At the Breaking of the Net

A Fisherman prepares his net – Wikimedia Commons.

Hello All,

I would apologise for having remained silent for too long, but I feel that my delay in posting has resulted in something important that I would like to share. Although I feel that this post is aimed more at those just starting out in academic research, I hope that more experienced readers might see something of themselves, or of those whom they know, in this post.

To put it succinctly, this post is about limits. As a researcher, a thinker, one is required to cast a net into the unimaginably vast seething mass of data that is human knowledge and its discourses. We cast our net, made from the woven strands of all that we have read with the craft of our personal artifice, and we seek to haul insights, wet and gleaming with novelty, from the deep. As Novalis wrote in the 18th century, “Hypotheses are nets: only he who casts will catch”. The bigger the net, the bigger the catch. But how much can a mind truly be expected to catch, how large a surface area can our inquiry have before insights start to slip away?

This thought has been troubling me of late. As a generalist by inclination, I stubbornly spurned the advice so often given to PhD students to ‘just focus on your thesis’. “I will cast my net as far and as wide as I want, thank you very much!” was my internal response. This approach has yielded many benefits, for I have entered debates and been involved in presenting papers and writing articles that have shaped my core thesis, enriched it with new and strange fruit. It is good to be a generalist, and the intellectual rewards have certainly vindicated my decision. The time of the PhD candidature, I feel, is not a time to become complacent, to limit oneself. I would argue that this applies even in the case of attempts to create depth of expertise, for to my mind any sufficiently ‘deep’ delving of a topic should raise so many questions as to create a practically unlimited supply of possible tangents.

And yet, there is only so much time, only so much experience, only so much reading in any one head. Becoming flexible and spreading into diverse topics of inquiry is rewarding, to be sure, but it is important to never forget a simple fact: we are flexible and plastic, but one can only spread attention so far. I have found that a state of extreme extension is the situation within which I feel most challenged and most engaged, where ideas teem and combine in a manner that I find exhilarating. And yet this is also the point where the net your mind has cast, despite all of its gains, is at greatest risk of breaking. It is easy to rationalise this overextension, for it does not result in failures per se. Indeed, the more things ‘on the go’ the greater the yield even when many projects do not work out. ‘Fail early and often’, as the Research and Development people say.

All the pressure of deadlines, possibilities, time constraints, financial obligations, speculations etc. create a great pressure cooker within the mind. It needs a valve through which to release. This is much easier to achieve post-PhD, for the constant cycle of short term projects makes it easier to play the boomerang game, always experiencing the relief of a completed task ‘cast out’ balanced against the reward of a completed project ‘returned’. And yet for a PhD student, the candidature is a bottleneck inhibiting the release of projects: there is one overarching project that must be seen to completion, the likes of which the writer has never experienced.

The trick, I feel, is to know when you have cast too far, overextended the net. In the phantom world of proactive deadlines, it is hard to tell in advance just what one has committed to, what is a true deadline, and what is a self imposed deadline. This is by no means an argument for complacency. Cast wide, and cast well. But it is important, for the sake of one’s quality of life and sanity, to know when the pressure has become too great. What can be let go? When have you set yourself an unrealistic goal? Only here, at the edge of overextension, can you find your true potential and also your greatest fear. A low-level, omnipresent, groundless, sense of anxiety emanates from the cognitive dissonance that is overextension. You both know that you have to do many, many things, and know that you do not really have to do them. You are driven to do them.

If I have learned one thing from these thoughts, it is that this problem can be managed with an almost surgical application of pressure to the one commitment that was one too many, the infinitesimal straw that caused such woe to the camel. If you can do this, then the pressure relieves, and clarity returns. Only once your mind has ceased to fly or to fight, once the pressure is gone, is there the space to truly consider where the net must fall, and yet to cast it once more is to immediately begin the cycle once more.

This may seem strange, but I both love and detest the wrangling of mental energy that comes at the breaking point of the net, the feeling that one more task will break you, but one fewer will disappoint you. My advice to any others feeling this pressure is this: the problem is not the ocean, it is the net. The only control we have is the manner in which we weave it, deploy it, and manage its catch.

A Letter from Seclusion

The Turnhout Begijnhof, Toerisme Vlaanderen
The Turnhout Begijnhof, from the Toerisme Vlaanderen website

Hello All,

It took me a very long time to get around to writing this post, but I have decided to break my silence. I have been enjoying a different pace of life and adjusting to a very different set of activities and responsibilities, and for some reason this impeded my ability to write for Fluid Imaginings. I have thought of doing so many times, but the time did not seem right. Today I thought that I might write a little about the possibilities and peculiarities of taking oneself away from it all in the ultimate stages of thesis submission.

I have been living very peacefully for the last few weeks in Turnhout, a small city in Flemish Belgium close to the Dutch border. I am interning as a publishing assistant in the English language division of Brepols, a publisher that many medievalists will be familiar with. Brepols is housed within the Begijnhof of Turnhout, a former community for religious women to live together in common piety now converted to a home for retirees and UNESCO world heritage site. My current room is within the building occupied by Corpus Christianorum, creators of Greek and Latin critical editions, and current stewards of a vast library of Latin and Greek texts. My room, and its twin, are named for great monasteries of the medieval Eastern and Western Christian worlds, Subiaco in Italy and Studion in Constantinople.

This is my place of seclusion until September, when I return to Perth and submit my thesis. There are many advantages to this situation: Brepols has a library of its extensive collection of books, I have somewhere quiet to work, the surroundings are peaceful (I can hear birdsong from my window this very minute), and I am learning new skills at the same time in my editing duties.

There is a peace and pervasive air of scholarly life to this place that I have found to be good for me. Many people spend precisely this period in their PhD in comfortable environs close to supervisor, administration, and source material, but I can recommend a sharp break as a good inspiration in stressful times. I would like to stress, however, that there are certain things that one absolutely needs to finish a PhD: support, security, company, and certain resources. I only chose to do this internship because I was confident that I could continue to have these things, with the added benefit of cross-training and an adventure.

As promised, some thoughts on my circumstances. Just before PhD completion, there is a powerful urge to flee, to do something else, to move on. This is somewhat easier to overcome in familiar surroundings, but once you have fled a little to another country, momentum pushes you to flee further, into something else entirely. If you have changed this much, moved contexts this much, then why not go further? I find myself struggling to keep attached to my PhD while simultaneously spreading myself out in new directions. I am invested in and enjoy my research, but have always seen my doctoral studies as a chance to learn more about myself, to build myself, to cultivate myself. How far should one go in this pursuit? Does the ultimate end of such a process during PhD, especially in  these uncertain times, grow one out of desiring a doctorate?

Yes, and no. Yes, because the person I want to be, the professional I want to be, the academic I want to be and the doctor I want to be are all different now to when I started. I have said in a previous post that we in the Humanities are pluripotent in our uselessness, and I feel that opportunities like this internship continue to grow my possible, latent ability to make a mark on the world, to be something, to do something that I am proud of. No, because I can imagine so much more than I once could. If one ‘goes rogue’ close to submission, then it forces self-reflection about that it is that causes you to do what you do. Inertia will not carry you to submission if you break it. If you continue to redefine your context, then you must continue to re-justify your life choices to yourself.

I feel that this experience will temper me in my conviction about everything I have done thus far, or force me to reassess my desire to do certain things. Absence from the lull of campus life makes one think very carefully about what it is to be a PhD student, what it is that a PhD student does, and what comes next. I will continue to write on this topic as time passes, probably in a stream of consciousness like this one.

Until then, Be Well.

James

Digital Manuscript Studies – Curriculum Development 4

Pieter Bruegel the Elder – ‘The Ass in the School’. Wikimedia Commons

Hello All,

I have returned safely from a wonderful trip to New York and Washington, D.C. For accounts of the symposium I was a part of in Washington, see this post and here is a copy of my paper. Today I would like to return to the topic of digital manuscript studies, and the challenges of curriculum development (see my previous posts here, here, and here). To avoid the shambles depicted in the Bruegel image above, I think that digital humanities teachers as a whole and digital medievalists in particular must pay close attention to the format of their lesson.

Here is the scenario: The classes for this symposium will be an hour and a half, the standard double tutorial format of our university. There are no lectures, and so this is the sole opportunity to interact with students. Using this time to best effect is crucial, for a balance must be struck between the interpersonal critique and debate that more traditionally prevails in a humanities classroom and computerised lab work. Rather than boring you by listing the criteria, I feel that the best approach is to list three possible lesson plans for an hour and a half class that I am considering, together with their possible advantages and pitfalls.

Model 1: The 50 / 50

As the title implies, this idea would involve a 45 minute lab followed by a 45 minute tutorial, or vice versa. This has the advantage, depending on arrangement, of coupling practical experience with a chance for theoretical discussion. The question is: which should go first? If the class begins with a lab and ends with a tutorial, then students will have a chance to get stuck in with some resources and tools, and then discuss the theory behind such tools. If the class begins with the tutorial, then students can apply what they have discussed. It occurs to me, given average attention spans and consideration of energy levels, that starting with the lab would work best. That way students can start with the independent self-supervised work, and have material to apply to the tutorial. The reverse order, to my mind, risks a disengagement in lab time due to mental fatigue.

Model 2: The Break-Out

Which brings me to model two, mixing the two formats together! This would resolve the conundra of model one to some extent. Rather than demarcating the class into two separate blocks, one could split the class in two. Group one could do lab work while group two had a short tutorial. Then the groups swap, and then the final half an hour is devoted to full group discussion. In the following week, the starting positions are reversed. In this manner, each group has the opportunity to experience lab followed by tutorial, and tutorial followed by lab. This format would enable opportunities for other sub-activities such as group member swaps, respondent talks from a group member, facilitation of group projects from day one, and so on.

Model 3: The Sandwich

This model is something of a strange beast, involving a pre-tutorial lab, a tutorial, and a post-tutorial lab. This would differentiate lab work into expository activities (finding and critiquing examples), discussion with evidence, and revised activities (testing found resources in light of tutorial discussion). This could be a very effective way to manage energy level and attention spans, and would encourage a flexible approach to critiquing the material. This format is a reasonably good synthesis of the previous two models.

In Conclusion…

Another question to consider is the matter of out of class work. I am inclined to make this the kind of unit where the readings and group work-based assignments are encouraged, and students are ‘pushed’ into working together. In class, the emphasis should be on group-based discussion and demonstration of concepts through hands-on interaction with digital artefacts. Too much individual lab work is counter to the digital humanities mission of encouraging good collaborators, and too much theorising will not help students to do their own digital work. The more tightly these strands can be woven together, the better.

More thoughts soon,

James

Fluid: An Ecology of the Inhuman

Hello All,

I have returned to London from Washington, D.C. after an enjoyable, thought provoking, and lively day at the George Washington Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (GW MEMSI) symposium on the topic of Ecologies of the Inhuman. I would like to thank all involved for making the day so enjoyable, and to thank Jeffrey Cohen and the wonderful people at MEMSI for being such excellent hosts. Thank you also to Ian Bogost for participating and providing a fresh and enlivening object-oriented perspective that was greatly appreciated.

As well as providing a vastly complex and scintillating insight into just what it can mean to think ecologically outside of an anthropocentric frame of reference, the symposium provided some troubling and often disturbing insights into the violence, dislocation, horror (as one audience member put it) and problematics of ecology. An enmeshed and interwoven world solves many problems that impede us, and yet raise new quandaries. In a world rendered fluid, riven, socially troubling, potentially dissolute, and intermediate by ecological thought (the dark ecology of Timothy Morton), how can an acceptance of this reality enable action, and what kind of action should it enable?

There is, by the very definition of the context in which the day took place, no definitive answer. A definitive answer would be undesirable, for it would give the illusion of permanent matrices for choice to be made. Any yet, through inspiration, I feel that there are many worlds of action waiting to unfold in co-composition with actors large and small.  I would like to offer a copy of my paper below as stimulus, to feed rumination for those who were present and engagement for those that were absent:

 *** Fluid ***

To flow is to strive against inertia, to spread forth, to become diluted by the myriad eddies of life, to become enriched by new influx. To flow is to be lost, to rush through life, to be dashed upon unfamiliar resistance, to feel turmoil within. These dynamics form a bond of historical specificities merged with material certainties across time, for the fluidity of creativity, composition and dynamism must ever inspire and unsettle in equal measure. This is something to be desired and to be feared, something that surrounds us in ecology of temporal and material motion that can no more be escaped than effect can escape cause. This paper, in its second iteration, flows through the fluid anxieties of medieval moral life, and empties itself into modern vicissitudes.

In a medieval intellectual world encapsulated by a shifting and swirling maelstrom, matter had a disturbing agency. As Augustine put it in De Doctrina Christiana, the world was to be used as a vehicle of travel, not to be enjoyed.[1] It was somewhat disturbing when the world used you. Through myriad pushings and pullings, buffetings and fluxes, the motions of the medieval world propelled not only human life, but the mobile cosmos on a grand scale. And yet while the crystalline spheres moved with reassuring and geometric grace above, the temporal world overflowed with ever combining forces.

Fundamental patterns of vital motion, the very forces that drove the cosmos, were the same forces that epitomised the flaws of temporality. The response within the human heart? Anguish. “Why do we love you, O World, as you flee from us?” entreated Alcuin of York in his poem O Mea Cella.[2] Alcuin’s ardent allegoresis of the world as addressable dissolves instantly into a torrent of inhuman motion. The answer? Contempt. In the twelfth century, Hugh of Saint-Victor described the temporal world, with all that is in it, as “flood water sweeping past, whose inundations and changing currents -whether we compare them to a flood that covers everything or to a mighty sea- are very like reality.”[3] Regarding the human heart, Hugh admonishes the reader to remember that “All things pass and flow and not a thing subsists under the sun, so that the sentence is fulfilled: vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”[4]

With flight of the world came a strong sense of anxiety, for it was inexorable and non-human. The alienating conatus of a passing world, the very stuff of mundane life in process, was a constant reminder of temporality in unfavourable comparison with the unblemished empyrean heavens. In his twelfth century De Contemptu Mundi, Bernard of Cluny evoked the trope of the fugitive world in a powerful display of spiritual pathos. “See how the whirling courses of things hasten away, like streams of water. The world’s glory has fallen and fled and vanished in the cycle of days…Its position is unfixed, its status is unstable. It goes and it returns, like the sea, now bad and tomorrow even worse.”[5]

What of we moderns, caught as we are in a sea of our own? As our institutions crumble, our cultures intermingle, our grasp on the triumphant anthropocentrism of the Enlightenment fades, what must we do? Alcuin and Hugh sought order in the intricacies of spiritual edifice, and yet even our minds flow away before us, leading to destinations tantalising and terrible. Flow is both our greatest distraction, and our most vibrant opportunity. Tim Ingold eloquently captures this when he argues the “ocean of materiality” humanity inhabits “is not the bland homogeneity of different shades of matter but a flux in which materials of the most diverse kinds, through processes of admixture and distillation, of coagulation and dispersal, and of evaporation and precipitation, undergo continual generation and transformation.”[6]

We can synthesise, we can build and we can strengthen, but we must allow ourselves the flexibility to flow with the forces that roil around us. To quote Jeffrey Cohen and Lowell Duckert, “catastrophes precede and follow any stability; failures inevitably arrive. In such moments of perturbation we behold the web of interrelationships that constitutes and sustains our own worldedness. Cataclysms inevitably shatter such ecological meshworks, but failure is an invitation to dwell more carefully, fashion more capacious perspectives, and do better.[7] Perhaps, in imitation of our medieval forebears, we can invest ourselves in cultivating our observer position in the heart of ecology so that we too might seek that which is worthy of lasting affective engagement. Our response? Fluid.


[1]    De Doctrina Christiana, Book 1, Chapters 3-5. For an online edition, see: <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/12021.htm>

[2]    “cur te fugitivum, mundus, amamus?” For Latin text, see: <http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/alcuin/cella.shtml>

[3]    Noah’s Ark III, ‘De Vanitate Mundi’, in Hugh of St. Victor, Selected Spiritual Writings / Translated by a Religious of C.S.M.V., with an Introduction by Aelred Squire, O.P. (London: Faber, 1962), pp. 175-176.

[4]     ‘Hugh of Saint Victor: Theology and Interiority’, in Ineke van ’t Spijker, Fictions of the Inner Life: Religious Literature and Formation of the Self in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004), pp. 119-120.

[5]    Ronald E. Pepin (trans.), Scorn for the world: Bernard of Cluny’s De contemptu mundi : the Latin text with English translation and an introduction. (East Lansing MI: Michigan State University Colleagues Press, 1991), Book 1, p. 71.

[6]     Tim Ingold, Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge, and Description. (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 24.

[7]     Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and Lowell Duckert, ‘Howl’, postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, 4 (2013),  p. 4.

Digital Manuscript Studies – Hiatus

Hello All,

This week I am in Washington DC attending a couple of academic events. Although I am working on my curriculum development, I will likely wait until next week before I post again.

Until that time I would like to encourage you to read Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics edited by Brett Hirsch. It is full of excellent articles, including a good introduction to the topic by the editor himself. In a pattern that I hope will become more common, the book is available in hard cover, soft cover, or as a PDF. Very good value for a book that is of value to anyone hoping to included digital humanities material in their teaching.

So until next week, take care.

James

Digital Manuscript Studies – Curriculum Development 3

Will it Blend?

Hello All,

With new laptop and new equipment in hand, I am getting back into my curriculum development. Today i’d like to take a break from talking about the structure of my Digital Manuscript Studies seminar (see posts one and two) in order to discuss some of the pedagogical gimmicks and techniques that have been circulating around the teaching and learning blogs i’ve been following. But first a little context.

This all started a couple of weeks ago when reading an article in Digital Humanities Quarterly by Craig Bellamy, Australian Historian, Digital Humanities scholar and writer of a very good blog. I have included the details for this article below:

Craig Bellamy, ‘The Sound of Many Hands Clapping: Teaching the Digital Humanities Through Virtual Research Environment (VREs)’, Digital Humanities Quarterly 6 (2012) http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/6/2/000119/000119.html.
In his article, Bellamy makes a point that seems like common sense, but is oft-ignored:
…teaching in the digital humanities field should emphasise that computing is not simply a set of techniques to achieve a predetermined set of results. Computing in the humanities is a set of humanities questions to achieve a set of challenging interpretations. Digital resources and tools are made available to students through a series of choices by their creators, educators, and administrators, and making student aware of these choices is vital for facilitating active and critical engagement with them. (p. 1)
I have, as you may be able to see in my previous post, been trying to follow Bellamy’s argument by fostering forms of assessment that give students maximum opportunity to not only do manuscript work, but to question the conceits and principles that have shaped an interface. By seeing all of the resources that we use (to get a bit Latourian for a second) not as a black box that spits out useful data but as a network of interacting principles with an input, internal components and an output that is not natural but arbitrary, students can learn to be critical about any digital object or system. This in turn enables the challenging interpretations that Bellamy advocates. The task of all digital humanities should be to crack open the impenetrable integumentum of our tools in order to assess whether they might be better arranged or modified. More hack, less yack. More interpretation, less theory. Bellamy then continues in a similarly intriguing vein:
…teaching technical skills to humanities students – so that they are faced with the similar technical choices of developers — is one way to emphasise that computing technologies, just like the academic monologue, is a series of (applied) choices, arguments and interpretations. But not all schools are equipped to provide computer programming classes and this level of in-depth technical knowledge may not always be achievable or desirable unless the student is considering a longer-term research career in the field. A “critical interpretation” of digital objects may also be fostered by providing technical architectures that open-up critical interpretations of digital objects (within assessable tasks) to broader audiences of students.  (p. 7)
This is especially important to consider in the context of Australian manuscript studies, for students are unlikely (especially in Western Australia) to have access to a great many manuscripts. The University of Western Australia is at the beginning of its digital humanities path, and although we have some great work going on (especially in Archaeology, Classics and Medieval and Early Modern Studies), we lack what Bellamy calls hard interdisciplinary links. Thus, the arrangement of a Virtual Research Environment must provide a critical and hands-on engagement with digital objects while teaching a kind of scrappy digital literacy over a more formal computer science training program. If we had a Department of Digital Humanities like that of King’s College London with decades of rock solid hard interdisciplinarity and an established MA coursework curriculum in place, it might be different. But my priorities are to teach familiarity with interface, tool and manuscript alike together with critical insight in a short amount of time. What, then, should I do?
I have been looking to a blended learning inspired VRE as my model. Blended learning is a blanket term used to describe any curriculum that merges ‘brick-and-mortar’ teaching with an online or lab-based component. This post gives a nice infographic of the many types of blended learning. Most tutors will have practiced what is called the ‘Face-to-Face driver’ model, meaning that most of the class is guided by the tutor with digital tools deployed in-class. Those who have used class blogs and learning management systems will have gone a little further along the path, but are still effectively face-to-face driving their classes with digital augmentation. Those who have ever done a distance learning course (open university, etc.) will be familiar with the Online Driver model. The two models that interest me at the moment the most are as follows:
  1. The Online Lab – the entire unit is online in a lab-like environment, but takes place on campus. This makes sense in light of Bellamy’s model, because it gives students maximum time to critically interrogate and experiment with their manuscript resources in class in a lab environment. This approach, however, makes more sense when combined with
  2. The Rotation, in which students move in-class between self-paced online learning and break-out small group work. This is ideal for a masters seminar because A) the contact hours for the unit are two hours in a single block each week, enabling easy blending in-class and B) the class is likely to be very small, so one could split students into, say, two groups of five on rotation.

I would also combine these models with a component of the ‘flipped classroom’ giving students time to experiment, research, play and work together out of class, giving maximum space in-class to guided laboratory work mixed with group sharing and demonstration mixed with small group work. This could then be blended once again with some peer-centred learning, and certain students could act as discussants for their tutorial groups, and guide the readings-based discussion.

So that is where I am right now. Suggestions are not only encouraged, but strongly desired. I really want my digital humanities material to be personal and collective, digital and humanist, self-guided and tutor-guided in balance.

Signing off from the Mad Curricular Science Laboratory-Atelier,

James

Data Protection for Academics

A Medieval Padlock, Kathmandu. Courtesy of user Seeteufel, Wikimedia Commons.

Hello All,

I hope this finds you well. I have experienced a few things this week that I think are imperative for all engaged in academic work to understand, be they undergraduates, postgraduates or professors. I think this applies to anyone in knowledge work of any kind, in fact.

What I have to tell you today all stems from the fact that my laptop was stolen on Tuesday. It’s not a very exciting story. Someone saw that nobody was watching (even though there was someone at the table at all times) and snagged it. I had taken some precautions and left some things incomplete, so I thought that I would let you know some things that I thing everyone should do right now if they haven’t already. Seriously, we live on our laptops and data is our life blood. Don’t take any risks:

For your Own Protection, install and use these programs:

  1. Dropbox. It syncs all of your files to the cloud and allows you to restore them to older versions. It has completely saved my life about four times in the face of hardware failure, file corruption and theft. Put all your research files in it and it will keep them synced whenever you change them. Don’t do what some people do and only put some of them in. Put all of them in. Many do this, but everyone should. There are some other alternative programs that are good, but use something like it.
  2. Boxcryptor. It secures files in Dropbox with AES-256 encryption. This stops thieves from just strip mining your hard drive for information. You can make a file inside Dropbox and put your stuff inside it. As long as both programs are running, your data will be encrypted and synced on the fly.
  3. Evernote and Zotero. These are cloud syncing note and citation managers. In addition to being cool and having lots of good features, they will save your files easily and allow you to access them anywhere. You can also sync the local version of non-cloud based programs like OneNote and EndNote to Dropbox.
  4. Prey. This program will track your laptop using wireless access, and can photograph the thief using the webcam. The best idea is to set up a guest account so that the thief can use your laptop but not access anything, and then report it stolen to Prey and watch the fun begin. You can email the information to the Police.

If you have lots of big files, then you could use a program like sugarsync to back up to an external HDD. You can also use Boxcryptor to encrypt it. In fact, it’s wise to do this every few weeks anyway. You could even get fancy and back up whole disk images to restore your computer if the operating system becomes corrupt. All of the programs that I have mentioned are free and work on Macs, Windows devices, iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) and Android devices. The collection of stuff I have mentioned will save you from data loss from computer failure and theft, but also keep your data secure from thieves (even if it’s a cyber criminal who steals your passwords etc).

Your data is your life, so take really good care of it. I know a lot of people out there still gamble with their professional lives by not assiduously protecting their intellectual property. If you do research with a confidential element then I would go as far as to say that you have a duty to do so. I was lucky that thanks to Dropbox, Evernote, Zotero, some encryption, and old favourites like bookmark syncing and gmail, I haven’t lost a thing and all of my most personal data is secured. This email assumes that you aren’t already a pro at this stuff, so if you are then I apologise.

Best Wishes,

James