Ten Years Blogging at The Mast

I began this blog on January 21, 2002. My very first post is here. My friend and former colleague iPaulo is still blogging. My friend Kip started blogging in 2002 as well, and is celebrating. I’ve started a few other blogs since then, on IT: Technology, Language and Culture (also started in January of 2002, and life in the Pacific Northwest, and an entire site related to the books I co-wrote about the iPad. (And others too!)

I’m delighted that Medievalist bloggers Scott Nokes and Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak are back blogging. (Professor Drout also began blogging in 2002). The blogosphere, as some call it, has changed a lot since I started, but then so have I. Michelle Ziegler is actively blogging at Heavenfield, Tim Clarkson at Senchus, and a number of other medievalists in the blog roll to the right are still going strong, but I’m especially happy to see Scott and Michael back and blogging.

Smart Essay about Tolkien’s Monster and the Critics

Michael Drout, he of the almost completed second edition of Beowulf and the Critics, has a short piece on a LOTR forum on “”Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics”: The Brilliant Essay that Broke Beowulf Studies.” The essay is, not surprisingly, smart, and well-worth reading. It’s a good background and introduction to Tolkien’s essay, and I suspect even those who haven’t read Tolkien’s essay will read Drout’s piece. I like very much that Drout nods at some more recent Beowulf scholarship in providing a better context for the reactions and reception of Tolkien’s essay. The comments (you can find them here) are worth reading as well, as Drout notes.

It makes me very happy to see this sort of outreach and deliberate cross-pollination; we need more.

Medieval Jousting Bloggers at Inside Higher Ed

The story about less-than-ethical medievalist bloggers that I posted about here, thanks to Another Damned Medievalist and Meg of Xoom has been picked up by Inside Higher Education here.

I’ve been thinking about this some more, particularly in light of the Blogspot hosted Medievalist News. There are a few oddities, aside from the less-than-original posts. Not only are links and attributions removed from posts, it’s a one-to-many blog. There are no comment links. All comment are shut off. Blogging is in large part about conversation. As Tor Books editor, writer, and blogger Patrick Nielsen Hayden says:

Effective blogging is a combination of good personal writing and smart party hosting. A good blog post can be a sentence long, or three pages long; what matters is that it encourages further conversation.

By not including back-links, by shutting off comments, by not having a blogroll, Medieval News and Medievalist.net are not only not participating in the conversation, they are actively shutting it down. All the Twitter feeds with links to their post, and Facebook groups in the world can’t fix that. It is, however, a technique that I’ve seen in one other realm of the blogosphere; spam sites and scraping sites. They want traffic and Google rankings, so they obtain their content elsewhere, in order to sell ads.

Once Google, bloggers, and sys admins, and W3C noticed this practice, they created a work around; it’s called rel=”nofollow”. It works like this:

<a href="http://medievalnews.blogspot.com/" rel="nofollow">Medievalist News</a>

Using rel=”nofollow” means that links work, but the link is not tracked by Google or other search engines or sites like Alexa. So the misbehaving site gets no “Google juice.”

As ADM notes here, “we often forget about the ramifications of how internet communication works.”

Birth of a Blog: Reprise

I began Scéla, my first real blog, on January 21, 2002. That’s eight years of more-or-less regular blogging. You can still read my first post, which is very much an instance of me trying to figure out blogging as a tool for sharing content.

Since then, I’ve finished my Ph.D. I’m now blogging quite a lot—though not, alas, blogging as often as I would like here. I’ve moved Scéla from my primary site at Digitalmedievalist.com, to here, at Digitalmedievalist.net [ETA: and back again as of 11/15/2014]. I’ve also converted from Blogger to WordPress, and am iconverting the Celtic Studies Resources content from static pages (pages that go back in some versions to 1997) to WordPress.

When I began, I was the Digital Medievalist. Now, there’s an organization. When I began, I was one of about five Medievalist bloggers; now, there are about sixty of us, and three or four that emphasize Medieval and Celtic.

That said, here’s a tip of the hat to the folks who’ve been doing this as long or longer than I, or more reliably, especially: S. Worthen/Owlfish, the keeper of the Medievalist Blogger List, Richard Nokes of Unlocked Woardhord, Elizabeth Carnell of The View From Kalamazoo, and Michael Drout, who started blogging on Wormtalk and Slugspeak at the hind end of the same year I did, and makes much more sense.

The Medievalist bloggers as a group, never mind those I’ve been lucky enough to meet at Kalamazoo, have added a lot to my life, scholarly and otherwise.

Thanks guys.

Happy birthday Richard Scott Nokes!

In honor of Professor Nokes‘ birthday, and given his interest in weasel blogging, I present the following:

According to medieval bestiaries, with help from Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville, “the weasel conceives through the mouth and gives birth through the ear”—Isidore, after describing this genetic miracle, says it is false, but that didn’t stop John Davies from using it in a sonnet.

John Davies of Hereford, Wittes Pilgrimage, Sonnet 29

Some say the Weezel-masculine doth gender
With the Shee-Weezel only at the Eare
And she her Burden at hir Mouth doth render;
The like (sweet Love) doth in our love appear:
For I (as Masculine) beget in Thee
Love, at the Eare, which thou bearst at the Mouth
And though It came from Hart, and Reynes of me
From the Teeth outward It in thee hath growth.
My Mouth, thine Eares, doth ever chastly use
With putting in hot Seed of active Love;
Which, streight thine Ear conveyeth (like a Sluce)
Into thy Mouth; and, there but Aire doth prove:
Yet Aire is active; but, not like the fire
Then O how should the Sonne be like the Sire?

Via Cliosfolly

Muddles, Anonymity, and Scholars

I note that the “muddled” site has this to say for itself:

In response to a prior restraint order requested by a university close to government, this blog will be shut down. The owners and contributors will do their utmost to resist this form of censorship.

Thank you for reading, and for the emails of support.

In other words “The lurkers support me in email.”

Yeah. Right.

And I was expecting Godwin’s Law to appear in the next post, too . . .

It’s terribly disillusioning to see that academics, scholars at the height of their profession, are just as idiotic and cowardly as the dweebs I deal with in my non-scholarly geek life, like the anonymous cowards who attacked Kathy Sierra.

This particular incident though, has very much affected my own thinking about scholarly blogging/academic blogging that’s anonymous. The “Muddle” is the first such attack blog I’ve seen in academe, and I confess to being very much disheartened by it, both as a geek and as a scholar in the very early stages of my career.

I expect better, from scholars, particularly from established scholars who ought to be mentors and positive examples, instead of, well, standard, typical Internet trolls.

Weblogs and the Academy: Professional and Community Outreach through Internet Presence

I’ve decided to live-blog a blogging session at the 2008 Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo. I’m not a transcriber, so I’m not in any way doing the presenters the kind of justice their thoughtful papers deserve.

The session was organized by Elisabeth Carnell, Western Michigan Univ., and Shana Worthen, University of Arkansas–Little Rock, with Elizabeth Carnell presiding.

These are the papers that are being presented:

“Do I Know You in Real Life? Building Scholarly Communities and Professional
Networks through Anonymous Weblogs”  Julie A. Hofmann, Shenandoah University

“Text in Motion: Navel-Gazing as Pedagogical Strategy”  MacAllister Stone, Independent Scholar

“Unlocking Wordhoards: Popular Medievalist Communities”   Richard Scott Nokes, Troy University

Julie Hoffman maintains Carnivalesque, and is a pseudonomyous blogger. She came to Web blogs via the now defunct Invisible Adjunct blog, and the blog of Cranky Professor, and a number of other blogs, none of them medieval. When Julie Hoffmann began commenting on these blogs, it became clear that they were colleagues, anonymous or not. Most of the anonymous bloggers were women, and junior faculty, like her.

The act of blogging under a pseudonym served to create a collegial environment, that crossed the conventional lines of academic rant. She mentioned the real-world phenomena of people at conferences who look at name tag to check an institutional affiliation. Online it doesn’t matter; the public place of the Internet creates an intimacy that creates a way to see past the c. v. and into the scholarly process. People connect not only on the scholarly level, but on a more personal level. Blogging provides an immediate way to pass the collegiality test.

Blogging under a pseudonym seems to add another set of measurements to be used by our peers. She has had real-life opportunities from blogging, from people who had never met her in real life but did know her blog.

Julie Hoffmann spoke a little about the differences between men and women blogging; men are more likely to use their real name. She notes that women who blog tend to write more about their academic lives and their teaching. Men seem to blog more about their scholarly interests and reach out to their students, but that there are sex-linked differences. These gender differences don’t seem to matter in terms of networking. She spoke about the rarity of medievalists on many campuses and the consequent isolation. She spoke about creating a protected writing group for medieval scholars on LiveJournal.

MacAllister Stone opened with a quote from John Gower, and the nature of text, digital and otherwise. She talked about the nature of fluid, deletable text, and a professor who wondered where the words went when he deleted them, and referred to a story by Stephen King in which the writer’s word processor was somehow tied to reality; deleting a name, deleted a person.

MacAllister Stone also spoke about the fluid nature of text, and the potential for outreach that medievalist have, and the support for community building. You can read her paper here.

Scott Nokes spoke about popular Medievalism, and communities built around them. He spoke about the distinction between subject and object, or perhaps in terms of Weblogs, academics/medievalists, and those outside the profession. Medievalism doesn’t have to be historically accurate, and is often mythic. Since it isn’t historical, Medievalism can’t be anachronistic. He spoke about mythic transference, with a nod at Northrup Frye. He spoke about transference from the present into the past (Twain’s Connecticut Yankee) or from the past into the present (Don Quixote).

Scott Nokes discussed the subject/object role (defined in terms of grammar as a metaphor) and supplied examples from the SCA. A movie goer watching a film about Robin Hood, and is expected to some extent, to identify with the characters—but is not supposed to believe that she is that hero.

In terms of online communities, and popular medievalist communities is the present, and not the past. He used the example of the Disney film Prince Caspian, as inculcating a popular interest in allegory in the context of the film, for however brief a period. He discussed the differences between a scholarly online community and, for instance, a community built around a medieval-inspired community, and the ways in which a scholarly community, where the community is built around the model of expert to the group, shut down conversation for the non-medievalist. In a popular medieval community, the scholar has a privileged position, but not one that allows the shutting down of the community. Scholars in the online community need to attract those popular medieval community members and encourage them to participate rather than to observe in silence; they have been given a voice and we need to listen to it. You can see some of his outreach efforts here, at MediEvolution.

JKW on Culwch ac Olwen

Jeffry Jerome Cohen, medievalist and blogger at In the Middle, is on vacation, so guest blogger JKW who usually blogs at Pistols in the Pulpit is filling in. JKW says of himself:

My dissertation, which I’m beginning this summer, is about political language, specifically the language of kingship, in England and Wales in the age of Chaucer.

Thus far he’s blogged about Culwch ac Olwen and the implications of the “oldest animals” here.

Weblog Roundtable at Kalamazoo 2006

Shana Worthen did an excellent job of moderating the roundtable discussion, with fellow bloggers Elisabeth Carnell, Michael Drout, Richard Nokes, Michael Tinkler, Alison Tara Walker, (the moderator of the Medieval Studies Community), and me, as participants in a discussion that ranged over why we started blogging, why we blog now, what blogging offers that other forms of online interaction don’t, why we think blogging is important to medievalists, the value of anonymous blogging, and the uses of blogging in terms of scholarship and pedagogy.

The observations made included the following, in no particular order, and without attribution:

  • We all appear to find value in the existence of, and contributions, of, anonymous bloggers.
  • Several panelists suggested that often the anonymous bloggers were able to say things that they would say if they felt they could, but that for professional or personal reasons they could not.
  • All of the panelists spoke about the community aspects of blogging. The Medieval Studies Community is a conscious effort to create a community of medievalists to share information, ranging from calls for papers, to questions from students contemplating a medieval studies program or graduate school, to requests for resource suggestions or research help.
  • Several panelists mentioned advantages of a Web log over other digital forms of communication, like email, listserves or static Web pages.
    • Entries are published and archived and may be read when the user finds it convenient.
    • The use of categories or tags to describe individual posts in the archives makes it easy to search for a particular post, or all posts on a specific topic.
    • At least one panelist mentioned using a Web log as a way to store and annotate links, making it easy to share them and use them from any computer.
  • Several participants spoke about using Web logs as teaching tools.
    • The use of Comments on Posts/Entries allows students to communicate with each other, as well as with the instructor (the resulting conversation is often easier to follow than it would be on a discussion board, says this poster).
    • When it’s possible to make the Web log (or Wiki) public, students become engaged with their writing and take it more seriously than they might if it were merely written to satisfy a requirement.
    • Several people spoke about the value of Web logs in making scholarly contacts, sometimes leading to collaboration or, quite frequently, resource sharing.
    • The use of blogging systems (Blogger, MovableType, TypePad, Live Journal or any number of others) makes it easy to mix text and images on a page, an excellent way to teach art history or other image-reach subjects.

One of the things I found most interesting about the roundtable was that, although I had linked to, and read, and sometimes even commented on, the blogs of all the participants, I’d never actually met most of them before Kalamazoo. Meeting people I read with my coffee every day was one of the highlights of the conference, even though I missed Really Good Coffee.

I’m still very very tired, so I’m hoping that others will comment to fill in the enormous gaps I’ve left in my much truncated summary. And I’ll likely be adding links later.

Update:You can read Michael Drout on the roundtable here. Shana Worthen posted here, Cranky Professor here, and Richard Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard here. Another Damned Medievalist also comments on the panel.

Technorati Tags:Kalamazoo, Medieval bloggers

Gift Music Meme

This is the first meme I’ve created; I’d been thinking about it for a while, and with help and collusion from my friend MacAllister Stone, I think I’ve figured out how it might work. Won’t you play too?

The purpose of this meme is to gift a friend with a single song you’ve chosen from the iTunes store, and to have the friend blog about the song, and, if they like tag one or more of their friends. You have to have Apple’s free iTunes software for Mac or Windows to use the iTunes store.

  1. Pick one or more of your friends who listens to digital music; preferably someone who already has iTunes and an iTunes account, and who has a blog or Live Journal or something similar.
  2. Songs are .99 cents on iTunes; if people want to send MP3s directly, that’s up to them, but post the song title, artist, and album anyway. I suspect it’s possible to do this with other music services, but I don’t know. There are also lots of good sources for free music on the net; feel free to use those, or to publicize indie artists you like a lot. Oh, and there are free songs at Amazon too.

  3. Select the song you want to give.
  4. Post this meme on your blog or Live Journal, and list your friends, the songs you’ve chosen for them, (keep the song a secret until after you friend receives it, if you’d like), a link to their blog, and these instructions. Feel free to add a comment about why you chose the song.
  5. Purchase the single song for each friend, one at a time, (that is don’t buy three songs for three friends.) If you want to use the iTunes store Give music feature, find the song, then click the Gift button that’s included in the link for the album the song is on (near the top); then click the Gift button for that song. When you check out, you’ll be shown a form with spaces for your name, your friend’s name and email address, and a short message. This will be emailed to your friends, with instructions about how to download their gift songs. Use the message to send them a link to the permalink for your blog post about the meme so they’ll know to blog about the song. Use “Gift music” as the Tag if you tag posts.
  6. If you decide to “gift back” someone who tags you, please also tag someone else, so we can have a variety of musical tastes, journals, and people.

Troubleshooting: You do need to have the iTunes application installed before you try to download the song; it wouldn’t hurt to have it open either. If the URL in the email from the iTunes store doesn’t seem to work, try copying it, line by line to a new document, deleting any return characters or extra spaces your email program may have inserted as it “broke” the URL into separate lines.

I’m tagging the following innocent victims:

Updated: I’ve managed to find songs for some other people–that’s both hard and fun–so here are some others I’m tagging:

  • Dori Smith“Come on a My House” by Rosemary Clooney from 16 Most Requested Songs: Rosemary Clooney
  • Kip Manley “Avanti” by Corvax Corus from Mille Anni Passi Sunt