Experiments in Slideshow

Oof. My apologies if your RSS reader just got 25 different versions of this post, all with different sets of code instead of content. I’m thinking ahead to next week, when my intrepid and adventurous students will be constructing (I almost typed “concocting”) visual arguments about media and the “digital good life.” What I wanted, of course, was the easiest possible system for them to make a slideshow with their images and upload them to their blogs. That way, we’d be able to workshop the arguments in class, and then edit them. Who knew it would be so difficult to get the slideshow up on WordPress?!!

I know that WordPress gives instructions about how to use slide.com, slideshare, rockyou, etc. for this kind of thing. I tried them all. Really. All of them. Couldn’t get a single one to work. An hour and a half later, it’s bubbleshare who’s trumped them all in terms of ease of use. I’ll go back in later and play with the various editing and markup tools. And Monday, I’ll start to worry about the difficulty of students having to maintain and manage multiple accounts (wordpress, bubbleshare, Blackboard, MySpace, Facebook, etc.), and teaching them how to copy code and such. But for now, I’ll simply bask in the glow of getting a mini-slideshow of my own up.

For the record, I know that the first picture is blurry. I like it that way.

[bubbleshare 235519]

It’s Never Too Late To Reconsider…

In lieu of real content, I couldn’t help but try the meme that’s bouncing around the academic blogosphere (seen first at Dr. Crazy’s). It’s an odd list for someone who has spent a decade reading and writing about literature, no?

  1. Website Designer
  2. Desktop Publisher
  3. Cartoonist / Comic Illustrator
  4. Animator
  5. Fashion Designer
  6. Multimedia Developer
  7. Costume Designer
  8. Anthropologist
  9. Computer Animator
  10. Graphic Designer
  11. Artist
  12. Communications Specialist
  13. Activist
  14. Print Journalist
  15. Critic

The closest any of these get to what I actually do, or am trained to do, is #15; I suppose a good deal of my career is wrapped up in being a critic. What’s surprising here is the consistent underlying aesthetic theme. Graphic designer, fashion designer, artist, cartoonist, etc. As the girl who is consistently assigned as a team handicap in Pictionary, I can attest to my inability to pull these off. And it doesn’t get much better when we move into the technological dimension; I can only imagine what anyone who’s seen my pathetic attempts at coding would have to say about the first job on this list. What’s clear is the way that the test is loaded,  It doesn’t ask what you’re good at/bad at, but rather what you like/dislike.

The end result of this test? I shouldn’t quit my day job.

Tunnel Vision

I suppose it’s an occupational hazard for academics, the phenomenon wherein texts that float across our consciousness tend to be subsumed and codified by our current research and teaching. Or at least this is what happens to me. As occupational hazards go, it could be much worse; I’ve never been stuck in a mine, I’ve never had a patient die on me. I may be well on my way toward carpal tunnel syndrome and a Mr. Magoo style myopia, but that’s about it.

So I recently discovered the singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright. I know, I know, where have I been? What pop music planet have I been living on, that I’ve avoided RW? Let’s be honest; if left to my own devices, I’d be huddled in a corner listening to Squeeze’s Greatest Hits on infinite repeat. Be happy that I’ve made it out of the 80’s. The point of this, of course, is two-fold, First, how the world has changed since the last time I tried to find out information about an artist. Not only can I look up Wainwright’s entire catalog on iTunes, I can google the lyrics to songs, read his Wikipedia entry, see his MySpace page, and cruise YouTube for videos. This beats the hell out of Tiger Beat, I must say (TB was, if I remember correctly, my primary source the last time that I wanted info on a singer. That might have been Simon LeBon. It’s all very fuzzy now).

So onto the second point: YouTube. In addition to featuring a significant collection of fan videos of Wainwright, the site also houses a few of his professional music videos. The one I’m currently obsessed with?

The audio track of “Rules and Regulations” is just fine on its own, but there’s something about this video that pushes it into the realm of transcendent.   I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for days now as the tune tumbles around in my brain.  Since I’m re-reading a slew of postmodern theory right now, I thought for awhile that it was the video’s irony that was doing it.  In some ways, it’s a beautiful pop culture take on historiographic metafiction.  Wainwright takes all the signifiers of Victorian masculinity (the gentlemen’s club, the group excercising) and reveals them in all of their homoerotic glory.  [Or as Caitlin2489 writes: ” If this isn’t the gayest thing. Rufus, darling, you’ve out-done yourself.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.]  Linda Hutcheon would be so very proud!

Later, however, I found myself reviewing the introduction to Todd Gitlin’s book Media Unlimited, in which he argues (in part) that while we tend to say that we go to media for information, our interaction with media is really about feeling—media produces not a conscious analytic making of meaning, but rather an unconscious emotional response.  While I think that this needs to be qualified a bit (which Gitlin later goes on to do in the book), I wonder if that isn’t a more authentic approach to explaining my fascination with this video.  Really, when I think about it, I get the giggles.  It’s his interaction with the camera, I think—that knowing, deadly-serious and thus definitively tongue-in-cheek, twee awareness of his surroundings and how the audience must be perceiving it.

There’s also, of course, the possibility that it’s neither, but that my courses this semester have colonized my brain.  While I figure it out, I’ll keep on watching the video.  Hee hee.

Walking in a Wiki Wonderland

Lately, I’ve been informally polling friends and colleagues about the ways that they are organizing their research for projects, because I find myself in a bit of a quandary. Once upon a time, when I was in graduate school, research looked very different. I’d physically transport myself to the library, do an MLA search, print out the results, go to the online library catalog, find the location of the journals—all primarily on the 11th floor, go up in the elevator, pull the journals off the shelf, go back downstairs in the elevator, photocopy journal articles, deposit the journals on the reshelving cart, take my photocopies back upstairs in the elevator, and, finally, sit in my carrel on the 6th floor and read them. Once read and marked, the articles would (if I were on my toes) go into files designated for different projects, dissertation chapters, etc. Good times. Nothing like standing over a hot Xerox machine in the Touchdown Jesus library to make you feel like a real scholar. Lest you think this was in the dark ages of postmodernity, let me simply state that I was doing that as late as the year 2000—a mere seven years ago!

Now, of course, I physically visit the library only to put DVD’s on reserve for my classes. Thanks to the wonders of Adobe, 9 out of 10 articles come to me via Interlibrary Loan as pdf files (this function is, for me, in the running for top ten best technological advancements in the last decade). This is over and above what’s widely available on the web. All of a sudden, the tactile–if bulky–system of manila file folders seems both obsolete and insufficient. Pdfs are searchable and editable—if I print them out, they lose this functionality. And what’s the point of printing websites? Add to this the the fact that the content of my research is now more complicated (it was one thing when I was working on a novel or a film—but now I’m tracking cross-media responses to these), and you get one big mess. By the end of last year, I had a series of bookmarks, sets of manila files, desktop files, and was anxiously doing google searches every few days to make sure that I hadn’t missed or misplaced something. What I wanted/desperately needed, then, was a system that would let me store all kinds of different media in a single place. And wouldn’t it be nice if that were a searchable database too? Better yet, perhaps a system that would be shareable, so that I could use it for a few collaborative projects I’m working on? And if it would bring me coffee and tell me that I’m smart?

Except for that last wish-dream of the perfect research system (I suppose you can’t have everything), I think I’m finally on to something. On Friday, I started moving everything into a PBwiki site. I’ve used a wikispaces site with a few previous classes, but PBWiki has some additional functionality that are currently rocking my world. I can attach files to pages, embed images and video, tag, etc. Not to mention you can make it purdy by editing the CSS (let’s not forget the aesthetics of research, shall we?). We’ll see if this is the magical organizational answer to my research problems, but for now, it’s looking good. The true test, I suppose, is whether it makes me more productive. Stay tuned for future reports on that score.

In the meantime, here’s the video that I saw over the summer, and the one I remembered, when I thought of the wiki as personal research tool: