Tag Archives: dh

Electronic Texts and Tacit Persuasion Patterns


Teaching critical theory last night, I was pleasantly surprised by a passage in Richard Lanham’s 1983 Analyzing Prose, excerpted in Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan’s anthology Literary Theory as “Tacit Persuasion Patterns.” Somehow it jumped out in a new way this term, and it sparked an interesting discussion of how student blogs can work to create a community of reader-writers:

Compulsively patterned prose…is hard to take…. We don’t like the compulsive repetition. But even more, we don’t like the direction in which the intellectual current flows [in the experience of such repetition]–from pattern to thought, rather than vice versa. We have thought, ever since this patterning was repudiated by the plain styles which followed upon the scientific revolution, that thought came first. Words only dress it up. Western educational history, until that time, mostly thought otherwise. Verbal patterns were instruments to think with, and they were taught as part of the training in how to think. Pattern/thought, pattern/thought, pattern/thought–a continuing oscillation. We shall see this pair of viewpoints return when we come to consider electronic text. Patterning there is dynamic and three-dimensional but, even more than with print or manuscript, exerts back-pressure on how we think, and how we learn to think. (186)

So, when working with electronic text–especially collaborative forms of reading that themselves function in rather writerly ways–the “patterning” of rhetoric, the forms of language, clearly shapes how we think rather than the familiar commonplace that thought shapes how we write.

One of my students connected this moment to an excerpt from Stanley Fish’s “Interpretive Communities,” where he notes that “what utterers do is give hearers and readers the opportunity to make meanings (and texts) by inviting them to put into execution a set of strategies” (Rivkin & Ryan 220). There is a clear way in which these modern critics are interested in, as a whole, critiquing, defamiliarizing, or throwing into relief the artifice of meaning. We’re reading structuralism for next class, so I’m interested to see how this conversation will develop after a few bits of Ferdinand de Saussure! (Contemplating the utility of The Magnetic Fields for said class….)

How will the use of blogs in this class shape our discussions, and even our understanding of critical theory?

Working Assignment: Digital Gomatos Collection

This March at ASECS, I’m presenting my work on the development of a collaborative digital assignment for graduate students (which could also work for advanced undergraduates) organized around the creation of items in an Omeka collection. The idea is to work together to define and populate a subcollection of materials housed in our small special collections room–the assignment could be a part of a course on research methods, or a topics course (like Ethics and the Public Sphere in the 18th Century). The goal is, broadly speaking, to enable students to see research and the production of knowledge as a collaborative, creative, public activity with ties outside the classroom. I want my students to see research as a process of making–making knowledge, making access, making texts, making tools, making decisions that affect how we interact with texts, making decisions that affect how we interact with others and other ideas. I’d like to connect the project to eighteenth-century concepts of publicity and democratization, with reference to sociability, conversationality, practices of publishing, and the history of copyright.

Below, I’ve included a working version of the assignment; I’m not planning, right now, to incorporate TEI markup, but I want to ensure that there is room for its inclusion in the future. If you’re doing projects like this, I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially about targeted supplementary readings, steps I may have missed, and key questions students are likely to have that I’ve not addressed here. (Sadly, the embedded google doc isn’t perfectly formatted…)

Teaching Carnival 5.05 (in progress!)

At the end of November, the UC Davis pepper spray fiasco dramatized the intersection of politics, student life, and academia, and several bloggers considered the place of the OWS movement in the classroom. Jay Dolmage thinks–and writes–about how OWS “has been shaped through unique genres of writing and visual rhetoric,” focusing on sousveillance and the remix, and Douglas Downs contributes some ideas about incorporating it into writing courses. Megan Garber examines the infamous UC Davis image, its invitation, and the narrative it lays bare.  At DMLCentral, Ethan Zuckerman rounds up a variety of civic media projects in “Basta! Telling Stories about Occupy Wall Street”–may they energize your syllabi for Spring 2012.

In other news, YouTube for Schools is launched over at Google, and Audrey Watters at Hack Education notes that it “does solve (some of) the concerns that (some) schools still have about (some) user-generated videos.” Adam Dachis at LifeHacker explains SOPA, and eCampus News describes its impact on higher education; e-Literate’s Phil Hill gives us a look at the educational publishers who back the bill.  The Association for Research Libraries, the Association of American Universities, Educause, and others submitted this short document of proposed fixes. The battle continues, without GoDaddy. Microsoft launches so.cl, and Education Week gives it the once-over. Meanwhile, Facebook considers University-exclusive groups.

Stephanie Saul at the New York Times examines the politics, profits, and performance of online charter schools; Cathy Davidson at HASTAC responds, noting that “Learning is always personal, intimate, specific. Our discussions of the pros and cons of different kinds of learning have to be equally so.” Audrey Watters at Hack (Higher) Education for InsideHigherEd wonders if MITx is “The Next Chapter for University Credentialing?” Stanley Fish, writing at NYTimes, is skeptical about new-fangled disciplines represented at MLA 2012, and Ted Underwood responds with “Why digital humanities isn’t actually ‘the next thing in literary studies.’” Dene Grigar designs a first-year, university core requirement in digital media. KQED asks, “Should Computer Science Be Required in K-12?” Meanwhile, Roger Whitson tells us why humanists should learn Python.

The MLA weighs in on digital scholarship, and HASTAC meets in Ann Arbor. The 2011 issue of Profession is chock-full of insightful articles on digital scholarship and its evaluation; take a look at the table of contents and abstracts, and read on!  James Neal glosses this year’s HASTAC conference in “’Why (digital) humanities?’- Community and Networks,” and Brian Croxall at ProfHacker reports from same.

Regarding curiosity, creativity, and healthy habits of mind, Stephen Corbett at InsideHigherEd asks if we are “holding ourselves to the same rigorous standards we apply to our students”–with reference to Blade Runner. Traci Gardner, blogging as tengrrrl, suggests some great ideas for generating student writing through 60-second “year in” overviews and using Formspring to encourage silent students to ask the questions they need to ask.

At the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, lots of folks are wrapping up fabulous gifts of advice. Wired Campus gives us a year-end wrap-up of the ten most popular articles of 2011.  Ben Deaton, speaking to new faculty in STEM disciplines, summarizes the advice he received over eight terms of teaching as a graduate student, and wonders, “ Over at College Ready Writing, Lee Bessette describes a first (and happily, successful!) experiment with peer-driven learning. Shawn Graham at Play the Past meditates on his experiments in teaching history through gamification, describing what works and what didn’t: “Time to level up, kids!” Over at ProfHacker, Anastasia Salter thinks about games in the library.

Afshan Jafar, writing for University of Venus, ponders some of the ways consumerism lurks behind the “rising trend of parents calling faculty and administrators.” Blogging as the Chatty Professor, Ellen Bremen gives students a helpful lesson in self-advocacy, answering a question about what to do if a professor behaves badly. Also writing at end of but just in time for Spring!–Lesboprof reminds us that students live lives more complicated than we might imagine. Ellen Bremen gives students five tips for investigating their professors before signing up, while Ben Deaton prepares some handy points for faculty who are asked, “Should I drop your course?”  Finally, to whet your appetite, six bloggers, teachers, writers will be collaborating during the week of January 8th on a series of integrated posts about mentor texts in the digital writing workshop–so be on the lookout!

Student video projects

I was so impressed with my students’ final projects in Visual and Cultural Studies! Overall, they made a very strong showing in their five-minute critical analysis videos. The assignment was fairly open in terms of content, as we were spending several evenings conducting hands-on work in the multimedia lab, but in general, I’d asked them to pick one of three topics and create a brief, scripted video analysis with voice-over narration. Students could analyze a film (we’d watched Source Code in class, and worked with it to see how gender, race, ability, and technology were being presented in a mass-market film), analyze a television commercial, or create a mini-documentary about a subject relevant to cultural studies. Most chose to analyze a commercial, and almost everyone worked with gender–I want to think about ways to ensure that doesn’t happen in the future. Some were particularly effective, but everyone completed the project and learned something new! Here are a few I thought worked particularly well:

Source Code & Gender Relations in the Media

Being the Man with Imagination

DC Street Art

Exploring Exclusivity and Rhetoric in Girl World

Modern Women: A Visual Representation in the Media

If you watch any, please leave the author a comment!