Open Codex HISTORICAL entry

2008 Apr 07 | Mead Releases New Notebook

If only I had something like this while working on the dissertation!

... "We here at Mead understand that as students get older and wiser, they need notebooks with increasingly narrow lines," Mead CEO John A. Luke told reporters. "In college, people are at a stage in their education where they require 9/32nds of an inch between each line, which is why we make college-ruled notebooks. But I think we can all agree that grad school is a completely different world than college: a world where 9/32nds of an inch is simply too much room."..."How can we expect graduate students to learn to gather information and construct knowledge independently within their specialized field of study using college-ruled notebooks?" he added. "These students need a narrower-lined notebook, and at long last, they have it."..."Just think: If you are writing a dissertation on elements of thanatopsis and necromimesis as they relate to cacaesthesian themes of mid-20th-century Irish literature, do you really want your notebook lines to be more than seven millimeters apart?" Luke said. "Of course not."..."Gone are the days of graduate students having to tediously pencil in new lines between each existing college-ruled line just to make the notebooks usable," the press release read in part. "And with the time you'll save by not having to flip a page every 33 lines, you could earn your Ph.D. a year early." (The Onion)

2007 Jun 19 | Steinhardt LaTeX template

Given a wretched experience with using Microsoft Word for my Masters thesis 10 years ago, I decided to try LaTeX this time around. One might think that Microsoft Word has improved, but my tinkering has shown it is still quite dangerous. Word's notions of styles are extremely frustrating, and have changed over time. Additionally, creating multi-document files, or very large files risks corruption. Furthermore, given I work in an interdisciplinary space, it is useful to be able to format a document, including footnotes and bibliography, as, say, either historical or sociological: LaTeX is quite good at this.

That said, LaTeX is a pain. Granted, I prefer a simple structured text markup language over a corruptible proprietary binary blob, but LaTeX is like the Perl of markup languages, and I am a Python guy. (To be fair, TeX and LaTeX are now decades old.) No doubt, regardless of what you want to do, there is a way to do it in LaTeX. The problem is, like Perl, there are too many ways to do it. There are dozens of packages that appeared to do the same thing, though many are different enough to make you wonder why the difference is important. It is difficult to discern the present best practices and most of the documentation is in annoying PDF. Even understanding LaTeX syntax is a confounding task. Does '[]' mean an optional parameter to a command? Mostly yes, but sometimes no. The only way I could get a handle on the world of LaTeX was to purchase Tex for the Impatient and The LaTeX Companion.

In any case, when I do have a problem the LaTeX community on comp.text.tex is extremely helpful. So even though there is a steep learning curve, when I ascend a particular hill, that challenge stays behind me. There is no equivalent to Microsoft Word kicking me down the mountain.

Like all colleges, Steinhardt has a particular format they require for doctoral dissertations. Unfortunately, its specification is sometimes ambiguous, and more a creature of typewriting, than computer typesetting. (For example, section headings are supposed to be underlined!) In any case, I thought I would share the fruits of my frustrations: steinhard-pkg-opts.tex. I haven't yet received approval that this is sufficient, nor am I an expert in LaTeX, but, should someone else at Steinhardt need such a thing, this might be a start.

2006 May 26 | Style, Discipline, and Literatures

Now that my proposal is done, I'm looking forward to the actual dissertation. (I really enjoyed writing my Master's thesis.) However, that doesn't mean I look upon the project without concern. One concern is with the form of the dissertation (as a genre) and interdisciplinary work. In the proposal, beyond the actual research questions and methods, the text was not as focused as it might've been as I was not reporting findings, proposing a theory, telling a story, or making an argument -- beyond that the concepts covered were important to me. (I was thinking that I have conveyed my findings, written stories, and made arguments in existing work and will do so more completely in the dissertation.) Fortunately, the proposal is done, but I want to make sure the dissertation doesn't feel the same way. This raises a number of questions from the secondary literature.

First, I have not yet chosen a "discipline." Beyond a focus on collaboration and technology I feel I could be writing to new media, organizational studies, communication, or STS scholars. I'm happy to pull from a diverse set of disciplines -- look at my committee -- but it can also create some challenges.

Second, my two inspirations don't make much use of secondary literature. Sheeran simply dropped the theoretical argument he made in his dissertation from his book -- with no loss in my humble opinion. Morton was writing a history and employed primary sources in order to tell his story and make his argument. I will be doing much the same, but I want to be informed and employ (diverse) social science and theory where appropriate. Popular press social science books do this sort of thing (e.g., Jared Diamond, Robert Wright, Malcolm Gladwell etc.) but these are not historical works either.

So, I am not confident in the style in which I will be writing. I haven't yet been struck with a great example in this disciplinary style/literature; Siva's work is close and perhaps my issue is related to those he raises in his recent piece on "Critical Information Studies." (Though my concern with "critical" studies is present even there: I believe it is important to go beyond pejorative critique and recognize -- and even contribute to -- things we might find to be good. Though, of course, we need to be open to the phenomenon, and as scholars, like to find surprises and novelty.)

2006 May 19 | Recommending readings

As a student this time around -- more so than my experiences in computer science and policy -- I find that the process of getting feedback includes a deluge of references. In my present interdisciplinary domain of humanities and social science it seems there are many traditions making a claim upon a subject via their own literatures. Consequently, feedback in the form of "you should read X" can be overwhelming. One skill of a scholar is to learn to be open to such feedback while separating the wheat from the chaff. This is not to say that some recommendations are not welcome, but some are better suited to the purpose at hand than others.

Consequently, when I give feedback to colleagues I try to avoid the imperious "you should read X" or the possibly insulting "have you read X?" and try to cast my comment as "I think the notion of Y in X will help you with your subject in the following way..."

A colleague of mine inspired this maxim in her own guidelines for a reading group this past semester and the more I collaborate with others, the more I like it.

2006 May 12 | Results of Spring 2006

My dissertation proposal: In good faith: the collaborative culture of Wikipedia has been accepted and I'm now officially ABD (all but dissertation)! The proposal and all the other drafts I've written are now available on a single page.

2006 Apr 10 | Wikipedia Citations

A while ago I noted that Wikipedia was including "permalinks" to their articles: a way to refer to the specific version one was reading. The citations standards for Wikipedia had also been updated and recommended that people use these versioned links as well as specific date and time stamps (UTC) to refer to articles. Last week I implemented this for my own references and went through and updated the 80 or so Wikipedia pages in my Mindmap to make sure that any excerpted text was from a specific and dated page. At first, I thought this level of specificity wouldn't be required, but in fact, I did encounter a couple of cases where text I had cited was no longer present in the most recent version.

As an aside, a neat feature of my reference system is that it is quite easy to query for titles that have been read in a certain period. For example, to see everything I read last month, I just need to query r=200503". Creating a RSS feed of what I'm reading would be an easy next step!

2006 Feb 05 | Results of Fall 2005

Exams are done, course work is done, the task now is to get my dissertation proposal completed and defended. Last semester I took on two more (draft) pieces of the dissertation puzzle, a recent history and the question of leadership:

2005 Sep 30 | Results as of Fall 2005

I'm now in my third year at NYU; the first and second year exams are done, and after this semester I will have satisfied my course requirements. (This semester I'm taking methodological courses including ethnography, history, and statistics.) The outstanding item, then, will be the completion and approval of my proposal -- which will also include finding a third member for my committee.

The majority of my efforts are focused on the Wikipedia; some recent drafts that may be of interest on that note include:

2004 Dec 22 | Results of the Fall 2004 Semester

At this point, most of my work is going into the monster mind-map (java); otherwise, I really enjoyed working on two of the papers below:

  1. E59.3005 Methods
  2. G89.3405 Agreement
  3. E50.2089 Evolution

For next semester, honestly, I'm having trouble finding relevant courses so I expect to be focusing in independent study courses delving into the history of encyclopedias and trying to hack away at my growing reading list.

2004 May 27 | Results of the Fall 2004 Semester

Another semester's work out of the way.

  1. E59.3002 Seminar
  2. E38.2097 Comm/Cultural Industries
  3. E38.2160 Values Embodied in Info/Comm Technologies
  4. B20.3382 IS Behavioral Rsch [Readings and Summarizing]
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Open Communities, Media, Source, and Standards

by Joseph Reagle