New Media Pedagogy Print Culture

media arriving by post

proboscis package.jpgI have gotten so used to getting stuff online that receiving a package by post is an event.

Ok: I take that back. Most of my books come in by post. And some software. And most hardware. And spices because we can’t get much locally. Ok, and the magazines and journals. And Viv’s inks. And paper.

Ok, except for those things, I get most of my stuff online. But I got a package of stuff today. is a think- / project-tank in EC London who have been doing some interesting projects with storytelling, gps-annotation mashups, and re-remediation. Their projects involve using digital devices to map experience and understanding to material spaces: mapping day to day experience to the cityscape by way of public authoring and gps devices; mapping stories to cubes as a heuristic; re-mapping writing and images to inexpensive paper ebooks that are made to be further enscribed.

I found Proboscis by way of a mention on if:book, and started re-working course materials from wiki to paper using their in beta Generator. My work is timid so far, but last winter, Andrew Hunter offered a course Anarchaeology: Collecting, Curating and Communicating Culture making use Diffusion projects at the U of Waterloo. There are some interesting possibilities for First-Year Comp. Freshmen Map the Campus?

I have to put together a sabbatical project for 2009 – 10. Maybe London’s calling.


little new under the late may sun

Bemidji forecast.jpgI just finished reading the new Pew Report: Writing, Technology and Teens. Much of the report is old-hat to comp/rhet types, but it provides some significant triangulation with other studies. Pew rediscovers using surveys and focus groups what rhet/comp has been seeing for years in smaller cases. And there’s some interesting stuff that could be used by marketing in creative writing; to reach high school students who enjoy creative writing, look to the blogs. That’s where the future writers are working.

The summary is a little disappointing, however. From one angle, the survey found little to hang our hats on: no patterns found.

Teens have very individual writing and technology experiences. If we were to systematically profile the practices and preferences of each of the teens we spoke with, no two profiles would be alike. Teens report communicating with adults and peers using all types of media––but there is no clear pattern in how they communicate or which methods they prefer under which circumstances. It all depends upon the situation.

“It all depends” is rarely a satisfying or informative answer.

But from another angle, the final summary reinstates that the writing students are doing, the writing that’s significant to them, is at root rhetorical: situational, dependent, tailored to achieve an end. And so the challenges to teachers are also rhetorical:

That is what poses the central challenge to those who hope to encourage and teach writing to teens. Young adults are immersed in an environment of electronic communication that is vitally important to them, but that may not necessarily lend itself to lengthy, logically structured writing. In teens’ own views, those who can figure out how to tap into their distinctive, situational communications behaviors and connect them to the process of learning how to write will have taught them an invaluable lesson that will improve their lives.

Perhaps that’s little more than the old maxim, “Start where they are.” But it makes a case for looking at the electronic textual environment rather than brushing it off. That’s enough, I guess.

General Print Culture

venerable gutenbergs, coffeehouses, and theses

Venerable GutenbergMark my words: this from The is going to get some play in the next few weeks.

Writing Students and Professors Fight to Keep Theses From Being Freely Available Online

As more graduate students deposit their theses online and make them freely available, college administrators on a number of campuses are being asked to treat creative-writing theses differently. English professors and writing students are pressing college officials to exclude creative-writing theses from open-access policies, arguing that they undermine students’ ability to get published in literary journals.

Jeanne M. Leiby, an associate professor of English at Louisiana State University, is among those who argue that writing students should not be forced to widely distribute their theses online. Ms. Leiby, who is editor of the literary journal, The Southern Review says in an article in this week’s Chronicle that she will not accept manuscripts that have been freely disseminated online.

She also says that writing students may be hesitant about making their theses open access because of professional pride. “I don’t necessarily want people to go back and read my thesis,” says Ms. Leiby, who earned a graduate degree in writing from the University of Alabama. “I’d like to think that in 15 years I’ve become more of a writer. I don’t necessarily want those early attempts associated with my name.”—Andrea L. Foster

The more complete news article is here. It looks like publishers who want to maintain exclusive rights to work are driving the university policies.

The argument also seems to rest on thinking of a thesis as a magnum opus: as the masterpiece of production. I wonder about that. I’ve always read (and written) theses and dissertations as a first step into the professional field. A start, not an end.

So, choose your theme to discuss:

  • Print and pixels. Print argues that exclusive rights to a work creates value. Pixels argues that less-restrictive rights create value. Discuss quietly among yourselves.
  • A creative work must be in print and controlled by a sanctified publisher to be valuable. Stepping over that barrier devalues the work – now and forever more. Myth or fact?
  • A work deemed creative and worthy by a master’s or dissertation committee is not really worthy. The True Measure is Publishing. Yea or nay?
  • The creative work is fundamentally different than the scholarly work. Art is not scholarship, nor scholarship art. (Of course the work is valued differently, as different genres are. But the successful argument will demonstrate an essential difference between the creative work and the scholarly work.) Extra points for not resting your argument on the trope that Art is Inspired. That needs a proof of the existence of gods.
  • There’s no hiding your juvenilia anymore. (Was there ever? Ask Milton. Ask Eliot.)
  • The quaint idea that a Writer can somehow conceal or control the work that came before the work. (Has anyone read The Road to Xanadu?)
  • The even quainter idea that distribution before Official Publishing is somehow new, novel, or a result of the Interweb. (You may refer to Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Steele and Addison, or any of the coffeehouse writers of the 18th century. Extra credit for making a case against serial publication by Dickens.)

My dissertation (Student Rhetorical Interaction in an E-Mail Conference: A Case Study of a First-Year Writing Course) has been online since the afternoon it was approved. I wrote my MA thesis before the web was invented, although bits of it might still be floating around the MERITS system from 1986. Maybe I’ll scan and upload it this summer. There’s not enough narrative crit on the web, and my thesis was a real cracker: “A Narrative Analysis of John Fowles’s The Magus.

Blogging New Media Pedagogy Print Culture

looking forward to looking forward

We’re beginning to wrap things up in Weblogs and Wikis. Starting tomorrow, we’re back to face to face meetings with two ends: project presentations, and some discussions of implications – looking back and looking forward.

The discussion idea came to me late last week when I ran into a posting on The Ed Techie, a blog run by Martin Weller, a professor with the IET (I’m not sure we ever met when I was in MK years ago). Whither the blogosphere? looks briefly at the fragmentation of discussion spaces occurring with Google Reader, Flickrr, Facebook, and Twitter. Not that there’s anything to lose sleep over. People are still reading and writing blogs, even as they start to use other spaces. Ed sees the fragmentation as succession.

What I think is happening is another example of technology succession. The blog was the primary colonizer for the barren landscape of online identity. The presence of this colonizer changed the environment, which made it more amenable to secondary colonizers, e.g. YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, etc which relied on the blog to spread. This in turn made the environment even more friendly towards the social flow apps, which started out linking to blogs, but have gradually taken on their own life. This resulting ecosystem will vary for each of us – for the people above the third wave of colonization has taken over the dominance of the blog and forced it into a smaller ecological niche. For others, the blog is still dominant, but these other tools flourish around it.

For me, it’s a matter of ends. Blogs are still used because they still serve rhetorical purposes, still provide a space for a running discussion.  Other spaces provide a space for different rhetorical situations (Twitter), or serve a different set of rhetorical purposes (Facebook, Second Life, Flickr).

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Martin’s post started me looking for a way to frame up a discussion on the (social – rhetorical) implications of blogging and wiki writing. They are always just below the surface, but I don’t think I ever worked at bringing them out in class. Now that 16 students have finished 10 week projects, they are in a pretty good position to stop and think about what All This Might Mean.

Class discussions on implications tend to digress into hearsay, anecdote, clichés, and yawns. To avoid that, I’m starting with some class notes [link to come], and a set of links to sites that just begin to tease open some implications.


Then there’s the Wikipedia reminder for would-be posters that neatly puts students and professors alike in our place:

Remember that millions of people have been taught to use a different form of English from yours, including different spellings, grammatical constructions, and punctuation. Wikipedia:Manual of Style

Nothing like shaking the ethnocentric tree a little to get things started.

The trick to this discussion will be to focus groups on specific groups of people: university teachers, for instance, or marketeers, or administrators, freelance writers, technical writers, students who are only 12 years old right now… Keep a human face on the implications, and keep grounding matters in the material world of symbol users.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.