odds, ends, and i-school

Shorter wmtc: Quebec in winter: the weather is cold, the people are warm, the food is good. I loved all of it, and I especially loved traveling with my sweetie.

Driving home, we were on smaller country routes in Vermont and New York State for a good two hours before crossing into Ontario and hitting the 401. That was a nice change. We passed through some Mohawk territory, in the region of New York known as the North Country, near Massena and the Thousand Islands.

A cool sign on the side of a building: "DICK'S COUNTRY STORE AND MUSIC OASIS - Groceries - Gas - Guns - Guitars." Next time we pass that place, we'll stop in. One bad sign in front of a roadhouse: "BURGER'S AND FRIES". Not frie's, however. Just winging it, I guess.

* * * *

Emailing with friend and commenter Amy, I realized that I may sometimes give mistaken impressions about my travels.

I've kept a travel journal for every trip I've taken since 1982, when NN and I traveled through Europe together, my first trip abroad. When Allan and I went to Peru in 2006, I started to put my travel journals online, and I decided to stick (as closely as possible) to the same style I had always used. I like to capture as much detail as I can. That's why my blog entries from travel include details of annoyances or less-than-perfect experiences. It's part of the adventure.

Long ago, I learned that the key to successful travel, for me, is recognizing that there will always be things I can't do. Sites that are closed, or out of season, or under renovation, or too far away, or requiring more time than is available. I figure, you can never do everything, so just do what you do, enjoy what you can, and take the rest in stride. When I'm traveling, I am rarely disappointed. I just go with the flow.

* * * *

Classes have begun, and my expectations are low.

The Master of Information program at the iSchool includes four "core" courses, separate from required courses for your major or path. (Paths are, for example, library science, archives, records managements, knowledge media design.) The core courses fall under the general category of Information and Society. There is widespread agreement that four is way too many; the course material is highly redundant, and the workload is far too strenuous. In addition, because these courses are required for all students, they are taught in one large lecture, plus smaller section classes - an annoying and time-consuming format. From what I hear, it seems likely that the core curriculum will be redesigned, and perhaps condensed into two courses. But meanwhile, I've got to go through all four.

The first two core courses are prerequisites for nearly everything, and everyone takes them in their first term of school. And now, this term, I will finally complete the other two.

One is a philosophy course: Representation, Organization, Classification and Meaning-Making, always referred to as ROCM, pronounced Rock-Em. I have never heard one positive word about this course. It appears to be universally hated. Yesterday I attended the initial lecture, which was somewhat interesting, but I still dread it. One good thing: the lectures are videotaped and put online, so I will never attend another lecture in person. One bad thing: I still have to attend the smaller section class. If it proves useless, I won't make too many appearances.

The final core course used to be yet another lecture combining material from the other three core courses, but during my first term, there was a student revolt. School leadership, to their credit, scrambled to adjust the curriculum. Now instead of a fourth core lecture, there are two "information workshops," short courses in which students participate in ongoing iSchool research.

My information workshop this term is "The Architectures of the Book," which places digital books in the context of the history of the book.
ArchBook is an online, open-access reference resource composed of richly illustrated articles about specific design features in the history of the book. Unlike traditional historical studies of books and reading, a typical ArchBook entry will follow a specific textual feature through its development across historical periods, with an eye to the continuities and discontinuities the feature might have with digital reading environments. At present there is no online scholarly resource that tells the story of books and reading in the form of a reference resource, with a comprehensive scope and trans-historical perspective, and with a focus on informing digital design. ArchBook seeks to fill that gap. Our goal is to make the diverse history of the book (especially the under-appreciated parts of that history) available to students, researchers, and the public.
The second information workshop I'm taking is on children's digital games. Both these half-courses are organized around one group project that fits into the ongoing research.

I'm already counting weeks.

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