Archive for the ‘New Humanities’ Category


I’m Back and Welcoming a New Hoosierati Blogger

November 4, 2008

Well, after two weeks out of state and then two more weeks out of my mind I’m finally settling back into the routine and hope to be back over here blogging more regularly. The election being over sometime tonight/early tomorrow morning will be a huge help. It would be a horrible understatement to say that I’ve been “distracted” by the events culminating today.

But enough about me; I have great Hoosierati/IHC news.

It is my hope for this blog, among other things, that we can get some actual humanists in here blogging in addition to me. Not that I am not a humanist of some degree but actual practitioners–people out there doing the work of the public humanities. That’s the kind of information I think the IHC should be in the business of spreading around because I think that’s the kind of information I think you want to read.

Which is why I am delighted to say that two local radio shows coming off WICR (on the campus of the University of Indianapolis) will be popping up here occassionally to share some things with us. One of the two shows is Hoosier History Live, hosted by historian Nelson Price (also an author and “connoisseur of all things Hoosier”).

The other show is Too Many Cooks, “a whimsical yet informative public radio program about cooking, cuisine, and entertainment featuring the Midwest’s consummate food journalist Patti Denton, and the international Gala Award winning special events designer Gary Bravard.”

So there you have it, not only is the IHC now officially a “group blog” and all that entails, but its on the verge of going multimedia! You have been warned.These are indeed, my friends, exciting times.


Trendspotting the Global Curve

September 2, 2008

One of my latest reading projects is a book that’s a couple of years old, but hey, I just came across it. The book is A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink.

Pink argues that, under the current conditions of the global marketplace, the Information Age is no longer where we Americans need to compete. Instead, we can only hope to succeed if we master the right-brained aptitudes of the Conceptual Age.

What intrigued me about the book was the list of these essential contemporary skills:

  • Design
  • Story
  • Symphony
  • Empathy
  • Play
  • Meaning

As I’ve been following Jim’s thoughts on the humanities — their application and their worth — Pink’s catalog of elements keeps coming to the top of my admittedly somewhat left-brained mind. You see, those are all facets that belong to the humanities.

Let’s start with an obvious feature of literature and history, Story or “engaging narratives” in Pink’s words. Telling stories remains one of the most powerful forms of human communication and also one of the highest forms of artistic achievement.

Pink would add that it’s a great way to make money. Gosh, no, not by way of the Great American Novel, but there are tons of commercial uses. Think about it. Telling stories effectively has any number of applications — and value — for corporations, political parties, families, and communities.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Go Slugs!

August 20, 2008

Comes the news from my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Cruz, that the Grateful Dead has donated their complete archives to the University Library’s Special Collections. Believe me, this item made front page, above-the-fold news in the alumni newsletter. The Chancellor commented: “UC Santa Cruz is honored to receive this invaluable gift. The Grateful Dead and UC Santa Cruz are both highly innovative institutions, born the same year [1965]…” What is going to happen to this collection? Researchers will use it to study music and popular culture of the twentieth century. It’s a significant gift and quite a coup for UCSC.

The campus is also known for its mascot, the Banana Slug, which made ESPN’s top ten list of best college nicknames. It seems that when UCSC decided to start competing in NCAA Division III, the administration tried to change the unofficial name to Sea Lions. The students of course protested, and the Banana Slug prevailed.

So here’s my point. Getting back to the Grateful Dead, we learn that all kinds of people have archival material in their possession, that the late twentieth century is now a legitimate field for historical research, and that sometimes scholars approach their work with great glee. This is a scholarly community that understands the joy of the humanities and how they interface with our very personal lives.

Way to go, Slugs!

This entry was posted by: Nancy

George Orwell Has a Blog

August 11, 2008

This has got to be one of the best ideas for blogs since blogs!

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

That’s right, the diaries, which start on August 9, 1938 (the first diary entry-as-blog post went up on August 9, 2008) will run until October 2012 (or October 1942 for Orwell). If you are at all the kind of person that is interested, biography, literature, politics, history, India, World War II or…I guess…herpetology, simply subscribe to the RSS feed (as I have already done) and you’ll get your daily dose. In no time flat you can loudly proclaim to your cocktail party friends (as I am already doing) that you are “reading Orwell’s diaries.” Four years later you can claim to “having read Orwell’s diaries.”

For those people of a more esoterically-inclined nature, Phil Gyford since January 1, 2003 has been publishing the diaries of Samuel Pepys “the renowned 17th century diarists who lived in London.”


Weekly request for more Indiana blogs

June 9, 2008

As you may remember I said a little while ago that I was looking for some Indiana blogs to add to my reading list and that I would be repeating that request, well, here it is.

I’m on the hunt for humanities-related Indiana blogs….always. Last time I quoted and linked to some things on the Indiana Humanities Council webstite that might explain what it is I’m looking for, and if so, you can now search the Hoosierati archives to find that particular post (or just click here). But I thought I might explain things a bit differently this time ’round.

Literature, language(s), history, art(s), culture, and philosophy are the primary subjects that are widely recognized as “the humanities,” but basically anything qualifies depending on how that subject is treated (and certain subject more readily wiggle their way in: sociology, political science, jurisprudence, economics).

So, perhaps the easiest way to understand what I’m talking about is to read the instructions on how to make a cappuccino in the directions included with your new Mr. Coffee espresso machine, and then read Anne Fadiman’s essay on coffee in her latest book. In both pieces, coffee is the object under scrutiny. One is a basic list of ingredients (coffee beans, water, milk, sugar) and step by step instructions on how to produce a finished coffee product. The other is a thoughtful treatment of a subject of great emotional, intellectual, and physical importance to the author that takes into account the history of the subject, as well as that of the author herself. It includes trivial bits of chemistry and biology, but it also places all of it into a larger cultural context–a culture in which coffee and the author are both a part.

As it says on the IHC site, it’s not what we talk about, it’s how we talk about it. So if you know of a blog where the topics might not be “the humanities” but the conversation is good, you should let me know anyway.

Of course, there is another problem with the search. Most of the blogs I have run across are from here in Indianapolis, and there’s good reason for that. There are roughly six million people in the state of Indiana, about 1/8 of them live here in Indianapolis. So I figure that Indianapolis bloggers will make up a larger percentage of my potential reading list compared to other municipalities/regions. However, Indianapolis should still be outnumbered roughly 7-to-1 compared with the rest of the state (of course ignoring that urban areas might be more blog-friendly than rural areas–so let’s just say 5-to-1, it’s easier to figure anyway.

I would like to add more blogs to the IHC blogroll but more importantly I would like to be reading more blogs so I have a better picture of what’s going on out there. So tell me, Hoosierati, what are reading?

So the short of it is (you can read the long of it on the previous post) I need Indiana, humanities blogs, preferably written here in the state, and I would like to be reading a good selection of blogs from Not Indianapolis.


Veritas and My Search for Truth

June 4, 2008

I have to tell you how I got myself into this mess or you won’t believe it. Inspired by Jim’s post on notebooks, I pulled out a couple of notebooks I bought a long time ago. One of them is a black, spiral-bound notebook with the word “VeritasTM” on the cover and “Made in Taiwan” on the back.

Veritas, of course, means truth. So I decided to try to find out who had trademarked the Truth. I googled Veritas. The first hit was Veritas Data Center Software, owned by Symantec Corp., the owner of “” The second was Veritas Restaurant in New York, where the menu says that “Excessive Fragrances Detract from the Wine Experience. Please Be Sensitive to Those Around You.” (So take it easy with the Old Spice, I guess.) The third hit was Veritas GMAT Elite Test Preparation, in case you would care to join the elite, which is fine if you don’t plan to run for President. The fourth hit was Wikipedia where we finally get some Roman mythology. The fifth hit, however, was Veritas Vineyard & Winery. All right, I see: In Vino, Veritas.

This was getting me nowhere, or at least no closer to Taiwan, so I decided to try another strategy, namely Wikipedia, where I typed in “Search for Truth.” The first hit there was, as you probably have guessed, a vinyl record released by the progressive metal band, Protest the Hero. It has only 2 tracks, the first being “Is Anybody There?” Not a bad question if you’re searching for truth. The second hit was an anti-Mormon video (good grief). The third was (oh, thank heavens) a treatise by Descartes.

In the top 20 Wikipedia hits, we also find “Search Engine Marketing” (ha, a lot of help that was), the Colbert Report (ah, yes, truthiness), and — what’s this? — “List of US daytime soap opera ratings”?? What does that have to do with the search for truth? Oh, wait, that would be “Search for Tomorrow.”

I guess there’s no point in trying to track down the trademarker of Truth. Instead I should get a lantern and join Diogenes in his search for an honest man, or, in my case, an honest search engine.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Microsoft Abandons Live Search Books and Live Search Academics

June 2, 2008

I am fully behind open access, information sharing, scanning of books and whatnot, but–despite last week’s post on Ball State’s mass digitization program–I don’t post on them often because it’s not really my field. That said, Microsoft’s recent decision to abandon the Internet Archive’s Live Search Books and Live Search Academics projects is something I do understand and it makes me a little sad.

Dan Cohen (at his Digital Humanities Blog) suggests replacing for-profit partners with funds from university endowments. If they would do it, it makes perfect sense.

This entry was posted by: Jim

The Sixth Law of Simplicity

May 30, 2008

Always interested in how to simplify the tangle of modern existence, I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda (2006). Maeda is an award-winning graphic designer, a professor in MIT’s Media Lab, and the founder of the Simplicity Consortium. He writes, “Achieving simplicity in the digital age became a personal mission, and a focus of my research at MIT.”

The book’s subtitle is: Design, Technology, Business, Life. The concatenation of those elements is a lot to ponder in itself, but it’s also fun and fascinating. We are encouraged to consider how design affects our lives and livelihoods.

Maeda identifies ten laws of simplicity; the sixth will illustrate his approach. It is the law of CONTEXT. Once you foreground the background, it is possible to become confused by ambience. To leave the security of filled space and overcome the fear of white space is the challenge. We just need to remember that “There is an important tradeoff between being completely lost in the unknown and completely found in the familiar” (p. 60).

To balance safety and excitement is to achieve simplicity. Or rather, it’s one of ten ways.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

The Humanities: “A Preseverve for the Elite?”

May 23, 2008

Speaking of literary magazines: I know I’ve recently mentioned the Virginia Quarterly Review as one of the most relevant and exciting literary journals available but I feel that I should do so again. Here’s Ted Genoways defending his publication (VQR) against an attack from Zyzzyva editor Howard Junker. I wouldn’t bring it up except 1) I think he’s absolutely right and 2) he speaks to a problem that many arts and humanities organizations have, namely that all of us in those fields think our work is important.

Certainly our work is personally fulfilling, but we also feel it deserves a wider audience and that a wider audience deserves access to those works. In an age of thinning endowment dollars for arts and humanities print publications, it seems impossible to me that Junker would be going out of his way to limit his readership, so he probably isn’t. Rather, it seems that Genoways’ comment is more accurate and Junker’s comments are the talk of “the last place finisher who says he never really wanted to win anyway.”

This entry was posted by: Jim