What I’m reading 16 Jul 2015 through 22 Jul 2015

  • Beyond Conversation – FedWiki – “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. I mentioned ages ago (was it really only November?) that 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.”It’s the federation that makes this style of article linking valuable. – (fedwiki annotation notetaking )
  • The Web We Need to Give Students — Bright — Medium – Audrey weighs in on The domain of ones own initiative. “And then — contrary to what happens at most schools, where a student’s work exists only inside a learning management system and cannot be accessed once the semester is over — the domain and all its content are the student’s to take with them. It is, after all, their education, their intellectual development, their work. – (dh d2l privacy )

What I’m reading 12 Jul 2015 through 15 Jul 2015

  • Technology Fails Plagiarism, Citation Tests – "plagiarism detection software is being unmasked as not as effective as using browser search engines." But with Turnitin, you don't actually have to read the paper. Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm thinking we don't trust our own judgements. But the better argument is this,

    "Both plagiarism detection and citation software are harbingers of the dangers of seeking shortcuts for teaching students any aspect of writing; spending school or university funds on these inadequate technologies, I think, is hard to defend, but the greater pedagogical problem is how technology often serves to impede, not strengthen our roles as educators—especially as teachers of writing. – (plagiarism fyw )

  • Fear and Loathing of the English Passive – Geoffrey Pullum – Pullum clarifies use of the passive in English. Makes one glad to be alive. – (grammar usage syntax strunknwhite )
  • Human Resources and Thought Control – Lingua Franca – Geoffrey Pullum – Another strike at the gramma and umbrage gang. This time it's a matter of getting a focus: Don't try to change the language – change the damn HR policies.

    "My point is that either it’s right to try to reshape people’s thinking by sculpting their phraseology or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then Orwell shouldn’t have been trying to manipulate our political perception through linguistic revision. But if it is, then HR people are not doing anything wrong by following Orwell’s example.

    You can’t have it both ways: Thought control through word or phrase eradication… can’t be uncritically regarded as right when Orwell does it but automatically condemned as wrong when your employer does it. That’s begging the question." – (grammar standards strunknwhite )

What I’m reading 26 Jun 2015 through 11 Jul 2015

the high summer turn, books, and a consideration of method

I don’t look forward to it, but the week of the 4th of July strikes high summer – the turning point of summer towards autumn. The green starts to fade, the wildflowers start to seed, and I have to get my fall book orders in and start some serious work on syllabi.

The bookstore asks faculty to get book orders for fall in to them by April – five months early. Lately, the request has become a demand as they try to set deadlines for book orders. If I know the course is ready, I try to get an order in during spring. But for upper-division clases, and classes that need revision, I use the first month of summer to re-think the books. If a book didn’t work in the last offering, I want to change it – and that means reviewing student feedback on the course that comes in after the course is over.

I changed books in three of four classes this semester. Tech Writing remains the same: Graves and Graves, A Strategic Guide to Technical Communication. For A&E, I’m staying with OUP’s So What? but have changed the target text – the text we’re all reading to see how scholarly argument proceeds. This year it’s Jenkin’s, Ford, and Green, Spreadable Media. It’s written in the scholary register that students in Argumentation are expected to use.

For the Comp Theory grad seminar, I updated to Villanueva and Arola, Cross-Talk, 3rd edition – not because it’s a better edition but because the 2nd is no longer in print. And I dropped Wysocki, et al, Writing New Media for a broader source book, Lutkewitte, Multimodal Composition. That was a sacrifice, but new media has moved on and a sourcebook provides a better starting point for grad students in theory.

I made the biggest change in E-Rhetoric. For the second time, I’ve dropped Stoner and Perkins, Making Sense of Messages for Longaker and Walker, Rhetororical Analysis. Stoner and Perkins is far stronger on method, but Longaker brings in more focus on rhetorical concepts. Cheaper, too.

I keep finding that undergrad students are not enamored by a focus on method. They want to get to the rhetorical concepts and use the ad hoc methods they have developed informally in high school and their first couple of years at college. It’s frustrating. I say, “Look, there’s a method to this madness, a set of practices your professors use to figure out what a text means and how it works. We don’t work by intuition. You can learn the method. It takes some practice, but it will hold you in good stead.”

“Nah. Let’s just start and you can tell us when we’re right. We learn video games by trial and error. Let’s try that here, ok?”

A focus on method lets us develop far more insightful and significant analyses, but the process is intially tedious, requring repeated close observations and close description before bringing in rhetorical concepts. So I’ve toned down the emphasis on method for the looser hit-or-miss approaches students are in the habit of using. I’ll sneak in method by way of exercises and illustrations of how to proceed. It’s back to correcting student making instant conclusions and moving away from the analytical terms of rhetoric to informal terms, but those corrections are how we tend to learn: by closer and close approximation. Anyway, I’ll remix a lite version of method from Stoner and Perkins and bring that in as How to Proceed. Scaffolding.

What I’m reading 21 Jun 2015 through 24 Jun 2015

  • 68% of Statistics Are Meaningless, D2L Edition – Told u so. the LMS has nothing to offer in analytics. Wake up, partner. "I can’t remember the last time I read one of D2L’s announcements without rolling my eyes." – (d2l edcrap )
  • Challenging MOOCs – "Rather, I worry that MOOCs will increasingly deliver all studies in a similarly “lite” version, that MOOCs will be unlikely to provide much critical analysis or equip students to develop any, particularly on topics where there are passionate feelings or entrenched opinions." – (moocs )
  • Richard Bartle on MUDs and British Snobbery – YouTube – Matt Chat 296 – How ideology – and not necessarily the dominant one – gets laced into design. Dr. Matt Barton, SCSU, interviews Dr. Richard Bartle, co-creator of MUD. The MUD as a place that cancels out accent: On the internet, no one knows you're a northerner, so you're free to become a wizard. – (DH design opensource semiotics )

What I’m reading 19 Jun 2015 through 20 Jun 2015

What I’m reading 11 Jun 2015 through 18 Jun 2015

What I’m reading 28 May 2015 through 9 Jun 2015

  • Re-imagining Twitter – Example of how making it complex changes its potential. There's nothing intuitive about categories and stories: they are social concepts imported to bootstrap connection. What they do is make contextual information explicit rather than implicit. That adds to what can be carried by 140 characters. Ease of use gives way to augmentation. The link to lowercase capital in the subhead of the article is both a prominent move and a declaration of alignment (calling attention to itself *because* it's in the subhead). If we make it more complex, more people will use it! – (augmentation twitter socialmedia socialpractices erhetoric )
  • What’s Your Algorithmic Citizenship? | Citizen Ex – A Chrome extension that records (locally) the physical location of the servers that hold the sites you visit. We have defined identity by place and origin. What happens when we become visitors? A DH project by James Bridle, co-commissioned by The space and the Southbank Centre. I'm in. – (DH identity geolocation geopsycology )
  • Writing, Unteachable or Mistaught? – – (comp_theory )

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.

What I’m reading 25 May 2015