Personal writing history, Fall 2011 #252ac

Reflecting on our relationships with writing can help us understand how and why we write and, by extension, how our own writing strategies are similar to and different from those around us. By putting such reflection into the form of an autobiography, we have a chance to get to know each other better in a unique way.

So, compose a piece of at least 750 words detailing your life of/with writing. The approach you take is rather open-ended. The main focus should be on your relationship with writing, but you can take a chronological perspective, share a series of anecdotes about writing, and/or note particular progress in your ability and understanding of writing. If you have any questions about this, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be happy to discuss approaches/ideas.

  • What early experiences with writing devices or artifacts can you recall? What do you remember about your earliest writing(s)?
  • Who do you identify as being most literate person in your life? What makes that person's relationship with writing so special; that is, what behaviors or characteristics does he or she exhibit? What have you learned from him or her?
  • Do you think there are social consequences or potential impacts on your lifestyle that depend on your writing capabilities? What might these social consequences or potential impacts be?
  • What will it mean to be a writer in the near future?
  • What's on your desk at home and/or office at work? What writing devices are you carrying now? What's on your writing “wish list?”
  • What writing technologies do you own or know about that would be of benefit to your classmates?
  • How do you learn new writing technologies? What process do you go through? Is it hard, fun, easy, traumatic, boring, annoying, or some combination?

Be sure to post it to your blog by the start of our 9.12 session.

 

On composition pedagogy, the syllabus, Twitter, journalism, privacy, copyright, and videogames #dyr

it’s too easy to allow the classroom work associated with composition courses to focus on activities other than writing. I’ve been in many composition classes here and at other institutions where the students discuss readings and approaches and the teachers facilitate work and manage discussion and sometimes stand at the front of the classroom and show students things. Compositionists know and agree and emphasize that the work of the writing class is writing, and yet — in many classes — students simply don’t produce much text, largely because of the way we apportion the work of the course.

 

we may be a little too fond of limiting and certainty. These days syllabi are looking more and more like those Terms of Service that pop up when we use software...They are contracts that we can’t negotiate, and they contain provisions we might not agree to, if we understood what they actually meant. But the most striking thing about TOS is that they are full of rules – and very few people read them.

 

what are the teaching and learning practices of the networked classroom? No doubt there are people out there doing that work, and those of us who have taught in computer labs have related, relevant experiences. In both cases, it's a matter of turning the focal point away from the professor. Even in the class discussion format, among faculty committed to "decentering" the classroom, conversation generally runs through the professor, or at least the professor steers conversation through its iterations. As we have discovered, nothing decenters the classroom quite like a room full of laptops and smartphones, eh? The networked students is only partly in the classroom and is partly distributed. 

 

The reality of the Twitter effect isn’t just that President Obama has Twitter town halls now where he talks directly to American citizens, nor is it just that someone with no journalism background sitting in a house in Pakistan can report on a military raid that kills the world’s most notorious terrorist. It’s that journalism of all kinds has now become something you do, not something you are. Anyone can do it, whether they call themselves a journalist or not.

 

Politics presented as entertainment charges the press with a failure to treat the serious stuff seriously. And that is a valid critique. But here’s a trickier problem: even when the press is trying to be serious, to provide, say, “analysis” instead of a good yarn, it increasingly relies on an impoverished notion of politics, a cluster of bad ideas that together form the common sense of the craft

 

The definition of privacy has been thrown out the window, and we have a new definition of privacy, which is whether we have control of what companies are doing with this information and if we have knowledge of how it’s being used.

 

you can’t motivate monopoly legislation based on your costs, when others are doing the same thing for much less — practically zero. There has never been as much music available as now, just because all of us love to create. It’s not something we do because of money, it’s because of who we are. We have always created.

 

Just like in the best zombie movies, the real drama in L4D lies in the relationships between the living, not the dead. The infected are just a pretext for collapsing the social order and forcing people to depend on one another to survive. It’s the ultimate online co-op experience, a game that requires not just headshot skills but communication, collaboration and confidence in your fellow player.

 

On piracy, nostalgia, book publishing, New Yorker cartoons, composition pedagogy, education reform, and the humanities #dyr

The film industry loses $6.1 billion annually to digital piracy, according to a study conducted by economist Stephen Siwek and cited recently by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). And the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) says royalty rights for indie films have been halved from what they were five years ago. The John Doe lawsuits are a way for desperate movie studios and distributors to recoup those losses. Armed with a list of IP addresses and draconian copyright laws, lawyers for the scorned studios are treating a broad swath of the Internet-browsing public like their own personal ATM.

 

an undercurrent to grunge retrospection is the music media's and record industry's own nostalgia for the heyday of the rock monoculture. It was already crumbling in the early '90s, thanks to rap (the rebel music of black youth, obviously, but a lot of white kids had defected to hip-hop, too) and to the emergence of rave and electronic dance culture (in America destined always to be a minority subculture, but in Europe the dominant form of '90s pop). Grunge was the last blast of rock as a force at once central in popular culture yet also running counter to mainstream show biz values.

 

There is no way to limit the output of books. But the sense that there may be too many of them is a message to authors, agents, and publishers that they would do well to exercise judgment in choosing which books actually deserve to be written and supported. At the moment, however, the process is moving in the other direction: self-publishing as a business is booming, and Amazon, Apple, and Google, with their various devices and imprints, seem to be lowering the entry bar because these corporate behemoths see new publishing ventures as a source of revenue, pretty much regardless of quality.

 

If making graphic novels felt like a staid long-term relationship, then doing gag comics is like playing the field. One day I could draw a fortuneteller; the next, an astronaut. I went from sultans to superheroes, robots to rabbits. I felt liberated. I refused to get bogged down or fuss over the drawings. I spent no more than an hour with any one cartoon, and many took far less time than that. For the first two weeks I was feeling my oats. I already had a half-dozen keepers and was confident there were plenty more winners on the way. It was at this point that I started dreaming of actually selling a cartoon to The New Yorker.

 

When you are trying to teach writing, you are trying to teach something that, when it comes down to it, we don't know a lot about. Actually, that's not precisely true. We know a great deal about writing, if by writing one is referring to an abstract concept. There is a lot of scholarship that describes and theorizes writing, to say nothing of the scholarship about particular texts. But to understand writing, one would have to understand thinking. While there is a lot of interesting brain research going on, there's nothing that going to tell you "follow these steps to come up with a good idea for your paper." Instead what we have are lots of techniques that sometimes work. Or, to quote Anchorman, "60% of the time, it works every time." The problem lies in mistaking techniques for empirical facts. There is no definitive "how to write." In short, the goal of the course is to help students become better writers, but there is no definition of "better," there is no clear, general writing practice, and there is no set body of knowledge to impart. 

 

Real educational reform, as I see it, requires a fundamental shift in our understanding of the educational process...For starters, it requires that we abandon the idea that adults are in charge of children's learning.  It requires, in other words, that we throw out the basic premise that underlies our system of schooling. 

 

The humanities needs more courage and more contact with the world. It needs to extend the practice of humanism into that world, rather than to invite the world in for tea and talk of novels, only to pat itself on the collective back for having injected some small measure of abstract critical thinking into the otherwise empty puppets of industry. As far as indispensability goes, we are not meant to be superheroes nor wizards, but secret agents among the citizens, among the scrap metal, among the coriander, among the parking meters.

 

On curation, technology, kids today, librarians, blogging, and privacy #dyr

A big part of this new age of creation is that you have infinite choice, and no clear concept of where to start...So what’s the fix? You need a filter. And I strongly believe that while algorithmical filters work, you need people to tell you about things you wouldn’t find that way.

technology has never been cold, impersonal, and industrial. We simply chose to understand it that way. Technology has always had a role in shaping the inner life, the intimate life. The telephone - surely a shaping force in the making and shaping of self. The telegram, the letter, the book.

...

Nor was there anything cold about how industrial technologies such as cars and trains shaped our sensibilities, our sense of self, of our sensuality, our possibilities. If we have succumbed to an ideology of technological neutrality that is something that needs to be studied as an independent phenomenon; it is not to be taken as a given.

whatever the flavor of the month in terms of new technologies are, there’s research that comes out very quickly that shows how it causes our children to be asocial, distracted, bad in school, to have learning disorders, a whole litany of things.

Davidson's youth worship, though extreme, is common these days among those who write about technology and society. Individuals born after the dawn of the Internet are not the same as you and me, goes the now-familiar refrain. As a result of their lifelong immersion in electronic media, young people's brains are "wired differently," and they require different schools, different workplaces, and different social arrangements from the ones we have. They are described, with more than a little envy, as "digital natives," effortlessly at home in an electronic universe, while we adults are "digital immigrants," benighted arrivals from the Old World doomed to stutter in a foreign tongue.

students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks.

Facebook and Twitter are too easy. Keeping up a decent blog that people actually want to take the time to read, that’s much harder. And it’s the hard stuff that pays off in the end.

Besides, even if they’re very good at hiding the fact, over on Twitter and Facebook, it’s not your content, it’s their content.

The content on your blog, however, belongs to you, and you alone. People come to your online home, to hear what you have to say, not to hear what everybody else has to say. This sense of personal sovereignty is important.

I have always been understanding that these tech giants need to make money. Supporting tens of millions of users takes time and a whole lot of resources. While it’s in Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn’s interests to attract as many users as possible – and clearly free is the way – there are obvious consequences: Users get to play without paying, but every few months we get kicked in the face when our digital profiles get abused.

employers are increasingly aware of and keen to use the huge informational resource that social media serves up on a plate; all kind of information is in the public domain, and incredibly easy to find – particularly if the applicant has an unusual name. As the chief executive of Social Intelligence has said, with something of a corporate shrug, "All we assemble is what's publicly available on the internet today". Nothing underhand going on here, they say; the company believes that the information is out there to be evaluated.

ENG 111 College Rhetoric syllabus, updated Fall 2011 #111cr

Course: ENG 111 College Rhetoric (#111cr)
Semester: Fall 2011
Teacher/Guide: Dr. James Robert Schirmer (@betajames)
E-mail: jschirm AT umflint DOT edu
Office: 320D French Hall
Hours: Monday/Wednesday by appointment
Mailbox: 326 French Hall

Writing Center: 559 French Hall
Writing Center Phone: 810.766.6602 (call ahead to make an appointment)
Writing Center Website:  http://www.umflint.edu/departments/writingcenter/

Course Description: 
English 111 is designed to equip students with the ability and knowledge to write college-level essays that are clear, argumentative, and persuasive. Skills gained in this class will be important beyond the classroom as the ability to communicate effectively is a requirement of most professional careers.

This course is formatted to help students feel more comfortable in their writing.  We will explore and discuss different strategies and steps involved in composition that will allow each student to find the system that works best for them.  Writing is not only a product but also a process; therefore, revision will be emphasized and fostered with instructor, peer, and personal comments.  All aspects of effective essays, such as finding a target audience, creating coherent organization, and establishing purpose will be explored.   

Much of our class time will have a writers' workshop environment. When we share our writing with each other, we'll work to give friendly and helpful feedback. Because we are practicing writers, too, we'll all be able to relate to the demands of writing good essays for a college-level audience. 

In addition to writing, we'll read other writers in order to help us understand the various components of successful essays. The readings should also help in generating ideas for composed pieces and develop and reinforce critical reading and thinking skills. 


Required Texts:
Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. "They Say / I Say": The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: Norton, 2006.
The First Year Writing Program: A Survival Kit: http://www.umflint.edu/english/pdf_files/Kit15.pdf

All other reading materials will be provided online.

Course Contributions: 
The grading contract outlines many parameters for the course, but not all. Below is more information about unique contributions to be made to the course by all students.

Presence: I expect you to come to class on time, prepared, having completed the assigned reading and writing, and ready to contribute thoughts to class discussions, to listen with attentive respect to the thoughts of your peers, and to participate in all in-class group work.  I strongly urge you to attend every class, as most of the work done in class is necessary for successful completion of the course.

Blogging: Contrary to assumptions about writing, authorship is more of a collective process than an individual endeavor. To better illustrate this, you are required to create and maintain a Posterous blog for the duration of the course. Particular requirements for blogging are as follows: 

  • Blog entries of 400-600 words each are due twice a week by session start.
  • Blog comments of 40-60 words each are due thrice a week by 5pm every Friday. 

Further blogging guidelines are provided here.

Tweeting: To create and sustain further conversation this semester, all students are required to maintain active presence on Twitter for a minimum of four weeks. One post (or tweet) per day is required, but there is freedom regarding content. Students are welcome to post original thoughts, "retweet" classmates' updates, @ (reply to) classmates' updates, and share course-relevant links with the course hashtag. Posts unrelated to course content are okay, but these will not count toward the requirement. I am very active on Twitter, so I encourage all students to check my profile (as well as those I follow) for potential models of engagement. Further guidelines are provided here

Sequences: For particular course themes, there are some longer assignments. These provide opportunities for not only greater attention and focus but also practice and preparation for later projects and beyond. Clicking on each assignment title will take you to the official assignment sheet. 

  • Pop Up Scholarship (800-1200 words)
    Given a greater familiarity with the discursive particulars of academic writing, we should now have the ability to engage in a dialogue with a text, not only noting its unique, stylistic features but also amending/changing the text itself. This assignment emphasizes Mikhail Bakhtin’s work on dialogism and that “all discourse is a response” (Ewald 88). It also stresses the creativity of the reader in the act of making meaning, encouraging an abandonment of “the notion that the text is the sole, even primary, repository of meaning in written discourse” (88).
  • Reverse-Engineered Scholarship (800-1200 words)
    This assignment asks that you begin at the end, that you start with a finished piece of writing and work backward. It is similar to the other “Scholarship” assignments in that it asks you to pay attention to particulars of a piece of written work. While Pop Up and Mashup consider audience, grammar and syntax, organization, and source materials, Reverse-Engineered Scholarship focuses on argument, idea development, and the method or process of how we write. 
  • Mashup Scholarship (800-1200 words)
    Beyond one-to-one dialogue with a text is, of course, dialogic multiplication, the cacophonous implementation of many texts together. This means realizing and showing how well a variety of works relate to each other in terms of argument and meaning, thereby mirroring Girl Talk, Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, Wugazi’s 13 Chambers, and Jonathan Lethem's "The ecstasy of influence." Like "Pop Up Scholarship," this assignment emphasizes reader as well as writer creativity, encouraging a plagiarism of sorts to promote better understanding of textual construction.
  • The Big One (at least 2000 words total) 
    Having reflected on how we use technology and put together documents revealing knowledge of scholarly argument and discourse, it is important to put those abilities to a larger, cumulative test. Intended as a demonstration of what should be acquired in ENG 111, this assignment asks for process-oriented engagement with a focused topic, one realized through an unorthodox composition and resulting in more traditional pieces of academic work.

Class Facilitation: Student groups are responsible for facilitating class once during the semester. It should last 60 minutes with students providing readings for the rest of the class prior to the facilitation. Student groups will meet for instructor approval at least one week prior to their facilitation to finalize readings and discuss approaches. 

Facilitation readings should be given to the instructor in time to allow for copies to be made (or files to be uploaded). Facilitation readings should be relevant to and provide insight on some aspect of the course. 

A facilitation can take whatever format is comfortable for the student group presenting (discussion questions, in-class activities, online activities, etc.). The introduction and subsequent discussion of topics for facilitation will be based on students' interests and finalized as a class. 

On Technology:
Because an increasing amount of writing occurs in an online format, we will engage a range of computer tools and web-based applications. No prior skill is needed, however, only a willingness to engage and learn. I am more than willing to take extra time; all you need to do is ask.

A majority of the tools we will be using in and outside of class are web-based, so you will not need any special software. I might, however, have some recommendations (not requirements) that I will provide at appropriate intervals. Furthermore, you should have an email address that you check regularly for this class. While I prefer to contact students via university email, I am open to other email addresses.

While technology makes life easier, it can also be difficult (computer crashes, deleted work, unavailable Internet connections, etc.). So, plan accordingly. "The computer ate my homework" or "the Internet was down" are not reasons to forgo the work assigned. It is in your best interest to leave extra time, especially in the first few weeks, to ensure that technology does not get in the way of your coursework.

How to Reach Me: 
The best way to reach me is by email < jschirm AT umflint DOT edu >. You can also find me online via Twitter. I am online almost every day. If you email or @ me and do not receive a response within 24 hours, please feel free to email or @ me again as a reminder. As I might not have received your first message, I promise not to consider your second message harassment.

If you are more comfortable with face-to-face communication, you are welcome to schedule an appointment. My office is 320D French Hall.

Final Note: 
Should any aspect of class confuse/concern/trouble you, don't hesitate to contact me.

Reverse-Engineered Scholarship, updated Fall 2011 #111cr

Reverse engineering is the process of extracting craft knowledge from a human-made artifact. While this activity may be more common in some fields than others, e.g., electronics over furniture, anyone who has ever taken something apart in order to better understand it could be considered a reverse engineer. This assignment asks for you to consider yourself one, too. 

According to Electronic Design, reverse engineering can take several forms:

  •  A product tear-down identifies the product, package, internal boards, and components.
  • A system-level analysis examines operations, signal paths, and interconnections.
  • A circuit extraction de-layers electronics to the transistor level and then extracts interconnections and components to create schematics.
  • A process analysis examines the structure and materials to see how something is manufactured and what it is made of. 

For the purpose of this class, you will be conducting process analysis*.

The Assignment 

 

This assignment asks that you begin at the end, that you start with a finished piece of writing and work backward. It is similar to the other “Scholarship” assignments in that it asks you to pay attention to particulars of a piece of written work. While Pop Up and Mashup Scholarship consider audience, grammar and syntax, organization, and source materials, Reverse-Engineered Scholarship focuses on argument, idea development, and the method or process of how we write. 

 

Choose one of the longform articles below or submit one for instructor approval** by 5pm Friday, 10.13.11.

Part 1. (online, due Tuesday, 10.17.11) Upon reading your chosen article, pare it down into the form of a shitty first draft***, eliminating at least 50% of the published article’s content. Post this form to your blog and reflect on your paring choices. In your reflection, consider what’s essential about the article, what ideas or information perhaps came first. 

Part 2. (online, due Thursday, 10.19.11) Pare your chosen article down even further into the form of a basic outline. Post or upload both forms to your blog and reflect on your paring choices. The outline and initial curiosity/perplexity involves some educated guesses on your part, forcing you to think more like the original author of your chosen article. In your reflection, consider the author’s interest in the subject matter and how it is similar to or different from your own interest. This is also an opportunity for you to justify your overall reverse-engineering of the article.

 

*If one of the other forms of reverse engineering is more appealing to you, please contact me for instructor approval.

**Given this assignment’s connection to The Big One, it may behoove you to choose an article about your area of interest.

***If you would like to use your own identified method or process for writing rather than what’s asked in Parts 1 and 2 of this assignment, please contact me for instructor approval. 

On reading, writing, social media, surveillance, videogame violence, and genre #dyr

the human brain was never meant to read. Not text, not papyrus, not computer screens, not tablets. There are no genes or areas in the brain devoted uniquely to reading. Rather, our ability to read represents our brain's protean capacity to learn something outside our repertoire by creating new circuits that connect existing circuits in a different way. Indeed, every time we learn a new skill – whether knitting or playing the cello or using Facebook – that is what we are doing.

Touch typing allows us to write without thinking about how we are writing, freeing us to focus on what we are writing, on our ideas. Touch typing is an example of cognitive automaticity, the ability to do things without conscious attention or awareness. Automaticity takes a burden off our working memory, allowing us more space for higher-order thinking. (Other forms of cognitive automaticity include driving a car, riding a bike and reading—you're not sounding out the letters as you scan this post, right?) When we type without looking at the keys, we are multi-tasking, our brains free to focus on ideas without having to waste mental resources trying to find the quotation mark key. We can write at the speed of thought.

Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social software are about consumption and production, about dialectic interaction on the read/write web. It’s no wonder short-form writing in sociotechnical networks is epistemologically productive, often leading to richer, longer-form writing work. Savvy writers might intentionally deploy sociotechnical notemaking as a powerful heuristic strategy for moving from short-form to long-form writing practices. Sociotechnical notemaking may therefore be defined as short-form writing work that is typically enacted informally via the enabling technologies of social software, with explicit heuristic, inventional, and epistemological implications.

before we give more attention to having students write briefly to fit their text-messaging sensibilities and the latest technologies, we should be more forceful about expecting and bringing their attention to accuracy and precision. Strunk and White, in their classic The Elements of Style, caution against predilection for brevity over precision in their 19th style reminder: “Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity." I suspect most instructors would agree with this admonition, as I trust precision of thought and expression from our students is paramount for most of us.

Ideas don’t need the media any more than the media need ideas. They’ve relied on each other in the past, true enough — media as the gatekeepers, ideas as the floods — but the present media moment is characterized above all by the fact that ideas, Big and otherwise, can be amplified independently of traditional media filters. The public, online, is empowered to decide for itself which ideas are worthy of changing the world.

In their concern to stop not just mob violence but commercial crimes like piracy and file-sharing, Western politicians have proposed new tools for examining Web traffic and changes in the basic architecture of the Internet to simplify surveillance. What they fail to see is that such measures can also affect the fate of dissidents in places like China and Iran. Likewise, how European politicians handle online anonymity will influence the policies of sites like Facebook, which, in turn, will affect the political behavior of those who use social media in the Middle East.

Through two online surveys and four experimental studies, the researchers showed that people stayed glued to games mainly for the feelings of challenge and autonomy they experience while playing. Both seasoned video gamers and novices preferred games where they could conquer obstacles, feel effective, and have lots of choices about their strategies and actions.

These elements, said coauthor Richard Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University, represent "the core reasons that people find games so entertaining and compelling. Conflict and war are a common and powerful context for providing these experiences, but it is the need satisfaction in the gameplay that matters more than the violent content itself."

There are no meaningful genres in games anymore. It’s a good thing that developers are pushing back borders and finding interesting ways to combine old mechanics, but as a consequence, there’s no ways of separating works with huge and obvious disparities. There ought to be a way to categorize games in a meaningful, succinct way that doesn’t implicitly suggest a high art/low art dichotomy.

On writing, blogging, design, fake Twitter accounts, spoilers, and death on Facebook #dyr

research verifies that taking notes makes writing easier­—as long as you don't look at them while you are writing the draft! Doing so causes a writer to jump into reviewing/evaluating mode instead of getting on with the business of getting words on the screen.

 

I have come up with a conceptual framework that explains what I believe to be the core elements--and the essential worth--of a blogging initiative, either within a course or across an entire program. I've built the framework out of three imperatives: "Narrate, Curate, Share." I believe these three imperatives underlie some of the most important aspects of an educated citizen's contributions to the human record. And in my experience, blogging offers a uniquely powerful way of becoming a self-aware learner in the process of making those contributions.

 

Breakthroughs in all fields—science and engineering, literature and art, music and history, law and medicine—all come about when people find fresh insights, new points of view and propagate them. There is no shortage of creative people in this world, people with great ideas that defy conventional wisdom. These people do not need to claim they have special modes of thinking, they just do what comes naturally to them: break the rules, go outside the existing paradigms, and think afresh. Yes, designers can be creative, but the point is that they are hardly unique.

 

One of my indulgences, however, is reading well-crafted tweets from satirical Tweeters who've taken on the persona of someone else. To do it right is like being a method actor: You have to get inside the head of a famous person but with a twist; the post has to be funny and insightful. It isn't easy and Twitter is littered with failures.

 

Subjects liked the literary, evocative stories least overall, but still preferred the spoiled versions over the unspoiled ones.

Why? The answers go beyond the scope of the study, but one possibility is perhaps the simplest one: that plot is overrated.

 

Nobody is resting in peace anymore. The suicide, the aneurysm, the overdose. Distilled into how they died because their [Facebook] pages are a persistent reminder they are dead, not of how they made me feel alive. I’d like to believe a legacy is in memories made, not the unintended irony of a last status update.

 

On writing, grammar, gamification, videogames, education, academia, and data preservation #dyr

I don’t know the origin of the “write what you know” logic. A lot of folks attribute it to Hemingway, but what I find is his having said this: “From all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive.” If this is the logic’s origin, then maybe what’s happened is akin to that old game called Telephone. In the game, one kid whispers a message to a second kid and then that kid whispers it to a third and so on, until the message circles the room and returns to the first kid. The message is always altered, minimized, and corrupted by translation. “Bill is smart to sit in the grass” becomes “Bill is a smart-ass.” A similar transmission problem undermines the logic of writing what you know and, ironically, Hemingway may have been arguing against it all along. The very act of committing an experience to the page is necessarily an act of reduction, and regardless of craft or skill, vision or voice, the result is a story beholden to and inevitably eclipsed by source material.

 

there is still no widely-accepted gender-neutral pronoun. In part, that’s because pronoun systems are slow to change, and when change comes, it is typically natural rather than engineered.

 

Game developers and players have critiqued gamification on the grounds that it gets games wrong, mistaking incidental properties like points and levels for primary features like interactions with behavioral complexity. That may be true, but truth doesn't matter for bullshitters. Indeed, the very point of gamification is to make the sale as easy as possible.

 

I have never been much for handheld games, cell-phone games, or smaller games in general, but after spending several weeks playing games on my iPad, I can say that the best of them provide as much, if not more, consistent engagement than their console brethren. In fact, a really fine iPad game offers an experience in which many of the impurities of console gaming are boiled away.

 

Games are based on problems to solve, not content. This doesn't mean that game-based problem-solving should eclipse learning content, but I think we are increasingly seeing that a critical part of being literate in the digital age means being able to solve problems through simulations and collaboration.   

Videogames, and the type of learning and thinking they generate, may serve as a cornerstone for education and economies of the future.

via pbs.org

 

Simply put, we can’t keep preparing students for a world that doesn’t exist. We can’t keep ignoring the formidable cognitive skills they’re developing on their own. And above all, we must stop disparaging digital prowess just because some of us over 40 don’t happen to possess it. An institutional grudge match with the young can sabotage an entire culture.

 

Everyone benefits from more education. No one benefits from an educational system that defines learning so narrowly that whole swaths of human intelligence, skill, talent, creativity, imagination, and accomplishment do not count.

 

Thesis Whisperer is part of a growing trend for PhD students to meet and support each other through social media as they pursue the long, demanding and often draining journey to a completed thesis.

 

At first glance, digital preservation seems to promise everything: nearly unlimited storage, ease of access and virtually no cost to making copies. But the practical lessons of digital preservation contradict the notion that bits are eternal. Consider those 5 1/4-inch floppies stockpiled in your basement. When you saved that unpublished manuscript on them, you figured it would be accessible forever. But when was the last time you saw a floppy drive?

 

On texting, videogames, and writing #dyr

Last year, 4.16 billion users made SMS the most popular data channel in the world. An estimated 6.1 trillion texts were sent, up from 1.8 trillion in 2007. And while the proportion of customers using SMS for more than simple messaging is still small, in poor nations these services are already changing the nature of commerce, crime, reporting news, political participation, and governing.

 

The subjects and themes and audiences of games should be no less of a concern than the contexts and purposes to which they are put. Not just adolescent fantasy and political activism, but everything in between.

 

research found that giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during the game and acting through that new identity – be it a different gender, hero, villain – made them feel better about themselves and less negative.

Looking at the players' emotion after play as well their motivation to play, the study found the enjoyment element of the videogames seemed to be greater when there was the least overlap between someone's actual self and their ideal self.

 

Video games aren't science. They are not a mystery of the universe that can be explained away via testable predictions and experimentation. We need to stop looking for answers, whether those answers would come from a technical innovation whose arrival only renews obsession with the next breakthrough, or from the final exploitation of the true nature of our medium by means of a historical discovery so obvious that it will become indisputable. The answers lie not in the past or the future, but in the present

 

We enter college hoping to learn effective communication skills—the kind of skills the recruiter in the Wall Street Journal article wished we possessed. But the joke is on us: the professors from whom we seek guidance, themselves don’t know good prose from porridge.

When we attend college, we throw our impressionable young minds headlong into this bog of ”scholars” such as Parsons; headlong into this asylum in which esteemed academic journals will publish gibberish if one uses the right buzzwords; headlong into this funhouse in which a computer program can generate random meaningless prose that reads passably like the stuff assigned in most graduate and undergraduate humanities classes. And from within this stylistic cesspool, we hope to get an education in how to write good prose.