Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Just joining the blog

Hi, I am just joining the blog and it will take me a few days to read all the back posts and follow out some of the recommended sites. I had written Suzanne and told her of a web site that presents a power point, 35 minute audio lecture (you can put it on pause but not print out), that is stimulating about pedagogy and challenging to many of my own assumptions. I learned a lot from it and am trying to think why I disagree with it, as well as agree with many parts. It assumes a whole new model of education premised on new ways of getting and using information:

http://www.elearnspace.org/media/connectivism_Web_2/player.html

If folks can go through it, I would love to start some thoughts circulating on it. Also, this format may indicate a useful way to put our own lectures online. It is a lot more compact and cohesive than most of my lectures are. I was frustrated that I could not just skim or print out the whole thing, but taking 35 minutes to consider the ideas actually did have a beneficial effect on how well I absorbed or thought about the ideas.

As a way of introduction, let me say that I am currently working on a links page for Jump Cut, about the current state of the Internet. One of the main things that fascinates me in terms of the Internet is how the blog took over from the homepage. And so few faculty had homepages or published their essays on their own sites, I could never understand why.

For the past three or four years, I have been working away at getting all of Jump Cut's past issues online, as well as publishing a new issue online at least once a year. The accumulation of the archive gives us some "heft" on the Internet and we seem to be reaching a lot more people than when we were a print publication.

http://www.ejumpcut.org/

It is exciting to have this blog, The New Research Summit, at the University of Oregon. Can the folks who started it retrace their steps and tell us their thinking as they set up the blog before the conference?

Also, can someone tell me how to make hotlinks in the posting?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Abundance, Attentiveness, Utopia

I want to respond to Lisa's post below but also perhaps push the discussion a little, too, and so in a new post. First—yes, we who have, as adults, lived through these changes will have a different experience of the changes from those who have grown up in a research environment already changing or changed. Whether this induces personal vertigo or not varies from person to person. Regardless of our personal reactions, though, the facts that the sheer amount of information available to us has exploded and that it is accessible (in principle) almost immediately, with almost no lapse of time and no movement of our bodies in space—this does change things. We are in a new situation. And the examples Lisa gives of the ways people marked related changes in the past—of course they may seem quaint and lacking in foresight. But that is because their discourse is to some degree incommensurate with ours because our worlds are so different. Since Lisa brought up the Phaedrus, which laments the fact that writing may become not a help but a hindrance because we will no longer use our memories to think but will rely on the reminders stored up in the written text, let’s think about that. At the beginning of the dialogue, Phaedrus is in the process of memorizing the entirety of Lysias’ speech by heart, even though Phaedrus is represented in almost every respect as an intellectual delinquent. How many of our students (how many of us) have committed substantial discourses to memory? What difference does it make to have one’s memory cultivated this way? Is this a completely dead question for us? Are there occasions when we might need or want to use our memories instead of an externalized text? Would our memories organize and preserve a “text” differently from the way the text is organized and preserved by a writing technology? We will not describe or evaluate past technological revolutions the same way as the people who underwent them (of course we won’t!), but they were observing something real—and understanding why their perspectives seemed sound to them might help us understand the soundness and unsoundness of our own perspectives better.

Second, I don’t think pessimism and optimism are especially useful postures here. There is plenty to justify optimism and plenty to justify pessimism. That’s part of my point about the comedy of abundance. The abundance overwhelms us, and exposes our limitations. I don’t want to make a simple negative or positive judgment about the new abundance. I do, though, want to ask what ethical and intellectual resources we will need to get into the best relation to it. That’s the point of the focus on attentiveness as the intellectual virtue that seems to correspond most closely to what is new in this situation.

Lisa’s great presentation at the summit provides a useful example here. When is it appropriate to pay attention to those citizen reviews on Amazon.com and what kind of attention is that? When is it appropriate to pay some different attention to the New York Review of Books or a review essay in a professional journal? What is worth our attention and how do we give it when we come across hip-hop bloggers offering ground-level criticism of new recordings as well as perspectives on the cultural significance of different forms of hip hop, bloggers whose critical style and vocabulary and focus and sense of the aims of criticism might differ substantially from an academic treatment of the music and its relation to culture? How much and what manner of attention is appropriate for my viewing and listening to and thinking about the machinima (genre of video) about radical telepresencing that Michael Aronson sent me to suggest another approach to the issues we discussed at the Summit?

I can’t imagine being either optimistic or pessimistic about this abundance. The closest I can come is to taking the posture suggested by Kim Stanley Robinson of being a practical utopian, of trying to imagine how we might act skillfully enough in our situations to nurture a small hope that we are contributing in some way to a better situation, both in the time in which we act and for those who will follow us.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some Post-Summit reflections on John Gage's and Jim Crosswhite's presentations

It's been a bit more than a week since the New Research Summit. I want especially to thank Suzanne Clark for organizing the Summit--with great help from Carter Soles, Raphael Raphael, and Kom Kunyosying. (Please forgive me if I've omitted anyone else who worked on the Summit.)

I found all the presentations at the conference stimulating. I'm very impressed with the UofO Library's Scholars Bank project, for instance. And I loved learning about the various curricular and pedagogical projects that grad students and faculty discussed.

In this post, however, I want to reflect on Jim Crosswhite's and John Gage's comments at the conference. I'd also like to encourage Jim and John to post their comments here, so that those who didn't attend the conference can read them.

Jim researched, organized, and established the first computer classroom for the English department at OSU. His opening comments for the Summit were, in part, a reflection on all that's happened in online and computer literacies since then. Referring to Richard Lanham's new The Economics of Attention (thanks for the tip, Jim!), Jim characterized contemporary life as "a comedy of abundance" of information, especially online information. Jim went on to emphasize the importance of rhetoric as "the building of attention structures" and argued that attention is best understood as an intellectual virtue: "the power to give the proper attention to the proper things."

My notes on John Gage's talk aren't as complete as my notes on Jim's. (Chalk that up to afternoon conference fatigue.) As I remember it, John's talk was a strongly worded critique of contemporary online discourse. John argued that things get posted to blogs, for instance, but that these posts never develop as arguments. The information is out there, and no one responds. I'm not quite as clear on the next point. In my memory it connected with Jim emphasis on the "comedy of abundance" that writers and readers now face." John also, wondered, I believe, whether we need a new rhetoric to address these new discursive positions. He seemed less certain than Jim that the rhetorical tradition as we understand it could "build attention structures" because he was unsure that, with online discourse, it's possible to organize one's attention.

(Jim and John, please jump in and correct, add, etc.)

I want to thank Jim and John for characterizing so carefully our contemporary online discursive moment. As someone who never expected to have a blog, and who now hosts a personal blog and several academic blogs, I know the sense of vertigo that these new online forms of communication and technologies can bring. Jim and John do an excellent job of characterizing this feeling.

I guess I am more optimistic than Jim and John, however, and for two reasons.

First, the kind of intellectual and rhetorical vertigo that they describe is characteristic of the experiences of readers and writers who are caught up in major shifts in technologies of communication. One of the most well-known examples of this is Plato's fears in The Phaedrus that those who learn to write will have the reputation for wisdom without the reality. But there are other examples. In the eighteenth century, for iexample, the French scholar Diderot, alarmed by the rapid increase in the number of printed books, feared that "the world of learning will drown in books." At roughly the same period, a "German treatise on public health warned that excessive reading induced a susceptibility to colds, headaches, weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, asthma, apoplexy, and a host of other disorders. Fresh air, frequent walks, and washing one's face periodically in cold water were prescribed for solitary readers" (source: Gertrude Himmelfarb. "A Neo-Luddite Reflects on the Internet." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11/1-96, p. A56.

When I was growing up, there were many dystopian warnings that television would ruin my generation. In 1956, for instance, educator Gerald Thorsen, in a statement strikingly reminiscent of Diderot's, complained that students at that time were "lost to a world of mass media: tv, radio, motion pictures, newspapers, and comic books." As a result, he said, "the cultural uses of language have been excluded. We have forgotten about books" (Source: Himmelfarb).

That's my generation that Thorsen is fretting about--and we seem to have remain attached to books, at least those of us in the academy.

I think what we're experiencing is real: for someone of my generation there can seem to be an overabundance of information, as well as new technological developments that arrive at a staggeringly fast rate. Ask younger folks, like my copresenter Michael Faris, and he'll tell you that his experience feels quite different from mine.

I'll be briefer about the second reason why I'm a bit more optimistic than Jim and John. This is because I believe that the rhetorical tradition is exactly what we and our students need as we negotiate the dizzying world of online discourse and technologies.

Whew, this is a long blog entry, so I'll close for now! Would anyone like to develop my second point about why rhetoric and the rhetorical tradition are just what online writers and readers can depend upon.

And, again, John and Jim, I hope you'll post your comments for all to read.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Male Pregnancy and More!

Hi folks--

First, thanks to Michael Faris for posting so many great Hoax sites recently. In the same vein, here's the link to the male pregnancy site I mentioned at the Summit:

http://www.malepregnancy.com/

Also, I have had many people ask me for suggestions about how they can better teach the analysis of visual media (such as websites) to their students. My response is best encompassed in a few articles I have written on the subject: "Teaching Visual Grammar and Rhetoric in Composition," a one-page compilation of the eight (yes--only eight!) key terms I think you need to know in order to teach visual textual analysis, and "Popular Culture and Composition: A Critical Intersection," a transcript of a conversation Raphael Raphael and I had on this topic in Summer 2005. Click on the link below for access to these documents plus a couple of others:

http://www.uoregon.edu/~csoles1/newmedia.html

And lastly, here is the link to an excellent online glossary of basic film terms (with pictures!) provided by the Yale Film Studies program:

http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/index.htm

Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

e-books and their implications [NYT Magazine, 14 May 2006]

Worth reading..... consider this, for example:
".....once digitized, books can be unraveled into single pages or be reduced further, into snippets of a page. These snippets will be remixed into reordered books and virtual bookshelves. Just as the music audience now juggles and reorders songs into new albums (or "playlists," as they are called in iTunes), see note (*) the universal library will encourage the creation of virtual "bookshelves" — a collection of texts, some as short as a paragraph, others as long as entire books, that form a library shelf's worth of specialized information. And as with music playlists, once created, these "bookshelves" will be published and swapped in the public commons. Indeed, some authors will begin to write books to be read as snippets or to be remixed as pages...."

There's a lot of potential in this flexibility; at the same time, what happens when extended narratives or arguments that develop over several chapters get "snippetized?" How can we be sure that readers
a) know how to recognize a snippet for what it is, and
b) know how to locate the snippet's original source, with all of its context?

(*) NOTE: One of the complaints I've heard about iTunes is that collections of songs organized as "albums" get broken apart into singles. Those of us old enough to remember listening to Sgt Pepper all the way through will understand this.

virtual office hours, 24/7

I read this article on Inside Higher Ed from a link from kairosnews that discusses how students are expected immediate response on email from professors and instructors. I'd suggest everyone reads it, because it raises a few interesting questions (at least in my head) and also is a little humorous. An excerpt:
But read a batch of evaluations by current students, and you will find complaints about Professor Luddite never answering e-mail. Who cares anymore about seldom-kept office hours? Faculty are now expected to be on-call electronically — if not quite 24/7, like transplant surgeons, then certainly far more than under an old paradigm that assumed availability to students only during class and office hours, scheduled or by appointment. It is e-mail, finally, that is the main engine behind ever-burgeoning demands.

Not so long ago you could display your techno-awareness just by printing an e-mail address on a syllabus. Want to impress your students today? You’d better send immediate answer to e-mails arriving sometime during Jay Leno’s monologue. (They’re probably watching Jon Stewart or playing online poker, but that’s a topic for another essay.) Outside readers of Professor Luddite’s course evaluations, though, should interpret student gripes skeptically. Or do I alone receive late-night messages from students posting second messages sent at 2:32 a.m. anxiously asking whether I had received the first, sent at 11:45 p.m.?

Also, some of the comments left by readers raise interesting questions and propose various solutions.

Monday, May 15, 2006

On last Friday's Summit--and the death of poet Stanley Kunitz

I want to say how much I enjoyed--and learned from--last Friday's Summit. Thanks to Suzanne Clark for organizing such a stimulating and thought-provoking event! Once I get a bit more caught up, I hope to post a few reflections.

For now, I want to acknowledge the death yesterday of Stanley Kunitz, who died at 100. I have loved Kunitz's work for quite a while. I'd like to share this poem that appears in his 2000 Collected Poems.

The Long Boat

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore, but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm, endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

fraudulent websites

At The New Research Summit, Carter discussed a hoax website he uses in class that claims to be able to make men pregnant, and I offered to post some fraudulent/hoax websites.

Here is a list of some hoax websites that one teacher has used. My favorite is the site that advocates banning Dihydrogen Monoxide (H20 - water). One town (I forget where) has actually banned Dihydrogen Monoxide because of this site (and felt really embarrassed when someone informed them that it was water).

I came across this list from a post on the blog Remote Access, where a teacher discusses his use of online fraud with his public school students. I've used the Dihydrogen Monoxide cite, as well as a few others, with my eighth graders and tenth graders, and I was really quite surprised with how many students believed that there was a zoo somewhere that had elephants with twig-legs (I can't remember the URL for that one).

Often, though, my students could figure it out once they paid attention and focused on the author's credibility, the accuracy of some of their facts, a bit of research, or dug deep enough to find the disclaimer stating the site was fraudulent.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

But Does She Attract Our Attention?

Rhetorica has been a persona of note for so many centuries that you'd scarcely expect her to appear once again in the newest of media--would you? What Kom's analysis of the "Amazing Racist" videos may help his classes to do is to attend to rhetorical questions rather than the outraged emotions the videos aim to prompt, most especially the outrage of taking pleasure in racism.

I was impressed, yesterday, by some ways that research now must indeed be "new." If students are living mostly in a condition of "continuous partial attention," and the question of paying attention becomes tremendously heightened by competing interests, does that change the value of classes on rhetoric and critical thinking as well as their methods? More oral work needed? More knowledge of visual rhetoric?

And if citizenship may be more and more available as writing--participation not only by vote but by review or by blog--does that also change the significance of classes on writing?

I for one am left after the "New Research Summit" with the desire to talk more and explore these questions in greater depth. A compelling result.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Passion For Paper

Passion for Paper

I am a digitally-enabled, network-ready scholar. I check e-mail and browse the Web. I read RSS feeds. I leverage Web 2.0’s ambient findability to implement AJAX-based tagsonomy-focused long-tail wiki content alerting via preprint open-access e-archives with social networking services. I am so enthusiastic about digital scholarship that about a year ago I published a piece in my scholarly association’s newsletter advocating that we incorporate it into our publications program. The piece was pretty widely read. At annual meetings I had colleagues tell me that they really like it and are interested in digital scholarship but they still (and presumably unlike me) enjoy reading actually physical books. This always surprised me because I love books too, and it never occurred to me that an interest in digital scholarship meant turning your back on paper. So just to set the record straight, I would like to state in this (admittedly Web-only) public forum that I have a deep and abiding passion for paper: I love it. Love it. ...more.....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

By way of an introduction

Greetings New Researchers,
As I spend near-pathological amounts of time online—lurking on the blogs of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues; eBaying for things I don’t need and will never buy; reading about sports, music, and movies; and generally seeking out the various curiosities and oddities that make the world wide web at once enlightening and hilarious—I'm looking forward to thinking critically about the way "new media" shape our daily lives and our understandings of the world. In particular, I'm interested in the way cultural consumption has been forever altered.

Since I entered the iPod age two years ago, I've not purchased a proper "album "or engaged in one of my favorite pastimes of record store perusing. Since I got highspeed at home, I've stopped relying on Anthony Lane and David Denby to tell me which movies I should dislike and why I should dislike them; instead I rely on the collective wisdom of Metacritic. I no longer rely on the wit of the Portland Mercury or Seattle's The Stranger to get my weekly chuckles over the world of hip youth culture—The Onion and Viceland provide me with my dose of post-PC cultural humor. I no longer seek out my indie-rock-geek friends to find out the latest gossip; instead I've got the purveyor of indie-hegemony, Pitchfork.com, where my bookmarks bar takes me first thing every morning.

I've accepted all these changes in my daily routines—even celebrated the access to all this information—but I've not thought about what it all means. I'm excited that the Summit may afford me opportunity to reflect on these changes with others who've already theorized and thought carefully about them.

All that said, however, I think I may be a bit more ambivalent than other participants in this conversation about the ramifications these New Media may have on traditional classrooms and pedagogy. Given the tenor of the posts on this blog, I say this a bit reluctantly, for I fear it may mark me an anachronistic luddite: but I'm just not sure that I'm ready to embrace the Electronic--in all its myriad forms--if it means taking time away from real life discussions in the classroom.

To situate this assertion I should note that I'm coming off a year of teaching at the University of Alaska Southeast, where 30% of the credit hours are "delivered" via distance, and where this percentage is sure to increase in the coming years. I'll be returning there this fall, and one of my first assignments will be to help develop a massive Assessment Document that accounts for and documents virtually everything we do in our English classes to achieve the mandated Learning Outcomes--chief among these Learning Outcomes is preparing students for employment in the digital age.

So while I don't doubt that bringing technology into the classroom has the potential to enrich and enliven the educational experience, I also worry that for every gesture we—as academics and instructors—make toward embracing technology, administrators (who always seem to have their eye on the bottom line) are perhaps encouraged to make even more strident moves toward replacing the traditional classroom with the virtual one. While this is not necessarily a worry at well-established Research One institutions like OSU and the UO, at smaller universities and colleges, the movement toward the Phoenix University model and away from the "outdated" traditional model is well underway.

So the central question for me will be not how can I use these technologies or which one's should I use, but, rather, are there ways that I can embrace and negotiate new types of research that don't distract us from what I take to be the most important business of an education: face-to-face conversations about issues and ideas that matter.

I'll stop this long-winded introduction here, for I fear I may have moved beyond questions of "research" toward my own anxieties about technology and the increasingly "managed" world of the New University.

Looking forward to our upcoming summit-in-the-flesh,

Kevin

Friday, May 05, 2006

Research, Race, and Pedagogy

There's a lively interactive site for the UC Santa Barbara Race and Pedagogy Project that offers connections to very interesting research: http://rpp.english.ucsb.edu/
For example, Deborah Brandt has made a real impact on literacy studies. On this site, her study of race and literacy emerges from looking at over 80 case studies and thinking about the implications for rhetorical theory.
‘The Power of It’: Sponsors of Literacy in African American Lives." From Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 105-145.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Small Victory for Open Standards and Digital Research

Hi everyone,

One of the fundamental challenges that researchers face these days is that many of our source or primary texts can disappear, either because the web site that hosted them has gone dark or taken the documents off-line, or the technologies that we use to read the documents become obsolete. As far as the latter is concerned, think for a minute how difficult it would be for you to read a WordStar document from the mid '80s that was only available on a 5 1/4” floppy.

Open standards are a way of mitigating that problem inasmuch as they strive to standardize the ways in which software stores information. The use of open standards is especially important for researchers, many of whom are already contending with compatibility issues. For instance, will the digital document that I'm reading and using as a source today still be readable by the software that's available in 10 or 100 years?

Wednesday marked a small victory in that regard, as the OpenDocument Format (ODF) was approved by the International Standards Organization. A competing standard, designed by Microsoft, is ostensibly still being considered, but since the ODF was approved, it's highly unlikely that a second standard (Microsoft's) would also be approved. (The whole point behind standards being that there's one of them.)

This does not mean, however, that Microsoft would be forced to follow the new ISO standard. One of the privileges of having near-monopoly status is that you're neither constrained to play fair nor nice.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Legal Scholarship and Blogging

Gleaned from Charlie Lowe at Kairos News. No less than The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law recently hosted a symposium (April 28th) on How Blogs are Transforming Legal Scholarship.

My personal favorite paper title: "Blog as Bugged Water Cooler."