Tuesday, January 29, 2008

1-29Baron, et al.


“When we write with cutting-edge tools, it is easy to forget that whether it consists of energized particles on a screen or ink embedded in paper or lines gouged into clay tablets, writing itself is always first and foremost a technology, a way of engineering materials in order to accomplish an end.” (Baron 16). Right on Denis, when the first symbols were assigned to the corresponding phonemes, the technology of writing was born. And you go on to discus the impact of the pencil and how that brought access to historically underserved populations. And yes, Denis, you’re so very right about how old-time writing necessities were difficult to produce. I had to make petroglyph ink from green stones one summer while working for the museum and it was so freakin time consuming and difficult.

Baron’s discussion of pencil vs. computer brings up a good point, that once the pencil has been left in the dust by word processing, it’s just not possible to return to that time consuming method of composition. Word programs build on upon themselves and get easier, much in the same spirit that we, as instructors, “work out the bugs” in our pedagogy and improve when and where necessary. I recall the old-skool Word Perfect on the blue screen that you had to type in the F1-F10 commands for the program to function. Compare that to Word 2003, and if a working Word Perfect (5.1 I think) exists, I couldn’t go back to that torture of the template and F-commands. Now there is Word 2007 that blew me away – yes you can try it at the Graduate & Professional Center.


“Essays remain places with rhetorical power, as readers are consoled by writers who can organize corners of chaos, not just by gathering, arranging, and exchanging but by venturing to say what a part might mean.” (Hesse 48). Hesse explores much territory here from listserv and email literacies to the leisure with which Bacon drafted his essays. I was so much more engaged with Baron’s work, however I found points of interest sprinkled throughout such as the impact of email writing on the workplace.


“…becoming literate does not help a young Navajo woman feel that she has a real place in Anglo culture…(Wysocki, Johnson-Eilola 353). Perhaps it is the lateness of the hour shading my response to this thought, but Duh! What person, text, or other thing exists to help the young Navajo woman feel comfortable within the dominant Anglo culture? When she achieves the power of literacy, only Pandora’s box will be opened. Achieving a high level of literacy has the power to make this woman feel angry enough to purchase a black beret and host anti-establishment meetings in her basement apartment. Such authors playing a part in the inspiration to create underground organizations include, Patricia Hill-Collins, Rochelle Brock, Antonio Gramsci, Lesli Marmon-Silko, Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, William Shatner (OK it’s really lateJ) William Shatner has never failed to inspire, especially in his role as the evil twin brother of a Comanche hero.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thursday 1-24

Faigley teaches us the history of the Internet and World Wide Web, historicizing the impact of how the digital revolution permeated the mid-1990’s and beyond. Of course this communications medium has impacted today’s way of life and we, as composition instructors, (well maybe just a few of us older guys) struggle to incorporate technology with composition. What can we do to alleviate this condition I feel too often on a sixteen hour basis every day - as a composition instructor, “…teaching writing as a drudgery from which we wished deliverance.” (Faigley). From the technological perspective, my students, most born the time I graduated from high school, are so cutting edge that I cannot readily incorporate an innovative approach to combining internet and/or other technologies into teaching.

Faigley doesn’t cheer me up any by discussing,”…the second class status of a writing teacher in an English Department.” I perceive writing teachers as not second class however, is Faigley’s article dated in this regard? What I see here at our institution is that writing teachers have a very strong community and are respected for their profession. There are people excluded from a community of colleagues such as the one in existence within our English Department, such as exclusion by means of not going through Bob’s 501, for example, those adjunct instructors who come and go at the semesters beginning and end. We never know if these folk will return to us or not as their futures are so unpredictable and uncertain. Hey, that’s one of the reasons I came back to school, the crushing uncertainty of your employment as an adjunct instructor.

And in the discussion of communities, Faigley has another dynamite observation, “When our own communities have become unsafe, uncertain, unpleasant, and ugly, we seek artificial ones.” What’s more therapeutic than an on-line community? I know I’ve searched out on-line support within indigenous cyber-communities more than once, at times like this, when the ice prevents me from running over to White Swan to have my uncles help me with something. I can get on-line at powwows.com and ask one of those guys how to make a peyote stitch that ain’t all loose and unraveling. Who is this Faigley guy anyways, I’d like to have a coffee with him, ask him a few questions. I wonder if he could show me how to make a tight peyote stitch, I wonder if can sew the eagle feather design in his stitches:)

Another glaring fact that I overlooked was how Faigley described the ownership of cyber territory. Those huge corporations bought up and controlled the internet of Faigley’s 1997, do they yet control the internet? How panapotic is TimeWarner and Disney? How does all this tie into our classrooms? We discussed how having our students sit at computers can or cannot make them better writers, and the extent to which today’s college freshman has been exposed to digital culture, we know that technology will continue to improve, but is there a good reason that we shouldn’t “throw-back” every so often to an old-skool approach of composition in the classroom?


Interesting how an aspect of a struggle within my composition classroom enters into the New London Group’s scholarly work, “Language discourse, and register differences are markers of lifeworld differences.” The argument is for a celebration of register diversity, but this comes from people who have never taught a homogenous mainstream group of students from the dominant sphere of society with a diverse register. I found here, among the middle class freshmen, that once that accent came out of my mouth, somehow my credibility as a “qualified” instructor vanished. I believe this only occurred because of the type of course that I am instructing. If I were within my own element of Native American Literature, then that reservation drawl would actually improve my credibility. Aristotle, why didn’t you warn us that register impacts credibility? You only argued for ethos, pathos, and logos.

“Of course, the necessary negotiation of differences will be difficult and often painful.” I don’t recall the New London Group ever watching my 101 section, but I suppose they must have snuck into the AML during my in-class writing. As a composition instructor of color, every class session at this institution is a negotiation of differences, for myself and the students. However, I have witnessed our colleague, Gregory Phillips, instructing his 101 section which was a rich exchange of ideologies and a respectful learning environment where the relationships as defined within this text were practiced in actual application.


“And piggy-back on the new advertising industry, there arose for the first time a national mass culture, whose main product was not the magazine." In response to Ohmann's analysis of capitalism, literacy, and technology, he historicizes the literacies as belonging to the privileged which is still a point of importance to argue when entering the discussion of technology and classism. The Haves will always be cutting edge and the Have-Nots will learn technologies as the hardwares become discarded and handed down in a charitable fashion to the organizations who assist the populations at poverty level and below. If asked, would the most povery-stricken citizen, the homeless person, have access, motivation, or desire to acquire a technological literacy?

If Ohmann wants to discuss capitalism then I will be first to express the conditions of those at the very bottom, conditions which I witness in the constant relationship of balancing rez, prison inmates, and ghetto to that of academia and its extreme conditions of privilege. I recall our classmate, Donna, who brought into discussion the access to technologies and computer literacies of elderly citizens. As teachers, I believe it is an important excercise to discuss the underrepresented groups for the reason that it is inevitable that we will encounter a person from such a population at some point in our careers. Especially in the community colleges. Which brings me back to that homeless person and his/her computer literacy, what pedagogical instruction could you, as an instructor in a community college, give to a student who has just come into your classroom from off the streets? It happens more often than one would think.

Tues 1-22-08


How cool is this? I finally succeeded in cutting & pasting my Word document to the Blog posting space -- YeeHaw -- This is what it feels like when technology "works" the way you wanted it too:)

Faigley’s work truly aroused my excitement in the pedagogical sense. I considered the responsibility of freedom given to the student collective during an electronic classroom discussion of assigned readings and considered the dynamics I’ve witnessed during group work among my students to ascertain whether or not it would work in my section. I could guess that my “bad egg” student would cause disruptions amongst the discussion as it plays out on the screen, but the “bad egg” is the type of person that feeds off the energy of others and will continue to resist and disrupt as long as a group of peers pays attention, however the dynamic of the electronic discussion is individualistic and perhaps the attention necessary to resist and disrupt would not be present as students faced their screens, reading and typing. I would like to discuss the new versions of Realtime Writer and Interchange during our class, if the AML has these programs available, I want to experiment with my class, to see how the “bad egg” reacts to an on-line discussion. Need I stand behind the “bad egg” waving an enormous cardboard cut-out F to prevent disruption of the nearby students?

My interest was caught and sustained throughout Faigley’s work, first by his initial storytelling and following analysis of White Noise, and by further discussion of the ensuing texts produced by his electronic discussions. The idea of students as technological commodities to be discarded when they became outmoded was revolutionary to me. I have considered those privileged enough to have lived the lifestyle of the Shiny American Dream, those youths in the never-ending succession of SUV’s packed with high-end gadgetry, to be cherished by the very economy and status they reflect and consume. In the words of Christopher Lowell, “Who woulda thought?” The analysis of White Noise carries a very Johnny Nmemonic type mentality of technology simultaneously being responsible for the corruption and breakdown of society while also serving as its foundation.

I would argue the point of not giving my old Smith-Corona a hurrah, however. Faigley addresses what many of us beginning instructors go through in the composition classroom, the old Aristotelian binary of a class session either going successfully or bursting into the terrible flames of a great and glaring failure. The only to truly know the benefits of electronic discussion of class readings is to try it in your section, ennit!?
Cooper’s work answered, to a certain degree, the questions I had regarding mutiny and/or inappropriate exchanges during the electronic conversation, her footnote advises, “…I do not mean that teachers should tolerate inappropriate behavior in electronic or any other conversations, but rather that teachers need to find new ways to deal with it.” Cooper addresses the importance of giving students freedom to exchange their paratactic analysis on assigned readings in the space of electronic anonymous discussion. This is certainly an aspect of technology that I want to try in my classroom and the only way to, “…find new ways to deal with it…” would be to address the problem as it arises. I have observed that students tend to silence inappropriate and socially unacceptable behaviors through peer interactions as has Cooper observed in the LambdaMOO trial of “Mr. Bungle,” however I have also noted an eerie solidarity of resistance that can also occur within the classroom, which I see as problematic in dealing with inappropriate electronic behavior.

Our college Jacob Hughes, has described his classroom of silent poker-faced students who refuse to respond to him as either a teacher or a human being, not just a few bad eggs, but all 26 students united together in a bone-crushing unresponsiveness. I seriously consider the chemistry of Jacob’s classroom in attempting to find a solution to inappropriateness other than peer silencing within the construction of the online community. Although Cooper argues that without giving students freedom to explore the Otherness of each other through paratactic discussion, my concern is to what degree can the instructor salvage an electronic discussion gone bad? As teachers we know there is really no way to predict certain problems that can arise in the classroom, (as our old pal Gloria Greenbaum can readily tell you) and at times these snags in classroom relations must be dealt with, thereafter we have had the experience and reflected upon it, in this manner we are prepared for the next time it will arise. Sometimes I have handled snags in a brilliant inspired teaching moment, but most times I am forced to analyze the snag and confer with colleagues on how they have handled such occurrences. As beginning instructors, there is a network of support among classmates and accessible professionals such as Bob, Beth, Kris, and Annie, but what about when we leave the safety of this supportive learning environment?

So is it possible to have a bag of pedagogical tricks handy to curtail an electronic outburst? Cooper elects the instructor to navigate their own way through the new pedagogical territories of computer aided instruction within the classroom. What Cooper did leave me with were reassurances that I am, in some ways, employing what is supposed to employed within the classroom; the offering of other perspectives to the students (159), the posing of complex problems as they occur within the lives of the student(158); and also aspects that I can use a great deal of thought refining; “send(ing) a hopeful message to students about their present and future…”(158). What exactly does this hopeful message consist of? Is it economical, environmental, societal? What?
What I prescribe to my students as a fundamental of academic writing, description, may provide us with a smile where this text leaves us as the reader to try to imagine: “Since the mass production of the first fully-assembled microcomputer in 1977…” (35). My father assembled, with a great flurry of enthusiasm and excitement, this very computer. I recall it’s name, “TRS-80,” and the way in which it saved data and read it’s programs, by cassette tape. The monitor was heavily constructed, encased in several pounds of plastic, like most products of that age. The set-up was the same as contemporary computers, the monitor plugged to the brain, which was the cassette player, both connected to the keyboard. The functions were limited, as you can imagine the limitations of computing via cassette tape. We used it mostly for the games which we then completely abandoned when pops brought home the Atari 2600.

Back to Hawisher/Selfe and the present day, I thought of negative use of computer space and its power relations in terms of myself cruising the lab as a enforcer, watching the student screens for any internet access that I would have to prohibit and demand the return to classroom writing. Does anyone else share my Gestapo nightmare? Have you experienced and had to enforce Word during an in-class writing session?

Hawisher/Selfe are right on to call out the negative effects and implications of computers in the classroom, what other negative effects can we uncover besides those described in this text?

Computers are described as equalizers and the bulletin board forums as panoptic (now I see the connection between the panopticon and using technology in the classroom), what other technological pitfalls exist? I also question, “the social and political dangers that the use of computers may pose.” (36). What are these dangers? I’m told about it, but not given an example, and yes, I need a description of these social and political dangers. I cannot fathom how using Word in my 101 section can pose such dangers. After reading Hawisher/Selfe’s work, I am left with more questions about using technology in the classroom than answers.

Friday, January 11, 2008

week 1 panapticon vs web

The panaptacon has permeated my thoughts for the past few days. I've been considering the link between panopticism and technology. The surveillance inherent with web use is not quite comparable to panaptacon surveillance used as a means of keeping a certain community of people, prison, schoolchildren, workers under a watchful eye. While the community forced under the panapticon's gaze is unwilling, those within the web's gaze are very willing. I've seen myspace profile pics of women flashing their boobs to the entire world, women in thong underwear or not in any underwear at all, an international full moon ya'll:) Prolific partial or full nude pictures, willingly, for anyone with web access to see.

While a theoretical woman within the construct of the panaptacon may have been gazed upon in full or partial nudity, it would have been both unwilling and not a worldwide gaze, but only the keeper within the panapticon. That is how I see the relationship between the panapticon and internet as vehicles of surveillance.

Peace & Salmon Grease --J