Technology and Culture

I don't get out much

A few months ago, I sent a text message to a friend of mine, not knowing whether or not her phone would accept them. A couple of days later, she called me, laughing, saying that she had gotten the text message, but at her land line, which I had accidentally text-messaged instead. The phone rang, and she heard the message in this weird digitized voice. She was bewildered, having not encountered this before. I sent a text message yesterday to a friend, only to get a return message with the Text to Landline notification. I laughed for a good five minutes. Now I'm going to start text-messaging all my friends who have land lines.

So last night I got back from the Next/Text meeting; this is why I haven't blogged in a few days. I read Baby Laughs by Jenny McCarthy and Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions. I guess last time it was representations of India; now it's the parenting memoir (I also read Life As We Know It by Michael Bérubé and Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields.

Recent presentation on blogs and social bookmarking

On April 6, I did a presentation as part of a Technology-Enhanced Learning Seminar at the University of Minnesota's Digital Media Center. The topic was "Web 2.0: Promoting Collaboration and Student-Centered Learning," and I was the third person to present in this four-person panel. If you like, you can view the presentation; it isn't the best one I've done by any means, but you can get a sense of how I've used weblogs in my teaching and how I will use social bookmarking. Bradley Dilger is cited liberally throughout the social bookmarking section of my presentation.

This is news?

Microsoft Word saves author information in a doc file. Who knew?

But seriously. It's 2006, and these are people who have had access to computers, Windows, and Word for years now. Hasn't anyone ever hovered a mouse over a file icon before? Wow. It's being discussed on the ATTW listserv and at Crooked Timber as well, thankfully from a more clueful perspective. Back in 2003-4 when we were overseeing the review process for Into the Blogosphere, we engaged in the painstaking process of creating a file for each author, copying and pasting both reviewers' comments into the document, and saving it on one of the machines in the Rhetoric Department, so that the author byline would just read "Department of Rhetoric" or "COAFES" (College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences) when we emailed the file to the reviewer. When a reviewer used the yellow post-it note feature in Word to leave comments in the body of the text, we just stripped the author's information. Admittedly, there still could have been some way a particularly savvy user could find out the information anyway, but if there was, we couldn't think of it, and hey, at least we were aware of the issue and tried to do something about it.

Edited to add: I'm not trying to be a Big Meanie or make anyone feel bad; it's really nothing personal. I'm just honestly surprised and slightly disappointed that there's such apparent widespread lack of awareness of this information.

Linky

First, some old stuff I should have blogged weeks ago: the posts at Crooked Timber and 11D about Unequal Childhoods, a monograph by sociologist Annette Lareau. The book description from Amazon, for expediency:

Class does make a difference in the lives and futures of American children. Drawing on in-depth observations of black and white middle-class, working-class, and poor families, Unequal Childhoods explores this fact, offering a picture of childhood today. Here are the frenetic families managing their children's hectic schedules of "leisure" activities; and here are families with plenty of time but little economic security. Lareau shows how middle-class parents, whether black or white, engage in a process of "concerted cultivation" designed to draw out children's talents and skills, while working-class and poor families rely on "the accomplishment of natural growth," in which a child's development unfolds spontaneously--as long as basic comfort, food, and shelter are provided. Each of these approaches to childrearing brings its own benefits and its own drawbacks. In identifying and analyzing differences between the two, Lareau demonstrates the power, and limits, of social class in shaping the lives of America's children.

Admittedly, I haven't read the book, and I'm sure Lareau probably accounts for this, but I don't recall reading in the threads at 11D or Crooked Timber any consideration of families in which one parent is middle class and the other is working class (obviously the class position of the family would be one or the other -- or neither. I'm talking about the class backgrounds of the parents). Presumably, assuming each parent is equally involved in childrearing, the child would get some of both "concerted cultivation" and "accomplishment of natural growth."

Alex Reid has some interesting thoughts about not getting podcasting. He gets it, of course; the thing is, he just isn't all that impressed, heh.

How Tyler Cowen cooks blackened fish.

The only pictures that were taken of me at CCCC.

I command it! Read this review of the new collection of Elizabeth Bishop's previously unpublished poetry, Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box. And listen to this interview/slide show with Alice Quinn, the editor of the collection. Seriously, I do command it.

While you're at the New Yorker's site, read Relatively Deprived, a critique of how the poverty rate is calculated.

CCCC Wrapup

A 4Cs wrapup post is long overdue. I saw just about everyone I wanted to see, plus met some great new people, including Madeleine, Tyra, jo(e), Deb, timna, Steve, Bradley, Brendan, and Sharon.

I attended some sessions, but I didn't always take notes. I know there are many defenders of the "read a paper" presentation model, but I have less and less patience for it with each passing year. It does sometimes work okay, but only rarely, and only if there are enough extemporaneously spoken asides to keep the audience's attention. The cadence of reading is so very different from extemporaneous speaking -- so much less animated and more monotonous -- that, for me, it's almost impossible to follow. I'm in agreement with William Major that we should do conference presentations more like how we teach.

My paper follows below the fold (and my slides are attached to this post). It looks disjointed, but I spoke extemporaneously a lot of the material. That's what I usually do at conferences: I have either no paper at all and just some notecards, or a paper with cues like this one. I hope you get something out of it. NB: Links to the original article and all the posts I cite are here.

Notes on 2006 CCCC Blogging SIG

NB: Mike Edwards contributed heavily to these notes. In fact, most of what's here is his work, so I want him to get credit for it.

The CCCC Blogging SIG had a large and productive meeting Thursday night in Chicago. We began by discussing some of the initiatives the SIG had proposed the previous year, including the one-page paper handout guide for teachers new to blogging (which, we might hope, will continue to be revised collaboratively and kept up to date as necessary), as well as thoughts about assessment of weblog writing, outcomes of weblog use in writing courses and professional endeavors, and a possible large multi-institution study investigating the classroom uses of weblogs.

Following the initial discussion, we split up into five small groups focusing on action in specific areas. The groups discussed their areas and reported back when we reconvened. Here are the results of our discussion:

  1. Securing grant funding for a large, qualitative multi-institution study on weblogs in writing pedagogy: This group thought it would be most appropriate to start with simply laying out the steps in the grant-writing process. So:
    1. Put out open call for researchers on Kairosnews and other weblogs: have you done classroom- based blog research, and would you be willing to share the results? (This, initially, might likely involve a simple survey with questions about the number of students involved, the longevity of the study, what the classes were (tech comm? FYC? Advanced composition? Literature courses? etc.), and so forth.)
    2. Mine past CCCC programs for presentations on qualitative blog studies to get a sense of what classroom research people have already done on blogs.
    3. Use the information gathered to shape the drafting of possible research questions focused on the consequences of assigning weblog work. (Feedback here with considerations for shaping those questions is welcomed!)
    4. Review grant guidelines again given the information gathered. (CCCC research initiative and the NCTE Citigroup technology grant are possibilities; again, other suggestions are welcomed.)
    5. Compose a budget. (Possible line items include funding for research assistants to code data, consultants with expertise in qualitative research, SRSS software.)
    6. Flesh out the grant proposal, especially with expected outcomes from the study. (One possibility suggested might be an annotated bibliography, in the manner of Bedford, of weblog scholarship.)
  2. Assessment and outcomes considerations for weblogs and teaching, possibly including questions of genre (Facebook, MySpace, et cetera). This group analytically framed its approach as a highly specific (and provocative) question: what constitutes an "outcome" for a single blog post? Top-down solutions for constructing outcomes seem problematic, so what happens if we look for a Web 2.0-style bottom-up mode of analysis; using "dynamic criteria mapping" to see how evaluative criteria (as tags) cluster themselves, and possibly setting up a space for that online -- what would that look like? (Well, let's do it and see!)
  3. Institutional blogging / social software considerations. Action here seems fairly straightforward: Compose a position statement to push to the resolution committee next year; something that covers comprehensively all these areas we're talking about, partly to help move away from the problems of ad- hocracy.
  4. Weblogs and professionalization. Again, fairly straightforward: we need to move the profession towards a space where we're more aware of blogging as professional activity. To what degree can we "get credit" for blogging? And, deriving from that, how can we start thinking about blogging as professionals? (One question that was asked in response: if blogging becomes a professional activity, does it lose some portion of its value as teaching/writing tool?) It might be useful to compile blog posts that illustrate the professional virtues of blogging (viz. Deborah Hawhee's post in order to respond to those frequent doubts and questions about the professional value of blogging. There's a need, as well, to map and illustrate (viz. Clancy's map of p2p review) for our colleagues how academic interaction operates on blogs.
  5. Rethinking the design and architecture of weblogs and other social software tools as a necessary component of our discipline, and possibly thinking about weblogs as a "gateway technology." With blogging, there's a need to move beyond composition's ubiquitous pedagogical imperative and ask other questions: perhaps about the pitfalls of institutional support (e.g., those who see it as not "cool" to use university blog spaces because of the perceived lack of "ownership"); about how to aggregate or represent or link to student work (e.g., the question of whether to use a hub or a distributed model; about doing more work with design rather than plugging content into preexisting templates.
So: an ambitious agenda, with lots of stuff to do. The next necessary question would seem to be: are there people who would be willing to shepherd these projects, either individually or collaboratively? Finally, two questions and an announcement:
  • Would it perhaps be useful and productive to merge the efforts of the Blogging SIG and the Wiki Rhetoricians SIG -- perhaps into the CCCC Social Software SIG?
  • Would a SIG blog be useful? (Consensus: yes.) There seemed to be broad agreement that the easiest solution might be adding a SIG category for posts at Kairosnews. [Done.--Clancy]
  • And now the announcement: During the meeting, Collin proposed that Kairos name the Best Academic Weblog award after John Lovas. We felt that it was the best idea presented the whole night. Mike emailed Doug Eyman, who wholeheartedly agreed. Thanks to everyone for a great meeting.

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

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Notes for a Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda Article

For some time now, I had been planning on submitting a proposal for a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly on distributed work. However, due to the fact that I'm neck-deep in dissertation work, I have to prepare for CCCC and other talks/engagements, and the fact that I couldn't decide on a topic in time, I'm just not going to be able to do it. It's probably for the best. It would have been impractical to write a draft of a manuscript in April, May, and June that has nothing to do with my dissertation topic AND finish what are currently mighty ugly and sorta stinky drafts of chapters 3 and 5. I'm hearing Dana Carvey as George H.W. Bush in my mind: "Not gonna do it! Not...gonna...doit."

I had a lot of ideas, as I said, and if I could have just decided on one, I could have developed it into something, but again, it's best to focus on my dissertation and publications that could come out of it (one would hope). This is the idea I ended up deciding on that never fully baked, or even half-baked, but maybe someday I can come back to it. I was going to address this question from the CFP:

How do we teach technical communicators who expect to go into the support economy? What are our political-ethical responsibilities and our logistical challenges? What changes do we need to make to pedagogical theory?

I had the idea that the standard technical communication course, with its focus on genre, could be revised to reflect the collaborative, peer-productive practices that Web 2.0 technologies embody. This course would emphasize a dynamic relationship between author and audience, like The Cluetrain Manifesto advocates, as well as networked communication rather than discrete pieces of writing like the memo and feasibility report. Here are the notes I put together for the proposal; in reading this, you'll see how I write to myself when I'm planning a project:

The standard technical communication survey class generally consists of students from a variety of majors, most of whom intend to pursue careers in industry. Because the course serves students in diverse fields of study, the assignments often reflect a focus on genre, with content as interchangeable: resume, cover letter, memo, proposal, progress report, feasibility report.

But is the standard TC course, in fact, designed this way? If so, why? Are there TC scholars and pedagogical theorists who have explicitly recommended that it should be taught this way? I have a suspicion that part of the rationale behind the design of the courses has to do with administrative expediency. What I mean is, the course has to serve lots of students from different majors and has an instrumental purpose for many of them, so students should be able to customize it for their needs; student satisfaction is higher if they can integrate TC with their other courses/internships, etc. Not that scholarship/pedagogy and administration are mutually exclusive here – the principles of flexibility and customization are sound pedagogical principles for student-centered course design – but as with any course, there are administrative factors to consider such as the course’s objectives, place in the curriculum, and enrollment trends.

The subject matter that students write about could still be malleable in a TC course that builds in distributed work patterns facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies, but how would such a TC course be designed? Maybe the focus would just be more attentive to processes, organization, information/knowledge management, and collaborative strategies than to genre. But to be sure, genre isn't going away, and it needs to be taught too.

Right now I'm worried about a few things:

1. Making a case that most TC courses are designed this way (A very smart person suggested looking at the sample syllabi in TC textbooks, but I'm not sure which textbooks are the most widely used and influential, or how to find out.)

2. Making a case that distributed work/Web 2.0 work processes accurately represent what students will actually be doing when they enter the workplace (with students' diverse fields of study and career choices, I fear this one will be impossible to argue persuasively)

3. (As it follows from #2) Making a case that revising the standard TC survey course to integrate Web 2.0 technologies and distributed work principles would better prepare students to write in the workplace than the generic approach does

4. Theory (what theory to use, how to use it, etc. I have a feeling that there might be a theory that would help me sidestep the empirical question implied in #2, but don't know what it is)

I'm not sure how to approach this paper without confronting those BIG claims/problems in 1, 2, and 3. It would be more manageable if I could refine the claims somehow.

...and there was the impasse. Maybe these notes will help someone with a project, at least.

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Hodge Podge

Thanks to Pi for the title.

  • Today, on the way to do some catsitting, I heard "She Loves You" on the radio, and I immediately thought of Jamie Bérubé.
  • The blogosphere is talking about dreams lately. Both of these dreams feature a dirty toilet, and others have mentioned having the "unusable toilet" dream too. Apparently it's as common as the naked in public dream and the teeth falling out dream. I'd never heard of it or had it before. The latter dream, flea's feminist anxiety dream, has been eliciting some varied emotional reactions. I'm on the side of those who laughed. Flea points out that the dream has special significance for anyone who has worked for a feminist nonprofit. I found that my past experience participating on feminist bulletin boards helped me to understand it, too. Which leads me to the next matter:
  • I'm really interested in reading some comparisons of the experience of blogging vs. posting on bulletin boards. Not studies, but nonacademic narratives. A lot of the same people who are blogging have posted on BBs and Usenet, and I'm curious about the range of opinions on the similarities and differences between people's perception of blogging and BBs/Usenet. I used to be a BB junkie, and I find them to be different from blogs in that with BBs, more thread-hijacking and trolling went on and there could be a good bit of infighting and drama. You're writing for a more specific audience with BBs, and everyone knows everyone else's hobbyhorses and buttons to push. I found it restrictive sometimes. Huh, I may have more to say about this later, but for now I'm going to leave it.
  • An announcement about a new web project:

    Heather Corinna of Scarleteen.com and I are spearheading a young feminist project, the All Girl Army (http://allgirlarmy.org). Right now, we are looking for feminists between the ages of 10 and 23 to get involved, and we are also seeking older women for web design (desperately needed), outreach, editorial, community management, future planning, and other committees. Please spread the word far and wide about this, and if you're interested in joining a committee, email myself (jenny@allgirlarmy.org) and the group at large (enlist@allgirlarmy.org). We believe this project is going to offer an amazing and unprecedented space for young feminist community and organizing, and we would love to have you all involved.

    Peace,
    Jenny

    All Girl Army/ The Young Feminists Project is looking for a few good women to create, nurture and enjoy a women's community targeted to young women internationally, who identify as feminist, between the ages of 10 and 23.

    We expect to debut the site in May of this year, and it will include:

    * 29 featured blogs by young, feminist women and one overarching blog, collectively edited and compiled.
    * An active, moderated discussion board primarily serving, and intended to benefit, young women with a limited area for those of all genders, as well as a limited area for women over 23.
    * Cooperative ownership and management of the site.
    * Collective, dynamic projects driven by young women.
    * A myriad of current resources for young feminists: books, magazines, film, music, art, events and symposiums, other websites, scholarship funds and organizations.

    What's our goal?

    * To increase visibility and self-representation of young women: of your lives, your ideas, your goals, your achievements and your struggles: to counteract lookism and the media's representation of young women with your real voices, unscripted words and real lives.
    * To help foster a supportive, creative and proactive women's community, and nurture relationships and discussion among women of all ages; to help young women develop their feminism and their autonomy via women's community, and discover that other women are allies, not competition.
    * To create and sustain a collective board of feminist women of all ages to manage the site, with a majority vote in decisions given to women under 23; to provide experience for young women in creating, organizing and managing community, advocacy and support for women.
    * To provide mentorship for young women to learn skills you're interested in.
    * To provide a visible exploration and examination of feminism, of growing up female, by and for young women.
    * To show the world the hearts and minds of a whole lot of seriously awesome young women, and to give others, young and old, the chance to be as inspired by all of you as we are.

    Our board and founders are an evolving and eclectic group of women of all ages, from all walks of life. We are everything from a mother of ten to a sexuality educator; from an IT professional to an advocate for battered women; from a women's studies student to a sculptural jeweler, all of us feminist, all of us dedicated to women.

    One woman said that what we're trying to do is "like the radical Girl Scouts!" That sounds pretty good to us. Namely, we want to pass the torch in the best ways we know how, because we feel that all of you are going to redefine feminism as we know it, and have the capacity to make an incredible mark on the world. We feel the internet is an optimal place to do so because it gives us the ability to work internationally and dynamically.

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