All posts by pakstisj

Van Pelt Study Breaks

Study Breaks are once again hitting Van-Pelt Dietrich Library Center and the Education Commons to close out the semester and get you through finals. This end-of-semester tradition is designed to provide a fun outlet for the stress finals and papers can bring. This year you can find a variety of activities and snacks throughout the library.

Snacks and beverages will be available to refuel study sessions in the Weigle Information Commons Seminar Room (Room 124) and at the Education Commons. There will also be board games and adult coloring books to help you relax. Come de-stress at WIC and the EC all week. Study breaks are held as follows:

  • At the Education Commons: Every day Sunday, 4/30 to Saturday 5/6 at 3pm 
  • At the Weigle Information Commons:
    • Sunday, 4/30 at 1pm
    • Monday, 5/1; Tuesday, 5/2; and Wednesday 5/3 at 4:30pm
    • Friday, 5/5 at 2pm
    • Saturday, 5/6 at 1pm.

Dog Days are back as well! Therapy dogs will dog_days_april_24be in the Meyerson Conference Room on the 2nd floor of Van Pelt on Monday, 5/1 from 1-3pm and Tuesday, 5/2 from 1-3pm. In addition to dogs and snacks, Student Health Services will provide non-canine relaxation tips. You can find more details about the events here. Remember – The dogs love seeing you as much as you enjoy petting them. Be sure to stop by and make these dogs’ days!

No registration is necessary for any study break and all members of the Penn community are welcome.

DataRescue Philly

Since its inception in 2014, the aim of the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH) has been to create “a more permanent place for environmental dialogue across disciplines.” Amid growing fears of federal climate change data erasure, PPEH’s manifesto has never been more relevant.

To help mediate any tampering with data repositories, PPEH hosted volunteer archivists, librarians, hackers, and concerned citizens for a DataRescue event, one in a series of creative coding workshops across the country. These workshops are a collaboration between the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative and the DataRefuge project, which itself brought together PPEH and Penn Libraries.

The event, a code-a-thon, teach-in, and discussion session about Pullquote 2.pngpreserving environmental data sets, took place in the Kislak Center on the 6th floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center on Friday and Saturday, January 13th-14th. A second, shorter DataRescue Philly 2 event was held on Wednesday, January 25 to continue the work of the first – again, hosted in Van Pelt.

DataRescue Philly was not centered in the library purely for reasons of space. Librarians and archivists put data at the center of the information science field. Librarians and archivists are quite literally in the business of preserving and organizing data. The library, in its essential role as storehouse for knowledge and information, is the perfect backdrop for the work of emergency data curation.

While coders and hackers were brought in to do the essential technical work of Bagging and Tool Building, librarians were integral to making the data accessible. They served chiefly as Describers, adding metadata to the captured datasets. All participants were also able to function as Storytellers and Long Trail members or do the work of Seeding and Sorting.

As new threats to data sets emerge, more DataRescue events pop up nationwide and work
continues throughout the librarypullquote3 as well. Departments like Teaching, Research, and Learning (TRL) Services, which includes the Weigle Information Commons, are actively involved in efforts to plan and organize future events. TRL’s own Laurie Allen Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship at Penn Libraries, for example, is one of the co-organizers of Penn’s DataRescue events.

Scholarly Communications and Data Curation Librarian as well DataRefuge team member, Margaret Janz, is now working with other library staff and WIC interns to further spread awareness and involvement in data preservation efforts. Advising future librarians to be sensitive and responsive to data threats reflects the current core values of librarianship and reveals how library professionals would like to shape the field for the future. Librarians recognize that data needs to be secure and are leaders in taking active steps now to ensure it is protected indefinitely.

Technology and Language Change: How Memes and Emojis Are The Language of The 21st Century and That’s OK

Prescriptivism is dead. That should be read as a warning of bias. This article is written from the perspective that overly regimenting language is a harmful practice. (Counterarguments and thoughts about this topic are more than welcome in the comments section below!) In a linguistic sense, prescriptivism stunts natural language change and prevents linguistic growth. Without language change, Latin would never have become the Romance languages. That’s right – no Italian, French, or Spanish, to give examples from just one language family.

Technology is a huge (and still growing!) part of the modern world and as such it impacts nearly all aspects of our lives – language included. Therefore, letting technology run its course on language brings our communication more fully into the 21st century.

Brief intermission:

My name is Julianna Pakstis. Hello and welcome to my first WIC blog post! As you can tell from the topic of this post, I have a fascination with language and how it has changed over time. I studied Classics and Linguistics at Penn as an undergrad but have recently switched gears a bit to become a Library Science Master’s student at Rutgers University. And that, ironically, led me back to Penn. I am now an intern at WIC and am excited to explore how WIC connects technology to various academic areas… like the internet and Linguistics.

Now, back to the post.

The study of language change has a long history. Therefore, criticism for language change has a long history as well. The impact of technology on

phaedrus
Plato’s Phaedrus is an ancient document which contains a criticism of the technology of writing.

language is no exception to this criticism. From writing itself, to chatspeak, and emojis, there is and seemingly always has been an outcry against the supposed degradation of language these forms of communication cause. There are voices in favor, too, however. There are authors, linguists and journalists alike, who do not condemn the new forms but embrace them, analyze them, and use them, whether professionally or simply personally.

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch is one of those authors. Back in 2014, she did a fairly neutral post on meta-analysis of the language of doge meme for the internet on website, The Toast. In this article she considered whether visual elements, like the Shiba Inu with a piercing expression or the bright comic-sans font made the meme. What she ultimately discovered, however, was that the peculiar grammar of doge meme was its defining feature.

For those readers who might not be familiar with doge meme, the viral image consists of a picture of a Shiba Inu dog with short, punchy phrases written in bright comic-sans layered over top. Typically the words read like this: “such dog,” much cute,” and perhaps most frequently “wow.”

doge-meme-and-tech
It’s very easy to create your own exemplary meme.

McCulloch concluded that “doge phrases,” short one or two word adjectival phrases, are most characteristic of the meme. You can now hear someone IRL (“in real life”) say “such wow” and envision the meme as the two of you recall a common mental image. While doge speak may not be the most popular internet borrowing for vocalized speech (OMG or LOL may be a better example there), it is a unique way of speaking that can definitively be traced back to this particular meme. When a way of speaking integral to a meme integrates into real life speech, language has changed by technological cause.

The end result is that people have nuanced ways to connect ideas and words. They still know the standard form of the language but can now manipulate it in line with new information.

The doge meme example leads to interesting questions about how fast, mass, and written communication, like the internet, affect language and orthography itself. The orthography issue is a hot topic lately as emojis “threaten” to destroy language as we have always known it.

First, we must tackle the debate of whether or not emojis are or can become a language inemojis and of themselves. There are compelling arguments on both sides, but the consensus right now seems to be that emojis enhance communication but do not have a clear grammar of their own. This lack of clarity (or presence of ambiguity) prevents them from really
overthrowing verbal and written communication. To be fair, one could say that even our established vocabulary and grammar has large amounts of ambiguity and therefore does not count as a language, though that would go against the common definition that what we speak and write is our language. This is a complicated issue so, again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments sections.

In the end, emojis, chatspeak, and memes are rapidly changing forms of expressions. The rapidity and universality are products of their technological context. Because they enhance communication, these symbols are part of our writing system and can be considered language. Rather than destroying language, however, these computer mediated forms of communication participate in a linguistic feature as old as language itself – change.