Tuesday, April 22, 2008

'Ello Web of Mind readers. Professional blogger Karen here. Yesh all I ever seem to do these days is blog, though blogger is not my drug of choice. Sorry!

It appears I have finished with my DHP, which is both a relief and a little disappointing. It was a fanastically fun job, and I really think all English scholars should be required to do something like this at some point. I worked solo, but I think it could be a great teambuilding exercise, The project also gives students experience working with HTML, which is a tricky medium indeed. And the opportunity to work with such an old book was a real finger-tingler too. (I just made that up but I'm rather fond of that phrase. I think I will use that when I refer to good books or exciting moments. Finger-tinglers.)

But more importantly, this is what English is all about, isn't it? Research, documentation, writing, and showing off your work. It is so awesome to think we've contributed to this big archival project that could really take off. I wish I had done more of this in my years here at RU (as short as they were) or that I had an opportunity to do this in the future. Just think! Maybe students will be using WoM for their own research and giving us credit! Very nifty indeed. I don't know about you guys, but my goal in life is always to have my work widely read, even if it's academic work. It's so cool to imagine people going over something you worked hard on and using it simply because it is, well, useful!

Getting used to the HTML and forcing Wiki to do as I command was frustrating and took a lot of time; I'm glad I did the bulk of it in the beginning of the semester when I wasn't as busy and had time to learn by trail and error. Maybe in the future we could have a class day or two working collectively on the project and asking questions and benefiting from what others had done before us. I think we did do that once, way back in the semester, but I think it would have been more useful if we did it when the project was first introduced.

One thing in particular you asked us to reflect on was the question, "Is anything lost--or gained--by putting books into a digital media?" This is something I've considered long and hard. Frankly, I love books. I love the way they look. I love the weight in my hands. I love curling up in bed with one, or sitting in a tree, or lounging on the dock, or smuggling one under the table during a particularly heinous family dinner. I love the way the paper feels, and the gloss of the cover, and hell, the smell, yes they smell and they smell wonderful, like story and dust and memory, and those are all good things.

As a student, though, I like electronic media, mainly because I can use the search function to find words, phrases, or chapters easily. (I confess, my electronic copy of "Heart of Darkness" was quite useful for this, as I could find all mentions of voice and language at the touch of a few buttons, instead of flipping pages.) I can also access the texts from any computer lab, usually for free (I confess, there are often books I don't want to spend money on in college, particularly large anthologies, so e-texts are friends for the penny-pincher). But I don't think electronic books should ever replace tangible books. Libraries are too beautiful. I want a book, dammit, a real book to cradle and dog ear and set on my desk. I want to watch the pages yellow and curl, and I want to reread old favorites and laugh until tears roll down my face. I don't want an electronic book. I just want a book.

So that's my take on that, because I do feel rather passionately on it, and a few pretty sentences came out of the whole mess. I feel quixotic today, as you may be able to tell. Overall, it was a cool project, and I'm glad I got the opportunity. I really hope you use this for other classes, or that other teachers use it as well, because this is really an important part of being an English student.

Good luck to everyone for their end of the year projects, and hurrah for those of us finally graduating!

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