Last week’s activities asked us to apply our network questions to the Ecology readings of Syverson, Spellman, the Cary Institute, and fill in the gaps with Guattari, resulting in new connections for my mind map. And even though Syverson’s was the “applied Franken Theory” example, I really found that article the most compelling (thanks to its connection to Composition, relating back to my OoS). It situated the theory in an already moving, dynamic system with concrete nodes of application and inquiry, reminding me that this is exactly what we’re creating in Popplet.
My take-away from this week’s map has to do with the ways in which definitions shape our application of theory. Granted, that is an obvious observation, but thinking of ecology in terms like agency, networks, and nodes made me realize what a very useful theory it will be when working with my OoS: MOOCs. Even though, as Dr. Julia pointed out, the Academy sees Ecology as a “mushy” science, I believe it is that flexibility that makes it such a dynamic and useful framework with which to examine complex systems — and composition classrooms are certainly complex. One of our group members in our Google Doc activity last week posed this question: “What is “meaning” in the ecosystem? Is it the interaction among environment, organisms? Is it the tension between these?” This question of meaning must certainly begin with the way we define an ecosystem, and since meaning evolves from perspective, our role and position within that ecosystem — our agency as participants — must become part of our analysis (or so says Guattari).
Our class conversation pointed to a possible reason why I was not entirely comfortable with Latour’s ANT approach, one which Ecology may answer. When we deal with humans and technologies and communications, the variables resist the sort of “flattening” Latour asks us to do. As Dr. Shelley remarked, Latour’s emphasis is on the individual’s trajectory, not the group itself. While this certainly serves a useful purpose in some situations, in systems within which collaboration and connections are as dynamic as they must be in an “ideal” composition classroom (where the teacher is not the arbiter of perfect knowledge), I’m not always convinced the individual writer is the only player with agency. As the ecological readings point out, it often comes down to how we “scale” what we’re theorizing.
Mind Map Week of March 30th
So, in my mind map for this week, I “up-scaled” an image to try to show “the big picture.” I made several new connections between our recent readings and some of our previous topics (Foucault as well as the “Where I Write” activity) based on this sense of being part of this emerging ecology of thinking, reading, and theorizing (although I think the Ecology readings could connect to every node in my map in some way). Thus, this is why I included an image (or “snapshot,” as Dr. Shelly called it) of the entire network as one of my Popplet nodes with the subtitle, “Ecologies: What It’s Really All About.” Here is where Guaterri makes a big difference for me — humans / students / teachers are not simply observing the ecosystem. As participants and framers simultaneously, we must see ecology — not from the God’s eye view — but through a lens placed “deep in the weeds,” as part of that ecosystem, with an awareness that as the ecosystem changes we are changed as well. It’s always already in motion.
This past week, I responded to Maury’s and Jenny’s outlines. Maury’s subject is one I’ve never examined closely, let alone through Network theory, so I was fascinated by her choice of subject. Maury skillfully pointed out how the vocabulary of hypertext theory and (especially) ANT gave her a way to begin exploring the way(s) LARPs “behave.” I found that her focus on the concept of “actors” to be especially productive, given how the subject matter lends itself to a singular understanding of that term. Her understanding of how hypertext theory defines her subject in terms of the actors brings into focus how a network theory application is suited to this area: “the reader/writer/player … no real distinction during the game; game only exists because the players have the agency to become writers.” Maury’s outline of how her application of hypertext theory and ANT reveals the potential exploratory nodes actually helped me better understand how I might apply what were rather difficult theory models for me.
LaLeche League of North Carolina
The OoC selected by Jenny was also a compelling “non-academic” subject matter for which our theorization models can reveal new understanding. Jenny’s subject of the LaLeche League made me realize how social groups unrelated to traditional “work” organizations (as used by Spinuzzi or Johnson-Eilola or even Bazerman/Miller) can also be discussed in terms of genre and even agency/power. I was already familiar with the LLL from my days (long ago) of raising little ones, and so I already saw LLL as a form of cultural resistence in many ways. However, reading Jenny’s application of genre theory reminded me of Victorian era “advice” manuals — a genre I’ve studied in earlier graduate classes. As I wrote in one of my comments to her outline: “While the Victorian [advice manual] was one of social reinforcement, would you consider the LLL an act of resistence, given the American cultural trend away from breast feeding and women’s social status?” I was also reminded of Latour and even Spinuzzi while reading Jenny’s post, especially in terms of the “implied connection between the rhetorical practices of religious organizations and a mother’s support group – a cultural system of support and, at times, resistance” … layers of networks.
I am looking forward to reading both of their case studies once finished!
This week, we were asked to create a “theory assessment” rubric as a means of deepening our understanding of how we might apply theory to objects of study (at least, I think that’s the reasoning!). Given my sense that I’m still a bit of a noob at applying these theories effectively, I thought that thinking through an assessment protocol would be a useful way to frame what I’m attempting with my OoS. As a comp instructor by day / grad student by night, I assumed this would be a quick and easy task. However, as you might expect, I may have been premature in that assumption.
I’ve often heard (and witnessed) that one of the best ways to learn a thing is to teach a thing. Perhaps that also applies to building a rubric — a way to learn a thing is to learn how to assess a thing. In building this rubric and preparing to apply it to a classmate’s Case Study, I tried to think of this through the lens of the rubrics I use to assess FYC student writing — which are based on clearly articulated outcomes (thanks WPA and NCTE). While thoseOutcomes are designed as heuristics for learning (as well as teaching) writing, I wondered whether those categories might help me think through a theory application as well — especially in terms of rhetorical knowledge, knowledge of conventions, and critical thinking.
I was also reminded of our early exploration of “How Stuff Works” as applied theory – and in doing so, I just couldn’t resist if that site had entries on Theory. Much to my delight, it does – Game Theory – as well as a critique of said theory, demonstrating the application of some sort of rubric. I looked into this after having produced a rather minimalist rubric as part of this week’s activity assignment, and found that the criticism in this article actually employed some of the elements I’d proposed. A good sign, perhaps. But will it work on a classmate’s Case Study?
First, here are the criteria from the “clean” copy of said rubric:
Selected Theory is summarized – context, authorship, background or origins
Specific criteria of theory identified and defined
Application of criteria appropriate to OoS – logic of connections is clear
“Mis-fits” or gaps of application identified and discussed
Discussion or explanation of how the local experience is illuminated (invisible made visible) by the Theory in productive ways – new understanding
Case study builds upon the assertion that the theory fits the OoS by demonstrating new connections and applications.
How to measure these, though? Using a model of the type of rubric I use for my FYC students, I knew I’d need a range of demonstrated application: from “Highly Effective” to “See me after class.” (No, really, the lower scale actually reads “Unsatisfactory.”) But how exactly does the rhetoric of a rubric – the term “effective” – play out? What IS “highly effective” when it comes to making “criteria of theory” visible or opaque for a reader who may not have explored a theory as thoroughly as the writer / Case Study author? I’m still thinking through this.
“Clean” Theory Rubric
I opted to “test” my rubric using Suzanne’s Case Study (“Dorothy Does Not Approve”), Bazerman’s Genre Theory as applied to her OoS of UPS (a “news-sharing network”). Here are my results, using said Rubric:
Suzanne’s election to use the assignment prompt questions as guided application provides a useful means of identifying and defining the criteria of said theory, as well as a way of illustrating ways in which connections between the theory and its application to an OoS make sense logically: Nodes, Agency, Relationships Between Nodes as a function of Network, Content, and Growth Potential. Moreover, her decision to compare UPS to AP provides a clear demonstration of how this application can work for other, similar applications. Suzanne was also able to point to limitations of the OoS as revealed by the Theory when she states, “Bazerman also points out that there are rules and laws that govern how content is formed and organized (81, “Speech Acts”). These constraints allow an object to be recognized as belonging to a particular genre, but these precedents limit agency. For the UPS, the process of selection and editing also limited the choices that others in the network could make.” One area which I did not see was a discussion of the limits or failures of this theory in terms of applications, assuming that there is no such thing as a “perfect fit” when dealing with theories. This is the only reason one category received a “Somewhat Effective & Clear” rating.
Overall, I think this rubric works, but it is very limited and likely cannot capture many of the nuances of what we’re seeing as very complex and intersecting systems of conceptualizing our Objects of Studies through Theory. I wonder if it will serve our Case Studies when we begin applying multiple theoretical constructs.
“Given the collaborative and integrated nature of this week’s assigned readings, I’m opting to treat them all in one post.”
The addition this week of the Kairos publication on canon reform, Re-situating and re-mediating the canons: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity, extended many of the frameworks I’ve been applying thus far to our class conversations as well as my OoS. (Even more, as it pertains to teaching composition.) Coming on the heels of an operationalized theory (Spinuzzi), the authors and researchers involved with the creation of this collaborative work — itself the very epitome of a network — evoked a strong link to the Rhetorical Situation theorists we began with (Bitzer, Vatz, Biesecker). However, I think I imagined Foucault’s most throughout these readings. This seemed especially pronounced in the introductory section as the authors argued that “classical canons have always represented only a partial map of rhetorical activity” (Prior et al., “Introduction”). Even in the construction of this node-based composition, Foucault “speaks” to me. After all, this text resists in multiple ways the homogeneity of linearities that Foucault argued were germane to a book-based literacy and culture (with which Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola concur).
As I annotated the text, I remarked how appropriate it seemed that the “Mapping Page” – or the “Start Here” node – serves as the main navigation hub, yet the nature of the web text allows the reader to enter at many other points, driven not by a directed funneling of cultural convention or theoretical bias, but by reader-centered agency. Even so… it also occurred to me that the authors may have also purposely built in familiar rhetorical structures in their decision to place each node / design the overall structural image of the page, possibly creating some of the latent system (a “back door,” of sorts) to the type of navigation system assumptions we text- / book-based readers / scholars might operate under. For example, the introductory text is located in the upper left corner of the web page, which for Western readers signals the “starting point.” This despite the rhetorical choice of situating the “core text” (made especially visually relevant by it’s stand-out choice of red as the color, along with it’s circular shape differentiating it from the rest of the articles (all square).
Perhaps, just as it seems Shipka and Chewning were doing in their visual construction of their research text and Prior et al. suggest by offering multiple versions of the “Core Text,” these authors are creating a “mapping overlay” for us, using both the canon of rhetorical tradition as well as their remapped and reconceptualized view of rhetorical activity. While I do not believe they intend to suggest a 1:1 trade, the layout does seem that the same logic is at work, the same understanding (Foucault’s rules) of how knowledge sharing works for readers. In other words, I wondered if this is a means of foregrounding the multimodal levels of this network of ideas in a way that makes the invisible structures — whether the gaps or the traces –- (Foucault) more visible? Reviewing my Foucault notes, I discovered a statement that captures my sense of these two rhetorical activity theories existing within the same plane. Foucault is writing of objects, but might we see the concept of rhetorical canon / rhetorical activity an object of analysis as well? Of course, this is precisely what Prior et al. seem to be doing in their proof of concept. Foucault writes that “[b]y deriving in this way the contradiction between two theses from a certain domain of objects, from its delimitations and divisions, one does not discover a point of conciliation…. One defines the locus in which it takes place; it reveals the place where the two branches of the alternative join; it localizes the divergence and the place where the two discourses are juxtaposed” (152). At the same time, I imagine Foucault would see the traditional rhetorical canon as every bit a “traditional history of ideas” (166), a force of sorts that hides or resists the types of “discontinuities, ruptures, gaps, [and] entirely new forms” (167) which Prior et al. propose as necessary to the transformative effects of technology and multimodalities. Through this juxtaposition of theories, the Prior et al. collaborative text (could we even refer to this as an “event”?) seems familiar as a “redistributions” (Foucault 5) of the familiar nodes of rhetorical activity.
The authors’ definition of CHAT is based on activity theory, so it is no surprise (but a delightful discovery) that the “Core Text” offers not one but three activities of reading and knowledge making by presenting what at first glance seems to be the same text delivered through three forms: PDF, Audio, and HTML. I took the time to review all three forms, and found that the Audio version provides the “motives” (Miller 152; Bazerman 309) behind the rhetorical activity, narrating as he does the “traces” of the creative context that are lost in the PDF and HTML versions: his daughter crying, music, sounds of nature outside.
“You Are Here”
Place, then, becomes part of the discourse – a reference to the book Cognition in the Wild – a very relevant concept to analyzing multimodal and networked spaces of work and creativity. His design magnifies his point about the limits of the traditional canonical elements of invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, and addresses his question, “What mediations, what kinds of detours, might delivery of a text involve?” (Prior, “Core Text: PDF” 6). This approach offers us what I might call a more “open” means of applying a sense of reading and/or texts as engaged with a system of networks, a map which demands we consider a complete “remap the territory” (Prior, “Core Text: PDF” 17) that we call rhetorical activity instead of a “retrofit,” in large part due to the binary framing pattern of speaker / audience on which the original canon was built. Given the complications and multiple possibilities for identifying just the act of “reading,” what Prior refers to as “lamination” (“multiple frames or fields co-exist[ing] in any situated act”), such thinking carries considerable weight for our work with networks.
Prior’s “Remaking IO”builds out from here, providing a case study in which such a remapped canon might apply to multimedia tests. However, I did wonder once again: are we still relying on the basic “genetic” elements of a traditional canon – the way we refer to language, text, author, reader, reception all seems to suggest that there is a multi-dimensionality here which may still rely on much of the same knowledge base. I was reminded of the 3-D chess set in Star Trek. The pieces in this 3-D game are the same, as is the goal, but the board has changed and therefore requires us to re-see the connections and possibilities from a very different sense of motion (potential energy of nodes once again – activity theory). With the new “board,” some new moves are now accommodated, and the flow of activity has been altered – or has it merely been expanded? This is the image I think of when I read Prior’s explanation of remapping and lamination.
Moving on to Van Ittersum’s Data Palace, dealing with another canonical element – memory – provides a pivotal tool for applying this concept. Van Ittersum writes that one goal of CHAT is to “direct our attention” to new nodes of activity, expanding our approach to rhetorical activity to incorporate systems terms – the role of the culture (the laminated layer offered by cultural-historical theory) AND the individual (the rhetorical canon’s binary core). Van Ittersum’s work points to an experiment that may impact the way I explore MOOCs in terms of seeing this a system of transfer and navigation, along with tools of memory (like using digital tools to maintain our note-taking records, for example), to see online activity as the means to “mobiliz[e] information within complex systems of tools, environments, situations, and people” – which in every way describes online classroom spaces like MOOCs.
Karen Lunsford’s work on “Remediating Science” in terms of socialization was a fascinating look at the “other” directional flow of this networked means of understanding rhetorical activity, one that rests heavily on cultural-historical theories of genres, I think, when that genre is both the text as well as the delivery / medium. Lunsford demonstrates that while conventions and rules (Foucault, Bitzer, Vatz, Biesecker, etc.) may inform the discourse community’s knowledge framework (i.e., what should a journal article look like), the digital system of publication itself “informs, shapes, and itself evolves thanks to the need to remediate a standard means of discursive practice – sharing of knowledge, a publication” when that publication moves to a digital space (Lunsford). She refers to the negotiations among those involved as an attempt at “alignment” of all the activity taking place (or being forced forward) between nodes – the researchers, journal editors, discourse community members, peer reviewers, publishers. CHAT, then, successfully “direct[s] attention” to ways in which the rhetorical activity of a science journal editor “is situated in concrete interactions” (Prior et al., “What is CHAT?”), framing the ways these nodes function and interact to “co-construct” this culture’s “material, formal, and social practices” (Lunsford).
Finally, as I pointed out in my MindMap blog commentary for this week, the project of Jody Shipka/ Bill Chewning in “Live Composition” modeled for me what Prior et al. refer to as “images of rhetorical activity” (“Introduction”). The purpose of this article seemed to be to demonstrate how applying views made possible by varying network activities (audio narration, text-mediated narration, image-mediated narration), as well as moves to “recontextualize” the event (the act of narrating) and the composition activity at the center of the analysis, cause us to “pay attention” to the nodes of production as well as the text being produced (the artifact). The synchronization of each of these nodes creates yet another distinctive “remediation” of the narrative event, demonstrating and making visible (Foucault) the complexity of this human activity in ways that a traditional process model might not capture in such a degree.
The article is multifaceted, and at times seems to be approaching the text from multiple entry points. The introduction sets the stage to begin “rais[ing] questions about whom and how many people are recognized as active participants in the production of a process narrative” (Shipka and Chewning). Each iteration privileges different information and lenses, whether the student voice, the teacher’s curricular designs, the researcher, or the reader’s response / interaction. Further, just as the CHAT lens is designed to do, the authors point to “the importance of attending to what participates in the production and reception” of this narrative. Their attention to the types of “mediations …[and] kinds of detours” that might be produced through these means are also under scrutiny (Shipka and Chewning).
At the forefront of my mind as I was navigating (not “reading”) this text, I found myself recalling the importance of Foucault’s attention to the “here/not here” of trace as part of conceptualizing discourse and history. In addition, I was reminded of Spinuzzi’s comments on disruption/innovation via “resistance…and chaos” (20) –- both in the way the authors describe their motivation behind the classroom activity at the center of this piece, as well as in the very design of the delivery.
Such disruptions were also part of my experience as a reader of Shipka and Chewning’s rhetorical activities in the form of their article’s design and flow. For “Telling 4,” I found myself at an impass when the .wmv file refused to play on my Mac. So in order to “participate” in the telling, I had to circumvent this software issue. Perhaps this was an intentional move on the authors’ part, to select a non-universal media player, as a way to suggest (draw our attention to) the barriers, borders, or limitations of the network’s reach? Or perhaps this was simply a glitch, with no rhetorical meaning intended at all. Yet, because we are using the CHAT theory to explore the canon as an activity, rather than static nodes or rule systems, such an event or deviation certainly must become part of the analysis – a continued lamination of parts (Prior, “CHAT”) in this complex human activity of discourse and discourse analysis.
Tiffany Bourelle, Sherry Rankins-Roberston, Andrew Bourelle, and Duane Roen describe the response of their university English department to an institution-wide budget-cutting impetus meant to restructure “approaches to teaching and learning” in order to cut costs and “reduce faculty workloads,” all the while maintaining the student learning outcomes. These authors chronicle the changes made to a traditional freshman composition course sequence (i.e., face-to-face or f2f, 25:1 student:faculty classroom ratio producing process-outcome-based essays) into a completely online, portfolio-assessed, multi-instructor, mass student enrollment design, which they dubbed the Writer’s Studio. The article describes the methodological as well as pedagogical and institutional considerations that went into this change. The authors point to specific changes to classroom design, teacher / student roles, assessment rubrics and methods, as well as curricular materials. Of course, the online nature of the course, as well as the incorporation of a collaborative team-teaching methodology, lends itself to analysis as both a genre as well as a network system (perhaps a genre system as well, as it combines elements of the f2f as well as digital environments). While the success of the change is measured only anecdotally at this point (based on student reviews), the authors encourage other institutions to consider their model as a potential basis for alternative composition course design elsewhere.
Key features of this modification make it a suitable candidate to which to apply our recent discussions of networks as well. Bourelle et al. describe how a single-teacher f2f classroom of 25 students moved to a totally online environment (a rhetorical situation) facilitated by a network of instructors/tutors. The economic force behind this change is reminiscent of the hierarchies referred to by several of our recent readings (Foucault, Bazerman, Popham), and represent an intersection of values that – for many in our field – are points of tension (i.e., institutional / business protocols taking precedence over disciplinary and pedagogical practices (Popham 281). In fact, Bazerman’s and Popham’s work both relate to the formative influences of one disciplinary culture (the academic administration) upon another as described in this article.
Classroom Network Representation based on Bourelle et al.
The design of the course is of interest to our discussion as it incorporates several factors that may be explored in terms of genre. First, the redesign employs a collaborative-, network-based instruction model, incorporating several hierarchies of writing instruction – from lead instructor (full time, non-tenure track) to graduate teaching assistants (who are also cross listed as students, since they are earning credit toward their own academic work), to peer tutors. This hierarchy does raise some questions, as the description of the economic forces driving this change stress not only reduced cost but increased efficiency in terms of decreasing teacher workloads (which is reminiscent of not only Popham’s boundary cultures but also Bazerman’s activity systems). Secondly, the redesign is based on a shift in text forms, moving from a traditional series of text-based essays to fully “multimodal composition” (Bourelle et al.). In addition, aside from addressing the institutional edicts, the writing faculty at this university wanted to maintain a learner-centered course design, a concept that lends itself to applying network concepts in terms of connectivity, influence, and activity. Finally, the method of assessment moves from a single teacher-reader grading a final text toward collaborative feedback using an e-portfolio system (which could possibly be explored using Bazerman’s concept of genre systems).
As a final thought on how we might bring all of our theories together, the redesigned program may also raise the question of whether, in addition to genre theory, we might apply Foucault’s theories of discursive formations if we see this Writing Studio’s existence as “a space of multiple dissensions,” a node of intersection created by the values of the administration and those of the composition program, If so, archaeological analysis may be another way to define “the form” as well as “the relations that they have with each other” (155) The curriculum redesign relies heavily on key learning outcomes documents (forms) embraced by the discipline– theWPA Outcomesand NCTE Framework — along with the Quality Matters guidelines, a set of stabilizing practices (perhaps even a genre set) as described by Bazerman (“Speech Acts” 318).
There are several nodes of tension that the authors do not explore in any detail, such as the question of labor hierarchies (just as it is with most freshman composition sequences, this model relies heavily on contingent faculty and graduate assistants in the name of “reducing faculty workloads”). While many of the goals, methods, and forms (assignments, rubrics, course policy documents, etc.) are not unlike the traditional f2f one-teacher model, the changes made to the system of instruction / classroom connectivity raise the question of whether all of the “traces” (Foucault) have been accounted for in assessing this teaching/classroom genre. For example, while the authors briefly address the technology mediating the classroom, this is limited to / framed by concerns of student computer knowledge and “maturity” (Bourelle et al.). This may be based on the mechanical structure of the connectivity (boundary spaces) – the digitally-mediated access to peers and instructor teams, as well as writing materials / resources. Analyzing this redesign using those analytical concepts provided by Foucault, Bazerman, Miller, and Popham may prove informative and illuminating.
This week’s mind map exercise illustrates some overlap potential, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the organic nature of this network of ideas is developing a mind of its own.
Mind Map #3: Feb. 2nd
My early efforts at mind mapping these connections are relying largely on key concepts of individual authors or activities. I notice, however, that the temptation is to begin arcing into mini-narratives – hardly suited to the limited space of this particular “genre.” There is simply so MUCH content to sift through, and trying to work within the rules of 2-D spatial limitations (design / color choices, creating sufficient white space, using concise terminology) is clearly becoming part of this network map’s constitution.
Based on our conversations of last week, Foucault’s thinking took on more clarity, enough that I was able to begin thinking through some possible connections — the basis of several of the new popplet entries. One of the more significant emerging threads is the possible connections between Foucault’s idea of Trace, the seen / not-seen in-between that has the power to define a discourse with as much (some like Bazerman might say more) power as the more traditional visible features (like grammar rules). So I began to wonder — in discussions of genre — whether we can see the Trace as Activity or as Bazerman puts it “enactment of social intentions” (“Systems of Genres” 75)? Bazerman and Foucault both comment on the reciprocal nature of the discourse (or genre) and the participants in same — Bazerman alludes to this on a cultural scale on pg. 325 of his “Speech Acts” article — in creative, connective, shaping powers. What might this mean on a disciplinary scale (I’m thinking of the current debates about online teaching and digital writing)?
Finally, thinking of the “master narratives” comment made in our last class, I began to wonder if past discussions of genre within English Studies (as an end it itself, typified by structural components or features alone rather than the alternative tools of analysis put forth this week by Miller, Bazerman, and Popham) constitute a Master Narrative of our discipline — if dominant theories created static, inflexible nodes. With the added layer of genre theory as described by Miller and Bazerman (and the scholars they cite) as well as Foucault’s archaeology, archives, and trace, can we now reflect upon our own discourse community’s history as one which performed through a model of “history of ideas”? And are we now moving confidently toward the more flexible “archaeologies of knowledge” thanks to interdisciplinary foci? But how do we navigate the presence of embedded inflexible nodes (such as theories and competing disciplines within our field — linguistics, composition, literary studies — that tend to foster a discourse of homogeneity (Foucault)? How do we “disrupt” the boundaries and structures in productive ways on a disciplinary as well as on a classroom scale? Certainly some unfinished thinking here, but as Foucault might say, understanding “discursive formation” is all about seeing it as a “space of multiple dissensions” (156) where analysis of the structure is not about the objects, but the tensions created by the activity, functions, relationships, and gaps.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
In a few separate blog entries, I’ve commented on the thinking prompted by classmates’ HTW Activities (Leslie’s,Daniel’s, and Suzanne’s). As I put these in the mix with my own reading response on WiFi and Mobile, my mind wandered to some odd places as I attempted to fit all of these into a coherent set of connections — rhizomes again. What popped into my head was the famous phrase from “The Wizard of Oz,”
Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my!
Why? Great question. I think it’s because so many of us might be considered “Millennials“ in our embrace of technologies and networking (even if not in age range), and as such, we often use that technology without “seeing” deeply into its structure. These activities and readings bring those areas to the surface, and activities like those mentioned above — involving reflective assessments of who and what we are within that structure / network — brought that home to me.
For example, Summer‘s collaborative Popplet activity invited all of us to visualize how we are part of a cloud — a cyborg. The connections made by others, overlapping nodes, first reinforces the concept of cloud networking — supporting the argument that we are not operating in isolation, but are simply part of a transparent network of links and shared spaces. While I can appreciate that assertion on its face, when I think of how we as humans are still flesh-and-blood nodes (the organic) who are deeply entrenched in physical-based f2f communities, I wonder if this explanation isn’t a bit facile given so much of our field’s scholarship on the need to create pedagogy and learning spaces that embed f2f awareness and practices. As a composition instructor, reflective awareness of how I create lessons that embed technology (see Kairos publication review as an example of this focus).
Maury and Jenny both tackled Networking. Maury’s focus on network nesting really resonated with me, given this week’s Foucault readings and our work with mind maps and Google drawing. Visualizing the networking of our individual lives, and thinking about the hardware side of it all in my own HTW assignment (partnering with Chvonne) really exposed the 3- and 4-dimensionality of this space we’re exploring. Experimenting with the node-connection possibilities of IFTTT, and reading over classmates’ experiences with it, brought to mind the idea of mechanical vs. organic once again, but it seems the potential for complete creative independence is limited for the user. Here’s a repeat of my post onto Maury’s Google document to illustrate what I mean:
I lingered in the start gate on this one because I first had to ask myself what connections would be most useful to me. I’m not heavily embedded in FB, and I am fairly conservative when it comes to sharing or moving any photos (so no, I don’t Instagram). As I mentioned in my comment on Daniel’s post, this “meaning-making” or “meaning-making facilitative” program seems to add that organic back into the mechanical of networks, allowing us to become part of the “packet switching” function, I think. So, after I concluded what type of connection I’d find useful, the process was quite intuitive. But it did make me see the constructedness of the choices as boundaries. For example, I combined the NY Times with an email (I know, how unimaginative), but the predesigned options for “this” allowed no creativity on my part in terms of what I might value about the NY Times. So as a system or network node creation activity, this is still rather controlled.
Finally, when looking at Jenny’s Popplet of personal networks, it’s interesting to note the variations among us. In our home, we do not own any SmartPhones and no game systems (unless our grown kids are visiting), so my network diagram is pretty simplistic. It’s a lot of hardware based hubs, which I chose to diagram through basic coloring.
So, here is how my current mindmap reflects all of these encounters (as well as my continuing journey through Foucault:
26 January Mindmap Update
All in all, my concept of the structural and conceptual scaffolding of networks, while certainly expanded through technology into both visible and transparent hubs as well as connections, seems much deeper now than when I started this class. Yet I’m also aware that sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem, and the very same boundaries and rule systems of meaning-making as exist in f2f discourse communities have the potential to infuse the way we use technologies.