“Migrating to Google”

Digital Humanities Playground

I just got an email from my former institution’s IT department notifying me that all files stored in their cloud storage platform would be migrating to Google Drive over Spring Break. Just as the birds migrate to warmer climes, so do my files move to a more user-friendly and familiar platform. Home terrain. Comfort zone. Frustration free. Ah, Google.

I wonder what files of mine still exist on that institutional storage platform, as I long ago lost the login information and never bothered to reclaim it. I wonder too about those digital traces that I’ve left elsewhere, at another university several thousand miles away. Like the imprint of the self left on the skin of the city by the psychogeographer, urban wanderer, Woolfian seeker of pencils, a deCerteau-ian trace, I’ve left indentations in the digital fabric. The migration notification sparked me to think about how a move from a clunky…

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Putting Women on the Map

Wonderful work going on at Digital Harlem!

Digital Harlem Blog

Bryn-Mawr-conference-300x48On May 21, I am presenting a paper entitled “Putting Women on the Map: Gender and Everyday Life in 1920s Harlem” at the Women’s History in the Digital World Conference at Bryn Mawr College

ABSTRACT

This paper focuses on Digital Harlem, an award winning web-based geospatial digital history project on everyday life in the 1920s, to explore how visualizing evidence can provide a way of making meaning of the often fragmentary sources available to historians of women.

Digital mapping offers a means of visualizing historical sources that highlights the spatial dimensions of the past, and can offer a different perspective on particular places. It is not just that mapped sources are seen in their geographical context. Location provides a basis for integrating material from a wide range of disparate sources, and incorporating and organizing material that historians typically treat as ephemera, or pass over it as too sparse or fragmentary to support…

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The City & the City may become a four-part BBC drama

Oh, I hope so! Teaching this particular novel is hard, really hard, yet I continue to do it, but wouldn’t a visual be a wonderful addition!

Out There Books

mieville01_bIn tentative, but potentially exciting, news, it’s been revealed that screenwriter Tony Grisoni is adapting China Miéville’s novel The City & the City for the BBC as a four-part drama. This news comes from a recent article on Screen Daily — I went a step further and dug up Grisoni’s keynote, in which he announces the project, on Youtube. He only mentions it right at the end, and doesn’t actually say anything further about it, but the video is worth watching anyway if you’re interested in television drama.

Grisoni is probably best known as the screenwriter for Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as well as a handful of other Gilliam projects. I’m not very familiar with his work, but hearing him talk about writing for TV in that video reassures me that the story will be in good hands.

If this goes forward, it won’t be the first adaptation of the novel…

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A Few Notes on Rain

Rain is a bitch. We desperately need it until it doesn’t stop falling. Last year at this time, Hurricane Sandy hurtled through my former city, and its effects swept friends’ homes into the sea, destroyed local businesses, brought hundreds of trees to an untimely demise; yet, somehow the storm brought New Yorkers together, yet again, in a bond of community care, preservation, and recovery. During Sandy, my geographical location kept me safe. In the past week, I’ve listened to rain falling outside my windows each night, driven through it and hoped to avoid flooded roadways, and watched newscasts unfold as river ways crested and sent people’s homes into ruin across the Front Range. I’ve kept the news on waiting for updates about voluntary and enforced evacuations of my area. I’ve remained on higher ground. My house happens to be just far away enough from the two rivers that converge, and by just far away enough, I mean two little miles. Two miles away, there is utter ruin. Once again, my geographical location has kept me safe from calamity.

Despite my being “lucky” during both of these natural events, I do not ignore the heaviness that comes from witnessing other peoples’ loss. I don’t believe that a series of choices has kept me safe from these two devastating storms. Nor do I really know what I want to say about it–nothing profoundly metaphorical drives this particular post. But, my heart feels full, and I need to write something. I know that I will return to my classes this week and some of my students won’t be in the room because they are working to clean up their family’s flooded property. Others will be on teams of clean-up volunteers who will spread out across Colorado as soon as the water begins to recede. I’m hard-pressed to worry about readings not getting done or distracted students.

Isn’t it ironic that the Sustainable Living Festival in Fort Collins was cancelled because of the floods. The festival, a celebration of humanity finding a way to live on our planet conscientiously and more delicately, is now at risk of being underfunded for next year. What an educational loss that would be. (To learn more about the festival, click here.) Ultimately, we must all put our faith in each other to use individual talents to be mindful about what has passed and inventive about how to prepare for the future because surely, this won’t be the last time. Weather patterns are trying to teach us about our planet and its imbalances, its wounds, stresses, and strains, and we should listen more carefully.

 

Rumination on Furniture

The first few days I spent in Greeley were unorienting, to use a word I’ve invented for scholarly purposes. I kept thinking, “when I get back to Brooklyn, I have to tell so and so about this or that.” Everything about the town reminded me of somewhere I’d been before, somewhere in California, in New Hampshire, in Oklahoma. It didn’t feel familiar even though I had been here just a few months back. Because my family came to help me get settled, it really seemed like a vacation complete with snoozing in the backseat of the car, pinching my brother, and buying representative trinkets, postcards, and hiking guides as we toured Estes Park. And because my home is filled with furniture I inherited from my grandmother and special family pieces given to me by my parents, the house didn’t immediately feel like mine. I haven’t lived with these objects in a place of my own. They remind me of my family, especially when I touch them. Wiping a quick gloss of wood polish across the dining room table reminded me of being a kid and sitting under that table while watching my parents in the kitchen making dinner back when we lived in an old house that had rich smells of antiqued wood, much like this house. Putting my socks into the drawers of my gramma’s dresser shot me into a reverie about how she showed me to fold socks into tiny packets and line the pink drawers with them all facing the same way so as to maximize space. Opening the desk panel of the secretary that belonged to my mother revealed the word “love” etched into the wood. I did that when I was quite young. Because it was what I felt for her, I thought my mom would like it, but no…that led to a lesson on vandalism. Packing the china and crystal into the china cabinet reminded me of the dining room in my grandparents’ house, its blue carpet and how itchy it made the back of my legs when I played on the floor. These objects have long stories, and their retrieval signifies the beginning of my story here in this new old old town.

I wonder how differently things would feel if I had kept all the things I’ve lived with during my time in New York.

The uprooting process of taking myself out of Brooklyn required leaving familiar objects behind, such as a couch upon which I’ve sat to watch many films, share many conversations with my various roommates over the years, and that provided a bed where many friends have slept. Not having this couch in my living room is surprisingly affecting, though it isn’t the object itself I miss. It’s the sensation of comfort that old worn down, floppy, ragged, dingy sofa provided my body at the end of a long day or when I had a cold.

Now I have space and quiet (aside from the plentiful cicadas and wonderful sounds of the train depot a few blocks away) and these two elements lead to mind/body clarity and comfort. It’s a new kind of comfort, the sort that corresponds with having a truly desirable job, a sense of accomplishment for having finished graduate study, and knowing that I’ve gotten to the beginning of the place I’ve always wanted to be. But, as I spoke with other new hires yesterday, I realized that none of us are actually comfortable yet. We have so much to learn about our new community. We have to make choices about how and where to spend our time. We have new students to meet next week, and we hope they are as engaging and bright as everyone says they are. We feel like we’re standing in diver’s pose, gripping with our toes, searching for the fulcrum’s balance. And despite the excitement of newness, all of us miss our old sofas.

Greeley intersects Midtown

Greeley intersects Midtown

So there I was, walking down 6th avenue after a very quick NYC-style lunch with a friend who works in finance (I know, I know), and I’m telling him about the history of my new town Greeley, CO, and he looks up and says, “Wow! Greeley Square!” Now, I was aware of this spot, but hadn’t really thought to capture it in a photo. However, the re-launch of my blog demanded a photo. Here it is! (That’s the Empire State in the far background, for you non-Manhattanites.)

The story I was telling my friend is that Horace Greeley himself was disillusioned by the landscape of Northern Colorado. Thus, he left it up to a guy in his employ named Nathan Meeker to take charge of making sure his NYC-style grid laid bare on the front range turned into a town. Greeley bailed, returned home to NYC, and according to the great authoritative text, the tome of 19th century NYC history, the best musical on Broadway and recent winner of the Tony for choreography, Newsies, he died. I wondered why Greeley (the town) wasn’t called Meeker. I mean, give credit where it’s due, right? Well, the people thought “meek” and WESTWARD EXPANSION didn’t fit too well, so there we go. A newspaper mogul gets credit for a town through which he blew like a tumbleweed.

I’m gonna get me a tumbleweed as an ottoman.