yancey and writing in the 21st century

studio photoKathleen Black Yancey in her recent NCTE report Writing in the 21st Century (pdf) touched a chord for mobile teaching of writing.

Yancey sketches a 19th and 20th century history of writing in America, and mentions the changing spaces of composing, from pen and ink, to pencil, to ballpoint, to typewriter, to stand-alone PC, to networked PC/camera.

Here, she centers on a few observations that take me into mobile learning and mobile learning software.

  • Our current model(s) of composing are located largely in print, and it’s a model that culminates in publication. When composers blog as a form of invention or prewriting, rather than as a form of publication (which I did in composing this text: see ), what does that do to our print-based model(s) of composing that universally culminate in publication?
  • […]
  • How do we define a composing practice that is interlaced and interwoven with email, text-messaging, and web-browsing? As Mark Poster observes, composing at the screen today isn’t composing alone: it’s composing in the company of others. How does that change our model(s) of composing?
  • How does access to the vast amount and kinds of resources on the web alter our model(s)?

Composing is ubiquitous, Yancey claims in a statement designed to redefine the teaching of composing from K – 12 on. And so sites of composing are open for teaching and learning on the fly. But on the fly doesn’t mean without pedagogy. It means that because we can’t control the environment for composing or teaching composing, we need a strong, well-grounded pedagogy

I’m all for saying goodbye to the print-based aims and means of composing, but people are still heavily invested in it. It’s safe, known, bounded, academic. I watch students draft and edit in Word then paste a finished version into the wiki for presentation. They love that grammar checker, spelling checker, and word count; they love that double spacing; they love that paper. They love it because they have developed writing practices suited to paper from working with paper – like interlinear editing – and have yet to become deft at online and networked versions of those practices.

Anyway, a few points for mobile teaching and learning, starting from Yancey:

  • Where in a composing process based on paper (the model students bring with them) would a second or third person enter – and how? By IM, txt, email, comment? a look over the shoulder? Where in the process is the trial balloon of posting ideas and chunks to a blog or wiki for feedback from others? What does the text look like at that point? It might be ThreadMode on a wiki, or something less structured, or (yikes) something more structured. (Going to articulated sentences too early in the process make it difficult to rip them down to restructure.)
  • What has to be unlearned or challenged as the site of composing changes?
  • Look to how txt poetry has been composed for a start, and look to how people compose txts. The other morning, I watched a woman compose and send a 3 line txt msg on her qwerty phone between ordering, paying for, waiting for a coffee. On other mornings, when the coffee line was long, I composed and snapped a pic, annotated it with a note – about waiting in line – and posted it to Brightkite for whoever was looking in. What’s the process engaged there? What’s the exigence?
  • Composing goes on between other activites in the same composing space. Even as I compose this blog post, I’m doing some directory maintenance on a server, flipping between composing in ecto and deleting files in Transmit – and still having time on my hands while wait. Not two writing tasks, but two tasks. Walking and chewing gum.
  • To teach composing open to mobile learning, we may have to start with writing that stays online, that is not meant for print. Change the ends – the delivery – and the means might have to change.
  • Look at the physical, social, and cognitive activities that people engage and draw on when composing in the interlaced social space – composing in the company of others – to develop a model of composing. Start with the environs.

And then consider what a mobile course in 21st century composing might look like.

New Media The Mundane

three educational uses for Brightkite: some notes

If you have to look for uses for an app, is it really useful? Or are you just making it up? We have to make it up at first to see the possibilities.

Back when the web was just getting going, early users had a sense of what it could be used for, a sense of the potential, even while the actual use at the time struck others as trivial.

You can link to anything. Anything. Like text to an image.

So? What’s the point of that?

You can connect chunk of text to other chunks. Read along paths.

And so?

So go read Vannevar Bush.


Brightkite allows users to send a notification of where the user is geographically and post a note that can be read by friends, or by people nearby, or by anyone on a public feed. With a mobile camera phone, the user can send an image along with the note.

So, outside of locating people or being located, what’s the point of that? What’s the educational point of that?

Brightkite casts its primary affordance as placestreaming:

Placestreaming, as in the stream of content originating from a specific place. We think this really captures what Brightkite is all about. We enable location based conversations. And location based conversations, in aggregate, are placestreams.

While there’s something of the buzzword in placestreaming (along with Eventstreaming and Lifestreaming), its a useful concept to start with.

A list of three

– As on twitter, Brightkite users can follow each other, seeing where others are physically, as well as what each other is doing. That can build community between users. That’s can not will. The quality of the posting is going to be a variable. But there’s something of the game of tag or geocaching in checking in on Brightkite and monitoring who’s nearby.

– The site runs a web app called The Wall. The Wall can be set up to see who’s in a vicinity, and lets non-Brightkite users post using their mobiles. See How the Mattress Factory Art Museum uses the Brightkite Wall. At the Mattress Factory, the Wall itself becomes a performance as people come and go – a little like Flickervision and Twittervision. But run The Wall in a classroom, or as a teacher, or as a member of a Brightkite-linked group. Members can see what others are doing, whenever they choose to check in. So, a professor can send students into the field, monitor The Wall, and gain periodical updates on what’s happening. All the students can see what others in the group are doing. If they are nearby, they can meet up. If they need help, they can ask anyone in the group. As they work, they can post results as notes or images.

– Landscape marking. I’m interested in how we can virtually annotate or tag the physical world, layering virtual observations. On the marketing / daily grind side, it can work like this:

So, I can be visiting a place like St. Petersburg, Florida, and I can check in. I might take a snap of the hotel where I’m staying, and I might add a note like “the coffee here is horrible, but there’s a Dunkin Donuts a few blocks west.”

Someone else in the area who is using the same application might now see this update and realize two things (depending on my privacy settings): 1.) I’m nearby. 2.) That the coffee at the hotel stinks. In both cases, this information is only available through the use of this software.

On the extensive side, Brightkite is an input for place tagging, but (as far as I can tell) the tags aren’t persistent to the geo-location of the place. If you’re not listening in when a place note is posted, you’ll miss it. What’s needed is a way of posting checkins, notes, and images to a more permanent, centralized space on a wiki or blog, or something delicious-like. (The iPhone app graffiti does this, but it’s a mess). This mashup might already exist. I’ll have look for it.

Other links along the way

Why I Use Brightkite,
5 Uses For Brightkite, andrew hyde
The BrightKite That I Hope To See…, SheGeeks
Using Social Media to Get Out of Your House, SheGeeks

Next or soon: the misery of using Brightkite. Checking in takes effort.

Blogging General New Media Print Culture The Mundane Wikis

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.