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Bibliography on Electronic Books

For the 2015 May Faculty College at St. Lawrence University a bibliography on mostly recent research on electronic books, with an emphasis on research on electronic textbooks.  It perhaps may also be useful to whomever may have simply found their way here…

Student Research, Catherine Heinrich

Catherine 1Field work was a really cool experience.  My field work was in interior Alaska, right smack dab in the middle of the state (not quite I was in the middle as far as north and south goes but I was near the eastern border of the state about 50km from the Canadian border in Northway Alaska).  What I was doing was coring black spruce trees for reaction wood. (Reaction wood is a darker stronger type of wood that can be seen with the naked eye. Reaction wood forms to compensate for physical stressors (e.g., tilting due to mass wasting) and forms on the opposite side of the applied force.)

This was done for a full credit course taught by Dr. Alexander Stewart and Trent Hubbard (’94) over three days taking 60 samples from 30 trees.  (I went straight from a full credit course taught by Eileen Visser and Dr. Stewart that was about 10 days and then when everyone left Dr. Stewart, Trent Hubbard drove north and we started our work independently from the course) We were interested in the effects of mass wasting events (landslides) on the trees. The trees we examined were on a drunken forest floor, a landscape that sloped in different directions (due to the annual freezing and thawing of permafrost), and the tilting of the trees was what was of interest.

I then continued the work back in Canton with a summer fellowship, where I counted tree rings and made skeleton plots of the trees.  By looking at the rings you can tell whether the tree had a good growing year or a not so good growing year, and we were hoping to find patterns that might suggests correlations between things like temperature and mass wasting events. I presented a poster based on my work at the Geological Society of America meeting in Vancouver British Columbia.

My only disappointment with the project is that I didn’t see a bear in Alaska.


More on TNR

TheNewRepublic031512Two other notable commentaries on the “demise” of the New Republic’s editorial staff…writing in BloombergView Megan McArdle details the perils and pitfalls of new media acquiring old media, and while she acknowledges arguments about the inevitability of the TNR having to undergo a radical transformation, she ultimately concludes, “You need only read the stories about FirstLook and The New Republic to understand how badly tech-style management assumptions translate into media.”  Also, writing in the LA Review of Books David Bell provides a succinct but detailed history of the TNR, and then moves to an essential point about reading something like the TNR.  What seems to be departing with this transition of the TNR is the interest in reading the whole thing, that is, a cover to cover consideration of what a magazine engaged:

But friends would post pieces on social media, or other articles would link to them. (I presume the same is true of the way many of you are reading this essay, right now.) Back in the days of print, once I paid for a magazine, I had an obvious material incentive to read everything in it, rather than go out and purchase something else. Now, most of the articles I read cost me nothing to access. All in all, I pay far less attention than I once did to where a particular article originally appeared; I rarely pause, like many other readers presumably, to consider how editors might have shaped it, behind the scenes. When I read a magazine on paper, on the other hand, its overall editorial project still imposes itself strongly on my reading response.

In this new digital universe where words have broken free of their traditional covers — and reading so easily turns into skimming — arguments flow faster and fiercer than ever, but they are atomized, and hyper-accelerated. A group of authors may momentarily coalesce to argue a particular point — the way commentators from Ta-Nehisi Coates to Corey Robin came together to say “good riddance” to TNR. But then the molecules of argument break apart again in the constant flow. In this universe where unified magazines are dissolving, it is becoming far harder for a group of editors and writers to have the sort of durable influence that TNR acquired at moments in its past, notably in the 1980s.

For Bell, this contributes to the “ideological polarization” that characterizes the nation’s politics at this moment in history.  To my way of thinking, Bell is onto the seriousness of the demise, reading the “whole thing” is becoming impossible.  The kind of Internet-influenced reading described by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows is making the diffuse possibilities of a serious magazine apparently impossible.  A publication like TNR (or Harpers, or The Atlantic, or New Yorker) was supposed to function like a series of sotto voce exchanges, writer to reader, in a big conversation.  Insights from a variety of perspectives encountered all at once for future consideration–how might an argument about x inform a point of view about y.  This kind of reading as feed of intuitive self may be sacrificed as ventures like the TNR fail.  To put it another way, the stakes are nothing short of sitting down on a Sunday afternoon with a newly arrived magazine…

The New Republic and the Long Magazine Article

Back in December 2014 The New Republic saw the majority of the editors for the publication resign.  Twelve senior editors and twenty contributing editors left the publication, upset with the direction for the magazine that has been articulated by its new owner, Chris Hughes. Dylan Byers reported in Politico on who the editors were who resigned, and their stated reasons. This news set alight a small grove of the Internet’s wide green forest…those who had a personal history with TNR and those who comment on the state of American journalism.  Immediate response from any was a tone of resigned anguish–that while there was perhaps a generational transition for a private enterprise at the heart of this, “eulogy” was a popular word to describe these resignation.  Reporting in Vox Ezra Klein gathered tweets and other primary documents as the story broke, and his own take on the demise of the “ambitious policy magazine.”  Ross Douthat expanded on this idea in the New York Times Sunday Review when he wrote of “the loss of the older magazine’s ability to be idiosyncratic and nonpandering and just tell their readers what they should care about, because more than ever before you need to care about what readers click on first…to get the traffic that pays for the ads.” Of the TNR, Douthat concludes:

It wasn’t just a liberal magazine, in other words; it was a liberal-arts magazine, which unlike many of today’s online ventures never left its readers with the delusion that literary style or intellectual ambition were of secondary importance, or that today’s fashions represented permanent truths.

That point is what perhaps makes this more than a tale of a “creative destruction,” it is rather a moment asking the question whether long articles still have a place in journalism.  Is a sustained linear narrative on a complicated topic possible outside of academic literature, and if the events at the TNR suggest no, what does that mean?  The image of a Sunday feature, a longer piece of journalism that could fill a quiet Sunday afternoon brings with it the idea of a reader having time to think about what they have read. Digesting something.  Does the fate of the TNR suggest that this kind of reading is unsustainable in an online environment?  They’ll be several more posts with commentary on the fate of the TNR

Philip Levine, 1928-2015

w-philip-levine-obitPhilip Levine died on February 14th, and with his death the United States lost one of it’s great working poets. A transcription of Tom Vitale’s thoughtful obituary that aired on Morning Edition is available from North Country Public Radio, and he is remembered by colleagues at California State University Fresno here.  Levine is well represented in the SLU Libraries collections, including his first book On the Edge (a book from Frank Piskor’s collection), Not this Pig, and Simple Truth, the book which won him the Pulitzer Prize. We also have his autobiography published in 1994, The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography.  There are interviews with Levine in American Poetry Review (November/December 2013), Triquarterly (winter 1995), and Five Points (January 2008).  One of his poems is titled “Losing You,”



Losing You

Another summer gone,
the hills burned to burdock
and thistle, I hold you
a moment in the cup
of my voice,
you flutter
in the frail cave of finch,
you learn to speak
in my ear
and the first rain blows
you away.

Dusk is a burning
of the sun.
West of Chowehilla
The Lost Continent of Butterflies
streams across the freeway.
Radiators crusted,
windshields smeared with gold
and you come on
rising into the moons
of headlights.

My brother is always a small bear
cleaning his paws<
I am a leopard
running through snow,
you are the face of an egg
collapsing sideways.
Now the last olive falls
gripping its seed,
a black stone among stones
and you are lost.

In a white dress
my little girl goes to the window.
She is unborn,
she is the thin flame
of a candle,
she is her mother
singing a song,
her words frost
the mirror of the night,
a huge wind waits
at the back of her breath.

Poetry Magazine November, 1972

Winter Reading, Books About Winter

winterWell, with winter making itself a quarrelsome and noisy house guest, what better way to calm the chill than to embrace it.  With that in mind, a list of books about or largely about winter.  The idea was to draw as widely from topic and type as possible, enjoy:

Winter Reading, Big Books

A short but interesting reading list based on the notion than what is better on a February day, particularly a February day like today, than curling up with a long book, a substantial read, an edifice of words.  This list is admittedly somewhat random, but tries to include different genres, novels and short stories, and hopefully will inspire some reader to a new book (or a mid-winter rereading) by the fire.

New Book by Elun Gabriel

elun   Associate Professor of History Elun Gabriel has a new book out, Assassins, Conspirators: Anarchism, Socialism, and Political Culture in Imperial Germany, published by Northern Illinois University Press.  His teaching interests include European history, the Holocaust, modern Germany, modern Italy, World War I, and Weimar & Nazi Germany, and J.R.R. Tolkien,  provides an overview of his book:

My book addresses the place of anarchism in the political culture of the German Empire (1871-1918). Tracing public debates about anarchism offers a unique vantage point on the construction of political legitimacy in the German Empire. Members of all other political camps considered anarchist violence fundamentally illegitimate, and so anti-anarchist rhetoric helped demarcate the parameters of acceptable politics. The book explores one crucial aspect of this public discussion, the question of German Social Democrats’ relationship to the threat of revolutionary violence and terrorism (this is the same German Social Democratic Party, or SPD, that is the second largest party in Germany today). In the 1870s, government mouthpieces branded Social Democracy the “party of assassins and conspirators” and sought to excite popular fury against it. Over time, Social Democrats managed to refashion their public image by emphasizing their overall commitment to peaceful change through parliamentary participation and open public debate. They condemned anarchist behavior—terrorism and other political violence specifically—and distanced themselves from the alleged anarchist personal characteristics of rashness, emotionalism, cowardice, and secrecy. Repeated public debate about the appropriate place of Socialism in German society, and its relationship to anarchist terrorism, helped Socialists and others, such as liberals, political Catholics, and national minorities, cement the principles of legal equality and a vigorous public sphere in German political culture, paving the way for the parliamentary democracy of the later Weimar Republic. My analysis of anarchism in Germany utilizes public sources such as newspapers, political pamphlets, parliamentary speeches as well as police reports and other internal government sources on the anarchist movement.


Student Research, Jessica Tyree

Jessica 2    Jessica Tyree is working on her senior honors thesis under the supervision of Karen Dillon O’Neil and will explore mental health issues experienced by young people who are constantly exposed to violence.  Jessica was inspired to work on this project when she began to think about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder issues in youth while working with Dr. O’Neil on a project about urban policing.  Jessica is planning ethnographic research in her home town of Schenectady, New York, where she will be interviewing teachers, counselors, and other mental health professionals who have worked with students at the elementary, middle, and secondary levels.  The question she’s pursuing is why some children seem more resilient after witnessing violence, while other children struggle with many manifestations of stress (or ) having witnessed violent acts.  She plans on being in the Albany schools, and talking to as many mental health care professionals as is possible.

Jessica plans to pursue a Masters in social work and this research will provide a foundation to her intended career goals of working with children-at-risk.

Faculty Publication, Samantha Glazier and Nadia Marano

nadia_sam   Associate Professors of Chemistry Samantha Glazier and Nadia Marano have taught general chemistry for 10 and 22 years, respectively.  They have presented several workshops on teaching general chemistry and published two papers on related topics in the Journal of Chemical Educations,  and here in the new year they shared this about their recent work:

Our interest in student-centered learning led to the adoption of a new general chemistry textbook and accompanying curriculum in 2004.  The arrival of three new chemistry professors provided an opportunity to overhaul the chemistry department’s introductory course to make it more activity-based with an emphasis on deeper conceptual understanding of fewer topics.  As a result, we became aware of important omissions and misconceptions perpetuated by standard chemistry texts.  We quickly became involved in the American Chemical Society’s effort to provide workshops to help others use this approach.  As we did workshops, we noticed that participants were not aware of these misconceptions.  This prompted us to collaborate with another workshop leader to research and write our first paper on teaching about and explaining intermolecular attractions using boiling point data.  What we learned in the process allowed us to make further changes to the way we taught the topic.  Buoyed by our relative success, we moved on to a conceptually more difficult topic – why some things are soluble in water and others are not.  Although the explanations we wrote about are not new, the misconceptions make so much intuitive sense that it is hard for many to change their ideas and especially how they are presented to first year students.  After three years of substantial revisions, first our own and then in response to reviewer comments, the paper was finally published.  We were invited to present this paper at a Faculty Café, It’s Not Enough to be Hot, You Have to Know How to Move, and had a lot of fun with our engaged colleagues who participated in our activities and asked excellent questions.  Working together with each other, workshop participants and our students, we learned a lot more about chemistry and teaching, which has extended to all of our courses.