CEDAR: After-action report

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Report on CEDAR. So much to say. Not sure how to say it best and what to leave out.

I'll start with Sonia Fizek's presentation. This was the first time I saw Sonia present - I missed her paper in the last Under the Mask. She spoke on how Second Life can work as an academic platform and after introducing us to virtual worlds via a preliminary typology, she pointed out how these, through their reliance on user experience, could be used to host lectures and seminars. I was much impressed with the Second Life Poly University Campus from which Sonia showed us snippets of her experience. Looking forward to experiencing this for myself. In my own practice as Technology Learning and Development Adviser at NTU, I think her videos can prove a very useful introduction for  potential  online learning and teaching. Sonia also introduced us to Tom Boellstoeff's Coming of Age in Second Life and it looks like a very promising read.

From Second Life to ship life. Avast ye landlubbers - did you know how many words in your day-to-day speech are borrowed from maritime jargon? Simon Isserlis enlightened us on this in his presentation.  Words and phrases like 'skyscraper' and 'loose cannon' are some of the examples that he discussed. Simon is building corpora  of maritime language that has made its way into English usage. In his talk he spoke about various repositories that he uses, such as Project Gutenberg for out-of-copyright  texts, the mudcatcafe.com for traditional English songs, Hansard for British Parliamentary Proceedings' records dating back to 1640 and so on. He also gave us an overview of corpora building software such as Wordsmith tools.

Claire Warwick of UCL described her idea of Digital Humanities in her keynote presentation. The impetus of digital humanities is collaboration instead of the individual research that is sometimes the norm in Humanities research, she said. She insisted on the importance of interaction and consultation between Humanities and Computing researchers and also on the move towards project-based work as favoured by scientists.  For those in their early academic careers, the good news is that the REF 2012 (this is a British research evaluation process - gives universities their money and academics their jobs) will also consider digital research as valid submissions.

After Claire's presentation, the unexpected happened. Lorenzo (my netbook) ran out of battery so I was left to jot down pen and paper notes, rather reluctantly. Can't be sure now if the new version of Jolicloud (my OS) is all that good. Anyway, the rest of the report will be rather short.

Anastasija Ropa described how she has built a google site to supplement her project on a comparative study of the Holy Grail motif where she compares L'Morte d'Arthur (Malory) with 20th c. Grail fiction (she did assure us that The Da Vinci Code is not in her list).  Anastasija pointed out the pros and cons of using Google sites as well as the perennial problem that academic websites have of getting inputs from academia. She has also created a Renpy game to provide an easy access to her research. Renpy is a visual novel building software. An idea for us all to consider?

Following our Grail quest on Google, we had Isamar Carillo Masso and Lyle Skains presenting their separate versions of research toolkits. Isamar described how she would think using The Brain (the mind map tool), plan further using Mindomo and present using Prezi. I used a Prezi for my own presentation but am still dubious about how effectively I can use it for my purposes. In fact, most presenters at the sessions stayed with powerpoint - still Prezi's a tool to explore. Lyle's presentation was a virtual one - recorded rather than live (although maybe a quick skype appearance to take the questions would be great - blended learning at its best). She spoke about various websites for sharing your creative writing and critiques as well as tools like google docs and prezi. The presentation was on a video clip so maybe we'll get it on youtube Lyle?

The other presentation in this session was Maggie Parke's presentation on how fan websites affect the reception and development of films based on books such as Twilight, Harry Potter books etc. She described how her participation on blogs and fansites raised her 'fan capital'. Simon made an interesting comparison with the fansites for games and this linked back quite well to my own talk on walkthroughs and after-action reports.

After that, a five-hour journey back to Nottingham and eventually, bed. CEDAR is officially over but then all good things come to an end much too soon. I'm sure, however, that we will carry on talking about using web 2.0 tools for research. Finally, I hope my university (at least for a few months longer) will follow this course and make research easier and more fun.

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