Writing in a Digital Age

How many of us use the speech to text function on the iPad or our computers? I am really amazed at the fact that this is a wonderful technology that it seems that I rarely use. I decided to write this post today on my iPad using my voice. I think one of the problems is that as writers we think that we should only write using our hands or by typing on the keyboard. But we are in the digital age and, as we continue to think of what it means to do the digital humanities, we need to think about other means of composing.

As someone who has given a lot of talks and speeches, I know that a lot of what I talk about isn’t written down beforehand. I know the work and creativity that go in to making those speeches and presentations. Speech is a different kind of writing and with all of these new technologies it’s something we need to consider. How are we going to integrate voice into our writing lives? Try today to leave your self voice notes, if you have an apple or android phone. Explore programs like Dragon Dictation for your PC. Also, I think that speech recognition has gotten amazingly good and you can also use these technologies to have the iPad, for example, read aloud to us.

Here are some keys to using voice on Apple devices (because these are the devices I am most familiar with):

1. Speak your punctuation. Read your sentence and then add,.;!, etc. This way you don’t have to worry about actually putting in the punctuation.

2. Use the microphone button anytime you have the keyboard present. Use Siri to ask your questions in a Google search, for example. For things like the WordPress app, when the keyboard comes up simply only use the microphone function. Speak your tweets.


3. Turn on voice that will allow the iPad or computer to read any text back to you.
See this article


It betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do.” —Barack Obama, Morehouse Commencement 2013

New Year’s Eve and What I Learned About Having The “Bad Kind” of Cancer

Another essay that I recently uncovered:

I have never liked New Year’s Eve. Every time that I tried to do something big for this pseudo-holiday I was continually disappointed. In 2004, I had an anti-New Year’s Eve. I said to myself that I wasn’t going to go to any parties and that I refused to participate in making resolutions which I knew, from experience, that I wouldn’t keep. No rushing around in a desperate search to find someone to bring the new year in with, when I knew, also from experience—very painful experience–that the person wouldn’t be around for the next 364 days. All this smacked me as a way of trying to control life, when the only thing that I was sure of at the beginning of 2004 was that this year would bring me things that I didn’t plan and could not control. I guess that this sounds cynical, but I had this revelation while sitting in the bedroom that I had grown up in as a teenager. I had moved home to my mother’s house and to this room four months before, because my mother–in her long struggle with a form of bone marrow cancer—seemed to be getting worse and not better. She needed help and I was exhausted from trying to help her while living a five-hour drive away in Alabama. So I took leave from my job as an English professor at Auburn University and moved back home to my old room in my childhood house. Continue reading

Telling Our Stories Digitally

Storify has been an interesting medium to play with in terms of trying to archive my scholarship. What I like about it is that more than just being simply a way of posting things to the web, Storify becomes a way of aggregating the ideas that you might have already been gathering on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or by taking pictures with your phone. Pinterest is similar, in terms of allowing you to create a visual pin board to gather your ideas all in one place, but Storify and its ability to help string a narrative out of what you are doing is really a step above.

I only use the iPad app for Storify and cannot speak of its ease of use on the computer, but the ability to drag and drop video or images and then to type text linking those images, web pages, and tweets mimics the way my mind works. Most of my “stories” I do not publish. I use Storify as a way to organize my work for my own sake–it helps me think as a digital humanist. As I continue thinking about ebooks, blogs, twitter, and the best way to archive and share information, I really am reminded that technology is a tool that is only as good as the story it tells.

You can follow my stories on storify.com/profclaiborne or click on the storify link above to see the story I wrote on HBCUs and the digital humanities.


Writing becomes your temple and you just move in and make sure everything flows and the right divinites are in effect. —Paul D. Miller, Rhythm Science

Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell

As much as I am anticipating the almost season finale of Scandal tonight, I am equally happy to see the return of Totally Biased on FX tonight. There is something nerdishly fun about this show and tonight’s guest is Melissa Harris Perry. She is my role model for how to take this professor thing and let it ride!

Finding Old Writing

I found notes from a book that I began working on with a friend 10 years ago tentatively called Questions You need to Ask about Men and/or Ways to end up in the Hospital. Do you think this could be a longer book of stories, maybe if it is not an actual self-help book? Re-reading it, I thought it was hilarious!

Chapter 1: Introduction

Are any one of these different scenarios something that you have experienced?

1.) Waffle house at 3 a.m. You just met someone at a club and you are wondering if you should go back to his house or if he should go to yours.

2.)You run into your childhood sweetheart and you begin wondering if you can rehash a romance from 15 years ago.

3.) A man you have been dating for six months says, “right now I am not looking for a serious relationship” . . . but you see him every night and meet all his family and friends. What do you do if it feels like a relationship but he swears up and down it isn’t?

4.)You are constantly driving by your man’s house at odd hours (meaning you leave your warm house in your pajamas to roll over there at 2 am because you don’t believe him when he says that he is going to call it an early night), or at some point you find yourself crouched on the floor with your man’s cell phone trying to see who he has called and who has text messaged him.

Why we are writing this. . . because we have all been in these scenarios and many more that we do not have the time list. (Except my friend Nadine, who began listing these scenarios when her man said he went to his grandfather’s funeral but was actually on a cruise with another woman). I knew that I needed to write some sort of guide when I actually heard these exact words come out of my friend’s mouth: “He smokes crack, but only on the weekends. ” I am writing this book because smart women like my cousin and other women try make rational arguments for why they are dating men that they never, ever see. I mean the men lived in New York and Virginia, it is not they were in a Turkish Prison or stationed in Iraq, and even I discovered with a little research that you could get from New York to Charlotte, NC for $25 if you were willing to take the Chinatown bus. It might seem like being forced on the Chinatown bus, so called because you literally hang out on the corner of different streets in Chinatown and try to hop on one of the myriad buses headed anywhere South– is a fate worse than death, but with a little motivation you can endure. True they take reservations, but it really is not that formal. For $25 you really can’t turn it down. It costs you that much in tolls to get out of New Jersey.

This book is also about the completely rational decision that all women make that murder can be the absolute answer to all of your problems.

Chapter 2: Self-Analysis

How not to lie to yourself, to your friends about the reality of your lives, or the reality of theirs—like when you see your friends man with someone else and don’t want to tell them.

Do you have a problem with dating your friends’ exes?

Do you believe in remaining friends with your exes?

Does it matter if your man stays friends with his?

Do you like to live in chaos (which stands for Can’t Have Anyone Over)? Have you gotten used to being shocked by your man’s behavior or caught in some drama. Generally this drama is a way of keeping a chronically depressed person( who may be you) motivated—this means that you subconsciously chose someone who will lie to you (gaslighting), separate you from your friends, or makes sure you a running after him so much you have no time to reflect on your own life. He makes sure that you no longer take care of yourself or encourages you to not take care of yourself. It means that you chose not to balance your checkbook, not to take care of parking tickets before they become warrants and never want to see the truth about a person because you want them to be who you want them to be. All of this means that you are caught up in drama. If a man does what he says he is going to do and you know where he is and everything is cool, then you are not interested in him at all. He is boring or beneath your notice. If every relationship that you had went up in a ball of flames, then this probably says that you crave drama. I am speaking from experience of having a boyfriend who may or may not have gone off to the Dominican Republic and gotten engaged to another woman while he was living in my house. This is when I first learned (thanks to my uncles) about the idea of men starting a fight so that they can get out of the house.

Really, if you are simply sitting on the couch and then the man that you are with blows up at you saying,”You know what did! You put that can of soda on the coffee table! Well, I am sick and tired of you using that table as your personal drink holder–I’m out of here!” Seriously, don’t fall for it. He is trying to act like you did something to make him mad so he has a reason to storm out and cheat. So he is off doing his dirt and you are back at home wondering if you need to buy a special drink table and beating yourself up until he gets back. Of course by then, he has done his dirt, doesn’t have to come up with an excuse for his absence, and supposedly you are none the wiser.

Chapter 3: “Being an Analog Girl in a Digital World”

Needs to answer his phone. Needs not to have a secret phone. Needs to get the phone set so that it shows email notifications and texts on the main screen. Needs to go public with his cell phone, social media profiles,his e-mail passwords, and his whereabouts. But this works two ways. You need to be able to do this also. If you are hiding your phone or still having old boyfriends call (who you say are just friends, but with whom you still occasionally hook up) then you need to get your own house in order before you start worrying about other people.

Most women seem to think that it is perfectly okay to go on fact finding missions before you move in together. This is the time to test to see if what he is saying is true. My friend Nadine says, “ If God didn’t want you to see that cell phone, then He would not have put in your path.”

(More later)

The God of Broken Things and the Jack-Leg Man

I’ve learned a lot from watching the show Hoarders. I’ve learned that people can stop caring about themselves and their surroundings based on sudden decisions and events. One moment life is fine and then you get divorced, lose your job, have a fight with your mother, or receive a bad review and it seems like even the simplest things are no longer worth doing. At first it can start slowly, you drop newspaper on the floor and tell yourself that you will clean it up later or you come in with bags of the latest fashions and put them in the corner of your living room by the couch and say that once you lose some weight you will put those clothes in the closet. You let your kitchen fill up with dirty dishes and used food wrappers to the point where none of the appliances are usable. Maybe that is okay, you tell yourself. You like to eat out anyway so it makes it all good. However, the truth is that once you stop embracing immediacy and daily-ness, you begin to hate yourself. Once you wait to do the thing you need to do, that pause makes you insecure, it brings in questions of whether or not you deserve a clean house or good health or space to move around in.

Confession: my mother was a hoarder, but not like the hoarders on the show where they keep their conditions unsanitary and allow trash to litter every inch of usable space. She was a collector of things, mostly paper–loved to save newspapers, magazines, paperback books, legal journals and files from old cases. She loved ideas, so she would stack her books neatly in piles on her bedroom floor–piles that reached more than halfway to the ceiling. She also loved things for the kitchen. However, because she was my grandmother’s daughter, she had a Nazi-like sense of duty to cleaning. Everything had to be done without delay, the dishes had to be washed immediately and not left in the sink when we were finished with them, clothes came hot out of the dryer and folded. We could not leave things lying all around the house. She would immediately put our stuff on the step, which was our cue to put it up in our rooms. I cannot even begin to describe her obsession with keeping a neat yard. However, if something broke often it would stay broken, or she would talk about getting things fixed eventually–a time which never came. Sometimes she would call the “jack-leg” man to fix things like air-conditioners or cars. Being “jack-leg” meant that these fix-it men had no license, training, or shop, but they could fix things just enough so that they would work for the next few months until they broke again. This made me learn lessons about daily-ness and immediacy.

So knowing this, what is the result? I still have the belief that you put something up or back in the place that it belongs immediately after using it. I can’t stand dishes in the sink. I refuse to use laundry baskets because I am afraid it will encourage me to leave my clothes lying around. I wonder why everyone doesn’t stand and fold clothes as you take them out of the dryer like I do. I clean a little everyday. However, I don’t write daily. I don’t workout daily. I tell myself that I will start eating better tomorrow. I have elevated procrastination to a high art when it comes to dealing with my finances. All of this makes me sad, ashamed, disappointed, and tired. The only true thing is daily-ness and immediacy. So today I am back to writing 30 minutes a day. I will also work out for thirty minutes and not think about tomorrow. It is not that I strive to be perfect, it is just that I am tired of worshipping at the altar of the god of broken things. No “jack-leg” man is coming for me, and for that I’m actually grateful.

Hoarding: Buried Alive

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