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How Ken Liu Translates, and Why He Writes

Ken Liu is a celebrated author of American speculative fiction and a pathbreaking translator of Chinese science fiction into English. He has won the ...

The post How Ken Liu Translates, and Why He Writes appeared first on Public Books.

The Transformative Power of Publishing

By Christopher Long

Earlier this summer, I had the honor of offering the closing keynote address of the 2019 Association of University Presses annual conference held in Detroit. The address was entitled The Transformative Power of Publishing, and it argued that the values that shape our publishing practices have the capacity to transform the culture of higher education.

Values of openness and dialogue always inform my work and I have long sought to put these values into practice in the modes by which I share and present my ideas. This commitment to performative consistency led me to develop the keynote address in the form of a Tweetstorm, a mode of presentation that enabled me to share my ideas with a wider public and invited broad engagement with themes I introduced.

A Few Words about the Tweetstorm Process

A number of people have asked me about my process in developing this Tweetstorm presentation, so I thought I would say a few words about it here before embedding the presentation and responses below.

Using the iPad Twitter application, I drafted twelve tweets, each with up to four pictures which were to serve as slides for the presentation. As I developed the tweets, I saved them as drafts in a thread in the Twitter application. (The key is not to accidentally send the thread before you have completed the series!) I used Keynote to develop some of the slides, saving them as images that could then be attached to tweets. The nice thing about using images in this way is that you can tag up to 10 people who have been engaged with the theme of a tweet in the image itself. So, as I developed the presentation, I was able to mention and give credit to colleagues who helped shape some of ideas central to the presentation. Doing this intentionally enabled me to live out a commitment to collegiality through the presentation itself.

Drafting the presentation in this way requires you to consider both how you want to present ideas to those in the audience and how you want those who are not physically present to experience the address. Attending to the multiple dimensions a Tweetstorm presentation opens an opportunity to reflect more intentionally on how the mode of presentation relates to the ideas expressed. How will what you say in person add value to what you show on screen? How will someone unable to hear the oral presentation experience the themes online? How can a presentation about the transformative power of publishing become a catalyst of transformation itself by virtue of the manner in which it is made public?

Affordances and Limitations of a Tweetstorm Presentation

This last question is at the heart of my interest in performative publishing. How ideas are made public shapes the capacity of the ideas themselves to transform publics in meaningful ways. The Tweetstorm form opens opportunities for engagement unavailable to traditional presentations. There are, of course, affordances and limitations to the Tweetstorm form. Chief among the limitations, from my perspective, is that Twitter is a for-profit company oriented toward generating revenue based on advertising. Their algorithms are oriented toward maximizing revenue, rather than to enriching communities of scholarship. For me, however, the affordances of broad public exposure and multi-modal expression outweigh these limitations. Still, even as I share the presentation here on my blog, I am aware of the extent to which enduring access to this work depends ultimately on a platform that might disappear if it proves no longer to be financially viable.

Until then, I have curated the Tweetstorm presentation into a Twitter Moment and share it here for ongoing discussion.

Co-Opting AI

Today, almost 70 years after Alan Turing famously asked, “Can machines think?,” what we call “artificial intelligence,” or AI, has seemingly come to penetrate our everyday life. It is in our phones, our homes, our workplaces, our modes of transportation, our schools, our welfare system. And while it remains unclear what AI really is, or can be, it is undeniably capturing the imagination of...

The post Co-Opting AI appeared first on Public Books.

Do Airplanes Really Make You Sick?

By James MacDonald

Given the close quarters over extended time periods, airplanes may seem the perfect environments for the spread of communicable disease. However, there is actually surprisingly little data on the question, according to doctor Andrew Pavia, writing in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

While it does happen, airplane-linked contagion can be difficult to trace, especially for respiratory conditions, which are typically spread by small airborne particles. Pavia notes that efforts to trace transmission of the SARS virus between airplane passengers were inconclusive.

The type of plane matters. In three studies of flu outbreaks traced to aircraft, two occurred on older planes with poorly functioning air-circulation systems. Modern aircraft continuously circulate the cabin air through filters, in theory preventing most small particle dispersal. But according to Pavia, there are few regulations regarding filter maintenance.

Weekly Digest

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Where epidemiological information is known, the risk of transmission varies considerably depending on your seat location. During a notorious 2007 incident aboard a transpacific flight, one passenger boarded the plane sick with a viral gastrointestinal (GI) illness and infected 52 others during the flight. Most infections occurred among those who were sitting near to the primary patient or who shared a restroom with him. The cramped, awkward layout of aircraft restrooms is not conducive to thorough hand washing, and the restroom handle was a likely culprit in several cases. GI illnesses can be spread by vomit, where the heavier particles settle onto nearby surfaces. On the bright side, the air filtration seemed to work, as few people seated far from the patient fell ill.

The bottom line is that the risk of airborne viral infections exists but is limited. However, GI infections pose a documented risk to air travelers.

What's Your Quick Question?

For this monthly series from JSTOR Daily, we invite readers to submit their burning questions. If we choose your question, it will be published alongside related research housed on JSTOR.

The post Do Airplanes Really Make You Sick? appeared first on JSTOR Daily.

Risky Choices: Women and Cabs in Hyderabad, India

The arrival of app-based ride-hailing in Indian cities has made a significant difference in the way the middle class, especially young men and women ...

The post Risky Choices: Women and Cabs in Hyderabad, India appeared first on Public Books.

Public Picks 2019

Each year around this time we send our readers into summer with a curated list of the titles that dazzled, challenged, and inspired us most over the past year. For this, the seventh-annual edition of Public Picks, we’ve asked our editors for the Public Thinker series, Literary Fiction, Higher Education, Children’s & Young Adult Literature, Urbanism, Global Black History, TV, Print/Screen, and...

The post Public Picks 2019 appeared first on Public Books.

The Past, Evenly Distributed: Europeana at 10

By Dan Cohen

I was honored to be asked by Europeana, the indispensable, unified digital collection of Europe’s cultural heritage institutions, to write a piece celebrating the 10th anniversary of their launch. My opening words:

‘The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed,’ science fiction writer William Gibson famously declared. But this is even more true about the past.

The world we live in, the very shape of our present, is the profound result of our history and culture in all of its variety, the good as well as the bad. Yet very few of us have had access to the full array of human expression across time and space.

Cultural artifacts that are the incarnations of this past, the repository of our feelings and ideas, have thankfully been preserved in individual museums, libraries, and archives. But they are indeed unevenly distributed, out of the reach of most of humanity.

Europeana changed all of this. It brought thousands of collections together and provided them freely to all. This potent original idea, made real, became an inspiration to all of us, and helped to launch similar initiatives around the world, such as the Digital Public Library of America.

You can read my entire piece at the special 10th anniversary website, along with pieces from the heads of the Wikimedia Foundation, Creative Commons, and others. Allez culture and congrats to my friends at Europeana on this great milestone!

Practicing Public Philosophy

By Christopher Long

“Practicing Public Scholarship.” Public Philosophy Journal 1, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.25335/m5/ppj.1.1-1.

Situating the Public Philosophy Journal at the intersection of philosophy and questions of public concern, this essay articulates how the journal hopes to practice public scholarship through a formative review process designed to create communities capable of enriching public life.

This is the inaugural essay in the inaugural issue of the Public Philosophy Journal. 

A Few Reflections on the TOME Initiative

By Christopher Long

WASHINGTON, DC – Today a group of colleagues from the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses met to advance the Towards an Open Monograph Ecosystem (TOME) initiative. It was heartening to see the progress the initiative has made since our first gathering in the summer of 2016. At the time, I was enthusiastic about the effort to leverage University funding to support the open access publication of monographs by scholars in the humanities and social sciences. What I wrote then about the importance of this initiative, I feel more urgently today:

Publishing is one important way the humanities are put into practice. Ideas only enter the public realm when they are made public — that is, when they are published. But publishing is not simply a matter of making ideas public; it is also an opportunity to create publics, to establish relationships around shared values and ideas, and by extension, to transform existing realities in light of new possibilities opened by novel ways of thinking.

This commitment to make ideas public so as to enrich public life remains at the heart of the TOME endeavor. Today, a committed group of publishers, librarians, scholars, and administrators gathered to discuss how to strategically advance the initiative in months and years to come.

The most exciting development over the past year has been the publication of Open Access monographs, which we are curating through our referetory 1 using Figshare. The TOME Referetory will grow considerably over the next year as more monographs are added, while Figshare will enable us to track usage of the texts across the web.

Over the course of the day I tried to capture some of the wide ranging conversation on my microblog (cplong.net) using the TOME tag, but the texture of the conversation was too rich to convey adequately. Here, however, before the day is out, I’d like to capture two ideas that might shape the way forward.

Undertake the Messy Work

Much of our attention as we’ve developed this initiative as been focused on questions concerning infrastructure, standards, and the logistics associated with cultivating an ecosystem of open access long-form digital scholarship. And rightly so, for focusing on these issues of long-term sustainability, growth, and broad adoption will enable us to create the conditions under which such substantive contributions to the scholarly record can thrive and last.

However, the initiative has benefited greatly from a tendency to try things, by a willingness to do something based on the support of fourteen committed universities and a substantive and growing number of Association of University Presses. Without having it all quite figured out, we pressed forward to publish the work.

This tendency to act has served us well; for by publishing books, we are learning what works and what does not. That this can be a successful strategy was reinforced today by a story Frank Smith, Director, Books at JSTOR, told about JSTOR’s experiment with publishing OA monographs. Frank said, as Greg Britton tweeted:

@JSTOR has nearly 3,000 #OpenAccess books that have gotten over 6.5 million views. 18x the usage of other books on their site.

This is striking evidence for the value of open access monographs. Simply put, open access monographs are more widely read. If scholars want to be read as opposed to simply being published, we need to advocate for Open Access; we need to find ways to make our work broadly available online and to support initiative that make that accessibility sustainable. Real traction for initiatives like TOME will remain elusive until scholars across the globe insist that their work be openly accessible.

Even if, as Dean Smith, Director of Cornell University Press, put it: “Everything about ebooks is messy,” we can’t afford to wait until it is less messy to act.

Scholarly Practice

If, however, our attempts to create an ecosystem for OA monographs is to have a deeper impact on the practices of scholarship, scholars will need to more proactively consider the affordances digital modes of publishing offer us to make our ideas public in innovative ways. This is a question, I have argued, of performative consistency; and it returns us to the deeply reciprocal relationship between form and content. My own failed attempt to create a living, interactive digital book notwithstanding, scholars in the humanities and social sciences ought to focus intellectual attention and effort on considering how the manner in which our ideas make their way into the public domain might amplify, reinforce, and deepen a reader’s engagement with the arguments we make.

If it is successful, the TOME initiative will create an ecosystem in which richly developed ideas can be made openly accessible. How those ideas are engaged by other scholars, how they are taken up, responded to, criticized and built upon in order to transform the world in which we live will depend upon the creative imagination and generosity of our colleagues. We inhabit now a new, more dynamic, world of public ideas–whether they enrich or impoverish our lives together will depend largely upon our ability to cultivate new habits of public scholarship rooted a commitment to the humanistic sensibilities capable of creating a more just and beautiful world.

What about Blogging Keeps Me from Blogging

By Mark Sample

Yesterday in Facebook Killed the Feed I highlighted the way Facebook and Twitter have contributed to the decline of scholarly blogging. In truth though, those specific platforms can’t take all the blame. There are other reasons why academic bloggers have stopped blogging. There are systemic problems, like lack of time in our ever more harried and bureaucratically-burdened jobs, or online trolling, doxxing, and harassment that make having a social media presence absolutely miserable, if not life-threatening.

There are also problems with blogging itself as it exists in 2018. I want to focus on those issues briefly now. This post is deeply subjective, based purely on an inventory of my own half-articulated concerns. What about blogging keeps me from blogging?

  1. Images. Instagram, Facebook, and the social media gurus have convinced us that every post needs to have an image to “engage” your audience. No image, no engagement. You don’t want to be that sad sack blogger writing with only words. Think of your SEO! So, we feel pressure to include images in our posts. But nothing squelches the mood to write more than hunting down an image. Images are a time suck. Honestly, just the thought of finding an appropriate image to match a post is enough to make me avoid writing altogether.
  2. Length. I have fallen into the length trap. Maybe you have too. You know what I’m talking about. You think every post needs to be a smart 2,000 word missive. Miniature scholarly essays, like the post I wrote the other week about mazes in interaction fiction. What happened to my more playful writing, where I was essentially spitballing random ideas I had, like my plagiarism allegations against Neil Gaiman. And what about throwaway posts like my posts on suburbia or concerts? To become an active blogger again, forget about length.
  3. Timing. Not the time you have or don’t have to write posts, but the time in between posts. Years ago, Dan Cohen wrote about “the tyranny of the calendar” with blogging, and it’s still true. The more time that passes in between posts, the harder it is to start up again. You feel an obligation for your comeback blog posts to have been worth the wait. What pressure! You end up waiting even longer then to write. Or worse, you write and write, dozens of mostly-done posts in your draft folder that you never publish. Like some indie band that feels the weight of the world with their sophomore effort and end up spending years in the studio. The solution is to be less like Daft Punk and more like Ryan Adams.
  4. WordPress. Writing with WordPress sucks the joy out of writing. If you blog with WordPress you know what I’m talking about. WordPress’s browser composition box is a visual nightmare. Even in full screen mode it’s a bundle of distractions. WordPress’s desktop client has promise, but mine at least frequently has problems connecting to my server. I guess I’d be prepared to accept that’s just how writing online has to be, but my experience on Medium has opened my eyes. I just want to write and see my words—and only my words—on the screen. Whatever else Medium fails at, it has a damn fine editor.

Individually, there are solutions to each of these problems. But taken together—plus other sticking points I know I’m forgetting—there’s enough accumulated friction to making blogging very much a non-trivial endeavor.

It doesn’t have to be. What are your sticking points when it comes to blogging? How have you tried to overcome them?

And if you say “markdown” you’re dead to me.

Facebook Killed the Feed

By Mark Sample

There’s a movement to reclaim blogging as a vibrant, vital space in academia. Dan Cohen, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, and Alan Jacobs have written about their renewed efforts to have smart exchanges of ideas take place on blogs of their own. Rather than taking place on, say Twitter, where well-intentioned discussions are easily derailed by trolls, bots, or careless ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Or on Facebook, where Good Conversations Go to Die™.

Kathleen recently put it more diplomatically:

An author might still blog, but (thanks to the post-Google-Reader decline in RSS use) ensuring that readers knew that she’d posted something required publicizing it on Twitter, and responses were far more likely to come as tweets. Even worse, readers might be inspired to share her blog post with their friends via Facebook, but any ensuing conversation about that post was entirely captured there, never reconnecting with the original post or its author. And without those connections and discussions and the energy and attention they inspired, blogs… became isolated. Slowed. Often stopped entirely.

You can’t overstate this point about the isolation of blogs. I’ve installed FreshRSS on one of my domains (thanks to Reclaim Hosting’s quick work), and it’s the first RSS reader I feel good about in years—since Google killed Google Reader. I had TinyRSS running, but the interface was so painful that I actively avoided it. With FreshRSS on my domain, I imported a list of the blogs I used to follow, pruned them (way too many have linkrotted away, proving Kathleen’s point), and added a precious few new blogs. FreshRSS is a pleasure to check a couple of times a day.

Now, if only more blogs posts showed up there. Because what people used to blog about, they now post on Facebook. I detest Facebook for a number of reasons and have gone as far as you can go without deleting your Facebook account entirely (unfriended everyone, stayed that way for six months, and then slowly built up a new friend network that is a fraction of what it used to be…but they’re all friends, family, or colleagues who I wouldn’t mind seeing a pic of my kids).

Anyway, what I want to say is, yes, Google killed off Google Reader, the most widely adopted RSS reader and the reason so many people kept up with blogs. But Facebook killed the feed.

The kind of conversations between academics that used to take place on blogs still take place, but on Facebook, where the conversations are often locked down, hard to find, and written in a distractedsocialmediamultitaskingway instead of thoughtful and deliberative. It’s the freaking worst thing ever.

You could say, Well, hey, Facebook democratized social media! Now more people than ever are posting! Setting aside the problems with Facebook that have become obvious since November 2016, I counter this with:

No. Effing. Way.

Facebook killed the feed. The feed was a metaphorical thing. I’m not talking about RSS feeds, the way blog posts could be detected and read by offsite readers. I’m talking about sustenance. What nourished critical minds. The feed. The food that fed our minds. There’s a “feed” on Facebook, but it doesn’t offer sustenance. It’s empty calories. Junk food. Junk feeds.

To prove my point I offer the following prediction. This post, which I admit is not exactly the smartest piece of writing out there about blogging, will be read by a few people who still use RSS. The one person who subscribes to my posts by email (Hi Mom!) might read it. Maybe a dozen or so people will like the tweet where I announce this post—though who knows if they actually read it. And then, when I drop a link to this post on Facebook, crickets. If I’m lucky, maybe someone sticks the 😡 emoji to it before liking the latest InstantPot recipe that shows up next in their “feed.”

That’s it. Junk food.

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