New Digs. New Projects.

The blogs are few, but the writing has continued in the academic form these days. I have, however, been blogging at a few different spots occasionally:

Lingering Acad[m]eme
The Fargo to Southern Sudan XO / Sugar Project

My time has also been spent on a musical project, Black Boxes, with Steven Hammer (aka patchbaydoor). We've played a few shows and things are starting to get really interesting with our analogue/electronic duo.

Stay tuned.


What I've Been Up To

So, blogging has certainly stopped for awhile, but the writing has continued in other arenas.

I've been working on some wikis lately for school and research projects:

Second Life Research

Nonprofit Research

Book Review on Conducting Socially Responsible Research

Conference Panel on Emoticon Usage (<-- will be operational come Thursday, April 22) ; )

Some of the papers I have been writing relate to these wiki projects. I wrote a lit review discussing Second Life's use thus far in Rhetoric/Composition studies, and have made some connections between it and the fields previous stint with MOOs. I argue that we seem to be repeating history with our use of SL as we did with MOOs, and we have yet to truly explore the various affordances and drawbacks of teaching in a virtual world such as SL versus the RL classroom. Ultimately, they both work, but what still needs to be discussed is what type of educator would find SL useful and beneficial.

I am also working on a research proposal exploring donors' current definitions of "donation" and "charity". I've written up some survey questions, but still need to work out a lit review. I am thinking of using the "American Dream" myth really brought about by Henry Ford in the latter half of the Great Depression era. I have an opinion piece that he wrote in 1934, regarding his disdain for the term "unemployment", as well as our nation's practice of what we call "charity". This piece was a precursor to another article (that I have yet to find) that discusses his notion of "self-help" which from what it sounds like is the American Dream myth of working hard = success, achieving dreams.

In relation to my study, I am curious how donors define the term charity and donation in the scope of nonprofits (of which Ford despised). With growing trends for charities to adopt forprofit marketing strategies, does this blur the lines between their inherent definition of consumer vs. donor? What are the implications of this fuzzy line? What will donors come to expect from charities, b/c of this conceptions? Will the growing trend of social entrepreneurship overtake our current system of NPOs originally developed by Rockefeller?

Anyways, a lot to chew on. Wish me luck.


Video Game Storytelling: An Isolated event?

I stumbled (looking at vids using voice filtering software) upon this amateur 3d vid, where a story is told about some bounty hunters in some world where there are humans and robots of all sorts. What I found interesting, aside from the story, is that it had a look and feel of a video game. It seemed to make rhetorical moves, gestures, as well as plot moves as a video game. For example, the robot "witness" character tells one of the other robots where "she" can find the bounty (a human) and bounty nemesis. This type of character is very common in video games, where before one can continue on in the journey, unlocking the next part of the game, one must find the correct character to engage with and retrieve essential information.

I remember a particular game from my youth (Shining Force 2, a RPG), where it took me a week or so to find and rescue a certain character before another character would let me continue on with my journey. Sure, we do this (you give me this, and I'll do this) in our day-to-day lives, and find these moves in some stories too, but the rhetorical moves that these characters make in video games are very cut-and-dry -- A + B = C. It is a definite move away from a modernist's approach to showing vs. telling.

I'm curious if I can find more amateur vids like this with similar character representation.


Teaching Philosophy (beta?)

Chris Lindgren takes a genre-based approach to teaching composition (influenced by Deborah Dean’s Genre Theory) that provokes his students to approach their writing by always keeping their audience and purpose at the forefront. He also follows Dr. Jill Walker Rettberg (author of Blogging) and her continuing efforts to implement blogging and other social media tools as a means to not only develop more confident writers, but also empower students through writing that has an audience beyond the classroom.

His college composition curriculum includes weekly blogging activities that prompt students to take responsibility for their own pre-writing and drafting activities, which also aides in their peer-to-peer learning skills. Students practice the skills that Henry Jenkins calls “participatory culture” necessary for success in the 21st century (Jenkins 3). This utilization of social media tools not only helps them build the skills necessary to communicate effectively in online networks, but it also builds a higher level of discernment with the types of information readily available to them on the web, judging what information is credible and reliable. Lindgren’s curriculum strives to provide his students with a common goal, gathering, pooling and synthesizing information knowledge together in a collective intelligence, as Jenkins also discusses in “Confronting the Challenges in Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century” (4).

With these influences in mind, Lindgren has developed a first-year composition unit called the HyperMedia Profile. This unit calls for students to research and choose a leader of whom they are not familiar, and create a profile using WordPress. Students face the challenges of effectively using various hypermedia (music, images, video, hyperlinks, other social media sites, etc.) to enhance the dominant impression of the profile. Throughout the unit, Lindgren prompts students to share tips, tricks, and various utilities they find on the web with the other students via their blogs. The student blogs serve as a beta environment, i.e. a place for constructive feedback from their peers, where both students and the instructor learn from each other.

His curriculum represents his motivation to have his students cross the academic threshold, considering how their writing can add to the discussion(s) in their respective fields. It also aims to introduce students to various genres, always reinforcing the rhetorical nature behind composition, seeing and believing there is an audience and purpose for their writing.


Précis: Berlin's Contemporary Composition

Berlin, James A. "Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories." College English 44 (1982): 765-777.

Berlin seeks to ask composition instructors to redefine their views on writing process pedagogy. He prefaces his essay by addressing a disagreement on how teaching approaches should not be defined by their “emphasis” but rather its relationship to the writer, reader, audience, and language. Using this model of analysis, he then reviews four dominant pedagogical groups to later compare and contrast their similarities and differences.

The Current-Traditionalists seek to revive the classical, Aristotelian mode of deduction, where truth exists only through the revision of new logic to the established “faculties of the mind” (769).

The Positivists, many of which believe they are Current-Traditionalists, are grounded in the empirical and experimental induction of truth. Truth is discovered not invented, and no system of rationale is needed to arrive at this not-so probabilistic truth.

The Neo-Platonists are rooted in Plato’s analogy as a means to express and conceive the dynamic truth. Its dialectal nature functions as a means to remove error, but the discovery of truth is arrived at privately. No truth is certain nor invented.

The New Rhetoricians also believe that truth is dynamic, but differ from Positivists and NPs by seeing truth as probablisitic, where the writer is given techniques by which to fabricate truth in relation to his/her audience. Rhetoric then becomes the “determiner of reality” (774)

Berlin concludes his essay by contesting that the value of composition pedagogy is not in the process itself, but rather instructor’s ability to understand and the process by which they conform to.


Sedgwick - Axiomatic

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. "Introduction: Axiomatic." Epistemology of the Closet. Berkley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1990. 40-59.

...the scope of institutions whose programmatic undertaking is to prevent the development of gay people is unimaginably large. No major institutionalized discourse offers a firm resistance to that undertaking; in the United States, at any rate, most sites of the state, the miltary, education, law, penal institutions, the church, medicine, mass culture, and the mental health industries enforce it all but unquestioningly, and with little hesitation even at recourse to invasive violence. So for gay and gay-loving people, even though the space of cultural malleability is the only conceivable theatre for our effective politics, every step of this constructivist nature / culture argument holds danger: it is difficult to intervene in the seemingly natural trajectory that begins by identifying a place of cultural malleability; continues by inventing an ethical or therapeutic mandate for cultural manipulation; and ends in overarching, hygienic [-- conducive to good health --] Western fantasy of a world without any more homosexuals in it.

It is amazing to sit back and look--really look--at the sociological systems at work here. By comparing the lack of efforts for institutions to promote homosexuality to the outright efforts to efface homosexuals as they are defined as an abnormal species.

Another minor point of evidence is evident in medical rhetoric used to describe homosexuality as a hormonal imbalance. Sedgwick has really opened my eyes to another way to confront the issue(s) of sexual identity.


Précis: The Canon as Cultural Capital

Guillory, John. "The Canon as Cultural Capital." What We Read. 218-224.

John Guillory examines the culture of school, questioning the relationship between American students and the works of the “Western” canon. He argues that the Western canon deracinates the multiplicity of the national culture through the study of cultural artifacts as capital, i.e. the appropriation of knowledge. Guillory argues this by first pointing out that American culture self-identifies itself as a final product of Western civilization, blurring the lines between what defines a culture versus a civilization. He believes that through the universal teaching of “High Cultural,” Western artifacts, (e.g. Plato or Homer), schools teach students to proffer the text as their own, i.e. Plato is our culture. He finds that this blurred definition is the driving force behind America’s school system’s relation to culture versus the exempt emphasis on the content of the culture.

Guillory then connects this confusion to the illusion of a homogeneous culture, where all works are created equal, and not set apart from the domineering Western canon. To prove this point, he situates the American ownership of Western civilization as culture next to other objects of study such as works from Afro-American, Latin-American, etc. writers. He claims that because an Afro-American text is never compared to a Greek text as a Greek text. This implicit ownership and prominence of the West as American-National culture—West versus Multiculturalism—is also implicit in the regard of oral literatures, e.g. “Plato and Aristotle, Virgil, and Dante are great works of literature in English.” This process of requiring these texts to be studied out of the cultural context solidifies, as Guillory says, the school’s “supposed transmission of culture.”