As Impossible as Possible

As Impossible as Possible
Digitally Lit #241 – 4/11/2020

Hi all, welcome to issue #241 of Digitally Literate.

This week’s issue is motivated by a brief discussion with Joaquin A. B. Munoz on a post I shared in the Higher Ed Learning Collective Facebook group. Each morning I try to share a positive greeting online, & a post to push our thinking. Joaquin wisely indicated that these stop-gap measures to address our work are nice…but what we really have is an opportunity to rethink our institutions and structures.

You know what Joaquin…you’re right. This issue is for you. 🙂

I also helped post the following this week:

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How This Guy Balances Impossible Rock Structures (7:24)

Michael Grab’s mind-bending rock formations aren’t held together by glue or steel rods. Shockingly, his rock piles are stacked using only the laws of gravity. Michael’s rock formations have taken the internet by storm, and brought an even greater attention to rock balancing.

Watch his YouTube channel to see him make the seemingly impossible, possible.


We Need to Stop Trying to Replicate the Life We Had

As we’ve moved to social distancing around the globe, the decision, for the most part has been to identify online ways to replace offline behaviors. We’re quickly realizing that this is often a poor substitute.

Trying to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey, rather than cooking varied, creative, and flavorful meals with fruits and vegetables. The challenge, then, of adapting to an all-virtual social life may lie in reorienting our interactions around the strengths of the platforms where we can be together.

We can’t try to substitute digital for meatspace and assume that it’ll be a worthy substitute. But, we can think about new practices and habits.

Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting

As the Coronavirus disrupts and traumatizes most aspects of our lives, there is a clear opportunity to see the vulnerabilities that we have as a global village. We see the social and economic challenges that exist in our systems.

We also see areas of the planet where pollution has simply stopped as the skies clear up. Animals are running wild through city streets as the humans are staying at home.

This post by Julio Vincent Gambuto indicates that we have been given a tremendous gift by this look through the looking glass. We are about to receive an amazing amount of propaganda from governments, advertising, and our neighbors as we’re urged to return to normalcy.

From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud.

Why we need a new WPA

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), created with an initial $4.9 billion appropriation in 1935 during the Depression, is commonly associated with the building of roads and bridges. The WPA also employed writers, researchers, historians, artists, musicians, actors & other cultural figures. This had as profound and lasting impact on the nation as the bridges and roads built by thousands of laborers.

This post from Paula Krebs suggests that as we prepare for a post-pandemic society, we should also develop the philosophical, cultural, and ethnic structures that undergird our societies.

Are we all digital scholars now? How the lockdown will reshape the post-pandemic digital structure of academia.

Much of our response for this global pandemic has been the rapid adoption of digital technologies for all activities that we assumed were necessary, and needed to happen face-to-face.

Mark Carrigan with a post considering what transformation of higher education might look like after this rapid institutional change.

There are productive possibilities to be found in the bleak weirdness of our present situation and digital scholarship provides us with a framework through which we can think about how to realise them on a practical and mundane level.

How the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ Can Help You Embrace Uncertainty

Believing in a better future—while still acknowledging the darkness of our present reality—seems almost impossible right now. Doing so may make all the difference.

The Stockdale Paradox refers to the mindset employed by James Stockdale, a Vietnam veteran who spent seven years as a prisoner of war. Stockdale indicated that even if the situation seems dire, envisioning a way forward—even just an imagined one—can be the key to picking yourself up and moving ahead each day, even in the midst of incredible difficulties.

If we push beyond blind optimism, we can forge ahead into new territory, carrying with us both an understanding of the world as it is right now and an unwavering hope for the future.


Fermented Hot Sauce

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This week I’ve been playing with some lacto-fermentation to make my own hot sauce. This video and this video should get you started.



I guess if you keep making the same mistake long enough, it becomes your style.

John Prine

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Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me. I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs. Feel free to pay attention if you’d like to check my notes. 🙂

This video led to much needed laughs in my house…which was followed by this video…which led to spending the night beatboxing with my kids. 🙂

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