Readings for Next Week:
If anyone else is up late and gazing over the materials, This link floated to the top of BoingBoing today, and it might be material to our discussion!
I hope this is where we are supposed to be posting our responses…
For starters, after doing the reading for this week’s class I feel like I need a multivolume dictionary and someone to hold my hand and walk me through what all of this means. I read the articles in the order in which they were posted, meaning I started with Conatser’s “Changing Medium, Transforming Composition.” There is one word to describe that decision: MISTAKE. Overall, the reading was sometimes difficult for me to follow because although I am an active participant on the internet, I am certainly not well versed in how or why things work. That being said, the other readings (specifically Jeff’s article and the study by Wolffe) were helpful and instrumental in building my confidence.
The study by Wolffe was interesting for a few different reasons. The article itself was published recently; however, from the information provided it would have appeared as though the study itself had been conducted a few years prior to publication. What this showed me was how even in the matter of a few years the landscape of Web 2.0 (a term I am still not entirely sure I understand) has changed drastically. Wolffe pointed out how different websites were in the early days of the World Wide Web (itself an outdated and funny sounding word these days) and discussed the lack of “interconnectivity.” Instantly I was reminded of the Internet “Fun Fact” that the official website for the movie Space Jam has been left entirely unchanged since 1996. He was right in suggesting that it is difficult to remember what websites used to be like because we have grown so accustomed to contemporary and hyper-connected sites that are efficient and user friendly (to the point where I don’t have to have a clue how tumblr works to be able to navigate the site with some ease). Going back to the Space Jam website, I was able to confirm everything Wolffe said about early web design. In 1996 I was ten years old and we did not have the internet. We had an Apple IIe computer with a dot-matrix printer. We finally got the internet just in time for AOL. Not 2.0, the original AOL. The jokes today about “when I was your age, the internet made this sound: ssskkkkkkrwwwwwweeeeeeerrrrrrrrt” hit the nail on the head for me. By this time, the web was already changing. Service providers such as AOL enabled a connectivity which for many people was surreal. Imagine, spending your afternoon sitting at the computer and chatting with a new friend who happens to live half a world away. Nowadays that does not seem so radical. But it was life changing. Even those of us who grew up before the internet or Web 2.0 have gotten used to the way interconnectivity impacts our lives. I believe it is safe to say that a visit to the Space Jam website would be jarring and awkward, even for those of us who once thought it was groundbreaking and amazing.
So what does this mean for the writing classroom and the future of composition studies? As instructors we are aware of the tendency of students to resist the writing class and sometimes even be hostile towards learning. I believe that by making the writing classroom more open to real-life application is a great step in helping preserve the humanities and keep it growing. While I may not be able to jump on the bandwagon created by Conatser, I can appreciate his intentions and agree that a technology-infused writing course which encourages students to embrace the methods of writing they use on a daily basis and incorporate these methods into their academic lives will be highly beneficial to the learning environment. My own endeavors in this have failed to date; however, that is precisely why I am here. And I hope Jeff realizes he has his work cut out for him with this one…
Here is the link to the Space Jam website: http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/jam.htm
As the digital revolution has chugged along, humanities scholars have more or less accepted the subsumption of paper into digital formats. A growing number of scholars even embrace the change, and read together, the four articles for this week traced the development of this movement. Digital humanists research, teach, and promote the use of networked technologies, and through their increasingly vocal presence in academe they have brought attention to the problems they find fascinating. But is digital pedagogy really that different from traditional pedagogy? If it is different, should we let it be that way? When it comes down to it, what are we teaching now that we haven’t taught in the past?
Introducing students to new tools is exciting, and coding is probably the most vital language use of the 21st century. But ultimately, if our students are not becoming more nuanced thinkers and more articulate speakers, we are not helping them grow; they will not mature, they will only spread. How do we balance teaching the importance of teaching the new with the unchanging old, and do we need to try harder to keep those essential skills the primary focus of scholarly discussion?
This is my first draft of the response, as I didn’t save the final draft. It’s not too significantly different. Sorry!
Trey Conatser’s “Changing Medium, Transforming Composition” and William Wolff’s “Interactivty and the Invisible: What as Writing in the Age of Web 2.0” made some similar observations about the uses of technology and the web in the contemporary composition classroom. Both advocate for alternative versions of the writing process which take into account the collaborative, interlinked, networked, and public nature of the internet’s varied forums for writing. However, while Wolff details common and widely used platforms such as Facebook, Myspace, blog hosts and others which do not require coding proficiency, Conatser steps out into the world of the coding by requiring his students to compose on an XML editor, rather than the traditional Microsoft Word or a more common web-based program. I was fascinated by Conatser’s description of his class, and the way that using the XML editor automatically tuned his students’ thinking towards collaboration and metacognition, which I’ve found are often difficult concepts to drive home to first-year composition students.
I do wonder, however, about the practicality or relevance of using XML and other web-based social networking media as venues for writing in composition courses. It boils down to a tension between the perceived goals for first-year writing classes; how do we reconcile the practice of preparing students to write for traditional, staid future college courses while also emphasizing contemporary composition theory and the new directions the writing process is heading thanks to Web 2.0? Should one focus receive preference over the other? Is there a way to give equal attention to both? Is there a way to integrate them? Should we be advocating that the way scholarship is done throughout the university needs to progress and come into sync with Web 2.0 practices, or can we only focus on our small corner of the academic world? And what would a new type of scholarship look like? These sorts of questions circulate frequently among Digital Humanists, particularly in consideration of professional discourse, but I’m not sure if those ideas would apply in the undergraduate world, as well.
At the end of “Digital Humanities…” Kirschenbaum asks of the discipline: “Isn’t [it] something you want in your English department?” and on this query I’m of two minds: coming from a literature background, and frequently (if only for selfish reasons) arguing for the literary legitimacy of popular media like video games and comic books, I see no problem at all with widespread adoption and integration of new technologies – All your rhetoric are belong to us! Such kairos – amaze! Ehermagehrd – Rherterric ernd Cermperzertion!!!11one
But then I’m also reluctant to join the technology rah-rah bandwagon in that I’m loathe, as Alexander Pope said, to be “…not the first by whom the new are tried,” though in deference to the quote, let’s complete it: “…nor yet the last to lay the old aside.” I’m all for cautious integration, but at a glance (and I’ve only thus far taken a glance), feels like a wholesale rush to climb aboard a fast-moving train without any real inquiry after its destination.
Accepting at face value that we live in a multimodal world, what does that mean for humanities academics and pedagogists? Here’s what’s stuck in my craw: Trey Conatser proudly discusses his successes in integrating XML documents into the classroom, but I’m more than a little interested in the failures – I’m interested in discussing the ways new composition techniques may actually provide barriers to access rather than cheering for a brave new digital world.
In accepting a multimodal rhetorical methodology (as outlined by Kirschenbaum), I feel we’re as much as anything shifting our baseline competencies around and I worry to what effect. It’s so fashionable, and has been fashionable for a long time, to take pot-shots at the five-paragraph essay, but to a young student struggling to organize his or her thoughts it can be a godsend. I see Conatser’s logic working in this same vein, I even appreciate it (my own nightmarish experiences with Subversion notwithstanding), but running in parallel I’m sensing this sort of headlong tumble into reifying identity as a digital construct within a digital chora, and it makes me wonder if anyone has stopped to ask figuratively where this bus is going.
This chora of digital identity and digital rhetoric will obviously require digital literacy in exactly the same way as meatspace interaction requires what we might consider traditional or conventional rhetorical literacy – we can’t believe everything we read on the internet, after all, and we must attempt to be ethical and honest when we attempt to persuade on the internet. I see issues in broad-scale implementation which I can’t easily put aside. I see a potential de-skilling of writing in the obsession with fast-moving information, as though raw data were all there were to a rhetorical exchange. I worry about loss of context and identity – it’s more than worry: when a housewife from Des Moines, Iowa leaves a hateful comment on a news story concerning a dead teenager in Sanford, Florida I see a complete lack of empathy. My worry is an old-fashioned one: that we’ll reduce ourselves down to ones and zeros, and what of the human will be left in the humanities then?
Arguably, that’s our challenge, and in stating the challenge I suppose I come to some peace with the matter, or at least a decent place to stop writing.
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