Tag Archives: scholarship

#critlit2010: trees and linkers


photo by robokow


This morning I’m reading “The Hypericonic De-Vice,” from E-Crit, Marcel O’Gorman, and right in the middle of this passage –

… According to Ong, Ramus was simply responding to the need of universities to corporatize knowledge delivery:

… in the university, the teacher was also part of a corporation which was uncalculatingly but relentlessly reducing the personal, dialoging element in knowledge to a minimum in favor of an element which made knowledge something a corporation could traffic in, a-personal and abstract (almost as though it were something which existed outside a mind, as though one could have knowledge without anybody to do the knowing, as Ramists were eventually to maintain one could). (1958: 152)

The Ramist spatialization and infinite binarization of the world, which Ong refers to as a ‘corpuscular’ episteme, haunts our educational apparatus to this day; the same technological drive towards efficiency that spawned textbooks on logic is ow producing distance education and the ambitious electronic archiving projects that characterize much of the humanities scholarship in the digital age. (51)

O’Gorman is juggling Ramus, Ong, and Blake in this chapter. Here he is discussing Ramsus’s appearance at the cusp of printing, so that his trees articulating the division of knowledge into “natural” relations from generals to specials arrived at the moment when it could be distributed in print to young learners. Mnemonic devices to remind the learner of divisions of topics would not be needed after Ramus planted his schematizing of of bipartite division. Ramsus’s trees suited the economy of learning just-in-time. Kismet.

Here’s how it’s characterized at the university today, still in the corporate model:

Knowledge existing outside the knower = professional knowledge as it tends to circulate in the university.

Knowledge as the personal construct = amateur knowledge as it tends to circulate outside the university.

So, while I’m in the middle of passage, this week’s reading list from Critical Literacies arrives by email, including, Shirky: Ontology is Overrated, and Folksonomies – Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata, by Mathes.

Shirky sets what’s coming ([amateur constructed] folksonomy links that remove the need for [professionally constructed] hierarchical file systems) against other knowledge schemes (Dewey), and sees this:

What I think is coming instead are much more organic ways of organizing information than our current categorization schemes allow, based on two units — the link, which can point to anything, and the tag, which is a way of attaching labels to links. The strategy of tagging — free-form labeling, without regard to categorical constraints — seems like a recipe for disaster, but as the Web has shown us, you can extract a surprising amount of value from big messy data sets.

That is to say, we are moving from the filing system


to the file system disappearing to leave the links


images from Shirky

An observation: Constructing links does not eliminate the file tree. It’s still back there. But the links can remove dependence on the tree, and may remove the tree from the privileged position.

This is move from the Ramsian bipartite, where each item has to exist in one branch only, to the rhetorical, situational, probabilistic quantum where a particle can be in two places at once, exist in two states at once Shirky:

We are moving away from binary categorization — books either are or are not entertainment — and into this probabilistic world, where N% of users think books are entertainment. It may well be that within Yahoo, there was a big debate about whether or not books are entertainment. But they either had no way of reflecting that debate or they decided not to expose it to the users. What instead happened was it became an all-or-nothing categorization, “This is entertainment, this is not entertainment.” We’re moving away from that sort of absolute declaration, and towards being able to roll up this kind of value by observing how people handle it in practice.

The connect with critical literacy is pre-socratic, pre-Ramsian rhetoric.

The connect with PLEs might be this: Just as the book, the library, the taxonomy of the library, the taxonomy in the book are the hypericons of university knowledge, so the link, the directional gesture, the link-er, can be a hypericon of the PLE.

bookmarks for May 24th, 2010 through June 1st, 2010

bookmarks for November 26th, 2009 through November 29th, 2009

ou social:learn cluster

A set of links to announcements and materials for social:learn. Goes back to July, 2008.

teacher in your pocket

What I really like about this Apple email ad is how it quietly suggests that to learn, you need an iPhone. Buy the phone and get the content for free.

Having just bought an iPhone and committed myself for two years of at&t, I couldn’t agree more. I need a good ROI.

Forever curious.
Learn more
From lectures to documentaries to museum tours, iTunes U lets you learn anything, anytime, anyplace.
Now your favorite destination for music and movies is also a great place to entertain your brain. iTunes U in the iTunes Store offers free audio and video content from top universities, famous museums, public media stations, and other cultural institutions. So whether you want to learn from the world’s leading thinkers, get a sneak peek at the latest MoMA exhibition, or simply brush up on your Spanish, iTunes U makes it easy. To see for yourself,watch the tutorial.

This is an interesting ad for a close read. Teacher – and teaching – has been iPhoneized: captured, in the phraseology of knowledge management, to be processed later. The technology dominates, even to the extent that the professor – pictured at the business end of his own concrete tether – is now captured on screen, for access – or not – anytime, anyplace. Play, pause, rewind. The copy, too, glosses over any human construction or creation of content or ideas. Content comes predominantly from universities, museums, public media stations (BBC and NPR I guess). “Learn from the world’s leading thinkers” is the only nod.

Anytime and anyplace because the content is recorded. Perhaps the obvious use of the iPhone (or any 3G phone) for on-the-spot-just-in-time teaching and learning from a teacher/mentor is just too obvious to mention. Anytime anyplace is pretty hackneyed. Come to think of it, so is “entertain your brain.”

But really the ad promises no more than you could get from a local library: books and magazines. A good parody for reading would play on this matter. Use books for iPhones, adjust the copy just a little, or use it against itself, and link visit your local lending library. Get outside. Meet people. Have a coffee. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask someone.

Or call me. I still have to justify my new phone for teaching.

this way to the museyroom

joyce-1.jpgI’ve been reading Shirky’s HCE (nice to see a TIP callusion to Sterne Swift Joyce), so when I came across this final paragraph at Abject Learning, it leapt right out for the noticing. In Just to recap: we can find what we need, but will we find you? Brian Lamb is writing about a (really more sensible) option to creating a professionally-indexed (that is, filtered) TIP database of learning objects. Something involving cooperative production, perhaps. Recipe follows.

• Assemble your ingredients. ZaidLearn saved us a lot of hassle by assembling this handy list of open educational resource (OER) sites.

• You knew that Google already allows you to set up your custom search engine by whatever domains you wanted, right? So Tony Hirst took the ZaidLearn list and used it to quickly create an OER Search Engine. You can put the search box anywhere you want, including right here, just by cutting and pasting a little HTML:

• Then Scott gets it into his disturbingly shaved head to have the list of supported search domains run off of a wiki, so anybody can come in and add resources collections. I added a few bits, including the Creative Commons rich media search, though it might be necessary to paste in some of the specific collections.

But the paragraph that struck me was this:

As far as I know, Zaid Ali Alsagoff, Tony Hirst and Scott Leslie have never met, and there is no coordinating body to facilitate their collaboration. What is required (in addition to Google’s scary hegemonic presence providing a powerful platform) is openness. The resources need to be indexed on the open web, and when people do cool stuff and then blog about it, others can take the work to unexpd places.

That says a lot about earlier experiments with proprietary learning TIP objects our local system still puts its faith in.

Now yiz are in the Willingdone Museyroom.

venerable gutenbergs, coffeehouses, and theses

Venerable GutenbergMark my words: this from The Chronicle.com 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.