Sunday, January 28, 2007

I've been using for a while, mainly because my bookmark folders were getting unmanageable, and I had a vague notion that sharing some bookmarks with students or colleagues might be a good idea at some point. Right now I am working with an outstanding graduate student in our department (are you reading this!) who is shadowing Visual Culture and Language. She is an experienced blogger, great with LMS, Facebook, etc., but she hadn't used We decided to do some "team-tagging" (or tag-teaming?), and see what we could both learn about the service and its potential.

Right away, I looked at in a whole new light. My VCL tag (for Visual Culture and Language) is helpful to me, but nobody else! I did not take a social or rhetorical approach to tagging. It looks like I could rename that tag, but for now, I think we will keep it, which, when looked at from a different light, could be particularly relevant to students (this semester or in the future). I have asked Melissa to use this tag, and we talked about what we should use as tag for hybrid classrooms. I think "blended learning" is the preferred term, and sure enough, when I did a search for blended learning, I got some good and relevant hits. When I did a search for hybrid, I got a lot of cars.

Both tags need additional tags, like "photography" and "film" to go with VCL, and "blogging" or "LMS" to go with "blended learning," but even as I was realizing that, my approach to tagging started to seem logical, rather than random. There might be something to this folksonomy stuff, besides a new buzz word.

Don't get lost in my cloud!

Friday, January 19, 2007

McLuhan and Rachel Carson

I really like this analogy between McLuhan (as technological environmentalist) and Rachel Carson, the environmentalist:

"McLuhan would have considered himself a media ecologist in this sense: he was trying to create an awareness about the hidden effects of electronic technologies, in much the same fashion that Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, exposed the unintended consequences of pesticides (Morrison 5-6, 23n3). James Morrison argues that if we see McLuhan in his true light as a "technological environmentalist," it will expose the blindness of his misperceiving critics who see him as a booster of technology; "in truth, he was no more so than Rachel Carson was a promoter of DDT" (Morrison 6). From this ecological framework, we can see that people today do not merely live in a world of the physical. The world is symbolic. We live in a reality filtered by various media; call it what you will: Plato's cave wall, the world outside and the pictures in our heads, mediated reality, second-hand world, the media environment, the media torrent. As argued above, when a new technology or new symbol system enters a culture, the entire system will change. The examination of this phenomenon is the work of the media ecologist/medium theorist." Marc Leverette, "Towards an Ecology of Understanding."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Saving the ruined essay

Ever since I messed up the essay that I blogged about just before Christmas (or, technically, ever since I finished messing up that essay in and around January 1), I have been thinking about how to save it and strengthen it. This time, I think I have the right things figured out.

I know I need to do some cutting and trimming, but I was also feeling like the essay was not fully engaged in the right kinds of conversation, not fully engaged in an the ongoing conversation about reading generally, and reading new media specifically. I just read Patricia Harkin's CCC essay on the history of reader-response theory; I think that is the conversation I need to hook up with. She points out near the end that compositionists excluded reading from composition courses as they asserted rhetoric and writing as subjects worthy of study (and professionalization), but in the early part of the 21st century, considerable cultural anxiety about students' poor reading abilities, and anxiety about students' inability to read the changing communicative environment (the visual, the remixed, the fragmentary), gives me an entree into "seriously visible" reading (that phrase being part of the title).

Guess I should just go work on the paper, not blog about it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Back on the horse

I scared myself off the blog because my last entry--a reflection on a paper I am working on--lead me to mess up the paper, rather than clarify and finish the paper. Darn blog--it is supposed to be infallible!

That said, I am here to try again, reflecing on some reader comments for the trivium project I have written about a few times. Let me start by saying that I really like the way people in the field of rhetoric and composition respond to other people's scholarship. The reviewers of the trivium project were quick to respond, supportive, but also very careful and smart critics of our project. I didn't get the sense that any of them wanted to force their agenda on our work. When I occasionally submit to other fields / subdisciplines, the readers are often very slow, very dogmatic, and not particularly supportive (even if they accept the piece!).

Okay, the point that got me here was a observation that our trivium project was a traditional, locked down essay with open wikipieces building off that essay structure. One reviewer pointed out that our wiki projects have a grammatical bias: the collecting and sorting of information. We were aware of this bias, and I think we even discussed, then dismissed other options. But as I read this comment, I began to think--how does the web massage rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar? Or where do these categories show up. Wiki building (wikipedia most obviously), retrieves the grammatical impulse to collect, sort, organize knowledge. I would even be willing to say the web as medium supports this function better than the other two functions. Dialectic, as philosophy, as critique, as questioning shows up in filter-blogging and discussion boards. K-logging might combine the grammatical and the dialectical, as bloggers gather and sort relevant information, but also offer commentary and critique of that information. Rhetoric, as the application of grammatical knowledge to practical political problems, might be most fully embodied in activist or political websites that show a broad understanding of an issue / issues (the grammatical function), while employing the crafts and strategies of persuasive new media discourse to prompt action and production, not just consumption.

Suppose I should just go work on the project, not blog it.