February 24, 2006

Technology, Pedagogy, and Hierarchy

Today I recieved an email from a representative of [notoriously well-funded on-campus institution devoted to undergraduate achievement] stating that my students should not go there for cameras and iMovie editing since "We have quite a heavy load of classes this semester, and priority has to given to the needs of Faculty." I exchanged another round of email with said representative to ensure that I was not mistaken, but indeed, I was assured by this representative that "[This person] would do everything [s/he] could to help TF taught Eng 12 classes, but [s/he] had to give priority to Faculty taught classes."

Err, why?

I understand that this person is allocating limited resources with the best of intention, and probably with direction from institutional leaders. This decision begs some important questions, however. Are students in TF classes less deserving of access to equipment? Is English 12 (almost always taught by a graduate student, post-doc or adjunct), a required course, not an appropriate space for new media pedagogy? Does this policy not unfairly burden the Writing Program? What does this say about how UNC-CH values Rhetoric and Composition?By contrast, is a faculty taught course (generally not a WP class) assured to be the right place to explore technology in the classroom or new media? Are students in faculty taught courses handicapped in such a way that they cannot fight the masses at the library? Are faculty more able/less able than TFs to guide students through technology assignments? Do students learn more in faculty taught classes? Are the courses worth more on their transcripts? What would be alternative ways to divide the "haves" from the "have nots" than by instructor rank? The subject matter of the course? (Courses about new media get the thumbs up, others don't. . .)

February 14, 2006

Infinite space = moral vacuum?

I don't want to get into the politics of the Danish cartoon that has forced both the east and the west to reexamine their cultural values and the relationship between those values. I do, however, want to make a general comment about an argument I heard last week on NPR In general, the US printed news media has banned the reprinting of the cartoon that has offended so many people around the world. The editor of the Boston Globe cites a policy already in place that prohibits the publication of images or words that are "grossly offensive to a religious group or racial group or ethnic group."

But an interesting, and to my mind scary, argument came from Jacob Weisberg, the editor of, who says that "his online publication doesn't have to think about offending people the way newspapers do." He claims that because he runs an online news source he doesn't "have to make that same choice...I think we simply operate on the Web in a less paternalistic environment. In a newspaper or print magazine there is finite space, and you're making decisions about what you can fit into it and you're inevitably making decisions about what's suitable for your reader."

One implication of his argument, as I see it, is that since the internet does not demand editing, editorial choices aren't really necessary. Considering that the ethics of print jounalism often comes under fire, it seems alarming that internet journalism may have even lower ethical standards, or no standards at all.

It seems like standards are going to be necessary eventually. People talk about the Internet as a great "democratizing force." The editor of the Washington Post recently called the Internet the "wild, wild west." Can a healthy democracy really flourish in the "wild, wild, west?"

February 06, 2006

Technology Getting Under Your Skin?

In this NYTimes article, read about RFID implants. Literally, a computer chip is implanted under the skin, and it allows you to open doors, log on to your computer, and unlock your car door with just a wave of your hand. We were talking in one of my classes about whether technology functions as a sort of prosthetic, enabling us to avoid or at least simplify otherwise uncomfortable and difficult situations. I'm not sure what I think about it...I mean, I think it's gross, on one level, and can't imagine ever doing it myself. And I am inclined to think technology contributes to the disengagement and disconnection so prevalent today. The thought of being able to "plug" myself into a computer a la The Matrix is pretty horrifying and seems to undermine our humanity. So I guess I do know what I think about this. Other thoughts?

January 26, 2006

PIU, Writing, and Gender-Bias

I have recently become interested in Problematic or Pathological Internet Use syndrome (PIU) which is characterized by the "addiction to internet use." (There is a quicky description with self-help tips here.) I appreciate that any technology can be misused used, but I am suspicious of some of the claims that disparage the forms of communication that internet technologies provide. Does the psychiatric profession pathologize people who prefer IM, email, chat boards, and internet dating over those who embrace parks and bars as vehicles to meet others because their communities are lesser? Or are internet communities just as vibrant and viable, but mediated by a technology? Further, how does the stereotype of the basement-dwelling, 30yr bearded male-video game player enter into this? Is the expectation that those who "suffer" from PIU have no social skill and are unable to connect with others? Or do they connect differently, with techology?

January 20, 2006

Text Messages as Writing

I never thought of text messaging as writing (and there are some horrifying moments below--like breaking up via text message), but this article from the Washington Post raises some interesting questions about how text messaging allows (or discourages) the broaching of certain topics, and how the format affects style and diction. Obviously not too serious or academic, but kind of fascinating.

January 19, 2006

Computing Metaphors

I just posted a quick reflection on an exercise we did in class today in which we explore alternatives to the desktop/office metaphor for computing. I have to say that the simple process of stopping the familiar and focusing on just how it is we understand the computer-based composing environment was a big help to our Web building. Before we talked about H: drives, we thought about conceptual spaces--if the computer were a kitchen, what might a server be? A warehouse? A restaurant? A restaurant with an attached warehouse? [update -- see for a related example.]

January 18, 2006

First SITES Podcast!

Please join the SITES interns in Donovan Lounge on Friday, January 27th, as we record our first podcast LIVE! We'll be discussing the role of technology in the life of a grad student at UNC. We know you've all experienced both techno-delights as well as techno-snafus in your years of studying and teaching here, so please come tell us about them!
Donovan Lounge, Friday the 27th, 9:30 a.m. Refreshments will be provided!

January 13, 2006

Blogging About Blogging

In this blog, an English professor from Canada compiles and comments on a variety of web sources and articles that explore how blogs and bloggers both affect and are affected by the Media. In one sense, "while bloggers may enjoy looking down at Big Media, most of us would reach very few people without Big Media's help." True, but as he notes, bloggers have been instrumental in raising awareness of and disseminating information about events like the South Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and others. What seems interesting about a site (or blogger) like this is how very self-conscious it/he is about its/his role as as writer, as a source of information, and as a public authority of sorts. This blog seems much more interested in directing its readership to other sites, rather than providing lengthy commentaries on a given issue. How, then, is a blogger's authority different from another kind of writer's authority?
For more on blogs in education, see this blog on, well, blogging.