Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Final Essay Response on Communication Tech and World of Warcraft, Dec 8, 2004

This is the fourteenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is my final post of material from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

This is my final paper assignment (I think given in lieu of a final exam) in LCC3314. The more exciting portion is question 2, which concerns Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. I break down how you navigate its space and I describe elements of its operation. It bears noting that at the time that I wrote this, WoW had been out for less than a month. I was rabidly playing it on my PowerMac G5 at 2560×1600 resolution on a 30″ Apple Cinema Display. While it might not have been the best essay, it certainly was one that I enjoyed writing to no end! I wish that I had found a way to make time for WoW since my days in Liverpool. I have played WoW on only rare occasions since returning to the States, but I continue to write about it from my memory of Azeroth.

Also included below is my response to question 1, which seems to be focused on the telegraph, telephone, and cellular phone. In this question, I explore the material experience of using these different communication media and technological devices. I suppose WoW is another kind of communication technology wrapped up in a highly interactive gaming environment (cf. Hack/Slash).

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC3314 – Technologies of Representation

December 8, 2004

Final Paper Assignment

1. On the telegraph, telephone, and cellular phone

The telegraph, telephone, and cell phone each have a particular interface that works with different human senses and thus provide different experiences for the body.  The differences between these communication technologies lie in the physicality of the artifact as well as the technology underlying the technology for encoding and decoding communication.

The telegraph is a wired point-to-point textual communication technology.  Telegraph operation involves trained operators who can encode and decode the Morse code messages transmitted over wires with telegraph machines.  The process of sending a telegram involves finding a business that offers telegraph service, going there in person, telling the telegraph operator the message to send, the telegraph operator encodes the message with the telegraph machine, it is received by the appropriate destination telegraph operator, that operator decodes the message, a delivery person is dispatched with the message, and the message is hand delivered to the recipient.  The experience of the telegram sender is standing at a counter and speaking with an operator.  The receiver interfaces with a delivery person who hands them a piece of paper containing the message.  The technology that makes the sending and receiving messages over great distances possible is removed from the experience of the sender and receiver.  The sender and receiver also have to rely on a network of operators and delivery persons.  These people are in a unique position to view the correspondence between the sender and receiver.  This fact is probably something that senders of telegrams were well aware of.

The telephone is a wired point-to-point oral communication technology.  Telephones encode auditory information into electrical signals which travel over copper wires in a phone network to the receiving telephone that decodes the electrical signals into auditory information (the spoken voice).  Telephones allow users to hear the person’s voice that they are speaking with.  One problem with telephones is that the technology uses a narrow band of audible sound that can cause “m” to sound like “n” or “b” to sound like “d.”  Initially, telephones were prohibitively expensive and were direct wired from location to location.  After telephone networks were made possible with human operator switching technology, voice phone calls could be routed from the call initiator to the call receiver.  Therefore, over time the phone network mediation shifted from human operators to electrical switching technology.  When you would make a call you would speak to an operator first, and then the person that you were calling.  Now, one can dial a number and the phone network’s automatic switching technology connects the caller with the receiver.  Someone who makes a phone call assumes privacy when the call is made from home or within an enclosed space such as a phone booth.  The physical interaction between the user and the telephone is that a headset is lifted off the base and held to the ear and mouth.  The user taps out a phone number on the base or dials a number with a rotary phone base.  The telephone user experiences an interaction with a disembodied voice.

The cell phone is an unwired point-to-point oral and textual communication technology.  Modern cell phones are a synthesis of the telegraph, telephone, digital photography, video technology, and radio technology.  Cell phones facilitate voice conversations between cell phone to cell phone or cell phone to wired telephone.  They also allow for text messaging, audio messaging, picture messaging, and video messaging.  Widespread cell phone use is shifting voice phone conversation into a more commonplace activity.  Additionally, the private sphere of telephone conversation is shifting to the public sphere of wherever the cell phone user answers or makes a phone call.  Cell phones also connect to the Internet and Internet-based text messaging networks such as AOL Instant Messenger.  The cell phone has become a place of contact for the individual in more ways than merely talking on the phone.  It builds connections between the individual and others as well as between the individual and information (e.g., online weather information, movie listings, online news websites, etc.).  With ear bud speaker/microphones that plug into cell phones or wireless Bluetooth headsets, one can interface with the auditory communication features of their cell phone without needing to hold the cell phone up to the ear and mouth as one would with a traditional telephone.  The cell phone users also interface with a disembodied voice, but the cell phone also has other means of interaction with people as well as information.

The telegraph is not an interactive means of communicating in the way that the telephone and the cell phone are.  With the telephone or the cell phone, one can have a real-time conversation with someone else whereas with the telegraph, there is a delay between sending a message, delivery, and if need be, a return message.  The amount of information capable through transmissions has increased over time.  The telegraph had a finite amount of information that could be conveyed because of the time and cost of sending messages with Morse code.  The telephone increased the amount of conveyed information because it was a disembodied voice that could carry nuances of speech and emotive information (e.g., happiness, sadness, anger, etc.).  The cell phone has brought these communication systems full circle with the creation of a synthesis of voice and text.  Along with oral communications, there is so much textual and graphic information that can be conveyed through a cell phone.  Barbara Stafford writes, “we have been moving, from the Enlightenment forward, towards a visual and, now, an electronically generated, culture” (“Presuming images and consuming words” 472).  The cell phone represents the bringing together of communication, both between people and between people and sources of information.  Walter J. Ong writes in Orality and Literacy, “By contrast with vision, the dissecting sense, sound is thus a unifying sense.  A typical visual ideal is clarity and distinctness, a taking apart…The auditory ideal, by contrast, is harmony, a putting together” (71).  The modern cell phone brings together the visual and the oral in a way that previous communication technologies had not.  This unification ties two of the powerful human senses (sight and sound) to the cell phone that distinguishes it from the telegraph and telephone.

An interesting development in these technologies is that the perception is that better communication technologies lead to better communication between individuals (i.e., a bringing together of individuals).  George Myerson writes in Heidegger, Habermas, and the Mobile Phone, “There’s no real gathering at all.  Instead, there are only isolated individuals, each locked in his or her own world, making contact sporadically and for purely functional purposes” (38).  Thus, the cell phone has disconnected the individual from the wall phone where one might be “waiting on an important call.”  Casualness and importance are intertwined in the use of the cell phone.

I used Paul Carmen’s paper on the telegraph, Amanda Richard’s paper on the telephone, and Kevin Oberther’s paper on the cell phone as starting points for this essay.

2. On World of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft video game was released on November 23, 2004 for both Windows and Mac OS X.  It is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) that immerses the player in a 3D fantasy world where the player is able to create a character based on several layers of identity (e.g., allegiance:  alliance or horde, races:  humans, dwarves, night elves, gnomes, orcs, tauren, trolls, or undead, and classes:  warrior, mages, druids, hunters, rogues, etc.).  After building one’s character (including designing a unique appearance), you choose a realm in which to play.  These realms correspond to computer servers that are in a particular time zone.  Other players around the world pick one of these realms to play in that best corresponds to when they will be playing, or when their friends will be playing.  The player is able to meet up with friends within a realm to go on adventures together, and if the player doesn’t know anyone, he or she can communicate with other players to form groups (large and small) to go on adventures with.  The objective of the game is to gain levels, complete quests, and to battle the forces opposite of your allegiance.  Working with others is the key to success in World of Warcraft.

When the player first enters the game, a movie clip is played that gives some introductory backstory information so that the player has a general idea about what is going on.  This movie is actually a fly-through of the area in which the player is going to begin playing.  This gives the player a chance to get his or her bearings before they are “on the ground.”

The screen space has pertinent information regarding the character as well as the character’s location within the game.  The upper right corner of the screen has a round map that has the cardinal directions with the character centered on this small map.  The character is represented as an arrow so that the player can see which direction they are pointing without having to move around to get one’s bearings.  This player-centered map is similar to the Blaeu Atlas because it is centered around the idea of the person needing to do the orientating is “inside the map.”  The Blaeu Atlas has lines emanating from points on open water toward landmarks.  These lines assist the person on the ocean to determine their approximate position from the landmarks that they see on particular lines of sight.  The system within the game takes this a step further by providing instant feedback of the direction the player is pointed in as well as the location of the player in relation to roads and landmarks.  Another feature that assists the player with recognizing one’s location is that as the character enters a new area or approaches a landmark, the name of that place will fade into the center of the screen for a few moments and then disappear.

Walking around is accomplished by using the keyboard with the mouse.  The W, A, S, and D keys (corresponding to forward, left, backward, and right) are used for walking around.  The mouse orients the “camera” around the player’s character on-screen.  Moving the camera around allows the player to better see up, down, or to the sides without having to walk in that direction (i.e., if the character’s neck were in a brace).

The ground, buildings, hills, mountains, and caves are textured so that they appear like one would think these things would like.  There are clouds and sky above, and the ponds and lakes have shimmering water.  There are small and large animals in the forests that the player can interact with.  Other players’ characters are walking around in the same area that you may be in.  There are also characters that are controlled by the game and the central game servers called non-player characters (NPCs).  These are characters that you can buy equipment from and some will invite you to undertake quests in return for rewards.  Because the world that the game is set in involves fantasy, magic, and mythical beings, the buildings and inhabitants can be fanciful.

The organization of the map, equipment, and battle function icons around the peripheral of the play area of the screen (the world and the character centered on the screen) works very well.  They do not take up that much area so that the player feels immersed in the game, but they are large enough to be meaningful and they all have unique icons (i.e., adheres to HCI principles).  The player interaction with other players and the NPCs is good, but it does require referring to the help system or the user manual.  When playing World of Warcraft on Mac OS X, they choose to do something differently than one would expect.  Within the Mac OS X Finder, you hold down the Control key while clicking with the mouse to emulate a right mouse button (because most Macs do not have a mouse with two buttons).  Inside the game however, you have to hold down the Command key (also known as the Apple key) while clicking with the mouse in order to perform a right click (which is used for picking up loot and for communicating with players and NPCs.  If the Blizzard developers had kept this consistent with what the player was expecting from using the operating system, interaction in the game space would have been more transparent.

The world in which the player navigates through is immersive.  The player’s character is modeled in three dimensions and the world that the character walks through is also modeled in three dimensions.  Physical principles such as gravity and optics are built into the game’s underlying technology.  Features in the distance are faded from view while those things up close have a tremendous amount of detail.  Because believability and level of detail can reach a point of diminishing returns, the look of the game is not photorealistic.  The Blizzard developers strike a balance between the look and feel of the world within the game and the amount of realism necessary for an immersive 3D environment.  Some physical laws are suspended however because of the mythic and fantasy elements of the world.  These elements have to be accepted on faith by the player in order for the game to have any meaning for the player.

The narrative is carried by the exploration and fulfillment of quests by the player/character.  Because the environment is so expansive (like the real world), the narrative created by the exploration of the player is successful.  The terrain that the character walks through is based on models that do not change.  There are certain assumptions about perspective that are upheld within the game.  If a cliff appears to rise about three hundred yards ahead, that distance will not shift.  This is a technical consideration regarding the way that the “camera” focuses and presents perspective of the 3D world.  The game models a space of fantasy but it must present it in a familiar way to the experiences of its intended audience.

There is a learning curve inherent in playing a game like World of Warcraft.  As Barbara Stafford writes in “Presuming images and consuming words,” “It is not accidental that this overwhelming volume of information—likened to drinking from the proverbial firehose—coincides with a mountain concern for bolstering and maintaining language ‘literacy’” (462).  Stafford is writing about the literacy of visual images.  There are subtle cues embedded in the game that the player has to recognize in order to play the game successfully (e.g., exclamation points over NPCs that have quests to offer and question marks over NPCs who are connected to quests in progress).  Iconic information provides the best way for quick access to game controls and functions.  The player has to develop a level of literacy of these icons in order to be a proficient game player.

Additionally, the 3D environments presented in the game are similar to the descriptions of Renaissance gardens in Kenneth J. Knoespel’s “Gazing on Technology.”  The 3D environment of the game is promoting the underlying technology that makes 3D computer graphics possible in the same way that Renaissance technology was employed in building those gardens.  Knoespel writes, “Gardens, whether set out in Renaissance poetry or on the estates of the nobility, offer a controlled means for assimilating the new technology.  In each case, the audience views the machinery at a privileged distance as it would an entertainer…In fact, the garden conceals technology in its mythological narrative” (117-118).  The player does not have to understand how his or her 3D graphics accelerator works in order to enjoy the immersive experience of playing World of Warcraft.  This game is the “controlled means for assimilating the new technology” of 3D computer graphics.

Honda Asimo Robot Presentation That I Recorded on Sept 25, 2004 at Georgia Tech

I am posting this as an example of multimodal Recovered Writing.

When I was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, I went to two presentations made by Honda and its semi-autonomous robot Asimo in 2004.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am interested in robots. I own a Robie Sr. and I enjoy building simple robots with Lego. At the time when I made this video, I was gobsmacked by Asimo’s capabilities. I thought to myself that it seemed far more social and practical than R2-D2.

The video below is from the second presentation that I attended. I sat in the front row with my friend’s Sony camcorder to capture the action taking place on stage in the Ferst Center for the Arts where the presentations took place. Later, I edited the video and burned a DVD of it with my PowerMac G5. Today, I ripped the DVD with HandBrake and uploaded it to YouTube as an MP4 video file. Now, the video exists online:

Followup to Adventures with a CustoMac: Installing Mac OS X Mavericks on Asus P8Z77-V PC

Mavericks installed on CustoMac. NB: MBPr on desk and PowerMacintosh 8500/120 on right.
Mavericks installed on CustoMac. NB: MBPr on desk and PowerMacintosh 8500/120 on right.

Last summer, I wrote about my experiences installing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on my Asus P8Z77-V and Intel i7-2700K PC here. What I neglected to say at the time was that an alarming number of creeping instabilities led me to ultimately abandon running Mountain Lion on my PC and return to Windows 7.

I later learned that some of these instabilities were likely linked to a bad PSU and video card–both of which were replaced by the manufacturers under warranty (awesome kudos to Antec and EVGA). With the new PSU and video card, my PC returned to 100% stability under Windows 7. This made me wonder if I could try rolling out a Mavericks installation on my PC.

Also, I wanted to use Mac OS X’s superior file content search technology and other third-party textual analysis tools in my research. I have a MacBook Pro 15″ retina (MBPr), but it lacks the hard drive capacity for my accumulated research files. The comfort that I feel in the MacOS environment and the need for lots of fast storage led me to turn my attention back to turning my PC into a CustoMac (aka “hackintosh”).

This time, I wanted to streamline and simply my setup as much as possible and incorporate components that should work out of the box (OOB). Toward this end, I reduced my hardware configuration from this:

  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard (disabled on-board Intel HD 3000 video and Asus Wi-Fi Go! add-on card)
  • Intel Core i7 2700K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
  • Corsair XMS3 Series 16GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC3-10666) CL 9 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit (Four 4GB Memory Modules)
  • evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card
  • Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
  • Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
  • Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
  • Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
  • Western Digital Caviar Green WD10EARX 1TB IntelliPower 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″ Internal Hard Drive – Bare Drive
Using on-board video and no ASUS wifi card.
Using on-board video and no ASUS wifi card.

to this:

  • ASUS P8Z77-V LGA 1155 Z77 ATX Intel Motherboard (using on-board Intel HD 3000 video and removing Asus Wi-Fi Go! add-on card)
  • Intel Core i7 2700K LGA 1155 Boxed Processor
  • Corsair XMS3 Series 16GB DDR3-1333MHz (PC3-10666) CL 9 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit (Four 4GB Memory Modules)
  • evga 01G-P3-1561-KR GeForce GTX 560 Ti 1024MB GDDR5 PCIe 2.0 x16 Video Card (removed to simply setup and save power–who has time for gaming?)
  • Antec High Current Gamer 750W Gamer Power Supply HCG-750
  • Corsair Vengeance C70 Gaming Mid Tower Case Military Green
  • Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus Universal CPU Cooler
  • Samsung 22X DVD±RW Burner with Dual Layer Support – OEM
  • Intel 128 GB SATA SSD
  • Three Western Digital HDDs for file storage and work space. 
IoGear GBU521 and TP-Link TL-WDN4800 from Microcenter.
IoGear GBU521 and TP-Link TL-WDN4800 from Microcenter.

Also, I added two new components that were recommended from the TonyMacx86 Forums:

  • TP-Link 450Mbpx Wireless N Dual Band PCI Express Adapter (TL-WDN4800). It works in Mavericks OOB.
  • IoGear Bluetooth 4.0 USB Micro Adapter (GBU521). It works in Mavericks OOB.
ASUS’s Wi-Fi Go! card works great in Windows 7, but it caused problems with my Mavericks installation.

As noted above, I physically removed my 560 Ti video card, because I wanted to simply my setup for installation purposes. Also, I removed the ASUS Wi-Fi Go! add-on card, because despite disabling it in BIOS, the Mavericks installer seemed to hang on a wi-fi device while attempting to set its locale (a setting that determines what radio settings to use based on the country that you happen to be in). After I removed the Wi-Fi Go! card, I had a nearly flawless Mavericks installation process (NB: removing the Wi-Fi Go! card required removing the motherboard, turning it over, removing a screw holding in the Wi-Fi Go! card, turning the motherboard over, and unplugging the Wi-Fi Go! card).

These are the steps that I used to install Mavericks on my PC:

  1. Follow TonyMac’s Mavericks installation guide for making an installation USB drive and installing Mavericks.
  2. Following installation of Mavericks, boot from your USB drive, select your new Mavericks installation drive, arrive at the desktop, and run Multibeast.
  3. Select these settings in Multibeast:
    1. Quick Start > DSDT Free (I left all pre-selected options as-is. Below are additional selections that I made.)
    2. Drivers > Audio > Realtek > Without DSDT > ALC892
    3. Drivers > Disk > 3rd Party SATA
    4. Drivers > Graphics > Intel Graphics Patch for Mixed Configurations
    5. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC
    6. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC Plugins
    7. Drivers > Misc > Fake SMC HWMonitor App
    8. Drivers > Misc > NullCPUPowerManagement (I don’t want my machine to go to sleep)
    9. Drivers > Misc > USB 3.0 – Universal
    10. Drivers > Network > Intel – hank’s AppleIntelE1000e
    11. Customize > 1080p Display Mode
    12. Build > Install
  4. Repair Permissions on Mavericks drive from /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility
  5. Reboot
  6. Run Chameleon Wizard (this will fix a problem that you might have with connecting to the App Store)
  7. Click SMBios > Edit > Premade SMBioses > choose MacPro 3,1 > Save
  8. Reboot
  9. CustoMac should now be fully operational!

In order to arrive at the above instructions, I read a lot of first hand experiences and third party suggestions on TonyMac’s forums. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the amazing community of CustoMac builders who take the time to share their thoughts and lessons and equally so to the tool-builders who create amazing software including UniBeast, Multibeast, and Chameleon Wizard!

I would suggest that you remember that there is not always one path to a successful build. I distilled a lot of posts into my successful build. Your experience with similar hardware might take a different path. Reading others experiences and trying their suggestions experimentally can lead to your own successful discoveries. Thus, I took the time to try out different configurations of hardware until settling on the stripped down approach with on-board video and OOB networking gear. I tried several different installations: a failed Mavericks installation with kernel panics (Wi-Fi Go! card installed and wrong Multibeast configuration), a successful Mountain Lion installation (barebones and correct Multibeast configuration), and a successful Mavericks installation (detailed above).

Obviously, MacOS X can run on a wide range of PC hardware given the correct drivers, configuration information, etc. Apple could do great things if only Tim Cook and others would think differently and move beyond the tightly integrated hardware-software experience. Apple’s engineers could do great things with building better operating systems that adapt to a person’s hardware. Given the chance, they could challenge Microsoft and Google with a new MacOS X that is insanely great for everyone–not just those who can afford to buy new hardware.

Now, back to using some of the tools that I use in my research on a computing platform that I enjoy:

Precipitous Drop in Readers in 2013, Recommitting to the Site in 2014 Site Stats by Year. Site Stats by Year.

As you can see in the chart image to the left, had a significant drop in readers this past year. From 2007 to 2012, my blog was steadily gaining visitors. It rose from 3,772 in 2007 to 91,530 in 2012 with each in between steadily adding visitors. However, the number of visitors in 2013 were just over half as many as I had in 2012: 55,933. This is a significant drop in visitors to the site and I assume far less outreach than I had achieved in the previous two years. average visitors per day. average visitors per day.

Of course, as you can see in the chart to the right, this means that the visitors per day declined from a high of 250 in 2012 to 153 in 2013. Far fewer visitors were stopping by per day.

While I blogged more about my teaching and pedagogical matters this past year (in a total of 63 blog posts), I was less frequently updating the site with some of my other interests: neurohumanities, computing, gaming, and our rights online (e.g., free speech and privacy). In fact, as you can see in the list below, only the second most visited page on my site last year was originally published in 2013–a post about installing Ubuntu on a MacBook Pro. All of the other top ten read pages were published before 2013 (or permanent as in the case of the Archives page). Unfortunately, none of my pedagogically-oriented pages (including my posts about teaching Science Fiction LMC3214 or LMC3403, Technical Communication: Lego, Haptics, and Instructions made the top ten):

  1. Home page / Archives
  2. Steps for Installing Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail in Dualboot Configuration
  3. Safari Web Content Hogging RAM and CPU Time, Thread on Apple Support Communities
  4. 1080p Trouble with Windows 7, Nvidia, and Samsung LCD HDTV
  5. The United States and Canada Declare War on Japanese Manga and Lolicon
  6. On Forced Deep Throat in Aliens Vs. Predator Requiem
  7. Enable TRIM in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard for Speed and Longer SSD Life
  8. Lego Launch Command Sets For Sale
  9. Xbox 360 Controller Driver for Mac OS X, Works Like a Dream
  10. Lego Star Wars Luke’s Landspeeder 8092

I hope to expand my readership in the coming year with my recently announced Recovered Writing initiative. I have a lot of writing squirreled away that I believe should be made publicly available on my blog. Perhaps others will find some value in these works that helped me develop as a writer, scholar, and teacher.

Despite the requirements of time needed for teaching and research, I also intend to record my thoughts and provide commentary on more than I did in 2013. I believe blogging is one important way for scholars and professors to be public intellectuals. The blog is a medium for multimodal composition, audience engagement, and rigorous elaboration. While Twitter and other social media have their useful affordances, blogging gives us the technology and space to explore, engage, and discuss matters more fully than we might otherwise be able to do in other forms of social media. We should use a variety of writing and interaction technologies in our work as scholars and public intellectuals. I commit to redoubling my efforts on in the new year–more scholarship, more pedagogy, and more engagement!

DevLab’s End of Semester Best Computing Practices Workshop, Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 4-5PM

S is for Security!
S is for Security!

Our computers and other computing devices store some of our most important belongings: photos, videos, music, syllabi, research, and manuscripts. We owe it to ourselves to maintain and protect these things through best practices in computer maintenance, security, backups, and training. During the upcoming winter break, I would like to encourage everyone to spend some time putting your cyber-house in order before the spring semester begins.

To help you with this and to promote best practices, I will hold a workshop in DevLab on Wednesday, Dec. 4 from 4:00-5:00PM before D-Ped. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring their Mac or PC to the meeting. Tablets are also welcome.

Before or after the workshop, you can download the first version of my best practices guide from here: ellis-jason-best-computing-practices-v1.pdf

If you have a question for the workshop that I cannot answer off the top of my head, we can use the workshop as an opportunity to learn something new together.

See you in DevLab!

My Poster for SAMLA 2013: The Brittain Fellowship’s DevLab: Space, Resources, Expertise, and Collaboration

My DevLab Poster.
My DevLab Poster.

This year, Georgia Tech’s Writing and Communication Program and its Brittain Fellows had a strong presence at the annual South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

I presented a poster on the program’s R&D unit, DevLab. To compose the poster, I took a panoramic photo of DevLab’s main space (we also have an external recording booth). My students and fellow Brittain Fellows are pictured doing work and collaborating at various events over the past few months.

Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.
Standing next to my poster in the Buckhead Marriott.

We also had posters on the Communication Center, our pedagogical research, and our scholarly research. Here’s a list of all posters from the official program:

10. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship,

Poster Series I

The Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology

a. Jason Ellis, DevLab: Research and Development Lab Facility

b. CommLab: Tutoring Center for Multimodal Communication

11. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series II

WOVEN: Multimodal Communication in the Classroom

a. Joy Bracewell

b. Jennifer Lux

c. Julia Munro

12. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series III

Intersections between Scholarship and Pedagogy

a. Aaron Kashtan

b. Jennifer Orth-Veillon

c. Aron Pease

13. Georgia Institute of Technology Brittain Fellowship, Poster Series IV

Changing Higher Education

a. Mirja Lobnik, World Englishes Committee

b. Multiple Presenters, Curriculum Innovation Committee

c. Arts Initiatives Committee

Besides participating in the poster session, I also took notes from N. Katherine Hayles’ plenary lecture on Friday afternoon. I will post my notes from that talk here soon.

Next year, I will propose a paper for SAMLA and hopefully present an updated version of the DevLab poster. See you there!

Notes from LMC Conversation Panel on “Books, Libraries, and the Digital Future” with Jay David Bolter, Lauren F. Klein, and Me

These are my speaking notes and discussion notes from today’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication Conversation following Robert Darnton’s talk yesterday on “Books, Libraries, and the Digital Future.” The panelists included Jay David Bolter, Lauren F. Klein (remotely), and me.

We met with an audience of about 25 members of the Georgia Tech community in the Stephen C. Hall Building, Room 102 from 11:00am-12:00pm.

  1. My research in the area
    1. My interest in eBooks comes from two tangents.
      1. First, it comes from my research interests in video game narratives in older software for the Commodore 64, Amiga, IBM-PC, Apple II, and Apple Macintosh platforms. Part of this research focuses on the way characters read within the game—particularly, computer based reading on terminals, tablets, virtual displays, etc. and how these ideas filter into reality/production and vice versa.
      2. Second, it comes from my dissertation research on something that William Gibson wrote about obsolescence and how our technologies—typewriters, Apple IIc, etc.—are fated to become junk littering the Finn’s office—in an “Afterword” to his Sprawl trilogy of novels: Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive [To read it, scroll to the bottom of this page]. The trouble with sourcing this text was the fact that it was not published in a physical book. Instead, I discovered from a Tweet that a mutual friend made with the writer that it come from an early eBook designed for the Apple Macintosh Portable by Voyager Company (what’s left of this company today creates the Criterion Collection of films).
        1. Gibson, William. “Afterword.” Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive: Expanded Books. Voyager Company. 1992. TXT File. Web. 25 March 2012.
        2. Gibson has done other things with ebook and experimental writing such as his exorbitantly priced Agrippa: A Book of the Dead, a floppy disk based e-poem that erases itself after “performing” one time.
      3. Since working with Gibson’s ebook, I’ve begun studying other ebooks—rediscovering ones that I read a long time ago and rethinking what constitutes an ebook—thinking about encyclopedia precursors to Wikipedia and other software such as the Star Trek: TNG Interactive Technical Manual, which does on the computer things that Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda could not do in their print Technical Manual.
      4. We can talk more about this later, but I support Aaron Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.” In my research, I have deployed my own tactics for reading and manipulating text that enable scholarship that I otherwise would be unable to do. Read more about fair use and transformation.
  2. My response to Darnton’s talk
    1. Aaron Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto
    2. Peter Purgathofer’s Lego Mindstorms-MacBook Pro-Kindle-Cloud-based OCR assemblage for ripping text from Kindle ebooks
    3. DPLA  scans of Dickinson’s manuscripts (open) and copyrighted scholarly editions (closed).
    4. Issues of the Archive, Access, and Control.
  3. My suggestions for future research directions
    1. The relationship between haptic experience of pulp books and ebooks (e-reader, tablet, computer, Google Glass, etc.). How do we read, think about, and remember books differently based on the modalities of experiencing the book? We know that the brain constructs memories as simulations, so what are we gaining and losing through alterations to the methods of interacting with writing?
    2. A history of eBook readers—fascinating evolutionary lineage of ebook reading devices including Sony’s DD8 Data Discman (
    3. How are our students reading? More students this year than last asked me if they could purchase their books for ENGL1101 and Tech Comm as ebooks. How many students are turning to ebooks due to their cost or ease of access (pirating)? I don’t mind students purchasing ebooks over traditional books, but I have them think about the affordances of each.
    4. As researchers, how should we assert our fair use of texts despite the intentions of copyright holders? We no longer own books, but instead, we license content. [Purgathofer mentions this, but Cory Doctorow and others have commented on this at length: one source. Another more recent source.]
    5. How do we use ebooks and traditional books differently/similarly? For example, Topiary (aka Jake Davis), one of the former members of LulzSec, said earlier today on that he prefers ebooks for learning and studying, but he prefers traditional books for enjoyment.
  4. Other responses, comments, and questions
    1. Jay Bolter: What about the future of books, the status of the book, and the status of libraries? What will happen to literature and the literary community? What is the cultural significances of print/digital to different communities (e.g., general community of readers vs. community represented by the New York Review of Books)?
    2. Lauren Klein: What are the roles of the archive and how do readers access information in the archive? We should think about how people use these digital archives (e.g., DPLA). In her work, she deploys computational linguistics: techniques to study sophisticated connections between documents. How is the information being used? Deploying visualization techniques to enable new ways of seeing, reading, and studying documents.
    3. Grantley Bailey: What about people who grow up only reading on screens/ebooks? What will their opinions be regarding this debate?
    4. Aaron Kashtan: Commented about graphic novels and comics in the digital age and about how these media remain entrenched in traditional, print publishing. Also, Aaron is interested in materiality and the reader’s experience.
    5. John Harkey: Commented on poetry’s dynamism and its not being wedded to books/chap books. Poetry is evolving and thriving through a variety of media including the Web, as electronic art, and experimental literature. We should think about literature as vehicles of genres and artifactual heterogeneity (essay, collage, posters, augmented reality, etc.).
    6. Lisa Yaszek: Pan-African science fiction is likely a model for the future. In the present, no single nation can support a thriving publishing industry for SF, but together, African SF is taking off with the diffusion of  new technologies of distribution and reading (ubiquity of cellular phones, wifi, cellular data, etc.).