Monday, June 29, 2009

Hospitality and Thermostats

I bet the June issue of CCC is its most read number; definitely the one I always have the most time for. I boldly claimed to Betsy that June 2009 might be the greatest issue of all time--all the pieces are of interest to me, anyway. I have started with Haswell, Haswell, and Blalock's "Hospitality in College Composition Courses" because I have been reading and thinking about hospitality with my refugee resettlement work. They steer clear (more or less) of the philosophical debates (Derrida and Levinas most notably), arguing that they see hospitality as a cultural practice and not a theoretical concept--nice move (708). They offer up three types of hospitality--homeric, judeo-christian, and nomadic--then offer their own choice, "transformative hospitality." I particularly liked their argument that a hospitable classroom is not teacher nor students centered, but inter-active centered, although I wondered about their claim that that the host-guest is an equitable relationship. Although steps can be taken to mitigate the power of the host, that position comes with the power of setting the environment and being "at home." I am always much more comfortable as host than guest.

I expected Paul Lynch's "Composition as a Thermostatic Activity" to give McLuhan's hot and cool a nod, but Lynch is a Postmanite, not a McLuhanite (or so it seems), and while the two overlap considerable, Postman's thermostat seems to not actually use the temperature metaphor. Lynch argues that a thermostatic pedagogy is a pedagogy of counterbalance, and building indirectly on Haswell, Haswell, and Blalock, Lynch seems actually to be arguing for something close to a pedagogy of inter-activeness, although perhaps slightly in-hospitable even as Lynch says we need to "discover what our students need most" (742). The counterbalanced pedagogies unsettles students positions, whether they agree with us or not, and it seems to be Lynch's argument that it is this unsettling that they need most.

The McLuhan take on thermostatic pedagogy (for those wondering) is one that has to do with heating up and cooling off the classroom. Heating up = information rich, whether in the form of a lecture, a dense text, an information rich assignment. Cooling down = participatory activities, students engaging and producing material more so than receiving and consuming. Lynch's essay gives me a nice entre into thermostatic teaching, but still lots of room for exploring / advancing this argument.

More to come as I work my way through the issue.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bill Cope on new media

Bill Cope just outline his talk about new media: will he really be able to get past McLuhan? He sees learning as being about design and synaesthesia, very McLuhan. Agency is new, he suggests; once tidy distinctions are blurred. McLuhan said this. First and second order differences, a new dynamics of difference, sees an increase in divergence due in part to increased opportunities for agency. This is new, goes against some of the grains of homogenous globalization. Shift from character to pixel, but resists (somewhat) the shift from word to image by pointing out the extensive use of writing even on television and architecture. Multimodal inveilgment? Missed that word; got distracted by thoughts of Derrida and invagination.

Cope's discussion of GML, SGML, HtML, XML is very informative; makes the point that we really haven't figure out how to deal with text in a way that makes use of the technology available to us. No wonder he wrote a book (edited?) called the Future of the Book in the Digital Age.

Interesting new information graphic on learning, builds on multiliteracy work. Emphasis on things you do to know.
Updates multimodality through synaesthesia.
Calling for transformative learning; ubiquitous learning.
Imagining a new electronic space in which the workspace is also the evaluation / assessment space, continuous feedback. Cool idea, but technical limitations?

Microphones ruining the q&a again.

Poetry and the database

John Walter "Database Rhapsody: From Database to Geek DJ." Refashioning memory for digital age. Drawing on medieval tradition of not strongly distinguishing between internal and external memory; we don't really understand medieval rhetoric because we understand the history of rhetoric through the handbook tradition, and medieval rhetoric's emphasis was memory. Memory not as rote, but (paraphrasing Carruthers) a library of our life, a matrix (database) for composing. Reminds me of McLuhan's diss.; grammar as database, rhetoric as creative output for database. Pre-electronic databases: oral tradition itself--proverbs and songs--common place things, social common places (could draw on Cliche to Archetype here). Covers good ideas of contemporary databases as invention, the compose with flickr exercise, etc. Wondering how we encourage knowledge management on the part of our students, ourselves.

Rhymes and Reasons for an Academic Poet's Electronic Platform, Brad Henderson and Andy Jones. They identify themselves as Rhet / Comp by day, poets by night; explain a poetry night program that they run in Davis; start with contrast, move towards integration, square peg of prose inside of round poetry. Cover topics from multimedia to publicity; they have interns working for them to help with the publicity--wonder how that works, funding, etc.? Wondering about Poetry Across the Curriculum. Also wondering about their experience with pre-professional classes: the pleasure they finally take in writing. Andy's show available on

Friday, June 19, 2009

fanfiction and the culture of speed

Yukiko Nishimura presenting on Japanese phone novels; showed a video of a novel being read and written. Providing good description; reporting on criticism of amateurism; Nishimura is a linguist, so she is more interested in language complexity. Shows that Keita novels linguistically look a lot like traditional print novels. Grade readability, 6-8; sample novels grades 5-9. Famous Japanese novelist wrote a Keitai that came in with 5th grade readability. Conclusions--went by quickly, but generally positive results. Same issues as most online forms of communication.

Betsy Birmingham is presenting on "Bring Smexy Back." Great title! Clearly outlining study and getting laughs at the same time--amazing! Fast cuts, mixed media (not just video but fan art and other things). Calls for mix method: ethnographic, case studies, quantitative. Illustrates strong gender differences: technically and in content, response rates and nature of response to one another, community building, etc.. Final question: why are girls so interested in boys boinking? I'll let her answer that. : )

Lynn Lewis, "Literacy in the age of speed:" Great contextualization of culture of speed; calls for greater awareness of literacy within the age of speed. Makes sense! Analysis of AP exam, the ways in which the clock own the text, determines the writing. [Much like "programs" shape student writing, a test like the AP exam calls forth the writing."] Students have come to understand that writing should be efficient, timely; calls this writing for the logic of the market. Follows up with another example of writing for the network, which subordinates clock time--good point. Going back to Yukiko, however, this speed writing for the network is used as a "between" space. Filling time with writing; interesting.

The Rhetoric of Peace Session

Sustaining Peace: Nancy Barron and Sibylle Gruber.

Teaching a course called “Rhetorics of Peace” as an UDW course. I wonder if we could develop an UDW class called “Writing for Change” that would be promoted as action-oriented, lots of business, project management, etc., etc. Could be pitched to “Engineers without Borders, teachers without Borders, etc.” PoliSci students?

Zinn, Buddha, Day, Thoreau, Emerson, Addams.

Architects of Peace!! Wow. Website and bound book.
Cronkite: skeptical.
Angelou: gets them hopeful.
What does peace look like without war? They start to pay attention to images, to portraits.
Mother Tereasa’s advice: smile 5X a day.
Proposal, feasibility report, writing, presentation. Poster board presentations.
Community got engaged; mayor, Peace Corps, deans and chairs.

When applied at the first year level:
Gee, Hall, NLG, Sturken and Cartwright (look up), Selber.
Developed an in-house documentary about social action – interview with students.
Doc. done by graduate student: logistics?
Central question: what would I do? (students researched volunteer opportunities, had to find a match with their own values).
Senior projects: Midwives and Nurses: Choices for Women.
Sexworkers Unite: A call for unions.
Domestic Violence: A call for awareness.

[connect with God’s child – human trafficking.]
I'd rather teach peace: another book to look up.

Catching up on CW presentations

Attending the 2009 CW conference. Attended the morning town hall, but didn't have my laptop out. Some good ideas from Michael Day about encouraging adjunct faculty to more formally share their own ideas and practices. Other good ideas.

I presented at 9:30; we got a late start so things were rushed, but Kris Blair offered a compelling vision for bringing the whole English department along with technology, engagement, innovation. I talked about the true function of the computer: to program and orchestrate terrestrial and galactic environments and energies in a harmonious way. CJ Jenny talked about disruptive mobile technologies.

Now attending keynote: Barbara Ganley, "Ecotones and Crossroads: Re-imagining the space of learning in an in-between time."
Cool presentation software, interactive style. Supposed to conjure a metaphor from a picture I was given: snow covered chair. Challenging; snow covered chairs are my life. Easy answer might be cool writing, cool sitting. Post card from partner. We came up with a story: I alluded to McLuhan, her post card alludes to Derrida, they both were asking "us" to rethink writing 40 years ago, but here were are in 2009 being asked by a keynote speaker to rethink writing.

Ganley's point: the second writing, the second prompt was better, it directed a conversation, built a metaphor. McLuhan might say the action is at the interface; without the second image, we have no interface, friction, energy. She also encourages these exercises in class to encourage play, to leave the grade behind.

Also encouraged twitter as playful practice. Worth considering. No need to think about sustained twitter use, but just as a warm up exercise. I do need to think about these kinds of activities with visual culture and language and electronic communication.

Interesting phenomenon happening here. The hosts are trying to record everything, but that desire to capture everything keeps getting in the way of conversations and presentations. All questions are supposed to be spoken into a mic; the presenter was clicking so a techie came up and fixed the "problem."

Ask experts to come in. I've been thinking of getting Mary M to be a guest in my online class; I should probably ask Helen O and maybe a professional medical writer (Michael?). Others? Gotta work around the Bb problem. Maybe move to Facebook.

Cool exercise adding notes to flick photos; this exercise definitely works for VCL!
Also a good photo essay exercise sample.

Looks like the twitter # on this presentation was lively. Still haven't gotten the hang of hashing.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Book pitch: would you read Holding on by a Thread?

I've been working on a manuscript for a while now, and I am ready to try out a pitch. Let me know what you think; lots of room for revision.

Holding on by a Thread: The Lives of Refugees (and what individuals can do to welcome them).

Holding on by a Thread is an account of the complicated lives of three refugee families in Fargo, North Dakota. Author Kevin Brooks unexpectedly found himself intricately involved with the lives of a young Sudanese man trying to raise siblings and his own family, a Somali couple largely homebound due to war injuries and limited English skills, and a Congolese family of six with big ambitions to succeed in America, but held back by red tape and limited resources during their first 100 days in Fargo. Holding On shares life dilemmas and complications that should challenge readers to ask, “What would I have done in their situation?” and “What can I do to help these families, or ones like them in my own community?” The global village, now more than ever, can be realized through friendships and individuals’ efforts, rather than television or the Internet, and friendship, Brooks learns, is the key to a global education.