Technology and Culture

I love YouTube

It's similar to Flickr for videos, and I found it courtesy of Chuck. Some of the videos I've watched today:

The Scientist

The Gun Show (not really the title, but it amused me)

Random Reggae Moment

The Life of Eoin Griffin, which totally took me back to high school, hanging out with my friends listening to Yaz, Upstairs at Eric's. Inside, you can feel the dif- Outside, you can see the difference. Inside, stop. Outside, stop. Out- stop.

Also: The emO.C.

WATW by the Numbers

As most of you know, I'm writing a dissertation about rhetoric, gender, and blogging using where are the women? as a case study. I should say that I'm not looking at every post on the list I compiled, only the spikes of activity: August 2002, September 2002, March through August of 2004, December 2004, and February 2005. So here are the numbers:

Total number of posts: 102
Total number of comments: 2243 (not counting spam or those accidental duplicate comments)
Total number of trackbacks: 171

Total number of posts by men: 33
Total number of posts by women: 69

Total number of comments by men: 885
Total number of comments by women: 1059
Total number of comments by gender-free: 349

Total number of trackbacks by men: 60
Total number of trackbacks by women: 105
Total number of trackbacks by gender-free: 6

Total number of posts by men that allowed comments: 30
Total number of posts by women that allowed comments: 53

Total number of comments under posts by men: 1374
Total number of comments under posts by women: 869

Average number of comments readers left under a post written by a man: 46
Average number of comments readers left under a post written by a woman: 16

Now here's my problem. I think these numbers are kind of interesting -- they help provide a tie-in to findings in previous research in gender and computer-mediated communication, especially that of Susan Herring, that show that men's online postings get more replies than women's, etc. These numbers certainly corroborate that. I'm interested in the implications of the numbers: The fact, for example, that there are more than twice as many posts by women than by men speaks to how important this question is to this particular group of women. These women took the time and expended the effort to write all these posts; despite the fact that some of the posts are flippant and parodic, obviously they care about the issue. And, taking into account the context and patterns of online interaction, the numbers arguably reveal something about how heated these discussions are.

But: In my experience, when I even think about counting something, everyone giving me feedback on the given project gets a little too excited and wants me to go whole-hog to the empirical and quantitative approach. (Why don't you count the number of words per post?! Devise a coding scheme and code everything!) I'm not necessarily talking about my committee, just scholars in general. Although that's very valuable and interesting research, it's not what I'm interested in doing. I'm taking a naturalistic approach, mostly consisting of interpretive close intertextual reading. So far that's okay with my committee -- they seem fine with whatever approach I choose as long as I can define/articulate/defend it -- but I'm thinking about not even putting these numbers in my dissertation anywhere, lest they be held against me. What do the rest of you think? If you can give me some language to use to introduce and explain the numbers and my choice to include them, that would be especially helpful.

Edited to add: By "men" and "women," I mean people presenting online as men and women. For the purposes of my dissertation research, I'm thinking of gender as a rhetorical position (i.e., positioning oneself as...). This is because someone might strategically present hirself as a man or woman because ze knows that the audience will respond to hir in a certain way. In this sense I'm thinking of gender as performative.

Chapter 4 Vignette

I've been very reluctant to write this post lest it spur another round of "Where are the women?" for me to contend with, but I figured it was time for a dissertation post. I owe it to you, right? Well, a while back I finished Chapter 4 and am now in the process of revising it. In Chapter 3, I give a thorough overview and chronological description of the "Where are the women?" case: the posts, descriptions of the (onymous) people involved, and the contexts and exigencies of each instance of WATW. For example, the Larry Summers speech had a degree of influence on many of the comments. I also give a more detailed micro-rationale for my project than I give in the introduction. To clarify a bit, the macro-rationale is "why rhetoric should study blogging" and the micro-rationale is "why the 'Where are the women?' case." As anyone who has participated in them can tell you, the WATW threads are quite rhetorically unproductive; nothing really changes as a result of them, and that's one reason I find them so interesting. So in Chapter 3, as part of my detailed micro-rationale, I bring in some of the MANY metacommentaries and parodies of WATW, plus some of the interview responses.

Now for Chapter 4. I'm mostly drawing upon Nancy Fraser's article "Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critique of actually existing democracy," but in this chapter I'm not going into her thoughts about multiple, subaltern counterpublics. I'm more interested in the four problematic assumptions she points out on which Habermas’ idea of public sphere rests: first, that inequalities in social status can be “bracketed” in a public sphere; second, that a singular public is preferable to multiple publics; third, that issues and interests deemed “private” should be excluded from the discussion; fourth, that a public sphere’s fruition depends on keeping “civil society and the state” separated (p. 117-118). Fraser claims that “[o]ne task for critical theory is to render visible the ways in which societal inequality infects formally inclusive existing public spheres and taints discursive interaction within them” (p. 121). That task, rendering visible these inequalities, is the raison d'être of this chapter.

I'm reviewing the various stereotypes and ideas about women's speaking in public that get tossed around in WATW. To illustrate, see this comment, and tell me if this guy didn't totally nail the "maiden, mother, crone" archetypes/stereotypes that feminists have been talking about for years (sincerely, I think this is really well put):

[I]n the world of Big Punditry women get one of three jobs:

1. The Soft-core Liberal Infobabe. Doesn't say or do much. Her entire function is to perpetuate the idea that if you're a liberal, you can have sex with women like this.

2. The Breast-Feeder from Hell. Begins every argument with "As a mother, I ..." Uses nurture six times in a single paragraph. Her function is to serve up chocolate-covered liberalism to guilty insecure housewives.

3. The Uppity Old Lady in Tennis Shoes. See Molly Ivins. This is where Infobabes go when they get put out to pasture. They're supposed to be sort of funny - Driving Miss Daisy kind of funny.

Specifically, I look at 1.) the role of sex, beauty, and attraction and how it can create noise; 2.) "women aren't interested in politics; they're more interested in fashion, gossip, and babies"; 3.) "women and men communicate differently," i.e. the "women can't handle the food fight, boxing match, swashbuckling, Crossfire, Hardball, insert agonistic metaphor here flavor of political debate"; 4.) "women are too busy with the house and the kids to have time to blog"; and 5.) "women aren't as technologically savvy as men." Mind you, I'm not saying there isn't any truth in any of these, especially #4. I'm just laying them out there. I may say more about these later, but for the vignette I want to focus on #2, because there are pictures!

Consider these sample comments:

There are simply less females than males passionate about politics, hence less females blogging.
If there is a blogosphere concerned with sales at Nordstroms or Hollywood gossip, that blogosphere will be predominately female. (Reader at Kevin Drum's weblog)

and here:

As for the gender thing, I still don't know if this is a problem in search of a solution or just the way women are. I'm leaning toward the latter, frankly. They don't like war, don't like hard-nosed arguments and have a hard time separating the personal from the political. Case in point, a girlfriend the other night told me Bush was too stupid to be president, and anyway she didn't like his family--his daughters didn't seem engaged enough (unlike who? Chelsea? Amy Carter? I was confused). This, apparently, was enough to decide her vote--Laura is a bit chunky and I don't like her shoes, it's settled!

Let me first say that I mean no disrespect toward the people who made these comments. The ideas represented here have a long history. In fact, in keeping with Jonathan's creative 'Aleatory Research' methodology, I happened upon some political cartoons from the suffragist movement, which I ended up using in the chapter. From January 27, 1909, a comic by T.E. Powers titled "When Women Get Their Rights":

Also from the 1910s:

The caption says, “Woman Devotes Her Time to Gossip and Clothes Because She Has Nothing Else to Talk About. Give Her Broader Interests and She Will Cease to Be Vain and Frivolous.”

I'll stop there; this is only a vignette, after all. As always, feedback is welcome.

A Scattershot Stump Speech

Back in September at the New Media Research @ UMN conference, I saw Lee Rainie give a wonderful, enthusiastic stump speech about internet research (his characterization, not mine). At the beginning of his talk, he told us that he was going to give us some background about the Pew Internet & American Life Project and its history and then he would gesture, scattershot-style, toward some of their current and future projects. The speech was excellent in every possible way, and when it was over, I thought, that's what I want to do at MLA.

I was invited to be on the NCTE-sponsored panel at MLA, titled "Digital Scholarly Publishing: Beyond the Crisis," along with Kristine Blair, David Blakesley, and Mary Hocks. I'm scheduled to go first, so I'm planning to give about 3-5 minutes of background on "the crisis" for the uninitiated, but after that, I'm going to talk about some of the work that people are already doing online every day. For the purposes of this talk, I'm positioning myself as a human aggregator, gathering and presenting the best ideas of what scholarly publishing could be, well, beyond the crisis.

The crisis, as I've always understood it, is an economic problem, an unsustainable business model, consisting of 1.) the conflict between the book-for-tenure model and the financial troubles (and subsequent cutbacks of number of titles published) of university presses; and 2.) price-gouging on the part of scholarly journal publishers and libraries' declining ability to afford journal subscriptions (which also affects book sales). This article in Inside Higher Ed provides a good status report on the latter. The former was heralded by Stephen Greenblatt in his famous letter to members of MLA. Greenblatt outlines the problem, pointing out that "books are not the only way of judging scholarly achievement." He suggests:

We could try to persuade departments and universities to change their expectations for tenure reviews: after all, these expectations are, for the most part, set by us and not by administrators. The book has only fairly recently emerged as the sine qua non and even now is not uniformly the requirement in all academic fields. We could rethink what we need to conduct responsible evaluations of junior faculty members. And if institutions insist on the need for books, perhaps they should provide a first-book subvention, comparable to (though vastly less expensive than) the start-up subvention for scientists.

This letter spurred a lot of discussion, at least in circles I frequent, about alternative requirements for tenure, especially online publishing. Certainly we in rhetoric and composition have been thinking about online publishing's place in the tenure and promotion process. I'm going to try to condense the major points of all those sites I linked into a few minutes of background information on the conversations about online publishing in our field.

Then, I'll segue into the scattershot ideas by making a few remarks about the work that Collin Brooke is doing and summarize some of John Holbo's many contributions to the thought about the future of scholarly publishing. Obviously there's no way I'll have time to do their work justice, so I'll need to decide what's most important in conjunction with what I'm talking about and then create a bibliography with all the articles I'm linking to here.

Then I want to focus on some particular cases.

  1. Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs. This is an edited collection of essays that we published using weblog software.
  2. Computers and Writing Online 2005. For this online conference, we made the review process public (a "public feedback process") and have kept the content up at Kairosnews, with a Creative Commons license, so that others can copy and distribute the presentations -- e.g., for a course pack.
  3. Rhetoric and Composition: A Guide for the College Writer. Matt Barton of St. Cloud State University, along with students in his rhetoric courses, has done a lot of work building a free rhetoric and composition textbook using a wiki.
  4. Carnivals. Collections of posts on a given topic, like informal journals representing the scholarship that's being published on academic weblogs.
  5. Massive Multi-Thinker Online Reviews. Holbo's play on MMORPG, these are seminar-style events in which a group of bloggers reads the same book or article at the same time and blogs about it.
  6. CC-licensed online readers for courses. This is something I've been trying to plug for a long time, but it hasn't caught on just yet. There's all this Creative Commons licensed content online, and it would be so easy to reproduce essays on a given topic, group them into themes, write an introduction à la an edited collection, and assign it in a class. I'm working on one, which I'll unveil as soon as it's finished, but I'm too busy with my dissertation right now, so it has gone unattended lately.

I want to close with a return to the larger social context, meaning, and goal of scholarly publishing -- to disseminate new knowledge -- and point out the benefits of open-access online publishing to anyone (academics or nonacademics) who doesn't have access to a large research library. I might draw upon some of the arguments presented at a recent conference at the University of Minnesota, Publication, the Public University, and the Public Interest.

Sigh. There's a lot more to say on top of that. I haven't even touched the problems related to archiving and indexing all this content, and I haven't said as much as I'd like about intellectual property and alternative copyright models. Maybe during the Q & A.

Friday Linky

I keep meaning to blog about Nuttin But Stringz, but have kept forgetting until this very moment. Go to the lower right corner of the screen and watch the Tonight Show video. I'll be buying that CD in January.

Treatment of the Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women. Bookmarking that one for later.

There's a new issue of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication out, and of particular interest to me is Elizabeth Würtz' A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Websites from High-Context Cultures and Low-Context Cultures. Look at all the images from McDonalds sites and the Summary, Implications for Web Design, and Discussion sections. Very interesting work.

Finally, you must look at projects on the construction of identity and flickr, a clever and insightful art installation about "showing off one's good life" on Flickr. This Quicktime movie is especially illustrative and provocative. Hopefully I'm not the last one to see this site; I was trawling through the archives of the Flickr blog and saw it there.

Another Flickr Recognition Moment

Look who, in another Flickr Recognition Moment, I happened to meet!

I was in Chicago over the weekend; I had gone down there to see Jonathan, who gave an excellent paper at SLSA. Unbeknownst to me, Jill was at the conference too. I was just leaving to catch a cab to Union Station when she and I saw each other in the lobby.

I have photographs from the train ride -- lots of pan shots while the train was in motion. I'll post those soon.

Carnivals and Academy 2.0

I'm liking this Academy 2.0 idea a lot. I agree with Collin and Alex that more mashed-up, collaborative, networked, open source-style public peer production is going on every day. Collin already mentioned the Teaching Carnivals, but I want to go a little further with the whole idea of carnivals. A carnival, in case you hadn't heard this term before, is a collaborative effort to harness good, recent posts on a specific topic. For science, there's Tangled Bank, then there's the History Carnival, the Asian History Carnival, Carnivalesque for early modern history, the Philosopher's Carnival, the Skeptics' Circle, and the Carnival of Bad History. Each carnival consists of a list of links to posts that meet the criteria for the carnival. Usually the person who hosts the carnival provides a one-sentence description of the post.

What are these, if not distributed scholarly journals? It's true that they don't have length requirements and that they're not refereed...well, they're not refereed in the traditional sense of gatekeeping. The posts are still reviewed and commented upon, but in the comments sections of the blogs or on other blogs. Point is, carnivals are clearly intended to be scholarship, however informal, and their resemblance to scholarly journals should be noted. For example, here's one I'm excited about that's taking the resemblance to a new level: the newest Feminist Carnival, which is doing a special issue on 1970s feminist thought. From Sour Duck's Call for Submissions (sound familiar?):

Yes, there's a theme: 1970s feminist thought. However, this won't be a nostalgic look at "second-wave feminism". Oh no. I'm looking for pieces that engage with the themes and ideas of 1970s feminism, while applying them to current events, or looking to the future.

You might say it's a "1970s into 2000" Feminist Carnival issue.

Examples of topics to consider:

  • women and men in the workplace (e.g., creating an even playing field, and equal pay for equal work)

  • reproductive freedom (with the advent of "the pill") & sexual liberation ("sex is fun!")

  • healthcare reform (1970s feminists took on the medical establishment and effected significant change. What else needs to be changed? Can 1970s tactics prove effective again?)

Technorati tag:

By the way, don't forget the next Teaching Carnival at Scrivenings. The 1970s into 2000 Feminist Carnival issue will appear on November 16, which is right around the time Scrivener will be posting the new Teaching Carnival.

Social Bookmarking: Comparing and Contrasting del.icio.us, CiteULike, and H2O

A colleague of mine emailed me yesterday asking me to explain my impression of the differences among del.icio.us, CiteULike, and H2O Playlists. I thought I'd post it here as a public service, and hopefully you guys will chime in if you see other differences.

To be sure, they're all services that let you create an assemblage of links and tag them however you like and share them with others. They're all social bookmarking tools that enable you and others to make folksonomies. Here are the differences as I see them:

del.icio.us: del.icio.us is for anything. The funny, the weird, the academic, the provocative, the artistic -- everything on the web. It doesn't tout itself as an academic service. You just find links and put them there. I think lots of people just use it so that they can get to their bookmarks from any computer. But if you want to take advantage of the "social" part, you can browse del.icio.us for people and content in several ways, five of which immediately come to mind: 1.) by skimming the front page, 2.) by looking at tag clouds, 3.) by clicking on the usernames of people who posts links, 4.) by clicking on the "and XX other people" links to see who-all linked to a particular page, and, if you find people whose taste in links you like, 5.) by subscribing to those people's RSS feeds so that you're alerted when they add new links. Full disclosure: I use de.lirio.us, not del.icio.us, but they're used the same ways. The only difference is that de.lirio.us is open source.

CiteULike: CiteULike self-identifies as a service for helping academics organizing their scholarly bibliographies. You can find people and stuff on CiteULike using the same methods as on del.icio.us. The main thing that makes CiteULike different is that it's synced up with Amazon and JSTOR, as well as other indexes. It's one of those metadata miracles. From the FAQ:

The system currently supports: AIP Scitation, Amazon, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, Anthrosource, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) portal, BMJ, CiteSeer, IEEE Xplore, IngentaConnect, JSTOR, MathSciNet, MetaPress, NASA Astrophysics Data System, Nature, PLoS Biology, PubMed, PubMed Central, Science, ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, Usenix, Wiley InterScience, arXiv.org e-Print archive, but you can post any other article from any non-supported site on the web - you'll just have to type the citation details in yourself.

Another big difference between CiteULike and other social bookmarking tools is that you can export your CiteULike bibliography to Endnote or BibTeX.

H2O Playlists: This service is provided through the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and it has a progressive open-access, Creative Commons ethos. It's influenced by MIT's OpenCourseWare and other open education initiatives. If you watch this Flash movie about H2O, you'll see how strongly they're emphasizing teaching and learning. Users are required to publish their playlists with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike licenses, which makes the whole site more collaborative. For example, on each playlist, there's a link that says "Create new playlist based on this one," so users can create derivative playlists with one click (and that's one way people can find each other in addition to the standard tag-surfing -- "tagging along," perhaps). Unlike most other social bookmarking tools, users can't tag one item, but rather they assemble lists of items and tag the lists. For example, I have this list on cyberfeminism. On the list, I have Faith Wilding's article "Where is Feminism in Cyberfeminism?" I can't tag that article, but the whole list has the tags feminism, gender, cyberfeminism, technofeminism, girlculture, cyberculture, women, femininity, and masculinity. Because playlists are meant to be kind of like syllabuses, H2O lets you break the lists into categories, like units or modules.*

Look at my playlist on Women and Gender in Open Source/Geek/Hacker Culture, for example. It has three categories. It also displays my other playlists, links to other playlists derived from mine, playlists with the same items, and playlists with the same tags. These features aren't available on other social bookmarking sites. Finally, H2O lets readers leave comments, email playlists to others, and print out printer-friendly versions of the playlists, also features that aren't available with other tools. So you can see that H2O bears little similarity to these other tools.

Notice that I haven't even bothered to address the cultural differences among the tools, the folks behind the folksonomies. On del.icio.us, for example, you can find all kinds of weird stuff, like...oh I don't know...a 30,000 calorie, 7-pound sandwich. Plus, some people have fun with the tag names, whereas on CiteULike and H2O people don't get too far afield of appropriate disciplinary terminology. Jonathan gets a little creative with it, but I get the sense that he's the exception. He, and probably some others, certainly help to diversify the tag pool. Whereas many users might have been inclined to tag the article "Rithmomachia, the Great Medieval Number Game" as "medieval history" and "mathematics," which are very common tags, Jonathan chose to tag it as "rithomomachia" and "game_theory." I think there's something to be said for that.

* Come to think of it, as I continue to work on my job materials, I believe I'll take the sketches of courses I'd like to develop and teach and put those on H2O.

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