Week 13 English 516

Harley Farris, Exploring Digital Humanities: “We always apply our ways of thinking about current technology to new technology and this is one of the reasons it can be hard to adopt new media practices, we almost always need a frame of reference or at least a really good metaphor to understand how a tool could be useful. …are we practicing digital humanities, or are we just digitizing the humanities?”

” These events were subsequently discussed in a series of cross-postings and conversations that spilled across Twitter and the blogosphere for several weeks after the convention ended. Many seemed to feel that the connection to wider academic issues was not incidental or accidental and that digital humanities, with a culture that values collaboration, openness, nonhierarchical relations, and agility, might be an instrument for real resistance or reform.” -Matthew Kirschenbaum, What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?

” these debates can be most productive if we understand them as a means of opening ourselves to the kinds of conversations that true interdisciplinarity can support. While disciplinarity is often institutionally useful, after all—allowing for the development of centers, departments, and tenure lines—it can also be turned against its adherents, restricting their movement and disciplining, literally, the knowledge they produce” – The Humanities, Done Digitally by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

“The digital world is replete. It resists any efforts to be colonized by the postcolonialists. We cannot escape it by holing up in Berkeley waiting for the taurus of time to roll around to 1968. It will find us and it will videotape our kittens…It’s not the digital that marks the future of the humanities—it’s what things digital point to: a great outdoors. A real world. A world of humans, things, and ideas. A world of the commonplace. A world that prepares jello salads. A world that litigates, that chews gum, that mixes cement. A world that rusts, that photosynthesizes, that ebbs. The philosophy of tomorrow should not be digital democracy but a democracy of objects” -Ian Bogost, The Turtlenecked Hairshirt

In these quotes, I’ve tried to sort of outline the trajectory of my overall thoughts.  No, I didn’t actually try to do that, but I like the flow they have together.  At any rate, it’s this transition from the beginning of adopting new media to a democracy of objects I found fascinating about these pieces.  Are we relinquishing more control than is advisable to our technological tools in the disciplines related to the humanities, or are our technological tools allowing us to have better global communities?  Two different things, but I think the latter is definitely true.

Week 12 English 516

“From a High-Tech to a Low-Tech Writing Classroom: “You Can’t Go Home Again””


This was an interesting piece, and reminded me of when Dr. Krause mentioned changing classrooms when he found himself in a similar position and immediately switched to a computer-equipped room.  I confess I know very little about teaching (of anything), so I was intrigued by the idea of it being harder to build a sense of community in the face-to-face classroom.  Obviously, there’s the whole aspect of it being difficult to make such a drastic change in the teaching environment, which is stressful regardless.  But the fundamental difference that seemed to weigh on Professor Moran was the lack in the ability to share and have copies of students’ writing.  There were other concerns, of course, mostly related to available space and the logistics of group work.  I have spent way more time in classrooms without computers, and frankly I confess to not understanding some of these concerns at all.  Do groups work better when plugged in to their own station and interacting with group members through an online platform?  I’m having a hard time imagining this to be the case.  I always felt it was weird trying to cram around one computer station, and weirder yet to be doing group work in a situation where eye contact with one’s fellow group members is virtually nonexistent.  Being practical, I have to admit that the objections to having so many copies of papers ring true for editing/peer-reviewing drafts.  At the same time, I feel like a paper copy that is looked at by one or a few individuals in a face-to-face environment is going to garner more attention than if the access is only online.  I have no idea what the numbers look like on that, but I find it difficult to properly review people’s work when it’s all online.  I’m thinking there are many reasons for this (some of which come up in The Shallows), but it recalls to mind Professor Krause’s advice to print all the readings for class.  Certainly, the experiences of reading print on paper and print on screen are not the same.  Not that anyone is suggesting it, but it does seem that in the world of writing, the general feeling is to be happy with digital reading/writing in opposition to the laborious and limited format of paper and ink.  I think it’s a matter of situation and personal familiarity with the relevant technologies.  Maybe some year soon, we’ll all be doing all of our writing online, with no need for pen and paper.  I find that both difficult and disheartening to believe.  After all, we still have books and magazines and newspapers (though they’re in decline).

“Make It Do or Do Without: Transitioning from a Tech-Heavy to a Tech-Light Institution: A Cautionary Tale”
Erin Karper

As with the previous article, I am struck by how “tech-heavy” I would characterize EMU.  I mean, we not only have many computer labs, I think I’ve only taken a single graduate writing class in a room that wasn’t a computer lab.   While not being what I would call tech-savvy, I just assumed all writing programs were much like this.  Classic inductive reasoning.  And I still don’t know how it works in undergraduate courses in writing. I was curious about the details of some of Karper’s work across departments, as it’s impossible to imagine constructing and teaching courses in writing on the web without input from Communications, IT, and English departments.  I shouldn’t say impossible, as obviously many have done great work without any sort of collaboration.  There’s no escaping the digital nature of our communication in our technology-laden world, but it seems that academia is taking a while to reflect that concept in its pedagogies.  This is again a generalization, of course.  If asked, I would say that one of the biggest hurdles facing teachers of writing working to integrate more computer technology into their classroom is education.  In other words, it’s going to be hard to integrate technologies into a classroom effectively if you have a significant number of students that are unfamiliar with the technologies you propose to use.  This is a gap that will probably become less and less noticeable as people grow more and more conversant with digital technologies, but with more and more adults returning to school, it’s not a problem that’s resolved itself as of now.  Karper seemed to be better than Moran at adapting to her “new” tech-free environment, and found herself coming up with new strategies for both online and offline teaching.  I can’t help but think that a combination of technology-driven and technology-free work is a great way of teaching writing.  After all, for some, the use of computers will ultimately be a huge part of their future career, while others will only become familiar with a program or two.  Still, technology will be a growing part of writing, and it makes sense to have connections between departments, and perhaps classes with names like, “Introduction to Writing Technologies”.  I would totally take that class.  And probably the one that followed.

Week 11 English 516

“Paradox and Promise: MySpace, Facebook, and the Sociopolitics of Social Networking in the Writing Classroom”
Gina Maranto, Matt Barton 

I am struck by a few things in this piece.  Firstly, I wonder what the major drawbacks would be to having teachers use a specific group on Facebook, for example, so that interactions between educators and students could be limited to a professional arena.  Obviously, there would be less mentoring of identity formation.  But couldn’t this provide a bit of a solution?

Secondly, I never considered the Marxist implications of social networking on cruising, so to speak.  I considered that the issue of access provides a socioeconomic lens for examining social networking sites, but never did I consider the implications of a hierarchy of sites.  I didn’t have Facebook until 2010 (it being a requirement for a course I took), and never had a MySpace page at all. Obviously, you could treat social networking sites much like a collection of clubs, for the purpose of sociological research.

Thirdly, I am struck at how complicated the social, legal, ethical framework of our society has become with the use of the Interwebs.  I was in high school between 1994 and 1997 when the shift from cars to computers was apparently taking place.  Suffice it to say, I still rode around in cars with friends and used the Internet mostly for academic research.

Ignoring the immense privacy implications of unregulated private sites such as Facebook or MySpace, I am concerned with the social implications of programs such as Whereaboutz.  This article explores some of the issues of the way we include youth in our discourses surrounding responsibility and accountability, and it goes further into the nature of relationships when you have what amounts to a tracking device on your child.  Trust, anyone?  Safety-wise, if their phone is on, most of them have GPS that the police can track, so this goes beyond that.  On page 44, the authors quote Mizuko Ito, “[w]hile many studies of children, youth, and media have for decades stressed the status of young people as competent and full social subjects, digital media increasingly insist that we acknowledge this viewpoint”.  It is interesting to consider that building a professional persona is going to become more problematic as access to your every deed as a youth (if you share them on social networking sites).  Does the acknowledgement of the importance of youth voices attach a greater level of expectation of mature decision-making?

Overall, it really only makes sense to make use of what is essentially the new digital version of the town square.  Despite its problems and limitations, the Internet provides a rich opportunity for engagement and honing of technological skills that shouldn’t be ignored, even if it were possible to do so (I don’t think it is).  In many ways it levels the playing field with regard to age, social status, ethnicity, gender, personality, politics etc.  Not that these dynamics disappear, but that it is easier to subvert them in the semi-anonymous environment of the Internet.  This affords a greater conversation and it doesn’t get much more democratic than that.

“[O]rganizing without organizations,” as Shirky is quoted, is only a threat to…established organizations (45).  And if they didn’t need to change…the organizing wouldn’t have gone on in the first place.  But that’s my politics showing.


“The Writing Lives of College Students”

Jeff Grabill, Stacey Pigg

I honestly don’t have a whole lot to say about this white paper.  It examines the types of writing that first year comp students (and other writing students) value, and how frequently they use them.  As I would have predicted, texting is used a lot, but not ranked highly for its value.  Conversely, journals are not used frequently, but are valued highly.  It is curious to think about how the platforms for composing are dramatically altering alongside technology and what that means for composition as a whole.  I think I’m way behind on this, as I have only been writing/reading online for a few years. I’m trying to catch up on the discourse surrounding these phenomena, which isn’t easily done considering the rate of technological change we are generally experiencing.

I find it a little bit surprising that phones are used so much for composing…but I guess not that much.  I’ve never written with a phone or other hand-held device, but then I don’t have a “smart” phone and I don’t consider texting or IMing writing (which gets into the lines between writing and speaking–another topic altogether).  Hey, my phone saves numbers, makes phone calls, and alerts me to voicemails.  That’s really all I need it to do.

Week 9 English 516

Bound By Law

Keith Aoki, James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins

This is not my first time reading this comic, and probably won’t be the last.  I think it works really well as an explanation about copyright law.  My only real criticism surrounds the charts on pages 10 and 11.  There are some redundant categories on the right hand side of the chart on page 10, and it’s sort of annoying that the column on page 11 isn’t visible alongside the chart on page 10 it connects to.  These are minor complaints, and the comic makes some interesting observations about copyright law, while providing a fairly thorough explanation in an accessible format.

Frankly, copyright law is both important and complicated, and I have a feeling something new will occur to me each time I go through this piece. Mainly I wonder what happened to cause the extension to 95 years or life + 70 years.  It seems to coincide approximately with the notion that personal intellectual property is infused with intrinsic rights.  I can’t help but feel it’s another symptom of individualist culture.  An increasingly anxious individualistic culture, fed fear by the all-mighty capitalists.

Is covering a band’s song a tribute but recording exactly as a band sings it a violation of copyright?  This ties into the other piece where they differentiate between description and depiction.  As near as I can tell, the covered song would be a depiction (protected by law) while the recording would be a description (not protected by law).  There are so many situations that are more complicated than that, such as the one in:

Cloud Gate: Challenging Responsibility

Jeff Ward

“the depiction of professional regulation was minimized…the focus was the threat of public space itself being copyrighted” (p 68)  This is interesting as really the debate boils down to whether something is fair use, relating to such dichotomies as commercial/non-commercial, professional/amateur, for profit/nonprofit and the like.  Yet the debate is more concerned over the regulation of the Commons.  It would be interesting to see a bit more history on the treatment of items considered to be “in the Commons” (vs. in a private domain).  The park Cloud Gate is in (Millennium Park) is a public space, but sculptures (among other things) can have a more complicated etiology, and the question of what the public is allowed to do with these “cultural products” is left open.

“The transformation of Cloud Gate from a work of art into a politicized work of art negotiates the boundaries of both legal and aesthetic discourse” (p 69)  All copyright issues fall into this swampland between the law and the arts, yes?  “Photography by the general public, considered to fall within the realm of “fair use,” is exempt” (p 70).  Right.  Simple! (no)  It is further problematized by the very nature of the work for Cloud Gate; the whole thing being essentially a group of mirrors means it is a depictive piece of sculpture, its surface reflecting the public domain.  It is certainly not as descriptive as photography, but you could have a very clear mirror in/as a piece of art that was…and what then?  Mirrors always seem to be in a place with blurred lines…so to speak.

Always a fan of semi-outlandish futuristic predictions, Walter Benjamin’s prediction of the end of some older art mediums is not that laughable, but it does conflict with reality in way parallel to the predictions for what would happen to books upon the advent of digitization.  I just can’t see efficiency beating aesthetic for the human race, not completely.  It goes against our nature.

The author claims that the fees paid by the photographers both started the controversy and “signal utility. Useful articles cannot be protected under U.S. copyright”. (p 73)  Soooo…it’s usefulness comes from its status as a copyrighted work of art, and useful articles can’t be protected by copyright?  Hmmm.