Thursday, August 28, 2008

Just a Little Taste of the Bass 4U

ok, do i do this. i've got divergent interests.

the first is props for the society of american archivists' annual meeting. it's going on here. as derrida says (and this is HUGE):

...the concept of the archive must inevitably carry in itself, as does every concept, an unknowable weight. The presupposition of this weight also takes on the figures of "repression" and "suppression," even if it cannot necessarily be reduced to these. This double presupposition leaves an imprint. It inscribes an impression in language and in discourse. The unknowable weight that imprints itself thus does not weigh only as a negative charge. It involves the history of the concept, it inflects archive desire or fever, their opening on the future, their dependency with respect to what will come, in short, all that ties knowledge and memory to the promise.

always already politics in naming and organizing.

here's where it gets weird, different, or better. i was cleaning out my "old" study and came across some old Bukowski that i used to use in classes i taught at a community college during and right after my M.A.

as i remember it, my pedagogy might have been better then. it certainly was unbridled. here's an old handout.

the people are weary, unhappy, frustrated, the people are
bitter and vengeful, the people are deluded and fearful, the
people are angry and uninventive
and I drive among them on the freeway and they project
what is left of themselves in their manner of driving-
some more hateful, more thwarted than others-
some don't like to be passed, some attempt to keep others
from passing
-some attempt to block lane changes
-some hate cars of a newer, more expensive model
-others in these cars hate the older cars.

the freeway is a circus of cheap and petty emotions, it's
humanity on the move, most of them coming from someplace
hated and going to another they hate just as much or
the freeways are a lesson in what we have become and
most of the crashes and deaths are the collision
of incomplete beings, of pitiful and demented

when I drive the freeways I see the soul of humanity of
my city and it's ugly, ugly, ugly: the living have choked the

um, er, yeah.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kindle to Target Colleges

Well, classes have started and young scholars are scurrying about. Part of their scurrying involves trips to the bookstore to drop cash (or plastic) on textbooks. Like everyone else, I've heard students complaining about the cost and weight of many of their texts; fortunately, they haven't complained outright with regard to my singular required text (all other readings are available free-o-charge digitally).

These laments are part of the reason that I think it's pretty cool that Amazon intends to market a version of its Kindle to colleges and universities. I read about this on TechCrunch...the link is here.

I am sure that opposition to this will take many forms ranging from fear of Amazon's hegemony (because traditional purveyors of textbooks aren't hegemomic in their own right) to "oh my gosh Student Stores has gone/will go out of business!" to complaints that nothing beats the feel and experience of a "real" book. To all of these detractors, I would posit that what matters most is the engagement with the content we call text regardless of its form.

That said, the change in form is pretty impressive and if readers prefer it, good. I'm the last person who'd want bookstores or libraries to disappear, however I don't think they will even if every young scholar has a Kindle in hand. These institutions will endure because, at their heart, they are communities of practice. They'll endure even if the tools that enable that practice change.

What I'd like to focus on with the possible impact of Kindle on college campuses is how user practice and expectation might change. I'm also curious about how access might benefit users of all types and how users might be able to do more with (inter)textuality. In short, I'd like to take the ethics we use to critique Kindle's potential entry and use those ethics to direct Kindle's entry toward the utopias we keep pining for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Newspapers as Social Networks

I get the Seattle Times news feed in my's a good "paper" and it makes me feel connected to the Emerald City. Several days ago Brier Dudley crafted a piece entitled "Newspapers as Social Networks" where his central thesis seemed to revolve around an adamant claim that newspapers (and "traditional" news sources like NPR) still matter and that they can be construed as social networks. This seems right-headed and I buy in, but I can see how folks might now assume the term social network to mean what used to be referred to as online social network (OSN). This is, of course, fair play since language leaks, changes, and morphs in response to shifting contexts and paradigms. Web 2.0 has certainly fostered many shifting contexts and practices...realities do look differently these days.

In reading Dudley's piece, namely where to responds to Mark Anderson's tacit claim that newspapers are dead, I could not help but think of the video Googlezon EPIC 2014.

The faux documentary profiles the demise of print media and the acceleration of web-enabled hyper-consumption. Check it out.

While form has certainly changed (i.e., print) the utility of content has not. Analysis and information that comes from content is still valued and sought after, maybe now it's just in digital form. Who authors such analysis has changed too. Sure Web 2.0 allows unlimited authors, some dopes and some well-qualified pundits, but the best analysis does still matter. This assumption is akin to the claim that Google is making us "stoopid" (see previous post); and, it assumes that when authorship was a function of power and access and print was the dominant medium that people were enlightened and ever-critical. Now that the form has changed and there's more content all of a sudden everyone's confused, lazy, and more doltish than ever. That's a tough sell for me.

My take on Dudley's reminder that newspapers still matter, though they matter differently, is buttressed by a belief that "reading" as a discursive practice still happens and the communities that do this are increasing (not decreasing). I guess, I'm arguing that "reading" matters and its definition (like that of social network) changes too. Indeed, it should also be noted that merely "reading" is not a cure-all for ignorance or unenlightenment; critical engagement with any text happens beyond mere deployment of a technical literacy act. I hope and believe that people do want incisive commentary and useful information, they just forage differently for it. The social network is still there, it's not new--just sustained by a digital form that requires new acts and practices of reading, and of community.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Damn the Canon

It seems like a month of Sundays since I've blogged...syllabi, research, and baby created the perfect storm that pulled me away. But, alas and alack.

So, to that end...those last two sentences are what I love about blogs...the context and constructedness of the reading and writing that happens there. The discourse can be hokey (see above), high brow, insightful, or inane. The geographical texture is just amazing and, being a Compositionist, I'm grateful for it because I'm allowed a ton of latitude and unfettered reflexivity that other spaces don't provide.

All of this sentimentality plays in to the debate that happened recently when Clay Shirkey "dissed Tolstoy". My pal Mike Brown turned me on to this melee. Check it out at:

The story is about halfway down the page and includes many responses worth a skim through.

What I like about the debate is that it's an old one and I'm hoping that Shirkey's point gets examined to the degree that it deserves. Broadly speaking, he is right to claim that no one reads Tolstoy and the like AND that new practices of "reading" as well as the "texts" that get "read" are not novels or contingent upon historical notions of logocentrism. If he is fetishizing the web, "The Wire", and whatever else the same way that Tolstoy gets fetishized by self-deluded professors of literature, then shame on Shirkey. However, I don't think that 's his game. I hope he's not bound up in the the same teleology that canonists take is that Shirkey's simply stating that this is the space that's been authored. Like it or not, it is what it's the use(s) of literacy that the populous has authored. Vulgar Marxists be damned.

As we embark on consideration of this proposition, let's first ask ourselves: if Shirkey is correct then who has to give up power (lit profs) and who obtains access (teenagers)? My take, pretty cool possibilities...back to the syllabi.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Post-BotCamp Impressions

It's the day after BotCamp and I am slowly unpacking the experience. The impressions that seem to last at the fore revolve around the importance of what I'm terming as "the experiential". Basically this is a reference to kinesthetic learning, or learning by doing and interacting with actual objects and artifacts. Please (re)read my previous post and linkage to BotCamp if you need's a quick skim through.

What's huge for me as I comb through my ethnographic notes is the impact that BotCamp participants felt from walking through the woods and handling plants, leaves, and trees. All of the technology enhanced curriculum we designed really facilitated access to vast amounts of information (which was the point), but the exhilaration and learning seemed to stem (no pun intended) from actual material relations.

Too much of our curriculum seems to fetishize technology, simulation, and "the virtual". Not that technology, simulation, new media, etc. doesn't have a pretty huge role in pedagogy and in does. However, materiality still matters. Ideological and social iterations that are massively distributed through virtual relations and networks ultimately play out in the physical...there is no way around that.

But...the only way to realistically synthesize technology and its attendant virtual and/or hyperreal worlds is to argue for an adamant resistance to dualisms (dualisms that ultimately result in an equation where technology/simulation supplants material interaction). In a sense I'm thinking of a sort of reanimation of Donna Haraway's cyborg theory.

To that end, we are already cyborg to the degree that our technological tools have "presence", we depend on them, and they mediate our reality. Importantly though, our technological tools do not replace our reality. Techno-utopians often fail to accommodate for this and techo-dystopians amplify it a bit too much (or at least I hope they do). Plus, technology is not merely deterministic. There is no way, I mean no way, to control how individuals and groups will make do with technology once it's available and subject to users' competencies and resources (e.g., time and money). A flexible pedagogy and practice is the only way to accomodate this. Back to the notes...more soon...