World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet Project Narrative

Link- World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet by Betsy Connor, Austin Rogers, & Tannis Weaver

Project Narrative

Our Scalar project’s narrative sought to explore three main topics based around the short film World of Tomorrow: first, the archive; second, the humanity in the digital world; third, the role that education plays in the digital era. We hope that our audience will gain an understanding of the complexities that exist within the discussion of the archive and how we save information. We also aimed to explain the distance that can exist between humanity and technology. Finally, we wanted to stress the importance of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens.

Deciding on a topic was the biggest struggle we had in our process. We started out thinking of topics, and we thought we wanted to focus on something in the education realm. But the more we started to hash out what the original project idea was, the more we realized it wasn’t really right for the website. More than that, though, it wasn’t something that we found to be incredibly exciting. We wanted to go outside of education and talk about something that exists outside of the classroom. We all shared a love for this short film that seemed more relevant and important than ever after we learned about the archive and all of the other complicated areas of the digital age.

There were a few different areas of our studies that led us to decide on this topic. We all really enjoyed the idea of the archive. Particularly the idea of the power/knowledge dimension, and the question of what should be archived. Tannis and Betsy are currently in an educational technology class, and that has raised some questions about what it is we should be teaching teachers to teach in classrooms today. There was a unit on digital citizenship, but we aren’t sure if it effectively taught what really needs to be taught in terms of digital responsibility. We were also intrigued by the question of what it means to study “digital humanities.”

The focus to the overall vision of the project for Austin was to look at the archival work in the Digital Humanities realm as well within the film World of Tomorrow. Archival work is already a hot button issue within the world of digital humanities. Who decides where the information goes? What constitutes an archive? One could definitely argue that social media is a form of archive. The film puts what an archive is into question. The other question is about how information is stored, moved, and accessed? Sometimes it is an open access like the idea of the Outernet, but there are still paywalls present in the film as well as in reality. We also question who gets access, or who chooses who can have the information. Are personal archives are still considered an archives? Austin’s other focus was on the Director Don Hertzfeldt. He clearly is exploring problems within our world. His style may be simplistic to any other audience, but throughout most of his films there is a message about the uncertainties in our world. What is our world coming to if we enter a digital space? Do we lose the humanity?

Which leads to the next section, which questions the humanity in digital spaces. Tannis’ section focuses on the theme of humanity in the digital spaces in World of Tomorrow. The section explores the loss of humanity in the technology of the future world that Hertzfeldt created. The main argument is that the film serves as a warning for how our society could become if we do not make preserving humanity a priority. Tannis sought to raise some questions about how humanity might look in the future. By examining Emily III evolution of humanity, we can look at the way our evolution in the digital spaces can lead to a loss of humanity.

In the final section, Betsy decided that the overall argument of our project should incorporate education in some way since we are education majors. If we were going to criticize something, we should be able to propose a solution to make it better. The solution given is educating citizens in a way that accounts for the ethical, social, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of the human experience. Through teaching students to be responsible digital citizens, we will teach them how to be better people.

Methods, Techniques, and Process

Our group mostly used Google Drive to organize the project, and Betsy helped set up different sections for all the group members. The sections were used so that we could keep track of what pages have been used but also so we could find all the media in one place. If a certain link didn’t work for one group member, then we would put it in a “relevant links” section and, hopefully, another group member would be able to use it. By using the Google Drive platform, we could not only keep track of our own work, but we could also keep track of the work of group members. This is helpful so that the project would stay consistent. We also watched the film World of Tomorrow about a million times. That may be an exaggeration but between the three of us, we collectively watched the film about a hundred times. While watching the film, we would look for quotes for all our title pages, screenshots for all the annotations, and for “textual” evidence to support our narrative.

We mostly communicated and collaborated about the project in class, over messengers, and using Google Drive. Meeting in person helped a lot and most of the project formed itself because we could collaboratively talk aloud about the project. Meeting together definitely helped the group function stronger and created a better group dynamic. Within our group, we broke the project into three parts, and each group member became an expert in that section. This was not the original intent of the project, but it’s what worked the best for what each person wanted to contribute.

Though the group feels pretty confidently in their Scalar Project, there is always room for improvement. Something we wanted to analyze more closely was using the Voyant tool on the script. Voyant is an online tool that analyzes a piece of text and finds the trends within. By using this tool, we wanted to see what words were repeated frequently and make meaning of the text of actual film; however, we were not able to get a copy of the script. We also wish we could have had more film clips or even audio from the film in order to add more of a multimedia approach. The screenshots still work greate and serve their purpose, and we definitely did not want to step on the toes of copyright.

Some of the questions that helped us move forward in our project are: what are the implications of digitizing everything? How do we keep humanity in the study of digital places? Data extraction: does digitizing our experience remove the humanity of those experiences? Why do we want to digitize our experiences, research, etc.? We really wanted to focus on humanity, and what it means to be human in an increasingly digital space. This could be through archives, finding humanity, or teaching humanity about the digital and our role within these digital space.

Research & Project Reasoning

Researching for the Scalar project was different than we are used to. While all of us have worked with Omeka projects in the past, Scalar lends itself to slightly more interactive media items. Instead of researching databases and library books to help with the project, we had to change where we looked for sources. We focused more on finding media that could be more interactive. Scalar made it so that we could engage more directly with the readers and make the narrative/argument they read more interactive. In a way, we were able to control the way they experienced our argument, but they also have the freedom to move around and not read our project in a linear fashion. This aspect of the project is pretty cool because essays usually go in one particular order.

At the beginning of the project, we had a really difficult time deciding on what we wanted our project to be about. We started thinking that it would go in a more education direction, but we decided that we wanted to do something that would be completely different. Once we decided to write about World of Tomorrow, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. We had a hard time figuring out what a “page” would like and how we would structure or argument. Once we were able to watch the movie again, we were able to break down the topic of the project into a more manageable way.

If we could change the way that we approached the project, we wish that we would have realized sooner that each page would serve as a mini-essay that would build on the argument as a whole. If we had been able to start thinking of the pages in that way sooner, we would have been able to get started on the big argument a lot sooner. We also would start exploring options about the project sooner to be able to have more options available as back up plans.

This Scalar project really taught us some valuable skills as far as approaching this type of projects. But beyond that, we learned that are capable of teaching ourselves how to work within a new format. We can now think of arguments in less linear ways and have a platform that we can use if we need it. We also would love to include Scalar in our secondary classrooms. Scalar provides a format that helps think of arguments in such a different way. If our classrooms have the technology, it could be really cool to expose them to a different way to make an argument.

Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy

Kairos is a journal that has a wide readership. It has been around since 1996 with all of the issues still available. There are about 45,000 people worldwide that read Kairos. The journal focuses on rhetoric and writing in digital spaces. They cover a variety of topics that center around teaching writing and rhetoric through Digital Humanities. The editors emphasize the importance of technical DH pieces in their articles.

The site itself is easy enough to navigate. The main content on the site is the current issue. The homepage is the table of content page for the articles that are in the issue. The rest of the links that you would need are easily found at the top of the page. The site seems pretty usable without any broken links. The webpages load quickly and work really well. The navigability of the site could be improved if the links opened in a new tab, but it is not too distracting.

The aesthetic of the site is simple. The colors are calming, and the simple design adds to easy navigability. The design does not seem to fit with the type of articles that the editors are trying to recruit; however, the ease of use does help offset that. The readership of Kairos has been around for 20 years, and the simple design makes it more accessible for all users.

The submission process for Kairos is slightly more complicated. Kairos publishes a variety of article types, and each article type has its own list of requirements. They each have a different submission email address. The process is slightly more complicated; however, they do explain the differences between the types of articles well enough that it is not confusing. The different types of submissions allow people to be able to submit multiple articles per issue. Most of the articles are co-authored, so they welcome and celebrate collaboration.

Overall, Kairos offers a very interesting perspective of the DH world. They are an organization that has been around for 20 years and promotes development of the discipline. They have evolved as an organization to welcome and join the DH community. They still have their old issues on the site. The older issues still work without dead links. Kairos is a journal that is well-maintained and updated. The content is interesting with a focus on how to teach the discipline of DH. It is definitely worth checking out!

Oh, the Complexities

“What does freedom of speech mean?” At first glance, this question seems like it would have one straightforward answer, but I think we all know how complicated and complex this issue is. The 1st amendment protects people’s right to say what they want without legal repercussions. This can be beneficial for many reasons, but most importantly, it allows people the right to criticize our government without prosecution. I do think, however, that a lot of people use it as a reason to say harmful things. But then that raises the question of who decides what is harmful? I’m not sure there’s really an answer to any of these questions.

I think there’s a difference between expressing your freedom of speech and being a good person. There is also a difference between being prosecuted for what you say and having consequences for what you say. You may be able to say what you want, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else doesn’t have the same right to be upset about it. You can say something that you can’t have legal actions taken against you while at the same time a private company might reprimand you. There are so many layers to freedom of speech and the limitations placed upon it.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. The things you say and post can have lasting repercussions. A tweet can end your career. A drunk selfie on Facebook can prevent a company from hiring you. There are consequences for actions in some aspect or another. Just because you have the ability and the right to say something, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be social consequences to those words. It’s complex and hard to consider all of the factors that affect freedom of speech, and it really is hard to put it in to words.

Passion and Enthusiasm

The very nature of Digital Humanities means that it is easier for members of the DH community to connect with each other. DH takes place on the internet, and with email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. it is possible for people all around the world to talk about DH with each other. So, why have a one-day celebration to build that community?

Day of DH not only facilitates the building of that community, but it encourages it. Day of DH, from what I experienced, provides a reason for people to connect with others in the community just because they are passionate about DH. There isn’t the need to find someone to collaborate with a specific purpose. The members of the DH community can network and connect with people on a day that is celebratory. Everyone that participates in Day of DH feels passionately about DH, and that is clear.

I thought it was interesting that the blogs were all “Day in DH” themed. It was a bunch of blog posts of people sharing what their day in the field of DH looked like. This was a fascinating insight into what it looks like for people who work in DH. This class has given me a lot of insight to the theory and to some aspects of the community, but it was really interesting to see what a typical day looks like for some of these DHers. There were posts from people in a Spanish speaking country, people from all around the country, etc. This really shows how beneficial Day of DH can be for the community. Everyone can gain access to what it’s like for other DHers. They have the ability to see what projects other people are working on, see what work is like for them, and see how different people approach DH. Letting other DHers into their lives strengthens the community.

When a field of study is focused in the digital space, it’s important to remember that there is a community involved. The DH community actively tries to remain connected and be collaborative. Day of DH allows DHers to see what other DHers are working and to connect with people they might not already know. The connections made on Day of DH help keep alive the community and the collaborative nature of DH. Day of DH celebrates the aspects of DH that people love: the innovations, the connectivity, and most importantly the people. DHers, for the most part, seem to be very enthusiastic and passionate about their discipline. It is hard not to get excited about DH and the community around it when you see that amount of passion. Day of DH is the perfect outlet for DHers to display that passion, and it really is a powerful, supportive community. Day of DH may open up the doors for new DHers to become even more involved in the community, and that is a beautiful thing.

We Won’t Be Here Forever, and That’s Probably Okay

Cultures before us didn’t have the luxury to know, like we do, that they would someday become extinct. That one day their entire way of life, language, beliefs, etc. would be like a mystery. The people in the past didn’t know that some day the world as they knew it would end, but we do know that. Like Bethany Nowviskie states in “Digital Humanities in the Anthropocene,” we know that our time on this planet is limited, that we won’t be here forever. We know that some day there will be future anthropologists studying our culture, our languages.

When first discussing extinction, Nowviskie states “the problem is that of extinction—of multiple extinctions; heart-breaking extinctions; boring, quotidian, barely-noticed extinctions—both the absences that echo through centuries, and the disposable erosions of our lossy everyday.” In this statement, Nowviskie sheds light on the fact that we have experienced different kinds of extinctions in our lifetime. We have witnessed certain animals becoming extinct in our lifetimes; we have discovered organisms that disappeared millions of years ago. There have been extinctions that have greatly affected the world we live in, and extinctions of data that barely cause a ripple. Countless information gone that we can never discover or retrieve.

Do we want to limit that loss of information for future inhabitants of Earth? Should we focus on archiving the knowledge that we have as a culture? If human kind as we know it becomes extinct, what will happen to the internet and the countless archives we’ve created? These are pretty big question to grapple with, and obviously, some that we may never have the answer to. So, I’ll focus on what I think it means for our current studies in DH. I think that we have to discover a balance between archiving our information while still innovating and furthering our knowledge. It can be easy to sigh in resignation and say “well, it won’t mean anything eventually.” However, we study humanities to understand cultures throughout time. We want to learn about the various civilizations; we want to understand them. As we live and study in this very digital, very “permanent” age, it is important to remember that.

We can’t be resigned to the fact that we won’t always be here. Even the technologies we use continually evolve and become obsolete. In the podcast episode “Tree Free,” there is a woman whose job it is to turn information on obsolete technologies into something we will be able to access for years to come. Her job is seemingly endless as new technologies replace old continually. We value the knowledge we learn from people who lived long ago, and I hope that someday others will value the work that we do. Austin, Betsy, and I should explore the loss of humanity in the imagined future of World of Tomorrow in our Scalar project because some day someone might see it and think, “Hey. Maybe this whole cloning and transferring consciousness is not such a great idea.” Who knows, really? And I think that’s the point.

Keep Calm and…Remediate?

By UK Government – Digital scan of original KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster owned by Steved1973 (talk) 10:40, 22 October 2011 (UTC), Public Domain,

The example of remediation that is presented with the “Keep Calm and…” posters can only be discussed once the aura of the original is explored. The question I’ve thought about the most was if the original ever had an aura since it was not widely used. The way that I conceptualize the aura is by thinking of the historical context that surrounds the work. A work of art and the time and place in which it was created cannot be separated from each other. So, the question is: does the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster have an aura?

At first, my answer was no. The original poster was not allowed to have its place in the time and place it was created.  It was hidden away; therefore, it doesn’t have an aura to be destroyed. But, while I was driving home from work tonight, I had a thought. What about all the other works of art that weren’t popular when they were first created? We don’t just dismiss their worth because they went unnoticed, and even more importantly, they retain their aura. Why would the Keep Calm and Carry On poster be any different?

Ultimately, I do believe that the original had an aura, and that the reproductions have damaged the aura. In the past, I have found myself wondering where the Keep Calm and…saying got it’s start. It’s is everywhere in many different forms, but signs of the original meaning behind it are nowhere to be found. When people use the Keep Calm and…form, they rarely do so with consideration of its original purpose. I think that through all of the reproductions the aura has been lost. The different variations of the poster are used to serve the purpose of the fandom or organization using it.

keep calm and love sleep
Picture from: this website

For example, this “Keep Calm and Love Sleep” version of the poster. (First of all, you don’t have to tell me twice to love sleep.) Loving sleep has little to do with keeping up morale during World War II. The original is a pretty simple design: a read background with white letters. This remediation does not even keep the crown design at the top of the poster. A lot of other designs do keep that design feature, but this one does not. The background and the font colors are different. This remediation only has the “Keep Calm and” in common with the original work of art.

I find it really interesting to look at all of the different versions of this poster that was created to help people deal with hard times. The poster was created in a time of war to inspire hope and calm for people who did not have a lot of that. The different versions are to celebrate fandoms, inspire consumerism, etc. The meanings could not be more different. (Seriously, if you haven’t checked out the Google image search, you really should  The concept of remediation is complicated, and these examples are just a start to exploring the complexities in remediation.

Timelines and History

Time: a concept that, if I’m being honest, I personally try not to think about too much. Beyond telling what time it is and how long it takes to do something, time is a complicated and complex concept. Our conception of time is completely constructed and subjective. Hank Green made a video about the New Year that really exhibited just how arbitrary our time-keeping system is to me. In it he discusses how our calendar has changed throughout history. It is mind-boggling to say the least. When it comes to how we conceptualize time as a society, we tend to think of it as inflexible; however, in Green’s video, he points out just a few of the ways time has shifted throughout history. We’ve added months, created the idea of Leap Years, etc. I’ve shared the video here before, but I found myself thinking about it again this week as we dived into thinking about time.

In Daniel Rosenburg’s article “The Trouble with Timelines,” he discusses how timelines were created to simplify how we study a historical event. A timeline can be helpful in discovering what events led up to a significant historical moment, but Rosenburg questions how helpful a timeline can really be. History has never occurred in a line. A historical event does not just occur because of the events that happened right before it on a timeline. History is just as complicated and complex as time itself. Timelines promise simplicity, but can simplicity really apply to history? I feel pretty confident in saying of course not.

It is also not always possible for every moment to be included in a timeline. When looking at history, there can be hundreds of events and moments that culminate to one major event. So when a timeline is created, the creator may be called upon to leave out some events. How does he or she make that decision? How do they decided which events to include and which events to leave out? The importance of each event can be subjective, and a creator can decide to leave out parts of history that do not add to the argument he or she is trying to make. I think that it is easy for people to believe that a timeline is a fact and to trust it, but Rosenburg’s arguments about the flaws in timelines illustrates just how important it is for people to view timelines critically. We shouldn’t just blindly trust any timeline we stumble upon.

Timelines might have been created to simplify how we think of history, but that shouldn’t be how we think of them now. History and time cannot be thought of as simple or linear. There are so many variables that affect historical events that they cannot possibly be represented on a single linear timeline. The nuances of each event can be lost in the “big” events. Timelines have their place in studying history, but the flaws that Rosenburg addresses should affect how they are used. Timelines are not definitive and objective; therefore, they should be read and explored critically. The reader of the timeline should constantly be questioning why certain points are included, if there are any points left out, what argument is the creator trying to make, etc. As long as these questions are kept in mind, timelines can be useful for advancing studies in many disciplines.

StoryMaps in the Classroom

The StoryMap I created included all of the places I’ve lived. I almost didn’t want to start that map because I didn’t really feel as though I had lived very many places; however, plotting all of the places where I’ve lived showed me that I’ve lived in more places than I originally thought. I didn’t finish my map. I mostly just plotted points on the map and gave them titles. For some points, I gave exact addresses, for others I used just cities. My plan was to just let this map exist as something fun that I did in class, and that was all.

I see a lot of potential for using StoryMaps in the secondary classroom. It was fairly easy to use and also fun. I recently had an experience with making a Google Trek for one of my other classes, and honestly, I enjoyed working with StoryMaps more. Google Trek is limited into what you are able to do. You can find places, sure, but you’re stuck with the default Google Map. I like that StoryMaps allowed you to customize the maps, fonts, pictures, etc. StoryMaps format is also beneficial because it keeps the map on the left with the information for each point on the right.

I can easily imagine creating a StoryMap for my students to explore to gain some historical context for a novel. Students would have some kind of work to do along with going through the map, but the StoryMap would be a fantastic alternate to a lecture. It would be a more interactive way for students to engage with the context. Students could also be given an assignment to discover the information on their own and insert it into a StoryMap.

Using StoryMaps isn’t just limited to making maps of places. Students could create narratives, arguments, etc. StoryMaps creates the possibility to study literature and English/Language Arts outside of just the expected reading and writing. Students could create narratives in a way that isn’t the traditional writing assignments. For students who may be reluctant writers, StoryMaps provides an alternative way for them to engage with Narrative writing.

Considering my plan to eventually use StoryMap in the classroom, it is important to consider how a map about a novel might change the way a novel is read. In a classroom, I think it might make it easier for students. In novels like The Alchemist where the character’s travels are central to the novel, creating a StoryMaps might help them understand and visualize what is happening in the book. Visualizing is an important piece for reading comprehensions, and tools like StoryMaps can aid students’ comprehension. In that way, StoryMaps could change the way students read a novel in a good way.

StoryMaps was a lot of fun to work with in class. But even more than being fun, it could be a valuable tool to use in my future classroom. It could be used to gain knowledge about the text or even for students to create their own stories. I think that should be the point of tools used in the Digital Humanities world. Not all of them have to be fun, but they don’t all have to be utilitarian either. Tools like StoryMaps provide another level that we are able to study when studying the humanities, which is the whole point. And I have to be honest, I think it’s exciting.

Archives and Access

After reading Derrida’s thoughts about the archive, discussing it in class, and then reading the NPR article about the photographs of internment camps, I have been thinking a lot about how archived items are chosen. Who determines what has value? Who determines what does not? In the case of the Japanese Internment camps, the government decided whose photos could be published. Ansel Adams photos were allowed to represent those camps while Dorothea Lange’s images were hidden from the public. The obvious reason for this exclusion was that Lange’s photographs showed the reality of those camps, while Adams’ images allowed the viewer to look over the inhumanity of imprisoning American citizens. While that may not have been Adams’ intentions, it was the intention of those who distributed the images.

In another class that I am enrolled in this semester, we read a book that questioned our beliefs about history and how much truth is actually portrayed in history. The book addressed a concept of “secret history,” which challenged how much trust we place in history. We do not always get the full story, and we have to continually seek out all sides of a situation. In an archive, the archivists can save whatever they deem worthy to save. The archivist will have biases just like any other person. What we archive can sway how we study an event in history. History does not want to remember the Japanese Internment camps as being a negative because that forces the United States to face the truth in our history. But what does this mean for archives?

It’s important to remember that we may not be given the full and complete history. Archives may contain important artifacts that help us study history; however, Lange and Adams’ photos remind us that there will always be people in power who want history remembered in a certain light. Archives are valuable, but it is important that we remain critical about the history that we are being presented with. Orlando, I think, was created as an answer to some of the information that was left out of traditional archives. The creators of Orlando saw that women writers were underrepresented in similar archives. Orlando was made to fill this gap. This digital archive exemplifies how the Internet has changed the concept of archives. Scholars with access to the database do not have to travel to a specific archive; they just need access.

While it is impossible to save everything, the internet does change how archives function and does allow for more information and items to be saved; however, how we privilege certain information has to change as well. The internet provides for more open-access to information (as long as it isn’t behind a pay-wall) without a person needing to go to a physical library, but the question of access also arises. The internet and digital archives might increase access, but there will still be people who do not have access to computers or internet. When discussing education and technology, inequality has been a running problem. Archives are unavailable to the same people who are underrepresented in them. The internet isn’t the ultimate fix, either. It may close the gap for people who are unable to travel, but it leaves the question of access to other groups wide open. Digital archives are great, but they are also not perfect. Are there any ways to fix them? I’m not sure, but I think it is important to continue trying to.

Defining DH: There’s Never One Right Answer Anyway

I believe that people, in general, like to define ideas, concepts, etc. When we define these things, it can help us to begin to understand them. We can talk about them. We can study them. The definition of Digital Humanities may not be a concern for those who are currently participating in the discipline; however, for the people who may be interested in Digital Humanities, the definition or lack there of could be so important.

Having to define Digital Humanities was a problem that I ran into when I told people I was taking this class. Everyone I told seemed really interested and wanted to know more about it. The problem was that I wasn’t really sure how to explain it; I barely had an idea of what the class would be like myself. I love technology, and I love reading and studying literature. I knew that they are combined some way in Digital Humanities, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like. I was invested enough to pursue it further, but I wonder how many people don’t pursue studying DH because they don’t know what it is.

There is the worry of limiting exploration of DH by defining it; however, I’d argue that it may be important to try to define it anyways. The definition of DH doesn’t have to be concrete and static. It can be a dynamic, fluid definition that allows for change and adaptation. We’re English majors; we don’t prescribe to the idea of one right answer anyways. There isn’t one way to read a novel. Why would there be only one way to define the discipline of DH. It is a field of study that is still  growing and shifting. That is the beauty in it. Everyone who participates in DH has the capability and possibility to shape the study of it all.

After gaining some more experience and background information about DH, I think I would define DH as the intersection of technology and humanities studies. DH asks the question: how can we use the tools and uniqueness of technology to expand our studies of humanities? DH pushes us to think of new and unique ways to present arguments and share research. The study of DH allows for more access to academic work and even more fun with it. The tools and projects that digital humanists are making bring humanities studies into the technological world. It allows for the possibility to expand the study of literature beyond the reading and writing that is currently the focus. Don’t get me wrong, the reading and writing are still so important; however, DH creates a space for the humanities disciplines to grow.

The space that DH creates is one that excites me. The more I learn about it the more excited I get. It would be a shame if someone was turned away from DH because they couldn’t find a good definition of it. While the fear of limiting the expansion of DH by defining it is valid, I think the bigger concern would be limiting the people who participate in DH by not offering at least some stable ground to stand on.