The Problems with Genius, Part Three: Connected Learning with Lacuna Stories

[Note: This post is the conclusion to a three part series on digital annotation. You might want to read Part One and Part Two.]

The Problems with Genius, Part Two: Annotating Literature in the Classroom

Is it possible to annotate literature in a digital environment? Certainly, the answer is "yes." Is it possible to do so well and in a way that respects the ambiguity, complexity, and polyvocality of both the texts and the readers’ responses? If the annotations are, like a Wikipedia article, a single text composed through consensus, then I argue in this post that the answer is almost certainly "no." Yet, this model is the one that Genius wants to impose upon literature, as it expands beyond rap lyrics into several other realms. As another signal of their grand ambitions, the company’s founders have compared Genius to a digital Talmud, but the Talmud, like other rich traditions of exegesis, is not a single narrative. Instead, it is divided into multiple sections discussing different aspects of the Torah and includes explanations, interpretations, and practical applications written by a large number of rabbis throughout history. Moreover, the original "annotations" have in turn been annotated (Mishnah and Gemara, respectively). Far from a series of univocal, authoritative explanatory notes, the Talmud thus comprises a complicated, structured, and rich history of commentary.

The Problems with Genius, Part One: Online Annotations, Consensus, and Bias

Academic Technology Specialists, Innovation, and Skunkworks

As part of a coordinated series of blog posts among my colleagues in the Academic Technology Specialist Program, I recently wrote a post comparing what we do to the skunkworks model and how that enables the innovations we're able to shepherd. The blog post that frames my own and my colleagues' posts is Reflections on the ATS Program.

Towards a Front Page for the Digital Humanities #dhthis

In partial response to the issues raised about the publishing model of Journal of Digital Humanities and an apparent lack of transparency, several scholars banded together to create DHThis, an experiment in open sharing of DH-relevant writing online that follows the Slashdot/Reddit model that allows use

Alt-Ac Notes: Building Towards the Fall and Winter Quarters

Given the interest in alternative academic (alt-ac) careers and the remarkable variety these positions can take, I thought it might be helpful to others looking beyond the tenure-track if I were to provide a sense of what my particular instantiation of an alt-ac job entails. I am currently working on several noteworthy new projects that will launch in the Fall or Winter Quarters. In this post, I highlight three projects and explain how my role in each touches upon (often vastly) different aspects of my responsibilities. These three do not encompass everything I work on in a typical week, but they do indicate some of the breadth and the multiple challenges I regularly have the good fortune to encounter.

Digital Humanists’ Responses to Surveillance

Recently, I made a plea that the digital humanities community direct its collective expertise, both as humanists and technologists, to respond to the revelations about the NSA's surveillance, a post inspired, in part, by my feelings of frustration and anger (justified and righteous, I believe) at our constant status as objects of surveillance and potential analysis.1 Clearly

The Digital Humanists’ (Lack of) Response to the Surveillance State

Cyberspace: a digital, networked simulation of physical space envisioned by Sci-Fi authors like William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Philip K. Dick, Bruce Sterling, and others. The metaphor implies that, just as in the “real” world, back alleys and seedy establishments exist that you would do well to avoid, lest you attract attention from the wrong people.

Networks of Faculty in the DLCL


Gabriella Safran, the current chair of the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), asked me to generate network graphs of the DLCL faculty in advance of an all-faculty retreat at which the agenda was to center around how the DLCL is structured and how well it works for faculty. We developed a series of survey questions that cover research, teaching, collaboration, and service, which I turned into a Google Form so that faculty could fill out a simple web form to provide me with a spreadsheet of data. The questions included things like “What are your primary research topics?” and “With whom have you co-taught?” The answers gave me to raw data necessary to begin building networks. In some cases, faculty are connected because they work directly together either in teaching or research (e.g., reading each other's drafts). In other cases, faculty are connected because they share a research interest or teach the same time period or genre. I divided the questions into groups, titled “Research”, “Collaboration”, “Structure”, “Teaching”, and “Teaching Collaboration”, as a way to see different facets of the faculty's relationships. I then created this web page to allow exploration of these networks. The data are not complete as not everyone has completed the survey yet, but I will continue to update the networks as more results come in. For suggestions on how to use this page, read on. If you would like read about the technologies I used to build this tool, see this companion post.

HOWTO: Get Free Servers for Your Websites, Development Environments, and Other Digital Endeavors

I recently found myself paying the hosting bill for my domains and sites and feeling unhappy about the services despite the low cost. Finally I made the connection I should have made much sooner: I could have better servers for free (for a year). Amazon Web Services provides a Free Usage Tier that is more than sufficient for your average personal site, development servers, and many other needs.


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