs to increase the text size, forcing some of the text onto another blank page when what the text is describing is on the page before.  Standardization and the ability to increase text size are valuable, but not at the expense of manipulating the pictures and pages of the book.


Read more. 

ROYGBIV Isn't Just about Looking Pretty

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Right now, the Kindle, the Sony Reader (take your pick of which one), and the nook do not have color screens.  Although the nook boasts a small color touch screen for choosing book titles, none of them can show color displays within the books.  As a future elementary teacher, this makes me wonder about how eBooks will translate into the classroom.  Color is a primary aspect of children’s books, especially picture books.  In fact, the pictures sometimes tell the story more than the words do, which is a problem when the eBook readers only provide grayscale displays.


To test out the difference, I downloaded the Kindle viewer for the PC.  It was great because I could sample various texts without buying them, just as one would in a store.  However, I immediately noticed that the Curious George book I had chosen was only in black and white.  If anyone is familiar with these books, they know that, although these books are not filled with color, certain colors such as red and yellow are emphasized.  For instance, Curious George’s owner, The Man in the Yellow Hat, has a yellow hat in the books.  When I read this book on the Kindle viewer for the PC, the hat is a darkish sort of gray.  I tried other books, and it is true that the PC Kindle viewer allows for color viewing, but it seems that some of the formatters did not transfter the color that is found in the books to the files, as in the case of the Curious George book at which I looked.  Still, the devices themselves do not offer color viewing--yet. 


When pictures are such a major part of the story as they are for children’s books, it is important that the pictures are accurate, or meaning will be lost.  It would almost be like leaving out words or making certain ones unreadable, which would not be accepted by typical consumers of Amazon’s, Sony’s, and Barnes and Noble’s products.  I know these devices were made mainly for people who read novels, but they need to be significantly altered to encourage their use in other fields like education.


Read more.

“I am convinced that the Internet will transform the world of learning.  The transformation has already begun.  Our task, I think, is to take charge of it so that we maintain the highest standards from the past while developing new ones for the future.”

-From page 64 of “Lost and Found in Cyberspace”, chapter four of Robert Darnton’s The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future

Although Darnton composed this portion of his book in 1999, I think that this chapter applies directly to what is happening today with the popularization of e-books.  We are feeling this directly here at Seton Hill with the arrival of iPads on campus, which will become a common sight in the fall.  However, as Darnton discusses in chapters two and three of this book, other developments, including Google Books, the Library of Congress’ digital collections, and private institutions’ digital collections, as well as those that he does not discuss (Project Guttenberg, the Kindle, and the nook) are actively pushing themselves into our lives.  Because of this one has to ask, “How is this going to affect me?”

For Darnton, it was the opportunity to create a book using all of his research information on Enlightenment age letters and literature via the creation of his own e-book (59-63).  For me, it is my future career as a teacher.  As someone who was not so long ago opposed to the popularization of technologies such as these, I can see how they may benefit classrooms in the (not so distant?) future. 

For one thing, textbooks are so expensive.  We as college students understand this perfectly, so imagine buying three hundred of your Biology or Math textbooks for one grade at a small high school.  That is a ton of money.  Plus, unlike us, students are never allowed to write in these books, to highlight important passages, or even to fold down the corner of the pager because these books will have to be used by thousands of students over the next ten or so years.  They lose what I have come to recognize as important interaction with the texts when they cannot do this, especially tactile learners like me. 

Also, think of the money that is spent in supplying private, public, and school libraries with books.  Darnton discusses how private, state, and federal money is being taken away from these institutions, while they are still expected to provide their patrons and students with accurate and current information via online databases that can charge exorbitant fees (6-15, 43-58).  When they do not have the money, they must selectively choose what to include and what not to include, not based on the needs of the patrons and students, but based on the budget. 

Because of these reasons, as well as others, I can see the benefits of e-books in the classroom.  As many schools give laptops to students today, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine them giving e-book readers to students and teachers for classroom use.  I think this could benefit schools and students.  Yes, the equipment, training, and upkeep will be expensive.  More expensive than using the usual textbooks, current technologies, like Smart Boards and Promethean Boards, or older technologies, like books on tape?  I am not sure.  The proposal writers and school boards will have to do the research and math right now as far as that is concerned.  However, I do know that if the development of e-books and e-book readers continues in the positive directions that they seem to be, at least in some areas, I think they could ensure student-to-text interaction, which could positively influence comprehension skills, they could ensure protection of these texts (if not of the readers themselves) for future use, they could appeal to today’s students who are more familiar with technological and Internet access than we were, and they could possibly save the schools and libraries money.  They could even provide adaptations, such as text-to-speech capabilities, to accomodate students' individual needs.   

Of course, as I mentioned above, all of this is contingent upon development in “positive directions.”  This means that I feel that some qualities of various e-books and e-book readers are better than others.  For instance, in the little research I have done, I feel that I like the nook the best based on experience and description, and feel that it offers a lot of possibilities for the future development of these products.  For instance, the newest forms of the nook are allowing readers to “share” books.  Although I’m not sure exactly how they are accomplishing this, I think this ability is the key to use in libraries and schools.  Afterall, we share books now with no copyright problems.  Of course, pirating may be a problem, but these problems can and will be addressed.  Also, the nook allows people to read for free while they are in the Barnes and Noble book stores.  This is a type of technology that could be applied to libraries and schools as well.  Although I would not say I am computer savvy, I am sure that someone could also devise a way for libraries to “loan” copies of the e-books for only a select amount of time.  Also, the nook, as well as other e-book readers offer Wi-Fi, color screens, and the iPad is basically a tablet computer.  All of these features recommend themselves to use in classrooms and libraries. 

The only question is, will classrooms and libraries ever get to experience these technologies in these ways, or, as Darnton suggests at times, will they be too expensive because of monopolies or a focus on big business rather than on the needs of the public?


Take a look at how others have made connections using Darnton’s book.

I Really Don't Get What the Big Deal Is

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“Vannevar Bush’s famous paper “As We May Think” (1945) described an imaginary information retrieval machine, the Memex.”

--From “Emanuel Goldberg, Electronic Document Retrieval, And Vannevar Bush's Memex” by Michael K. Buckland


For me, this is the most important sentence in the entire article because it sums up the entire thing: this invention was never invented.  How can something that was never made be “viewed…in relation to subsequent developments using digital computers.”  Bush may have had the plans for the machine, but because it was never actually made, no one knows if it could have worked.  In fact, the article basically says it would not have worked, at least not with the technology of the time period, because it was based on a classification system of “ ‘Associative trails’ “ rather than “subject-based indexing.”  The article suggests that these “associative trails” mimic human thought processes and individualized relationships that the brain creates between words, sounds, smells, ideas, etc.   This type of technology would probably not even be able to be developed today.  Furthermore, no one has ever tried to create this system.  People have recreated some of Da Vinci’s inventions and even catapults and other weapons from the Middle Ages, but they have never attempted to recreate this invention?  I find this highly suspicious.  So why is there all of the hype about this imaginary machine that wouldn’t have worked even if it Bush, or people today, attempted to build it?

However, Goldberg’s machine that did have working prototypes seems much more important to the development to me, whether or not Bush based his idea on one of these.   Goldberg’s ideas were much more realistic, actually affected real companies such as IBM and Kodak, and seemed to stream directly from a history of development, rather than Bush’s seemingly sudden creation (except that it was never created).  Although Bush had great ideas, they were not feasible then or now.  Ideas are wonderful, but only if they are applied in the real world in a positive way.  Buckland suggests that the only way that Bush’s ideas applied to the real world were by “open[ing] people’s eyes and purses” to a more technologically driven future.  This is important, but to consumerism rather than to technological development.


This opinion isn't the only good one, so read some others' opinions.

Welcome to my second blogging portfolio this semester!  All of these entries deal with a wide variety of communication eras.  I begin with a link to my first portfolio, which details the oral communication era, but most of the blogs below deal with the manuscript, print, and digital eras of communicatation.  Throughout these units, I have been able to make a lot of connections between material from and about different eras.  These connections have allowed me to better understand the development of communication and how this important this development often overlooked by our society that is constantly bombarded with communications.  Although this portfolio is not as extensive as my last portfolio, neither in my own posts nor my comments, I feel that it shows a high level of engagement with the texts we have been discussing, as well as learning opportunities and changes of heart regarding new forms of communication.  I know for next time I will work on commenting more often when I do read others’ blogs.


As usual, the blogs below are arranged into seven categories:  Coverage, Depth, Interaction, Discussion, Timeliness, Xenoblogging, and Wildcards.  Enjoy!



Coverage: All of the blogs in this section show that I have blogged on each of the readings in the course; however, I did miss a few readings this time.  Despite this fact, these blogs show that I am able to discuss the material well.


Did Technology Really Develop the Soul?- Although this blog was a day late, I talk about how Havelock discusses the ways that writing helped to develop the soul.  I may not agree with him completely, but the argument is interesting, so take a look.


Print: Good and Not So Great- In this blog, I talk about some of the downfalls of print that I thought of based on Eisenstein’s essay. 


I’m Agreeing with Darnton-In this blog, I agreed with Darnton that looking at the bibliography may help us to examine older texts, as well as some not so old texts. 


Cybertext May Not Be So Bad Afterall- As I read about cybertext in Aarseth’s chapter, I found that it might not be as horrible to study as I thought it would be.  I actually enjoyed some of the points in the chapter, and was even able to make connections to what we had read in print culture.


Just Trying to Get Aarseth’s Ideas-Despite the positive comments the week before, I found this chapter to be more difficult.  Take a look. 


The Video Was a Helpful Guide- Dr. Jerz and Peter’s video about interactive fiction was helpful in playing the game.  Take a look at the connections I made.


A Big Surprise from Interactive Fiction- Although I thought I would dislike these types of games, I found that they were challenging, yet fun, and opened my eyes to the benefits of not judging so much before I actually engage with it. 



Depth: In these blogs, I have gone beyond the simple coverage of the text to include other examples, connections,  or links to other sources to further relate and explain the texts.


Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices-I brought personal experiences to this blog by relating what Elbow has to say about teaching writing to a writing program that I created and taught at a public library over the summer.


Why Are We Not Speaking About What We Are Writing?- In this blog, I connected to material read earlier when we were discussing oral communication.  Plato talks about one downfall of writing being that work is not spread, and I realize that this happens a lot with undergraduate work (not here though!). 


This Is a Really Strange Book- I used my previous experience with literary criticism to highlight some of the type of lit. crit. that would apply to Calvino’s novel that would maybe benefit my classmates. 


I Don’t Know If I Like It Yet- Here, I talk about Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and my uncertain opinion of the text.  I also connect it to what Havelock said about text speaking. 


Originals Are Great to Have, but We Need to Be Realistic Too-I discussed Darnton’s views of making space in libraries by putting more books and periodicals on microfilm from the stance of someone who worked in a library.  I also help with meaning by defining “paean,” which is featured in his title.


Translation or Preservation-Books Will Still Have to Be Forgotten- I talk about the ways translation is presented in Calvino’s novel, as well as ways that such translations can be forgotten, causing a book to not be read in the future.  I also link to ideas that Darnton discusses. 


ELO Collection- Although I did not especially enjoy this experience, I did relate it to a story in the field of education.  So if you like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, you should read this. 


I Think I Am Understanding Aarseth- I made lots of connections in this blog, to print culture and to my own experiences with interactive fiction



Interaction/Xenoblogging: These are links to peers’ blogs on which I commented.  Take a look at these because they are always really interesting!


Linear vs Non-linear-This is one of Tiffany’s blogs that I commented on.  We agreed, but the discussion was furthered.



Discussion: These blogs show comments or new ideas that were discussed on my own blogs, either by me or my peers that I referenced or who commented on my blog.


Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices- In this blog, I referenced two of my classmates, so take a look at what we all have to say.


I Don’t Know If I Like It Yet- Maddie brought new insight to my opinions of Calvino’s book, so take a look.


This Is a Really Strange Book- When discussing Calvino’s novel, I had a response from Chelsea that led to better understanding for me, and a discussion between the two of us.  Dr. Jerz also pointed out some types of criticism that applied to the text which I had left out in my analysis.


ELO Collection- Although no one commented on this blog, I did comment on what others said about their experiences with the collection.  Take a look.



Timeliness: As I mentioned in my last portfolio, this is still an area that needs much improvement, perhaps even more than was needed before.  It seems that with more difficult readings (and more work as the semester progressed), we neglected the blogs in favor of carefully reading through and understanding a reading-at least in my case.  However, here are the ones I submitted early or on time. 


Text Does Speak, but It Has Many Voices


Why Are We Not Speaking About What We Are Writing?


Originals Are Great to Have, but We Need to Be Realistic Too


Translation or Preservation-Books Will Still Have to Be Forgotten


I’m Agreeing with Darnton


Just Trying to Get Aarseth’s Ideas


ELO Collection



Wildcards: As I mentioned in my last portfolio, my Senior Seminar class is blogging as part of our service project.  Take a look at what we have done, because I think we have had an ambitious project that has been successful so far.


Seniors Helping Seniors-Helping Hands Make Happy Hearts


Also, here is one of my comments on Greta’s blog:


First Home Visit: Traveling into the Unknown for a Pleasant Surprise

A Big Suprise from Interactive Fiction

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Much to my surprise after looking at the ELO collection, I really enjoyed the experience of playing Deadline.  I actually tried to play it twice.  The first time, I was not very enthused by it because it kept telling me that should know certain information, and this was not how a case should be conducted by an inspector like me.  I also had some trouble with the commands.  I kept typing “look around” and other phrases that the game did not understand.  I also found it difficult to move around the spaces without actually looking at them.  Still, I explored the house, talked to people, and generally enjoyed the game. 

However, I decided that this time, I would not let my initial reactions get to me.  I watched the video of Dr. Jerz and his son again, but this time focused much more on the ways that Peter was figuring out what commands to use, what objects to look at, and how to move around the rooms.  Then, I started Deadline again.  I enjoyed it so much more this time.  I know that I was still terrible at it, but I was learning how to move throughout the text word.  I realized how it appealed more to my mental faculties than my sensory ones, which was difficult because I am mainly a bodily-kinesthetic learner rather than a linguistic or spatial one, but the challenge was rewarding each time I discovered something new.  I did not get very far (I didn’t want to “cheat” by looking up suggestions online), but it was still fun for me. 

I did look up the storyline after I finished for the day, though.  I saw suggestions, such as to use the word “accuse,” and I had never even thought of anything like this, which shows how different our games today are.  In fact, most games that I have played, role-playing games that are similar to this game, have been much less free.  They seemed to direct me along a straighter path towards the end of the story.  In fact, I looked around a bit, but could not find out how Deadline does end.  Is the same person always guilty?  Were any of you able to beat the game?  I think that the fact that I want to know the answers to these questions but could care less what happens at the end of Final Fantasy or Call of Duty shows that Deadline was a well made game.

Read about my classmates’ experiences with Deadline.