The Real Crisis and the U of L… and why the Board must Act [1]

Full disclosure. I am a professor of English at the University of Lethbridge and a member of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) Executive. ULFA is a party to a labour dispute associated with the events discussed in this piece.

The opinions presented here concern the wisdom of the Board’s current actions and are mine alone. They are published under my contractual right as a Faculty Member to “participate in public life, to criticize University or other administrations, to champion unpopular positions, to engage in frank discussion of controversial matters, and to raise questions and challenges which may be viewed as counter to the beliefs of society” under Handbook Article 11.01.1. They do not advocate any specific remedy under the Association’s contract, beyond following well-established, previously negotiated procedures.

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English 1900g: Introduction to English Language and Literature (Spring 2017)

Note: This is a draft syllabus based on Fall 2014, which I am providing for planning purposes. The readings will be the same in Spring 2017. Assessment and precise scheduling are subject to change before the last day of add/drop.

About this course

English 1900 is the introductory course in our department. It is a prerequisite for all higher level courses.

The purpose of English 1900 is to introduce students to the study of literature and to provide opportunity to practice analytical reading, thinking, and writing about texts.

This section of English 1900 will focus particularly on discovery and communication: uncovering our (often unrealised) critical responses to texts and developing these into compelling and interesting arguments. Read the rest of this entry »


English 3450a: Old English (Spring 2017)

Note: This is draft syllabus based on the Fall 2015 offering. It is subject to revision before the last day of the add/drop period. The reading order and pace is subject to change throughout the semester.


Some tips on getting answers to email

Email is the bane of academic life. All of us hate it; most of us are very bad at answering it. If you edit a journal, it is even worse, since you need people to answer their email in a timely fashion.

At the Centre for the Study of Scholarly Communication Journal Incubator, getting people to answer email is what we do. Here are some tips we’ve found useful.


How to make a table wider in Google Docs

I’ve spent a frustrating couple of days trying to squeeze things into a Google Docs table that was too narrow for its content.

The problem was that while I could move individual columns within a table, I simply couldn’t find the way of widening the outer boundaries of the table—i.e. moving the leftmost border to the left or the rightmost border to the right. Making things worse, I had been able to do it a couple of weeks ago. But nothing I was doing seemed to work now.

The trick turned out to be remarkably easy, though it points to a UI problem in Google Docs. Basically, Google Docs allows you to adjust column width in two different ways: by reaching up into the measurement ribbon at the top of the document and moving columns there (when you do this, you see a left-right arrow cursor [⇔] that has not been captured in the screenshot):

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How to accept an invitation to a SSHRC application

This is a quick guide for my non-Canadian partners on how to accept an invitation to participate in a SSHRC application.

  1. Look for invitation from SSHRC in your inbox
    1. You will need the highlighted invitation number later.
    2. First click on the login/register link and set up your account with SSHRC or log in (if you already have one).
    3. If you are setting up a new account, keep the password memorable: it is difficult to get a reminder if you forget.
  2. After you have registered and confirmed your registration (SSHRC sends an email to confirm), you need to sign in using your SSHRC user name and password (i. Read the rest of this entry »

Soup to nuts: A recent piece of my writing that technology allows you to follow from idea to completion.

I was discussing writing and editing with a student the other day, and somehow the question of how I worked came up. As it turns out, I have a very recent example where you can pretty much follow the entire process from start to finish.

In showing all my work like this, I’m not making any claims about the quality of my own writing or the efficacy of my method. It is just the case that in this case, modern technology allows me to show the entire process I happened to use in writing a specific piece that people can read in its final form. For some students, I suspect that’s useful.

If you are interested, here are the relevant links to my recent Globe and Mail Op-Ed on “preferred pronouns” and the entire history of its drafting (because I wrote it in Google Docs, you can follow the whole history from start to finish). If you want to follow the revision history, you can find it under “File>See revision history” or by using alt-ctl-shift-h.

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Customized pronouns: A good idea that makes no sense (Globe and Mail)

Originally published as O’Donnell, Daniel Paul. 2016. “Customized Pronouns: A Good Idea That Makes No Sense.” The Globe and Mail, October 15. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/customized-pronouns-a-good-idea-that-makes-no-sense/article32373933/.


The latest thing on campus is to introduce yourself by name and “preferred pronoun.” “Hello, my name is Dan and I prefer he/him. Read the rest of this entry »


The bird in hand: Humanities research in the age of open data (Digital Science Report)

Originally published as Daniel Paul O’Donnell. 2016. “The Bird in Hand: Humanities Research in the Age of Open Data.” In The State of Open Data: A Selection of Analyses and Articles about Open Data, Edited by Figshare, 34–35. Digital Science Report. London: Digital Science.


Traditionally, humanities scholars have resisted describing their raw material as
“data” 10.

Instead, they speak of “sources” and “readings. Read the rest of this entry »


“Nudge nudge, say no more”: What I think needs to happen next in the Scholarly Commons Project

In the follow up on the Force11/Helmsley Scholarly Commons Working Group workshops in Madrid and San Diego, participants (and steering committee members) have been asked to write a brief description of what we think is the “best direction to develop the principles.” Here’s my two cents.1

I think that the lessons we’ve learned over the last year are the following:

  1. There is (or perhaps could be) such a thing as a “Commons” in scholarly communication;
  2. This approach to scholarly communication could have an immensely disruptive potential, as it could provide a way of completing the always-threatening development of research communication into a Common Pool Resource;
  3. The disruption (and the commons) will not happen without leadership; somebody needs to propose a definition of the boundaries of the commons; explain how this defintion can be used; and create the mechanisms by which it is.

Given this, I think the next step is to work on (3): providing the le Read the rest of this entry »


How to write to text pattern

This document is a quick primer on using TextPattern, the Content Management System that controls my web pages. It covers the basics only.

Log in

After I have made you an account, you should receive login information in an email. Read the rest of this entry »


Lyrics for annotation

These are lyrics for the annotation exercises.


Phonetic spelling exercise

This exercise is an experiment in “phonetic” spelling, that is to say the use of orthography to capture sound.

In doing this, we are trying to get a sense for how people in previous eras might have used one spelling system to transcribe another language—e.g. use French spelling to write Middle English, or adapt Latin letters to spell Germanic languages.

This is not an exercise in the use of modern Phonetic Alphabets (e.g. IPA). If you know phonetic transcription, try to ignore that knowledge here. Read the rest of this entry »


But does it work in theory II

(A very inside baseball posting. Probably not of interest to anybody but me and a couple of people on the committee I refer to below).

Yesterday, I published some principles and rules that I thought might govern a “Scholarly Commons,” the topic of a Helmsley-funded Force11 Working Group that I am a part of.

Here they are again:

P. The Scholarly Commons is a consensus among knowledge producers and users that
    P1. research and knowledge should be freely available to all who wish to use or reuse it;
    P2. participation in the production and use of knowledge should be open to all who wish to participate;
    P3. Read the rest of this entry »


Cædmon Citation Network – Week 14

Hi all!

I spent this week putting information into the newly updated database. It works much faster than it did before, and is very intuitive to use. Dan mentioned that he would like to see some screenshots, so please enjoy the following images:

Here we see the front page of the database, with two text boxes, one for the Source and one for the Reference.

Options will pop up after you begin typing which makes adding sources and references super quick.

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