Category Archives: Wikis

how we might link

Cat considering the building of a henge.

Mike Caufield’s latest post about FedWiki reminded me to get my finger out and start thinkining about how we might link in FedWiki. I started to in an earlier blog post, so here’s a continuation.

First, a synopsis. Keeping links separate from the content has been a long-standing idea but rarely practiced on the web. As the web came into being, we started to add links to content in such a way that understanding the content becomes dependent on following the links. This is signaled by how we tend to embed links into the syntactic flow of sentences. So in my opening statement, I signal two directions for understanding by linking the phrase latest post about FedWiki. First, you can read on without reading Mike’s post and (probably) will be able to follow what’s coming next. But the link also signals that you’ll want to refer to the post I linked to if you really want to understand what I’m going on about.

Technically, the link is a deixis. It points to something not present that is necessary to complete the meaning or to extend the meaning. In this case, it points to something I don’t own. It’s Mike’s blog post, and it’s worth reading. The issue at hand is how I have embedded it into my own content.

This is the way we have learned to link, the way we have taught people how to link. “Embed those links, gang. Make them follow the sentence, but also write so that readers do not have to follow the links to understand you.” I’ll leave it to you to search for the web writing advice on linking, both hackneyed and sophisticated.

Wrong. As Pound wrote, “Wrong from the start – No, hardly, but, … ” (Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, if you’re interested.)

Mike reminds us, by re-considering Bush and Englebart and Nelson, that we can re-think this idea of linking in the text.

[L]inks as imagined by the heirs of Bush — Engelbart, Nelson, Van Dam — formed a layer of annotation on documents that were by and large a separate entity.

Links as conceived by Bush are separate from the document: annotations, trails, value added, paratextual … By being links, they specify that they lead to other material outside the immediate text, not material that is integral to the text we’re reading. That’s what the link means: this is an annotation, a supplement to what I am offering here.

This doesn’t necessarily make links merely suppplemental. There’s no merely about it – any more than the paratexts of novels or articles are merely extra. But it does place links on an independent layer. I want to explore this idea of independent in more detail some other time, but for now I’ll say that the document can circulate without the links an still be understood. The links add but the document doesn’t depend on them. By the same token, the links can circulate on their own and, very likely, mean something, if not the same thing as they do when circulated with the document. Paratexts.

For all the wonder behind the embedded link as links to sources, as Mike points out, the link doesn’t point to anything the author doesn’t already know. So, while the writer might point to a source, we’re still confined, even in the linked text, to what the author knows rather than bringing in something the author was unaware of, or something the author just doesn’t want to mention.

So you can link your history of the Polaroid ID-2 camera up to suit the engineering people, or to suit the history of corporate boycotts people, but you can’t set it up the links serve both without overlinking the crap out of it.

Upshot: For all the breadth the web and hypertext promises, it is still limited by single authors getting their stuff out there as their single perspective. To develop multiple perspectives in a single documenbt using links to other content would overload the text and send Carr into even more neuro-cognitive apoplexy. For the rest of us, it would just be really really hard to read. (That reference to Carr is an old-fashioned link: an allusion. It serves a rhetorical function in my post, arguing that what I’m talking about is not what Carr is talking about.)

The thing is, we’re not talking about just links here. It’s about the entire system of which the link is only one element.

To recap, even with links, the document will present “only one valid set of relationships, inscribed by the author.” Ok, so now we get to the core:

Federated wiki deals with this issue by keeping links within the document but letting every person have as many copies of that document as they like, with whatever links they want on each. It’s a simple solution but in practice it works quite well.

Think about that a moment. It means one person can fork and consequently work with three or four or howevermany versions of a document. There may be little point in keeping exact copies (but who knows). There may be a big point in keeping an original (as in the sense of the first version to be distributed). But it’s the other versions that make things happen.

I’m not talking extreme differences so much as potential versions of a document that can still be identified as that document.Mike’s version with his annotations. Ward’s version with some of his annotations. My version with some of Mike’s annotations and some of Ward’s, and some of my own. I don’t actually need to maintain three copies. The fedwiki does that. I fork Ward’s or Mike’s version to my fedwiki and adds what I want, move paragraphs around, add other stuff to create my own version. If I need to, I can see who added what. If the new version is going to depart too far from the one in circulation, I start a new document.

Here’s how it might look, and is starting to look:

In the newer style, content is kept fairly short, and fairly link-less. But at the bottom of the articles we annotate by linking to other content with short explanations of each link. … People seeing your links can choose accept or reject them. Good and useful connections can propagate along with the page…. as federated wiki pages move through a system they are improved, and that’s true. But the more common scenario is that as they move through a system they are connected.

As Mike suggests, it’s the federation that makes this style of linking valuable, with links accruing as the article circulates through the neighborhood. The design of the fedwiki page facilitates accrual. Each paragraph is a dragable object, which lets writers create an annotated link that can be placed into the stream of an article at any point. A few fedwiki style guide suggestions also help. Links to external content are created using single brackets, and the fedwiki style guide suggests these links designate the kind of content being linked to (blog, video, academic article). Links to existing fedwiki pages are created with double brackets and the exiting page can be forked to the user’s fedwiki. If the writer changes a page, the page is forked by the system so that a writer starts with a copy – her own copy – that is still connected to the other copies in circulation by way of the flags in the upper left hand corner of the page.

What we develop is a neighborhood.

Fedwiki starts look like a new genre, differentiated from other online text genres such as blogs, listservs, sms exchanges – and the more traditional wiki. The orignal wikis asks visitors to contribute to the common document. Fedwiki asks users to fork what they will and create a variation for their own purposes, as well as contribute to the neighborhood. This also means that using fedwiki involves a different set of social negotiations than traditional wikis. That is the subject for another time.

Fedwiki becomes a genre that operates not using multiple authors to create a common document but a chorus of voices each creating a version. Fedwiki starts to look like the place where those authors do their work.

Chorus stems from chora, and chora [khôra] is a potent term in my field of rhetoric, meaning, variously, the discovery of ideas, the space outside the walls of the city where ideas are born, or as a place of “emerging possibility”. Wikipedia will probably tell you all you want to hear. But if you want the most recent hubbub, try a paper by Michael Souders, “Khôra, invention, deconstruction and the space of complete surprise” [PDF].

getting a start on rethinking composing in fedwiki

The cat, her chair, and her greenhouse.

I finally made a start on Composing in FedWiki, with Rethinking Composing in FedWiki. The premise: FedWiki presents a rhetorical context unlike that of traditional, commons-based wikis. So it’s an opportunity to rethink some of the compositional moves developed for the traditional wiki.

I have two ends here. One is to make wiki writing more substantive than it has been in the past:

Years of watching thread mode discussions go on at Weblogs and Wikis and the advent of FedWiki as a distributed system has encouraged me to re-think the old ThreadMode into DocumentMode pattern of composing. ThreadMode is an inventional technique – a way of locating and trying out the ways that an idea might be constructed and a document composed. But documents don’t get composed; contributors stay in thread mode. The reasons are complex, I’m sure, but little moves forward in thread mode.

And a second is to explore what federated composing can bring us:

Because each contributor owns her own iteration of the fedwiki, she – each of us – is responsible for her own refactoring – her own development of the argument, her own dissertation, which lives with her. A set of notes won’t do in this case. For a page to become part of the linked federation, the [[Chorus of Voices]] (an idea forwarded by Ward and now picked up by the community), it will need to be discursive. Or, put better, those pages that become part of the community will be discursive rather than threads.

What I’m doing in Rethinking Composing in FedWiki is looking at both street-level techniques and rhetorical strategies.

I’m setting aside some of the patterns from traditional wiki writing (ThreadMode, DocumentMode, the WikiWord, the fallback use of bullet lists) for patterns more aligned with the distributed nature of FedWiki. Even the pattern of moving from ThreadMode to DocumentMode goes away for a move from Dissertation to Discourse.

That is, we move [[From Dissertation to Discourse]] rather than from thread mode to document mode. In Radical Discourse, we place partially- or wholly-formed arguments in meaningful orders. This can be done as a set of paragraphs on a page, or as a set of links and stubs.

A few things are lost: WikiWords as topics, for instance, is a loss because it serves as such a quick way of creating a linked page, a quickness and facility that the wiki was named for. But that quickness is a feature of the new rhetorical context I’m addressing in Rethinking. Yeah, being able to create and link nodes with little effort is good. But what goes in the nodes needs some refinement to be valuable to one’s federation. We were taking the quick-to-create-a-node idea into quick and easy to create content. Rather than outside research and serious drafting, we would go onto ThreadMode-like freewriting. Even formatting is implicated in the drive for speed: bullet lists instead of formed paragraphs. We worked with the idea that someone else would come along and tidy things up.

The aspect of the commons also gets in the way of creating commonality. We were trying to negotiate all aspects and points of view on one shared page – a rhetorically difficult and sophisticated task. That difficulty is really worth working thorough, but the wiki, with its emphatic speed and shared commonality works against the task. Contributors leave pages in pre-draft states – pages of notes rather that of arguments and propositions that can be further built on. We never really get to enacting or presenting the multiple points of view.

I’m thinking about a different way of thinking about software tools. A move from valuing them for their Ease of Use to valuing them for their Augmentation. Using a tool for the augmentation of intellect is not easy to do, and it’s not easy to learn how to do it. In augmentation, at the very least the tool doesn’t get in the way of doing something new. At best, the tool changes understanding. I’m not looking at FedWiki as a typewriter-like tool, where work is selecting from a finite set of signifiers, so much as a painter’s brush and pallet, where work involves conceptualization and reconceptualization. Yeah, it’s an art rather than a transcription (which a lot of ThreadMode tends to be: a transcription of commonplaces).

The significant change in the rhetorical situation of writing with FedWiki is a move from a shared commons to a locally-owned federation. This move changes how we handle multiple arguments and points of view. It doesn’t eliminate them, but it seems they have to be more fully formed than a set of notes in order to work with them in a federation. The federated model is, perhaps, a more accurate – er, useful? – model of how knowledge is distributed in both its commonality and difference than the commons-based model. It could be more fragmented than the commons-based wiki seems to suggest, but it could also be that the commons is pretty fragmented already but tarred over to conceal the differences. The matter that interests me is the dynamic of local construction and public distribution. Each contributor architects her own iteration drawn from publicly shared elements – right down to the paragraphs! – and places that iteration in public circulation. There are rhetorical possibilities in these circumstances that are worth exploring.

Finally, to consider is the wiki not as an end but a space of creation and composition. A few weeks of The Teaching Machines Happening, and the articles, ideas, and posts that are emerging from that Happening (Hello, Audrey) made it clear that FedWiki needs supplementing by way of a blog, email list, twitter, or some other commons. The FedWiki might become a working space, where material is re-mixed and repurposed, until it is brought out of the shop and distributed.

So: Augmentation, Federation, Distribution. We’ll see where this goes.

garden envy

Garden chairs

This note on Gardening the wiki, order in chaos from Brian Lamb prompted me to pay a long-overdue return visit to the UBC Wiki. Lamb and colleagues have been developing their wiki like mad. Envy. Particularly interesting is using a Gardening the Wiki blog to support and evangelize the space, with regular news and meta-commentary on the State of the Wiki from their wiki admin Will Engle. Double envy. UBC is making the hard move into open learning, and that’s to be envied.

Wish BSU had the interest and the energy to develop this kind of major project. Our faculty energy goes into developing (closed) courses using D2L. Hardly garden-fresh. More like frozen peas from Wal-Mart.

But the gardener’s role, as exemplified by UBC, will make an appearance when I re-fit the Weblogs and Wikis course next year. Kudos to UBC.

More on gardens at Understanding Nothing,, Meatball Wiki (zen gardens, walled gardens, gated communities). Then there are FormalGardens, KnotGardens, EnglishGardens, and Follies.

from personal wiki to open text and how to get there

In the background, off line, on an iPad, I’ve been experimenting with a personal wiki (Trunk, excellent app, more later). What I wanted was a souped up wikified version of a Moleskine, a notebook – or legendary notebook – that I can’t use because my handwriting has become illegible, even to me. So, I ran an online personal wiki a few years ago, but abandoned it after a few months: having to be on line (which then meant ethernet and sometimes wifi) restricted its use. Next I ran one on a laptop. Better, but still not as convenient as paper (heavy laptop), and I had issues with figuring out where this project fit into my work, and figuring out how to move stuff from the wiki (webs) to other media (not webs).

Then the iPhone 3G came out, with apps, and Matthew Kennard released Trunk Notes: a tidy, elegant little wiki app that worked like a proper wiki: WikiWords, easy markup, categories, tags, links, embedded images … Perfect as a wiki, but only as large as the iPhone screen, and restricted by the iPhone’s lack of multitasking. Still, I kept sporadic non-legendary moleskine-y entries for a year and a half or so – maybe once or twice a week.

Then the iPad arrived, and a couple months later Kennard released Trunk Notes for the iPad. That release cracked it. While the iPad doesn’t have multitasking, the size of the device made a difference in how frequently I turned to the wiki (over other kinds of notes) and how I composed on the wiki. The iPad is not quite as portable as the phone, but that was the difference: A wiki, unlike microblogging or todoing, is for more mediated, considered composition: collocation, analysis, creating patterns, exposition, linking, threading … A first draft of a wiki page is as brisk as any, but revising and, more importantly, refactoring are times to consider content and options and strategies; to enrich, cross-link … You get the idea. The larger device of the iPad prompts this kind of approach. You have to sit down, open the case, maybe even dig out a keyboard – slow down and commit yourself for a while.

So  I exported the wiki file I had been keeping for a year from my iPhone, imported it to my iPad, and became a happy camper. Even bought a DODOCase, which disguises the iPad as a Moleskine. Now I could sit in a dim corner at the coffee shop and look legendary. But I romanticize ….

Which gets me to my topic: the personal wiki as commonplace book, sharing, and produsage (Bruns)

What I’m experimenting with now is a personal wiki notebook in the manner of a commonplace book: that personal collection of stuff, in the manner of Lila or commonplaces. WikiWords, I have argued elsewhere, are topics – and topics are titles for commonplaces under development. So, the idea is to put together a collection of topics that become, over time, linked. Not cards that are categorized (in this it differs from Lila) or pages that are dated (in this it differs from a journal), but something else. Developed differently than paper. Indexed differently than paper. Searches, tags, categories, images, internal and external links. Used differently, too. Rather than going back to the commonplace book to mine it for … uh … commonplaces, I would return to the wiki to develop matters further. As I did, it would become more of a personal knowledge space – project oriented on one hand, broader based on the other.

Private rather than posted – at least initially – and relatively portable.

See this for instance: Steven Johnson on open acces

Each rereading of the commonplace book becomes a new kind of revelation. You see the evolutionary paths of all your past hunches: the ones that turned out to be red herrings; the ones that turned out to be too obvious to write; even the ones that turned into entire books. But each encounter holds the promise that some long-forgotten hunch will connect in a new way with some emerging obsession.”

So far so good. Getting stuff into the traditional commonplace book means copying it by hand or literally copying and pasting from a source (Xerox, ok?). The labor of copying by hand is typically justified by suggesting that we read the passage closely when we copy, but options have multiplied. We don’t have to copy by hand, and we can include modes and media other than text in commonplace books – and we can still read closely. While Johnson above pays special attention to apps that prevent readers from copying text for their own use (Kindle and iBooks, as of this writing) that is more an annoyance than a deal breaker. (Take a screenshot and wait until the white hats hack that limitation.)

The real issue comes to the surface when we are restricted in circulating our re-combined texts by paywalls or other restrictions.

WHEN TEXT IS free to combine in new, surprising ways, new forms of value are created. Value for consumers searching for information, value for advertisers trying to share their messages with consumers searching for related topics, value for content creators who want an audience. And of course, value to the entity that serves as the middleman between all those different groups. This is in part what Jeff Jarvis has called the “link economy,” but as Jarvis has himself observed, it is not just a matter of links. What is crucial to this system is that text can be easily moved and re-contextualized and analyzed, sometimes by humans and sometimes by machines.

[As a corellary, apps and sites that encourage and enable commonplaces to circulate are valuable – sites such as, apps that facilitate sending links via Twitter or even email.]

If I can get past the technical copying bottleneck (and I can), I can get the stuff into my personal private wiki to link and develop as I wish. But those who want to participate publicly as producers, share the links, be part of the link economy – students, scholars, writers, amateurs, kids – are restricted by legal means. I’m not talking about republishing entire chapters or texts; I’m talking selecting chunks of stuff, some in the public domain, some in copyright, and using those chunks under fair use as part of a larger web. Republishing the text in its entirety doesn’t add value: selecting and linking does. Generally, this hasn’t been too much of a problem. Content writers post to the net with the knowledge that stuff will be extracted and linked to. But it’s becoming more of a problem with the DMCA, greed, control, Disney, Murdoch, paywalls. See James Boyle, The Public Domain (Yale UP, but also free to download or read online) for that one.

But here’s a final twist. Turn to Christopher Leary on patchwriting (pdf) in his chapter of Writing Spaces, Vol 1:

Rebecca Moore Howard defines “patchwriting” as a method of com- posing in which writers take the words of other authors and patch them together with few or no changes (233).* Although associated with plagiarism, it is an extremely useful writing strategy with a very long and noble tradition, and I hope that, by the end of this essay, you will be convinced that the opportunities (great writing) far outweigh the risks (accusations of dishonesty).

Christopher’s process is that of the 19th century: hand copying from his own collection of texts.

During one notable phase of this period, I went one-by-one through each of my books, copying out short sentences until I had three or four pages worth of lines. Since the books were from different countries, times, genres, and personalities, I anticipated a sharp contrast in styles. “If I put tens of sentences from different times and eras and places all on the same page,” my thinking went, “I’ll be able to witness these eras bumping up against each other and rubbing elbows.” In much the same way I find it interesting to view, say, automobiles from different times and places all in the same room.

Here’s his initial gain for participating in the linked economy as a producer.

Much to my surprise, the lines that I had copied from the books in my bookshelf started to take a shape resembling the shape of a poem. And out of the original mess of lines, a scenario or situation—if not a story—started to emerge. (If you are getting visions of Ouija boards, I don’t blame you.)

The poem created like this – found poetry – is hardly brilliant, but that’s not the point. It’s a matter of what happens when you take your gains public, offer the patchwork to others for further consideration and possible development.  For Leary, the issue enters when he considers publishing the patches. It comes in the form of authorship rather than copyright – as the texts were in the public domain.

This odd project got stickier when I decided I wanted to submit a few of the “poems” to my school’s literary magazine, Downtown Brooklyn. I was held back by a concern and a strong feeling of guilt about authorship. I had to really wrestle with the question, “Am I the author of these texts?” When I got to the stage where I wanted to submit them as my own and put my name as the author, something felt very wrong and even dastardly. It didn’t strike me as at all appropriate to put my own name as the author because I could not have written them “from scratch,” by any means. The phrasings and language outstrip my capabilities.

It’s not too far of a leap to produsage, which is what’s going on here. Leary’s struggle is easy to get past if we set aside the romantic notion that the individual inspired author imbues the content with value. When copyrights, publishers, and app developers restrict the use of mere snippets of work, they restrict the  consumer’s capability to become a producer, to shift from reader to writer. And I’m beginning to see that the justification of that restriction comes from the same source as the romantic notion of the inspired author: a work is valuable because it comes by special, magic means, not mundane selecting and arranging. Restriction like this is inspiration commodified. We’re going to have to get past this if we’re going to shift to open texts and open education. It’s the move from a personal wiki space to a public one.

Leary articulates the restriction in his ethical concern for claimed authorship – and resolves it in his chapter for Writing Spaces. Charlie Lowe explains it at The Writing Spaces text – including Leary’s chapter – is available in print for dollars, and it’s also free to download, use, teach with, learn from, and further circulate online and off.

I like the book. I like the chapter. I’m convinced that “the opportunities … far outweigh the risks….”  And Trunk, I really like using Trunk Notes,

wpa conference proposal accepted

Looks like we’re on for the WPA Conference this July – thanks to Joe Moxley who came up with the idea, and to Matt Barton who rounded out the third perspective.

Panel Presentation Intellectual Freedom, Writing Programs and Open Textbooks

This panel is for WPAs and faculty who wish to learn more about the Free Textbook Movement. For WPAs facing adoption decisions, we discuss the viablity of online textbooks and the value of community-authored courseware. For WPAs and prospective authors, we explore the benefits of community platforms (Connexions) and open-source authoring tools (Joomla, WordPress, Open Media Wiki).

Proposal description Moxley will begin the panel by addressing the questions WPAs and writing faculty have about the FreeTextbook Movement: What meaningful alternatives do WPAs have to expensive, commercial writing textbooks? What criteria should be used to evaluate online books (stability, web design, peer review, writing tools, and social media features). Who benefits when WPAs engage faculty in collaborative efforts to develop instructional materials? What open source tools or collaborative textbook platforms are available for would-be textbook authors? Moxley will argue that writing teachers and writing programs should consider the possibility of developing their own textbooks/courseware. He will draw on his experience developing (Joomla) and (Sharepoint) to inform his analysis of the pros and cons of developing on collaboration platforms that are emerging (Rice’s Connexions,” Wikipeida’s Wikibooks) or personal websites using tools such as Joomla.

M C Morgan will report on embedding a writing handbook directly into a course wiki at In this instance of a freetext, the handbook is composed and revised in the same writing space used for instruction and student writing. Issues for writing faculty include refactoring pages initially written for another purpose into handbook pages; adapting student observation and advice into handbook pages; linking to and from student content pages; incorporating traditional wiki guide pages (StyleGuide, GettingStarted); and using and evaluating the handbook.

Matt Barton will then discuss his five-year effort trying to develop The Rhetoric and Composition Wikibook, a free alternative to commercial textbooks for first-year composition. Although such efforts are highly popular among students and potentially administrators, faculty tend to be less receptive. The problems are naturally the lack of funding. This presentation explores the possibilities for grant funding, particularly at schools that serve under-privileged students.

Joe Moxley, “If Textbooks are History, What’s the Future? CollegeWriting.Org”, University of South Florida
M C Morgan, “A Freetext Writing Handbook”, Bemidji State University,
Matt Barton, “Wikis as Public Works: The Rhetoric & Composition Wikibook.”

I’m going by Amtrak, but that’s a different story.

rough notes on personal learning environments or how i spent my xmas vacation

PLEI spent most of my semester break messing with looking at some social networking apps and how to link them up. I was familiar with a few of them already and had been using them regularly: flickr, delicious, facebook (not so regularly), tumblr, twitter. I added brightkite, friendfeed, and Righ away, brightkite and friendfeed struck me as useful for what I wanted to do, and less so. Brightkite fuses image and text and geotags them both. Friendfeed aggregates feeds to a common stream and allows connecting those feeds with others.

On the browser side, I tinkered with Flock for a day, but went back to Firefox and installed add-ons to coordinate some of my feeds; I wanted to put them in the same app if not the same frame. I’m currently working with Flickerfox, Sage-Too for rss feeds, TumblrPost, and Twitbin. I’m watching for a Brighkite add-on, but Sage-too makes it possible to put an rss Friendfeed stream in the sidebar.

I haven’t added browser-based notes, however. I’m still using the browser mainly for access to content and working with other apps like Evernote and DevonThink for collection and text production.

This catalog of web apps, social apps, and plug-ins looks geeky, I know, put there’s a point to it.

Spurred on in part by using an iPhone more and more, I started to get interested in how to pull the apps together in some kind of more or less coherent set. I got interested in creating an informal PLE.

Gloss from Wikipedia

Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

* set their own learning goals

* manage their learning; managing both content and process

* communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services.

Roughly, a PLE is a more or less hacked together system or space to work in – and that’s a pretty good idea of it, for me, for right now. My wife has a PLE for her work. It’s her studio. Al Gore has one. It’s called his office.

But PLEs extend beyond office and studio walls to include sites and sources, the devices used to access those sites and sources, and the devices used to manipulate the content of those sites and sources. Desktop computer, laptop, iPhone, mobile, digital camera … You get the idea. Hardware, software, people, content, places.

The memex was an early conception of a PLE. Englebart’s Study for the Development of Human Augmentation Techniques a 1968 overview of the idea. And his mother of all demos is an early demo of one: hardware, software, people, content, and places.

Martin Weller has a lot more to say on the matter than I do right now. Brian Lamb has posted on PLEs recently. And he’s picking up on comments made by Stephen Downes.  A Collection of PLE diagrams presents a range of visualizations about PLEs.

To my mind, is experimenting with informal PLEs. In their work, streets and parks and buildings become part of the PLE, which also includes other people, both present and past. Their work emphasizes the material in the environment, where learning takes place by creating and manipulating maps and boxes, and by physically and virtually annotating physical spaces. See Social Tapestries, for instance.

Creating or using a PLE of any complexity is going to demand some fluency in transliteracy.

I made some remarks on PLEs from a side angle in Wikis, Blogs, and eFolio: How wikis and weblogs trump eportfolios and No One Stop Shop. My sense of PLEs is the learner mashup rather than the prepackaged OfficeMax D2L. Having just reread these drafts and notes, it looks like the PLE is a common thread in my thinking, one that might open into a more extensive article.

More notes

I’m a late-comer to the PLE party, so a review is in order:

A PLE – VLE continuum

on the PLE

A Collection of PLE diagrams

E-learning 2.0, Stephen Downes

More later.

e-planning planning for spring

E-rhetoric textsIt might snow Sunday, and that means it’s time to start to select texts for spring classes.

Our campus bookstore wanted selections by mid-October, and while I’d like to accommodate the corporate giant, it will have to wait. Two courses I’m teaching in spring, E-Rhetoric and Weblogs and Wikis, benefit from using the most recent texts and addressing some of the most current ideas. And I’m still looking for the right texts, and will be right through the US Thanksgiving.

For E-Rhetoric, I’m considering a look at digital and new media poetics. Our Creative and Pro Writing BFA students don’t get much exposure to the work that’s going on in poetry and short prose in the electronic world. While an e-literature course might be best, E-Rhetoric can take a look at current electronic modes and productions. A new literature brings with it a new rhetoric: a new set of affordances, a new way of making and articulating meaning. The difficulty in this section of the course might be keeping a focus on the rhetorical dynamics of the object rather than the object as an expressive artifact. But digital products tend to be collaborative ventures, which moves us away from self-expression and towards semiotics.

In the same vein, I want to look at digital- print hybrids and social- digital mapping. There are projects possible. I’m thinking of having students annotate a journey or two through the campus or sections of downtown. Students from the visual arts department have done a little of the preliminary work for this, chalking some of the academic buildings, and annotating the doors.

While it would be nice to have everyone with an iPhone or a laptop post to geo-located walls using something like graffitio, we might be able to do this as a mapping hybrid along the line of the proboscis projects. The idea of leaving text annotations at the particular site is interesting. The next move is a rhetoric of geo-cacheing.

The rhetorical angle: Look at the places students choose to define as noteworthy, the contexts they place those places in, the language they use to give them importance. If rhetoric is calling attention to something, then inscribing it with a building name or sticking a 3X5 card on it is a starting point. Annotating makes the campus into a campuscape, a gallery, a narrative, an argument.

The rhetorical choices behind social scape annotation starts to stand out when we compare citizen annotation of the campuscape with the authorized labeling: building names (former faculty and presidents for academic buildings, tree species for student residences), the Deputy Arch, the names of scientists carved into stone on Sattgast, campus maps, advertising banners, even labels on some of the benches. There’s more going on than first seen.

Mobile Learning. A lot is just about to happen with mobile technologies and learning in the field. E-Rhetoric’s interest would involve how language is used and shaped to suit onthefly learning. Perhaps by annotating the urban landscape.

Persuasive Technologies. I get blank stares when I mention captology to students. How does your car persuade you to slow down? The E-Rhetoric students can benefit from a brief look at captology, less as a field of study and more as a way of thinking about technologies in the world.

For Weblogs and Wikis: Jill Walker Rettberg has a new text on blogging (Yes!) that addresses it as a social- and professional act. I’ve been making that up-hill argument for six years, and it’s good to have back up. Students tend to view blogging more as diversion than substance; faculty at large tend to see it more as daily diaries from amateurs. Faculty with a stake in print place it as a diversion from the Real Work of writing and publishing. No editors! Certainly second-rate writing.

I’m still waiting for / writing the similar text for wikis. But I reckon I’ll be able to slide laterally to apply Rettberg’s observations on weblogs to wikis. And I’d bet I can do the same with Wikipatterns: use it to apply to weblogs, especially collective weblogs.

What’s in my bookbag?

I wait until the snow flies to make the final choice, designing a syllabus around the texts I have in mind to see how it all might fit together.

Education doesn’t need to be driven by the self-serving deadlines of bookstores.

wikis in the classroom: technique

On a long roundabout tour (reading up on using twitter, originally) I bumped into a teaching technique by Jason B Jones on The Salt-Box :: Wikified class notes.

Class notes themselves are epistemologically weird. Usually, we think of notes as private, but if they’re *too* idiosyncratic, they might not be very accurate, or very useful later in the semester. What would be useful is a set of canonical class notes: This is what we agree happened on this day in class.

I’ve had good results with a similar exercise in College Writing II, having groups of students develop definitions, as well as locate and create examples of rhetorical appeals. My exercises aren’t as neatly structured as Jones’s, but I’m in class while the students are working to oversee how they are doing and provide some scaffolding.

As Jones finds, the first results are pretty cutandpaste: copy from the book and paste it in. It takes some time for students to move past the found object, processed information and more towards their own developing understanding. Over a few weeks, however, they begin to see the wiki – and the web and the book – less as a repository and more as elements in their writing space.

I’m not sure what drives this change, however: what moves students past recitation and towards consideration. What’s interesting is that we can see it happen on the wiki by paging through the revisions and refactoring.

Wikis and beer

Looking at beer blogs (Appellation Beer), I stumbled onto another track and found this observation on ffeathers, just waiting to be culled and considered:

How is a wiki different to a web page?Many wikis are used for short-term collaboration rather than, or as well as, longer-term information storage. You might put an idea up on a wiki. A number of people would then review it, add their comments, and update the page. At the end of the process, an idea has been formed and is out there in the noosphere. People probably won’t go back to the wiki often to look at that particular idea. You could say the wiki is scribble-intensive.

The key thing is: In the review and refinement process, if we use a wiki then we aren’t passing around and scribbling on pieces of paper. We aren’t even exchanging long and confusing email chains which eventually force you to print them out just to keep track of who said what in reply to whom. Nor are we using Word documents, where the change-tracking is just as confusing :mrgreen: Nor even any backs of envelopes or matchboxes.

Instead, the wiki page distills and merges all updates so that it shows the latest aggregation at any one time. And if you need to, you can go back and examine the change history to see who did what.

Better than beer.

seeing in binary

if:book: 10 types of publication : A sweet article on the “symbiosis of print and digital media.”

One center is this

This trajectory – books that originate in blogs – pulls away from the narrative of ineluctable digitization that preoccupies much of the debate around the relation between print and the internet. Of course, it’s not new (remember Jessica Cutler?). But the BibliOdyssey book narrative is especially delicious (should that be, as the material in the book consists of print images that were digitized, uploaded into scores of obscure online archives, collected by the mysterious PK on the BibliOdyssey blog and then re-analogized as a book. It’s an anthology of content that has come on a strange journey from print, through digitization and back to print again. So it’s possible to observe these images in multiple cultural contexts and investigate the response of ‘the acculturated reader’ in each. The question is: what does the material gain or lose in which medium?

Just right for starting discussion in both Weblogs and Wikis and E-Rhetoric. Here’s one place the two interests meet – perhaps in a mashup | remediation. The article illustrates a couple of mashups: the Facebook Halloween costume, and the print publication of the blog originating BibliOdyssey. Others are out there: using Scabble tiles in a digital production, f’rinstance. When print fetish gives way to | is mashed with digital, we change the rationale for valuing the work:

Quirkiness; novelty; art-historical interest; the fleeting delight of stumbling upon something visually stunning whilst idly browsing. But the infinite reproducibility of the image means that it’s only of transactional value in a momentary, conversational sense: I send you that link to an amusing engraving, and our relationship is strengthened if you grasp why I sent that particular one and respond in kind.

The overall value of the blog, then, is in its function as dense repository of links that can be used thus. So what is the value of the images again once re-analogized? In the case of BibliOdyssey, it’s a beautiful coffee-table book, delightful in itself and that archly foregrounds its status as hip-to-the-internets.

Blog-as-repository is not brilliantly new (R. Blood discusses it, and I can hear you say “value added,” “Richard Lanham,” and “Give back to the net”). But “10 types of publication” places the digital close enough to the analog to see the analogue. To see in binary.