18.522 cross-platform praxis

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 07:05:50 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 522.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 07:03:17 +0000
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Cross-Platform Praxis was Re: 18.485 computing and
composition theory

Russ Hunt via Katharine Patterson inveighs against Microsoft Word. Two
points: I think it was pedagogically unwise to agree to take on for the
student the reformating. I also think it is worth thinking of the software
package as a suite of tools.

  From the days when translation facitities in Wordprocessing packages were
poor, some of us learnt the value of the Save As features.

It is possible from Microsoft Word to save a file as "Text Only" and "Text
Only with Line Breaks". Files saved in such a fashion can then be
published to the WWW without HTML markup.

One of the most elegant tools for dealing with line breaks is to be found
in Tom Bender's Tex-Edit. It provides for Quick Modify of end of line
codes between Mac Unix and DOS formats. It's shareware and at last
viewing of the shareware terms, very generous in accpeting 10 dollars US
or the equivalent in stamps.

Let us return to the point about thinking of software packages as
suites of tools. To do so is to approach the help menu features as a romp
through a tool box looking for what might be useful. To do so is also to
approach the vast resources of the WWW in a similar fashion.

Such minimal patience is rewarded amply. Such smart behaviour can be
passed on to those we mentor and teach. Someone doesn't deliver
appropriate cross-platform versions? Get them to check out the help menus.
Invite the group to help the student. Simple constructivist pedaogy:
communicate, collaborate, create.

Personal political note: I have dealt for a long time and in many ways
with the ravages of unwanted epidemics that I would rather not wish a
plague on anyone. Especially if they be homeless without the shelfter
afforded by house mates. Still I'm glad that Russ wrote and that Katharine
forwarded -- it is interesting to see what gets past the flame war
filters of the moderator.

>Date: Fri, 26 Nov 2004 08:25:51 -0400
> >From: Russ Hunt <hunt_at_stu.ca>
> > >To: Katharine Patterson <katpatte_at_interchange.ubc.ca>
> >
> >Katharine --
> >
> >This better? Feel free to cut further.
> >
> >-- Russ
> >
> >A Plague on Both Your Houses
> >
> >I don't know how many folks there are out there who will have
> >confronted this, either as writers or teachers, but it has
> >become increasingly apparent to me that we're dealing with an
> >industry that wants us to go back to about the fifties in terms
> >of composition theory. Word processors and HTML text editors are
> >increasingly, and inexorably, becoming text display manipulators
> >rather than text processors. Editing something produced in any
> >of the current version is more difficult by a factor of about
> >five than it was five years ago.
> >
> >I've got students creating assignments (lesson plans,
> >essentially) for an eighteenth century literature course,
> >posting them on a Web site so that the rest of the class can
> >read them ahead of the meeting. One of them just posted a page
> >which includes text that doesn't wrap. Text is displayed out two
> >or three hundred characters to the right of the screen.
> >
> >She achieved this, she says, by composing the page in M$Word,
> >and then saving it "as a Web page" -- M$Speak for HTML. This
> >happened at the end of class Monday night, and I casually said,
> >oh, don't bother; I'll copy the file and fix it for you.
> >
> >I spent over an hour yesterday trying to fix it without copying
> >the entire text to a new file and reformatting everything
> >manually in some different editor -- and failed. I can't find
> >the code that means the text wraps in M$Word but not in a
> >browser. I wound up converting the text to plain ASCII and re-
> >introducing the formatting with Netscape Composer.
> >
> >The problem is that the sheer amount of useless code that M$Word
> >pours over the text makes it impossible to edit manually, and
> >also -- and this is my main concern -- really makes it damn near
> >impossible to edit within M$Word itself. Every change you make
> >has amazing, unexpected consequences: there's a bulleted list in
> >the file, for example, and any attempt to modify it simply
> >screws up the formatting entirely.
> >
> >I can't find an editor that doesn't make it damn near impossible
> >for someone who doesn't already know what she's doing -- and can
> >avoid formatting tricks and all the other bells and whistles
> >that the damn programs shove in her face -- to go back and
> >revisit a text in any way other than spell checking. Both Word
> >and WordPerfect, which seem to be the two default word
> >processors around these days, and all the HTML editors available
> >as well (though to a lesser extent), have been migrated to, or
> >have evolved to be, text _display_ editors. It's _all_ about how
> >the text looks. And from my perspective as someone trying to
> >help students learn to write, that makes them all next to
> >useless.
> >
> >When what a student wants to produce is not a snappy graphic
> >display, but a text which can then be revised, she's out of
> >luck. I can't find an editor that doesn't make it damn near
> >impossible for someone who doesn't already know what she's doing
> >-- and can avoid formatting tricks and all the other bells and
> >whistles that the damn programs shove in her face -- to go back
> >and revisit a text in any way other than spell checking.
> >
> >Composition theory and pedagogy spend half my career getting
> >past surface error fixing as the default mode for editing . . .
> >and Bill Gates & Co. wipe out all that progress in five years of
> >"improving" their word processors.
> >
> >So I guess I have three questions:
> >
> >(1) has anybody else encountered this, or is this just a
> >function of the fact that I'm a fossil and still want text
> >markup to be comprehensible?
> >
> >(2) does anyone know about publications or resources on the
> >migration of word processors toward text display and away from,
> >well, word processing?
> >
> >(3) does anybody know about a program that'll strip out the
> >useless code from a M$Word-created HTML file? (as a plain ascii
> >file the text in question is about 17K; in its full flower, as
> >published to HTML by Word, it's 48K). (By the way, I've tried
> >M$Word's "filtered" HTML and Dreamweaver's HTML cleanup.
> >Neither touch the mess.)
> >
> ></rant>
> >
> >-- Russ Hunt
> >St. Thomas University
> >http://www.StThomasU.ca/~hunt/
> >
> >
> [NB: If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours please resend]
> Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
> Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7 Arundel Street | London
> WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax: -2980 ||
> willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
2005 Year of Comparative Connections. DIA: Comparative connections? LOGZ:
Connection, first. Comparison, next. DIA: Check. Comparable ways of
connecting. LOGZ: Selection outcomes, first. Comparative Connections,
Received on Mon Jan 24 2005 - 02:11:51 EST

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