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Saltmine Report: Agenda, Submitted by Patty

Go over individual instructor's lesson plans.
Finalize due date madness.
Distributed Assessment
Use of technology: who needs tutorials? We need to make tutorials available to ALL TA's.
(Should we offer a tutorial during TA orientation this summer as part of this course's development?)

posted @ 6/18/2004 10:36 AM by Online Community Research Blog

Nicole's aggregate email

Instead of answering each email individually and filling up your emails with the site of my type (sound of my voice? :) ), I've compiled the other emails and responded to particular areas. Here you go...

Deborah says:>I hesitate to have stuff due Saturday. If we have any religious Jews who don't use power on the Sabbath, we're sending out a clear message to them (and yes, I might be a little sensitive about this because I happen to be Jewish, albeit not Sabbath-observant).

Up in my oblivious cloud, I didn't even think about that. But isn't 7th day Adventists not allowed to work after dusk on Fridays, so that rules that out as well. That durned 4th of July holiday on a Sunday is making our lives difficult ;) how ironic! but as Matt says

>, if the student has any obligations, he/she can always submit it >early. No problem!< and greg says >I think that an initial statement that the due dates are only "the last minute" will resolve some of the problems.

And there we have it. We do give them multiple days to finish their work by, AND technically they signed up for a Saturday online course!

Matt says: >I am a bit frustrated about our lack of unity, but that could be because we have a bad habit of leaving so many fundamental issues unresolved at meetings.

I agree! Every time we leave the meetings I'm thinking, 'but I thought we'd go over the projects together one by one and see what we all think about each and what we'd done so far.' and fretting about due dates being settled. and wondering why we didn't cover this or that...and why are we leaving already?

Now on another matter, Patty says: >I think it is important to keep in mind that what we are looking for is a way to create LESS work, not more. Use of multiple tools helps that. Use of open source software helps. I don't see how we can tie our hands with Blackboard when there may be other, more beneficial, tools out there.

I'm worried, at this point, about getting things in on time. 10 days! However, is our work on building this course limited to this single teaching experience? or are we looking to create a template for the future? If it is the latter, then couldn't we continue to build this course while we're in the midst of teaching it in order to create an online experience for future teaching? even if our current students will not benefit from the complete experience, future classes can? Then we can work on Matt's idea with the video and audio experience plus any others we can think of...and even, perhaps, if it's ready by mid-semester, ask students to test it out, get their written feedback, and offer a bit of extra credit for their work? and we could throw Greg's idea about the list serve into that as well. Perhaps even offering their feedback into such?

Now regarding an older email of Deborah's...do we want a diagnostic on grammar and a second diagnostic on working with blackboard? The second would have to be created later once we get everything completely set up and know, ourselves, where everything is. Did anyone volunteer to create a grammar diagnostic? I could work out something using an old copy of the Simon & Schuster handbook and compiling some of the exercises listed therein.

posted @ 6/18/2004 10:18 AM by Online Community Research Blog


I've moved this blog to www.danitasresearch.blogspot.com.


posted @ 6/17/2004 2:44 PM by Danita Feinberg

Technology and Medical Humanities

I also took this class because I wanted to relate it to my degree program, which is in Bioethics and Medical Humanities; I'm taking that degree more from the Humanities side, in the context of my being a fiction writer who often discusses medical matters.

I am overwhelmed (as so many writers are, I think) at how the Internet is changing how information is disseminated and how original work is being paid for and sold. I'm overwhelmed at how technology continues to blur the lines: lines between living and dying, lines between working and playing, lines between reading and researching. It's all related, somehow... I'm just not sure how to make those connections.

I think fiction teaches us about life--it's one of the reasons I write it, to teach myself what I didn't know I knew. So when I listened in class to the discussions on how we can use technology to teach, some part of me was abstracting it. I too, am a teacher, but my means have to be more coy. Read my fictional experiments. Visit my interactive websites. Explore my realities, and learn from them without realizing that you're learning.

Perhaps all of the best and easiest kinds of learning take place when you don't realize you're in a classroom.

So I'm not sure yet what to take away from this angle, but I know there's something there. It just needs time to bake.

posted @ 6/17/2004 10:09 AM by M. Hogarth

Technology and ETDs

So I took this class hoping it would help with work, and I think it did... but it's going to take me a while to process everything and relate it to what I'm doing. One of the things that's stuck with me the most immediately was the article on adoption and our subsequent discussion of resistance to technology. This is one of our biggest hurdles with making ETDs truly special, and it's something I want to address. We can't just make the cost of paper higher--we have to make the benefits of ETDs deeper and more interesting. While I'm not sure how to do that yet, I think it's clear that addressing the students is perhaps the smallest part of this process. The student will only be with us for a semester when making these choices about what format to choose for their manuscript.

It's the staff and faculty we have to concentrate on. They're the ones who'll be inculcating in students an attitude toward the ETDs.

Hmm. I hadn't thought of that before.

For a while I was considering how wikis, blogs, Blackboard, etc, could be used in the ETD process, and I'm not sure yet how useful any of those things would be (though I did get a great demonstration of Blackboard when I visited Academic Computing). Right now the core process is still too difficult; adding more things to it would just make it seem confusing as well as difficult. So while I have some ideas on how to use these technologies to, say, have more instantaneous communication between editor and student, or make revisions easier, I want to smooth out the core process first.

Technology adoption. Huh. How about that--I have more of a plan now. :)

posted @ 6/17/2004 10:02 AM by M. Hogarth

TeachingBlog (Techlitjournal continues)

So my students (in two weeks) will have to blog. I will have to grade them. They will be invited to read wach others' blogs and comment. So what?

My other option, by the way, was to make them wiki. I could, conceivably have also asked them to build websites or use sharepoint...almost. (I say almost because in fact, my school is “bought in” to BlackBoard so my students will use that technology for everything but their blogs. So, in fact, sharepoint was not really a viable option.)

But that's ok. I will be teaching Freshman English (ENC 1101). And I think blogging (plus lots of discussion and a few papers) will be plenty in 6 weeks.

Still, the question stands, is there room (and if so where) for these other technologies in composition courses? The answer is yes--no--kinda--sometimes--

Well, the answer is the same as most answers to most questions: dependent on my needs. These technologies are tools, which means their use either fits the students' needs or doesn't. If they fit, they're good tools--if they don't, they aren't. Simple enough.

I still don't think wiki is a useful tool for freshman composition. I don't think wiki is useful for collaboration in writing, either. I think wiki may be useful for a certain group of people who use it under strict (and agreed upon) guidelines. But that's not composition students. Let's face it, most are there because they have to be. The ones who would be there just for the love of writing, probably clepped out. And that's okay. It isn't fatalistic. It means some of them will get addicted to writing and some won't and some might not even learn anything. But it also means none of them should be tossed into an arena in which they can run over each others' ideas with impunity. So, give me a wiki anyday for programming and solving coding problems. But nothing else.

This tool is pretty awesome...it's also not a specific tool. FrontPage is quite possibly the easiest way to have students create web pages, and some might even get into it enough to learn a bit of actual HTML, ASPX, or PHP to make it truly worth their while. This also means publishing. This means what they write is public as is this space. It means they have a “real” audience, in the parlance of theory. I don't like this option for 1101 (particularly a 6-week version thereof). I don't think I'd use it as anything more than an option in 1102. But in an advnaced composition course, or an elective that includes several areas in the humanities, I think this option is excellent. Students can work together or singly to create web sites that synthesize what they've learned (if you're lucky and they're into it) and share their work with the rest of the world. The tool is fairly simple, and the combination of possibilities and broad audience bring questions of visual and aural rhetoric intot he picture.

Yay blog! I like blogging. I think blogs will bring back the lost art of true essay writing (see previous blog entry about this topic...). I think blogging is a great way to encourage daily or weekly practice in writing while keeping the stakes low. And in a beginners class, you need a place where the stakes are low. I want my students to feel free to fail in the most eggregious ways so that they can learn from it. I think blogs do that. They offer the “real” audience of the www, they offer the opportunity to read each others' works and comment--oh, and maybe learn from each other. Blogging can even become addictive. I know it has for me.

This technology, in my opinion, is simply not developed enough to be useful in a course. I think the tools involved need to be more defined and I don't think that sharepoint (as I have experienced it) is structured well (or enough) for use in a course. However, I can see the use of sharepoint as one of several tools in a course. One designed for specific uses (like class assignments, open bulletin boards, discussion starters). Overall, though, I found sharepoint's learning curve too high (and frustrating) for use in class.

There are many more technologies to consider. I likely will consider them later. Right now, I use BlackBoard. It's not the greatest, but it works ok. I don't like the idea that my school is locked in to what BB offers (and what the company behind it chooses to offer in the future). I think this kind of purchasing choice is detrimental to the school. I also notice that it is the behavior of most large institution.

It seems to me that these kinds of investment (in a specific and proprietary system of any kind) lock a given institution into a position which makes evolving with changes (and even ahead of them--ack!) extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. This kind of buying-in only increases the human tendency to play it safe and fight change.

Nah. One of the great human paradoxes that I can see is the need to recognize the importance of change and modern advancement no less than 50-odd years after the innovation. We talk about innovation. We love innovation. We also produce very little of it because we stigmatize innovators and work to keep them from changing our lives--'cause we like our lives and taking a chance means you might lose.

posted @ 6/17/2004 1:19 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

Oh My (under) God

Yesterday's Supreme Court decision regarding the custody battle over the pledge of allegiance has me wondering a few things. First off, the SC gets to choose what cases they hear. It isn't as though they have to listen to every weirdo who's gotten as far as appealing his losses. The court has the “right” to choose by making it impossible to be heard by the SC without a Writ of Certiorari.

In fact, the SC has historically used this “right” to only hear cases its members felt they were prepared (both politically and legally) prepared to deal with. For example, the question of integration in public schools was “put off” until such time as the court felt the country was politically and socially prepared to deal with the answer (definition: until they thought they could make a decision without being assassinated). And that's okay, when it comes down to it. I don't necessarily think that the nine people who happen to have gotten the job should get to decide what I am “ready” for, but I can understand the importance of having a prudent approach to making and breaking laws.

But here's the problem. Once the court has decided to hear a case, they should decide the damn case! And in this case, they didn't. In this case, the SC chose to hear arguments about the Pledge of Allegiance (a bunch of words any critical-thinking person has problems with on many levels) and then handed down a custody decision that said absolutely nothing about the pledge.

Why did they bother?!?

I honestly wish I had an answer. It seems awfully strange to bring a suit to court and then refuse to actually decide it...it seems like the sort of thing a SC might do in the middle of a questionable war with questionable soldier behavior and questionable freedom of speech issues--regardless of your political stance. 

Perhaps it was a way of avoiding having to decide such sticky issues as whether civil rights apply to homosexuals, or whether women should have the right to make their own decisions, or any of the other decisions that are "threatening the American family values upon which this country stands."

Amen. Hallelujah.

I sure hope someone else sues soon. I hope that we have come past a point in our country's history in which we feel we have to say "under God" every morning to keep from turning into "Godless Communists." I hope we can find a way to not foist our opinions of religion on anyone and everyone (particularly little kiddies).

God willing we can once again simply be "one nation, with liberty and justice for all.”

posted @ 6/15/2004 3:51 PM by Leah F. Cassorla


I find it telling that instead of linking to the newsgaming site, which would have given us some context for what we were looking at... or even (if choosing between direct links to the games) linking to the Madrid piece, instead we get a link to the one where we're asked to assume that our sole method of dealing with people carrying guns in the streets is to lob building-destroying bombs at them.

Nice bias, there. Assignment-bias, mind you. Not site bias, since they admit on their front page that these are political cartoons with motion.

The concept is interesting, though.

posted @ 6/10/2004 9:43 AM by M. Hogarth

Repackaging Media

Just in time for our discussion about re-mediation (I really have problems typing that... I read it incorrectly as 'needing retraining in the basics'), I've signed up for a panel at MetroCon in July on whether some stories can be told better in graphic novel format versus novel format. That should be interesting.

posted @ 6/10/2004 9:06 AM by M. Hogarth

Other Forms of Games

I've often wondered how roleplaying games could be used to teach people about character interactivity, writing and plotting. Actually, I've considered writing a series of articles on how you can use roleplaying games to make your writing better.

I know it's not high technology... and right now, it's not particularly codified. But when I ran games, I often encouraged my players to keep “diaries” of their adventures and thoughts to help them get to know their characters. I awarded them points for these journals, and was especially pleased when they explored character backstory (which is a nice way of teaching people about characterization).

When you play a roleplaying game, the Game-Master, who runs it, gets an impromptu lesson in plot construction, while the players learn about characterization. It almost makes me wish I could run a “Learn to Write Through RPGs” class.

posted @ 6/8/2004 10:34 AM by M. Hogarth

Game Interactivity -- And Links to Fiction

Reading this article, I wonder how I missed the link between “first-person shooters” and “third-person games” with “first-person viewpoint” and “third person viewpoint” in fiction. They can be remarkably similar in aim and result.

I also must point out that the reason a lot of the men I know choose female characters to drive around is because they like looking at girls. It's not gender identification, it's what you prefer to look at! (I, though, am offended if a game addresses me as “King Micah“ or “Emperor Micah.“ I am an empress, thank you very much--and don't you forget it!).

I'm also glad to see that people notice that there's a whole class of gamers who enjoy watching games. I am not a big gamer--the games I like to play, like Harvest Moon, form a small subset of the gaming market--but I love to watch other people play games. As long as I can sit somewhere comfortably, with a sketchbook if I get bored, I love to watch someone else play games where they shoot things and try to find answers to questions, and as mentioned in the article I'm often the person who says, “That thing you're looking for is back there!” I have the luxury of examining the surroundings as the player moves through them, since I don't have to worry about killing anyone. *chuckle*

Of course, this article makes one think of the Matrix.

I've often thought, as an aside, of writing a small web-based video game for one of my websites to encourage people to come back. Something like a virtual trading game. I just never got around to designing the database specs for something that would track people so that they could log back in and continue playing.

posted @ 6/8/2004 10:32 AM by M. Hogarth

Game Turnover

I found this assigned editorial interesting, even though I ran into an assumption I'm not sure I agree with. That's the “good games don't create a market for other good games,” part. I know this is based on the success of games that are attempting to create a continuous universe and turn the game itself into a service, not a package you buy off the wall, but in the great scheme of gaming the whole MMPORG thing is pretty new. The modern game, which you buy off a shelf and install and play until you “win,” has not-as-much replay value, and most of the serious gamers I know can polish off a game like that in 24-48 hours... after which they go and buy something else.

MMPORGs that rely on a service model--you buy the software, then pay for access to the Game Universe--are a new style. That doesn't mean the old style is going to go out of business.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. The dynamics between money paid, man-hours spent developing, replay value and time-from-market-to-bargain-bin are immensely complex.)

posted @ 6/8/2004 10:01 AM by M. Hogarth


Blackboard has its issues, but I think they're worth working on, rather than abandoning the whole ship altogether. I like the threaded discussion boards--I think that's one of the strengths of the system, even though it's clunkier than other threaded discussion software. The virtual classroom bit is a little too confusing to be useful... if they could clean up the interface I think it would help. I wonder if Blackboard came with Help or user-info so that administrators and professors could figure out how to configure it and use it?

posted @ 6/8/2004 9:46 AM by M. Hogarth

Making the Most Use of Blogs

I really think to succeed in a class format, a collected weblog would work best. One where multiple people post to the same page. I'm having quite a difficult time keeping track of everyone else's writing for this class, which is a pity since I want to discuss things with people.

posted @ 6/7/2004 3:38 PM by M. Hogarth

Sorely Tempted (an addition to TechLiteracyJournal)

I have been sorely tempted for a few days, now, to post some of my poetry on this blog. I've not given in--clearly--but the temptaion has raised some issues for me as a writer and, now as a blogger.

Would it be appropriate for me to put my potry here? If I do, does that mean I can't offer a journal (publisher, magazine, you name it) first publication rights? Would that matter to the journal? Would it make my poetry more read? If I blog it, do I wait until it is completely revised and ready (not that nay piece ever truly is)?

These are just some of the problems I'm having in deciding. The questions, of course, are the whole point of the exercise (of any exercise), and they lead me toquestion the pedagogical use of online publication in beginning writing classes.

First, to the best of my knowledge there are legal precedents that state that students may not be required to publish online. This means two things: it's illegal's the obvious first, but the second is that someone complained.

In truth, somone complained enough to take it to court. Now I'll grant that this country is so letigious that one can find a precedent for nearly everything, but this is an important question for me as I put together an online 1101 course, and as I consider my life as an English teacher, and as I conceive of myself as a writer, and and and...

My theory (and I must add here that it is the theory of a novice learning to become a teacher) is that learning requires failure. To truly learn, we must take risks and to truly take risks, we must fail--miserably. I'm not talking grades, I'm talking practice. I want my students to feel safe to fall on their faces. I want them to fail in astounding ways so they know how to push the limits of their writing. (I am actually aware that I am asking for more than is reasonable, but I think that's usually a good idea as well.)

Getting back to the question, then, can I ask my students to fail publically? Should I ask them to do so? If they sign up for an online course, aren't they agreeing to work online?

My answer is likely not going to be popular. My answer is that I can't and shouldn't ask my students to take chances “live.” Even if they sign up for an online course, students should be given the opportunity to publish within blackboard or email daily writing to the teacher.

In this way, they can “mess it up” extensively. But, just as important to me, in this way they can learn about blogging ethics and the questions of revision.

Now, of course, I have to go apply my theory.

posted @ 6/4/2004 1:00 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

Colorful Wikis!

As instructed, I've been pondering the use of wikis, and I've decided on at least two things I'd like to see either implemented or more rigorously used (or required) in order to find the wikis useful. I do like the notion of being able to see people's drafts as they work--I think that would be very handy for a writing class and even for handling thesis/dissertation work. It would give the committee an opportunity to keep track of what a student's doing.

But two things I'd encourage. To make the second work, you'd need the first, which is more rigorous checking of who's making what change. Forcing people to log in and tracking what changes they make and having it be readily obvious to others who's responsible for a change... that's the first part.

The second would be color-coding. Each user would have a color of their own, so that at a glance you can swap between users and see who suggested what change to your work. This would transform the wiki into something like the MS Word Track Changes/Editing mode, and would be stunningly useful for authors and those who are editing their work (whether professional editor, co-author, committee member or teacher). You could make suggested changes, the student could see at a glance who's suggesting what, and they could change their draft if they like the idea.

That would make the wiki so useful I'd almost push for its broader acceptance as part of the thesis/dissertation process.

posted @ 6/3/2004 9:51 AM by M. Hogarth

Much(k) Disappointment

I was thinking last night about why I was disappointed about the Muck demonstration yesterday... well, perhaps disappointed is the wrong word. Embarrassed is more like it. There was an impression that I shouldn't take the kidding around so hard because “we're playing with every technology we're trying in this class.”

I realized that “playing around” is fine with technology. Thus far we've been using programs or technologies that are inanimate or at very least not populated with actual people. But the Muck actually did have real people on it. This is the source of my embarrassment. Playing around is fine, but if I had known we were actually going to play instead of attempt to use it seriously, I would have arranged for us to have a single empty room to hang out in. I wouldn't have invited real people--friends--to help us out with a discussion. Some of them had even put some thought into what they'd say about how Mucks could be used in a rhetorical/teaching environment and were looking forward to the discussion.

After the class logged off, the people remaining online told me not to feel bad--that they were used to people not understanding the power and possibilities of the medium because full understanding requires hooking into the social groups they discover on the Muck. I was grateful that they weren't upset or inconvenienced by the silliness and the chatter-spam.

But I'm still embarrassed. And I think we could have had an interesting conversation with them about the uses of Mucks and what synchronous conversations, particularly linked together from different locations and time zones, could mean for the kind of connection Joe's interested in fostering between classes. I imagine (briefly) a USF muck. Or a College of Arts & Sciences one. Or even an English department one, where people from past graduating classes still hang around to chat with people currently in school.

But hey, I had an expectation, and I guess it was too much.

posted @ 6/2/2004 8:29 AM by M. Hogarth

Alas for Shadowmarch

While reading The War of the Flowers on the airplane(s) this weekend, I found an advertisement for Shadowmarch, 'Coming Soon from DAW.' This jogged my memory. Shadowmarch was originally a subscribe-to-read-chapters online novel started by bestselling fantasy author Tad Williams. I remember being intrigued by the experiment and making note to keep track of it, but I'd forgotten about it until this weekend.

So I checked the Shadowmarch website, and indeed, under “Subscribe” it says in memory of Shadowmarch, the web venture. I guess it didn't work, alas.

posted @ 6/1/2004 10:27 AM by M. Hogarth

Another Chapter

I found the link to the site that's doing serialized fiction online more formally than I am: Another Chapter, it's called. Apparently you pay $5 a month for four installments of about 2000 words each (roughly 8 pages), with two original illustrations per installment. Authors are paid royalties based on how many people subscribe to their particular serial.

They're not currently accepting submissions, but I might keep an eye on them for when I'm done with Flight of the Godkin Griffin.

posted @ 6/1/2004 9:14 AM by M. Hogarth

Do you value seeing written words on paper more than on a computer screen?

This entry is a copy of an answer I wrote for a set of class questions (the answers were to be limited to about 2 minutes of talk-time a piece):

I typed this response into my computer. I valued the words as they appeared before me. However, I cannot say that I value them more than I do words that appear printed on paper.


I am, I suppose, a fairly strange person—though I know one or two like me, so I figure it’s okay.


So, when I pick up a book for the first time, I smell it. Yes, I smell it. I hold it to my nose and inhale deeply. Books, new and old, have smells—wonderful smells.


Next, I leaf through and feel the paper. Paper, especially in old books, has an interesting feel to it. It can tell you a lot about the care put in to publishing a book. It can also tell you about the money involved.


Then I read.


To me, then, a book is more than a specific set of words in a particular order. And I value its presence in “book” form.


I don’t do this with academic books. It never has occurred to me to do this with those kinds of books. Yet I prefer these books in print, on paper, as well. These books I highlight. I write in the margins. I have arguments with the authors and yell at them by writing back. I fold down pages I want to find again—to point out to someone else or to use as a response to a question I’m considering, or to start an argument in my rhetoric and technology course. I abuse these books in ways my parents would have beat me for (had the books been anything but academic). And I value them immensely. I cannot write back on a screen. I can’t underline or highlight or curse or fold down, and as luddite as it may seem of me, blogging it, highlighting it in print, or bookmarking it just won’t do.


I have to rearrange my physical self to sit at my computer; and while I do a good bit of sitting at my computer, while I am wholeheartedly attached to the many ways I use my computer, while I love the toys I buy for my computer, and while I am trying to find a way to buy a laptop so I can take my computer with me everywhere I go, there are simply some things my computer can’t do.


It can’t smell musty. It can’t feel velvety. And it can’t allow me to talk back to the writer in our own personal, private dialogue.


So, yes: I value words in print in ways I cannot value words on a screen. It may not really be a “more or less” issue, but it is a world of difference to me.


posted @ 5/29/2004 2:37 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

What is the connection of new media to the cultural push for the public presentation of the self?

This entry is a copy of an answer I wrote for a set of class questions (the answers were to be limited to about 2 minutes of talk-time a piece):

These comments are, by necessity, incomplete because no complete answer to the question could be given in the time allotted.


Yesterday afternoon I watched a couple getting a divorce on Dr. Phil. A few years ago I watched a Jerry Springer in which a man talked about having sex with his mom. “Now that dad’s dead, she deserves the best,” he said. (I doubt I’ll ever forget that quote.) My housemates and I have taken to watching the so-called reality TV show “The Swan.” It’s an amazing show. There’s a train-wreck quality to it: It’s nasty, it’s pathetic, it’s an undeniably sad comment on American social priorities (if you can call them that)—but you just can’t help but watch.


Baudrillard in a book published in 2002 titled The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays, discusses the modern western need for disaster. (He got trashed by the New York Times for having the gall to say we “asked for it” and was proud enough of the critical response to print it on the jacket of the book.) The Sunday night movies of late seem to prove Baudrillard right: Everything from earthquakes to global warming. We may have had enough of terror, but we sure are waiting for a natural disaster.


In conjunction with this disaster-wish mentality, modern Western culture is also demonstrating an interesting set of symptoms. Our “aesthetic” standards are getting narrower—thereby more exclusive—at the same time that we are each doing more and more to “be unique.” Yet our measures for personal identity are just as pathetic as the women who allow their bodies to be cut open in the name of beauty. The symptoms are made more evident in new media than almost anywhere else (except, perhaps in schools at every level).


Some people create their identities by parading their personal lives on Dr. Phil, some by blogging their personal lives online, and some by installing 24/7 webcams in their homes and charging others for the view. There are many more ways in which we are attempting to find ourselves (or, more accurately, to create a useful cognitive map a la Jameson.)


We are a nation of exhibitionists. We are also vouyers—but in addition to our internal vouyerism we require another gaze, an international gaze. And we are willing to fight for it. New media does not create the situation in which the Western response to social pressures is the presentation of the self. It is, however, the apparatus that makes such presentation (and perhaps preservation) possible.


posted @ 5/29/2004 2:34 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

On essay writing

I believe the art of the essay is not quite dead, rather it is languishing, suffering from sepsis in some dark corner of a writers' nursing home. In its place, in our classrooms, we have something we call essay writing. It wears the mask of essay-ness, a carnivalesque mask, distorted and frightening despite the smile. The imposter essay is actually a “theme.”

I feel a little strange writing this because the art of the essay was ill and being replaced when I was in high school, so I never had the benfit of writing a healthy essay in a classroom setting--though I don't think much was healthy about most of my high school education in general, so perhaps this should not be surprising. Still, I learned of the essay by reading, and often I learned by reading things my teachers would never have considered assigning (not until my upper division undergraduate courses, anyway).

The problem with all this is that the theme is not an essay. The theme is a form that should be taught to young children as a start to their writing lives and should, as soon as possible be dropped from the curriculum: Because the simple truth is that most students define “essay” to mean five paragraphs on what the teacher wants to hear. If we're going to teach themes (my definition: formulas for boring writing), we may as well be honest about it.

That is the sum of my the-sky-is-falling, my-education-means more, the-world-is-falling-apart, what's-wrong-with-the-kids-these-days complaint. I recognize that my love of the Essay is not one shared by the world in general. I know that just as I find old English folk tunes annoying--both to sing and to listen to--there are many who find the Essay annoying.

But my happy news is that I think the form is coming back through the wonders and vagaries of the internet. (Can I get an amen?) Bloggers--well, some bloggers--are bringing back the Essay. They may not be doing so intentionally, but they seem to be doing it nonetheless.

I think the return of the Essay is a natural outcome of the way the internet has changed some of the expectations we hold of communication. We expect that visitors to our site will respond. In order to get response--in order to get visitors--we need to post interesting, engaging Essays. Regularly. Self-absorbed yet non-reflective writing simply will not draw readers or responders.

Seems I have a chance of seeing the Essay recover from its infection, stop breathing belaboredly, be moved to intensive care for a bit, and then begin to walk and talk again. It might even move out of the nursing home into an independent care community. And wouldn't that be nice?

--In the links section I've posted two links to blogs I think are part of this trend.

posted @ 5/29/2004 2:28 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

What Faculty Know About Copyright about Online Materials

As an aside (and no real surprise), the dissertation defense I attended put forth that faculty need more information on copyright and intellectual property, and aren't all that comfortable knowing what to tell their students to do.

The sample size was pretty tiny--64 professors out of the rough 2000 on campus?--but supposedly this was enough of a sample to generalize across the campus.

Whatever the case, getting copyright information out to faculty, particularly pertaining to fair use and online teaching, sounds like a good idea. We should make the attempt.

posted @ 5/26/2004 2:10 PM by M. Hogarth

On Polemic Education

I made a comment in my last blog about polemic education. I then made a similar comment in class, yesterday. I also, sometimes, feel like the ringleader in a fight in class--and I like it. It could be that simple: I like it. But it isn't.

In a polemic education one has to fight for one's ideas. And I find that when I have to fight for my ideas, my ideas get shaped into something worth fighting for. A polemic education sets up a thesis, argument, antithesis/synthesis thought process, thereby leading people to question (oooh, critical thinking again) others and themselves.

JS Mill presented the same model as a way of creating a truly open society--a marketplace of ideas--where by discussing everything, we would ultimately get to the Truth. Now, I don't believe in truth with a capital T, but I do believe that an open discussion leads to a better understanding of shared reality (and a glimpse at the parts that aren't shared). I believe that it is better to know who hates whom. It is better to be able to talk about ideas than clean up after action.

What's the conection? We've stopped talking, and our governments seems happy about that. We've stopped really arguing in the classrooms. We have taught people that some things aren't talked about. The things we don't discuss, we don't question. And the things we don't question, we can't learn from.

It's time to start arguing again. It's time to turn education back into a training ground for biting the hand that feeds. Only then will we be teaching folks to think (and I mean across the curriculum). And if we teach them to think, then we have a chance of teaching them (in my field) to write.

I truly appreciate any and all arguments against the ideas presented above...

posted @ 5/26/2004 10:32 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

Trademark does not equal Copyright does not equal Patent (and Other Things)

Something that bothers me a great deal about Free Culture: Lessig continually passes between discussions about ideas covered by patents, ideas covered by trademarks and ideas covered by copyright as if all these kinds of intellectual property can and should be treated similarly.

You'd think a lawyer would know better.

Another thing that bothers me a great deal: There's discussion of the rights of the creator, and the rights of the consumer, but no discussion about rights of the created. As an artist, I believe a third of my ethics must be devoted to the integrity of my creations. I believe that they have a right to be realized in this world correctly and according to their wishes. I believe that they have a right not be sullied or made strange or ridiculed or forced into compromising situations. Which means that no, I don't approve of you taking one of my characters and putting them in bed with someone they wouldn't be attracted to. That does violence to them. That erodes the integrity of what I've built by giving people another lens to view them through.

Yes, it might sound insane. But I'm a maker of stories. I'm already crazy by anyone's lights.

posted @ 5/25/2004 8:48 AM by M. Hogarth

The Middle Man

This is important.

This is something that people don't look at.

I'm reading Free Culture, and Lessig doesn't see it either.

Sometimes we need the middle man. You know why? Because if we actually knew the artist, we wouldn't give them money. Because we don't like them. Because we feel guilty about it. Because we feel embarrassed. Because we don't know what to say to them and we're worried we'll look stupid. Because we disagree with their politics. Because it seems too much like charity.

Do you know how many reasons I've run into for people not to directly hand me a buck for a cup of coffee? Even when they appreciate my art? They need a reason. And most of them are more comfortable not looking at my face.

What if, in destroying the middle man, we don't create this culture of great sharing and great wealth for artistic creators?

What if, instead, we reduce artists to inconsequentialities... and even more dire poverty?

What if we need anonymity to make a living?

That's what I want to know.

posted @ 5/24/2004 7:02 PM by M. Hogarth

Creative Commons Licensing

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to find the topic of the Creative Commons licensing scheme come up. It has its uses, definitely. I used it myself; when I first started my livejournal, it was solely for the posting of haiku, which I licensed through CC with the “you can redistribute this as you please as long as you don't alter it or strip my name from it” license. Handy thing, that.


posted @ 5/24/2004 2:09 PM by M. Hogarth

Definition of Online Fiction

Speaking of definitions, I was amused to find that Flight of the Godkin Griffin was nominated for a Spectrum Award under “Other Works,” where it was listed as an “interactive novel.”

I find this funny because just earlier this year, the committee for the Ursa Majors awards contacted me to ask me a few questions about Flight because it had been nominated for an Ursa Major under the novel category. After getting the answers to my questions, they decided that Flight wouldn't be elgible for an Ursa Major until it was completed, at which point it could be nominated as an e-novel.

The question of what exactly you call a piece of electronic fiction has always fascinated me, since it was on the basis of fiction published electronically that I became elgible for SFWA. SFWA's definition of what constitutes “professionally published fiction” was always based on print publication statistics: years in business, print run and pay rate. Years-in-business turned out to be a useful statistic, particularly for online magazines which are so easy to start that a crop of them appears per year and vanishes just as quickly. Pay rate is moderately easy to keep stable, in the short fiction arena at least. But circulation? How do you tally circulation for an online magazine?

The elgibility board must have decided on some kind of criteria because several online magazines are now qualifying publications for SFWA membership. But I'm not sure anymore what those critera are.

posted @ 5/24/2004 7:53 AM by M. Hogarth

Literacy Journal continued: The problem with Wiki

The problem with wiki is not really a problem--when it comes down to it. The problem with wiki is the same problem with any technology (new or old). Wiki is, I'm sure, an extremely useful tool for something. What? I can't say yet. But here are some examples of what it isn't good for.

I've seen it used for a general knowledge of anyone who cares to make an entry encyclopedia. This sounds lovely! People can share their knowledge(s) with each other and create a body of human knowledge. There are several problems with this use for wiki, however. First, put any three people in a room and you will likely get at least 4 answers to any question you ask (this ratio is worse with people like me who think polemic education is the only education worth having). Second, the folks involved in this project protect their pages so that once they've put in their two cents, any changes that are made (via the wiki that is the whole idea and technology driving this thing, remember) are immediately brought to their attention so they can “fix” it back to the way it was. This is not exactly collaboration. This is actually called “fighting.” Now, you may disagree, but in this space, this blog, you may disagree by adding your voice to the marketplace of ideas. In wiki, you may disagree by erasing mine.

I was, for a short time, deeply involved in RhetTech Wiki. But what I found was that I was using it as I w(sh)ould a blog. I was journaling in a place designed for something else altogether. I was using a fork to eat my soup, and I must say I wasn't getting much soup out of the bargain. So, I've moved my journal. But I didn't just move it so as to be using the right technology for the right job. I actually moved it because people were invited to view my wiki space without my prior knowledge. Now, I'm not as stupid as I sometimes act. I am very well aware that just by trolling the web--for someone's writing to destroy--anyone could have "stumbled upon" my wiki. But there's something about my “work” being “advertised” without my permission that just plain gets my goat. I find that more offensive in some ways than someone stumbling upon my work and “editing” it “for” me. And that is how I learned this week's major technology lesson--Use the right tool for the right job!

So here's what I'm working on now: what job is wiki good for? In what project does one say, “hey, we need a wiki for this!” And the best I can come up with is coding (as in programming. Mozilla and other friendly forms of truly shared problem-solving activities.)

That's all I've got. Your turn: Comment away, just don't touch my words.

posted @ 5/24/2004 12:49 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

Technology Literacy Journal--sort of

This is a compilation of posts, also once on RhetTech Wiki that I have moved here. The posts were entered from May 12-May 20, 2004. I have not separated them by post date, but will create new posts as I continue to “journal” in my haphazard way my techliteracy.

I have now spent about an hour trying to get my blog at Research To Practice to show Hebrew in the text of the message. Strangely, the code can handle the Hebrew in the title, but the text shows up as question marks. I'm also not sure how to gain access to editing and then look at the message and see how others will see it unless I log out. Speaking of whihc, the logout link has a bug. I'll have to remember to tell Joe. Nonetheless, I feel I have accomplished something: I finally got the guts up to post my assignments for the Web-based ENC1101 class. I've also created this wiki page off my main one.

So I suppose a technology literacy journal should start at the beginning. And though it will be important at some point to do that, my interactions with this new technology seems more important at the moment. I've still not figured out how to make my blog work exactly the way I want it to. I have to go in and do categories, I know, but that's not all. I know the thing is still a bit buggy-and I have all the appreciation in the world for that process having done it several times myself-but I think I'm missing some of the essential knowledge. This, of course, means I'll have to go in and muck around in the thing. That's how I learn programs-actually it's how I learn everything. I can't watch someone do something and get it. I'll have a decent idea, but I have to do it to really get it. I'm not sure if that's in any way connected to my tech literacy. I grew up playing with computer things, thanks to my father. My first job was working for him building networks (in the 80s if you can buy that), and I learned by doing. He'd say "go pull this through the wall and plug it in." I very soon learned the answer to "plug it in to what?" was usually that there would be very few options, so try until you get it right. Then I started doing data entry-and got good at it. So when relational databases came around, my father asked me to program one for a client of his. I asked how. He responded by telling me he'd installed a copy on his computer and I should go play until I'd figured it out.

Play is extremely important to computer learning. When i started working with clients on my own, I would instruct them to play with their computers (or programs or whatever I'd installed) until they were comfortable with them. I'd have to ensure them that they did not know enough to do more damage than I was capable of fixing, but I always asked them to play. I'm not comfortable with step by step instructions (which accounts for how much I hated being a technical writer), but play comes naturally to me.

Today, as I worked on a host of different tasks, ranging from a format check for my thesis, to thesis revision, to letters from the editor, to board member work for SWCA, I was struck by a thought. I had to download quite a few texts, but i also had to transport texts and I had to revise texts and consider the best way in which to make my revisions available in separate versions so I could (conceivably) change my mind. In that pile of work was an interesting revelation. My thinking process has been shaped by social and economic concerns (though my dead broke parents managed to give me quiet a few privileges most people in our economic class never got), it has been shaped by ISAs and RSAs galore. And it has been shaped by my computer.

That was the kicker. I think in collapsible filing systems that are (in truth) not the most efficient means of storing information. When I get a new piece of information, I immediately begin making decisions about where to store it. The problem here is that while that may be how I've been programmed to think, it is not how my brain works. Our brains-and believe me I know that we know (essentially) nothing about how they really work-do notwork in collapsible filing systems. How do I know? I've experienced the smell of diesel fumes countless times in my life, yet the smell of diesel fumes is filed in my brain with a half-memory, a fragment of a foreign life, a piece of a trip I took as a child in Israel. I know that's where I filed it because the connection is instantaneous. The memory, however, is not a major part of my memory-life. So how does this all connect? Dunno. truth is I'm torn between suggesting that the filing system is yet another ideological build that I cannot get beyond but must learn to understand in order to actively act against (purely in the name of agency) and the possibility that the more we learn about ourselves, the more we will be able to design machines that truly work in tandem.(And those machines will NOT be PCs).

Yet, I am equally aware that this machine I envision as a better way to work is the ultimate nightmare of many people and the basic definition of why we fear and love technology all at once. Humans fear technology for many reasons, but current technological changes bring about a repulsion/attraction mix partly because of our cultural emphasis on the corporeal. We talk about the internet and the "real" world as though they do not exist simultaneously in and of each other. We fight the idea (in our movies and books) that machines can attain intelligence and or fusion with humans, yet we regularly use machines to replace what we have "lost" or create what we desire. This can be seen in such things as diverse as cybersex chat rooms (where a woman can be built like Barbie and still be able to walk) and prostheses. It is this repulsion/attraction that I feel will keep our worst fears from coming true. It is also this repulsion/attraction that keeps us pushing the envelope and learning from our learning. So maybe in a few years I'll be able to file my thesis under "things I'd like to forget" with a subheading of "the smell of mold (I love Florida)" and "the sound of opera." The system will have to be mine, but then, it would also have to be easily reshuffled so I can send an experience to a friend I've never met in the flesh who will be able to file it under "carpal tunnel syndrome" and "jokes/urban folk tales" with maybe a subheader for "the taste of coffee."

posted @ 5/24/2004 12:33 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

A partial description and comment on 10 IT goals from GMU

Previously posted on RhetTech wiki, this has been moved here. It was last edited on: May 13, 2004.


The above link will take you to the George Mason University's page in which the Technology Across the Curriculum program sets forth the ten goals they believe all students should achieve by the time they graduate. In addition to setting up these goals, TAC also set minimal goals and advanced goals (this is to differentiate between competency and skill).

First skill set: Communication (listed as Electronic Collaboration)

Basic skill set:

1)Send and receive e-mail.

2)Send/receive and open attachments.

3)Participate in a listserv or other form of group electronic communication (discussion forum, bulletin board, synchronous/asynchronous chat).

4)Understand the difference between different forms of electronic communication.

5)Understand the principles of appropriate conduct in electronic communication (netiquette).

as you may be able to see from the list above, this is not a set of skills that create any form of collaboration. They are more aptly named comunication. While I have difficulty with the possibility that there are incoming Freshman students out there that don't know how to communicate online, I am willing to believe that such a situation exists.

Advanced skill set:

1) Participate in the collaborative writing of a document.

2) Conference electronically using web conferencing, whiteboard, or video conferencing.

3) Complete a group project using advanced communication tools.

Now that looks more like collaboration. It actually has, to my mind, very little to do with email and even less with netiquette. One has to wonder at how these ended up as skills listed under the same goal.

posted @ 5/24/2004 12:31 AM by Leah F. Cassorla

The Dangers of Categories

As an aside about the article on adoption of technology: I think I am a good test case for the dangers of relying too much on categories. I may be one of those “innovators” in some categories technologically; but in my systems approaches I'm very much a laggard (witness my stubborn use of pine and tinyfugue, the UNIX programs I originally used for email and Mucking, despite what many people claim are better alternatives).

I think when we approach people to discover whether they will take to a particular technology, we should remember it's exactly that: a particular technology, not technology in general. A laggard in one area might be our best crusader for a cutting-edge technology in another area.

posted @ 5/23/2004 6:43 PM by M. Hogarth


I see that if you do not schedule down-time for your body, your body will schedule down-time for you. At least I'm feeling well enough to be up and about again, though. More posts soon!

posted @ 5/23/2004 5:09 PM by M. Hogarth

Joe's Document on Blogs

I notice that you don't mention the use of weblogs for fiction. This is relatively new, of course, but I'm not the only one who does it. In addition to my Godkin project, there's also http://sythyry.livejournal.com, which is a more traditional journal format (no polls). There are a handful of others (people writing from the point of view of superheros or what-have-you). Even my news-reel at the Jokka site (http://www.jokka.org/clays/news.phtml) is written in a meta-fictional format.

I really think that this is an interesting notion for weblogs. Using their diary-like qualities (each entry is dated and generally offers only a small bit of the “plot” or whatever's going on in the life of the person) to mimick episodic forms of fiction is a natural idea... given a twist by the “most recent entry first” reading method typical of weblogs, which gives the fiction an enticing immediacy.

I've wanted for a while to pitch the notion of writing a fictional weblog for official pay, perhaps to online magazines like Strange Horizons (http://www.strangehorizons.com). I know there was a website that was going to pay people for episodic fiction, but I can't find it now. I still think there might be a big audience for this kind of thing . . . if handled correctly.

posted @ 5/17/2004 12:52 PM by M. Hogarth

Relevant Dissertation Defense

The Dean pointed this one out to me. It takes place just before class... I'm planning on going!

Defense of a Doctoral Dissertation
Phyllis C. Sweeney
for the Ph.D. Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Secondary Education

Time: Tuesday, May 25, 2004 at 11:00 a.m.
Place: EDU 305
Dissertation Title
What Faculty Know About Designing Online Materials In Compliance With Current U.S. Copyright and Fair Use Laws"

Examining Committee
Steve Permuth, Ed.D., Chairperson of Defense
Ann Barron, Ed.D., Major Professor
Jeffrey Kromrey, Ph.D.
Frank Breit, Ph.D.
Rosann Collins, Ph.D.

Colleen S. Kennedy
Dean, College of Education
Kelli McCormack Brown
Interim Dean, Office of Graduate Studies

posted @ 5/17/2004 11:50 AM by M. Hogarth