Archive for February, 2009

the kindle 2: the future of academia?

February 27, 2009

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Photo by Flicker user pt

I wasn’t too excited when I first heard about Kindle 2:, but after reading Flavorpill’s recent rave about Amazon’s new wireless reading device, I just might have to try it. According to Matt Compton,

“With the new Kindle 2 — unveiled this month — I can now carry a personal library of 1,500 books in my pocket, and that is fundamentally changing the nature of what, and how, I read.

Amazon offers more than 230,000 cheap, Kindle-ready books through its online store. Through the Internet at large, I have access to thousands of classics that I can download for free. What used to be a difficult calculation of what I wanted to read, balanced against the cost of a new book and the available shelf space in my apartment, has become a far more simple equation.

[…]

Apple introduced the iPod on October 23, 2001, and its success has transformed the physical album into a relative artifact. The power of capacity, the freedom that comes with a nearly infinite choice of songs, has trumped every argument about the inherent superiority of a non-digital format.”

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Photo by Flickr user laanba

Similar to Matt Compton, the iPod revolutionized the way I consume and listen to music. I can only imagine the Kindle would do the same with books, but I’ll probably hold out until the next version comes out.

Marketing and business blogger Seth Godin recently posted an interesting entry on the ways in which the Kindle 2 could be improved. The Kindle obviously still has its fair share of issues, but what excites me about it are the possibilities its holds for the future of reading and writing, particularly for academia. As much as I love having hard copies of books, I move around the world a lot and usually end up leaving most of my library behind. When I moved from Edinburgh to Seoul, I brought less than 10 books with me. With an electronic device like Kindle, I might one day be able take my whole library around the world with me.

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Photo by Flicker user Squonk11

In addition to storage space, think about how much easier it will be to search for quotes and passages. I’ve had several instances when I’ve wrote down a citatation but forgot to write the page number, then spent half an hour trying to find the quote in the book.  Also, imagine about how much easier it will be to simultaneously  highlight, take notes, and create bibliographies while reading.

Of course, it may be a while before the Kindle gets to this point. But, then I think about the development of the Ipod, and how it has evolved from a bulky dial-operated music player to a sleek, touch-screen multimedia player containing not only music, but also, user-built applications, internet, and so much more than I imagined when I first heard about it in 2001. It only took about 6 years.

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the edinburgh doc(umentary)scene

February 24, 2009

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One of the things I love about being back in uni is having the time to attend free lectures outside of my regular course schedule. On Friday, I attended a Documentary Master class featuring Kazakh filmmaker Sergey Dvortsevoy at the Edinburgh College of Art. The talk was quite fascinating, and if you’re at all interested in documentary, I highly suggest you get involved with the Scottish Documentary Institute, also known as Docscene. This documentary research centre not only organizes talks and lectures by internationally renowned filmmakers, but also, provides funding, training, and equipment for both amateurs and veterans. Docscene is a great resource for anyone interested in documentary.

Be sure to sign up for their mailing list to be the first to know about upcoming events and opportunities!

Photo by Flickr user jennifer buehrer

make your voice heard, submit a course review!

February 21, 2009

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Want to share your course experiences? Want to know make sure students know what Edinburgh University courses are really like? Check out the Course Reviewer!

The Course Reviewer is written for and by students. It is a platform for you to assess and share your experiences with other students.

I recently heard about this fantastic online reviewer through the Edinburgh University Association of Students (EUSA) and participated in their site feedback session. This is the first year of the Course Reviewer, so make sure to spread the word and get others to submit reviews.

The Course Reviewer is a great way for you to get and share insider information. Browse and rate other student reviews. Tell students about the workload, interest and teaching quality of a course. Assist students in deciding what courses to take next semester.

It might seem like a tedious chore, but trust me, it doesn’t take that long and someone will surely find the information useful and interesting.

Photo by flickr user jaredchapman.

beyond pen and paper: referencing software

February 18, 2009

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To follow up on my last post on “the art of bibliography“, I have compiled a list of software to keep track of references and sources, based on the recommendations of professors and students in my programme.

I don’t know about you, but I am somewhat of a Luddite when it comes to taking notes and recording sources. In the past, I have just stuck to pen and paper, but now that I have to keep detailed records of hundreds of sources, I’ve started putting all my notes and references on my computer. I’m really glad that they’ve invented programmes to make tracking sources just as easy as downloading music and storing it in your multimedia player.

EndNote
EndNote is the industry standard; EndNote is to academia, as Windows is to computers. It will cover most of your needs, but has a hefty price tag of $249.95 (however, you may be able to purchase it for a lot less if you check ebay). I haven’t really used EndNote, but friends have told me it can be buggy and unnecessarily complex. If you’d like to try it, you can download the 30-day trial.

Sente
Sente is a really great alternative to EndNote, but unfortunately, it’s only made for Macs. According to their homepage, “It’s like iTunes for academic literature. Only better.” I just downloaded a copy of Sente, it seems to be pretty intuitive and user-friendly. Plus, it’s only $89.95 if you’re student. You can also download the 30-day trial to see if you like it.

Zotero
I re-blogged a post on Zotero in October, and still think it’s a wonderful piece of referencing software. Just in case you didn’t read the post, Zotero is a free, web browse extension of Firefox. If you use Firefox, I highly recommend you download Zotero.

If you know of any other academic referencing software, please let me know! Happy referencing.

Photo by flickr user svenwerk

the art of bibliography

February 17, 2009

There is a hilarious Facebook group called “Grad Students: They’re Not Bad People, They Just Made Terrible Life Choices” I’ve been tempted to join. The homepage of the group contains a list of defining grad student characteristics. I probably laughed the hardest when I came across #9:

“You might be a Grad Student if you find the bibliographies of books more interesting than the actual text.”

While it may be tempting to save money by not printing out the last few pages of a journal article, which may contain only a list of the works cited, don’t underestimate the theoretical and creative potential of the bibliography. Especially when you’re beginning your research and starting to think about the literature review.

One of the major components of the graduate dissertation is the literature review — a discussion of the major theoretical works, perspectives, and thinkers within your discipline(s). The purpose of the literature review is to not only provide your reader with a background of your research object, but also, to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the field.

If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books and journals in your field, a bibliography is a great way to started and get a snapshot of the essential texts and authors. How do you find a good bibliography? Well first you need to have at least one key book, article, or text. For example, if you are conducting research on gender from a Cultural Studies perspective, you’d probably peruse through the bibliographies of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Donna Haraway’s A Cyborg Manifesto to get an initial sense of the field. In addition to bibliographies, anthologies and course syllabuses are also excellent points of entry.

Also, remember to think of the bibliography not only as a starting point for yourself, but also, for others. When putting together the bibliography for your dissertation, don’t just see it as a mundane, technical requirement, but as a piece of creative writing that has the ability to change the way people think about the world.

Perhaps, I’m being overzealous (I am a grad student after all :)), but this story makes me think otherwise. A professor recently told our class about an alumnus who received a distinction for their dissertation largely because of their bibliography. The student’s unique combination of Western and Eastern sources was considered an important contribution to the field because it was seen as an effective starting point for other researchers.

Sometimes the bibliography really is more significant than the actual text.

a blogging veteran?: reflections on the moleskine

February 14, 2009

I have only been blogging for about five months, but was recently identified as a blogging veteran. I would definitely say my fluency in blogging is above average, but there’s still so much I feel like I don’t know.

For other mediums and fields, such as medicine, painting, and law, it takes years to be considered an expert. Malcolm Gladwell recently said it takes about 10,000 hours or 10 years to become successful at something. But in the blogosphere, it can take as little as a few weeks (maybe even less) before you’re considered a pro — especially if you’re celebrity or already well known in your chosen blog genre. With sites like Twitter, Digg, and Facebook, it makes it very easy for a blog to grow in popularity.

In many ways, this is the beauty of blogging. Anyone can participate, whether it’s as a grad student, writer, financial analyst, photographer, or another kind of cultural producer. And anyone can become a successful blogger within a short span of time.

With such a democratic medium, there is of course greater competition and few of us will actually get to the point where we have hundreds of subscribers, thousands of views a day, consultancy gigs and multimillion-dollar book deals. However, we can still share our thoughts and ideas with our specific audiences. Whether it’s one person or one thousand, the content of your blog will have importance to someone.

The Moleskine will probably never be on the Technorati’s top 100 blog list, but I’m just happy knowing that people are getting something from my experiences abroad.

street art and favela-ization: jr in kibera, kenya

February 9, 2009

Parisian street artist JR recently completed perhaps his most impressive work to date in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in East Africa. According to The Places We Live, about 700,000 people, a quarter of Nairobi’s population, live in Kibera, an area that is the size of “New York City’s Central Park.”

The Wooster Collective writes:”[A]fter more than a year of planning, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. The material used is water resistant so that the photo itself will protect the fragile houses in the heavy rain season. The train that passes on this line through Kibera at least twice a day has also been covered with eyes from the women that live below it. With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of the their faces have be pasted on corrugated sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. The idea being that for the split second the train passes, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete.”

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While there is an element of post-colonial voyeurism, which is unavoidable in any work that deals with the developing world from a privileged Western  perspective, what I like about JR’s work is that he creates and places massive images of everyday people in the areas in which is working in ways that incorporate the built environment and public memories of that specific location. While his work may distract from the social issues at hand, JR has gift for juxtaposing photography and the city in ways that evoke its beauty and humanness.

[via Wooster Collective, JR, and The Places We Live]

how to use the web to find a nonprofit job

February 7, 2009

I’m only in my second semester of my master’s, but in about five month’s time I’ll have to start looking for a job in the States. I am not really sure what I want do, but I think I need a break from school to decide if I want to get a doctorate or another master’s, or just pursue independent learning. I don’t really know what kind of job I’d like have, but I am interested in doing something related to the community, creativity, and web 2.0.  Maybe work for an NGO or a socially-conscious company.

I’ve been perusing the web for various job-hunting strategies. Social-change blogger Britt Bravo recently posted a great entry on Have Fun * Do Good and BlogHer on how to find a nonprofit job using the web. Here’s one of the most surprising hints she shared:

“YouTube.
The post, 7 Secrets to Getting Your Next Job Using Social Media, on Mashable suggests creating a video resume. I’ve never heard of that, have you? According to the post’s author, Dan Schawbel, that is one of the benefits, “The key with a video resume is that very few people have actually created one, so they serve as a differentiator in the recruiting process.” If you’ve created one, share the link below. I’d love to see an example of a successful one.”

Thanks, Britt Bravo! Check out her fantastic blog for more tips on how to find a nonprofit job!

things you wish you knew

February 5, 2009

Today, I met up with an alumnus of last year’s Cultural Studies Programme to talk about how she conducted fieldwork in China for her dissertation last summer. It was really helpful hearing about her experiences applying theory to practice, documenting the city, narrowing down her focus, finding contacts, and getting funding for her research. The last bit was perhaps the most surprising.

She told me that she received partial funding for her fieldwork through the University of Edinburgh Small Project Grant. I had heard of this award, but had no idea how easy it was to apply and receive funding until this afternoon. The application is fairly straightforward; it basically just requires a project outline, budget, and a signature from your course supervisor (no letter of rec necessary!). She told me that pretty much all of the applicants she knew received funding.

Having this insider tip made me re-assess the direction of my dissertation. Since I thought wouldn’t able to go back to Seoul to conduct fieldwork, I began framing my research in the context of memory and distance. But now that fieldwork is a possibility, I need to think about how I’ll incorporate the physical space of the city into my thinking.

To get the most of out grad school in the UK, you have to put forth a lot of initiative. Unfortunately, unlike the States, grants and scholarships are few and far between in the UK, especially for master’s students. Since there are a limited number of financial awards, they are often not widely advertised. You’ll probably have to dig a bit deeper to find funding for your research.

You’ve probably heard this many times before, but I can’t emphasize the importance of networking in academia. It’s these insider tips that remind me why I should be meeting with more students and professors outside of my programme.

snapshots of edinburgh: holyrood in white

February 2, 2009

Today was the first snow of the year! Here’s a photo of Holyrood Park from our kitchen window.

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This is what the park looked like on a sunny day in September.

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I love the snow, but am definitely looking forward to the spring.