We’re Not All That: High School is America in miniature

High school is just a bunch of scared people pretending they’re not.
—Cameron Kweller portrayed by Tanner Buchanan in He’s All That (Netflix, 2021)

While not exact, this quote is incredibly similar in tone to a quote from a columnist in June 1928, which has been oft repeated and slightly modified since including versions by Will Rogers and in Fight Club.

Americanism: Using money you haven’t earned to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.
—Robert Quillen, The Detroit Free Press, Page 6, Column 4, Detroit, Michigan. June 4, 1928

It’s all about image and being what we’re not.

Apparently the message of the original film She’s All That was completely lost. I’m not sure the current incarnation of this remake will be an inflection point either.

Not sure if there are many/any podcasts about digital gardens and tangential topics, but I’ve started a tag on Huffduffer for those who’d like it for discovery or adding those they find themselves: https://huffduffer.com/tags/digital+gardens

If you find a podcast with some discussion about the topic, feel free to use Huffduffer’s bookmarklet to add it to the public list. This should also work with YouTube videos and it will convert the video into audio and save it to the list.

It has an RSS feed for subscribing if you like.

Read 25 Years of Ed Tech – Blogs by JR DingwallJR Dingwall (jrdingwall.ca)
This week I was able to catch up a bit on some podcasts I subscribe to. One of the casts I’ve been enjoying lately is 25 Years of Ed Tech, a serialized version of Martin Weller’s book by the same title. Now audio books are plenty good by themselves, but this particular podcast has an addition episode per chapter called “between the chapters” where a host interviews members of the ed tech community (those around Martin in some way) about the topic of the previous chapter. This week was all about blogs.
JR writes about some of his journey into blogging. I appreciate some of the last part about the 9x9x25 blogs. For JR it seems like some smaller prompts got him into more regular writing.

He mentions Stephen Downes‘ regular workflow as well. I think mine is fairly similar to Stephen’s. To some extent, I write much more on my own website now than I ever had before. This is because I post a lot more frequently to my own site, in part because it’s just so easy to do. I’ll bookmark things or post about what I’ve recently read or watched. My short commentary on some of these is just that—short commentary. But occasionally I discover, depending on the subject, that those short notes and bookmark posts will spring into something bigger or larger. Sometimes it’s a handful of small posts over a few days or weeks that ultimately inspires the longer thing. The key seems to be to write something.

Perhaps a snowball analogy will work? I take a tiny snowball of words and give it a proverbial roll. Sometimes it sits there and other times it rolls down the hill and turns into a much larger snowball. Other times I get a group of them and build a full snowman.

Of course lately a lot of my writing starts, like this did, as an annotation (using Hypothes.is) to something I was reading. It then posts to my website with some context and we’re off to the races.

It’s just this sort of workflow that I was considering when I recently suggested that those using annotation as a classroom social annotation tool, might also consider using it to help students create commonplace books to help students spur their writing. The key is to create small/low initial stakes that have the potential to build up into something bigger. Something akin to the user interface of Twitter (and their tweetstorm functionality). Write a short sentence or two on which you can hit publish, but if the mood strikes, then write another, and another until you’ve eventually gotten to something that could be a blog post (or article). Of course if you do this, you should own it.

This is also the sort of perspective which Sönke Ahrens takes in his excellent book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers, though there he’s prescribing something for general note taking when I might suggest it’s a prescription for a pedagogy behind living and writing.

Realizing my interest in old and illuminated manuscripts, incunables, and drolleries is giving me ideas for icons, dividers, lettering, and illustrations for my sketchnotes process. These are the original (OG) sketchnotes.

See also MarginaliaMonday.

An Index for My Digital Commonplace Book

In reading about the history of commonplace books, I figured it’d be nice to have a full listing of all the categories and tags on my website for public reference. So I’ve now added an Index page.

I must admit that with a tiny amount of research and set up, I’ve now got something that even John Locke could be jealous of.

For my future self or others interested, I’m using Multi-column Tag Map which has a variety of short codes for implementing various forms of output. Sadly it wasn’t tagged with the word index, so it took some time to find it.

I’ve always had my own administrative interface for this data as well as search and even programmatic tag completion which makes writing and posting easier. However since a lot of what I do is in the public, perhaps it will be useful for readers to have access to the same full list instead of the abbreviated ones that appear as tag clouds or in various sidebars on the site?

Currently I’ve got over 9,000 different tags on the site. Perhaps displaying them publicly will help motivate me to curate and manage them a bit better. I already see a handful of repeated versions based on spelling, spacing, or typos that could be cleaned up. Let’s go crazy!

On Note Taking: Putting Ideas into a Crib

I mentioned the word incunable the other day, and a comment on it reminded me that I personally refer to my initial notes on what I read as incunabules. The original Latin (incunabulum, incunabula) translates as “into the crib” and is often used to mean swaddling clothes.

I use incunables in much the same way others in the personal knowledge management space might say fleeting notes. Ideas are born and written onto a page where they are kept in proverbial cribs. Some may grow and and develop into young adults others into old age. Some flourish and later senesce. Ideally one or two outlive me.

As is typical of many species, the care and feeding of the adolescents can be a trying time.

Featured image: LEGO Babies: Nonuplet Nursery flickr photo by cproppe shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Bookmarked Sheet-posting (sheet-posting.me)
Turn a Google Sheets spreadsheet into a blog page and RSS feed
This reminds me of the sort of thing that @JohnStewartPhD or someone from the space might do: Turn a Google Sheet into a website.

Kevin Marks in #indieweb 2021-09-06 ()

Andrew, someone in the IndieWeb chat mentioned what an awesome new website you have. I thought you might appreciate our upcoming mini-camp. There’s definitely a space in the tools for thought area that your perspective may help fill. If it’s of interest, I’d invite you to join us.

Gardens and Streams II: An IndieWebCamp Pop-up Session on Wikis, Digital Gardens, Online Commonplace Books, Zettelkasten and Note Taking

Mudstels: the new rage in car colors

A new category of colors perhaps? Cars for the last couple of years have been coming out with a muddy, grungy sort of color palette. In contrast to the more colorful, Easeter-y pastel colors, I’ve been calling this new palette of colors mudstels. They’re usually in shades of blue, green, grey, and tan. There are a few rusty oranges out there, but I’ve yet to see any red, purple, or yellows in the series.

One might call these new mudstel colors a tone, but instead of adding grey to the primary colors and variations thereof, it’s almost as if they’re mixing in a muddy brownish gray. They seem low value and medium chroma to me. Perhaps I should delve into some color theory to better categorize these?

In any case, I’m seeing a lot of them on the road over the past couple of years. Some seem reminiscent of the sorts of industrial colors one would have seen in public schools in the 1940s and 1950s on 20 gauge steel furnishings.

I guested on a recording for Andy Sylvester‘s new Thinking About Tools for Thought podcast earlier today. Hopefully I’ve lived up to the promise of the fascinating space that he’s been crafting there.
Reposted Thinking About Tools For Thought: Episode 005 – Interview with Chris Aldrich by Andy Sylvester (thinkingabouttoolsforthought.com)

Links from today’s episode:

And for the crazy rhetoric and note taking nerds:

Early Philosophical Texts

  • Aristotle, Topica, written about 350 BCE Venice, 1495.
  • Aristotle, Rhetorica, written about 350 BCE. Basel, 1529.
  • Cicero, De Oratore, written about 46 BCE. Northern Italian manuscript about 1450.
  • Cicero, Topica, written about 44 BCE. Florentine manuscript, about 1425-30.
  • Seneca the Younger, Epistulae morales, written 62-65 CE. French manuscript, about 1175.
  • Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, written about 100 CE. Paris, 1542.
  • Macrobius, Saturnalia, written about 430 CE. Central Italian manuscript, about 1475.
  • Boethius, De topicis differentiis, written about 480-526 CD. English manuscript, about 1275.

Renaissance Handbooks

  • Rodolphus Agricola, De formando studio. Antwerp, 1532; composed 1484.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De ratione studii et instituendi pueros comentarii totidem. [Paris, 1512].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Institutiones rhetoricae. Wittenberg [1536].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Rhetorices elementa. Lyon, 1537.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum. Cologne, 1540.
  • Petrus Mosellanus, Tabulae de schematibus et tropis…. In Rhetroica Philippi Melanchthonis. In Erasmi Roterdami libellum De duplici copia. Paris, 1542.
  • Joachim Camerarius, Elementa rhetoricae. Basel, [1545].
  • Henry Peacham, The garden of eloquence: conteyning the figures of grammar and rhetorick. London, 1577.
    • One of the first handbooks in English
  • Philip Melanchthon, De locis communibus ratio. Augsburg [1593].
  • John Brinsley, Ludus literarius: or, The grammar schoole; shewing how to proceede from the first entrance into learning, to the highest perfection. London, 1612.
  • [Obadiah Walker], Of education: especially of young gentlemen. Oxford, 1673.
I may have broadened the discussion that some of the intended audience on tools for thought may be showing up for, but I can never resist introducing people to mnemnotechniques and research on orality, anthropology, or the history of commonplaces.

I provocatively (with only a modest amount of wickedness) put forward the idea that a rock is as good a tool for thought as Obsidian.md or Roam Research.

Read Ebooks Are an Abomination by Ian BogostIan Bogost (The Atlantic)
If you hate them, it’s not your fault.
Ian Bogost has a nice look at the UI affordances and areas for growth in the e-reading space.

A🧵 of annotations

What any individual infers about their hopes and dreams for an e-reader derives from their understanding of reading in the first place. You can’t have books without bookiness. Bookiness. That’s the word Glenn Fleishman, a technology writer and longtime bookmaker, uses to describe the situation. “It’s the essence that makes someone feel like they’re using a book,” he told me. Like pornography or sandwiches, you know bookiness when you see it. Or feel it? Either way, most people can’t identify what it is in the abstract.

definition: bookiness

Does this only come out because there’s something that’s book-tangential or similar and it needs to exist to describe the idea of not-book, book-adjacent, or book-like on some sort of spectrum of bookishness.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:28PM

The ancient Romans sometimes connected wax tablets with leather or cords, suggesting a prototype of binding. Replacing the wax with leaves allowed many pages to be stacked atop one another, then sewn or otherwise bound together. 

early book prototypes
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:30PM

In other words, as far as technologies go, the book endures for very good reason. Books work. 

Aside from reading words to put ideas into my brain, one of the reasons I like to read digital words is that the bigger value proposition for me is an easier method to add annotations to what I’m reading and then to be able to manipulate those notes after-the-fact. I’ve transcended books and the manual methods of note taking. Until I come up with a better word for it, digital commonplacing seems to be a useful shorthand for this new pattern of reading.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:33PM

If you have a high-quality hardbound book nearby, pick it up and look at the top and bottom edges of the binding, near the spine, with the book closed. The little stripey tubes you see are called head and tail bands (one at the top, one at the bottom). They were originally invented to reinforce stitched binding, to prevent the cover from coming apart from the leaves. Today’s mass-produced hardcover books are glued rather than sewn, which makes head and tail bands purely ornamental. And yet for those who might notice, a book feels naked without such details. 

It is an odd circumstance that tail bands are still used on modern books that don’t need them. From a manufacturing standpoint, the decrease in cost would dictate they disappear, however they must add some level of bookiness that they’re worth that cost.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:37PM

One site of that erosion, which may help explain ebook reticence, can be found in self-published books. For people predisposed to sneer at the practice, a lack of editing or the absence of publisher endorsement and review might justify self-published works’ second-class status. That matter is debatable. More clear is the consequence of disintermediation: Nobody takes a self-published manuscript and lays it out for printing in a manner that conforms with received standards. And so you often end up with a perfect-bound Word doc instead of a book. That odd feeling of impropriety isn’t necessarily a statement about the trustworthiness of the writer or their ideas, but a sense of dissonance at the book as an object. It’s an eerie gestalt, a foreboding feeling of unbookiness. 

Having helped others to self-publish in the past, I definitely do spend a bit of time putting the small sort of bookiness flourishes into their texts.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:41PM

The weird way you tap or push a whole image of a page to the side—it’s the uncanny valley of page turning, not a simulation or replacement of it. 

This may be the first time I’ve seen uncanny valley applied to a topic other than recognizing people versus robots or related simulacra.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:44PM

The iPad’s larger screen also scales down PDF pages to fit, making the results smaller than they would be in print. It also displays simulated print margins inside the bezel margin of the device itself, a kind of mise en abyme that still can’t actually be used for the things margins are used for, such as notes or dog-ears. 

It would be quite nice if a digital reader would allow actual writing in the margins, or even overlaying the text itself and then allowing the looking at the two separately.

I do quite like the infinite annotation space that Hypothes.is gives me on a laptop. I wish there were UI for it on a Kindle in a more usable and forgiving way. The digital keyboard on Kindle Paperwhite is miserable. I’ve noticed that I generally prefer reading and annotating on desktop in a browser now for general ease-of-use.

Also, I don’t see enough use of mise en abyme. This is a good one.

In Western art history, mise en abyme (French pronunciation: ​[miz ɑ̃n‿abim]; also mise en abîme) is a formal technique of placing a copy of an image within itself, often in a way that suggests an infinitely recurring sequence. In film theory and literary theory, it refers to the technique of inserting a story within a story. The term is derived from heraldry and literally means “placed into abyss”. It was first appropriated for modern criticism by the French author André Gide.

Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:49PM

Ebook devices are extremely compatible with an idea of bookiness that values holding and carrying a potentially large number of books at once; that prefers direct flow from start to finish over random access; that reads for the meaning and force of the words as text first, if not primarily; and that isn’t concerned with the use of books as stores of reader-added information or as memory palaces. 

Intriguing reference of a book as a memory palace here.

The verso/recto and top/middle/bottom is a piece of digital books that I do miss from the physical versions as it serves as a mnemonic journey for me to be able to remember what was where.

I wonder if Ian Bogost uses the method of loci?
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:53PM

So do all manner of other peculiarities of form, including notations of editions on the verso (the flip side) of the full title page and the running headers all throughout that rename the book you are already reading. 

I do dislike the running headers of digital copies of books as most annotation tools want to capture those headers in the annotation. It would be nice if they were marked up in an Aria-like method so that annotation software would semantically know to ignore them.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 12:56PM

Skimming through pages, the foremost feature of the codex, remains impossible in digital books. 

This is related to an idea that Tom Critchlow was trying to get at a bit the other day. It would definitely be interesting in this sort of setting.

Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:03PM

“We’ve been thoughtful,” Amazon continued, “about adding only features and experiences that preserve and enhance the reading experience.” The question of whose experience doesn’t seem to come up. 

They’re definitely not catering to my reading, annotating, and writing experience.
Annotated on September 18, 2021 at 01:04PM