Archive for the School Category

Alternative Career Choices for English PhDs

Posted in General, School with tags , , on April 8, 2011 by Bola C. King-Rushing

This is an update of an essay I wrote while studying at UCSB. I was becoming disillusioned with the prospect of becoming a professor. Since then, several people have found it helpful, so I thought I’d share it here. Feel free to add your own ideas…

The PhD program in English is, in many ways, an apprenticeship: you are being taught by English professors to use their tools and processes with the ultimate goal of becoming an English professor. But there are other options, other paths that are open to you, that you might take for any of a number of reasons.

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More on the dissertation

Posted in School with tags , , , on February 5, 2010 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Communication theory. I find it fascinating, to the point that I sometimes feel like I’m in the wrong field. Well, sometimes.

I’m looking at Media Choice models. Specifically, I’m working on finding a way to translate one (or parts of several) into a model that will help analyze the choices that Second Life landowners make in designing their spaces. The area that informs this thinking is Media Richness theory (Daft & Lengel, 1984). However, it turns out that there are a whole lot of “refinements” to Media Richness, and it’s hard to decide which way to go. Social influence is definitely worth looking at, and I feel drawn to Channel Expansion. But can we make a reasonable analogy between the choice of a communication channel on one hand and design decisions on the other?

I feel like the answer should be “yes.” There’s something about the symbolism involved in each that, I think, can be transferred into a common (or at least parallel) language using semiotics. But at the moment, this is just a fledgling thought.

Does it even sound doable, let alone reasonable? More to come…

Song of the moment: "Stand," R.E.M.

Digital Humanities

Posted in General, School with tags , , on November 23, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

So I’m involved in this year’s HASTAC community, and I’ve done a little blogging over there. This is a repost of one of those–it got a great response, and I thought the conversation was worth bringing over here. Apologies to those who’ve already seen and / or responded to it.

“What Are We Doing, Anyway?” (11/13/09)

I’d like to revisit Amanda Visconti’s blog post about the must-have technical skills for a digital humanist.

Our department’s Literature.Culture.Media Center was fortunate enough to be visited by Dr. Patrik Svensson today. Of course, I had class and then a meeting during his talk, but I was able to make the reception afterward and hear him talk about digital humanities–and, in particular, the state of the field.

Or lack thereof. It turns out that “digital humanities” is, like most things humanities, a slippery thing to define. Do you remember when it was “humanities computing”? Do you remember even further back, when it was just a humanist who knew a little about Unix, HTML, or C+?

But to get to the point: what are we doing when we claim to be “digital humanists”? We are clearly not all doing the same thing, or (I suspect) even on the same page at least part of the time. So what would you say to someone from the “outside” if they asked you what you mean by digital humanities?

Part of my reason for asking is that, even though I’m in an English department, my dissertation has slid significantly into the social sciences by way of online virtual worlds. I keep my humanist focus, at least in my own mind, by steadfastly sticking to qualitative methodologies. But my digital credibility–well, I’m not so sure where I stand. I use a lot of technology, and I understand a lot about its technical underpinnings, but coding left me behind right about when amateur programmers switched from PASCAL to C. Yes indeed, that was a very long time ago.

Thus, I consider myself part of the DH universe mostly because my object of study (virtual worlds) is digital, and I approach the analysis of it from a humanities or humanist perspective.

But that’s just one approach. As implied by Amanda’s blog post, the DH universe also includes those people who do humanities with digital tools, often creating said tools themselves with their programming prowess. Is that enough? How digital do you have to be, or how humanities, to be considered DH? Is it even right to try to fit such disparate activities under a single categorical umbrella?

One pragmatic / cynical way to look at it is in terms of fads and funding. The money (what little there is) is in digital humanities, so we have an interest in being considered digital humanists. But when the money turns its attention elsewhere in a few years, what will we have left?

What are we doing? What are you doing, and why do you call it digital humanities?

Song of the Moment: "Do You Love Me," The Contours

A bit about the reading

Posted in School with tags , on August 7, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Just a quick follow-up on the reading I’ve been doing. I have now read ANIMA. That novel was atrocious. It had a good premise, although it overworked itself up to a tremendously disappointing ending, but it was pretty poorly written, and its editing, proofing, and typesetting were even worse (anyone who knows me knows that these things are about as important to me as the prose itself). As a package, it was so bad it almost left me speechless. Almost.

But I also read Circuit of Heaven, a novel about which I feel much, much better. In fact, it turned out to be a great suggestion, and one that will very likely be incorporated into the dissertation work. Thanks, Billy! The same goes–with thanks to Liberty, this time–for Otherland, which is now almost officially a primary text for my project. Both of these works cover the themes I’m looking for without being painful to read, and were in fact extremely enjoyable. After I’m done with the dissertation, I’m going to seek out the sequel(s) to Otherland. (Of course, there’s an awful lot of reading I’m going to seek out at that point…)

Among other candidates are several films, specifically The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, and Existenz, which all interestingly came out at about the same time.

And the work progresses…

Song of the Moment: "One Brown Mouse," Jethro Tull

Ideas? Suggestions?

Posted in General, School with tags on March 19, 2009 by Bola C. King-Rushing

Once again, it’s been quite a while. I fully intend to post more often…we’ll see how that goes.

Part of the problem is that I’m closing in on the ABD phase of the PhD program. Yup, one more course remaining, and then all I have to do is write a minor book while three faculty members monitor every step of the process.

Good times.

The funniest thing is, the more research I’m doing for this dissertation on virtual worlds, the less time I have to spend in virtual worlds. Did I say “funny?” Sometimes it seems cosmically perverse. That’s OK, though. I’m still learning a lot, and I’m still enjoying most of the learning that I’m doing.

One thing I’m look at right now is fiction centered on/in virtual worlds. My hope is to find some good fiction to which I can apply the research I am doing for a literary application of the work. This is where I need some help. I’m not sure what’s out there as far as relevant fiction goes. My current list:

  • Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
  • Tea from an Empty Cup, Pat Cadigan
  • Otherland, Tad Williams
  • Circuit of Heaven, Dennis Danvers
  • ANIMA, Dalian Hansen

I haven’t yet read Otherland and ANIMA (subtitled A Novel about Second Life). If you’re familiar with even a couple of these titles, you can probably see where my thinking is.  (If not, what I’m looking for are stories which take place in or prominently feature digital virtual worlds – not, however, just representations of the internet like Gibson’s “matrix” in the Sprawl series, but worlds designed and presented as such.) I know there are not many readers of this blog, but I’m asking in every venue available to me, including this one, whether anyone has suggestions for other works I might look at.

Thomas More’s Utopia has been suggested, as has Edwin Abbott’s Flatland. I haven’t read them, but I’d also love to get feedback on whether either one fits.

Let me know. I can use all the help I can get. Hey, who can’t?

Song of the Moment: "Rockstar," Nickelback