Learning To Write Music

As I get deeper into crunch time of my mind has had difficulties with remembering to write simple, and to the point arguments. What I have been defaulting to is worrying about the length of it, which leads to a lot of big useless unsupported arguments and statements. Or in other words as Dr Graham calls it a lot of “Hand Waving”. These types of mistakes are what I like to think of as rookie mistakes that I like to avoid after first or second year but when you are under a bit of stress these things happen.

What I need to remember to do is write my arguments in a rhythmic way, similar to a musical composition. This should not obviously be taken in a literal sense. What is meant by this is that I need to remember what the underlying theme of my paper is. The strongest articles or papers do not only continually make more and more arguments to prove a desired point that are not related to one another. Instead, what they always do is revert back to their underlying themes to prove how a certain argument relates to the point that the author is trying to achieve. Dr Graham pointed out to me, is similar to how musical compositions are written, with each verse relating itself back to the chorus.

Therefore, I have to ask myself what are the underlying themes that I am hoping to portray in my thesis? The first and foremost one that comes to mind is why I had a desire to write this thesis in the first place. The main purpose I had in mind when I began this project was to discuss the evolution of the book (mainly its physicality) into a technology that is more and more accessible to all.

This then leads into my secondary theme of how I have struggled with technology throughout my life as a disabled individual, and more specifically a disabled student. This has led me to become entangled with the things around me that help me in my everyday life to become more independent. A number of examples can be made to argue this point, for example every day I depend on my wheelchair to get anywhere. I also depend on my Bluetooth to help me interact with people over the telephone.

When it comes to my working on my passion passion of becoming a historian though, I am even more dependent on technology to scan my books so that I can read them on my computer. What I need to remember to do is always remember these things and keep relating my other arguments back to these underlying themes. If I stick to this strategy I should be good to go.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures writing my history thesis…

Time For the Hard Work

We are now entering January 2015 and it is time that my thesis outlines and proposals start to come together and look like a real thesis. After a month off for the holiday where I was unable to get much work done due to sickness it is a bit intimidating to get back into the swing of things. But after a meeting today with my thesis supervisor Dr Graham, I have a more clear plan set out on how to get myself back into the swing of things.

The biggest problem for me when I approach this thesis is that I cannot help but see from a beginning to end viewpoint. What I mean by this is that I automatically assume that I am needing to write the whole thing from beginning to end and make it a seamless read. What Dr Graham helpfully pointed out to me though is that since it is such a large piece of writing, that it is better that I chip away at it in different sections now and worry about making them connect later.

As logical as this sounds of course it is a difficult idea to get around for me as I have always written my papers from beginning to end and edited the flow of the reading while I write. While this may work for papers that are about fifteen to twenty pages at most, it gets very confusing to try to do so with something that is closer to the forty page range.

Such a strategy though, I believe at least, will be very helpful in getting back into the mindset that allows a university student such as myself to be successful. My reasoning behind this theory is that there is nothing that will improve your ability to write better than doing exactly that, writing.

Therefore, my plan at the moment is not to look at the entire project from top to bottom when I am writing and make it all connect there and then, as Dr Graham mentioned we can worry about that later during the editing process. Instead, I am going to break down the writing into smaller portions and simply worry about if they make sense on their own, and then connect them later on to the other sections of writing.

So I have begun this style of writing by beginning with the prologue of my paper. In the prologue I discuss my interactions with digital media at the university level of education, for example the difficulty I had at first when trying to get course materials such as textbooks into a format that worked for me to read. In addition I discuss how it has been through this thesis writing process that I have discovered a new program (Notational Velocity) that allows me to take notes in a much more organized manner.

Next up I will be writing about the history of the incunabula and its evolution into the book we know today. This section will be interesting as I will pull together sources from different books and academic journals to learn more about its social, cultural and physical characteristics and how they came to be.

Stay tuned…

Thesis Update 2000: Paradigm Shift

Hurdle number two has now been tackled! Two thousand words in and “The Evolution of the Digitization of History: Making History Accessible” is beginning to look like a thesis. To this point I have lightly touched on the incunabula and have begun to discuss the e-book. For the most part though I have been writing about how as well as why evolutions of different technologies happen.

The most helpful source in doing so has been John Lutz’s “Riding the Horseless Carriage to the Computer Revolution: Teaching History in the Twenty-First Century”. In it Lutz speaks about how when technological revolutions occur, it is not the invention itself that causes the revolution. Instead, it is the idea that brings about a paradigm shift.

Such a paradigm shift is exactly the focus of my paper. Why and how did the physicality of the incunabula develop? Why does the e-book try so hard to emulate the physicality of the book? More of these answers are being discovered everyday of this project. Lets see what is discovered next…

Calculating Affordances

Now has come the time to actually place all of my ideas down into words that somehow work together to prove my thesis. When I went to go about gathering all my newly researched information though I came upon an unexpected bump in the road. Despite spending a great deal of time on researching I found myself struggling to format my ideas in a way that made sense.

Therefore, I went to Dr Graham in search of some much needed advice. I told him I was struggling to figure out the differences between the physical book, or incunabula, and e-book. What he suggested was to come up with a list of affordances that each one offers to able bodied and disabled individuals to get my ideas flowing.

This was a fantastic idea! This has allowed me to better calculate the accessibility of format directly to each other by making a tables. These tables compared the physical benefit of utilizing a book for able bodied and disabled individuals for both the book and e-book. From this exercise I have been able to even broaden my perspective on physical affordances of both the physical book and the e-book. I have also discovered some surprising similarities and differences between each.

It will be interesting to see what I discover next in this project.

Speeding To A New Velocity

Taking notes and keeping track of them has always been difficult for me. Seeing as I cannot move them around on a table to see multiple pages at a time, I have had to train myself to remember my previous notes in order to put together a more solid argument. Thanks to Dr Graham though, this is no longer the case.

During our last meeting he introduced me to an application called Notational Velocity. This application helps you see your notes at one time on the computer without scrolling through pages of notes on other applications such as Microsoft Word or Pages. All you need to do is write a title of your note and Notational Velocity keeps track of the body of your notes so that as you are writing it will pull up previous notes that relate to your present note. It is very similar in other words, to grabbing different pages out of a binder of notes and moving them around to make more sense of them. This is so helpful in writing a paper because it is so much easier to formulate ideas with previous ones and make links between them.

Writing this project on the evolution of technology has been so great as it has opened my mind to so many different ways of doing things. I always knew that I would discover more information on the book and the different ways it has been produced, I did not anticipate new ways of going about my academic work though. This has been a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Discovering the E-Book

Ever since I was young I have been drawn to books. To this day I can remember myself looking at my parents’ bookshelf and seeing countless fascinating books that I told myself I would read one day. As I grew up and had more of a capacity to read such books, I found that my physical ability, rather than my capacity to read was holding me back. My mom still says to this day with a smile on her face, “You were my only kid that actually wanted to read, and you could not hold a book up!”.

Being the type of person that she is, my mom would never be satisfied until I was able to read for however long I wanted to without losing the strength to do so. In order to make this happen she tried a number of things. Even going so far as to purchase a brand new desk for me that was higher up so I would not need to look down to see my book. While this did solve that issue, I still had problems, as I could not reach my book when it was elevated in order to turn the pages.

From this point we managed to solve most issues by having a book holder sit on top of my elevated wedge on the tray of my wheelchair so that the book was elevated, fully open, and relatively easy to reach to turn pages. My mom made it even easier for me by suggesting that I use the eraser on a pencil to do so. From that point on I could read as often as I desired without too much trouble. This remained true for some time until I reached the next level in my academic career.

When I reached University I discovered that I would need to read at a much faster rate than I was ever able to while dealing with a physical book. Therefore I had to figure out a new method of reading all over again with the help of the Paul Menton Centre at Carleton University. This place was very helpful in showing me all of the different methods they had for giving me the information I needed in my text books. For example, I could even get my books printed in brail if I wanted! Instead though I chose audio books.

Learning how to read in a different way though is challenging enough as it is, let alone picking it up at a crucial time like the beginning of university. I found it incredibly difficult to take in the information as I was so used to reading with the words in front of me. Because of this, and also the fact that it took an extended period of time for my books to be transferred into such a format, my grades suffered. A couple years later I was told I could also have my books changed to PDFs so that I would receive them much faster. This suggestion completely altered my academic path.

From this point on I became interested in how technology such this is helping to make History, my course of study, more accessible to me. This is how I discovered the Digital Humanities with the help of Dr Graham after taking his class The Historian’s Craft. I am now writing my honours thesis on this subject. What I am hoping to accomplish through this process is to compare the development of the e-book, that has been such a fantastic creation for me as a disabled individual, to the incunabula, or early book. I would like to prove that the incunabula improved the way people received their information at that time just as much as the e-book has for me now.

Stay tuned for updates!

A White Board of Ideas

Today I had my first meeting with Dr Graham to discuss my upcoming thesis. During this meeting we first went over my guidelines and then proceeded to review my first assignment that I completed for this week, my initial timeline for the entire year. This was great as it led into discussing other assignments that I will be doing throughout the year such as a proposal.

During this discussion we began to think about my thesis as a whole and what it would be about and how to approach it. To keep our ideas straight, Dr Graham pulled out his white board and started scribbling things down. We began talking about many different things that I could touch on from the difference between digitization and digitalization (I had to pause from my shock that yes, obviously there is a difference). Other subjects included what digitization does to things, the relationship between accessibility and things among many others.

After all of this was said and done I have now come to the realization that my thesis is going to focus on the evolution digitization through six different technologies. These technologies are: early books (or incunabula), the telegraph, the telephone, radio, tv, and the internet. What I hope to accomplish from this is learn what their physicality is. More specifically, how their physicality to their accessibility for their audience.

Lets get cracking!

DHSI 2014

At the beginning of this month I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) 2014 In Victoria British Columbia. For those of you who are as confused as I was when I first heard the name, it is a week long conference filled with an intense combination of coursework, seminars and lectures relating to the influence of computing technology on teaching, research, preservation of disciplines amongst others. This was my second year in attendance and I took a week long course titled “The History of the Pre-Digital Book”.

Given that the title possessed the word History in it appealed to me right away. I was a little apprehensive to register for it though as I did not know how much it would relate to my interest in the Digital Humanities. I must admit though that I was pleasantly surprised to learn that despite not revolving around my immediate idea of what “technology” is, the course related quite a bit to the seminar I focused on transcribing during my fellowship this past year.

The seminar I am referring to of course is that which discussed museums and libraries. The primary reason for my saying this is that one of the main topics of the course was the development of publishing books which was really the first step in making them more accessible to everyone. As much as my interest does lie in the digitization of the books of today to make historical (or any other subject for that matter) research more accessible to a physically disabled individual like myself, it is interesting to learn more about how we arrived at this stage.

Overall I believe I chose the perfect course to take at DHSI 2014 and hope that I have a chance to attend again in the coming years.

Carleton University Data Day Poster Competition

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I had been recently preparing for Carleton University’s first ever Data Day. This day was focused on displaying attention to the work of Carleton Student’s who have done recent work in the data sciences. This day also included a panel discussion of experts, who discussed the subject of data sciences and what role they will play in the upcoming years.

One of the comments from the panel that struck me particularly was from one Joe Armstrong, a regional business leader at CAE IES Canada, who said that the 21st Century will be the when the world’s statistical problems are resolved. This will be done thanks to technology that allows us to study data in a more precise fashion. Going on to say that Google was taking the lead in this process.

Taking this into consideration, the poster competition was a intellectually stimulating event. There were a vast array of projects from a number of fields of study, from the health sciences to geology. Mine however, stood alone representing the humanities, perhaps being best described by the poster judge when he said, “this one is like comparing apples to oranges”. Nonetheless it still received a great deal of attention from the attendees (see photo below of me explaining the project to fellow attendees). This made me feel confident that despite being the only humanities project, by the only undergraduate student at the event, it provided an equal level of value along with the rest.


After attending this day and seeing all the projects, I must agree with the panelists and speakers on the fact that the most important thing for the data sciences moving forward is for all fields to collaborate together. Whether you are an engineer or a historian all data studied needs to be valued equally.


Data Day Poster

Over the past few days I have been working on a poster to take part in Carleton University’s “Data Day” on Thursday. The Carleton University website describes “Data Day” as being a celebration of strategic development in the Data Sciences. The event includes a panel discussion and presentations by Carleton experts from a number of faculties.

At the event there will be a poster fair to showcase student research using Data Science. I will be participating in this part of the day by making a poster that summarizes my project for the George Garth Graham Research Fellowship.

The poster includes information on the research question that I am answering, and where I got the information to gather the data. In addition, I describe how the data mining program that I am using works, what discoveries I have made from the data and what are the next steps in my research.

You can check out the poster yourself below if you are unable to make it to the event on Thursday.