Category Archives: General

tufte, illusions, trump

Tufte writes about attention and misdirection.

To create illusions is to engage in disinformation design….

In conjuring, strategies of disguise and attention control work to regulate the optical information available to the spectator. As we have seen for the backpalm and the copper-silver coin exchange, a common technique is to disguise smaller motions by means of larger motions; the fingers craftily manipulate while the hand grandly waves. The attention-attracting but resolution-reducing character of motion is described by Henning Nelms:

“Although movement attracts attention, it also diminishes visibility. When a thread is used to support a light object, it can be seen from a surprising distance even when its color matches the background. However, the slightest movement makes it disappear. A large movement can be used to conceal a small one. For example, the weak spot in The Strong Man’s Secret [a trick based on a cut-and-restored storing] is the action of cutting the loop. The technique . . . can be made more deceptive if you keep the knife still and force the string against it by a sudden movement of the left hand. . . . The large movement of the left hand and the string draws every eye away from the kmf’e so that no one can observe the unnatural way in which the string is cut.”

And in detective stories, the small clue that solves the mystery may be similarly disguised: “It is Agatha Christie, too, who regularly contrives that just as the clue is dropped a distracting m‘cident occurs. Here we are close to the art of the stage conjurer.” As well as close to the arts of propaganda, strategic Intelligence, and politics — although for magic, at least, the targets of the deception are aware and pleased that they are being deceived. Tufte, Visual Explanations, 64.

bloggers take a modernist stance

Cage: Prepared piano

Blogs can be experiments that disrupt because they stand apart from management culture. The din of the blog can disrupt, interrupt, the music of the management spheres. Does this sound too much like the Luddites facing off modernization-by-management? Cult whacks culture? From Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, by Geert Lovink

Of course blog culture is different from the entrepreneurial risk cult embodied by management gurus such as Tom Peters. Much like Ulrich Beck defined risk, bloggers deal with hazards and insecurities induced by never-ending waves of modernization. What is blogged is the relentless uncertainty of the everyday. Whereas entrepreneurs colonize the future, energized by collective hallucinations, bloggers expose the present in which they find themselves caught.

Not Luddism then. Perhaps “the relentless uncertainty” that Modernism embraced and shored against its ruins. Eliot created poetry from fragments. Pound intentionally mistranslated Chinese ideograms (Kenner, and Perloff). Picasso took to cubism. Duchamp created readymades ready made to whack the salon culture (still going on with Tracy Emin). V Wolfe freed the English narrator from narrating a material diegesis (Joyce ditto with the Irish narrator). Gertrude Stein sprung US syntax on everybody. Cage created music using prepared pianos. Uncertainty. Disharmony. Making noise. Making a kind of noise that makes a melody hard to discern until an ear is retuned. Rétoured. Noise fosters critics.

What about risks? Management culture talks about taking risks strategically. What does the blogger’s risk entail? Nihilism? Alienation? Is it a greater risk to act than not to? A greater risk to speak or stay silent? Bloggers don’t do risk assessment.

Bloggers disrupt the disrupters. They override the constant talk about change. It is remarkably easy to attack the post-modern corporation as it solely depends on a hollow public image, developed by third-party consultants. Online diaries, rants, and comments so easily defy the manufactured harmony at which community engineering aims.

As bloggers get louder, so do image-makers. As the scene gets noisier, less is hearable. The situation creates critics because more discernment is needed to hear, to catch, the signal in the noise. Modernism’s co-emergent dialectic was New Criticism. We might look to a revival to bring out the melody. Then there’s the risk of commitment. Public image is hollow because opportunistic, but the image-makers come in unending waves. If they’re going to disrupt (arms against a sea of), bloggers are in it for the long term.

Footnote: Ok, I agree that modernism can be cold. It is a logocentric noise that shouted out the more erotic programs and aesthetics of the 20s – 30s – 40s – 50s. The point here is that noise is //made//, like poetry, music, prose, sculpture, painting, code that runs software that runs our life. We’re never far from algorithms that generate fractals. Modernism is close at hand, but there are other schools within reach.

blogging as self management

Consider the blog as self-recorded and self monitored voice of a person. From Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, by Geert Lovink.

The blog emphasizes the making of a written record from the oral tradition. Directed at a potential co-conversant, others listen in. Who reads the conversation? Who’s listening in? Who has prying ears?

How do we analyze media of such an informal character? A Weblog is the voice of a person, as überblogger Dave Winer once defined it. It is a digital extension of oral traditions more than a new form of writing. Through blogging, news is being transformed from a lecture into a conversation. Blogs echo rumor and gossip, conversations in cafes and bars, on squares and in corridors. They record “the events of the day”. With today’s “recordability” of situations, we are no longer upset that computers “read” all of our moves and expressions (sound, image, text) and “write” them into strings of zeros and ones. In that sense, blogs fit into the wider trend where all our movements and activities are being monitored and stored. In the case of blogs, this is carried out not by some invisible and abstract authority but by the subjects themselves who record their everyday life. When people are still upset to find that they’ve been fired after having made critical remarks about their employers on their blogs, one realizes we are still in the early days for the spread of this insight. “Who reads my blog anyway?” Well, apparently your boss does.

Maybe we should be flattered that the boss and what the boss represents takes the time to pay attention to our personal recordings. At least the boss reads, and not just 0s and 1s , but reads words that form meaning. Or is read to.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First consider the recording side because first comes the recording.  Bloggers record their subjectivity as they course through the day. These events happened. This event of recording happened too, and the recording itself can make something more happen when the abstract Boss reads and re-records it.

When you first hear the sound of your own voice on a recording and think, Is that really me? Do I really sound like that? you aren’t listening to what the voice is saying. Do I really sound like that? Really? The modulation of the voice can be changed. Maggie Thatcher did it, shifted her voice down a couple of notches. The change purportedly made what she was saying more palatable to her listeners, and she became more rhetorically adept. Blogging is a voice coach. This is blogging as self-management. This is the wider trend.

Then there’s this: blogging is not in vain


two probes on blogging on the daybook

I’ve posted a couple of probes on blogging over on the Weblogs Daybook. Lovink on snark in blogging, and blogging is not in vain. I wanted to get them in front of students in the Weblogs class. From here on, I’ll post probes to this blog.

I’m also using CogDog’s flickr cc attribution helper and advice for locating CC images. What a treat. Makes me want to search for and embed images all day.

fedwiki proposal to opened15

March’s Teaching Machine Happening led to some Hangouts and discussions with Mike C, Ward and a small group of participants. Encouraging. Those discussions led me to submitting a proposal to the OpenEd Conference, 2015. With mine , I’m following Mike Caulfield’s lead, but focusing on composing strategies. Alyson Indrunas also submitted, more on the lines of assessment.

Writing Strategies in a Federated Wiki Class

A commonplace in writing instruction says that the tool changes the process in noteworthy ways. Users have to learn how to operate the new writing tool. But they also have to adapt and devise writing strategies to suit the affordances and constraints of the tool as well as the social interactions the new tool creates. Users of the first wikis developed ThreadMode and DocumentMode as one strategy for organizing their collective work. Federated Wiki, now in development, makes similar demands on users to adapt and develop strategies for collective writing.

This presentation takes a first look at some of the writing strategies participants used in the Teaching Machines Happening. The aim is to get a sense of the issues for teaching new and alternative strategies for collective composing this new writing space.

Abstract: A first look at writing strategies in FedWiki.

I made it simple, with an eye to keeping the pretension down. And although I submitted it as a standard presentation (25 mins), I’m hoping that they’ll schedule it with Mike’s presentation.

Update 18 May 2015. My proposal wasn’t accepted, but I’m assuming Mike’s was and will still be attending in November. 

weeks 2 and 3 in e-rhetoric

Weeks 2 and 3 in E-Rhetoric

We got stuck into method, with S&P’s chapters 2 and 3, with exercises in SeeingAsACritic. The in-class discussion focused on distinguishing between evaluative observatipns – like this

  • Swallowing observation in interpretation or evaluation. “The page is marred by an ugly logo.” Description is neutral. Describe the page, the logo, the placement.

and further refining observing by stepping outside of the rhetorical interaction. The mis-step occurs when you

  • Describe the viewer’s action rather than the object. “The viewer’s eye is drawn to the red logo.” This is not a description of the page from outside the rhetorical exchange but a description of a possible reaction by a viewer. “There is a bright red logo in the corner. This is the only spot of red on a page with a black background and white text.” That is a description. On analysis, you would consider how that design works to control attention.

My notes SeeingAsACriticDebriefing highlights a couple well-worked sets of notes.

Week three brought in theory in the form of Classical Rhetoric, S&P chap 9. FirstPassAtCriticalMethodExerciseis a trial run in describing, characterizing, and cataloguing the elements in a rhetorical message, in a set of notes.

This exercise doesn’t call for an essay. You’re not making an argument. You’re not being asked to come up with ideas or evaluate anything. You’re getting some practice in a method – describing the text and context – and in seeing rhetorical elements in that text

The text is a common one, and one that is often thought as having nothing rhetorical about it: The Tech Writing landing page at MSU Mankato:

Of course, everything about this page is rhetorically active – which is why it makes for good practice in observing, note-taking, and cataloging. It makes you look twice, or three times, or more.

With this exercise, I also introducted notetaking-as-method full force by asking students to struture their notes under headings:

Description of page
Description of context

Then, from S&P Chap 9, the method asks students to cataloge the rhetorical devices they see operating in the page. A good description would provide some of these devices, but, even more a good description attunes the critic towards seeing elements of


What gets seen? The images. What gets missed? The relationship between the text and the images. What gets seen? The use of purple and yellow. What gets missed, at first: the use of those colors (with black) as an appeal to character: ethos, “regalia” as one student noted. What gets seen? The text in the central pane. What gets missed: The register of the text (part of style), the presence of headings (style, but how they are named is ethos again). Arrangement tends to be a problem because there are at least three:

-the page as a whole is arranged. We need to consider page flow. It’s not as simple as “this attracts the eye first.” There’s far more going on.

– each of the navigation bars (4, by my count) is arranged in its own taxonomy

– the text in the light central pane is arranged in three columns (it doesn’t flow from column to column) (look closely at how that text is laid out: each column is framed to create a block.)

Also up for discussion (which is why this is a good exercise): What elements do we place in delivery and memory? That the links on the page do not change color when followed tosses memory to the user. Delivery is going to include the colors, the need to use a light pane to hold text for legibility, the browser window and design of the page as non-flexible, how the side bar menus operate (the item selected unfolds to reveal the taxonomy, good for focus but also demands audience memory), presence and use of a sesrch field. perhaps placement of the large footer and placement of the social icons there …

And we haven’t even started talking about visual repetition, visual metaphor (although the observation that the colors invoke regalia is part of how the page creates a visual style), or metonymy (how the page stands in for the organization not of the physical campus but a conceptual campus).

What’s next? Week Four

For week four, we’re on to S&P chap 4, and the first project, a small one to start: TextAndContextInFourWebsitesProject. This moves into some serious description of both text and context. It asks students to find 4 web sites that illustrate the 4 ways that text responds to the context, as worked with in S&P, chap 4: conformity, non-participation, desecration, contextual reconstruction. Easy enough, except, I found as I worked through the problem, deciding whether a site engages in non-participation of the context or is engaging contextual reconstruction of the context is a matter of making a case, and making a case means describoing both closely enough that oyu can make the case. That is, I had to persuade myself that an artifact was not really reconstructing the context but simply engaging in non-participation.

I was trying to decide how the OK Go video of A Million Ways responds to context. I wanted to see it as reconstructing the context, but given my description of the video and context, I figureed it could be opertating as non-participatipn. To decide, I had to look more closely at the context of the period and the placement of the artifact as an independent video by an independent, not mainstream, band, and to consider who choreographed it. Tricky, and I’m still working on it.


goal area 13: sense of humor

I was digging around in the Lib Ed area of the BSU website this morning, when I saw a sidebar to their FAQ with a curious question.

Lib ed faq

My first sense was, “Who’s having who on?” The question is patently a joke. Maybe it was asked tongue in cheek, but even if it wasn’t, it stands as a joke, a ribbing of the university’s pretensions. Like the We the People petition for the US to finance the construction of a Death Star. I decided to read more to see if we rose to the challenge. Does Lib Ed have a sense of humor?

Im a liberalI suppose that’s a fair if condescending attempt at explaining the distinction. But sadly it’s clear Lib Ed lacks a sense of humor. The last paragraph, in fact, makes damn sure the question is never asked again. It deserves repeating.

If you do not understand (well enough to explain) what the terms “liberal” and “conservative” mean as applied to politics, you are at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to participating in the civic and political life and conversation of your country. Liberal education can help here.

Ten minutes on the naughty step for you, Mr Sarcasm.


re-opening rhetorical exchange for learning in a social network

Post by M C Morgan: via google+

Edited from a Google+ post.

M C Morgan –  8:49 AM (edited 8:59 AM) –  Public

More on social analytics in the link below. 

Interesting to see an interest in discourse coming back. Did a dissertation on that back in 1996: Student Rhetorical Practices in E-Mail Conferences. There’s an html version of it around somewhere. Summary: Students don’t have the rhetorical chops to get a pedagogical useful conversation going or to maintain it for long if they do get it going. There: That saved you a 3-hr read.

It might be time to re-investigate rhetorical interaction again, now that dialogue theory has moved on, now that social web is providing a new set of affordances, now that a generation has had the time (since my 1996 sample) to grow up with the affordances. Hypothesis: Students can’t get a pedagogically valuable exchange going without teacher intervention, but do know how to use the affordances. That is, the tools have developed, but the values and rhetorical practices of the student social circle haven’t.

March 2nd, 2011Discourse-centric learning analytics. Posted by Simon Buckingham Shum in Talks/Articles. Here in Banff, we’re wrapping up the 1st International Conference on Learning Analytics &amp…
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