Stephen Metcalf’s “The Death of Literary Theory—Is it really a good thing?” in Slate the other day. (Link omitted by intent.)
People pick on academic writing for being formulaic, by really, isn’t there also an algorithm by now that can pump out sentences like “Did Post-Modernism—in this instance, some twilit mélange of Gadamer and Lyotard and Habermas and Kuhn and Latour, many of whose original beachhead in America had been the credulous English department—overreach in taking on science?”
Note “Post-Modernism,” the capitalization and hyphen just as awkward in its own way as a forty-something prof trying to sound down for his students.
Slate, of course, has also recently given us “The Attack of the Career Killing Blogs.”
Not because I don’t know what it means but because I’ve realized it’s impossible to pronounce without practice, at least for me. How about you?
I usually have no problem pronouncing words, so I was worried I had some weird brain tick, some micro-aneurysm, that had impacted my ability to voice this one particular word. But, if you think about it, it’s an amazingly poorly designed word. The first thing wrong is the “b” and “f” side by side. Both sounds are created at the front of the mouth, with the lips, so the temptation is to insert an extra syllable in between them. If the word were in more common usage this would likely start to happen, thereby accelerating the process of language change (a phenomenon known as epenthesis). I also find the transition from the soft “s” followed by the hard “c” awkward to manage, kind of like the controlled skid they teach you in driving school. It makes me want to add an extra “ta-” syllable to the word, “obfusca-ta-tory.”
Anyway. I was just struck by a word that’s perfectly transparent when I encounter it in its written form but throws my tongue into convulsions when I attempt to voice it.
A little while ago I put a frozen bagel on our windowsill to defrost in the bright morning sun. I thought that was pretty clever of me and suggested this was probably how they did it in the pioneer days, before microwaves. Kari, however, pointed out that they didn’t have bagels in the pioneer days either. Or freezers.
Langdon Winner gave a talk on the political sector of the blogosphere here at Maryland today. A substantial portion of his time was devoted to the echo chamber critique, that people go to their favorite pundits’ blogs mainly to have their opinions and biases confirmed, and that there’s really little in the way of authentic dialogue or argumentation or exchange in the political reaches of the blogosphere.
This feels wrong to me, or at least like a simplification.
What are examples of “political” blogs—by which I suppose I mean those that are overtly concerned with topical issues related to government affairs and national or foreign policy—where the level of discourse and exchange between opposing points of view routinely rises above that of Crossfire? If we can get a good list here I’ll send it along to him.
John Unsworth, this year’s recipient of the prestigious Richard W. Lyman Award for leadership and innovation in the digital humanities, delivered a lecture entitled “New Methods for Humanities Research” at the National Humanities Center last night. It is in large measure about our work on the nora project. Here’s a bit:
If we consider humanities research in terms of the basic and the applied, some would say that all humanities research is basic research, because it never aims at having a practical application in the sense that, say, laboratory research on transistors, in the 1940s aimed at building amplifiers for electrical signals. On the other hand, if understanding is a practical outcome, then you might just as easily argue that all humanities research is applied, in that it aims directly at producing a practical outcome, namely changing the way we understand that part of the human record it has in view. Probably the truth is that in the humanities, as in science, both are done: Frye’s work on literary archetypes, or Freud’s work on the human psyche, or Saussurre’s work on language, might best be considered basic research: this research is aimed at developing theoretical frameworks, rather than at applying those frameworks to particular objects of attention—even though particular objects are always in view as the theories are developed. In that sense, when we apply those theoretical frameworks to the understanding of particular texts, to illuminate the text rather than to alter or extend the theory, we’re doing applied research. And again, of course, in the humanities as in science, we never really do only one or the other.
The call for nominations for next year’s Lyman is now open, by the way.
Update: Streaming video of the lecture also available; it includes the Q&A.
Like most households I suspect, we’ve had a bottle of Johnson’s ® Baby Powder in our closet forever. Here’s what it says on the back label:
JOHNSON’s Baby Powder is made of millions of tiny slippery plates that glide over each other eliminating friction. Skin is left feeling cool and comfortable.
Those little white granules: actually millions of tiny slippery plates. I like that. That’s neat. Who knew?
Like something out of a Nicholson Baker novel.
Here’s what I want the elves to bring me this holiday season: one of these gorgeous, professional quality Atlas bookstands.
Hint, hint, you know who you are.
Artifact - a new journal from Routledge
Artifact is a new international, peer-reviewed academic journal treating the impact of computerization on design.
The computer has had a profound impact on the look, feel, and function of our everyday world. As a tool, the computer has become indispensable for the design professional, profoundly changing the design process. As a design material, the computer is extremely versatile, enabling intelligent objects and processes. As a medium, the computer transforms our understanding and stores our experiences. The combined impact of these forces is changing the relations between humans and our technology in unprecedented ways.
Artifact does not draw an artificial line of demarcation between the virtual and the physical. It strives to illuminate the problems and possibilities in their interaction. The journal does not frame digital design as a design discipline such as industrial design or graphic communication. The unique role of the computer as tool, material, and medium, makes digital design an integrated element of almost any design project today, with designers in all fields and disciplines using digital design in some way.
Artifact assumes an open position. The journal strives to promote transdisciplinary design research. It will not create or maintain disciplinary boundaries. Rather, Artifact will encourage cross-fertilization, interconnections, and crossbreeding among different scientific disciplines, the design industry, and the arts.
The journal appears in both a print version and a digital version. The journal is published using a ‘Web first’ concept. Each issue is first published on the web. The year’s issues are gathered together into a full paper volume published at the end of the year. In some cases, web technology will mean that the web version supports special interactive features and links that can only appear in the print volume as illustrations and references.
We welcome contributions which seek to understand and reflect the different aspects and impacts of virtuality within the field of design from theoretical or applied perspectives. Artifact brings contributions in the form of academic articles, book reviews, design case post mortems, and design company profiles.
To point to possible directions, we have selected themes for the first four issues of Artifact:
- Volume 1, issue 1: What is an artifact?
- Volume 1, issue 2: Soft artifacts. Tracing ‘soft movements’ in several creative domains, notably architecture and digital film.
- Volume 1, issue 3: The third place? The ontological status of objects and events in computer games.
- Volume 1, issue 4: Digital design processes. What impact has digital technology had on the design process?
The themes are not meant to be exhaustive. We hope they will trigger ideas and encourage submissions from a range of disciplines.
Deadline for the first issue of Artifact is 18 November. Articles will be published 1 March 2006. However, contributions addressing the theme of the first issue may be published on-line at a later date and appear in the print volume.
Please send submissions and queries by e-mail to Ida Engholm at
or to Charlie Breindahl at
Articles should be sent as attachments in Microsoft Word .doc format or as PDF files. Please send articles with a cover letter containing full author information. Articles should be prepared for double-blind review using anonymous format and full references in APA style. In addition, we welcome suggestions for design case post mortems, book reviews and designer profiles.
Charlie Breindahl External Lecturer University of Copenhagen + IT University of Copenhagen Denmark
Ida Engholm Associate Professor Center for Design Research Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture Copenhagen Denmark
Judith Gregory Faculty of Design Institute of Design Illinois Institute of Technology USA
Erik Stolterman Director, Human-Computer Interaction Design Professor of Informatics Indiana University School of Informatics USA
Thomas Binder Director Center for Design Research Royal Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture Copenhagen Denmark
Jeanette Blomberg Director of Experience Modelling Sapient Professor of Human Work Science University of Karlskrona/Ronneby Sweden
David Durling Professor of Design Director of the Advanced Research Institute Middlesex University UK
Lars Dybdahl Associate Professor The Department of Art History University of Copenhagen Denmark
Pelle Ehn Professor School of Arts and Communication Malm=F6 University Sweden
Ken Friedman Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design Norwegian School of Management and Denmark’s Design School Norway and Denmark
Susan M. Hagan Postdoctoral Fellow Carnegie Mellon University USA
Marius Hartmann, Ph.D. Designer Danish Broadcasting Corporation Denmark
Steve Jones Professor and Head Department of Communication University of Illinois at Chicago USA
Klaus Krippendorff Gregory Bateson Term Professor University of Pennsylvania USA
Lev Manovich Professor of Visual Arts University of California, San Diego + Director, Lab for Cultural Analysis California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology USA
Bonnie Nardi Associate Professor School of Information and Computer Science University of California, Irvine USA
Jannie Nielsen Professor Department of Informatics Copenhagen Business School Denmark
Christiane Paul New Media Curator Whitney Museum of American Art New York USA
Martin Pingel Technological Coordinator Denmark’s Design School Denmark
Sharon Poggenpohl Professor Institute of Design Illinois Institute of Technology USA
Johan Redstr=F6m Research Director, studio Design G=F6teborg Interactive Institute Gothenburg Sweden
Michael Schmidt Createch Director k10k and Cuban Council Denmark/USA
Lisbeth Thorlacius Associate Professor Department of Communication, Journalism, and Computer Science Roskilde University Denmark
Wendy Siuyi Wong Department of Design Faculty of Fine Arts York University Canada
Kristoffer =C5berg Senior Interaction Designer Sony Ericsson Sweden