Just opened my mail to find notifications of a bunch of slimy XXX URLs commented onto about half my blog entries. Promptly banned the IP (and wiped the comments).
Is there a term for comment-spamming a blog? Does this happen often?
Actually, I suppose I cheated a little, having sent Adrian a note that this blog was now up, and yes, truth be told, hoping he'd get the word out to the community. Which he has, flattering me too much in the process. And I suppose my writing this, knowing full well that Adrian might soon be reading, is some kind of commentary on the new interpersonal space that blogging foments. (Anyway, thanks Adrian, and I hope to run into you again soon--ACH/ALLC 2003 maybe?--and you too Jill.)
Incidentally, I really need to get my brain around trackback. I suspect this entry is just the kind of thing it was made for.
Also need to take a closer look at blogrolling.com, which seems to be the thing to use to manage one's linklists.
The city figures prominently in my current reading (Smart Mobs and Pattern Recognition), particularly the urban core of Shinjuku.
A touch of wanderlust.
Found these pictures of Howard Rheingold and his entourage doing the town.
In addition to the general situation in the world right now, since the new year I've had to contend with: a bad winter cold; a DSL problem; a separate landline problem; a broken water pump in Kari's car; a dead battery in my car; a broken foot pedal on the plastic trashcan we spent $50 on; a $67 million budget cut to the state university system (and rumors of more); the "Orange Alert"; over two feet of snow from the East Coast blizzard; a short-lived shortage of gasoline at the neighborhood service stations (because of the accumulated snow); a dead taillight on my car; localized flooding (because of the melting snow).
There are 60 mph winds in the forecast for tomorrow.
Everyone knows the story about modern computing having its origins in the Second World War, specifically problems related to gunnery. But rereading Wiener's Cybernetics reveals that the most immediate and explicit catalyst was raw speed:
At the beginning of the war, the German prestige in aviation and the defensive position of England turned the attention of many scientists to the improvement of anti-aircraft artillery. Even before the war, it had become clear that the speed of the airplane had rendered obsolete all classical methods for the direction of fire, and that it was necessary to build into the control apparatus all the computations necessary.
This makes me want to go back to Virillio, and also to James Gleick's Faster (which I've had on my shelf for a while); and Henry Adams, "A Law of Acceleration."
I've set up a blog for my graduate course on Digital Studies. Blogs are clearly not substitutes for course management tools like WebCT, but one of the things that's so appealing about Movable Type--to me--is its capacity to standardize and consolidate many of my Web publishing tasks. So I login to MT and can blog an entry on my main page, or update a course, or . . .
Blog for undergraduate Computer and Text coming later this weekend.
My colleague Bill Sherman informs me that blog is suspiciously close to "blag," British slang for "talking at length and with authority about something you don't know anything about." Hmm.
The fractal art in the banner comes from here. I usually don't go in for fractal art, but these images are truly distinctive and the renderings are exquisite.
The e(X)literature conference on the preservation, archiving, and dissemination of electronic literature which I'll be traveling to Santa Barbara to attend later this spring. The project's called PAD (I chair one of the exploratory committees).
So I've redirected from my old homepage (1999-2003) to here. We'll see how it works out. But it's pretty obvious to me (and this is no original insight) that the blog represents the next stage of evolution for the personal homepage as the form existed for much of the 1990s (with the personalized corporate portal--MyYahoo!, etc.--serving as an intermediary).
Incidentally, the pages that I used before that (1995-1999) remain visible too.
Clearly there's an archeological impulse at work here.
Addendum to my last: unlike the humanities, in the sciences consensus can be as important as difference or disagreement. Scientists have a much healthier relationship to consensus than we do.
Received notice of the new Web site for the Transforming the Disciplines: Computer Science and the Humanities conference which I attended here in town last month. Good trip report by Mike Lesk, though he misses the point that humanists currently use computers primarily as venues for representation, rather than as engines for computation:
I have trouble understanding what sorts of questions humanities researchers pose that computing can "answer," partly because many important humanities questions don't have simple answers. There will never be a one-word answer to "What was the cause of the American Revolution?" It does surprise me though that perhaps the mostly easily recognized result from the application of information technology to the humanities is more than forty years old: the Mosteller article on the authorship of the Federalist Papers.
On the other hand, I just bought Colin Martindale's The Clockwork Muse, which argues that the creative and aesthetic enterprise is subject to rule-governed behavior. Also found an interesting looking paper online that picks up where Martindale left off.
At the same conference, I thought Janet Murray put it rather well: in the humanities we feel that we can assert less and less about the world with language; in the sciences, they believe they can describe more and more of the world with math. Someone needs to convene a conference on the state of empirical knowledge in the humanities.
An old, old post by Alan Sondheim that's still moving to me. That it's couched in the language of what Alan dubbed the "darknet"--the text-only milieu of telnet, gopher, irc, moos, muds, finger, lynx--makes it somehow more, not less, alive. Herewith:
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 00:50:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Alan Sondheim
Subject: The Hard Way To Learn and Program
The Hard Way to Learn and Program
Aggression is the only way to accomplish anything. If you want a port,
grab it, if you want a channel, fight for it, if you want a channel off,
flood it, if you want a MOO, make yourself uncomfortably toaded over and
over again. If you want a port, play up to sysadmins, then stab them in
the back, take the machine over, grab superuser status as fast as you can
- you've got to do all of this with determination, aggression, and a sense
of occupied territory. Believe me, there's no other way - no possibility
of any other way. It's aggression that gets machines where you want them,
hundreds of them cross-connected on platforms, wired in/out, LANS, WANS,
and it's aggression that gets them disconnected as well. Why agro? Be-
cause no one knows what they're doing in this space - it's too new, the
territory still in the process of being charted, taken over by corporate
greed - but not quite there yet. So there are interstices, back doors,
back channels, undernets, darknets, trojan horses at work at war every-
where and you NEED them to get going, you NEED them to get going in the
morning, you NEED them for respect for the fast buck slow dance. Go for
it! You get violent, threaten violence; you get mean, flame once or twice,
make promises you can't keep, never intended to keep - there's not the
HINT of a problem with this, social engineering, causeways to hell and
back just where/wherever the action is. You @create the action, you Make-
file, breakfile, do whatever it takes.
You can't be afraid of anything. You have to vandalize, scavenge, use
whatever passwords you find lying around on slips of paper placed in the
back of porn novels where you'd most expect to find them. You've got to
use the same passwords everywhere you can, moving through systems. But
most of all you have to DEMAND a port because you need to connect to the
Net and be PART of it, not just email, but running your tongue along the
silver wires through the cables of light filmed and reduced to the last
degree. Listen: It's like this. This is the only way it is. It's not
popular. It will kill you. It will keep you going. You'll die broke but
someone will see what you have done and marvel marvel marvel.
Blogging requires a new voice, and new rhythms, routines, cycles. I guess I'll work on it.
I spent part of the mid-semester break working with Amit (at MITH) on our Virtual Lightbox project, released 31 January. It's great to see it out in public, and the applet is just about everything I hoped for. I'd like to see Mac compatability, though.
Rheingold's Smart Mobs. The VR and Virtual Communities books bored me, but I think this one is right on the mark. Also rereading Wiener's Cybernetics (in preperation for writing an upcoming paper). And Gibson's Pattern Recognition is on my desk, though the snowy weekend in DC hasn't given me the leisure hours I thought it would. Finally, David Rees's Get Your War On, also available online. That one should go in the time-capsule. Run, don't walk. (Thank you, David.)
I have a letter to the editor in the current issue of the Key Reporter (Phi Beta Kappa's newsletter), responding to a crotchety piece by Stolen Words author Thomas Mallon on the subject of Web plagiarism. I wrote my reply because I thought the venue, often rather crotchety itself, needed a credible point of view. Mr. Mallon responded with unkind words about the title of my dissertation, and not much else. The links given here are to PDFs of the entire newsletter; I've attached the text of my letter below.
To the Editor:
It is difficult to know what to do with Thomas Mallon's recent comments
on the Web and student plagiarism (Key Reporter 68.1, Fall 2002). The
first half of the piece is in fact taken up with his defending his book,
Stolen Words, which is his privilege, though the image of
tweedy academics brandishing copies of Roland Barthes's "The Death of
the Author" corresponds to no contemporary English department I've seen
(I've studied and worked in several large public research institutions).
Mr. Mallon manages to wield a label like "the professors" in an
accusatory manner that recalls the worst anti-intellectual strains of
the culture wars. The whole screed comes off as at least ten years out
In any case, when it comes to the Web, Mr. Mallon is largely at a loss
for words. If it is true, as he says, that the Web "makes it impossible
for students to value originality, or writing itself, in quite the same
way" then our job, I will suggest, begins precisely with the phrase "in
quite the same way." We must--in other words--teach our students to use
online resources responsibly, and do so in part by engaging the question
of what both "writing" and "originality" have historically meant in
different information-epochs. (This is not reflex relativism: it is an
acknowledgement that sometimes ideas are complicated. If Mr. Mallon
doubts this he might start with Geoffrey Nunberg's fine essay on the
changing meaning of information, "Farewell to the Information Age.")
Our students are growing up in a media culture that embraces mixing and
sampling, a media culture that is simultaneously witnessing the most
dramatic confrontations in the sphere of copyright and intellectual
property law we've seen in generations. When I talk with my students
about Internet file swapping or Lawrence Lessig they are both animated
and opinionated--and often surprisingly well-informed. This is, it seems
to me, what used to be called a "teachable moment." My students may
leave my classes with the notion that authorship and intellectual
property are historically determined, but they also leave with a
practical sense of what's right and wrong when it comes to their own
writing and research in the digital settings they inhabit--and will
continue to inhabit once they depart the university and enter their
By the end it becomes clear that Mr. Mallon has no real ideas to offer
(instead, for a closer, we are treated to a meditation in the thin
tradition of Sven Birkerts on the glam seductions of bibliofind.com as
compared to wiling away the hours in the aisles of the Strand
bookstore). "Why dig a well instead of turning on the tap," Mr. Mallon
wants to know, lamenting the way the Web has altered the student work
ethic. Only he doesn't want to know: it's a rhetorical question, and
that's where his essay ends. But I have running water taps in my home,
and I suspect Mr. Mallon does too. That may seem like a cheap rhetorical
ploy, but he employs exactly the same tactic in suggesting how angry
critics of Stolen Words would be to find their own words plagiarized or
improperly cited. The point is those taps are not going to be
turned off, nor is the Web is going to be unplugged. If we don't teach
our students how to use it wisely and well then AOL, Microsoft, and the
rest of the edutainment industry will be only too glad to do it for us.
Matthew G. Kirschenbaum
Silver Spring, Maryland
[Mr. Mallon, it turns out, also dislikes my use of the word "edutainment."]