Values and Criteria Analysis, Part Deux

I’m gonna fall in line here and do “This Is Scholarship“, along with one of my pieces of digital media from the first Values and Criteria Analysis,

Here’s the heuristic:


  • To what extent does this project convey a clear message?
  • Does this project have a substantive, controlling idea?

Form and Content

  • Do the project’s structural or formal elements serve the conceptual core in an effective and efficient manner?
  • Are the project’s design decisions deliberate, controlled, and defensible?
  • Is the project accessible and usable under reasonable circumstances?


  • To what extent does it engage the intended audience?

Ethical Issues

  • Does the project successfully and ethically integrate borrowed information?

This Is Scholarship.

Core: This media obviously has a controlling idea: scholarship is valid even if its presented in a digital format, yet there seems to be a stigma against digital scholarship. This idea is clearly expressed in the work.

Form and Content: This project is accessible under reasonable circumstances, it’s structure is effective in presenting the apparent problems of validating digital scholarship, as well as the opportunities that digital scholarship provides to scholars. It seems that there is a deliberate technique being employed here; I am not sure the text slides within the video affects the message of the piece in the way the creator would have liked, but I think pretty much every artistic choice is defensible in this piece.

Audience: Audience engagement is low here. We’re supposed to pick up what these guys are putting down and then say, “Yeah man, that sucks and we should switch it up!” Which, I guess, calls for action, but it doesn’t ask for audience engagement within the media.

Ethical Issues: The site clearly cites all of its referenced works, and in fact is presenting a somewhat ethically fueled argument: It’s wrong to disconnect digital scholarship from “academic” scholarly works.

Overall, according to our heuristic, I’d say this is an effective piece of digital media.

The Steam Living Room

Core: There is a clear idea being presented within the media: “The Steam Universe is Expanding in 2014”. This idea also seems to control and direct the content: the first button shows the new SteamOS, the second shows the new Steam consoles that will run the OS, and the third shows the new Steam controllers used to play the Steam consoles that run the Steam OS. The ideas are linearly presented, but they work to show an overall thought.

Form and Content: Accessibility is no problem here. Regarding the presentation of the media, it seems that the design choices are deliberate, from the button macros on the title page to the infographics on each of the subpages. I would argue that the structural/formal elements of the work serve to present the controlling idea in the most effective way possible.

Audience: The audience is not really asked to engage here. Though they can click through and see all the media presented, user interaction is not a possibility beyond moving between pages. However, Valve also presents the Steam BETA within this media, which is entirely driven by community interaction, so it could be argued that this piece encourages audience engagement in that manner.

Ethical Issues: Regarding ethical issues, I can’t see what sort of issues could arise from this piece of media; there doesn’t appear to be any licensed IP used besides what Valve itself owns.

It seems that this piece, as well, passes our evaluation heuristic.

For both of these pieces, I’d argue that the most important factor in evaluating the work is the focus on Core. If there is a controlling idea that, through Form and Content, is kept as the focus of the piece, then the piece seems fluid in its presentation, and the audience never feels lost or confused about what is being done.

So I respond, and then you respond, and then we’ll both have said something. (But who said something first?!)

So, to, I respond as such:

Good job, you did my work for me. I know we switched this around in class, but I liked your ideas for the most part. I would argue that, above all, the issue I have with your heuristic is its focus on authorial intent rather than audience experience. I think your heuristic works well to identify a person’s ability to create a focused project, but I don’t know if it succeeds in truly evaluating a work on its actual merit versus its intended purpose.

That being said, I liked that we used your heuristic, because it captures the three components of media projects that I also emphasized, which are content, aesthetic, and audience. The conceptual core I’d relate to my idea of content, while form and content I’d relate to my idea of aesthetic. I know that content is actually in the title, but I think it works better if I view it as an evaluation of the aesthetic presentation of the conceptual core, which I’d argue is the content of the project.

The one lacking area in your evaluation heuristic, I’d argue, is your conception of audience. I think an evaluation heuristic of this type would do well to incorporate an evaluation of a media project’s ability to engage the audience, and whether or not audience participation is encouraged or required in some way. That’s a huge part of any person’s evaluation of media, in my opinion. It’s probably because I play video games.

Anyways, good work, nice job, way to go, you’re on your way, one day you’ll make the major leagues, and we’ll all cheer you on.

Proposed Evaluation Heuristic

As I propose this evaluation heuristic, I have little new insight to add to the discussion. I think these things are important when considering new media in our age, and I have attempted to nest the lesser criteria inside the greater criteria:

1. Does the media have a clear purpose that is effectively communicated?

  1. Is the purpose demonstrated by the media’s aesthetic?
  2. Is the purpose significant or thought-provoking?
  3. Is the purpose novel?

2. Does the audience have appropriate participatory power?

  1. Is the work benefited by audience participation?
  2. Can the audience participate, and does the work encourage participation?
  3. Does the audience have control over the organization of the media’s content, and message?
  4. Does the audience have control over the media’s aesthetic?

3. Does the work make effective, and less necessarily, novel use of the media?

  1. Does it use the media in a particularly effective or notable way?
  2. Does it use the media in an original way?

I have listed it like this because I think it’s fairly safe to say that the three rudimentary questions are essential in a discussion of new media evaluation; new media is typically characterized by what it’s trying to do, what the audience can do about it, and what the media platform contributes to those two phenomena. The inner criteria are not all essential; answering affirmatively to even one, in most cases, should be sufficient.

As a Short Response


I liked that you ended with a reference to laziness, since my post was all about laziness. I think that the idea of “thinking outside the box” being opposed to being lazy is incorrect, however; when Robert Fulton showed Napoleon how he could use fewer men, less energy, and a new idea called steam power to move ships faster across the seas, Napoleon laughed at him, because he couldn’t think outside of the box for a convenient, beneficial solution. He wanted to work hard, but he didn’t want to work smart. Lazy people, by necessity, work smart; we select what’s most important, and determine the quickest route to the solution.

I would like to argue that, given that we have read the written word for thousands of years, and yet only very recently have (relatively, few decades years of so) experienced a massive shift in our society away from the book culture of knowledge, that it is not us who have failed to think outside the box; it’s those that want to cling to a pre-Modern understanding of intelligence and informational access that are not thinking outside the box.

They see that we read less and thus they think we’re stupider; they see that we skim and scan instead of delving in and thus they say we’re flippant. They think we read less because we’re too dumb or too uninspired to focus ourselves, and that’s all bullshit. We’re just as motivated, just as inspired, and almost certainly more open to new ideas and ways of thinking; and because of that we’ve gotten good at scanning and skimming, finding what we need and removing what we don’t. It’s different than reading in depth, sure, but it’s not worse. It’s probably better. It’s certainly more efficient

I’m not saying in-depth reading is bad; it’s different. But I think that our society’s shift away from that as our primary means of informational access and organization is by no means a detriment. I think it’s wonderful; it enables faster thought, more fluid connectivity, and better ideas. It’s made us more capable of whittling down the things we’re uninterested in to get to the things we really want to know and understand. It might seem more selfish, and definitely more lazy, but we’re all selfish, lazy people, and I think Google indulging those parts of me isn’t making me any stupider; it’s making me smarter. 

Lazy People are Smarter; Google is Making us Lazy

The title of this post reflects my thoughts on Carr’s and Bowman’s articles.

In regards to this idea, I have only anecdotal evidence to offer.

People are almost incapable of not being goal-oriented. We like to set objectives and meet them. In doing so, we use whatever means available to reach the goal, given a set of parameters on our actions. In previous times, hard work on an intellectual or scholarly level required a vast knowledge of information accessibility; you had to understand physical and temporal constraints on your access to knowledge that many today have little experience with outside of academia; to look up a measurement conversion all you have to do is type it into the google search bar. Now the availability of knowledge has changed for the better.

Samuel Johnson’s famous phrase is memorialized at Dacus: 

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”

Nowadays, we are keenly aware of how available information is; we’re also aware of how available useless information is; so Google has fed our need for laziness, in fact made us lazier, and has turned us into master researchers by giving us a mixed bag of most of the knowledge we’d look for, and a lot that we wouldn’t want. It’s a blessing mixed with a disaster, really: infinite informational potential, vast seas of shit.

And this mindset did not develop with Google as much as it did with digital information; once you understand that digital information can be accessed almost immediately, can be combed through for relevant sections with a hotkey, and can be collated into useful, meaningful organizations with a few mouse clicks, searching for information becomes a process of selecting the best source and finding its point.

I watched this recently and discussed it with some people at great length:

Studies are confirming that incremental increases in reward does not translate into incremental increases in productivity. In fact, it might even reduce productivity. Why is that?

It’s because the conception of “working harder” translating into “success” is fundamentally flawed; working smarter, more creatively, and without recourse to the notion that hard work will save you and redeem your efforts (it won’t) is a better path to success because it requires you to understand what your desired outcome is, not how much time you have to spend.

So we tweet feelings, we don’t write letters. We write paragraph stories, not novels. We get to the point because we know that’s what people want. And in doing so we make everyone’s search for what they want to know and do easier, because we’ve gotten good at atavizing our understanding into easily digested statements and concepts. I think that’s a good thing, and I think that lazy people are at the forefront of this kind of stuff, because being lazy is about doing the least amount of work required for the result, which is the essence of progress, in many ways. Bill Gates has been quoted (and perhaps incorrectly) as saying:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

If that’s the case, laziness becomes the essence of progress. The novel gets shorter, but the message becomes more potent and powerful.




So, yeah, I like what you’re saying ’cause I pretty much agree on every front. This guy Nelson’s thought something up that isn’t yet achievable, and may not ever be achievable. See, on the one hand things like math are pretty easily explained, and a systematic method of doing so like Xanadu could be useful in organizing and presenting that knowledge. But what about the scholarship surrounding Moby Dick? Could we effectively collate and organize the scholarly discourse in a satisfactory manner? I find it highly unlikely; at the very least, we’d be unable to remove an inherent bias towards one or another position.

Regarding things that deserve a place within human knowledge, but are not as quickly defined and categorized as things like country capitols, types of clouds, and the planets, I think any project would run into the curse of Wikipedia: too little research and hasty assumptions or assertions. As a philosophy student, I know that any discussion on a philosophical concept on Wikipedia immediately runs into these issues: soundbites from famous people make the cut, but the scholarly discourse on something like Nietzsche’s theory of Dionysian faith is poorly represented. And I don’t think that’s because Wikipedia sucks; it’s great! But it’s facing a problem that any “Xanadu-like” project will face, which is inherent user bias, an inherent sense of “correct” knowledge versus “incorrect”, and what you called vision being imposed from the outside, or perhaps the top-down.

Personally, I think it’s an ideal that can’t be achieved because it wants to create an essentially static system; it wants all the beings without all the becomings, at least in my perspective. Or, rather, it wants to turn all the becomings into beings as well, and turn human discourse into a digital monument.

Books are Dead, But We’re Still Chasing Their Shadows All Over

This guy seems pretty smart. His critics seem pretty smart too. The line that got me was this: “Hyperfiction’s champions aren’t the first self-styled revolutionaries threatening to liberate other people from their pleasures, but they make one of the weakest cases. The end of books will come only when readers abandon novels for the deconstructed stories of hypertext, and that exodus is strictly a fiction.”

I italicized that line ’cause it’s so good, and it puts my position into perspective; this guy is wanting to liberate other people from their pleasures.

But I don’t think he’s wrong that it’ll happen eventually. Technology has created greater pleasures, simpler in some sense, more complex in others; the hypertext discourses, deconstructed tales, etc. etc. etc., they’re all just extensions of a movement towards this digitization of human discourse and narrative. It’s happening, and there’s nothing to be done about it. But when looking at media, you have to start with the question, “What do they want?” With that in mind, it seems that most people don’t want books. Those that do are significant, but are being whittled down. Classes are being digitized; stories are being placed into hypertext; our sense of narrative is shifting away from the complete book to the fragmentary lines of a comment that speaks volumes on the message board.

Books will lose cultural significance as a medium long before the stories in those books lose significance; and, of course, the scholars will keep books around for ages.

But consider this story:

Could this same story be put into print? Sure.

But that last click, that last click when he turns his face, would that work as well in a comic book? I don’t know.

But it might, that’s certainly arguable. 

The point with that is, we’re not changing what we’re doing out of necessity; we’re not liberating people from their pleasures more than we’re changing what’s pleasurable. Books have worked well; hypertext might work better. I’ll still read books, until the day I die, but I’m not going to pretend like they’re the end-all-be-all of media. ‘Cause we’re already surpassing them.