Ableist language is both violent and lazy: Let’s do better with clearer word choices

You might have heard me mutter “wait, that was ableist language” and find a more specific term for whatever I just said. I am not the first person to argue that ableist langauge is violent. Or that it is lazy. I’m definitely not an authority on it. It frustrates me to realize how much the world, language, and idiom has been built around the elevation of abled bodies and the cutting-down of all other forms of bodies.

More for myself than any other reason, I’m assembling a list of words that are more specific and can replace idly used ableist terms with words that don’t perpetuate the hierarchy of difference through my own language choices. I did not make this list up – it’s a compilation of lists and ideas found on the websites below. I encourage you to turn to them for more thoughtful treatments of this topic.

Citation Style Revisions: I promise it’s not that hard

I am going through the transition from Endnote to Zotero. I have loved Endnote since I was 18 (what a little history major nerd I was then). It's generally great, but has been a little frustrating lately. It was time for change - even my librarian chuckled at how old-school I was with Endnote. Moving to Zotero has been an adventure. Fewer out-of-the-box citation styles exist. Publishers only seem to provide Endnote styles. It was time to learn to create my own citation style.

Thanks to a supportive friend, who tolerated an hour of my pouting about citation styles, I learned how to find, revise, and save a citation style. Here are my provisional steps - they're not perfect, but I wish I had found them somewhere 3 weeks ago!

All of this uses citationstyles.org (featuring the very obvious Author Guide, which I missed). They have a .csl extension that works in Zotero. If you can use search by name and find your style, AWESOME. The steps below assume that you can't.

Getting to the right citation style

  1. Go to Citation Styles search by example. Using your journal's style examples, revise the in-text citation and bibliographic entry to match theirs. If the default example it gives you isn't helpful (I think it defaults to chapter), then use the previous and next cited item buttons to find one that is helpful. For me this is usually journal article. But to each their own!
  2. Click on search and review the matches. Choose the one that seems to be the fewest revisions away from your target style. I'd pick one that notes pages incorrectly ("pages" instead of "pp") but is otherwise correct over one that has periods where I need commas. Each piece of the citation that is wrong requires its own correction.
  3. Use the Visual Editor (in the tabs at the top of the page) to browse this citation style on a number of citations and bibliography entries. You can add more, to reflect the document types you're actually using. The "example citations" drop-down it the top right took me FOREVER to find, so, you're welcome.
  4. You can click on the part of the citation that is wrong to find the parts of the style that impact it. Trial and error to figure out how to change the errant period to a comma, non-italicized text into italics, etc. There is help in the CSL specification document (make sure you're in the relevant version!). Search for the type of thing (eg. "et al" or "page range") and it will tell you what to look for in the code. If it sends you to the code, use crtl+F (or command+F) to find the string on the code editor page (also in the tabs at the top of the page). Changes you make in the visual editor persist into the code editor and vice versa.

Save and Validate your Citation Style

  1. Save your Style: Once you've wrestled with the style a bit, it's time to save and validate it. From the visual editor tab (by now you have noticed the tabs!), go to Style > Save Style to save the style to your desktop. I find it's helpful to save the styles with a version number to keep track of the changes (there will be changes).
  2. Validate your style: Upload the csl you downloaded to the validator. It will tell you if this style will work in a citation manager or throw errors. If it validates, great! Add it to the citation manager and apply to your document. If it doesn't, go back into the editor and make revisions. Note: If you skip this step, you'll get sad little errors later and nobody wants that.

Iterative Style Corrections

  1. Apply and check your style: Apply the style to your document and compare your citations to the journal style guide. Format still not right? Go back to the editor, make changes, save as, validate, and try again.
  2. Content not right? To get just the list of documents cited in your current paper, this handy tool to select in to highlight  and drag into a new folder (only works with zotero). Then you can make sure that most-cited-author's name is actually spelled the same in each of their references (this was my biggest problem).

Teaching Conformal Projections

I had a small revelation in class the other day while I was teaching projections. I have an inflatable globe I like to carry to reference an actual 3D representation of the earth when my powerpoints only show a flat sphere.

On my way to class, feeling like a geography professor.

Conformal projections preserve the shape and angles of the world, but distort sizes and distances. A tip-off that a projection is conformal is that the meridans and parallels (latitude and longitude lines) are perpendicular for the whole map. This forms a grid. It’s easy to say this out loud and believe that people will get it, but in reality, projections are rather abstract, adn there’s just not enough time in a class to have everyone do their own actual projection to tangibly connect the abstraction to reality.

On my inflatable globe (and on all other spheroid or ellipsoid representations of the earth), lines of longitude and latitude are always at right angles to each other. Just like in a conformal projection.

  1. Student assesses the ellipsoid globe, looking particularly at the meridians and parallels. Prompt: how would you describe the relationship between these lines? Is if the same for the whole world/ellipsoid? What relationships are the same and what are different?
  2. Look at a world-map projection in a specific format. What is the relationship between the meridians and parallels? Which relationships are consistent and what are not?

With little prompting, the fact that the lat/long line angles are always right angles in both conformal projections and on the globe gets “aha!” faces as the concept of round to flat clicks.

Another finding from bringing this see-through globe to class? Holding it in front of the projector makes azimuthal projections. Helpful for linking the round ellipsoid to the flat projection.