Category Archives: x7

Remix as “Concept, Material and Method” in FYC

I’d like to use my digital essay project as a way to explore a possible solution to a set of challenges I’ve continually bumped up against in teaching first year composition (FYC) for the first time this spring. These particular challenges have originated, at least to my mind, from a lack of “content” in my FYC course; while I’ve continually brought in ‘outside material’ other than the Arak Anthology and the Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing, my students have not been tackling a related set of writings that ‘speak to’ one another in some way. I’m finding this particularly regrettable as they set off on their research projects. It’s not surprising, when I reflect on it, that many of them had difficulty coming up with an interesting question to pursue. They’re almost all freshmen, so few of them have a sense of ‘conversations’ they might like to enter in their disciplines, and they haven’t engaged in any sustained way with a set of related ideas and texts throughout the semester, so they aren’t coming into any new ‘conversations’ in an authentic way.

The possible solution I’m interested in exploring “the use of remix as concept, material and method” for FYC, to steal a phrase from Kathleen Blake Yancey (who was using it to describe the process of redesigning the comp/rhet graduate education program at FSU). There are clearly many different possibilities for the ‘material’ of a FYC class, but I am particularly intrigued by the conceptual and methodological possibilities of remix as an entry point for FYC students into intellectual thinking and composing. I’d like to further pursue a line of thought I picked up in my x5 blog post, about the potentially fruitful parallels between multimodal remix and academic writing. I’m interested in what might be gained by seeing intellectual writing as already a (mostly monomodal) form of remix, and seeing other kinds of remix as participating in a similar kind of intellectual discourse. If we can reimagine the discourse of the academy and the discourse of remix as practices of layering and arranging other texts to produce something new, then perhaps we can help FYC students start to break down the walls they often sense between the academic and public types of composing and reading they tend to do (as well as the walls between the different modes in which these compositions can be accomplished—‘text’ vs. ‘media’).

I’m conceiving of my project, then, as divided into two parts: theory and practice. In the theory section, I intend to engage composition theory and other scholarship about remix, to explore and potentially make the case for remix as a particularly apt “concept, material and method” for FYC. In the practice section, I intend to come up with a set of materials for teaching an FYC course centered on remix—at the minimum, readings and a set of major assignments, with commentary for other teachers who might potentially be interested in teaching an FYC course with remix as its theme. Though it’s unlikely I’ll get to it before the semester ends, I’ll also design a full syllabus and series of lesson plans over the summer, as I’d like to test drive this course in the fall.

As such, the platform I select for the project needs to be flexible enough that I can add to it later. I really enjoyed creating the Concept in 60 video and would like to find a way to make use of video in my essay—I may actually try to put the “theory essay” in video format, because I think it would be one way to make that material more engaging. For the platform itself, I’m actually kind of a fan of Prezi. It allows the viewer to move through the material at his/her own pace, and it offers a giant canvas for presenting related ideas in a dynamic way. Plus you can embed video as well as text, so it seems flexible enough to accommodate the range of modes I’m hoping to use. Although my essay would likely contain more alphabetic text than this Prezi digital essay, I think the graphics, layout and incorporation of video are something to aspire to.

In terms of texts to work with, I think I’m more in danger of having too many than not enough. I suspect this is actually going to be my biggest challenge, since “remix” has become a bit of a buzzword in comp studies in the past 10 years; finding something new to say, or at least something usefully synthesizes others’ ideas, may be difficult, though I don’t believe it is impossible. Since Lessig was my initial starting point for this line of thought, I will likely work with him. But as I mentioned earlier, I’d like to engage some composition scholarship: Kathleen Blake Yancey had done interesting work on multimodal composing/remix; Eduardo Navas’s e-book Remix Theory: The Aesthetics of Sampling looks promising; and Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Stuart Selber and our own Joe Harris have done really interesting work on the relationship between plagiarism and remix in composition. Since I’m interested in the connection between alphabetic compositions and new media compositions, I’m also exploring Walter Ong’s concept of “secondary orality” in Orality and Literacy. In terms of teaching material, Catherine Latterell’s student textbook Remix: Reading and Composing Culture may provide both a source of inspiration and something to critique, since at least in my skimming through it, it seems rather distant from what I initially had in mind for my remix FYC class. I also found this video miniseries that might be a nice introduction for students to some of the main lines of thought around remix:

Some have started to push back against remix, too: a recent piece in Computers and Composition by Brian Ray argues for “genre uptake” as a more useful concept than remix for students composing in new media, which is already testing my thinking on remix in potentially generative ways. And I’m sure there’s a bunch more stuff out there—I’ve only started to scratch the surface.

Questions for you folk: do you have any immediate responses to my line of inquiry that might help me narrow my thinking and research? Because the idea of remix is so popular in composition right now, I am slightly worried about my scope and about finding something new to say. What do you think about Prezi as a format? Would a WordPress site be more practical? Any materials you’re aware of that might be useful?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read and respond to this. I just realized this post is over 1,000 words. FML. Concision: I’m still working on it.

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4 Questions You May Not Know I Had About Lists

The internet appears to have an obsession with “listicles.”  If you spend any time on sites like Buzzfeed, Cracked, ThoughtCatalog, or MentalFloss, you know what I’m talking about.  Listicles are lists that are detailed enough to be considered an article- hence, the portmanteau of “list” and “article.”   Most notably, the aforementioned sites have made them a part of their daily repertoire.  There are even sites like Listverse, which is dedicated solely to lists on just about everything related to culture, science, history, technology, and life in general.  I am interested in exploring these detailed lists and their place in digital writing.

Lists as we think of them tend to be practical or a way to keep track of things, such as shopping, tasks to complete, things you want, or guests for an event– all things that exist in a personal and useful context.  Internet lists like the ones seen on Cracked, MentalFloss, and occasionally Buzzfeed tend to be trivia-oriented, and generally have some sort of educational value (Cracked’s 21 Beloved Famous People Everyone Forgets Did Awful Things or Buzzfeed’s 42 Incredibly Weird Facts You’ll Want to Tell People Down the Pub).  You’ll often see practical applications as well, like “workouts you can do at home,” or my favorite, the constant stream of 20+ item lists of unbelievably wonderful-sounding recipes put out by BuzzfeedFood.

However, there are a lot of irrelevant, distracting, and useless ones out there. Who really needs to see Buzzfeed’s “26 Disney Characters Reimagined as Hogwarts Students,” or ThoughtCatalog’s “The Girl You’re Pretending to Be on Instagram”?

13 Watercolor Sloth Versions of the Game of Thrones Characters?   I got a little time…

 

Texts: My primary texts/materials will be the aforementioned websites (Cracked, Buzzfeed, ThoughtCatalog, Listverse, etc.), as well as shorter, more to-the-point lists.  I’ll also want to look at print versions of “listicles,” as they show up in magazines and other print media as well.

Question/Problem:  I’m most curious to know…

  • What makes this listing style so popular online, especially in a context that could be seen as distracting or pointless?
  • Why do people decide to use this instead of just writing about stuff without dividing it up?
  • What stylistic choices- tone, use of images, length, etc.- do writers use?  Are there differences when you look at online vs. print?  One website vs. a different website?  Staff posts vs. community posts?
  • Ranked, thematic, and random listicles- how do they differ stylistically?  Why?

Format:  A list or series of lists, of course!  Likely on a WordPress/Tumblr sort of platform.

Model Texts: Once I decide if it’ll be just one big list or a series of small ones, I’ll decide if I want to model after a certain website’s format, or not.  I would like to try to imitate the general style of Cracked or Buzzfeed.

Questions/Concerns: I have a tendency to think of something and get very excited about it without thinking it through totally.  Plus, I often am too narrow or too broad in my topic choices, or don’t ask the right questions.  In this case, I also chose something that I may not be quite qualified to talk about, as I don’t study language or writing in a great depth.  I just have a general frame of an idea, and will probably need to flesh it out a bit more or pare it down.  I’m really interested to hear what you guys think, or any thoughts you have to offer.

Turning the Page on Re-mediated Texts: Archives and Digitizing Nostalgia

For my digital essay, I’d like to build off of some of the ideas raised in my X1 blog post for this class, which in turn derived partially from a project begun in Heidi Kaufman’s Fall 2012 “Archival In(ter)ventions” course.  In that course, my seminar paper was titled “(Re)born Digital: The Yellow Book and Adaptations of the ‘Archive’,” and it used the digital archive The Yellow Nineties Online as a case study by which to examine the online re-mediation/adaptation of a particular Victorian periodical, as well as the functions of the archives and online research environments in which such texts are stored. My argument for that paper was most interested in how the ways in which archival texts are made digital force us to reevaluate the role of an “archive” as well as the act of archiving itself. I have been itching to work further on this project with other affordances, so this digital essay project seemed like a golden opportunity to do so.

As I think I admitted in my very first entry on the course blog, much of my scholarly work deals with aesthetics and the ways in which the presentation/juxtaposition of various texts within a larger (con)text (like a periodical) shifts the ways in which the former text is read and interpreted. For this digital essay project, I plan to look more closely at the ways in which the re-mediation of such archival texts (which mimic the original layout but present the information in a new format and/or simulate a book-based reading experience by aesthetic and faux-tactile means) play into our sense of nostalgia for the print-based (an idea that was raised initially in our discussions of Dennis Baron).

For a paper of this length, I will naturally only be able to scrape the surface of digital aesthetics, but I hope that by limiting my focus to a particular digital archive that deals in historical documents (rather than looking at website or digital book design more broadly), I will be able to draw some reasonable conclusions. I’d like to once again use The Yellow Nineties Online as my primary text to focus on, but I will likely also refer to other archives that deal in Victorian materials (such as The Rossetti Archive) as well as broader repositories that function in similar ways, such as Internet Archive.

Of course, the irony is not lost on me that in working with a continually-updated online repository like The Yellow Nineties Online, many of my initial points are already defunct in the face of the intervening one-and-a-half years’ worth of changes. So, while I am admittedly returning to a project that I have already spent some amount of time on, I will in many senses be starting from scratch: I will not only need to (perhaps completely) reevaluate my former claims, but I will also be expanding on just one branch of the larger issues I had tried to tackle in my paper for Heidi’s class.

To sum up:

  • My primary texts/materials will be the online archive(s) I engage in, but I also anticipate drawing from Denis Baron’s A Better Pencil, Jerome McGann’s Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web, and Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation.
  • Some additional questions/problems are: How are texts whose original conception was already highly invested in the aesthetics of the page re-presented and re-mediated in digital environments? What is gained (or lost) by reproducing/simulating these original formats as closely as possible? How do these concerns play into larger ideas of nostalgia for old forms and formats, now incongruously simulated in the digital?
  • Ironically in a project invested in aesthetics, the aesthetics of my own work is what is giving me the most trouble. So, I am as yet uncertain as to what format would be best for this project: at the most basic level, I’d be happy to use a format like WordPress that easily allows for the incorporation the images, hyperlinks, etc., while on the more sophisticated, I’d be interested in trying my hand at creating my content in a simulated book form, like the Cooking School essay that we had initially looked at as a model (though I have, at this point, no idea how to do that).
  • My remaining questions for all of you: Any ideas or advice in regards to format for this project? How is the scope of this project looking so far (is it too broad, or by contrast, not broad enough)? Relatedly, would it be useful to widen my scope somewhat to talk more generally about the simulation of print-based reading experiences, outside of the archive as well as in? Are there any other online archives with interesting formatting or presentation of materials that you could point me towards?

Philosophers Online: Popularizing Ideas in a Digital Age

Who can forget the existential cat videos?

Overview:

I was recently reading a book review in the Atlantic Monthly (online, of course) called “Playing with Plato.” This is a review of a new collection of ‘modern’ imagined dialogues between Plato and various characters of our time (a Google engineer, for example) in a book titled Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away. The author of the review (philosophy professor Clancy Martin) reminds us that the sorts of questions that this book asks (What is progress? What is morality?) are the same questions that the ancient philosophers entertained and are the same questions that still motivate people—both philosophers and non-philosophers—to try and understand the world.

I was impressed with the review, in which Martin traces his own journey to the welcoming arms of philosophy, but I was dissatisfied with the end result. This is a review published in a digital magazine about a text that engages the engineers of modernity … and the book is printed as a physical book. There is a Kindle version and an audio version, of course, but like nearly every book published in print too, the digital version is a for-purchase, mimicry of the physical text.

Though philosophers often publish academic work like the rest of us in cumbersome, paper journals and university presses (tenure march!), many of them also pride themselves on the free dissemination of their ideas to students and the public through lectures, conversations, and small discussions. “The beauty of philosophy,” these scholars argue, “is the fact that anyone can—and should—engage in these important questions.”

“Surely philosophers can do better than this,” I complained to my own philosopher. “How can philosophy adapt these new forms of media to participate in the necessary exchange of questions and dialogue?”

I could hear the surprise in his voice, “Well, they already have.” Then he flooded my inbox with links to podcasts, videos, and blogs.

Some of these digital texts are extremely popular with  non-philosophers. Something like Philosophy Bitesa free podcast—has hundreds of thousands of hits. Further, philosophers have developed really creative videos which illustrate difficult concepts (and fun thought experiments) like David Harvey’s animated video “Crisis of Capitalism” and a video that my own philosopher uses to teach experimental philosophy in his own classes (“Experimental Philosophy”). Philosophers have also experimented with some very popular Yale Open Courses and Open University courses (one set of which sparked a large controversy). Also see The Partially Examined Life, which is terrifically awesome.

So many questions!

Question or Problem:
My essay will examine how philosophy has used digital media to further the public nature of the discipline (I am not interested in academic philosophy). I hope to explore what kinds of sources work well, identify the factors that are the most successful in these sources, and propose ways that philosophy can continue to be a presence in the public discourse. I hope that the information I compile and dissect will be useful for discussions about public humanities in the future.

I’m interested in this subject for many reasons, but the primary one is that there are lots of awesome ideas that the public would love to engage with so how do we make these ideas free and as accessible as possible?  Philosophy is doing this, therefore let’s look to philosophy.

Texts and Materials:
– Free philosophy sources (videos, podcasts, blogs, open courses) – if the sources are not free then they are not relevant to my study.
– I need to read sources about teaching philosophy, I think.
– Interviews with philosophers (including mine).

Format:
I’ve already created a Google website, which I imagine to be divided into pages in a creative way (not just by an exploration of different media, but by concept perhaps?). This will be a compilation of videos, links, posts, (hopefully) an experimental podcast/interview, and cats.

Text(s) to Imitate?:
I have no idea. I’ve seen nothing exactly like this, though I imagine that there is some sort of educational website in this format.

Questions:
1. Do you think that a website is the appropriate medium?
2. I’m afraid that this might be lingering too much on the cusp of a study and less an argument. What do you think I should anticipate in order to keep this from being a “look, I have cool stuff” website?
3. As educators in the humanities, what sorts of questions/branches/side trails about this potential study are the most interesting or would be the most helpful for you?

(Re)creational Writing: Tumblr Rewrites Shakespeare

Texts: Blogs dedicated to Shakespeare (or that frequently write around/rewrite Shakespeare) in various ways (text, video, fan fiction, tags, captioned gifsets, art…). I’m interested in looking at rewritten Shakespearean texts, but also at how “Shakespeare” as a cultural icon is rewritten on the site. My title is coming from a comment Baron makes about how the Internet has led to a surge in recreational reading and writing, and I thought there was a pun there to make especially suited for an essay involving Shakespeare.

Question/Problem: At the most basic level, I’m asking: how is Shakespeare’s work (and “Shakespeare”) rewritten on Tumblr? In doing so, I’m looking not only at content – how do Tumblr users put pressure on Shakespeare in various ways (in terms of gender, sexuality, race, etc.) – but also at methodology – how do they do this? Tumblr has its own brand of literary criticism, and its own brand of creative fiction, that enable unique readings and rewritings of Shakespeare. Also, Tumblr’s interface allows for easy multimodal composition – some of the most interesting commentaries on Shakespeare (especially film adaptations in this case) are gifsets captioned in Comic Sans employing the “badness” in writing that Michael has posted about.

Format: Tumblr! Where I can interact directly with the source.

Model Texts: Tumblr pages aren’t necessarily the most visually appealing or intuitively navigable, and so I will be playing around a bit with how I want material organized. The blog will likely take one of two forms – vertical infinite scrolling or the other one here that I haven’t yet come up with a label for: http://loveyourchaos.tumblr.com/ and http://monk3y.tumblr.com/.

Questions:

Things I’m wondering about right now surround the blog format. Tumblrs are, like most blogs, set up in reverse chronology (unless I play around with the other form). I’m trying to think of ways that I can organize my posts so that I create a coherent structure. I’m also playing around with the idea of organizing my material so that the blog can be read either way – one which leads to some sort of “answer” and one that opens up to a lot of questions. I don’t know if I will be able to pull that off, though.

My other question is around the writing process itself. Blog posts aren’t really meant to be revised as we think of revising in a Word document. Also, my composing process would be public. Kiley and I were chatting about this, and she suggested having essentially a “beta” digital essay, where all the work is done, and then revising as I see fit for a final product. I’m wondering what other’s thoughts are on that as well as I am still questioning what I want to do. Tumblr users are an especially responsive bunch, and so I am still somewhat invested in having that public, relatively immediate interaction as a significant part of the digital essay.

Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind

I am concerned about our magical-realism-like position in the transitional phase between non-digital world and the digital one. There are a few generations before us and there would be few generations after us who would experience such a transitional period in their own lives before the digital world conquers the whole territory. Regarding the crazy speed of this transition, I think in our lifetime we would encounter generations who stand in the conquered territory rather than the transitory one, and would not have any experience of non-digital reading and writing, whatsoever. In my digital essay, I want to talk about a probable time in the future when we will have to teach to generations that have never experienced reading printed books.

I wonder if we are going to have a sense of alienation, inferiority, indifference or even superiority in encountering generations who have never experienced our transitory phase and what existed before. What would be the use of our non-digital reading years in facing purely digital readers? Is our background going to be diminished to a fantasy story about recent-ancient times in which books were made of dead trees, to be told to our grandchildren who will not even need us to tell them stories? What could we take with us, besides our nostalgic senses, from the centuries of printed books and our personal experiences of it to the decades of pure electronic reading?

I intend to focus on reading experience more than writing experience as a touchstone to explore the digital generation gaps that would widen when our transitional period is over. I’m thinking about creating an interactive medium, with pictures, videos and hyperlinks, to stimulate the static form of printed books versus the dynamic potentialities of digital ones. I have not decided about the ultimate formatting yet. Do you have any suggestions for that?

To talk about the resources, I am already influenced by most materials discussed in DW685; however, I might get back to Baron and Standage for this essay. Merkosiki’s Burning the page : the eBook revolution and the future of reading , Sue Polanka’s No Shelf Required  (1&2) and John Palfrey’s  Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Nativescould be other primary resources of my work. Also, I would like to review Dr. Miller’s talk in UD, Habits of the Creative Mind, if I have access to its video or transcripts (Could I?). If there are any specific online or printed resources that you think I should see or read before getting into this project, I would be happy to take your advice.

I expect to write an exploratory essay, a mélange of imagination, prediction, and exploration; it might come up with more questions than answers.

 

Give Power to the Fans: Social Media and the Construction of Celebrity

For my digital essay, I’d like to try to combine my interests in rhetoric/composition and cultural studies and explore the notion of celebrity in the digital age—how the proliferation of social media and the growing number of fans using that social media dramatically alter not just how we think or talk about celebrities but also how we construct them in the first place. I’d like to address a specific trend I’ve noticed in the little bit of research I’ve done so far on the intersection of celebrity culture and digital media, which is the tendency to focus on how celebrities use social media to brand themselves, creating Twitter accounts or Facebook pages that act more like blatant PR than genuine fan interaction. Ideally, I’d like to work with David Marshall’s assertion in Celebrity and Power (1997) that audiences possess a creative and generative power in the construction of celebrity and examine how social media enhances that power. Although Erin Meyers treads similar territory in her book Dishing Dirt in the Digital Age, she focuses specifically on celebrity gossip blogs, arguing that gossip bloggers occupy the paradoxical space between insider and outsider. But gossip bloggers like Perez Hilton are a special breed, in that they don’t necessarily provide the best way to look at how the “average fan” uses social media to construct celebrity, although they undoubtedly extend the information network for those fans.

But I’m aware that I couldn’t possibly tackle the entire scope of “celebrity” in the scope of this essay, so I’d like to focus on new or emerging pop stars like Betty Who and Lorde because, while their success varies in scope, they both owe that success to social media. Although Betty Who is still a rising star, she gained intense media attention after her song “Somebody Loves You” was used in the video “Spencer’s Home Depot Marriage Proposal” that went viral recently. Likewise, Lorde has gone from relative obscurity to selling out 40K+ concert venues all by herself in the span of a year largely because of how her song “Royals” went viral. (It might also be worth noting that both females come from “Down Under”—Betty Who from Australia and Lorde from New Zealand.)

To help foreground my topic, I’d like to describe a very curious phenomenon that was, and still is, occurring on Twitter as I did some preliminary research last night. Betty Who was “livetweeting” the release of and subsequent fan responses to her new EP “Slow Dancing,” which hit the digital shelves of iTunes around 8:45pm last night. One major component of this livetweeting is the series of screenshots Betty has been taking to express her happiness about her EP’s sales, the last and most recent of which she posted as I began writing this blog (although now much time has passed due to revisions):

Image
Going from #13 to #1 in less than 24 hours is pretty much the opposite of “slow dancing,” wouldn’t you say?

However obvious it may seem, it’s worth reiterating that chart positions on iTunes are based on sales and that the people most responsible for those sales are, well, the fans.

And as I followed my Twitter feed last night, the “Who Crew” (the charming name Betty Who has given to her fans, much like Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters”) was in top form, tweeting furiously and plugging the EP as often as possible, insisting that their individual body of followers purchase the EP for themselves and become new members of the Crew. And the best part was seeing how many of these tweets that Betty has been retweeting (although she hasn’t retweeted any of mine, not that I’m bitter about that or anything…).

This lengthy story about the ongoing tweet-athon among Betty Who and her Who Crew hopefully gives you a sample of how powerful fans can be in creating and sharing new celebrities through word of mouse, a term I borrow from Jim Banister.

So, to co-opt some of Michael’s organizational principles from his post this week:

Key questions: how does social media afford fans the opportunity to actively participate in the creation of new celebrities? How does social media resemble, counteract, or enhance previous information channels within celebrity culture? What exactly are the contours, nuances, and dynamics of the participatory culture that exists among fans on social media?

My subjects: Betty Who and Lorde (although I’m open to additional suggestions!)

Texts: David Marshall’s Celebrity and Power, Erin Meyers’ Dishing Dirt in the Digital Age, Graeme Turner’s Understanding Celebrity, Jim Banister’s Word of Mouse, Paul Booth’s Digital Fandom, and plenty more (I’m also waiting to hear from the library on a few). I’d also like to incorporate close-readings of some of Lorde’s music to show how she references, explicitly or otherwise, her fans, digital culture, and celebrity culture.

Format: This is where I’m having the most issues. I initially was going to use WordPress, but I’m not sure if a single post or a series of short ones would adequately reflect my project, although I do want a medium where I’m able to incorporate links, videos, audio, etc. From an aesthetic perspective, though, I’d love to create something like the following page from Gee Thomson’s book Mesmerization:

Image
He may think we losing our minds to popular culture, but the man can create a stunning image-word web/map/thingy.

My fear with this option is that I’m not sure if a program exists that does this kind of work. I think Prezi might be the closest tool? If so, how complicated is it for someone like me who is ridiculously feeble with technology?