In Sessions on February 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm



  • Information Visualization Demonstrations
  • Readings & Responses Review
  • Mid-term Feedback
  • Skype Chat with Alex Reid

Readings for Next Week:

Assignments (as assigned):

  • Write a 300-500 word response to the above readings and bring  a hard copy with you to class, or
  • Prepare an informal presentation on a classroom unit/assignment involving any of the previous (your choice) demo options assigned in class (wikis, instructor-made videos, geo-location technologies, or information visualization applications)
  • Prepare a question to ask Jody Shipka
  1. Twice in as many weeks we encounter a text suggesting that the “whatever” may be the appropriate attitude in consideration of digital technology and its effects on rhetoric and writing pedagogy (and on thought general), so here again I express my misgivings in terms of conflation of virtual and bodily realities, and I do not find these misgivings wholly assuaged by Reid’s distinction of the virtual-actual and the virtual technical.

    I am even perfectly willing, as a good little Heideggerian-Taoist-Leslie Marmon Silko fan, to accept Reid’s appraisal of the virtual-actual and the interconnectedness which this entails, that is, knowing and being along a spectrum of subjectivity versus a Platonic understanding of individuality. I will even go so far as to say that this is the way I would like education to work since I won’t contest that this is the way reality works.

    But Power necessitates a break from the virtual-actual, and I am not convinced that Power can be fought with Whatever. Power demands “excellence” and “competition” (chapt 9). Power reinforces difference and delegates roles and responsibilities (Chapt 2). Power constructs grand narratives and repackages representation as presentation (chapt. 5). Power decides who we are in binary (Galloway), and we find that once defined, we are restricted from operating outside of our programming by billy clubs, pepper spray, and sniper fire (as evidenced in Ukraine and Venezuela.

    In discussions of “whatever,” I am reminded of the more familiar capital-union conflict in which workers, facing corporate oppression, band together into a corporation of their own. In the 21st century, there is a paradigm shift away from incorporated labor in the form of the union, but yet the cause of the union’s formation, organized capital, persists. Wages and job security diminish, conditions worsen, and all the while capital thrives. I see this reflected in academe – we acknowledge shifts towards the virtual, towards a nebulous way of being in the world, towards Dasein, and yet Power continues to work in Gestellen (standing reserve). Power trades in property, commodities, guns, and blood while we seek purchase in bits and bytes.

    And for all this, I think that whatever is beautiful concept – a marvelous way of being in the world, a true way which persists whether it is conscious or not. I think that we as educators ought to teach “whatever,” especially in the face of deskilled labor and collaborative authorship, but we must also teach whatever as a potentially dangerous pitfall if we are to affect change in the material world.

    NOTE: On page 186 there is a quote by James Berlin about companies looking for creative, motivated thinkers who won’t challenge their established order. This so perfectly reflects one of my favorite songs that I’m including a link, below.

    (after listening to the song, note the imbalance in the exchange: the “employee” provides mental labor while the “boss” provides tangible capital…food for thought, yes?)

    • Also I just realized that I said “food for thought” meaning “Oh my, we can have a convo now,” but also that is literally the exchange I just described. Whoa…my pseudo-profundity is back!

  2. Alexander Reid’s explanation of “rip/mix/burn” and his exploration of Gregory Ulmer’s “widesite” project gave me an idea for how to begin my next project with my 1020 students. Next week we are supposed to begin working on a proposal argument. The original plan was to have students brainstorm potential issues and then move to the library databases to see what sources are available. I would normally ask them to find three articles to begin with and then practice different reading strategies for approaching academic/difficult texts. From there students would engage in further academic research to answer a series of questions: What is the problem? How bad is it? Who is affected by it? What should be done about it? How do you know the solution is feasible? How do you know it will work? What are other suggestions for fixing the problem? Why is your solution better? After conducting research, students then begin to work their way through the composing of a standard academic paper using a typical writing process.
    The new plan is to begin the project without ever mentioning a proposal argument. Instead I am going to ask students to create a digital collage of a problem. The problem can be anything from the personal to societal. Students will be asked to use images (still and/or moving), sound, words and/or phrases to create something that will tell an audience what the problem is, how serious it is, and who is affected by it. Students will not be required to cite sources; they will be free to draw from whatever is available to them digitally. This part of the project asks students to “think creatively, to put together information in surprising ways, and to operate in a more embodied, intuitive mode that does not require a firm structure” (175). This whole thing is meant to be an experiment for them and for me – I am interested in what issues and problems will surface using this approach rather than presenting them with an academic writing situation from the beginning. I am hoping that this will help students move away from the usual topics presented in databases such as CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints and work from a different and more interesting place.
    I acknowledge that this project does not fully embrace the “singular” or the “whatever” since students will still be required to write a formal paper in the end. I am really using Reid’s “mix/rip/burn” idea as an invention strategy. Although I hope that it will lead to unexpected and more authentic issues to write about, I do still know the end product of the whole project. There are several reasons for this. First, given the syllabus I have already created and the departmental page requirements, I need to have them write something substantial. Further, I am still not sure exactly how to create the kind of assignments many of the authors we have read allude to on a theoretical level in an actual first-year writing course. Finally, despite all we have read, I am not convinced that new media technologies and pedagogies have to take the place or will take the place entirely of written text. I feel like we can find room to value traditional writing and new media writing in the same space. This project will give me the opportunity to think about how these two approaches can be combined and inform one another to create something new while developing a wider set of composing skills.

  3. As Alexander Reid points out, “the influence of capitalism on higher education is long-standing and widespread” (182). Because of this, college education sets goals in the classroom to create students who are able to participate in the work force after graduation. From this, I began to wonder if this was the only problem of the present situation. This kind of interference has always been out there although universities want to be independent from other interventions to keep academic integrity. I cannot show the exact examples of these outside interventions but from general knowledge, religious and political institutions have been the most influencing interventions to universities and now capitalistic institutions are added. So I think the current situation between the marketplace and higher education is not that different from the past. Then I question: Have universities always been controlled by outside forces? If not, what did the former scholars/teachers do to keep academic integrity?

    Reid’s suggestion is helpful to understand what we should do since the capitalistic marketplace gives intensive influence on the field of education. By suggesting rip/mix/burn method, Reid argues that “the purpose of the curriculum is to provide students with the material context in which opportunities for both experimenting with writing practices and reflecting critically upon such practices are facilitated” (177). This is not a step-by-step process as the marketplace wants but a writing of becoming. His suggestion is a kind of experiment though it might not work. Also, his ideas are still abstract to me, I am okay with it. Nevertheless, one thing I am concerned about is the goal’s concreteness because from my college years, I learned that goals should be concrete: the more specific, the better. So I think we should try to provide concrete goals to students. At the same time, however, I worry that concrete goals cause us to fall back to what the marketplace wants because I think teleological thoughts lead students to accomplish the goal but nothing more.

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