Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What i learned at geek camp

so i'm at the week-long digital humanities summer institute in victoria, trying to figure out how to realize the edmonton project that keeps banging around in my mind - a citizens' site for grafting urban narratives into digital cartographies. i'm learning a ton, obviously, though thankfully i learned long ago how to smile and nod and follow along even when i do not have the first clue what's being talked about.

i'm also learning about myself as a learner.

to back up, a second: i believe that it's bad for a person to always be in the position of teacher, to be the one who knows everything, or feels she has to. i think it's bad for the ego and i think it's bad for the spirit. it's too easy to grow conceited, and exhausted, and you stand to lose the magic of unknowing, the productive agony of learning. there's nothing like being a student to remind you, as a teacher, of what it's like out there in the other half of the room. you miss one simple instruction, a turn in the discussion, and suddenly you're in the bad place, lost, confused, sullen and feeling stupid. so -- call it part of the great self-improvement project otherwise known as my life -- i try to seek out studenthood when i can.

turns out, i am a model student. every day i sit directly in the instructors' line of vision. deliberate? nope. but unwavering. i follow their demos with an intelligent look on my face. i smile and nod and look quizzical at just the right moments. again, let me stress, none of this is deliberate. faithfully i raise my hand and ask questions at exactly the right moments. i am very comfortable with this mode of instruction. i like them to show me everything about a program -- and by everything, i mean everything. let's do a title search. then, a subject search. i know you said author searches work the same way, but perhaps we could try one out just to be sure? after that, i like to be left alone to try all of this again, on my own. "reinforce the object lesson," is how they put it in ed theory. i am a painfully structural, top-down, linear thinker.

meanwhile, since it's geek camp, the guy on my left is double-tasking on, it seems, a shakespeare paper. i disapprove of double-tasking, and turn my body away from him, slightly, to convey this to the instructors. the whiz kid on my right has immediately grasped the implications of zotero and has been constructing a resource-sharing circle for modernists at the university of washington for the last 15 minutes, even though the rest of us (i.e., the instructors and i) have moved on to a JiTR demo. "dude!," i want to say, "that's not on the syllabus!"

is this the kind of learner i want to be? not at all. i want to be all web 2.0, freeform exploratory and shit. i want the labile mind of a born-digital 22-year-old, not the behavioral spine of a middle-aged schoolmarm struggling with the DH limbo. so, i'm writing this blog -- firefox tab 10 of 12 -- even though the rest of the class is looking at timeline demos. where i'm coming from, that makes me pretty much a bad ass.

but i gotta go; i think they're moving on to monk ("metadata offer new knowledge") and i don't want to miss anything.


jen alabiso said...

turns out, i am a model student. every day i sit directly in the instructors' line of vision.

REALLY this was a surprise??? no way, baby...YOU are a model student of life EVERY FREAKIN' day.

silly heather...woulda coulda predicted that.
love and smooches.

Matt said...

People are still using Zotero? I'd recommend checking out Mendeley ( It's browser-independent, for those of us who prefer Chrome and, I guess, for those poor, misguided souls who, for reasons unknown, insist on using Internet Explorer.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm in love. Also, the jiTR link is dud.

Anthony said...

i am here reading about post colonial reactions to Fire, the Meetha movie, and have 33 tabs open, plus music, because apparently i cannot hold anything for longer the 10 minutes