Technology and Culture

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Computers and Writing 2005 Link Roundup

For my own and others' reference, links to posts about the 2005 on-site (as opposed to online) Computers and Writing conference.

  • Part 1 and Part 2 of Mike's plans for his presentation
  • Notes from Mike, Charlie, and pictures from Bradley on the Drupal workshop
  • Collin wins the 2005 Best Academic Weblog award and accepts humbly and gracefully
  • Notes from Bradley and Mike on "Politics of Digital Literacy: Cases for Institutional Critique"
  • Notes from Mike on "Copyright Anxiety"
  • Notes from Bradley on "Self Representation and Agency in a Web of Commercialization"
  • Notes from John on Todd Taylor's keynote multimedia presentation, "The End of Composition"
  • Notes from Bradley on "Community Building through Weblogs"
  • Notes from Bradley on "Assessing Students' New Media Projects"
  • Notes from Bradley on "Databases and Collaborative Spaces in First Year Composition
  • Notes from Bradley on "Rhetoric, Writing and Hypertext"
  • Notes from Bradley on "Teaching Visual Literacy"
  • Photos from the conference
  • Fashion commentary from Matt Barton
  • Kim White's notes on the conference

If you blogged the conference and aren't listed, do let me know!

OpenCourseWare Browse

I realized yesterday that I hadn't poked around on MIT's OpenCourseWare in a while. I spent some time browsing the courses on Writing and Humanistic Studies, Women's Studies, STS, Literature, and Comparative Media Studies. Some finds:

I wish I could do more browsing, but I have work to do. I know that back in 2002(?) when MIT OpenCourseWare went live, it was hailed, the only objections -- the only ones I heard, anyway -- being from some who thought that teachers shouldn't be required to make their course designs publicly accessible. Pshaw. How could anyone argue with the clear benefits to students and prospective students? Students can find the courses that are most interesting and challenging to them, allowing for a more individualized program of study, and OpenCourseWare provides by leaps and bounds more insight into the design and content of the course than a title and little blurb in a course catalog does. The one argument contra that does have merit, in my opinion, is the claim that instructors don't have any way to control the look and navigation of the course's site; everything has the uniform MIT OCW look.

What I was really irritated and dismayed by, though, is the sentiment I heard a lot of people express that went something like, "Oh. Well. They're MIT, so they can do that." Eeeyaarrgh! I can't stand this kind of thinking, that you can only do certain things if you're a Big Name. It seems to me to be, if anything, the opposite: that if you're a Big Name, any endeavor you undertake is going to be more high-stakes, and any possible failure is going to be more large-scale and public, so being a small name would give one more freedom to innovate.

Acceptance: Dreadworthy?

The first article I wrote for The Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology, "Gender Theory and Information Technology," was accepted (with revisions). I know that's a broad topic, but it was on the list (.doc file), so I thought it could work. Quick, dirty, and oversimplified summary: In the manuscript, I discuss two major groups of theorists that inform a lot of the work on gender and computing: the Haraway/Stone group and the Chodorow/Gilligan/Belenky et al. group. So why was I apprehensive about opening the attachment with the reviewers' comments? Well, as it turns out, I'm going to have to do a considerable amount of further reading, plus the reviewers pointed out that the manuscript was too long (I knew it was a little too long -- by about 200 words -- but I figured the reviewers would have suggestions on what I could cut). They seem to think that it might be best to form two separate articles from the manuscript.

Point is, I need to devote a lot of thought to these revisions...and get them done by July 8. I wonder how my other article will fare. If they ultimately get rejected, I'll post them here for your pointing and laughing pleasure.

Mapping, the city, and technologies (some resources)

I'm way behind the curve when it comes to thinking about and getting involved in the intersections among ubiquitous computing, art, the imagination, rhetoric, the personal/emotional, and geography, unlike some people I know, but an article in Wired, The Art of Street Talk, caught my interest. Plus I know it's The Next Big Thing, or maybe The Current Big Thing, and I need to catch up -- which means not just reading about it, but actually making media that engages these areas (I wish I had actually gone to some of those flash mobs I intended to participate in). An excerpt from the article:

Next time you're walking down a city sidewalk, look out for the internet. It's all around you -- and not just in the phone lines and cables running under the streets or in the airborne Wi-Fi streams. In recent months, several services have sprung up to allow a communion between the real world and the internet, with cell phones acting as the medium.

If you send a text message to an e-mail address scrawled in paint on a subway advertisement or on a sidewalk, for example, you could get some digital pop art on your phone in return.

An adhesive arrow on a telephone pole could hold the key to the history of a nearby building.

[. . .]

[John] Geraci[, founder of Grafedia,] likened grafedia to putting a message in a bottle. "You don't know who will find it and uncork it, and it doesn't really matter," he said. "It's an act of anonymous, artistic sharing, done with strangers in your city."

According to the article, a teacher at Central Connecticut State University assigned this kind of place-marking to his students; I'd love to know who the professor was and what the course was about. The article set me off in several different directions, including to yellowarrow, Grafedia, and [murmur], which I enjoyed; from the main site, you go to a map, select a red dot, and then hear a story about that place. I went to Toronto once for the Association of Internet Researchers' conference; maybe I could tell a story about that. I went to Toronto during the tail end of the SARS scare, and I wish I could include a link in the audio file I'd record. It would lead to this.

MOO: I finally get it

Last night I participated in a MOO for the first time as part of Lennie Irvin's presentation for the Computers and Writing Online conference. Actually, it wasn't an old-school text-based MOO, but a web-based MOO running on enCore. I ended up learning a lot about MOO from talking to the experienced MOOers in there. For a long time, I was one of those people who had only a vague sense of MOO as synchronous chat. I thought, what makes these any different from, say, AOL Instant Messenger? Those I talked to before said something to the effect of, "Well, you have these rooms in the MOO, and the rooms are saved -- always there when you go back." I didn't at the time understand the meaning of that; it didn't seem like a good enough reason to continue to study MOO or to use them in writing courses. So I continued with my view of "The MOO is dead. Long live the blog!" (Kairosnews inside joke.)

But I now see that MOO still has much to offer rhetorically and pedagogically if people continue to use it. What struck me the most were the connections I saw to a post from a while back on Collin's blog in which he linked to Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In it, Pink argues that in the emerging "conceptual age," the following five skills are becoming very important: "design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning." From what I learned about MOO last night, I'd go as far as to say that MOO is an ideal technology that could be used for bringing out these skills. Of course, writers must learn visual design and how to tell stories with images and sound, which means learning not just how to use tools like PhotoShop and iMovie, but fundamental design principles like line, color, texture, and form. But with MOO, users are forced to provide rich descriptions of rooms, objects, and ways of interacting with the objects. It's design on a different level, and I would argue very creative.

Consider Alex Reid's list of what should be in a writing program (I don't list them all here):

  • some creative writing courses, which offer opportunity for experimentation, for practicing poetic language, for thinking about character (psychology/affect) and narrative, for crossing genres, and for addressing audience in a unique way;
  • courses in poetics and rhetoric as the underlying theories/philosophies of writing, which is something often absent from creative writing courses that tend to naturalize the writing process (and here I'm NOT thinking about the conventional rhetorics of a FYC handbook, not a pragmatics/how-to of process and audience-awareness, but an encounter with the aporias of symbolic behavior--again, the point is to develop the creative, conceptual "right-brain");
  • courses in other professional genres--technical writing, business writing, and so on--that are not taught in the traditional positivistic manner, but rather in the context of creative writing and rhetoric/poetics;
  • and, of course, coursework in new media, the practical but also its aesthetics, poetics, and rhetorics, which is not to say that technology isn't infused throughout this curriculum, but that you actually have to have a place where students experiment with the media.

It's not that I don't think weblogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc. aren't great technologies, but MOO makes a lot of sense to me in meeting these objectives, and I'm ready to get behind efforts to keep them in use.

Dissertation Fellowship Proposal

What follows is my fellowship application. I know a lot of you have been wanting me to post my prospectus here, and this is a short, readable version. I'm still working out the chapter outlines...and, well, plenty of other questions and puzzles about my dissertation, too.

GENDER, PUNDITRY, AND WEBLOGS: BLOGGING’S CHALLENGE TO CURRENT UNDERSTANDINGS OF POLITICAL DISCOURSE

ABSTRACT

In the last three years, blogging has gained recognition as a phenomenon in online communication, offering ordinary citizens a platform to publish their ideas and a space for deliberative political discourse. However, the majority of the most influential and widely-read political bloggers are men, and issues of concern to women are often not given equal attention, a disparity that has been discussed in the “Where are the women?” debates. I argue that these debates reveal disruptions of assumptions surrounding political discourse. Identifying these points can enrich our understanding of gendered rhetorical practices and the way they are constituted on weblogs.

Jumble of links and thoughts

I'm in Alabama until Saturday, and while I've been working at the library here, I've also been watching too much vapid TV and too many movies (we're talking stuff like Bubble Boy, Eulogy, and Wet Hot American Summer). So I have to hit the books, course preparation, dissertation, everything when I get back. But for now, a fluff post with no interparagraphic transitions whatsoever.

Proposals are being sought for a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly on Technical Communication in the Age of Distributed Work. It's going to be great once it comes out, very forward-thinking.

Note to self: I want to use the famous Margaret Mead quotation: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" in my syllabus for the class I'm teaching this summer. [Edited to add: Does anyone know what the original source for that is? I hate not having a specific page number or date/place, if it's a speech.] It's called "Group Process, Team Building, and Leadership," and it centers on work done in small groups. It's also one of the courses that fulfills the Citizenship and Public Ethics theme requirement, and usually teachers require students to do group projects on local issues, which I'm very excited about, as this will let me try out a modified version of that city writing/finds research process that Jenny and Jeff talk about. I have lots of ideas already, and a while back I used the new-for-OSX-Tiger built-in news aggregator in Safari to set up a folder of feeds from all the local publications I could think of, so that's helped a lot.

At Jonathan's insistence, I watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. People are shocked that I'm such a science fiction geek but I've never seen those movies. I'm already seeing Star Wars' influence on other movies and series. For example, Data on Star Trek: TNG reminds me a lot of C3PO (telling the captain the odds that some act of derring-do won't work, social ineptitude, etc.) and Moya's pilot on Farscape even reminds me a little of C3PO as well. I must see episodes 1, 2, and 3 now.

I finally created a Flickr account, and I'm wondering why I didn't do it months ago.

Check out this cool Drupal ad for the Free Software Magazine!

For anyone who was scratching his or her head about the relevance and import of the work that's being done on silence (see also Cheryl Glenn's Unspoken), this op-ed piece should clear it up for you.

Am I, like, the only person alive who had never heard of The Red Hat Society until the other day? All the stores around here have Red Hat lady merchandise -- red hats, of course, purple clothing, ceramic figurines of red hats, purple socks with little red hats embroidered on them, etc. Cookie jars, even. I saw the cover of one of the books from far away and thought, hey, that looks like an interesting Linux user/developer group! Seriously though, I told the manager of my local yarn store that they should offer special knitting classes for Red Hat Society women and classes for friends and family of Red Hat women in which they could knit red hats and other red and purple stuff as gifts for them. She thought it was a great idea. I hope they do it; I want to do anything I can to support locally-owned businesses.

Computers and Writing Online 2005: Announcement and Conference Program

I know I've blogged about this before, but I'm on the organizing committee of this conference, and I'm going to promote it; that's just the way it is. This is the big announcement, with the long version of the conference program below the fold (I copied and pasted all the abstracts here, which the Attribution-NoDerivs-Noncommercial Creative Commons license encourages me to do, I might add).

Computers and Writing Online 2005
When Content Is No Longer King: Social Networking, Community, and Collaboration

The 2005 Computers and Writing Online Conference begins on Tuesday,
May 31, and runs through Monday, June 13. This is the first-ever
online conference in our field to be open-access, Creative
Commons-licensed, and hosted on a weblog, and it promises to be
innovative and insightful. We set out to perform the concepts and values of the conference theme -- networking, community, and collaboration -- in our review process, which was open to the public and emphasized group
interaction and helpful, supportive feedback. The responders have done
an excellent job engaging the authors' ideas, and the authors'
responses to the feedback they received have really demonstrated how
enriching this public, collaborative model can be for scholarly work.
The conference organizers would like to extend a big "Thank you!" to
the authors and the responders. Included with each abstract in this
announcement is the link to the original; we strongly encourage you to
read the comments.

As with the abstracts, the presentations are accessible to anyone with
an internet connection, and anyone with an account at Kairosnews
(registration is free) can leave comments. For more information, visit
the CW Online 2005 weblog: http://kairosnews.org/cwonline05/home

Drawing upon the conference's theme of exploring the increasing value
of the network and collaborative practices within it, presenters
examine the role(s) played by social networking applications and other
technologies that are intended to foster social interaction,
community, and collaboration. Alongside studying the technologies
themselves, presenters will observe and describe the ways that
writers and users are engaging the technologies and how such
engagement is changing our ideas about writing and teaching writing,
and, more broadly, the concepts of rhetoric and composition
themselves. We very much hope you'll get involved by leaving your
comments, or, if you prefer, respond on your own weblog and leave a
trackback! Or write a response on your wiki! Or tag presentations on
your del.icio.us or de.lirio.us list! You get the idea. This
conference is meant to be networked.

=============================================

CONFERENCE PROGRAM (SHORT VERSION):

May 31: Charlie Lowe and Dries Buytaert: It's about the Community
Plumbing: The Social Aspects of Content Management Systems

June 2: Cathy Ma: What's so special about the Wikipedia?

June 4: Olin Bjork and John Pedro Schwartz: E-service Learning

June 6: Bob Stein, Kim White, Ben Vershbow, and Dan Visel: Sorting the
Pile: Making Sense of A Networked Archive

June 7: Traci Gardner: From Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine to The
Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez

June 8: Lennie Irvin: MOO-the Second Decade? 7:00-8:30 p.m. CDT ProNoun MOO

June 9: John Spartz: Web Accessibility and Its Impact on Student
Learning: A Qualitative Study

June 10: Matt Payne: Digital Divides, Video Games, and New Media

June 11: Marina Meza & Susanna Turci: Desiging an Electronic Bilingual
Dictionary for International Trade

June 12: Collin Brooke: Weblogs as Deictic Systems

June 13: Erika Menchen: Feedback, Motivation and Collectivity on del.icio.us

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