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Go-To Apps

April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

Some apps I can’t live without, in no particular order:

1) Evernote (free): To the untrained eye, Evernote is simply a note-taking widget. But this little app can make even the most disorganized of scholars feel like she has a personal assistant at her fingertips. I love that all notes are fully searchable. Another of my favorite features is the “Web Clipper.” Install this widget on your browser and you can save an entire webpage to your notebook. The app also syncs with other services, like LiveMinutes, which I use to share notes at meetings.

2) PDF Expert ($9.99): There are many, many annotation apps out there. As a Renaissance scholar who studies a lot of digitized material, I find I can’t live without this app. It can host offline files as well as sync with Dropbox, so any changes I make can be found back on my computer (or any computer) should I need them. For such a high-capacity app (I have about 50 large files saved to it right now), it’s incredibly fast. I use it mostly to annotate and highlight digitized rare books–I’m a little ODC with color-coding, and here I can use a different color to mark each of my observations: recurring keywords, dates, paratextual material worth returning to, etc. It also allows for digital signatures and filling out PDF forms, which is great for the bureaucratic side of academia.

3) TripCase (free): Not exactly an academic app, but if you travel a lot this can be extremely useful. Input your flight number and the app keeps track of departure times, gate changes, and planned delays or early arrivals. More than once this app helped me make a tight connection without having to go in search of one of those arrival/departure boards. You can also use it to save important information like confirmation numbers, check-in times, and get weather details about your destination. Much better than the ads that get printed with your boarding pass.

4) Zite: A must-have news aggregator that’s fully customizable to your preferred topics. Integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Email, and Pocket (Read it Later).

5) QuickOffice ($14.99): I am still in the desperate search for an app that reads notes and track changes on the iPad, and sadly this one does not do either (apparently Office² HD can read and edit footnotes, but to varied and unpredictable results). What I enjoy about this app is that it’s stable (I’ve never had it crash on me) and it automatically saves your work every couple of minutes, so you never lose anything. Like PDF Expert, it can sync with Dropbox and also host documents offline. It helps me immensely when I am away from a Wifi network and has saved me from carrying my heavy laptop on conference trips. Unfortunately, it’s hard to use QuickOffice for grading, since it doesn’t allow comments or track-changes. I prefer it for editing documents on the go–not for creating or responding to documents from scratch.

That’s it for my go-to list. What is your favorite time-saving or productivity app? I’m on the lookout for a better Word Processor, and I would love to hear which ones others are using.

Do you know of an app that works (well) with footnotes and changes? Any app you would recommend avoiding?

AV Needs

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Somewhere between responding to emails, reading amazing Day of DH posts, and eating dinner (while watching last night’s Game of Thrones), I managed to finished editing and revising my Prezi from this week’s Renaissance Society of America.

I enjoy using visual aids at conferences, but as a lover of aesthetically pleasing designs I tend to spend a lot of time preparing my slides. For today’s purpose, especially, I need the slides to represent my talk in free-form, yet understandable bullet-points. With Prezi in particular a lot of time goes into deciding where your slides will go, how they look independently and in relation to one another, and how they present in full screen. I love Prezi, but I worry that it often requires more time than I have to dedicate to it. For my next conference I will be trying out Slide Klowd, which is fully interactive and allows users to respond to the presentation by texting or going online. Lots of great potential for an exciting conversation—or a very distracting presentation, depending on who you ask.

There’s always the danger, too, that I will attempt to mine some of this for another conference paper or an article, and that posting the presentation online makes that difficult, if not pointless. But I’m all for generating conversations, and I love feedback. With that in mind: if you’re interested, you can find my Prezi here: I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorite databases or digital projects, and why you believe their interface is particularly helpful or frustrating.

Unpacking from RSA

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

After a long flight across the country from San Diego, I finally returned home at 1am, completely exhausted–but also exhilarated. As I return from the Renaissance Society of America, I feel energized and intellectually challenged by all the things I learned from papers, ideas I’ve discussed with colleagues, and already with many plans for next year’s meeting. The day after I get back from a conference is usually my most productive–I am eager to maintain relationships and ideas, and move forward with projects. As we all know, academia can often be a little solitary. For me, in particular, as I work on finishing my dissertation while on a fellowship, it’s even  more so. To be able to bounce back ideas with people, see that we’re all thinking about the same questions and trying out exciting new things is invaluable to academic production (as Sarah Werner /@winkenhimself/ already mentioned yesterday).

In other words, my bags will have to wait a few hours while I unpack my notes.

This was my first RSA. I attended as part of a “conference-within-a-conference”: a five-panel group titlled “New Technologies in Renaissance Studies.” In my presentation, I called out what I think is an important aspect of digital databases: that much like library archives and authoritative editions, databases are informed by specific and sometimes invisible decisions that determine what kinds of searches are possible, what kinds of research is encouraged, and how materials will be organized. Also, much like archives and critical editions, many databases are still working with traditional models of scholarship, privileging authorship and canonical works over (so-called) marginal texts and (literal) marginal issues. I was surprised to see that many of my colleagues were also calling for a critical look at the interfaces that mediate our digital work. I learned so much from their papers it made me feel slightly embarrassed about mine–here I am asking questions, making tenuous suggestions about new projects that use innovative technology, while they are already answering such questions and proposing new directions. But after the initial pity-party, I feel an immediate drive to keep working.

Today, the first order of business is to revise the slides from my presentation and post them online. From there, I hope to continue this conversation and discover what other answers and solutions are already percolating in the minds of my fellow DH-ers on twitter.

Next item on the list is more practical: in September, Network Detroit plans to bring digital humanists from a variety of disciplines to work together on ways to make DH more collaborative and inclusive and especially to put departments and institutions in touch with each other. The deadline for proposals is May 1. It’s the perfect time to take my RSA energy and start applying it towards a concrete essay. I’m especially excited to think outside the Renaissance parameters, and force myself to address issues that were widely relevant across the board.

Sometime this week (hopefully today), I also want to write a little blog post about personal archiving and digital-time management. As I read my emails on my iPad while I waited for my flight to board, I thought about my horrible habit of not deleting anything  on my inbox. I hardly ever organized items in folders, and my Wayne State email has about 3,000 archived messages. This got me to think about the many digital aspects of academic life, and I’m curious about how managing our personal digital environment can have an impact on our work.

Another great conversation that came out at RSA was on the subject of pedagogy: what do we want our students to “get” from using new technologies? What kinds of skills are we promising they will acquire? How do we conceptualize and teach methodology, practice, and critical engagement in the digital environment? How do we assign credit and get students to work on projects that “matter” (as opposed to exercises for the sake of point-distribution)? I don’t know what I’ll be teaching next semester yet, but I think a lot of my assignments tend towards making the text more engaging for students, or playing around with new ways to do research. This doesn’t seem to be enough. If there is no practical component to their work, I risk reinforcing the fact that DH is just a way to “play” with texts, and not an important contribution to the community, or a way to connect people across institutions and majors.

Finally, I need to get started on my next dissertation chapter. Step one of that process entails logging on to EEBO and patiently downloading all the primary sources I need to look at. Because I work with all surviving editions of a text and also compare individual texts to the rest of each printer’s (or publisher’s) entire carreer, this can take a lot of time. Once I dowload all the files, I put them on inbox and download them to my ipad, where I can use PDF Expert to annotated, highlight, and make notes. Time-consuming, but better than dealing with hundreds of printed pages!

It’s not surprising that a conference can fire up so much academic excitement, but it has been nice to be part of actual conversations that don’t happen in my head. How do you unpack from conferences?

Hello World!

April 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

I’m a doctoral candidate at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. My work investigates how early modern printers, publishers, and editors manipulated paratexts to attract new and returning readers to the marketplace. I became interested in Digital Humanities because of my research on material culture and editorial practices, but mostly because of my frustration and/or excitement using digital tools. My work would be nothing without EEBO and the ESTC, but there is so much potential for more daring work with new technologies left to be done.

This is my first year participating in Day of DH. As a newbie DH-er, I hope to show how my work engages with digital tools and how I, in turn, engage with the work others via Twitter, Prezi, blogging, and participating in conferences.
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