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.

New Media

widget me – r.i.p

I’m not going to suggest that Sproutbuilder (in beta) is going to be The Next Big Thing, but there is some potential here for goofing around if not for serious work. Sproutbuilder lets users (free registration) create embeddable Flash widgets, like the one in this entry. Multipage widgets can incorporate images, scrolling text, video, calendars, rss feeds, and other media and affordances, mainly remediated from full-sized web sites. The idea is to create widget-sized replicas of sites that operate as advertising panes or calling cards. Widgets can be embedded in other web pages, Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites.  The interactivity is sort of gimmicky but can be put to good use. A few uses occur to me.

  • online flyers for courses and activities.  Sprout casts their widgets as promotional gimcracks, but they can be appropriated for teaching.
  • more functional widgets for students in a course: a widget with a course wiki rss feed, calendar, links to the wiki or blog …
  • use in web content writing, web design, even College Writing I.  Students (groups) can be guided through creating widgets with concise text, rss feeds, maybe video and images.
  • ditto use in E-Rhetoric.  Widgets are small web sites. They require some deftness in crafting them, but they are limited enough to make them useful for new media projects.

I haven’t discovered if the widgets can be used outside of a browser yet.  And I haven’t fully considered the entertainment value – and the weird factor – involved in the potential for sharing them in places like Facebook.  Will students embed their professors in their profiles?  Will BSU’s new motto become Engage, Embrace, Embed?


Update 12 Dec 2012: It’s pretty clear that embedded Flash went the way of the dog. Sproutbuilder might still be around but they closed their feeemium model down a year or so ago. And since smartphones have limited support for Flash, the idea is likely dead –  or passed over to HTML 5 heaven.