Friday, November 30, 2007

Mystory Naked

I have a draft of a Mystory which features Bobby Orr flying through the air. The Mystory, by the way, has been useful to me as I have asked myself "why am I going to the Sudan?" "How does this trip fit in my life picture?" The mind-body problem is at the heart of mystory, and the trip, and especially the trip as research, helps me clarify that I would rather start with the body, follow with the mind. I'd rather do then write than write about doing.

Today, my Dad, who feeds me Bobby Orr information religiously, sent me a story about some new and naked Bobby Orr paintings.

I'll have to think about their role in MyStory.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Please help me help southern Sudan

I sent this message to my email address book last night, but if anybody reads my blog, they probably aren't in my address book.

Dear family and friends,

As some of you know, and many of you don't, I am working on a documentary film project entitled African Soul, American Heart. This documentary will tell the story of my friend and NDSU student Joseph Akol Makeer, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Joseph was displaced from his home as a 10 year old boy, walked hundreds of miles across Sudan with 25,000-30,000 other boys, lived for 3 years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, then ten years in a UN refugee camp in Kenya, before arriving in Fargo almost 5 years ago. For the last 10 years, he has also been the primary caregiver for 4 younger siblings who arrived at the UN Refugee camp in 1998. Their parents are no longer alive.

He is going to return home to Sudan for the first time in 20 years, and I am part of a three-person crew that is going to travel with him and film this amazing homecoming. Our crew will be in Joseph's village approximately 8 days (Dec. 17-25), and while we are there, we also hope to be able to deliver some humanitarian aid.

This is where I really need your help.

Our team has raised $11,000 in about a month, and we are getting close to being able to cover many of our expenses. This trip will be a real success, however, if we can bring direct aid to Joseph's village, which is going through the process of re-building after a 20 year civil war. If you can help me raise another $5,000 before we leave on Dec. 10th, we will be able to purchase bulls, goats, and other basic needs when we arrive in Sudan.

Our fundraising theme has been 500 X $50. If 100 of you who read this message can contribute $50, we will add $5,000 to our goal. If anyone can contribute more, your generosity will make a tremendous impact. If you cannot contribute $50, but you can contribute $5, please know that $5 can make a difference in a village rebuilding after 20 years of civil war. If you can't contribute financially at this time, please send me an email and wish us all luck--the many kind words I have received already have all been very valuable to me.

This link goes to our website donation page:

There is a "Pay Pal" logo on that page; if you click it, you can either make a donation through your Pay Pal account, or you can use a credit card to make your donation. If you would rather send a check / cheque (for all my Canadian family and friends), the address is

African Soul, American Heart
c/o Deb Dawson, Executive Producer
300 NP Ave Ste. 308
Fargo ND 58102

Your Canadian donations go even further these days, and we can cash Canadian cheques easily in Fargo.

Please also forward this message to any of your friends or family members who might be interested in our supporting our project. You can follow our progress here:

I look forward to hearing from many of you!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

T-Minus 30

Joseph, Deb, and Matt are more or less set to leave for Sudan in about 30 days. I have been asked to join them; I'm exploring the logistics. Very daunting task thinking about traveling to southern Sudan, but I see that Dave Eggers made the trip (again) this summer, Jen Marlow and David Morse made the trip this summer, the folks working on the New Seeds of Sudan made the trip, maybe as recently as this fall. I guess it is do-able!!

Fund raising for the project has gone well. I don't have an exact total, but I think we are over $10,000.

What is the What? The Interview.

I've been reading What is the What? again just came across an interview with Valentino Deng, the Lost Boy whose story Dave Eggers worked with.

The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation
has pictures from a trip to the Sudan this summer (2007) as well as many other interesting stories, blog notes, and information.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

iJot's possible uses.

I mentioned an entry or two back that I went to a workshop where I was exposed to a myriad of new tools. I messed around the Grazr and Pipes and then lost my steam and didn't play with iJot. Today, as I was scrubbing floors and cooking dinner, I kept thinking of what I can do with iJot:

1. my colleague Amy Taggart is going to take over my WPA duties before too long, and iJot, with its expandable note system, seems ideal for listing the dates and activities I do as WPA, so she can see the big picture, then expanding out any item she wants to look at.

2. Class schedules--duh, why didn't I think of that on Friday.

3. Trips--I might be heading to the Sudan in about a month, and I would sure like to see a nice neat list of things I have to do to get ready, then expand some of the more complex one (i.e. "Get shots" expands out to about 20 items!!)

Dan Weinstein's use of iJot for our conference schedule was sweet--I am beginning to grasp the power of OPML! Now I just need to stop blogging, also known as info management -.05.

Non-fiction visual language links

Neil Cohn has an entry that links to three interesting uses of visual language (i.e. comics) for non-fiction purposes: comics that show engineering projects kids can do at home, "adventures in synthetic biology," and a 55 page comic-essay on the value of combing the two mediums, uhh, I mean genres, uhhh, the two things we call comics and essays that nobody seems to be able to define.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Lance Strate Links

I was back on John Walter's blog looking for the Nick Carr link, and in the process noticed a link to Lance Strate's blog and an essay Strate published in McLuhan Studies Issue 3, "Media Transcendence." A few paragraphs jumped out at me:

"McLuhan's media ecology approach is in part a form of materialism, based on analysis of the human body and its extensions. In contrast to Marx's dialectical materialism, however, McLuhan gives us a rhetorical and grammatical materialism. But McLuhan's perspective is also grounded in the North American tradition of pragmatism. By medium, McLuhan refers not only to the material, but also to the means, modes, and methods by which we operate on the material world."

"'The medium is the message' expresses with perfect economy the idea that how we do something has much to do with the results we obtain, no matter what our original intent may be. This idea is present in Henry David Thoreau's observation that "we do not ride on the railroad, it rides upon us." It is there in Mark Twain's wonderful quip, that when you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail. It is entirely absent, however, from the slogan of the National Rifle Association, that "guns don't kill people, people do." If you believe that guns themselves have increased the potential for violence, then you are with McLuhan."

I'm going to have to let those paragraphs speak for themselves--I'm blogged out.

One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

I've been reading and hearing about the $100 laptop for a while, but I haven't been following the development of the project closely. John Nelson from DSU updated me at lunch today, and I just visited the website. John was talking about participating in the buy-one, get-one program so that he and others at DSU might be familiar with the laptop, enabling them to eventually spend some time teaching with the laptop in a developing country. Great idea.

As I was clicking through the site, I thought about the refugee population in Fargo, and wondered if I should and if I could get others to participate in the 1+1 program as a way to get laptops into the hands of children in Fargo who might not otherwise have easy access to computers at home.


Morning workshop on multimedia introduced me to SoundSlides (very cool) and good refreshers on Audacity and iMovie.

Afternoon workshop on information management linked up a set of tools new to me: Grazr, Pipes, and iJot. I'm going to need to think through the need, use, and time investment for these tools. Intense and interesting stuff.

GPACW Keynote

Richard (Dickie) Self delivered the keynote. I was particularly struck by the notion of listening to the non-human actants in our cyborg communicative interactions. He talked about listening to "access," listening to the files and the demands they make not only on users but on creators, listening to the wiki. I have typically thought of these things in terms of "the social life of information," media ecologies, and infrastructure support, but "listening to the actants" is a nice refinement on those concepts, and foregrounds the cyborg-ness of our communications.

It also seems like Dickie is a bit of a McLuhanite! He acknowledged that we need to engage ourselves and our students in "learning a living" and "living well with our technologies." He also drew on Bernard Stiegler, who I am not familiar with, but who seems to have adopted a McLuhan-esque view of history and technology.

GPACW 2007: My Session

My session turned out to be just me, with John Nelson responding. I marched through the similarities among hot and cool, immediacy and hypermediacy, and film and database as terms for describing the formal features of media. I need to keep strengthening the "so what?" I admitted in the Q&A that my interests were primarily formal and not social and rhetorical, but I made the claim that we in rhetoric and composition never did really hammer out the formal properties of media. I got thinking later that the social and rhetorical dimensions of media are harder to describe in general, and perhaps that is one reason why I keep coming back to formal qualities, and/or am interested in the social-rhetorical dimensions of media use and reception in specific instances, but not in general.

I also think I need to separate out the qualities of media more effectively. I think hot and cool can be applied to "objects" (images and text), and that hot and cool can be applied to "narrative strategies," and that hot objects can be assembled in cool way--using some of the principles Jeff Rice covers in The Rhetoric of Cool, for example. Cool objects can also be assembled in fairly hot ways. I was recently introduced to Home Videos, a visually simple (even strange) animation with intensely, uncomfortably real narrative elements.

Maybe I don't need to run through the history, connecting M., B&G., M.; maybe I just need to work on refining hot and cool, updating with / through other scholarship, not worry so much about the "mapping" concept. What I really need to make sure I do is stick with this writing project, and have some sort of product by Jan. 1, 2008.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

GPACW 2007: Session 4

Lee Tesdell and students. "Software Editing and Revising Tools: What Do Instructors and Students Say about Their Role in Writing Instruction?"

Instructors a little suspect when it comes to tools; students pretty positive. One instructor values EasyBib, which has come up a few times today.

Dan Weinstein with Corey Karber and Lisa Stien
Title: What's in Your Wish Whoosh? Collaborative Learning Environments Revisited
Dan talked through his class about online collaborative writing; one of his favorite suite of tools seems to be Zoho, which has spreadsheets, wikis, and project management tools. Dan set up the students part by asking them, "what 5 tools would they include in a browser"? Corey went with a research database, the Firefox scrapbook extension, a thesaurus/dictionary, Google Docs, and any chat software. Lisa went with research database with a split screen approach, chat, sample templates (exploratree?), notes, and a bib-maker. Impressive array of tools and implementation.

GPACW: Session 3

Justin L Blessinger. "iMacro Browser Plug-in: Research Facilitator, Anti-plagiarism Tool, and Streamliner of Insipid Tasks."

Justin demonstrated iMacro, a plug-in for Firefox. He illustrated how he has written a macro to automatically take him to a specific spot in his CMS, and then he demonstrated a macro that opened his research tools--Ebsco, Lexus Nexus, ProQuest, etc., all in separate tabs. Also demonstrated a macro that would do a full search of a set of search engines--a plagiarism tester as well as a research tool. He is going to share this on the conference website. iMacros can be found on delicious, although not a big community. Interesting--need to think about other tasks!!

The next presentation session focused on Endnote Web; nice system; need an institutional purchase or individual software purchase. Not sure how much more powerful it is than Zotero, the free plug in.

My GPACW Slides

GPACW 2007: Session 2

Matthew E. Morain. "Authorship and Editing 2.0: Challenging students to reclaim the "we" in Wikipedia"

Nice review of the debate around wiki-pedia. References Alan Liu's "Developing a Wikipedia Research Policy" as one of the key articles. Matt handed out his assignment "A Better Wikipedia" with great instructions--hope he posts this someday. He also notes that Wikipedia maintains a good school-use page, and provides suggestions.

Barb Blakely, "New TAs and Multimodal Pedagogy."
Barb talks about the WOVE curriculum, Wenger's "inventive participation" rather than dutiful participation--good distinction. Emphasizes "learning to be" a WoVE instructor, rather than training to be a TA. Students designing units a successful assignment within TA class. Workshops were not especially successful--surprising!? Community of practice most useful.

Sybil Priebe, "It's Just My Blog. And a Reflection Tool. And an Imaginary Colleague. And . . ."
Using the Pecha Kucha method, SP presented images, blog excerpts, scholarship in just over 7 minutes. Yoga reflective music. Will she post it to YouTube? Add her own audio for that. A call to blog.

Casualene Meyer, "Ethos, Pathos, Logos and Logistics: Blogs in an Online General Education Literature Class."
Great line: "Rubrics do not create relationships." Commenting on student blogs = creating relationships, filling out the rubric does not.

GPACW 2007: Session 1

Attending GPACW today--might as well take my notes here.

Teresa Henning, "Preparing Students in the age of Distributed Work."
Nice contrast between Ford Era and Distributed Era.
Lists Spinnuzi's positive views of distributed work--more rhetorical skill needed.
Deleuze's list: wage fluctuation, deskilling, work is no longer centralized, distributed surveillance, "constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars."
Johnson-Eioloa: Symbolic-analytic worksers: materials (info and symbols), work products (reports,plans, proposals, videos), etc.
Literacy requirements: abstraction, system thinking, collaboration, computer proficiency.
Matches up symbolic-analytic work with rhetorical writing instruction. Strong connections here; good works cited page handed out; solid integration of scholarship. I wonder if the scholarship of distributed learning has taken into McLuhan's notions of job vs roles; distributed work seems likely to be a form of taking on a role.

John Nelson and Todd Quinn, "Writing Projects Under Glass: Librarians, Faculty, and Students Collaborating with Ongoing Writing Projects."
Todd functioned as information consultant for John's class and Dan Weinstein's classes in composition. Dan had groups of 5 working on wiki pages; John had students working with blogs. Todd acknowledges that this was a lot of work and that librarians cannot do this for everybody. Also suggested that wiki worked better than blogs; blogs too isolated (no RSS feed); being on the same wiki page = being on the same page (metaphorically as well as literally). Makes sense in another way; blog connotations for students are still often the personal reflection genre; wikis more obviously a work space. A bit more conversation with blogs; not so much personal interaction with wikis. RSS feed tracking essential for instructor and librarian; might need to consider an online reader that can be shared by class.

Phil Block, "The Online Writing Center and the Impersonality of Electrons."
Reflects on experiences as an online writing consultant. Strives for a movement from hypermediacy to immediacy, although does not invoke Bolter and Grusin. Lee-Ann Kastman-Breuch's work would be useful here. More problems than benefits, perhaps--lag time, processing time, meta-discussions, messenger window closes out, etc. Concludes with the possibility of free collaborative work tools outside a CMS that will be cross platform. Google Docs gets a plug.

Jade Faul & Nickie Kranz, "Computer-Mediated Communication Etiquette."
Context of netspeak in class; quickly changing conventions. Defining a discussion board as "informal" will likely result in informal language use. Could try to re-define "informal" as one strategy; seeking a middle ground--wants to be approachable, but also expects a greater level of academic or formal discourse.