Text and Hubris |

Reflections on Current Events

I was interviewed, a couple of days ago, about my thoughts and feelings regarding the shootings in Dallas and the Twin Cities.

I was not interviewed because I have any real answers to share. After all, in many ways I am part of the problem. My over-privileged self has long benefited from the inherent iniquities within the system. Rather, I was interviewed because I was sitting on a bench at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa. A young reporter was looking for commentary from people on the street, and I was conveniently available. So we talked, and I tried to take the swirling mass of thoughts that had been in my head and boil them down into snippets. I am not sure I succeeded. Indeed, I am not sure it is even possible to provide short and brief answers to any of these questions.

Question: 1: What do you think/feel about the shootings in Dallas?

What do I think? Where do I begin?

I think, and this is what I told the young reporter, that violence begets violence.

We live immersed in violence. It is our bloody and sick birthright. We cheer it. We valorize ...


MIGC Workshop in Exploratory Programming in the Humanities with Nick Montfort.

I spent this afternoon attending an exploratory programming workshop with Dr. Nick Montfort. The workshop put on by the phenomenal Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference which is held annually at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. It was uniquely rewarding experience not so much for the content of the workshop but for the approach that Nick takes.

I was a systems guy for a long time, and in that time, I wrote a lot of programs. I used Python, Perl, hacked up some C, even a little Java, and created more shell scripts than I care to think about. I never called myself a programmer, though. That wasn’t my title. I would write code, but my code was patchwork, inelegant, often functional, aimed at resolving a specific problem or aiding in the determination and resolution of that problem. Code was a means to an end.

Now, that wasn’t how I started, and it certainly isn’t how I developed a passion for technology. That happened back in the lost days of the mid-to-late 80s. I still remember being in awe of my father’s brand new IBM PS/2 when it arrived. After unpacking it and setting it up, he ...


Reflections on Theory and the Human Condition

As part of a wrap-up on a class I am taking on critical cultural theory in professional and technical communication, we were asked to describe what it was we spent the semester doing. What was it we were theorizing?

My group settled on a short and concise definition that covers some things better than others. We said that we were examining the intersection of instrumental writing and the human condition.

Overall, our professor liked this definition. He did have two primary critiques that are worth discussing, though.

  1. The definition is too narrow and focused solely on writing. Modern techniques and research into professional and technical communication extend well beyond the act of writing. If anything, my ongoing research and work in multimodal composition should have made me keenly aware of that issue. As it was, I completely agreed when it was brought up. We should have used the term instrumental communication instead.

  2. The second critique is one that I find far more intriguing. When we were pressed to define the human condition, I opted for a broad definition that incorporated all aspects of the human experience in terms of our lives, our actions and operations as social beings, the beliefs ...


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