So I Married a PhD

This post is to mark a bit of family history, yesterday Antonella successfully defended her dissertation exploring 15th century Venetian merchant travel narratives and their various cultural tributaries effectively making her a Doctor of Comparative Literature. That is pretty damn awesome!

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Views from the vaporetto

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We met at the CUNY Grad Center in late 2000, and the intervening 19 years have seen us create a life, family, and history together. And that long, beautiful history started with us as Ph.D. candidates. As things go, when we got married and then had kids both of us hung up the pursuit of cap and gown for a while (in fact, I retired mine for good). But 4 years ago Antonella decided to go back to work on her dissertation, and yesterday realized the culmination of 4 years of hard work and a steel resolve to finish what she started and return to the academic world. It’s a pretty awesome day for our family, we have our first official doctorate in the form of a truly remarkable, international scholar. Now if only she would blog 🙂

Congrats Anto, we love you!

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Domains19: Martin Hawksey’s Minority Report

And the hits for Domains19 just keep on coming….and this one comes all the way from Scotland with none other than Martin Hawksey, who is both creating a surveillance installation for the conference as well as speaking to how he built it using services anyone can sign-up for and a Raspberry Pi while extrapolating the broader implications of this brave new world of ubiquitous surveillance. Here is the abstract:

Welcome to my world of good and bad, right and wrong, a neo-noir landscape where technology simultaneously creates possibilities to empower and reclaim part of the web, but also quickly reveals the extent of our data traces, the ease in which we can be surveilled, the dangers of walking through a world where ‘individual consent’ is replaced with ‘social consent’ where privacy has to asked for rather than assumed.

In this talk we’ll look at privacy and surveillance, data ownership and accessibility. As part of this we will cast a light on the shadowy world of face recognition, passive wifi tracking and more. As part of this we’ll look at issues such as personal rights as well as gender and racial bias. My plan is to ultimately make you all join #TeamLuddite – not against technology or inept at using it, not against “the future” but ready to interrogate the moral and ethical implications of the choices we make.  

The idea for having Martin speak at Domains was a happy accident while speaking with both Maren Deepwell and Martin about ideas for OER19. He had done something wild with a Raspberry Pi and facial recognition at DevFest London in 2017, and when I was talking about the conference themes around Domains19 he linked me to his post on the talk. I was immediately sold, this kind of Minorty Report-esque installation that explores the ethical boundaries of the tech we have come to take for granted is exactly what we were hoping Domains19 would manifest, and Martin was soon after signed-on for the third, of what will be four, featured presentations/installation.

Stay tuned for more, and if you haven’t already, be sure to submit a presentation and/or installation. What’s more, registration is open as well—so run, don’t walk, over to Domains19 and join the party.

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Reclaim Video’s 1900 Laserdiscs

Reclaim Video Laserdisc Motherload

As soon as I got back into town on this last trip Tim and I immediately headed down to Ruther Glen, Virginia to pickup 1900 laserdiscs thanks to Fat Kat Records & Books. I first discovered this gem in 2015 when working on the UMW Console. We bought some vinyl as well as a SelectaVision player and over 75 videodiscs. They since moved from Fredericksburg to Ruther Glen, which was only 20 minutes south. There laserdisc collection is impressive, and Tim and I have probably bought 200-300 over the last year. A couple of months back the proprietor reached out letting us know the physical location is closing and they are going entirely online, and were wondering if we wanted to buy the entire 1900 laserdisic collection. And it did not take long for us to respond: “Why yes, yes we would!”

Reclaim Video

It’s massive, and our Reclaim Video employees Matt and Zander have already inventoried everything and we have gotten most of them them out of boxes and onto shelves.

That’s just one of two shelves full of laserdiscs that are bookmarking our recent acquisition of four classic arcade games, making this my single favorite room in the world.

And another one….

I’ll try and get a picture when everything is done, but it is coming together beautifully. There are a ton of films to go through, and so far I watched The Fan (1981) and The Flamingo Kid (1984) from this lot. The audio was not perfect on The Flamingo Kid, which also happened with Magic (1978) —a laserdisc I bought earlier this year. You can almost see the disc rot on the screen:

The Fan was perfect though, and Lauren Bacall was pretty amazing in this film. While not a great film, it is an awesome look at early 80s NYC, and it was released soon after John Lennon was shot my a crazy fan, making it timely in a tragic way.

There are so many more to watch, world enough and time! Like Moon of the Wold:

Reclaim Video

Or the Tom Selleck bomb Runaway:

Reclaim Video

And quite a few music laserdiscs, like Queen’s Greatest Flix:

Reclaim Video

And all this and more can be right at you fingertips at your local Reclaim Video store—coming soon! 🙂

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Reclaiming an Arcade of One’s Own

This post is proof that if you work hard enough, kiddies, all your dreams can come true! Don’t listen to the Italians, America is still the land of opportunity, I mean where else can you buy and transport four fully functioning vintage arcade cabinets for the price of a Macbook Pro?

Reclaim Video

And the big reveal…

Reclaim Arcade

Defender, Galaxian, Asteriods, and Kangaroo! Add those four to our mint Centipede and we’re getting quite close to a full blown Reclaim Arcade directly behind Reclaim Video. And on the wish list are Make Trax (a.k.a. Crush Roller), Pac-Man, Joust, Scramble, Star Castle, Phoenix, PleiadsTempest, and Bishop of Battle. But who can stop there?!

Tim is even getting in repair mode on these machines, here he is fixing the fire button on Centipede, which entailed cleaning some contracts:

Reclaim Video

Reclaim Video

As for me, I found the Galaxian manual online which allowed me to turn down the volume. It is amazing how detailed and awesome the manual is. We did not buy a video game, we bought a piece of history—a very personal one for me.

Reclaim Video

The fact we have 5 video game cabinets from 1979 through 1982 really places me in a time and place as a ten year old heading up to the pool hall on Grand Avenue in Baldwin to play Defender, the Star Wars vector game, Battle Zone, Crush Roller, Pac-Man, Pole Position, etc. It was a dark little corner of the huge billiard hall where kids (mostly my age) could steal away for an afternoon with their quarters for hours of fun. If I wanted to play Joust or Galaxian I needed to go around the block to The Incredible Pulp—a local comic and D&D shop (filled with Frank Franzetta and Chris Foss artwork that remains burned in my memory). It was all a piece of an era that I still long to have material ties with, and unlike the idea of a barcade which reduces the nostalgia to a transaction, for me Reclaim Arcade will forever be fused with the notion of an adolescent playground of imaginative dexterity. Anyway, I am rambling now, but I really do love this recent kick Tim and I have been on, and all I can say is that there will hopefully be more to come 🙂

Header image credit: Nunley’s Arcade in Baldwin, LI during the 1990s

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Berg Builds Community

It’s been a week of travel and on-the-ground work at Reclaim’s Headquarters in Fred Vegas, but I would be remiss if I did not share the awesome community portal the folks at Muhlenberg College have built with their Domains instance.

Community site for Berg Builds

It’s a beautiful thing, scores of featured sites  around the community that can be filtered by a few key categories such as research, travel, portfolio, student, staff, faculty, etc. The screenshot above does not capture the long scroll of sites that provides an instant sense of just how much work is happening in the Muhlenberg community, and for me that is everything. I continually return to the idea that these educational publishing platforms are at their core a way to reveal the life of the mind of a community, and Berg Builds has nailed it. From what I understand the great Tim Clarke is behind this project, and he has really done a brilliant job, simple, elegant, and sensitive to the issues that surround be out there in this day and age. 

The opt-in/opt-out form does a nice job of inviting submissions as well as providing a place for users to remove their work if need be. And the blurb introducing the form lays it all out:

We try to keep up with all the great work happening on Berg Builds domains. But sites come and go, people wander, the world forever marches onward. If we’ve missed your site and you would like to be included in this community, please use the opt-in form below and let us know!

Working on the open web adds our voices, knowledge, and experience to the greatest collection of human creativity ever known. But we understand that folks seek visibility of their work on the web in different ways. While we encourage everyone to share their creations within our Berg Builds Community site, we also understand that you may have reasons why this doesn’t feel right. If you would like to have your site removed, please use the opt-out form below and we will honor your request.

I remain a true believer that working on the web can provide a unique space to share our work, and I also believe there is a special place on the web for higher ed given its foundational role in help shaping the internet. That said, we know the other side of that coin all too well these days, which makes the work Muhlenberg is doing to highlight the good work folks are doing all the more special. Opening up the inscrutable black box that is web hosting for discovery and connections is an act filled with hope and promise—it’s hard not to feel inspired.

I am looking forward to a play-by-play of this project, and imagine it’s either already published or on the way. And hey, there may even be a presentation in the works for Domains19—ya never, never know!

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Domains19: The Art of Accessibility

We are thrilled to announce a keynote installation for Domains19. When we announced Domains a few months back, we were serious about opening up the possibility of allowing folks to submit art pieces/installations as well as presentations and panels, and we have gotten a fair amount thus far. To reinforce this novel way of presenting at an edtech conference, we reach out to the inimitable Ryan Seslow to keynote Domains19 via his artwork. Ryan’s work with animated GIFs has been the stuff of legend for a while now, but his recent work exploring and “communicating his deaf and hard of hearing self” has been revelatory. Ryan articulates the idea behind these works in his blog on the series beautifully:

The works are visual representations for the regular distortions, missing of sounds, words and overall communication struggles that I experience daily. They represent how I feel, react, overcompensate and adjust to communication in various interactions. They are intended to be both subtle, confusing and difficult to follow. Communicating My Deaf & Hard of Hearing Self – Part 1”is the first installation in the series. It is first published here on my website and shared via my social media platforms. I am seeking to extend this body of work into a series of physical exhibitions, talks and a zine.

His installation at the Domains19 conference will very much be an extension of this body of work, and a focal point for a broader discussion around accessibility. You can read the abstract for the installation below, and this post provides just a small taste of the vaporizing visual extravaganza that awaits you this June at Domains19. 

“The Internal / External Narratives of the Fragmented Meta-Domain Self”
Via an energetic series of multi-disciplinary digital art, animation and video works, “The Internal / External Narratives of the Fragmented Meta-Domain Self” is an exhibition and installation that creates a harmonious environment for the Domains 2019 conference. Drawing from and applying the vapor wave aesthetic with rich glitch and textured visuals, the works come together as a series of experiences both site on scene and on the web. The viewer is confronted with how technology, communication, language and accessibility play a vital role both on and off the web. With some many frequent changes in technology, how will you instigate and re-question your position on such things?

You can read more about Ryan on the Domains site, and if you are interested in showing and/or at Domains19 the call for presentations is open until February 15th and you can register for the early bird discount through the end of February. We really hope to see you in June, and please be sure to spread the love.

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Outdoor Smell

I had a pretty weird email from the Fredericksburg Alert system yesterday, and timed bizarrely while en route to Fredericksburg. The subject was “Outdoor Smell,” and the email read as follows:

This is a notification from the City of Fredericksburg:

Please be aware that with current weather conditions, the noxious outdoor smell that is similar to a gas leak is actually the King George landfill odor wafting into the City. If there is a gas smell inside AND you have natural gas service, then please contact 9-1-1.

Tell a friend/coworker about Fredericksburg Alert! Forward this message to them and have them register for this free service at www.fredericksburgalert.com.

Disquieting to think a regional landfill is perfuming the city given weather conditions (not sure if it was wind, but assuming as much), but I worked at the College of Staten Island, so I’m no stranger to such realities. But about six hours later they sent a second email that was even more bizarre:

Follow up to this morning’s alert.
The source of the odor could not be confirmed.
No gas leaks were found in the city.

It almost reads like a decontextualized stanza to a poem, the idea that the smell is no longer linked to the landfill (I never knew a landfill to smell like gas), and there seems to be no evidence of where it came from now. It’s like I am walking into the beginning of an eerie movie plot, I kinda love it. 

If we don’t, remember me….

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A Postscript on Server Migrations (redirecting network traffic to a new IP)

During the break between Christmas and New Year’s I migrated a server from Linode to Digital Ocean. We have just a handful left, and most of those should be gone this year. This migration was pretty straightforward, no WordPress portal or WHMCS instance, just a straight-up cPanel server. The plan was to run our handy dandy server deploy script which gets about 95% of a new cPanel server setup in about 30 minutes, which is amazing given this use to be a day-long process. Once that server is setup we need to copy all data between the two servers using IP addresses given we want to keep the same hostname, i.e., universityx.reclaimhosting.com. This is easily done with the the Transfer tool in cPanel, and migrating over 500 cPanel accounts took about an hour and a half. 

Once all the accounts are migrated over cleanly, we need to point the DNS records in AWS’s Route 53 to the new IP address of the new server on Digital Ocean. If all went well that should be all set, the one mistake I made on this recent migration was not copying over the existing SSL certificate from the old server—it’s always something. So, after that’s done another trick Tim showed me that has come in useful was redirecting all traffic to the old IP to the new IP server-wide. This post spells it out very well, and it ensures that any lingering traffic that may be going to old server for all kinds of DNS reasons would be pushed to the new server right away. 

https://www.debuntu.org/how-to-redirecting-network-traffic-to-a-new-ip-using-iptables/

Anyway, just putting this here in the event I need this again so I don’t have to dig through Slack again to find the link, not to mention to remind myself of the mistakes I made the last time so I can avoid them next time 🙂

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Web Hosting vs. Web Publishing


I appreciate NYU Libraries’ straightforward approach to their Domain of One’s Own project, they basically say, we’re hosting …. that’s it. In fact, it’s right in their domain: http://hosting.nyu.edu

So when someone recently asked me for various examples of how schools are approaching Domains, I headed over to NYU’s instance, and I was struck again by their ability to quickly distill what this service is and is not.

The Web Hosting vs. Web Publishing table breaks down the difference between something like a WordPress Multisite instance versus a Domain of One’s Own quite nicely. You could argue the last point about portability given WordPress sites on WPMS are pretty easy to migrate, but regardless it is spot on.

Web Hosting vs. Web Publishing

hosting.nyu.edu wp.nyu.edu
Requires intermediate web publishing skills Great for those new to website development
Backend Server Access via cPanel, SSH, and FTP Simple User Interface
Allows for one-click installs and endless customization of self-hosted WordPress, Scalar, and Omeka Limited to WordPress and NYU-approved themes and plugins
No charge to NYU users and easy to migrate upon graduation No charge to NYU user

I sometimes get defensive when folks I respect bemoan how hard self-hosting remains. I do think the point is a fair one and a Domains roll-out will never (nor was it ever meant to) replace various other university-provided tools that create less friction for publishing—even if some need replacing. But I do think web hosting as a basic utility should have a more prominent place at universities like it does at the NYU Libraries. The way they frame it around research, scholarship, and publishing for the digital era should not seem alien anymore. It should be yet another service universities offer alongside the others because there will increasingly be more and more faculty and students who want and need control over their publishing environments for the academic work they are doing.

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Back to the Future: The Mothership or The DeLorean?

Cropping from book cover of Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond

We are thrilled to finally announce the first keynote presentation at Domains19, which will be co-presented by Chris Gilliard and sava saheli singh, who will be asking the question: “Back to the Future: The Mothership or The DeLorean?” Chris jokingly wrote when describing the talk: “Think George Clinton, Octavia Butler, and The Mothership meets Domains.” I can’t think of anything cooler, and the abstract will give you a sense of what’s to come:

A common (yet searingly accurate) lament is that so much of our current tech and visions of the future are based on the limited imaginations of the small segment of the population that fits within Silicon Valley’s ideal of “innovation.” Thus we are often burdened with tech (and ed-tech) that suits the vision and needs of people who are overwhelmingly white and male. As we live the consequences of this vision, it’s worthwhile to think about Black and Brown visions of “the future” to inform how we might move forward in a way that looks decidedly different from our current path. This keynote aims to complicate current ways of thinking about privacy, security, accessibility, and ownership, drawing on Afrofuturism and 80’s funk to imagine ways of operating outside of our current paradigm of surveillance capitalism.

You can read more about both Chris and Sava’s work here, and if you are considering coming to Domains19 on June 10th and 11th, it might be high time to submit a proposal or register for the conference. The proposal deadline has been extended out to February 15th, so there is world enough and time to submit and/or register!

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