The Salt-Box More fidgety than expected

Lacan Extras

jaunty Lacan

Here are some interesting comments about teaching from Seminar X that didn’t make the final version of my MLA paper, which will go online tomorrow. (And the lightning talk about If This, Then That will up Friday.)

In regard to anxiety—but really in regard to any concept—there are three basic approaches: the catalogue (but “the method known as cataloguing can ultimately only bear the mark of a profound aporia, in that it winds up in dead ends, even in a very particular lack of fecundity” (20)); the analogue (“always ends up, and necessarily so, with a central kernel that is Jungianism” (20)); and the function of the key. The key is a thing which unlocks and which, in locking, functions . . . the dimension of the key is utterly connatural to any teaching, analytic or not” (21).

(Ok, I do end up talking about the key a bit. But the distinction between the catalogue, the analogue, and the key there’s no time for. Also, I’ve always got time for the side-eye at Jungianism.)

“The truth of psychoanalysis, at the very least in part, is only accessible to a psychoanalyst’s experience. The very principle of a public teaching sets off from the idea that this experience can nevertheless be communicated elsewhere” (244)

When teaching, “I can’t stay in the pure position that just now I called interprétante, but that I shall have to pass over to a broader communicative position and move onto the ground of /making-things-understood/, to appeal therefore to an experience in you that goes far beyond the strict analytic experience” (17-18).

I’m glad to participate on the panel for lots of reasons; probably the least of them is that it let me spend some extra time with Lacan’s thoughts on anxiety.

Image of Lacan from the Wikimedia Commons

Final Syllabus

Jason B. Jones

e: jason.jones@trincoll.edu v: 860.297.2454 t: @jbj

LITC 164

Office hours: Friday, 8-9am, and by appointment

Sam sees the library in OldTown

What This Course Is About

Instead of arguing about or on the internet, what if we think with it? What happens when we use computational methods to understand literature? Or when we bring literary or historical methods to contemporary, born-digital cultural works? This seminar will introduce a variety of tools and techniques for interpreting and understanding cultural artifacts of all sorts. Along the way, we will try to understand what the humanities have been, some things they seem to be becoming, and why there always seems to be a crisis about them. Topics to be covered include close/distant reading, text analysis and topic modeling, visualization tools, 3D printing, and more. Like all of Trinity’s First-Year Seminars, it’s also about helping you have a successful first year. No prior computing experience required.

Is There a Book in This Class?

Two: Cathy Birkenstein & Gerald Graff’s They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (3rd edition, ISBN: 0393935841) and Virginia Heffernan’s Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art (ISBN: 1439191700). They are available at the Trinity College bookstore, or you might be able to find a better price at http://isbn.nu.

What You Will Learn, and How It Will Be Graded

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the humanities and recent controversies over the humanities’ role in higher education.
  • Apply specific terms and concepts from humanistic critical practices to discuss a range of aesthetic objects.
  • Describe how the internet has transformed, or can potentially transform, humanistic creation and criticism, with some specific discussion of the affordances of the medium.
  • With original insight and examples, describe the (potential) impact of the internet on humanistic creation and criticism.
  • Be able to argue for a connection between the work of designing an e-portfolio and humanistic work.
  • Demonstrate, over a range of informal and formal writing assignments, control over scholarly conventions for argument and citation.

Assignment Types

  • Annotation: Using a free online tool called hypothes.is, we’ll collectively read a variety of works this semester. (15%)
  • Two formal papers, with drafts: One near the beginning of the semester (20%), one at the end (30%)
  • At least two informal reflective papers after experimenting with digital techniques for interpretation (no drafts–these are not fancy) (20%)
  • One five-to-seven minute presentation (10%)
  • A portfolio (5%)

More details to come.

Other Relevant Policies

  1. Attendance FYSM courses are, fundamentally, seminars, which means they depend on everyone’s attendance and engaged participation. You can miss two (2) class sessions without penalty. There is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences–in fact, you needn’t even tell me why you were out!
  2. Access Trinity College and I are alike committed to providing all students with equal access to the content of this course. The key to the process is getting an accommodation letter. If you believe you have any need for an accommodation based on a disability, please see Lori Clapis, the Coordinator of Accommodation Resoures. (This is as useful a place as any to note a universal truth of academic life: nearly all things are possible near the start of the semester; later, things become more complicated.)
  3. Office Hours Office hours are a great way to connect with faculty, to make sure you understand something, and in general to navigate the institutional bureaucracy of higher education. It’s never an imposition to come by during that time–and if that simply won’t work, please do reach out about finding another. I am on campus during business hours, and can occasionally make other times as well.
  4. Participation I don’t formally grade participation. That said, these courses are capped at 14 precisely because Trinity believes that actively participating in a seminar-style enviroment is key to a liberal arts education. For those of us who are introverted, know both that thare lots of ways to contribute to a healthy class environment, including engaged listening. For those of us who are extroverted, know that we need to be mindful of allowing space for others to speak. Also, everyone should keep in mind that a class is a ‘safe space’ in two very different senses: it is a space where it’s ok to try out and critically examine different ideas. But for that to happen, for people to be free to critically examine ideas, we also have to be inclusive of difference of all sorts.

Estimated Course Schedule

What are “the humanities? Are they any good?”

F 9/2 Why Does Sam Go to the Citadel? or, Misquoting Mathew Arnold

S 9/3 Laser tag in the library 9pm-midnight M 9/5 September Labor Day

W 9/7 Read: Definitions of “the humanities” and “Learning to be Human”. Mark Edmundson, “Who Are You, And What Are You Doing Here?”

S 9/11 Mandatory tour of the library w/Lucy M 9/12 Read: Catherine R. Stimpson, “The Nomadic Humanities”

T 9/13 Add/drop ends; last day to declare a course pass/low pass/fail

W 9/14 Writing Center tour. MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable, Part 1, MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable, Part 2

Digital Culture

M 9/19 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think”

W 9/21 What does digital culture mean to you: a show-and-tell day

F/S 9/23-24 Family Weekend

M 9/26 Natasha Trethewey, “Incident”, Stephanie Strickland, V:Vniverse, Y0ung-Hae Chang, “The Last Day of Betty Nkomo”

W 9/28 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google”

F 9/30 Final day to withdraw from Fall courses / Draft of short paper due to me

M 10/3 Peer review

Doing Things With Text

W 10/5 Workshop

F 10/7 Short paper due

M/T 10/10-11 Trinity Days

W 10/12 Workshop

M 10/17 Workshop

W 10/19 Workshop

Doing Things with Images

M 10/24 (Midterm) Workshop

W 10/26 Workshop

Doing Things with Maps

M 10/31 Workshop

W 11/2 Workshop

F/S 11/4-5 Homecoming Weeking

M-F 11/7-11 ADVISING WEEK

M 11/7 Workshop

Printing Things

W 11/9 Workshop

M-F 11/14-21 REGISTRATION FOR SPRING

M 11/14 Workshop

Thinking Humanistically about the Internet

W 11/16 Magic & Loss, 1-51

M 11/21 Magic & Loss, 53-109

T 11/22 Add/drop begins for spring / Thanksgiving begins

M 11/28 Magic & Loss, 111-31

W 11/30 Magic & Loss, 133-75

M 12/5 Magic & Loss, 177-202

W 12/7 Magic & Loss, 203-42

M 12/12 Wrap up (Last day of class); last day to change a pass/low pass/fail grade back to a letter grade)

Th-W 12/15-21 Final exams

W 12/19 (noon) During the scheduled final exam for this class, we’ll have a portfolio activity.

Limping Toward a Syllabus

This fall, I’ll be teaching a class again for the first time in several years. It’s a First-Year Seminar, called “Humanities in a Digital Age.” It’s not exactly a digital humanities class, but a goal is to introduce some of the methods associated with digital humanities. Like all Trinity College First-Year Seminars, it has standard learning goals about cultivating curiosity, writing to learn, etc.</a>.

Here’s the description that students saw when they registered: Instead of arguing about or on the internet, what if we think with it? What happens when we use computational methods to understand literature? Or when we bring literary or historical methods to contemporary, born-digital cultural works? This seminar will introduce a variety of tools and techniques for interpreting and understanding cultural artifacts of all sorts. Along the way, we will try to understand what the humanities have been, some things they seem to be becoming, and why there always seems to be a crisis about them. Topics to be covered include close/distant reading, text analysis and topic modeling, visualization tools, 3D printing, and more. No prior computing experience required.

I’m starting to rough out a syllabus, and would be grateful for any comments. (But this page doesn’t take comments, you’re thinking! I assume you saw this on Twitter, so you can comment there, or on email, or via hypothes.is)


Jason B. Jones

jason.jones@trincoll.edu 860.297.2454 t: @jbj

LITC 164

Office hours: Friday, 8.30-10, and by appointment

Sam sees the library in OldTown

What This Course Is About

This course is how we think in and about “the humanities,” establishing the meaning of which is one of our first tasks of the semester, and some of the ways that computer-aided interpretation has changed that thinking over the past decade. Like all of Trinity’s First-Year Seminars, it’s also about helping you have a successful first year.

Is There a Book in This Class?

Two: Cathy Birkenstein & Gerald Graff’s They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (3rd edition, ISBN: 0393935841) and Virginia Heffernan’s Magic and Loss: The Internet As Art (ISBN: 1439191700). They are available at the Trinity College bookstore, or you might be able to find a better price at http://isbn.nu.

**What You Will Learn, and How It Will Be Graded

This course uses an approach called “specifications grading,” which both ties the assessment of individual assignments to the course’s learning objectives, and makes your grade clear to you throughout the semester.

All students who pass this course (i.e., who receive a C or better) will do the following:

  • Describe the humanities and recent controversies over the humanities’ role in higher education.
  • Apply specific terms and concepts from humanistic critical practices to discuss a range of aesthetic objects.
  • Describe how the internet has transformed, or can potentially transform, humanistic creation and criticism, with some specific discussion of the affordances of the medium.
  • Demonstrate, over a range of informal and formal writing assignments, control over scholarly conventions for argument and citation.

Students who have engaged more fully with the course material will receive a B for:

  • Take up a clear stance with respect to recent controversies about the humanities.
  • With original insight and examples, describe the (potential) impact of the internet on humanistic creation and criticism.
  • Be able to argue for a connection between the work of designing an e-portfolio and humanistic work.

Students who have achieved the fullest mastery of the material will receive an A for :

  • Developing an original understanding of an aesthetic object by marshaling evidence from a range of sources, including research, close reading, and digital techniques.

Assignment Types

  • Annotation: Using a free online tool called hypothes.is, we’ll collectively read a variety of works this semester.
  • Two formal papers: One near the beginning of the semester, one at the end
  • At least two informal reflective papers after experimenting with digital techniques for interpretation (no drafts–these are not fancy)
  • One five-to-seven minute presentation
  • A portfolio

Each individual assignment will be graded as either Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, according to the criteria associated with it. Whether you get an A, B, or C is determined by which “bundle” of assignments you choose.

Other Relevant Policies

  1. Attendance FYSM courses are, fundamentally, seminars, which means they depend on everyone’s attendance and engaged participation. You can miss two (2) class sessions without penalty. There is no distinction between “excused” and “unexcused” absences–in fact, you needn’t even tell me why you were out!
  2. Access Trinity College and I are alike committed to providing all students with equal access to the content of this course. If you believe you have any need for an accommodation based on a disability, please see Lori Clapis, the Coordinator of Accommodation Resoures. (This is as useful a place as any to note a universal truth of academic life: nearly all things are possible near the start of the semester; later, things become more complicated.)
  3. Office Hours Office hours are a great way to connect with faculty, to make sure you understand something, and in general to navigate the institutional bureaucracy of higher education. It’s never an imposition to come by during that time–and if that simply won’t work, please do reach out about finding another. I am on campus during business hours, and can occasionally make other times as well.

Estimated Course Schedule

What are “the humanities? Are they any good?”

F 9/2 Why Does Sam Go to the Citadel? or, Misquoting Mathew Arnold

S 9/3 Laser tag in the library 9pm-midnight M 9/5 September Labor Day

W 9/7 Read: Definitions of “the humanities” and “Learning to be Human”. Mark Edmundson, “Who Are You, And What Are You Doing Here?”

S 9/11 Mandatory tour of the library w/Lucy M 9/12 Read: Catherine R. Stimpson, “The Nomadic Humanities”

T 9/13 Add/drop ends; last day to declare a course pass/low pass/fail

W 9/14 MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable, Part 1 MOOCs and the Future of the Humanities: A Roundtable, Part 2

M 9/19

W 9/21

F/S 9/23-24 Family Weekend

M 9/26

W 9/28 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “The Future of Academic Style: Why Citations Still Matter in the Age of Google”

F 9/30 Final day to withdraw from Fall courses / Draft of short paper due to me

M 10/3 Peer review

Doing Things With Text

W 10/5

F 10/7 Short paper due

M/T 10/10-11 Trinity Days

W 10/12

M 10/17

W 10/19

Doing Things with Images

M 10/24 (Midterm)

W 10/26

Doing Things with Maps

M 10/31

W 11/2

F/S 11/4-5 Homecoming Weeking

M-F 11/7-11 ADVISING WEEK

M 11/7

Printing Things

W 11/9

M-F 11/14-21 REGISTRATION FOR SPRING

M 11/14

Thinking Humanistically about the Internet

W 11/16 Magic & Loss, 1-51

M 11/21 Magic & Loss, 53-109

T 11/22 Add/drop begins for spring / Thanksgiving begins

M 11/28 Magic & Loss, 111-31

W 11/30 Magic & Loss, 133-75

M 12/5 Magic & Loss, 177-202

W 12/7 Magic & Loss, 203-42

M 12/12 Wrap up (Last day of class); last day to change a pass/low pass/fail grade back to a letter grade)

Th-W 12/15-21 Final exams

Thoughts on the Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Over the weekend, I saw (via Daring Fireball, Michael Shear’s recent comparison of the Apple Watch to the original iPhone. Here’s his takeaway:

So what’s the answer? Should you buy an Apple Watch now?

I’m tempted to say “no” for most people. Most of what it does, your phone already does better. And the Apple Watch, even with recent sales, is pricier than competing smartwatches that do similar things. By that logic, you should wait until next year, when Apple’s relentless drive to innovate will have improved the watch’s hardware and software. Or wait until 2019, when the fifth generation of the device has unimagined new features.

But after eight months, I’m convinced that people will eventually view a smartwatch as an essential purchase. And waiting endlessly for the “next great thing” means missing out on all the small ways that the watch already can improve your life. So unless you want to be one of those people who hang on to their BlackBerrys forever, go ahead and get one. You won’t regret it.

It’s hard to disagree with either of these paragraphs, especially if you swap “wearable” for “smartwatch.” On the one hand, as my mom has taken to say with regard to almost any expenditure, “you could’ve just gotten some Apple stock.” It’s always fine to wait, both because you get to hold on to your money and because the next version is both closer than you think and probably cooler. On the other hand, the actually-existing Watch is a neat little device.

Some specifics:

Pros

  • Pushing notifications, as well as other minor interactions such as setting timers, to your wrist, really does help minimize the compulsive distraction that seems to go along with smartphones. To take a trivial example: when I watch my son play soccer, I like to know, more or less, how much time is left in a half. It’s quicker to do that on a watch, and it’s less potentially distracting. And on work days that get eaten up by meetings, it’s helpful to be able to distinguish pressing notifications from ones that can wait.
  • My favorite thing about the Watch is how it subtly reinforces good habits. It becomes more and more useful as you are more dutiful with logging calendar entries, to-do items, and the like. If your devices don’t know about a meeting or a task, your watch can’t remind you!
  • Second-favorite thing about the Watch is switching from the modular face (which shows calendar events, Omnifocus tasks, and such) in the mornings and at work to the Photos face (which rotates among my favorite photos) in the evenings and on weekends.
  • Although there aren’t a ton of uses that are incredibly compelling on a college campus, it is useful to think about situations when a Watch or other wearable might be convenient. For example, our students have not appreciated our college’s investment in new electronic locks, which require an ID to open. And, to be fair, having to take your ID everywhere isn’t the best experience. A wearable device such as the Watch would almost certainly be more convenient.
  • Battery life is great. I use it as a sleep tracker, too, and still have never quite run out of power.

Cons

  • The mechanism that wakes the watch up when you look at it is . . . iffy. It’s possible I’ve been glancing at my wrist too subtly my whole life, but at least half the time when I turn my wrist, the face doesn’t light up, and I have to give it a little thump.
  • Relatedly, the activity tracking is, well, ok. For example, it is disconcerting to get a notification to try standing up for a bit, when I am in fact at my standing desk. And while it’s pretty good about tracking things like running, often it’ll undercut my amount of active time on a walk or on other activities, which is a little inexplicable.
  • While being diligent about your calendar is a good thing, syncing across all devices (and thus to the Watch) is still A Thing, especially with Exchange calendars. Periodically, the iPhone’s Exchange calendar will just go on walkabout, which is frustrating.
  • Speaking of enterprise-level problems: theoretically, the Watch is supposed to stay connected to your phone as long as they’re on the same wireless network. And that’s pretty true at home. It’s definitely not true on campus, where nominally I’m always on the same network, but obviously there are umpty-billion access points around. That doesn’t work out so well.
  • With September’s big watchOS update, apps became a lot more functional, which is terrific. However, on first load, it can take an astonishing time for an app to come up, and there’s no way to know where the problem is (e.g., is it the connection with the phone? is it the app? is it the Watch? how long do I have to wait?). Also, deleting an app from your Watch but not your phone still seems unreliable. I have several apps that I can’t get rid of on my Watch, which is . . . distracting.

Example content

Check back in the New Year!

Hey, everyone.

Someone pointed out that it’s been a while since I’ve had a proper website of my own, and so I’m trying to fix that, and brush up on some old skills in new ways.

I think this’ll be ready for January 1.