Thursday, June 09, 2011

The ontology of composition vis-a-vis OLPC, XO, and Sugar

My "blog" of late (two years?) has been a place for conference notes. This year at Computers and Writing, I retreated to the privacy of "Evernote" as I have cut back on laptop use, added an iPod, and am looking for a new and perhaps more effective way to organize my knowledge.

I am inspired to blog tonight, however, by Alex Reid's recent post on the ontology of composition and a latent desire to think through "object oriented rhetoric" (OOR). I've taken a couple of passes at the scholarship, hoping in some way that it will inform my work with OLPC, the XO, and Sugar operating system, but I still find most of the scholarship asking different questions, addressing different issues, than I want to tackle. Or maybe, more accurately, I just know that I don't really want to do that kind of reading, writing and thinking anymore. Like my frenemy Richard Rorty, I think I have truly given up on epistemology and ontology, choosing politics and ethics instead.

The scholarship / philosophy of OOO and OOR and speculative realism itself is probably a pretty effective description of what I am trying to do, working with these objects, embedded within a new and interesting set of networks that go well beyond the familiar networks of computers and composition. I am becoming Other, in all sorts of risky ways, in part because of the complicated nature of these symbolic and literal objects. But I am not really interested in "investigat[ing] distributed compositional networks" (Reid), I suppose, so much as trying to set them up. I'm not so interested in investigating the "ontological relations that generate thought and agency, which in turn participate in symbolic action and media composition" unless that means I am interested in investigating the impact of OLPC, XO, and Sugar deployments, the thoughts and agency they generate (or limit), and the compositions (Turtle Art, digital stories, journals) produced.

Hmm, maybe I am interested in Object Oriented Rhetoric, but not overly interested in employing that discourse. Or maybe I need to understand more fully what adopting that language (that way of seeing) will do for the work I want to accomplish. Will a better theory / description of thought and agency help me accomplish my goal of a "smarter computing culture in Fargo"? Or my longer term goal of an XO deployment in southern Sudan?

I doubt it, but am open to thinking otherwise, because meeting my goals is more important than being philosophically sound.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Facebook, games, new media

Lindsay Sabatino, "Improving Writing Literacies through ... ". Fb claims people spend 55 minutes a day on Fb; Lindsay got resistance from reviewers who didn't think fb games should be considered games. Embrace and change the way we teach, engage with generation that plays fb games. Walks through Mafia Wars; nice analysis of the critical thinking skills needed.

General thoughts: Games are engaging, no doubt; games require thinking, problem solving, no doubt. Most games are not about developing content knowledge, so we might still need to think about content knowledge. How do we use our time? How do we take students outside of themselves?

Kevin Moberly, Facebook and accumulation. Using Brummett, Baudrillard (the old marxist version) and Debord to analyze Fb games. "people are construced as resources that can be accumulated or attacked." Farmville more co-operative, but people also resources. What is the Marxist subjectivity? Not the neo-liberal individualist. Concludes with a great quotation from Debord: "The unreal unit the spectacle proclaims masks the class division on which the real unit of the capitalist mode of production is based. . . . . What creates society's abstract power also creates its concrete unfreedom." Kevin actually ended with Aristotle, and a bit of Marxist "unveiling" language. What is the Marxist subjectivity and its relationship to games?

Rick Branscome. "New Media in an Old Department." Draws on May 2007 CCCC "What are English Majors For?" Said his department fought over this article, then moved on. Tried again with a presentation that was met with resistance. Key (problematic) words: relevance, vocationalism.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Matt Barton, Bob Samuels, Alex Reid

Matt Barton

Influenced by Wayne Booth’s rhetoric of fiction, applied to games.

Features of vws:
1. Connected set of objects and individuals.
2. Habitable environments
3. Reasonably intelligible totality for external observers.
4. Field of activity for its members.
Marie Laure Ryan.

Castanova (sp?): most advanced form of communication.

Maybe Burke’s pentad:
Act: situation, obstacle, puzzle.
Agent: characters, monsters
Agency: interface, possible actions, abilities.
Scene: setting, environment, location

Brummets’s Rhetoric of style:
Primacy of the text
Imaginary communities
Market contexts
Aesthetic rationales
Stylistic homologies: elements that carry across.

Interesting point that games don’t evolve; change style. Retrogames being repackaged evidence of their relevance.

Virtual Wrold Design Decisions
1. platform
2. engine
3. offline / online / downloadable content
4. licensed / original
5. user generated content.

Bob Samuels:

New media in historical, political, context.
Feeding libertarian consensus: roots in 1980s revolution
Pomo critique of science, etc.
Pomo loss of critical distance, dominance of late capitalism.
Pomo’s political and social movement = minority rights.
Automodern = personal autonomy. Shift from identity construction to identity expression through computes.
Conservative role of universities:
Tax revolt + irony (ironic distance) + ?? = attack on progressive postmodernism.
Conservatives obsessed with left-wing universities, linked with minorities.

Pedagogical tendency to give things away may undermine jobs; new media might contribute to economic downsizing of writing instruction.

Web as source of political discourse; elections should be free, but teaching writing should not be free.

Alex Reid, “30,000 Year of Virtual Composition.”
Connects composition to all theories of composition.
Mirror neurons might have developed about 100,000 years ago, may have played a pivotal role in human revolution.
30,000 years = the age of symbolic behavior.
Subjectivity emerges through relations of exteriority.
125 years of virtual composition: technologies printing press, typewriter, telephone, (what about paper and pen?) – territorialized the disciplines (independent scholars)
[if we had founded or re-invigorated rhetoric at that point in time, or if we re-invigorate what do we end up focusing on: not just writing, but thinking, but action, collaboration (why?), we cannot really teach writing only, can we?]
the alien in the crew member: us?
Monstrous exodisciplinarity
Sharing the space between: the surface, a point of access.
To see the outside as inside.

SL workshop on storytelling

Website for presentation:

Luna McMillian (sp?) a recommended builder.

Check out virtualmcluhan on Youtube.

Sugar X0

Walter Bender, from Sugar Labs, provided an overview of Sugar. Great line about how the desktop metaphor was designed for 1970s workers, not children learning; our children have little in common with 1970s office workers. The homepage is colorful and iconic; the limited language on screen makes the operating system easier to translate. Each icon represents a learning activity. Showed the sugar learning activities download portal. Ran through other features, like Journal, which is separate from Write; saves automatically, encourages reflection. Programming environment is part of the philosophy; code available for all users.

Gerald Ardito, middle school teacher in Westchester. 140 XOs in his school; teacher-researcher giving examples of classroom uses. Talked about a math instructor having students write a word problem--the students moved around looking at each other's word problems. Why would kids be excited about that they write on a computer but not on paper? Interesting. Gerald's research saw lots of student talk and help, lots of excitement, different when XO and sugar not used.

Rich Rice: Personal agency that comes with software is valuable; play and meet individual students' needs can be addressed. Suggested that there are granting agency that will support XO and Sugar programs. Watched a video about students at Texas Tech developing XO for science museum in Lubbock. Set up 3 kiosks, 2 with presentations on the history of computers, one for kids to use (interesting choice). Rich said the kiosk has a manual; could be re-produced at Yunker farm or elsewhere. His students also saw the XO problem as an interactive design problem--the students weren't concerned that they wouldn't be working with the XO in the future, because they were learning about interactive design issues.

John Tierney from Sugar Labs talked about the work he is doing to try and encourage collaboration among Schools of Education, Computer Science, and English departments in order to foster collaboration and development. He used an example of Sugar being multi-lingual, allowing teachers to deliver content in English but students to access or do some work in their first language. Carl W brought up the possibility of using Sugar to teach programming to young girls. Could build that into a computer camp that could also involve writing, design, video, etc.

John mentioned that the X.0 contributions program is accepting submissions. Adam Holt is project director.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My own session

I presented first. I could have been worse. "The Electracy of Second Life: Thinking Through Second Life."

Adam Pope: "i c wut u did thar: identity in WoW-related forums." Nice clear argument about the WoW forums as dynamic writing space, conventions that need to be learned, ethos building, etc.. Good example of a post that misunderstood the purpose of a thread, and the response that followed." Forums give us insight into how students might perceive argumentation; some students might need to become more familiar with joining online communities (although that seems to contradict the earlier claim).

Neil P. Baird: "Transmedia Narratives as Civic Participation in World of Warcraft.'
Blizzard supports The Guild despite the implicit critique; Blizzard sponsors a monthly comic contest, many of which are critical of game design. Blizzard did decide to ban topics, which resulted in a comic breaking all their rules. Civic participation? Does The Guild and the comics influence the game design--unclear.

Designing our Virtual, Networked, Web 3.0 Lives

Vicki Callahan, "Asynchronous Real-Time: The Temporality of Networked Aesthetics."
Collaborative, distributed, authorship; historical art examples (Dante Hotel), no explicit narrative except what the visitors bring with them. Hershman (artist) took on second identity simultaneously. Citing Bourrioud (? Post production aesethtic) and Elizabeth Grosz "Thinking the New." Remixed one more time, Life [squared]: The Dante Hotel in Second Life. Gallery space about 1970s art work, but Dante Hotel also reproduced.

Sp-ark: Sally Potter Archive: distributed, open archive. You can leave a research trail and engage with other scholars.

Thinking the new: creativity, taking in alternative times and realities. Open-endedness of the future. Acknowledge unpredictability, chance, the time of the open. Not unrelated to clock time, but also a shattering of timing. A new perspective, resists logic of identity and representation.

Virginia Kuhn: "Get a Third Life: The Virtual is the Real."
What's new and not so new: virtual worlds are not so new (Bill Cope).

1. Our brains are shaped by the way we use them [neuroplasticity].
2. Humans sseem to respond differently to visual texts than to alphabetic ones (mirror neurons).
3. The affordances of the digital have made imagistic texts ubiquitous such that we must address them in classrooms (filmic texts).

The media changes now allow us to treat filmic texts more like alphabetic texts (stop, analyze), but are there still significant differences between filmic texts and alphabetic texts. We learn from filmic texts (An inconvenient truth) but I wonder about the depth and quality of learning.

Mirror Neurons: connects this to Darfur and the inability of people to see group suffering (genocide) and respond to it. Kristoff wrote about "Save the Darfur Puppy." Highly relevant to my Virtual Peace Garden Project.

Get a third [ethical] life: engage with the hard sciences, careful pedagogy (esp. with video editing)--and something else.

Virginia also linked to a video keynotes she did with her colleague, who was supposed to join us.

Second Life as Experiential Learning Opportunity

Team from Purdue Calumet talking about their student-driven approach to Second Life. Students earn experiential credit by coming into Second Life. Group has faced typical problems of funding, development, sustainability.

Wanting to measure affective state of learning: accuracy of affective state detection by facial expressions is 70% accurate. Using single-source camera to gather data; doing pretty sophisticated analysis of facial expressions (Gabor Features?). Presentation stayed pretty technical--not immediately relevant, but interesting. One presenter laid out nicely how research in VW needs to employ mixed methods: qualitative research on learning experience, quantitative research on technology (performance, stability, etc.).

Mark Mabrito in English at Calument was not present, but he is teaching a class called "Designing Virtual Worlds" -- developing a certificate; part of an online certificate in writing for interactive media.

First panel, CW 2010

I attended a couple of workshops yesterday, but didn't get around to blogging. I've used my blog for conference notes more than anything else in the last couple of years--might as well keep up the tradition.

Madeline Sorapure, "Seeing Writing: Interactive Text Visualization in Pedagogy and Research." She is continuing her research on data visualization. She started with Worlde, but showed us various comparative strategies that could make Wordle a better analytical tool--Obama's inauguration compared to last 5, abstracts from CCCC by area. Showed a data visualization of alice in Wonderland, then an affect bar, which measure affect in text based on established affective responses to words. Parts of speech coding; docuburst diagram with root word; aesethetic visualization.

Bottom line question: does computational analysis and data visualization help us find / understand common roots of text / image communication?

Maggie Christensen, "Can you taste this project, please? Synesthesia in Multimodal Composing." Replacing synesthesia with "intermodal"--learn how senses inform compositional choices. Intermodality the current psychological term for understanding how all our senses (and emotion, intellect, etc.) interact in meaning making. Working multimodally implies working with multiple media; working intermodally pays attention to wider synesthesia of medium, emotion, intellect. "If your favorite technology were a dessert, what would it be and why?" Interested in working with the ineffable, understanding the ineffable.

William Burdette, "Unfit for Print: Composition as Sound." Steve Grand, Creation: Life and How you Make It--a text worth checking out. Critiques our passion for matter; we are waves and particles; who we are today is not who we were. If we are waves, how do we write like one?
1. recording sounds is sound writing. sound writing is old and efficient.
2. we can learn from audio recording: paving a way and retracing a path coincide. sound writing is mobile.
3. We might try to regulate sound writing. What sounds like class to one person might sound like class to another. Modernization created noise by attempting to limit.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees

Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees by Caroline Moorehead

Looking forward to this book as it seems to seek out refugees shortly after they leave their home country and wind up in various places. Starts with the Liberians in Cairo; very interesting!

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, December 13, 2009

One Peace at a Time

Went to a screening of One Peace at a Time last night; great "database" of innovative solutions currently being implemented to address problems like lack of clean water, lack of opportunity, lack of education, absence of peace in the world. Watch for it in a theater near you.

One of the most interesting programs I learned about from One Peace was that any of us can contribute to. The repayment of loans is almost 100% guaranteed. I just lent $25 to a woman living in Juba, southern Sudan -- one of the most expensive cities in the world -- so she can start a charcoal selling business. She only needs $50 more, but Kiva was only accepting $25 donations, so two more donors would be appreciated. Once the loan is repaid, I can either re-invest or get my money back. Please consider visiting Kiva and look for Omjime Bulen.

One of the projects featured in the film has an NDSU connection. Architecture student Greg Elsner is the Architecture for Humanity Design Fellow on the Mahiga High Rainwater Court project in Kenya. Tremendously innovative vision for building a rainwater collection roof that more than doubles as classroom space, community hall, basketball court, performance center, etc..

The One Campaign was in town for this event as well; they are looking to build membership in ND and MN (everywhere, of course) and they will be partnering with One Peace at a Time to promote the film to One members when it shows in their area. Become a One Member (no donations required or expected) and keep up to date on events in your area.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Andy Mara, Martha Bartels, Matt Pullen: Institutional Policies of Plagiarism

Andy: still teaching high literate practices in electrate world. Authentication: a way that we certify ownership. How do we authenticate in electronic cultures? Passwords? Electronic signatures? Identity theft = stealing words that authenticate people. What's wrong with teaching literate notions of property boundaries in an electronic world? They don't acknowledge the shift to digital, electrate practices. We are missing the chance to reimagine the ways universities authenticate students as college educated. Charette as authentic, event-based learning.

Martha: Why aren't non-profits using facebook? why aren't they taking advantage of free communication technologies. She found from a flood study that FB users are a little skeptical of information they get via FB; she has extended research to see what NPs are using FB (youth-oriented), which are not (older audiences). She is now researching what factors (besides demographics) keep some NPs from using FB.

Matt: did some interesting survey work to show that people are pretty hazy about copyright infringement and fair use right.

John Madden and Maureen Murphy: OLPC and Usability Assessment

John has been researching and using XO, including this article:

John has been running the laptop through its paces. Creates and share documents via email or mesh. Help document now available on wiki, and built into newer versions. Sees a great need for teacher training; notes the tension between the constructionist philosophy of OLPC and the set curriculums in deployments.

Maureen has been working on a usability lab in order to study online pedagogies (and possibly further applications--electronic medical records, for example). Funding and space were an issue; the EMR has been key to space and external funding.

Abram Anders and Dan Weinstein

45% of employers research potential employees; computer-mediated careers are the standard, not the exception. Great ideas for encouraging students to own their real-estate, own the first page of Google, use Google Analytics, keep content fresh, etc.

Dan has his presentation available: (pw: gpacw).
I am wondering if would be a good way to share class plans: outline the activities, leave room for notes, comments, questions, etc. I got playing around on the site, rather than taking notes. Dan did suggest a curatorial bibliography as a tweak on the annotated bibliography.

GPACW 2009: Keith Dorwick's keyonte

GPACW 2009 is starting with Keith Dorwick's keynote address, "Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are! LGBTQ Teens and Twentysomethings' Self-Identification in MySpace and YouTube." Fascinating research project; Keith is collecting videos and analyzing them from various angles: coming out stories, homosocial rough-housing, and other topics. He is planning a book with a DVD that collects excerpts from the videos he is analyzing. Today he is focusing on coming out stories.

Men post much more frequently; men are particularly concerned with time (i.e. I came out on such and such a day), which Keith suggests is a control issue. He also showed one that he calls "take no prisoners": the vlogger says "I'm gay, deal with it." Says that is typical of younger vloggers. He occasionally talks about the community that has formed, the popularity of certain vloggers, etc.. Women to men transition vloggers keep testosterone journals: one talks about being happy with the transition but acknowledges that s/he is is loosing part of his/her identity. Also very specific about time--a masculine trait.