Category Archives: blogging

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.

Desk: Elephants to Catch Eels

Locally, we’re ending a semester and with a new season comes the need (!) for a new blogging app. This one is Desk , with good reviews on its paper-on-a-desktop interface. Writes in markdown. Handles image embeds and placement well – very easy. Affordances of headings, styles, quotation and lists are hidden away a little: select the text and a popup selection bar appears (it visually wars with PopClip for a moment). They’re available by keyboard, too. Preview and publishing options, too, are tucked away until you want them.

I enjoy – yep: enjoy – the minimalist writing interface (sans scrollbar) and appreciate the single-window design over floating palettes. I appreciate, too, the stats: characters, words, and reading time. And because I work across two Macs, using iCloud Drive to store drafts is welcome. There’s also some welcome legibility intelligence built into the interface: Re-sizing the editing window re-sizes the text for drafting.

The weblog setup is a little geeky, asking for the xmlrpc.php address. Not a problem for me, and perhaps a feature to teach a few users what is necessary for logging into a weblog. I approach new apps with the mind that the developers are going to show me something new, and I’m ready to let them, so I don’t balk at geek or new interface moves. Every app another way to think about what we’re doing. Every app a machine to think with.

There are a few things that push towards re-learning. Like the minimalist interface that removes the context. Like the disappearing publishing information that redraws the text when it’s called up and again when it’s hidden. The difficulty in seeing paragraph breaks in the draft window where everything is single-spaced.

It’s a v 1.0 release, so by the time I get used to these new gestures, the developer will have changed things anyway.

The promotional website is over-kill for the understatement of the actual app – a blast of marketing hype on story and empowerment and mission and passion. The first-grade marketing silliness creeps into the app. Publishing a post is rewarded with a gold-star, “Success! Great Job!” Using hyperbole to market understatement is a nice rhetorical irony, well-taken, but when it creeps into interface design, annoyance lies in wait. To get the best feel for the app, look at John's blog.

Update: Editing and resending a post doesn't update the original post but creates a new one. After publishing this post, I edited it further and then updated – I thought. I ended up with seven versions. Desk uses the old-school way of thinking about publishing and updating: Get it right before you publish, then publish once and commit! I'm more of the wiki-habit of development in situ. I deleted the six earlier versions and all is fine.

Update: Turns out I was editing and repeatedly uploading a local copy of the post rather than editing the already-uploaded version. The uploaded post is editable. Look over the navigation bar closely and select the version to edit. Desk is slippery, but flexible.

throat clearing

Time to get back to the classroom, and that means breaking in some new software, including an updated blogging app, Blogo. It was out orignally in 2009, if my old license key is accurate, but went dark for a while. It’s been released as v 2. It seems roughly the same as I recall it back in 2009: single window, with what seems to be a better image editor. It’s far more pleasent to work in than, say MarsEdit. I was going to say it’s more limited than MarsEdit in handling images, but it’s not: It just handles them differently. Embedding images from Flickr, for instance, is done by clicking on the image and selecting Send to Blogo from the service menu. The embedded image can be tweaked in Blogo, and it’s done.

Reduced face time in three courses

I’m trying out reduced face time in three courses: Tech Writing. A&E, and E-Rhetoric. The last also has an online-only grad section – a design I’m also trying out. All the content I typically generate – aka lectures and my notes – will be online. Activities will be similar to what I’ve used in the past: no tests but lots of notes and making. Deadlines for work are firm to promote timeliness. The idea is to reduce face to face classtime to one session per week and to focus that session tightly on a seminar discussion, or class tutorial, or individual tutorial, depending on what we need that week. Sort of what I remember from attending UCL, crossed with activity and sharing techniques from cMOOCs. As at UCL, face sessions are voluntary: Attendance isn’t required. Rather than a final exam, however, weekly work will verify whether the student might be better off attending the weekly session. Students can use the other class session time to meet and work together.

This design might not sound novel, but it is to me, and I have some apprehensions about it that I hope to work out this semester.

What else? No discussion board. Instead, discussions or exchanges will be attached to wiki pages: Keep the exchanges close to the content. Some collaborative work probably in Google Docs. No video lectures from me: I find them too slow and dispersed for the purpose. Lectures are what students are not coming to hear, right? All reading, for the most part. Some step by step tutorials using Clarify 2. Perhaps some screencasts if absolutely necessary.

All of this places a lot of responsibility on the student for technical skills, so I expect to use a bootcamp approach in the first set of requred meetings (bootcamp borrowed from ds106). Those online only will have to google their way into the technology. Eg “Go to Google and use its tutorials to set up a Google Docs account. Whe you have a Google Document created, email me the link .…” And “Google the term rss. Find out what it is and how it’s useful to you. Sign up for an RSS account online or using an RSS reader on your own computer. From there on, add the RSS feeds to wiki pages for this course that you want to monitor or are working on.” And “Register with Twitter. Use #ENGL2152 to request help or feedback from others ….” I probably need a checklist.

It all adds up to dynamic syndicated learning:

[PDF] Discussion board: A learning objectK Harman, A Koohang – … Journal of E-Learning and Learning Objects, 2005 –… The discussion board thus may be used as a “context board.” For example, the concept of usingthe discussion board as a “context board” fits well within Downes’ (2003b) recommendation forusing syndicated learning content: … Using syndicated learning content. …

Or will it be federated?

Existing online learning experiences lack the social dimension that characterizes learning in the real world. This social dimension extends beyond the traditional classroom into the university’s common areas where learners build knowledge and understanding through serendipitous and collaborative exchanges both within and across traditional subject area boundaries. A next generation virtual learning environment (VLE) can address the limitations of current online systems by providing a richer social context for online learning. We describe the end-user properties of … VLE that fosters dynamic group learning experiences and the development of communities of practice. This proposed VLE provides the capacity to merge the institutional infrastructure for academic computing, enterprise-level networks, Squeak/Croquet-based content authoring, and the educational principles of constructivist pedagogy.

Or another model?And I will need a statement of openness, revised from this, which I’ve use regularly.

Most of the writing we all do for this course will end up on the wiki. Notes, notes on notes, my comments, more notes, group notes and projects. As the course progresses, you’ll find that we can begin to link up these nodes, developing them into topics, and further developing topics over the semester and across semesters. The wiki becomes more valuable (to us, to the next group, and to whomever looks in) the more we develop topics over time.Writing the wiki is an integral part of this course and your learning for this course. As your notes progress, you will begin, I hope, to cross link to the notes and observations of others. University students and professors are now in the business of making their course work in progress available to those interested; it’s another new rhetorical practice of digital space.

I would rather have students work in their own spaces, to set up and use their own PLEs, and then aggrgate their work by linking materials they are submitting for evaluation to a wikiname page. But that’s for later.

And, one final device for this design: A weekly update, in the form of a blog post or wiki page, as appropriate. Downes et al used these in a couple of cMOOCs I participted in, and they worked to highlight substantive work and directions for students. Much as a face to face lecture signals what the instructor sees as important, so the weekly highlights helps students define a focus.

And Blogo?

because I’ve used this post to evaluate it. It has a few idiosyncrasies – and so it should! – in how it imports from the web to the draft, but those became useful quickly. It may be my machine, but Blogo doesn’t seem to be spell-checking. Minor, really. I’m looking forward to using it this semester.