Next month, I’m flying to Salt Lake City to attend the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion to present some of my work about social media, religion, and the far right. I’ll be presenting on three different projects at SSSR—this was biting off more than I could chew, but since two of them connect with Mormonism, Salt Lake suggested the possibility of a larger-than-usual audience for that work, so there you go.
Last year, Daniela DiGiacomo, Sarah Barriage, and I published an article on student and principal perceptions of ClassDojo. Our findings weren’t entirely what we expected, even if they weren’t a huge surprise. In short, students and practitioners don’t always share the concerns about edtech platforms (like ClassDojo) that are gaining steam in the critical educational technology literature. I don’t say this to shame edtech users for not thinking the way that we ivory tower types do—rather, it speaks to a long-recognized tension between theoretical and conceptual concerns held by academics vs.
I’m pretty sure I remember exactly where I was when I realized that Esther 100% slept with the king before he chose her as his queen. I was sitting in a top-floor office in one of two villas on Chemin William Barbey in Chambésy, Switzerland. I lived on the bottom floor of the villa with some other office staff of the Switzerland Geneva Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this office was where I did my religious studies every morning before heading out into a larger office where I helped with legal, vehicle, and other assorted logistical issues for the mission.
Pete and Sarah were mainstays of my Mormon experience growing up. Their oldest—a famously rowdy boy with several rowdy younger brothers—was present on the Sunday when I was introduced in children’s classes as a newcomer to the congregation. When I outgrew children’s classes and made my way to youth Sunday School, Pete was our teacher for a while—the kind of teacher who tried to suppress a giggle (and usually unsuccessfully) whenever the word “ass” (especially “dumb ass”) appeared in the KJV.
One of the more awkward passages in the Book of Mormon (at least from an ecumenical perspective—there’s much worse in there) is in I Nephi 3:220-222, where an angel has this to say with Nephi, the current narrator of the book:
“Behold, there are save two churches only: the one is the church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil. Wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
Twice this month already I’ve written about whether and how to try to play according to one’s values in games. Both posts have been inspired by Lotus Dimension, a TTRPG that explicitly encourages finding nonviolent solutions to in-game problems. In my first post, I expressed interest in the game because it “allow[s] and encourage[s] other paths to vidtory.” In my second, though, I wondered whether that were good enough: “Is ethical behavior in a game because the system of the game rewards that behavior truly ethical?
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about buying a copy of Lotus Dimension, an indie TTRPG that encourages players to find non-violent solutions to problems. I haven’t made my way through the whole rulebook yet—I’ve been busy, and frankly, it’s a bit dense. It’s a bit crunchier than I would have expected from an indie TTRPG focused on an interesting premise, and I’m frankly not sure if it will live up to my initial excitement.
preface A quick preface: This is a post that I originally wrote nearly two years ago for By Common Consent. Lately, it’s been bugging me that I don’t have a version of it up on my own site, and since I haven’t had a lot of time this week to write anything original, I’m going to repost this here.
This post elaborates on one of my favorite close readings of the Book of Mormon.
This is an interesting academic year for me in a number of ways. It was five years ago that I joined UK as an assistant professor and ten years ago that I started at MSU as a new PhD student. It’s my first year as tenured faculty, and there are leadership changes in my unit and college that are—by the inherent virtue of any change in leadership—inviting opportunities to think about what the future of both look like.
After several years of having it vaguely on my wish list (ever since Cory Doctorow’s post about it on Boing Boing), I finally picked up a copy of Lotus Dimension, a tabletop roleplaying game with an intentional emphasis on resolving problems through non-violence. I’ve been reading a lot on non-violence lately, and even though I still have a lot to learn, I’ve been asking recently whether a commitment to non-violence in real life would be incompatible with enjoying games where violence is one of the key ways to achieve victory.
One of this week’s lectionary passages includes Matthew 18:18-20, which David Bentley Hart renders:
Amen, I tell you, whatever things you bind on the earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you unbind on the earth will have been unbound in heaven. Again, [amen,] I tell you that if two among you agree on earth concerning everything they request, whatever it is, it shall come to pass for them, coming from my Father in the heavens.
Kiddo’s school is contracting with a company called Booster to raise $78,000 for new technology for the school. U.S. schools are, of course, underfunded, and I’m generally in favor of getting more money into their bank accounts. I have a number of concerns about this fundraiser, though, and it’s making me grumpy.
what “technology”? I have a PhD in educational technology, which means two things in this context. First, I’m very aware of the fundamental—and often useful—role that technology plays in learning, so I’m not opposed to updating the tech in kiddo’s school.
I grew up not drinking tea or coffee because of religious convictions—a habit that ultimately stayed with me longer than those convictions! Over the course of the two years I spent as a Mormon missionary, I taught a number of people that (among other things) they should adopt the same convictions and also give up tea and coffee. One of the most interesting lessons on this subject I had was with Jonathan.
A friend of mine recently asked whether I had a list of books “that have been particularly impactful or interesting,” especially in the realm of spirituality and religion—and suggested that if I didn’t already have such a list, I could put one together for one of my next blog posts. It took me a while to actually put the list together, but it’s ended up being a really interesting exercise. Of the forty books that I’ve picked, some have been more influential than others.
I’m happy to share that the Fall 2023 edition of my remixed Introduction to Data Science textbook is now available on my website. This book adapts material from the “ModernDive” Statistical Inference via Data Science course, Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein’s excellent Data Feminism, a number of other Creative Commons-licensed works, and some of my own contributions to put together a no-cost, openly-licensed textbook for my data science students. I put together the first edition of this book for last Fall’s version of this course, but the first run through taught me a lot, and I’m very happy about this edition (though I do have a small laundry list of errors to fix, and I’d like to eventually get into some fiddlier bits like removing social media icons from the header).
In his closing sermon at the 2019 Community of Christ World Conference, prophet-president Steve Veazey asked a guiding question for the church:
Are we moving toward Jesus, the peaceful One?
It’s pretty clear from the formatting of this question—and even clearer from its translation into French and Spanish, the other working languages of Community of Christ—that Veazey’s phrase “the peaceful One” is meant to describe Jesus as a being who is inherently peaceful and who exemplifies peace for the whole world.
Ma fille aime bien les crêpes au Nutella, et ça fait un petit moment qu’on n’en a pas fait. Comme elle est malade depuis quelques jours, c’était le bon moment ce soir de reprendre cette petite tradition. En mangeant ma première crêpe, j’ai été rempli d’un tas de souvenirs, comme si c’était la madeleine de Proust. Je n’ai pas envie d’écrire sept tomes sur le sujet, mais pourquoi pas un petit blog ?
Yesterday, during my regular Community of Christ congregation’s services, we sang hymn #72 from our hymnal, entitled “Gather Us In,” which the Beyond the Walls Choir has beautifully interpreted in the video below:
As we sang, I was struck by the last half of the second verse, which reads:
Gather us in, the rich and the haughty;
gather us in, the proud and the strong,
give us a heart so meek and so lowly,
A friend of mine invited me to attend a Community of Christ worship service tonight, a brief reference during which got me thinking about what Community of Christ folks call Joseph Smith’s “grove experience” but that I grew up referring to as his “First Vision.” This got me thinking (and reading) about the different accounts of this experience, including Smith’s 1832 account, where he writes:
I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee.
I love hearing from former students about the great and interesting things that they’re up to—and especially when something they learned in one of my classes helped them along the way. In my experience, former students who are up to great and interesting things would often be doing those things whether or not they had taken one of my classes, but I still appreciate feeling like my teaching contributed in some small way.
Late last year, I announced the publication of a study I participated in with Dr. Evan Brody and UK PhD student Mehroz Sajjad where we examined LGBTQ+-friendly spaces on the Gab social media platform. Although that was the main focus of our research project, we also found as we were completing it that there were a number of LGBTQ+-friendly spaces that had been overrun by queerphobic activity and discourses. I’m happy to announce that our second paper, focusing on those specific spaces, has just been published in the Journal of Homosexuality.
This past weekend, Peggy Fletcher Stack at the Salt Lake Tribune published an article about the #DezNat movement on Mormon Twitter, which takes cues from far-right and anti-feminist online communities. In her article, Peggy was kind enough to reference (and quote from) my new publication with Amy Chapman in the Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association, which presents the (partial) results of a qualitative analysis of over 1,400 DezNat tweets from 2019.
I am one of those people who responds to a lot of work coming my way by ignoring that work and instead trying to think about how to change my routines and workflows. With the summer coming to an end and a new academic year approaching, I’ve been reading productivity books, thinking about the software that I use, and wondering what needs to change.
switching to Habitica In particular, as I’ve posted over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about switching habit trackers.
On a friend’s recommendation, I’m currently reading (well, listening to) James Goodman’s But Where is the Lamb?, an interesting volume taking a look at the story of Abraham and the Binding of Isaac. This passage stood out to me yesterday:
To say that you prefer your church and its stories to another church and its stories is one thing. But to say that your church annuls another church (completes it, voids it, supersedes it) is quite another.
I’m spending a chunk of today starting on revisions to my Intro to Data Science course for my unit’s LIS and ICT graduate prograrms. I’d expected to spend most of the time shuffling around the content and assessment for particular weeks, but I quickly realized that I was going to need to update what I had to say in the syllabus about plagiarism and academic offenses. Last year’s offering of the course involved a case of potential plagiarism, so I wanted to include more explicit instruction that encourages students to borrow code while making it clear that there are right and wrong ways of doing so.
I’m a fan of Dan McClellan’s YouTube channel—he posts a lot there (nearly everything is a repost from TikTok), and I watch most of what he posts. Yesterday, he posted an interesting video on the “Lucifer” name and character in the Bible, describing how traditional Christian ideas about the figure are all post-biblical innovations that don’t neceessarily line up with the text. In particular, the name “Lucifer” is an artifact of the Vulgate, and even in the Vulgate, the name itself is a reference to a Babylonian king, not to a fallen angel who became the devil.
During my two years living in France and Switzerland, I fell deeply in love with travel by rail. But alas, I live in a particularly rail-unfriendly region of a rather rail-unfriendly country. One of my guilty internet pleasures is consuming rail-related media so that I can feel like I’m having train experiences anyway.
Geoff Marshall’s YouTube channel is a favorite of mine. Le Ferrovipathe and Urban Traveler are a couple of Francophone channels that I like much more, but that produce less content.
This summer, I’ve taken advantage of my 9-month contract with the University of Kentucky to have lots of adventures with kiddo while my spouse (who has a 12-month contract) continues at her job. It’s been a real delight! A couple of Fridays ago, we drove to Danville, a town in Central Kentucky where I spent a summer as a high schooler but haven’t been back to since. We bought her a book, me some amazing chocolate mint tea, and had a great time exploring fun shops and public art in adorable downtown Danville.
Growing up Latter-day Saint, I knew that polygamy was part of our past, but I was so defensive about it not being part of our present that I often failed to understand just how important it was to my ancestors (both literal and figurative). About a month ago, I stumbled on a passage in RLDS missionary Charles Derry’s autobiography (which I recently finished) that reminded me that polygamy was a huge prority for 19th century Latter-day Saints:
One of the biggest perks of working in academia is access to an academic library. Don’t get me wrong: I deeply appreciate and regularly visit my local public libraries, and kiddo and I have made a couple of visits to her school’s summer library hours (which is an amazing idea). There’s something about the breadth of an academic library, though, that can really come in handy sometimes. For example, I was recently reading an article by Dan McClellan on Bible translation in Latter-day Saint contexts and noticed with interest his reference to David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament.
Fall 2023 will mark my fifth time teaching my department’s class on Content Management Systems. I have really loved taking on this class and making it my own over the past several years. It’s also been fun to see how teaching the class has seeped into the rest of my life: It’s a “cannot unsee” situation (in a good way!) where the concepts I teach work themselves into everyday encounters with the news, my own websites, and other things around the internet.
As I wrote earlier in the week, I gave today’s sermon for the Toronto Congregation’s inclusive online worship service. The service was recorded and can be found at the YouTube link below:
I really enjoyed participating with Beyond the Walls. I had some idea of how much work they put into making this look like a professional production, but getting to peek behind the scenes and see how much work they put into juggling different cameras, testing and managing audio, and everything else made me really appreciate what they do all the more.
As I’ve written before, one of my favorite things about the Day One journaling app is the “On this Day” feature that lets me remember moments from my past—often moments I might have forgotten if I hadn’t journaleda bout them.
This morning, Day One reminded me of a hymn service my local Community of Christ congregation held a couple of years ago. I had been invited to share a memory of a favorite hymn.
Next Sunday, I’ll be giving the sermon for the Community of Christ Toronto Congregation’s Beyond the Walls inclusive online congregation, speaking on the Parable of the Samaritan (more often called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but my sermon will explain why I’m going for that name instead). I had been planning to post about the sermon after the fact, but the links for the YouTube live events went up today, so I thought I might share them ahead of time.
Almost immediately after finishing yesterday’s post, an idea occurred to me that I wanted to chase a little further. I’ve mentioned before my admiration for Thomas Römer, a Germano-Swiss Bible scholar who teaches at the Collège de France and whose lectures are freely available in podcast form. I’ve listened to a lot of those lectures, and I remembered that Römer had made some comments about the rhetorical purposes of the Abraham story that seemed relevant to my wrestling with the story of the Binding of Isaac.
I’ve alluded to the binding of Isaac in previous posts, and I hope that what I’ve written before makes it clear how uncomfortable I am with this story. Nonetheless, it’s one of the readings in this week’s Lectionary scriptures, and there is a part of Robert Alter’s translation of this story that does stick out to me. Here’s how Alter renders Genesis 22:2:
And He said, “Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the Land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.
Il y a quelques années, dans les premiers mois de la pandémie du COVID-19, j’ai décidé de mettre mes ordinateurs (y compris mon smartphone) en français pour m’entrainer un peu. C’était une belle expérience, mais il y a quelques mois, pour une raison dont je ne me souviens plus, j’ai décidé de tout remettre en anglais. L’anglais, c’est ma langue maternelle, mais entre quelques années d’expérience de tout faire en français et ma passion pour cette langue, je trouve qu’il est parfois difficile de m’habituer à ce changement.
One of kiddo’s favorite podcasts is the delightful Forever Ago, each episode of which dives into the history of something specific, such as the weekend, Black cowboys, etc. Kiddo often listens to podcasts in the morning while waiting for (or eating) breakfast, and on Saturday morning, knowing that we were visiting Lexington Pride later that day, she pulled up the episode on the history of the rainbow Pride flag.
With that history fresh in our minds, I noticed something different about the rainbow flags that fly in downtown Lexington during hte month of June: Lexington does not fly the common six-stripe rainbow flag.
In early May, I decided to give tea a try. I’ve enjoyed herbal teas over the years, but I grew up never drinking actual tea (or coffee, which I still have never tried), so this has been a new(ish) experience for me. Over the past two months, I’ve acquired a couple of tea infusers as well as a variety of different teas that I’ve been trying, and tonight I felt like writing about some of the teas I’ve tried so far:
Nearly a year ago, I wrote a post about an important part of RLDS history that I mostly love but also get slightly annoyed by. In short, Wallace Smith, who was then prophet-president of the RLDS Church, was put on the spot by a local seminary professor, who asked the following question:
If our mutual studies of Christianity and the RLDS Church were to discovere that there was a discrepancy between what Jesus taught and what Joseph Smith taught, which would you accept?
Wil Gafney and her *Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church° continue to be a source of inspiration for me. For the past two weeks, her readings for the relevant Sundays of the season of Ordinary Time in the Christian liturgical year have begun with Samuel’s miraculous birth to Hannah. I’ve just now completed the reading for Proper 6 reading, in which Hannah’s pleas for a child despite her seeming infertility are answered.
One of my most recent articles—a piece on technology, naming, and legitimacy in the Latter-day Saint tradition—was published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Publishing in Dialogue has been a wonderful opportunity. It’s a niche journal, so it may never reach the breadth of audience that I usually aim for in publishing. However, that niche focus has also come with a number of benefits. I want to write more about this soon, but the purpose of this post is just to draw attention to one of these benefits: the in-house podcast(s) produced by the Dialogue team.
I am very happy to announce that a paper I wrote with Amy Chapman is finally published and available open access in the Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association (I have also archived a PDF of the article on my website, available at this link). Amy and I began this project in the spring/summer of 2019, so it’s a relief to finally see our first paper in print.
In short, the paper is a descriptive look at tweets using the #DezNat hashtag; DezNat, short for either Deseret Nation or Deseret Nationalism (depending on who you ask) is a movement of arch-conservative Mormons on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet.
This article has been available online for nearly two years, but since I don’t have any previous posts about it, I’m happy to announce that a study of mine with Dan Krutka has just been assigned to an issue at the Journal of Research on Technology in Education. A number of years ago, Twitter released some large datasets of tweets associated with accounts created as part of various governments’ information operation efforts.
As I wrote earlier, I recently appeared on the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast to discuss a recent publication in which I discuss the history of official Latter-day Saint domain names. Near the end of the interview, David Noyce (managing editor of the Tribune and one of the podcast hosts) asked me the “so what” question—sure, this history is interesting, but what’s the takeaway? Here’s (part of) how I answered:
One of this week’s lectionary readings in Community of Christ (and presumably elsewhere) is in 1 Peter 3. As I was reading the NRSVUE rendering of this passage this morning, verses 13-17 stood out to me:
13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord.
One of the more interesting passages of scripture produced by Joseph Smith Jr. is in Section 36 of the Community of Christ Doctrine and Covenants (or the Book of Moses in the Latter-day Saint Pearl of Great Price):
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residee of the people, and he wept, and Enoch bore record of it, saying, How is it the heavens weeps and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?
I read a passage in Wil Gafney’s A Women’s Lectionary for the Whole Church this morning that really stood out to me—especially as it related to two things I’ve recently written. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Easter hope, acknowledging that
[a literal] resurrection is something that’s hard for me to wrap my head around, but I figure that if I can try to muster the belief in the impossibility of the resurrection, I can have the belief that we can overcome racism, fix poverty, and solve other seemingly impossible tasks facing us.
I was disappointed this morning to see this article in the Salt Lake Tribune. The article reports that BYU professor Sarah Coyne “became the target of online bullying and hostile emails” after discussing “her child’s years of wrestling with gender dysphoria, including suicidal thoughts and agonizing mental health issues” in a class she was teaching. According to the article, this is something that she has done for several semesters, but this time, her action “made it into a critical article in a conservative off-campus newspaper… which was retweeted by Utah Sen[ator] Mike Lee on his personal Twitter account.
I recently wrote about a new article of mine in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought where I trace the history of the official domain names of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This past week, I was lucky enough for the fine folks at the Salt Lake Tribune to take interest in the article. Peggy Fletcher Stack wrote a summary of my findings in this (unfortunately paywalled) article, which appeared on Sunday.
Over the past five years, my belief in a literal resurrection has gone down, but (perhaps unexpectedly) my love for Easter has gone up. For my congregation’s 2022 Easter service, I was invited to say contribute during a certain part of the service. I shared with the congregation that the resurrection is something that’s hard for me to wrap my head around, but I figure that if I can try to muster the belief in the impossibility of the resurrection, I can have the belief that we can overcome racism, fix poverty, and solve other seemingly impossible tasks facing us.
One unexpected thing that I owe to my Mormon upbringing is my love for the weird band They Might Be Giants. That’s not to say that there’s something distinctly Mormon about TMBG in the way that there is something distinctly Mormon about the existential fear of not doing things correct way that I also picked up during these years. Rather, it’s just the fact that I learned about TMBG—more specifically, their famous cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople)—from Craig Wilson, a youth leader in my local congregation.
A week from tomorrow, I’m heading to Independence, Missouri to attend a few days of the 2023 World Conference of Community of Christ—and to act as a voting delegate in any of the legislative sessions that take place during my short time there. This is the first time since my confirmation into Community of Christ that a World Conference has taken place (the last one was in 2019), so I’ve been thinking about this for several months as “my first World Conference experience.
I’m very excited to share that I’ve just had an article published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, a historically and culturally important journal in Mormonism. My article is entitled “The correct [domain] name of the Church: Technology, naming, and legitimacy in the Latter-day Saint tradition.” The title is a riff on Russell Nelson’s use of the phrase “The Correct Name of the Church” when leading a renewed emphasis on the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints early in his ministry as President of the same church.
I want to start this post by saying that it’s more about me working out some thoughts than telling anyone else how to think—or even saying what I think about the subject. I’ve written a number of times already that I’m reading through Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s The Book of Forgiving as part of a non-credit bearing class on peace and justice that I’m taking through Community of Christ Seminary. In the reading I completed for last night’s class session, I was impressed by the following passage from the elder Tutu:
Ce matin, en écoutant une épisode du podcast « Gare à vous » de la Radio Télévision Suisse, un petit souvenir tout bête m’est venu à l’esprit, et j’ai eu l’envie d’en écrire ici. Il s’agit d’un petit moment vécu alors que j’habitais à Renens, tout près de Lausanne, dans le canton suisse du Vaud. J’ai adoré les quelques mois que j’ai passé à Renens, tout près de Lausanne. Il y a plusieurs raisons derrière cet amour, mais j’avoue que c’est surtout un endroit très intéressant du point de vue d’un américain qui pleure la faiblesse des transports publics là d’où il vient.
I’ve only read two Mormon missionary memoirs (plus one compilation of Mormon missionary comics), but both have been helpful for me in thinking about my own missionary experience. Brittany Long Olsen’s Dendo: One Year and One Half in Tokyo is a remarkable graphic novel memoir of her missionary service in Japan. The art is great, the ambition is fantastic, and it absolutely deserves the 2015 award it won from the Association of Mormon Letters.
I write a lot about Mormonism on this blog, and even though I’m not shy about being critical, I think I’ve also made clear that in relative terms, I’m on pretty good terms with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Not on such good terms that I’m still an active member of that church, of course, but I still feel a lot of fondness for it, and I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself an “ex-Mormon”—the great thing about the word “Mormon” no longer being officially approved is that it makes it all the more appropriate for describing my own religious identity.
One of the lectionary readings for tomorrow’s service is Ezekiel 37:1-14, which I read in Robert Alter’s beautiful translation. In this passage, Ezekiel famously prophesies:
“O dry bones, listen to the word of the LORD, Thus said the Master, the LORD, to the dry bones: I am about to bring breath into you and you shall live. And I will lay sinews over you and bring up flesh over you and stretch over you skin.
I’ve never been a fan of policing student behavior in my classes. I don’t take attendance, I’m pretty generous when it comes to late work and making up assignments, and I try to make participation in class something that’s organic rather than something structured and forced. In recent years, this hasn’t necessarily gone well. For example, the undergrad class I’m currently teaching has lousy attendance, and I struggle to get anyone except the 3-4 same voices to contribute to class discussions.
If life were fair, I’d be out on a morning run right now, but life isn’t, so I’m not. The immediate unfairness getting in my way is a flaring up of my retrolisthesis; in short, there’s a vertebra in my lower back that isn’t inclined to stay in place, and my core muscles aren’t always successful in convincing it to. Things aren’t as bad today as they were a week ago, when my lower back was experiencing so much stiffness (and, to a lesser extent, pain) that I couldn’t even bend at the waist, but despite my improvement over the past seven days, I woke up stiff enough this morning that I knew going for a run would probably make things worse.
Tous les matins, l’Université du Kentucky envoie un courriel à tous ses employés avec des annonces et informations diverses. Ce matin, la fin du courriel affirme qu’il est aujourd’hui le jour de la langue française (c’est vrai en plus!) et nous rappelle que notre université offre plein de cours en langue française et en études francophones.
Vu ma passion évidente pour tout ce qui est francophone, je savais déjà depuis longtemps qu’ils existaient déjà, ces cours.
I grew up in a faith tradition that put a huge amount of emphasis on the King James Version of the Bible. It was only four years ago (in the early phases of my faith transition), that I deliberately picked up another translation to read instead. Even then, I picked a relatively “safe” transition to venture into: Thomas Wayment’s The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints. Since it was co-published by Deseret Book and BYU, it had some tacit approval from Latter-day Saint institutions, even if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints itself still identifies the KJV as its official English language text.
At the beginning of my senior year of high school, Tyler and I were neck and neck in class rankings—if memory serves, he was slightly ahead. This never got in the way of our friendship. We had spent too much time playing the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars Roleplaying Game together, and a few years earlier, we’d even spent one memorable night with our mutual friend Chris hiking repeatedly back and forth between Tyler’s house and mine so that we could find the right hardware for hooking up someone’s GameCube to my family’s venerable TV so that we could play TimeSplitters 2.
I keep a journal using the Day One app for macOS/iOS, and while I have some lingering concerns about platformizing (and even digitizing) my journaling, there are also some pretty neat aspects to using an app like this. First, it’s very easy to copy text from other electronic sources into the app, and that really helps me capture things that made an impression on me from day to day. Second, it’s also easy to search for, read, and even be reminded of old entries.
On January 24, 2023, Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a speech at BYU where he made the following comments:
As I visit with members across the Church, I sometimes hear things like “I don’t support the Church’s policy on (you fill in the blank).” Or “I don’t agree with the way the Church does (this or that).”
Could I suggest an alternative approach?
[Mit einem Glasdach überdachter Vorplatz des Staßburger Bahnhofs, by Dr.-Ing. S.Wetzel, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0]
I don’t remember exactly where we were, but I’m pretty sure it was near the Strasbourg train station. Maybe we were in the station, or maybe we were somewhere nearby. We must have come to Strasbourg from Colmar, where we spent most of our time. It was a shop of some kind: Were we buying breakfast?
Earlier today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement announcing that:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its affiliated investment manager, Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc., have settled a matter with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Unsuprisingly, the Salt Lake Tribune describes the context surrounding the settlement in more detail:
In a settlement announced Tuesday with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Utah-based faith and its investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors, have agreed to pay $5 million in penalties for failing to properly disclose past stock holdings and going to “great lengths” to deliberately “obscure” the church’s investment portfolio.
A few weeks ago, while walking through Julietta Market at Lexington’s Greyline Station, I stopped for a few minutes at a used bookstore at one of the stalls and walked away with a copy of Thomas Merton: Passion for Peace. I haven’t gotten far into it yet—later that week, a book by a French theologian that I’d ordered arrived in the mail, and that’s taken up most of my reading attention since.
As I’ve written elsewhere, I am currently giving Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway another try after bouncing off of it a while ago. Because I bounced off of it so hard the last time, I’m surprised by how much it’s resonating off of me as I give it another go. This past week, I’ve been listening to a lot of Walkaway on top of doing a lot of religious reading: assignments for the Ministry of the Disciple class I’m taking through the Community of Christ Seminary’s Center for Innovation in Ministry and Missino, Gérard Siegwalt’s Reinventing God’s name [La réinvention du nom de Dieu], and various scriptures for today’s liturgical readings.
After bouncing off of it a year or so ago, I recently decided to restart Cory Doctorow’s novel Walkaway (which led NPR reporter Jason Sheehan to describe Doctorow as “Super-weird in the best possible way”). The audiobook is excellent, and since I started a couple of days ago, it’s displaced my podcast listening and given me another chance to wrestle with Doctorow’s ideas here.
There is way too much going on (and I’m not far enough into the book) for me to engage with the underlying message of the novel (or even to be sure of what it is yet), but one passage stood out to me so much this morning that I have to write it down now.
This week, Discord announced that it has acquired the Gas social media app popular among secondary students. Presumably in response, Alyson Klein ran an explainer today at EducationWeek on the subject of the app. In doing this, she re-ran a quote that I provided to her for a December article that she also wrote:
“It feels a little exploitative to me,” said Spencer Greenhalgh, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s school of information sciences.
As I’ve blogged about a couple of times recently, I’m currently reading R. Sikoryak’s Terms and Conditions, a graphic novel adaptation of the 2015 iTunes Terms and Conditions document, which no one ever reads.
I was struck (if not surprised) by something stated explicitly in the document, which appears on p. 59 of Sikoryak’s volume:
The software products made available through the Mac App Store and App Store (collectively, the “App Store Products”) are licensed, not sold, to you.
My sister-in-law recently gifted me a copy of R. Sikoryak’s weird but wonderful comic Terms and Conditions, which “adapts” the 2015 iTunes terms and conditions into a comic format. I was as delighted by the gift, which I’m sure only contributed to her bewilderment (she knew I wanted the book, but I can’t blame anyone for not understanding why I wanted it).
One of the gags of the comic is, obviously, the idea that a comic adaptation would get you to actually read through the whole document instead of just pretending that you have.
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of talking with Arianna Prothero at EducationWeek about Seattle Public Schools’ suing Snap, Alphabet, Meta, and ByteDance, and she ended up quoting me—and colleagues like Jeff Carpenter and Josh Rosenberg—in her article.
I appreciate that all three of us were quoted in the article, because Jeff and Josh both made points that I didn’t articulate as well in my conversation with Arianna. For example, Jeff’s comments summed up a lot of the complexities that have gone through my head:
I grew up in a faith tradition that—with the exception of major holidays like Christmas and Easter—didn’t follow the Christian liturgical calendar. So, shortly after I began attending Community of Christ regularly (and, given the circumstances, virtually) in 2020, I decided I was going to learn more all of the seasons and holidays that I wasn’t familiar with. A few months earlier, I’d heard an interview with the Swiss abbot Urban Federer on the Babel podcast by Radio Télévision Suisse.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve noticed a lot of conversations about Mastodon’s lack of a feature equivalent to Twitter’s “quote tweets.” To be honest, I don’t really care about the lack of a “quote toot” feature, and I’ve done my best to steer clear of these conversations (though I did note while writing this post that it caught the eye of Mastodon’s founder in a big way). I gather that these conversations been around for a while, but I get the sense from my own feeds that there’s been a notable recent uptick.
A member of my Community of Christ congregation recently asked if I would lead the Disciples’ Generous Response portion of tomorrow’s worship service (where donations and tithes are collected). I’ve done this for previous services, but more than any other way I’ve contributed to a Community of Christ service, this is the one that takes the most practice. In Latter-day Saint services, there’s never this kind of collection, and this was honestly one of the hardest things to get used to as I began regularly attending Community of Christ services.
I’ve mentioned before that I support the Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast on Patreon, one of the perks of which is that I get access to the Tribune’s Mormon coverage without having to subscribe to the whole paper (which would be a lot of money for someone who doesn’t care about Jazz coverage or Utah politics).
Thanks to this Patreon perk, I read a lot of news about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and between that and over three decades that I spent as an active member of that church, you’d think that nothing would surprise me anymore.
Although it’s been a real delight to see so many people joining Mastodon over the past few weeks, I’ve found that there’s also a disadvantage that I hadn’t expected: I’m spending a lot more time scrolling through Mastodon these days than I ever have since setting up my Mastodon accounts.
When I began setting up Mastodon accounts and shifting away from Twitter back in April, I felt like I had made a big leap forward in terms of my online consumption.
When I was still an undergraduate student at BYU, I took a job as a student instructor for FREN 102, the second half of a two-course sequence in first-year French. I had a lot of weird experiences as an undergraduate student teaching and grading other undergraduate students, but the one that I remember this morning is the time that I held a student’s scholarship in my hand. I don’t remember the student’s name or much about her, except a vague recollection of her face and a couple of conversations with her.
C’est drôle comme de touts petits souvenirs peuvent peser lourds dans sa mémoire. J’ai déjà écrit plusieurs posts à ce sujet, mais cet après-midi, j’ai envie d’en écrire davantage. Je suis en train de faire des corrections pour mon travail comme prof de techologies de l’information et de la communication. J’aime bien ce travail, mais je n’aime pas du tout faire des corrections, et j’ai donc l’habitude de mettre une vidéo « en cabine » pendant que je fais le travail.
For over three years now, I’ve been getting increasingly involved with research projects that involve the online far right in one way or another. One of the most interesting ways that I’ve developed as a researcher during this time is having to think through in greater detail my commitments to research ethics. Because my research typically focuses on public social media data, I am rarely required to obtain informed consent from those whom I study.
A few weeks ago, thanks to a recommendation from my colleague and friend Josh Rosenberg, I was contacted by Alyson Klein at EducationWeek to talk about the “Gas” social media app that’s become popular among high schoolers lately. Klein’s article was published last night, and I was happy to see that I’d been quoted in the article.
To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with the app before Klein reached out, but it only took a few minutes of research for me to figure out that I didn’t like it very much.
I’m pleased to share that a study I contributed to—Gayservatives on Gab: LGBTQ+ Communities and Far Right Social Media—is now available (open-access!) through the Social Media + Society journal. Dr. Evan Brody is the lead author on the study, and we were lucky enough to have support from PhD student Mehroz Sajjad. Here’s the abstract for the study:
In the United States, LGBTQ+ individuals are often imagined as inherently politically progressive, but this assumption overlooks the experiences of self-identified LGBTQ+ conservatives.
I’m pleased to share the publication of a new chapter of an edited volume. The chapter in question is “I"m a French teacher, not a data scientist”: Culture and languages across my professions, and it’s part of a volume called Cultures and languages across the curriculum in higher education. According to the CLAC Consortium, Culture and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) is a:
a curricular framework that provides opportunities to develop and apply language and intercultural competence within all academic disciplines through the use of multilingual resources and the inclusion of multiple cultural perspectives.
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2022 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion to present research with Amy Chapman on how the reactionary DezNat movement on Mormon Twitter conceptualizes and claims—but ultimately problematizes—religious authority in the online sphere. We presented in one of the sessions sponsored by the Mormon Social Science Association and were lucky enough to have some good conversations and receive some helpful feedback.
Recently, I was listening to a podcast episode that was touching on deconstruction. It was chiefly concerned with the term as it’s used in religious contexts, but to do so, it was going back to its intellectual roots, with Jacques Derrida and Ferdinand de Saussure. As the host, Jared Byas, summarized the ideas of deconstruction:
we can’t ever escape language and the meaning of language depends on other parts of that language.
In my second-to-last year of grad school, I was asked to give a research talk as part of my program’s prospective student day. My talk was representing the “educational technology” part of the program, and the incomparable Kristy Robinson gave a talk reresenting the “educational psychology” part (to this day, when I’m struggling with a bout of imposter syndrome, I still remind myself that my grad program let me present alongside someone of Kristy’s caliber, so I must have something going for me).
Yesterday, I wrote a post on Jephthah, a figure in the book of Judges who makes a commitment that if God helps him out in battle, he’ll sacrifice the first thing that exits the door of his house when he returns home. Robert Alter notes that there’s been a lot of rabbinic and scholarly effort to make sense of this but that in “any case, it is a rash vow.” Indeed, the vow goes wrong, and Jephthah winds up in a situation where’s he believes he’s committed to offer up his daughter in sacrifice.
Some of the most troubling passages in the Christian canon have to do with the sacrifice of children in the name of God. Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac is perhaps the most obvious example of this, but there are other examples that (ought to) raise as much concern in the mind of the believer. Perhaps the most interesting (to me) story along these lines is found in Judges 11:31 (I’m using Robert Alter’s fantastic translation throughout this post), where one of the eponymous judges, a man by the name of Jephthah:
Since the beginning of COVID-19, I’ve been dismantling a lot of my productivity and organization systems, trying to put less pressure on myself to get things done and be more mindful in how I spend my time. Several months ago—I cannot remember exactly when—this culminated in taking email off my phone and pivoting away from the excellent Things 3 task management app to a more paper notebook-driven approach to keeping track of what I need to get done.
A few months ago, my father-in-law and two of my brothers-in-law visited Turkey for a week and had a great time. They brought us home an enormous box of Turkish baklava as an edible souvenir, and I spent a lot of September nibbling away at that. It was delicious, and I was really grateful for the gift.
At some point near the end of the box, all of that baklava brought back a memory that I hadn’t thought about for quite some time.
About a month ago, I blogged about the approach we take to playing video games around here, which is to check out old games from a local library and play them on the Nintendo Wii we liberated from my parents’ basement a couple of years ago. Earlier this week, that approach bore some fruit: After repeated cycles of keeping the game out as long as we could, returning it for a couple of weeks, and then checking it back out, kiddo and I beat Super Mario Galaxy 2—a game several years older than she is for a console that’s been around for nearly as long as her parents have known each other.
I’ve written a fair amount already on my rereading the Book of Mormon project, where I’m entertaining the idea of what a modern language edition of the book (or at least the Book of Mosiah) might look like. In my work thus far, I’ve been proceeding under the assumption that this is an inherently liberal project: In both the LDS and RLDS traditions, there has been considerable resistance to large-scale changes to the English language text of the Book of Mormon, largely because the English text is held to be translated through divine power and therefore unassailable.
This morning, kiddo was pretending to be a robot, so when I needed her to switch her attention from, say, getting dressed to brushing her teeth, I’d have to pretend to “reprogram” her before she’d cooperate. This got me wondering if she was maybe old enough to try some basic programming activities—something like LEGO Mindstorms. I think that she’s probably still a bit young for that sort of thing, but it made me excited about doing this sort of thing in the future.
Yesterday, I listened to a new episode of the Project: Zion podcast, the semi-official podcast of Community of Christ. This episode was an interview with Shandra Newcom, one of two apostles-designate who will begin their service after the April 2023 World Conference of the church. It was a delightful episode, and I posted something to the Community of Christ subreddit that I wanted to repeat here:
What a great episode!
Over the past few days, I’ve been relistening to the One Shot podcast’s October 2018 Kids on Bikes episodes (which starts here). There’s so much to love about this six-episode series. I remembered enjoying the characters and the players, but it wasn’t until this morning that I remembered the perfect moment where one player describes the biblical Jacob as “history’s best angel fighter” and summons him to help a science teacher fight off a terrifying seraphim (which I promise makes sense in context).
Jeff Huber, the longtime Director of the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky, is stepping down into a regular faculty role at the end of this academic year. I’m serving on the search committee to find a new Director, and I’m happy to share that the official posting for the job is now live. If this sounds up your alley, feel free to apply, and if this isn’t your kind of job, please help share the posting with folks who might be interested.
Hier, j’ai regardé pour la première fois le clip de « Coup de vieux » de Bigflo et Oli. C’est une chanson que je connais depuis queques semaines et un groupe que je connais depuis quelques mois, et j’ai beaucoup apprécié le clip :
Je n’ai jamais été un grand amateur du rap, et ça fait donc un peu bizarre de trouver que j’aime tant ce groupe. Pourtant, j’ai beaucoup écouté leur album « La vraie vie » car j’aime bien les paroles de plusieurs chansons sur cet album.
This “Don’t Fly Solo” board has been up in the hallway of our building since before I was hired. I took a picture of it back in December 2017, when I was here on a job interview. It was one of the most prominent signs (no pun intended) that this would be a friendly and fun unit to work in, which was one of the biggest considerations on my mind when I decided to accept the job (though the adventure of changing disciplines and the convenience of living closer to family shouldn’t be discounted).
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Mormon Land podcast is one of my favorites—I’ve gone so far as to support it on Patreon so that I can get all the Tribune’s religion coverage without having to subscribe to the entire newspaper. Mormon news interests me a lot, but Utah news doesn’t interest me at all. Yesterday’s episode on age and Latter-day Saint leadership was one of the most interesting episodes that I’ve listened to.
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Lexi Lishinski, a good friend from grad school, to appear on an episode of her podcast The Unlistenable Podcast. To quote the About page for the podcast:
It’s not called that because it has dreadful audio quality, although that may be true. It’s called that because you can’t listen to it, because I’m not going to release the episodes. This solves literally every issue that ever stopped me from recording a podcast.
During the last few years I spent as a practicing Latter-day Saint, one recurring pet peeve that I had was the overbroad use of the term “gospel” to refer to all Latter-day Saint doctrines, teachings, and beliefs. In hindsight, learning to separate the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ from everything that I believed was a major part of my faith transition—and my ability to continue in Christianity even when the version that I was used to started to no longer work for me.
As kiddo’s school year has gotten into full swing and mine has gotten busier, I’ve spent less time griping about her school’s use of ClassDojo. However, I’ve also become increasingly annoyed at the fact that the weekly update email I get from the company always has the subject line “What did your child accomplish this week?” The body of the email is divided into two sections: The number of “points” that my child was assigned, and the number of “stories” that my child appeared in.
After recently finishing an excellent biography on Brigham Young, I’m starting to make my way through some other Mormon Studies books that I own but have not yet read. This has brought me to Paul Reeve’s Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness. It’s very good so far, and I regret having waited until now to read it. I’m currently working through Reeve’s chapters describing Mormons’ relationship with American Indians, and I just now read a paragraph that really surprised me.
This week, I’m hurriedly putting together some revisions for a book chapter on data ethics that I’ve been working on for an open access volume on ethics in educational technology. I’m excited about the volume, and I’ve really loved writing the chapter, so it’s kind of fun to be doing these revisions, even if I waited for the last minute to do them.
One reviewer suggestion that I’m particularly grateful for is to elaborate on a sentence I wrote arguing that “learning management systems allow us to monitor students in invasive ways that would be unimaginable in a face-to-face context.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to preprare a “focus moment” for today’s worship service in my Community of Christ congregation. There are some things I might change for a different audience (putting more nuance into my current view of God, for example), but I’m still pretty happy with what I came up with. I’m particularly happy about the translation of the song—I didn’t bring it up when sharing, but this is a French Canadian song that I translated for today’s purpose.
There’s a great xkcd strip (see below) about someone who always plays video games on a five-year lag because you get to enjoy all the good games with less of a hassle:
I love this strip for a few different reasons. First of all, I’ve never been a hardcore videogamer, so if I do ever play a big title, it usually is about five years after the fact. Second, I think there’s something about it that gets funnier (or else makes me feel older) over time: It’s funny to think of someone only discovering Portal in early 2013, but now that “five years late” is almost “ten years ago,” there’s something kind of absurd about the strip.
I ride an e-bike into work, and because an e-bike is expensive, I bring it into my office rather than lock it up at one of the bike racks on University of Kentucky campus. Because an e-bike is heavy, I also take it up the elevator to get up to the third floor, where my office is. My e-bike takes up a lot of space, but I’ve figured out how to share the elevator with others as I make my way up to my office.
Yesterday, two podcasts that I listened to while doing work around the house lined up in such a perfect way that I wanted to write down my memory of the moment. First, because I was recently reminded of the fantastic podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text (which applies sacred reading techniques to the Harry Potter series, treating it as serious and meaningful without letting it—or its author—off the hook for being problematic), I’ve been trying to catch up with its second runthrough of the book series, in the perhaps-vain hope that I can start listening to episodes as they come out.
I am a big fan of the Book of Mormon. It’s one of the reasons that I stuck with Community of Christ when transitioning out of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know the book is problematic, and I doubt its historicity, but I’m still an advocate for making some religious meaning out of it.
There are diverse opinions about the Book of Mormon in Community of Christ, and while there’s plenty of room to believe lots of different things, the default institutional view tends to be either indifferent or suspicious of the text.
J’ai commencé à écouter la musique francophone il y a onze ans. Avant ça, j’avais quelques albums (Caféine de Christophe Willem et la bande originale de Le Roi Soleil), et je connaissais Serge Gainsbourg, mais selon mes souvenirs, j’ai du attendre janvier 2011 pour me foncer vraiment dans la musique en français.
En ce temps, je commençais un poste comme « instructeur étudiant » du français à l’université où je faisais mes propres études.
Dallin Oaks, the second highest-ranking apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a speech at Brigham Young University yesterday where he touched on the “two great commandments” identified by Jesus in the Book of Mark. Unsurprisingly for anyone who’s been following recent signals of retrenchment at BYU (or anyone familiar with the apostle for that matter), Oaks put the two commandments in a particular order. Here’s how the Salt Lake Tribune quotes him:
I’ve never had qualms about listening to Christmas music outside of December, but it still surprises me that I’ve been listening to parts of Handel’s Messiah during my morning routines over the past couple of weeks. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the music of Messiah, and in recent years, I’ve let go of my attachment to King James language and learned that a lot of the passages quoted in Messiah represent Christian prooftexting of the Hebrew Bible (here’s a great post on the subject by Pete Enns—and here’s another).
I am very near the end of Wil Wheaton’s updated/annotated memoir Still Just a Geek, which I bought over the summer on a short family trip. I have lots of thoughts—most of them positive—about the memoir and may write a bit more about it once I finally finish. For now, though, since I wrote last week complaining about companies like Apple and ClassDojo restricting hardware and software to support their bottom line at the expense of users, I was struck by a short passage Wheaton included making a case for general purpose computing:
I have been writing a lot about ClassDojo recently, spurred by a combination of my professional concerns about the app and by my frustration that my kid’s school is now using it. Last week, I was pleased to see a new report from the United Kingdom-based Digital Futures Commission about not only ClassDojo but also Google Classroom. I’m sure my kid will have to use this latter software as well, so it’s good to be aware.
Thanks to the magic of the internet, I often listen to Francophone radio stations while working (most often French and Swiss—Radio-Canada doesn’t support streaming outside its own apps and sites). This is a great way to keep up with my French, and because there seems to be a minigenre of Francophone songs critiquing social media (Stromae’s Carmen comes to mind, but there’s at least one other whose name I can’t remember right now), it sometimes ends up being professionally relevant as well.
Early in the school year, I signed up to be a parent representative on one of the Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) committees for kiddo’s school. I had already started being a rabble-rouser about ClassDojo and some of my other edtech concerns, and I wanted to show that I could put in work where my whining was: That is, that I wasn’t just going to complain about things, but that I was going to show support for the school by helping out where I could.
Yesterday, I complained about Apple putting artificial limitations on what its hardware and software can do in terms of music syncing in order to make more money out of its consumers (and, probably, keep music companies happy). As I was writing that, I was thinking about similarities with the business model of a lot of mobile apps—let people download the app for free, but keep bonus features (or even the best features) behind a paywall.
Hier soir, juste avant de me coucher, quelqu’un a posé une question sur r/French: Pourquoi les non-Francophones choisissent-ils d’apprendre le français ?
J’ai vu la question peu après qu’elle a été posée, et j’ai dit la vérité : On m’avait offert le choix entre les cours de français et les cours d’espagnol. Il y avait plus de monde qui voulaient étudier l’espagnol, et j’avais envie de contrarier. J’ai donc choisi le français comme acte de rébellion.
A week ago today, my MacBook Pro suddenly stopped being able to communicate with its SSD. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I spent most of my Tuesday afternoon wiping everything from the drive and reinstalling macOS so that I could get back to work. While I haven’t kept a physical backup for a couple of years (I accidentally fried mine when moving back into my campus office in Fall 2020), I have all of my most important documents scattered between three cloud services, so this wasn’t too painful of a process.
Thanks to a recommendation from Boing Boing, I’ve spent part of this afternoon watching this amazing video cataloging “Every Music Reference & Sample in They Might Be Giants Songs”:
Flood was one of the first albums I ever owned (I think it was beat by the deluxe soundtrack for Star Wars: A New Hope, but not by much), and while I don’t listen to TMBG as often as I ought to, videos like these remind me how much I love the band.
In addition to all the irritating ClassDojo stuff going on at kiddo’s school, I’ve also spent some time banging my head against the wall made up of two forms: One to opt out of FERPA directory information sharing, and the other to opt out of kiddo’s information being shared with media outlets. I’m too tired tonight to get into all the details of what’s been going on, but the short version is that there’s no (clear, easy) way for spouse and I to request that kiddo’s name and image not be shared on school social media without also insisting that kiddo’s name and image not appear in innocuous things like… a school yearbook.
I’ve thought a lot about “community” in online spaces over the course of my (still-short) academic career. Early drafts of my dissertation had a lengthy discussion about the benefits and disadvantages of Étienne Wenger’s community of practice framework (which emerged from Wenger’s work with Jean Lave) as compared to James Paul Gee’s affinity space framework. From a research perspective, I tend to prefer Gee’s space-focused perspective and agree with many of his arguments for why it makes more sense to use that language in an online setting.
The new semester at the University of Kentucky starts on Monday, and I am flailing to try to get my data science course ready to go—including putting together an open, alternative textbook for my students. I’ve been borrowing heavily from Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren Klein’s Data Feminism for my textbook: It’s a fantastic resource, and I’m hoping my students take a lot from it.
Of course, my kid’s semester has already started, and I’ve already blogged a bunch about my frustrations with her new school’s use of ClassDojo this year.
J’aime beaucoup la radio numérique, surtout parce que j’ai la possibilité d’écouter des chaînes radio francophones. Parmi mes chaînes préférées se trouve DKL Dreyeckland, une chaîne alsatienne. J’aime bien la musique, mais ce que j’aime surtout, ce sont les pubs. Normalement, je supporte pas la publicité dans mes médias, mais je fais une exception pour les pubs en français, parce que ça me permet d’apprendre un langage que je n’ai jamais appris dans un cours lycéen ou universitaire.
Twelve years ago, I spent a summer in Geneva completing an internship at the NGO Geneva Call ( « Appel de Genève » ). Being the bookworm that I am, I naturally grabbed a few books to bring with me. I know that I read through Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar that summer—I had just started using Ubuntu and was wildly (over)optimistic about the ideals of open source.
I’ve been blogging about ClassDojo enough over the past few weeks that I think it’s time for a quick recap before sharing some of the latest developments. I heard about ClassDojo being used schoolwide back in late July and started wondering what approach I should take as both a student’s parent and an edtech researcher. On Monday of this week, I talked to kiddo’s teacher about it and wrote up some thoughts the next day about teachers’ diminished agency in the realm of edtech.
I really will get back to blogging on other subjects sometime soon, but here’s an email I just sent to kiddo’s principal raising some concerns I have going into the school year. I’m not sure what will come of this—and I’m not at all sure this was the right email to write—but in the off-chance it’s helpful for someone, I thought I’d post about it here.
Dear Principal [so-and-so],
Last night, my spouse and I took kiddo to her new school to find her classroom, officially meet her teacher, and all that fun stuff. While we were there, we got confirmation of what we’d heard earlier: ClassDojo is going to be used in all classrooms this year as part of a school-wide initiative. It was helpful to talk to kiddo’s teacher about this. She understood my concerns, she had her own trepidations about being required to use ClassDojo, and she honestly wasn’t sure how she was going to bring it into the classroom.
Kiddo starts at a new school on Wednesday, and I’ve been putting off signing the Acceptable Use Policy and Chromebook Policy because I want to read them carefully. I don’t know how much I can do about anything that I’m really concerned with, but I’m a tech researcher when I’m not being kiddo’s dad, so I feel an obligation to be informed and raise a fuss when something is fussworthy.
I haven’t attended the Latter-day Saint congregation I officially belong to since March of 2020, and I’m coming up on one year of being an official member of Community of Christ. It’s pretty clear to me—and, likely, to others—where my religious future is headed.
Yet, I’ve always expected that I would remain a de jure—if not de facto—member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even if it’s not the right spiritual home for me or my family any more, and even if I have major disagreements with it, this church has been an important part of my life, and I’ve always wanted to preserve that by retaining my official membership.
Two of my major projects for the summer have been updating my website and submitting my tenure dossier for consideration. One specific thing I’ve been meaning to do at the intersection of these two projects has been to include a modified research statement on my website as well as a list of my publications along with links to PDFs for all of my research, ensuring that it remains accessible to everyone.
This week and last, I’ve been reading up on Mormons’ commitment to both the language of the King James Version (Philip Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible is a fantastic read) and what is seen as the authoritative text of the Book of Mormon. In Paul Gutjahr’s The Book of Mormon: A Biography, he quotes the official Latter-day Saint Scripture Translation Manual as including the following guidelines for translators of the Book of Mormon:
Nearly a year ago, a friend gave me a copy of Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation as a gift for my confirmation into Community of Christ. It (obviously) took me a while to start it, and it’s taking me some time to read through it, but there’s a lot in there that I like. This afternoon, this passage stood out to me:
Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God, for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice, your mediocrity and materialism, your sensuality and selfishness that have killed his faith.
This summer has been a good one for getting back into tabletop roleplaying. I played a lot of the Wizards of the Coast Star Wars RPG in middle and high school and have been spending most of my life since then wishing that I were still that involved with RPGs. I’ve compensated some by listening to actual play podcast: Total Party Kill rotates through several great D&D campaigns, the original Fantasy Flight Star Wars run of Campaign is so good that I’m listening to it a second time, and Penny Arcade’s Tales from the Loop campaign blew my mind when I listened to it a few months ago.
The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking about a memory from my junior year of college. It was the end of a semester, and on top of all of my own finals, I was teaching FREN 102 for the first time, so my end-of-semester was busier than it had been in previous years. I don’t remember all of this busy time, but I do remember specific parts of taking my online FREN 362 (French Civilization II) final while sitting in the office shared by instructors from the Department of French and Italian and the Department of Scandinavian Studies.
Kiddo starts at a new school this year, so we got the chance to all go as a family today and get introduced to everything. Kiddo got to meet teachers and other kids while we filed into a meeting to fill out a ton of paperwork and learn about how this school does things. For years, I’ve been wondering when my research in educational technology (and, increasingly, critical research on social technologies more broadly) were going to become relevant as a parent with a kid in school, and it looks like it’s going to be this year.
When I was growing up, our family had a three-VHS set of the original Wallace and Gromit shorts, and while “Wallace and Gromit fan” was never at the forefront of my identity, I have always loved The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. Naturally, things that I loved as a kid are near the top of my list of things to introduce to kiddo. I showed them to her a couple of years ago—probably near the beginning of the pandemic—but she had no memory of them, so this weekend, I had the pleasure of reintroducing her to the series.
J’ai déjà écrit cette semaine sur mon amour pour Dijon, et c’est peut-être pour ça qu’un souvenir précis me vient à l’esprit ce matin.
Quand je vivais à Dijon, je n’avais pas d’ordinateur et ce n’était pas encore l’âge de l’ordiphone. J’allais donc chez un cybercafé toutes les semaines pour écrire des courriels à ma famille et à des amis. Le cybercafé que je fréquentais s’appellait Cyberbisey, justement parce que c’était un cybercafé sur la rue Berbisey (ce n’était qu’après plusieurs semaines que j’ai compris la blague).
One of the highlights of the summer has been getting an article accepted in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. This article takes as a starting point Cragun and Nielsen’s argument (also published in Dialogue) that:
what is really at play in the debate over the use of “Mormon” is legitimacy.
Cragun and Nielsen are writing in 2009, at a time when Big Love is on the air and the April 2008 FLDS Temple raid is (or was recently) on the news.
Over the past several months, the University of Kentucky has been pushing us to set up profiles on a new research analytics platform. The platform looks… fine, but I’ve been irritated with some of how the platform works and curious why UK is so keen on having us fill out our profiles. It’s felt from the beginning like this is something more for UK’s benefit than for our individual benefits as faculty.
Ça fait quelques années que mon frère regarde la chaîne YouTube Not Just Bikes, qui parle des vélos, des transports publics, et de l’infrastructure qui les soutient (où pas). Il m’en parle assez souvent, mais ce n’est que récemment que j’ai enfin décidé de regarder quelques vidéos. Vu mon amour pour les sujets abordés dans les vidéos (les vélos, les transports publics, l’Europe), ça m’étonne que je n’ai pas découvert cette chaîne avant.
Over the past several months, I’ve been slowly working my way through Mark Scherer’s three-volume The Journey of a People, the most recent quasi-official history of Community of Christ. The first volume was interesting, since it covered an era of Mormon history that I’m familiar with from a perspective that I’m not familiar with. I found the second volume a bit harder to get through—some individual sections were fascinating, but it seemed to lack an overall throughline or narrative.
When I was in college, I ran into a friend on my way to a professor’s office hours. He saw that I had a copy of Superman for All Seasons with me and gave me a hard time about it—he was much more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan (these were the days when this was primarily a reference to comics, not sprawling cinematic universes) and just didn’t get the appeal of Superman—how could you do anything interesting with a character that powerful?
I just barely microblogged something about what I want to say here, but over the past hour, it’s been nagging at me more and more, and I want to write some more about it.
I was introduced to academia through educational technology, and I was introduced to educational technology through a class at BYU taught by David Wiley. This class was not about educational technology, but David’s passion for Web 2.
When I made the decision to join Community of Christ, it wasn’t (just) because this was a denomination that aligned with my current religious and social values, but because I knew it would be a denomination that pushed me to improve my current religious and social values. I know that I have room to grow in being a better person and in making the world a better place, and I felt that Community of Christ is a denomination that would not only show me grace for who I was but also walk with me as I tried to grow in these ways.
I’m not going to link to it, but I am fascinated by a recent post on the Gab blog where Andrew Torba announced some new features to help Gab users push back against research on the platform. Not only do I have two or three ongoing projects using Gab data (one is in the very, very early stages and—ironically—uses Gab blog posts), but some of what Torba wrote also aligned with some of the (fortunately mild) trolling my co-author, Amy Chapman, and I have experienced because of my work on the far-right-influenced DezNat hashtag in Mormon Twitter.
One recurring question that I’ve had while working on my “rereading the Book of Mormon” project is asking what should be understood by the common phrase “the Lord” in the text of this book of scripture. In Bible translations, this is a bit more straightforward: “the Lord” is often used as a euphemism for the divine name YHWH and could be read in that way. Before going any further with this discussion, I want to acknowledge that my writing out and speculating on the divine name here may (or will likely) be seen as disrespectful or offensive by many Jews (and even some Christians—I admire Wil Gafney’s approach to the divine name).
My unit (the School of Information Science) at the University of Kentucky teaches all of the composition and communication courses for the College of Communication and Information, and I just received word this morning that we’re hiring a full-time lecturer for these courses. I feel conflicted about the existence of the lecturer position at UK, but I can say with some fconfidence that lecturers are valued, respected members of the SIS faculty.
Whenever I book travel for work, I pull up the Amtrak website to see if it would be in any way practical to add a rail component to the trip to replace flying (or driving, but it’s rare that I drive for work travel). Given the state of American rail, this is most often an exercise in disappointment. My only success story in four years at this job was when I attended a conference in Bordeaux; I flew into Paris and then took a low-cost OuiGo TGV for my trips between Paris and Bordeaux.
A couple of weekends ago, I had my first experience with a Community of Christ Reunion camp. Kiddo and I only stayed for a long weekend rather than the whole week, but it was still a great experience. By far the best experience I had at Reunion was a Monday morning class for young adults and “90s kids” (which is not a label I’ve ever actively applied to myself, but it fit just fine.
Shortly after last week’s mostly-successful experiment with Hypothesis, I noticed Chris Aldrich posting to Micro.blog about the software and started up a conversation. I’d followed Chris a few weeks before in trying to get more into Micro.blog (perhaps my favorite indie social media platform out there, though I’m also enjoying getting into Mastodon) by following academia and academia-adjacent folks, and was pleased to see an area of common interest.
It wasn’t until a separate conversation on Mastodon this morning that I remembered that my Hypothesis setup was dependent on my manually checking annotations on my website.
The title of this post is a bit misleading. My wife and I aren’t really big on “Parent’s Day” celebrations: Years of Latter-day Saint “all women are mothers” (read: motherhood is the most important part of womanhood) Sunday services grated on us during our years of infertility, and even now that we are parents (and aren’t practicing Latter-day Saints—though my current denomination certainly isn’t immune from a cringeworthy celebration of parents either), it’s just not a thing we do.
A few months ago, during a weekend where my family was out of town, I binge watched both seasons of « Au service de la France », a hilarious spy comedy available on Netflix. One of the running gags of the series is the (fictional) French secret service’s obsession with bureaucracy. So, for example, when the service suspects a mole in its midst, one of the responses is to make sure that every piece of paperwork is signed multiple times before being stamped twice.
I’m happy to report that a paper of mine (in collaboration with David E. Williams at the University of Saskatchewan) has just been published in The Internet and Higher Education. We topic modeled 77,514 tweets from 59 academically-themed but anonymous or pseudonymous Twitter accounts. This resulted in five broad topics, and we followed up with a qualitative analysis of the 100 most-representative tweets from each of those topics to generate some narrower codes.
As I’ve been working on updating this website and revamping my web presence over the course of the summer, one of the items on my to-do list has been to add a commenting feature to the website. I love Hugo, but the absence of any in-built commenting feature is definitely a downside. I’ve looked over various Hugo-compatible commenting systems, but I honestly don’t know how much commenting activity I’ll see, and I’ve been hesitant to pay a third-party platform to do all of this for me.
A few weeks ago, John Hamer (from the Toronto-based Beyond the Walls inclusive online congregation of Community of Christ) reached out to ask if I would be interested in contributing a pre-recorded prayer to a June 12th “millennial prayer service” focused on Community of Christ’s Enduring Principles. The denomination describes its Enduring Principles as follows:
Our Enduring Principles define the essence, heart, and soul of our faith community. They describe the personality of our church as expressed throughout the world.
Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for 3ish days of camping with kiddo. This is the first time that I’ve gone camping for well over a decade, and I’m a bit nervous, even though I’ve got lots of (rusty) Scouting experience to draw on and even though we’re also going to be staying in a cabin at a semi-structured church camp. Probably not too much to worry about in terms of camping.
Ce weekend, j’ai regardé une émission sur la ligne ferroviaire Lausanne-Échallens-Bercher qui m’a beaucoup plu:
Quand j’ai vécu à Renens pendant quelques mois, c’était toujours un plaisir de voir passer une rame du LEB en me promenant sur l’Avenue d’Échallens. Je n’ai jamais eu l’occasion de voyager sur cette ligne, mais j’ai fort envie de retourner dans le Vaud pour l’essayer. Regarder des vidéos comme celle-ci (ou bien des vidéos « en cabine » qui montre les gares différentes ainsi que le paysage vaudois) me donne une nostalgie profonde pour le temps que j’ai passé tout près du LEB.
A few weeks ago, I posted about Book of Mormon dependence on the King James Version and the way that that sometimes raises interesting questions about how the text should be understood. As I continue my project of what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon might look like, I’ve run into another example.
1 Corinthians 15:55 is referenced three times in the Book of Mormon, including in Mosiah 8 (Mosiah 16 LDS), where I’m currently working my way through the text.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been putting a lot of work into adjusting my online presence, a project that I expect to last through most of the summer. In dividing my website into distinct subareas and pivoting from a single Twitter account to a number of Mastodon accounts, I’m trying to do something about the context collapse that’s been keeping me from sharing some of the big things going on in my life lately.
I don’t know how many folks are subscribed to this blog via RSS, but if you are, chances are that you subscribed out of an interest in my professional writing. I’m making some big changes to the blog in part to give me the freedom to start writing on some other topics as well. You’ve probably seen some of these posts already, but I want to make it clear that it’s going to continue.
Today, I heard from a student that I had a couple of semesters ago asking for a letter of recommendation for a master’s program. I only had the student in one class, his attendance was spotty, and I didn’t have a lot of sustained interactions with him, so I am questioning whether I would be the best letter writer for him. However, while I said as much to the student in my reply, I also told him that despite all of that, I would still be willing to write him a letter.
Thanks to a recommendation from BoingBoing, I just finished reading a Business Insider article describing a recent video in which Marjorie Taylor Greene:
predicted that identifying as heterosexual will be a thing of the past within a period of less than 200 years thanks to LGBTQ-inclusive sex educators, who she called “trans terrorists.”
More specifically, Greene was quoted as saying that heterosexual extinction would come about “probably in about four or five generations.
Like in many PhD programs, my comprehensive exams included an element that was intended to help me prepare for my dissertation proposal, dissertation, and dissertation defense. Building off of my research interests and experiences up to that point, my advisor wrote me a lengthy question asking me to define and describe simulation games—the intent, of course, being that at least some of this could be worked into a literature review for a dissertation.
I got word that a recent publication of mine was now published in an issue of Learning, Media, and Technology. It has actually been available online first for the past ten months, but since I haven’t been good about blogging about recent publications, I figured this was as good a chance as any to write a post about it. This piece is called “Lifting the Veil on TeachersPayTeachers.com: An Investigation of Educational Marketplace Offerings and Downloads” and is a collaboration with Catharyn Shelton, Matt Koehler, and Jeff Carpenter.
One of the most interesting parts of teaching information communication technology classes despite not being formally trained in that field is picking up terms and concepts that I never learned as part of my degrees. One of the most interesting concepts I’ve picked up along the way is the formal distinction between digital and analog phenomena. I often use clocks or thermometers as examples of this in class: Analog phenomena can take on any number of values within certain bounds, whereas digital phenomena are limited to discrete values within those bounds.
Last week, I was interviewed by a reporter at WEKU about social media and content moderation in the context of the horrific recent shooting in Buffalo, and I was pleased to see the interview appear on the WEKU website this morning.
I wish that the headline didn’t frame this as a question of “free speech”—and that I’d perhaps been more forceful in emphasizing that these really aren’t questions of free speech so much as content moderation.
It’s a bit of a truism to say that the Book of Mormon is dependent on Biblical language, but one thing that’s been on my mind for the past few years (especially since reading Thomas Wayment’s excellent The New Testament: A Translation for Latter-day Saints) is how specifically dependent it is on the particular language of the King James Version of the Bible.
Over the past year or so, as a personal project, I’ve been toying around with what a modern-language version of the Book of Mormon would look like.
Since April, I’ve gotten sucked into the Slow Horses British spy series after really enjoying the Apple TV+ adaptation. I’ve been powering through all the full-length novels and am now reading 2021’s Slough House, which features a character who’s survived a bullet wound to the head. Her description stood out to me for one particular detail, though:
Her hair was different. Maybe that’s what death does to you. I twas still mostly red but now punkishly short, with a white stripe across her left temple where the bullet had passed…
I’ve been a big fan of audio-only media for a big chunk of my life. I grew up listening to NPR radio shows like Car Talk and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on Saturdays while my dad drove us around to do errands. TV wasn’t allowed in my family on Sundays, but the NPR Sunday Puzzle was—depending on what time church was that year, we’d listen to it on our way to Sunday meetings.
Last week, I got the chance to chat with Salt Lake Tribune religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack about Latter-day Saint missionaries use of social media videos, and I was pleased to see the article published on Sunday. I hadn’t been paying attention to online missionary videos, but the subject fit nicely with the reading I’ve been doing on platform and platform values recently:
Both kinds of accounts “are drawing from the internet/influencer cultures of these platforms,” [Greenhalgh] says.
This passage about the anti-Semitic Dreyfus Affair (from a book I’m reading on the French Third Republic) is coming to mind today:
Long before the end of the Affaire, as the French called it, the question of the guilt of Dreyfus became almost lost in the melee, giving way to a fundamental conflict over the very moral concepts of French society which cast its shadow over the Third Republic from then on to the end.
Pour le 6 janvier, Urban Federer, l’abbé d’Ensiedeln (Suisse), écrit au sujet de « la peur d’être perdant » de Hérode et Saül, qui a inspiré « une jalousie, laquelle les a poussés a la haine meurtrière ». C’est un message pour l’Épiphanie pour tous les temps et tous les lieux, mais ça fait bizarre de le lire en particulier aux États-Unis ce 6 janvier 2021.
Missing teaching French today for a few reasons. First, my first time teaching FREN 102 began ten years ago this month 😱. Second, my kid insisted this morning on pronouncing “sept, huit” as “sept, tweet,” and even though that’s not really liaison, it’s close enough that I could have used it in a lesson. Third, this is the time of year where I could have shown Gad Elmaleh’s great “Happy new year!
I once had a neighbor who argued that because it had higher fidelity, 3-D was the future of cinema. To prove his point, he asked “who would prefer an audio adaptation to a video one?” and was surprised when I, a big radio fan, raised my hand. To be honest, I don’t know that I’d prefer radio to TV/cinema in every instance, but I believe firmly that it’s more about how you use a medium than it is about what medium you use.
I have five months left in my twelve-month planner, which naturally means I’m already thinking about my next one. I’m only half-joking. I spent a lot of time last summer setting up productivity systems, and this semester is showing their weak spots. Eager to revisit.