Friday, June 22, 2007

CFP Idea

Computers and Composition has a CFP for Graduate Education. Thinking of a few ideas, like:

1. "You will never teach this course again." -- I wonder how true this is for other PhDs who graduated within the last 10 years (could be a survey component)? I wonder how true this will be for the PhDs over the next 10 years. I did take a course on Visual Communication as a graduate student, but it looked nothing like the Visual Culture and Language (U-grad) course I teach. I wonder what kind of VC course our graduate student(s) will teach.

2. Andy and I have thrown around the term "electrate competencies." Can we nail some of these things down? How far do graduate programs need to go? And obviously there is not one model. Some programs will attract students because they aren't tech-heavy. How is "electrate competency" different from "critical technological literacy?" What are the low tech electrate compentencies? Does "visual thinking" count?

3. I've gotten to know Quinn Warnick from a few conferenes. He is in the graduate program I graduate from 10 years ago--I wonder how different his Program of Study has been? I wonder what his skill set was like coming in, what it will be like going out? I wonder what graduates of that program will study / do / be capable of 10 years down the road?

GAming school

Gaming school? Forget re-locating for college, I am sure my son will want to move to NY for middle school.

This story also made me think about my "field." If I simply studied what I wanted, without concern for employment, I would definitely have gone into "game studies." I had built up a pretty substantial understanding of game theory while working on my MA, and had read an awful lot of sports literature. I probably should have pursued that avenue a little more vigorously, although now, interestingly enough, my interests, which were very fringe in the early 90s, are now mainstream. I wasn't interested in video games at the time, and I am still only minimally interested in video games, but they are a medium worth paying attention to. I wouldn't even call myself a sports fanatic, which I think most people assume when they hear about my interests. I just know that sports and games in general penetrated my sense of self at a very young age and in a way that I can't quite shake. And why should I? They are engaging, fulfilling, generally good for mind and/or body, although they can be excessively time consuming, bad for your body, perhaps mind crushing.

When I think about my two dream projects, they are both game/sport related--my curling documentary, and a book-length project building on McLuhan, Understanding Games. I noticed some of the spark and excitement I had back in the early 90s when I was working on my MEmorial and the Roger Maris connection to the Lost Boys of Sudan. Maybe I have moved back into my field wihtout precisely realizing it!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Usable Glue

I've been working on an analysis of McLuhan and Fiore's The Medium is the Massage, but I keep thinking / wondering why Greg Ulmer has never done a really visual, or at least visual-verbal, text. He has included images in his work, and he does have interesting visual-verbal material online (much of it more visual than verbal), so perhaps he is making that medium divide (word = pages, images = screens). But if I were any kind of decent designer, which I am not, I think I would start working on a book called "Usable Glue," and I would try to make some of his concepts (or borrowed concepts) like felt, punctum, electracy, more visible, and I think I would try to play around with his sets of instructions. It might be interesting to try and work with his text in the way Fiore worked with McLuhan's text. Is Ulmer a master of the aphorism or succinct theoretical phrasology (hard to beat "the medium is the message / massage / mass-age")? Are his concept illustratable? I guess I tried this once: what do you think?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Looking for images

I've been thinking about some ways to revise my "MEmorial project" and have been searching for images of Maris sitting in the locker, looking really worn out (a picture I have seen in print). I did come across one of his Camel ads images, but I also came across Jennifer Ettinger's website, where she is still trying to sell the painting that appeared on the cover of the book my brother and I published about ten years, Thru the Smokey Endboards: Canadian Poetry about Sports and Games.

Jennifer has a cool new show at the Nat Bailey ball park in Vancouver.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Me and Mac (the scholar, not the computer)

I was just thinking, just trying to rememberer, "how/why did I come to McLuhan, and why am I such an advocate now?" His name was floated occasionally in the classrooms of U of Winnipeg, but always quickly dismissed by the professor. He started showing up in fragments while working on my dissertation--a history of writing instruction in western Canadian universities (snore)--those traces, I realized, were pretty interesting. I gave a seminar presentation on him during my last class in graduate school; it was very well received; Don Payne suggested I had just outlined a research agenda. If only I had known what that meant! The "agenda" remained hidden (as all the best are) for about 4 or 5 years, even though Anthony Ellertson expressed great enthusiasm for McLuhan in a graduate course I taught in about 2000. I remember worrying about the lack of political edge in McLuhan's work, I worried about the gross over-generalizations, I worried about the cultural studies critique of McLuhan. But I remembered Anthony's enthusiasm for McLuhan, and I saw that enthusiasm again among other students when I taught The Laws of Media and tetradic analysis. And I saw it frequently when I assigned The Medium is the Massage, occasionally identified by students as the most interesting book they have read. As a scholar, I started to see the political potential embedded in McLuhan's work--my potential to use his work as I saw fit. And I started to see and understand the formal experiments, which, strangely enough, I think I had been trying since I started in 'zine in high school. In short, I became an advocate because I could see McLuhan working for students--generating excitement and engagement--and that excitement in turn rubbed off on me as a scholar. Charlie Lowe has said to me a couple of times, "I like the way McLuhan makes me think," and that seems to sum up why I am pushing this drug.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Visual rhetoric and the encyclopedic tradition

I was just reading a book chapter by Charles Hill on teaching the reading of visual communication in the writing classroom, and Hill points out the common argument that our writing classes already try to do too much, and adding visual rhetoric does nothing to eleviate that problem, but only do to a history of specialization did we ever decide to separate out written and visual communication. He goes on to call for a broad-based rhetorical education, interdisciplinary in nature, which seems good and right, but I couldn't help but think about McLuhan and the encyclopedic tradition of rhetoric that extends back to Cicero, at least, and then I wonder, what if just "English" could become "Rhetoric?" Nothing new here, but in my constant quest to figure out why McLuhan should matter, I am almost always struck by how this professor of literature was able to make literature matter to his students in the 50s, esp. 60s, and 70s, and I am always struck by how effectively he reads and uses literature as part of his histories of rhetoric and technology.

I am also in the process of thinking about The Medium is the Massage (MM) again; part of a revision to a paper I am working on. I need to figure out why learning to read that text is relevant to learning how to read (and I suppose produce) similar kinds of texts. Part of my argument is that we in rhetoric and composition don't really perform many readings of visual texts, and certainly not image-text experiments like MM, instead limiting ourselves to ad analysis, and the rhetorical reading of film. The influence of MM seems to be pretty profound--I am starting to collect the MIT series of books influenced by MM.

Unrelated: I just noticed that I only made 25 entries between January and now, and that 7 of those were during videoblogging week. I made no entries in March, and if I handn't made an entry on May 31, I would have skipped May 2. Very irregular with my blogging / thinking.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I must have written this entry before...

I am working on my MEmorial project, but I keep thinking about McLuhan for compositionists. I keep asking "why McLuhan?," maybe phrased in Jeff Rice's language, why invest in McLuhan when the field hasn't for the last 40 years? Is the payoff really so great? I'm thinking about the way postmodernism is pursued as a goal--to have a postmodern pedagogy, to be more postmodern--and I think about the ways that McLuhan complicates that goal. He is sometimes labeled a proto-postmodernists, but I think he is best described as an antimodernist. Elizabeth Flynn has used "antimodernism" as foil to "save" postmodernism, to show the ways in which postmodernism is a better critique of modernism than antimodernism, but if the critique is reversed, I think antimodernism can hold up as a viable critique of modernism, which in and of itself ain't all bad. Maybe what McLuhan, in part through his Laws, can really get us is a break from dialectical thinking, from the Hegelian logic of progress, without giving us what is often perceived as postmodern uncertainty and drift. The Laws provide a structure for making sense of competing world-views as technologies, and for recognizing ebbs and flows historically, but also recognizing the human all to human need to recycle.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ten Minutes A Day

Because I call my blog 10 Minutes a Day, I'm compelled to blog about this article. I know that 4th graders find 10 minutes a day difficult because a) college students find 10 minutes a day difficult, and b) my 3rd grade son tends to break down in tears after 2 or 3 minutes of writing.

The teacher who wrote this piece shreds her students' work in order to really emphasize the process--the message--of 10 a day. Write, free yourself, suppress the editor; the medium, not the content, is the message. Of course us bloggers like our content, and we archive these musings, but it might be cool to have a "shred" button for a blog other than the delete button: each entry goes through little electrode teeth, and maybe even builds a big pile of shredded entries at the bottom of one's blog. We could then at least measure our shredded work.

Was that 10 minutes worth?

Monday, June 04, 2007

MEmorial for Lost Boys of Sudan

I've been working on a really different project for me, a MEmorial, as theorized by Greg Ulmer. The project is hosted on a wikispaces, so feel free to contribute (you will need to request membership).

I don't think my final product is particularly electrate--I can't seem to keep words out of my compositions--but the process, as Ulmer suggests, is pretty fascinating, I learned a lot (about Sudan, about Maris, about composing with images and video) doing the project, and I think the connections I make between the Lost Boys of Sudan and Roger Maris are pretty interesting, but I guess I will need some readers to let me know (hint hint).

I am also trying out a new way to collect my various web "projects:" SuprGlu. I am actually using it as my "official" home page, at least for now. Aggregates this blog, my Bloglines blog, my entries, and my Flickr photos. Anything with RSS can be aggregated, and they provide room for links to static pages too. So far, so good. Need to add a photo.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rhetoric of Cool

Just finished Jeff Rice's Rhetoric of Cool; got it Thursday and went cover-to-cover pretty quickly. I have been very interested in Jeff's work ever since I dreamt about him about 3 years ago; he has brought McLuhan and Ulmer together more consistely than any other scholar I am aware of.

Because I was familiar with some of the content of the book through his earlier journal contributions, what I liked best was actually the repetition--seeing/hearing him re-iterate the historical argument that composition missed an opportunity in 1963 to ground itself in the emerging technology, the emerging new media, and ultimately in "cool rhetoric," but the field in general chose to stick with print, not just in products but in logic. He makes some really compelling arguments that even the most visual texts and scholars in our field who embrace the "visual" do so from a print-logic biased.

I am frequently struggling with how to frame an argument for the role of McLuhan in composition studies, and what Jeff's book seems to do for me (after one quick read-through) is help me more clearly articulate his reading and use of McLuhan, which in turn will help me articulate my position. By linking McLuhan to cool rhetoric, and by really pushing the envelope for digital and electronic thinking, I can see that Jeff, like his mentor Ulmer, is a little more thoroughly immersed in the logic of electracy than I tend to be. I have been using and playing with the idea of "working at the interface" a lot lately, and by "working at the interface" I mean that I see myself working at the interface of literacy and electracy, print culture and visual culture, text and image, visual and acoustic space. Where Jeff offers the cool compositional strategy of juxtaposition in one chapter, I tend to use Scott McCloud's six patterns of word-picture relationships as a more detailed, and probably print-logical, way to approach the general strategy of composing through juxtaposition. Where Jeff emphasizes the rhetoric of cool, his articulation of that made me realize that I try to teach the rhetoric of hot and cool, and that I think students gain an understanding of both by seeing them placed side-by-side: working at the interface.

I'm looking forward to dipping back into Jeff's earlier "textbook," writing about cool, which I am sure will seem like a whole new text now that I have read The Rhetoric of Cool.