Thursday, May 29, 2008

Web 2.0 in Africa

Doc sent me the link to this article about a Kenyan park ranger using blogs and tweets to raise awareness and raise money for preserving the wildlife and wilderness in Kenya.

I've been working with a Congolese refugee who is attending university in Nairobi, and have been thinking about encouraging him to blog and post photos of his life. I wonder if readers would donate to keep him in school?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I6: Instability of New Media

1. Video clips with definitions. Threads--unstable term, disagreement. Processes. Multiple.
2. Roles as readers?
3. New media as a game, as an ideology.
4. A folksomic poem from Flickr: images of writing; images of new media.
5. New media still looks a lot like hypertext.
6. Not your father's oldsmobile.

Too much to record, but interesting discussion of reflection. Seems tacked on to some students, but we in the field generally believe in its value. Bob W. drew the parallel to "the behind the scenes" genre; if students made "behind the scenes" or "director cut" reflections, they might be more convinced by the process and product of this kind of reflection.

Rorty's normal (writing) and abnormal (new media): a possible frame to use.

Kevin M.'s critique of Manovich and formalism is worth holding on to, although his attack on Manovich's dismissal of rhetoric over looks the fact that Manovich is drawing on a simplistic notion of rhetoric (just as Ong dismissed rhetoric in its current forms). Hits at "working at the interface"--rhetorical formalism.

Session H: Open Source Writing And/As Ideology

Benjamin Cline: Using William Brown's work on "the rhetoric of social intervention"--attention-power-need cycle. Focuses on the attention cycle--axiology, epistemology, ontology--and its application to the Ubuntu Forum, "Absolute Beginner Talk." Forum members attempted to not only help new Ubuntu users, but tried to shift their axiology. Great examples of responses that combined trouble shooting and proselytizing. Users wrote about Ubuntu making the world a better place; about OS users breaking into two camps--the pragmatists (most users--whatever works) and principled users (Ubuntu / Linux) [my terms, not Ben's].

Maggie Christensen: using 3rd space as concept for analyzing technology in the writing classroom. 3rd spaces as parallel to heterogeneous space (Foucault), as real and imagined, a space of multiple and conflicted values. Multigenre identity project an attempt to bump students into 3rd space. Satire, advocacy, technology autobiography used as assignments that ask students to think critically about technology.

Discussion: Maggie got a good question about demographics and identity; even older than average students still sorting out identity in 3rd space. I asked why people proselytize about technology and Benji added Richard Weaver's shamanic language into the mix of Brown's ideology, and suggested that all assertions are a kind of proselytizing. If technologies are extensions of self, proselytizing about technology is proselytizing one's world view; technologies are integrated into world views, ideologies.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Thinking about next year's CW

Thinking about a proposal and paper on the One Laptop Per Child program and the meaning of "sustainability" for OLPC in southern Sudan. Sustainability of such an initiative seems incredibly problematic, but this figure could drive ground transformation; it could be used as a focusing figure for fundraising, for making the notion of rebuilding and transformation concrete.

Also thinking about The Virtual Peace Garden and sustainability: what would that take, mean, what would it do? Both would probably be speculative projects, but potentially interesting (to me, at least).

Session G: C+++: Concept, Challenges, Collaboration

Allegra Pitera: Videos from Detroit Mercy students are personal, historical, local: nice job of film without actors; all about the shot, the mood, the look. Good form for student videos. YouTube? Copyright issues?

Blythe Nobleman: image, music, text assignment. Describe a process through "film": IMT. Barther, Sontag's Plato's Cave, Berger's Ways of Seeing, Gombrich "Truth and Stereotypes." Interesting ideas for bringing multimedia into technical / professional class. Great example of a mathematical algorithm (phi) shown visually.

Dirk Remley: drawing on Michael Carter's "Doing, Knowing" piece from CCC 2007. CMS tools a medium for teaching collaboration, collaboration draws on research appropriate to their field. Outlined some challenges, but I'm fading.

Casey Boyle: wikispace also possibly transforming collaboration, but also conservative; innovation potentially gets edited out of collaborative composition.

Session F: The Auburn Curriculum

Michelle Sidler and colleagues presented on curriculum reforms at Auburn; they were forced to abandon their vertical curriculum and develop a horizontal curriculum. Key elements: scaffolded assignments, themed sections, information literacy replacing library visits, tabet pcs classrooms.

Scaffolding: analysis and evaluation of a single argument, compare and contrast two arguments, create and argument synthesizing 3 sources, extensive argumentative research paper.

Themes: business, cultural diversity, health & medicine, liberal arts, science and technology, sustainability.

Why tablets: flexibility, mobility, OneNote, actual writing. Stocking a lab with tablets is an unusual move, as they point out. No projectors; a conscious decision to emphasize collaboration and work around a teacher-centered classroom.

Information Literacy: reviewed 5 principles of ACRL. Did some information literacy tutoring with the writing center staff; good idea.

Assignments + Information Literacy: second assignment in sequence was supported by two IL sessions with library. Focused on key word search strategies. Comparison exercise: which of two articles is more scholarly. Academic search premier: get students to limit to full text and scholarly review. Nice assignment prompt: "Should the UN add "regular, efficient, and effective access to the Internet" to its list of basic human rights?" Moved into sociological abstracts, not all full text: opened up teaching of how to get non full text material.

Instructors are pretty satisfied with instruction; consistent with what folks at NDSU found when they surveyed instructor satisfaction with information literacy skills. Teach IL, and students will get it; assign but don't teach; they don't get it.

Kathi Yancey

Kathi framed her talk in terms of "radical change, not much change." Also used the NSF How Students Learn and the Alexander Astin research to frame changes in students. Some key points:

Stickiness: talked briefly about the role e-portfolio has had on teacher retention.

Assessment: student gets to identify what she values in her portfolio, in her education; assessment standards / goals emerge within her own reflection and organization.

Integrative learning: showed a student who was able to see connections among course work and life as part of his integrated learning; a hard concept to assess because the student has to map the learning. Having the archive / collection in place is important for students to be able to see connections.

Crystal Ball: ePortfolio as a place to do work. Has a robust set of tools: blogging, pages, IM, etc. Not just an archive (although it should be a digital repository.

Delivery changes delivery: what's the process, sequence?
What (new?) language describes thsi new work/ play?
What are the (new) rhythms for learning?

Personal Potential Index: can be illustrated through portfolios.

E: Portfolio and Assessment Strategies

Michael Neal: a nice discussion of the challenges of rubrics for new media and multimodal composition. Referenced Broad's Beyond Rubrics--a programmatic discussion of new media texts would be interesting.

Michael Day has posted his presentation on e-portfolios at Northern Illinois U. Showed / emphasized an online scoring form used--could be a useful addition to our assessment, even if we don't use e-portfolios. Sounds like only the TIs at NIU use e-portfolios; looks like only a handful of people read and score the portfolio. Helps me understand what it might take to develop e-portfolios more effectively. Using Mozilla composer and FTP to compose.

The third speaker, Brittany Cottrill, was not able to attend, but she sent her paper to be read: "E-portfolio alternatives, blogs, and academic showcases."

Discussion afterward had some emphasis on the role of prewriting and drafting in assessment. We have been discussing this in our program, and interestingly our teachers aren't particularly interested in seeing student drafts. I wonder if there is a place for a post-process analysis of portfolio assessment?

Session D: Drupal, Drupal, Drupal

Charlie Lowe explained that Drupal is a complex design tool, not simply a weblog tool or wiki; design choices available to site designer. Maybe Drupal is the tool for WPGV. See Building Powerful and Robust Websites with Drupal 6,, (contact Charlie to join).

Dan Royer posted his presentation in a Drupal site. Covers the evolution of his experience with teaching a writing for the web course and how Drupal seems to be solving problems he was having: too much time spent on design rather than writing, messing with IE bugs, etc. Sees Drupal as the future: a skill that students need to have; Drupal as a tool that they might be able to take with them.

David Blakesley on Drupal design, theme work. Recommended 3 Firefox add-ons: Firebug, WebDeveloper, and IE Tags. Also graphic editor, text editor, and drupal module theme builder. Drupal theme sites listed.

What do I want for my course site:
1. A place for course materials (the book?)
2. A place to blog, probably collectively.To discuss readings, share notes, share work.
3. A bibliography (preferably annotated).
4. Possibly a site to host MEmorials.
5. A sandbox, a place for weekly experiments.

Keep the site open to student design, re-design. What are the images of WPGV, or maybe I should call the site the Virtual Peace Garden.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Michael Farris bringing all my threads together

Michael Farris was kind enough to comment on my "Things to remember" post from the end of the semester, and like him, I am behind on my blog reading. When I visited his site, I found this post about Jeremiah Wright that brings together many of my own current preoccupations: white privilege, rhetorical acts post 9-11, mourning, and memorializing. He references a Judith Butler work I am not familiar with--more reading for the class? I might be able to start my fall 2008 War and Peace in the Global Village class with Michael's post.

Session C: Copyright, copyright, copyright

Quinn Warnick provided a close, clever, textual analysis of the copyright code, specifically the fair use section;it is tiny and a mess! He quickly looked at the ineffectiveness of the copyright office, and encouraged universities to be proactive in understanding and supporting educator's rights.

Virginia Commonwealth presenters analyzed Condi Rice Raps from the perspective of copyright law. They acknowledge the ways in which parody presents significant challenges to copyright guidelines and laws, but argue that an open source model is needed to maintain the possibility of citation and integration in parody and scholarship.

Annetee Vee uses an FAQ to consider how computer programming (and open source) is a sponsor of literacy. Uses Wittgenstein's family resemblance to suggest resemblance of literacy and computer programming. "Proceduracy" is the linking term, traces of literacy, not simply functional. Proceduracy is dynamic, a common act in literacy and computer programming. Open source a particularly powerful sponsor of literacy--potentially.

Not sure how good my notes are this afternoon; mind bogging down.

Session B: Podcast, videos, websites.

Jim Tremmel from Austin delivered a nicely designed presentation on the value of podcasts in his rhetoric and rock class and his literature and music class. I actually listened to one of his casts a few years back--nice work. Presenting music and interviews via podcast is smart; nice presentation.

Janine Solbert's presentation reported on a writing with film class she taught, concluding with a student example of a visual argument. The student put together an effective final product, but what Janine emphasized was his massive journal and extensive research. Ideas for me to incorporate in Visual Culture and Language.

A Michigan State Group presented their research on Professional and Technical Writing Program websites; a study of 150 sites (randomly chosen from over 200, I believe) found many sites struggling to embody principles of design generally taught in the program. Sites also tend not to represent students; need more integration of students and other stake holders in design process.

Twenty minutes for discussion--nice job staying on time!

Ideas for website firing: we need more student integration, for sure; focus groups; Danielle spoke briefly about her interest in College websites--perhaps Andy and I can get a foothold there.

Writing Program as Technology

I've been thinking about Writing Programs as technologies for a long time, but it dawned on me this morning that there might be a good institutional research project on some of the interesting program-wide implementations of technology in writing programs. I learned about UGA's use of EMMA yesterday; they subtly distinguished themselves from the Texas Tech approach to anonymous grading through web interface. ISU Comm has focused more on the overt "literacies" (WOVE) rather than back-end mechanics. I wonder where I could find a "program" that isn't much of a program--MSUM?--and then do some institutional investigation into the dynamics of these programs, what is getting written, what kind of student learning is happening, etc.

CW session A: Video presentations (the medium is the massage).

Two good workshops yesterday that I haven't blogged, and a lively town hall discussion this morning. More on that later, perhaps.

Session A started today with two video presentations, which interestingly is something I have been talking about with people the last few days. Rik Hunter's video of WoWwiki made interesting use of voice over, clips from a WoW event, and screen shots of scholarly articles.

Dan Anderson showed a flash-based video with a more direct video address to the audience, student samples (a collage assignment from a literature class primarily), video interviews with students, quotations worked in, and great information graphics. He articled a "flow zone" which I think many of us doing multimodal / electrate assignments are trying to help our students enter.

Alex Reid started with "I'm actually going to talk to you" which got a nice laugh, and he proceeded to deliver a visually and verbally compelling presentation about the transition from private to public spaces we are making (or are being forced to make). He encourages us to thinking about the "classrooms as ambient interfaces" (a quote from Byron Hawk). Wrapped up with as a technology for making the private (conference presentation) public.

Great start, and the video presentations (perhaps) kept this session entirely on time. Q&A started at 10:57 am.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pain and the academic enterprise

I've been reading McLuhan and Fiore's War and Peace in the Global Village (again), and finally starting to understand it. "When one has been hurt by new technology, when the private person or the corporate body finds its entire identity endangered by physical or psychic change, it lashes back in a fury of self defense" (97). This statement makes sense (it could be less dramatic), but the light bulb went on for me when I reversed the direction of the pain. New technologies seem not to generate pain for me; elsewhere in WPGV, M&F compare new technologies to LSD, the computer as a facilitator of the inner trip. Old technologies--the classroom, the academic article--are more likely to cause me pain than online teaching, blogging, MEmorializing, etc.. I remember vividly the pleasure of my first email, my first newsgroup, my first webpage, my first video. I do even remember the pleasure of my first conference paper, but it was kinda funny and creative; my first academic publication (an extension of that presentation) was, I suspect, more painful, although the fact that I don't remember is probably significant. Generally academic publishing is among the more painful things I try to do, although I also understand (more or less) why I do it, and the process is certainly not without pleasure along the way.

This post was really initiated by this report, more than WPGV: "Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An In-depth Study of Faculty Needs and Ways of Meeting Them." The abstract identifies the kind of pain, the kind of tension, I often feel and am trying to articulate.

"Our work to date has confirmed the important impact of disciplinary culture and tradition on many scholarly communication habits. These traditions may override the perceived 'opportunities' afforded by new technologies, including those falling into the Web 2.0 category."

Is neglecting the (pleasurable?) opportunities of Web 2.0 going to leave academics in a world of hurt? Are those who embrace Web 2.0 going to land themselves in a world of hurt--in tune with the environment-at-large but out of synch with the academy? Of course there is always the middle way, the golden mean, or McLuhan's working at the interface of the two environments. That's probably where I'm trying to go, and struggling in both, hence doubling my pain. Good thing I am a masochistic, protestant, Canadian.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

African stories on NRP

I heard an interesting story this morning about the murder and legacy of the Congo's first leader of the postcolonial era, Patrice Lumumba. I don't know much about Lumumba yet, but a documentary about him looks like a good place to start.

Yesterday, as I was driving my Sudanese friend Joseph home from graduation, we heard this NPR story about Lost Boy Emmanuel Jal, now a successful musician. As Jal was describing walking to Ethiopia, then back to Sudan, and living through those incredibly difficult years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I turned to Joseph and said, "can you believe that you were there, too, and now you are here, in Fargo ND, a graduate of NDSU?" He said he couldn't believe it. A couple of good stories linked here, too.

NPR is doing a heck of a job covering African stories.

Friday, May 09, 2008

MediaTropes: The McLuhan Issue

Thanks to the more or less anonymous comment two posts ago, I just discovered the inaugural issue of MediaTropes is devoted to McLuhan: "Marshall McLuhan's 'Medium is the Message': Information Literacy in a Multimedia Age." Great contributors, good looking articles = lots of reading.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Petition: Get State Dept. to Pressure Rwanda out of DRC

Through my involvement with Friends of the Congo, I learn about initiatives and petitions like this one, seeking to pressure the State Dept. to play a more aggressive diplomatic role in getting Rwanda out of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I met and have gotten to know Martin Buhendwa and his family; Congolese refugees who have been living in Kakuma, Kenya (the UNHCR refuggee camp) for almost ten years now. They fled the DRC because of the Rwandan invasion; they can't return home because of the ongoing instability. The US needs to use its diplomatic powers (cough cough) to try and stabilize that part of the world. 5 million Congolese have died since 1998 because of the fighting.

Please read up on this issue and consider signing the petition.

Monday, May 05, 2008

4CS ideas

Crunch time this week--4Cs proposals due this Friday. I'm at a point where I need to propose something I haven't quite started yet, so a few different ideas are floating around blogosphere. Conference theme: Making Waves.

1. War and Peace and the Global Village. I have been wanting to do something with this text for a while, and I am doing a seminar in the fall WPGV: Rhetorical Acts Post 9/11. Can I turn my class prep into a 4Cs proposal? Maybe.

2. Making Noise (Waves): Something something about heuristics and heuretics. I just read an essay by Donna Haraway in which seem employs the old semiotic square, but she does it with an acknowledgment that such devices are noisy old contraptions. Her argument could really help me push and sell my own interest / obsession with McLuhan's Laws of Media, McCloud's Big Triangle, Ulmer's heuretics.

3. Untitled. I would like to follow-up on a McLuhan-McCloud essay that will be coming out in CCC sometime in the next year about experimental academic writing. I've been wanting to connect the dots, write a history, of the experimental essay from McLuhan through Mark Taylor and into the comp-rhet interest in the Yancey-Spooner "new essay;" an interest that seems to have waned again.

A little feedback would go a long way!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Two ideas in one post!

A student of a friend of mine analyzed my blog for an assignment and came to the conclusion that I never blog on more than one idea at a time. I think that was a nice way of saying my blog is boring, so tonight, two ideas! Wait, not really ideas, just links.

John Walters used the phrase "OHM Thesis," to refer to the Ong, Havelock, McLuhan thesis that, in McLuhan terms, boils down to "the medium is the massage." A cultural, epistemological, ontological massage at that! I had not run across that phrase until reading John's post. John is also moving to the middle of the country (Omaha)--welcome to the fly-over, John, and congratulations. (Does that count as two ideas?)

Billie Hara at TCU linked to my end of semester angsty post about teaching (thanks!), and when I visited her site (new to me), I found that she does great work with digital photography. I'm going to have to work her work into Visual Culture and Language next time I teach that course.

I've actually got other ideas, but will save them for summer--my favorite blogging season.