October 2, 2007

comic thoughts: an experiment in spacial processing (ci.5410.4)


Here lies my attempt to use a graphic organizer to organize my thinking. Inspired by how Krista Kennedy's students were "transforming text" with Comiclife to map out content, I decided to try some of the visual options and sounds effects for myself. I enjoyed the sound effects, especially the stretching sounds, that accompanied my movements of text bubbles across the page.

Sounds aside, however, I actually felt hindered in my ability to think through my ideas. In fact, when I finished I felt farther from my topic than when I started. I admit that this may have nothing to do with Comiclife. Maybe what this reveals is my dependence on the pen and paper to process through the initial stages of writing. I may be a digital native in some aspects of composition, but definitely not in terms of digital brainstorming.

March 3, 2007

NCTEAR 2007: a newbie's first conference

Wyatt Center, Vanderbilt University
My past weekend at the NCTEAR conference in Nashville, TN was an eye-opening experience both surreal and grounding. In addition to the amazing keynote speakers, I attended many roundtable sessions that are helping me to think about my own research and where/what I want to go/do with it.

For lack of a better organization, I will approach this task chronologically.

Friday 2/23

Charles Kinzer, Columbia Teacher’s College & Angela Thomas, University of Sydney (via SCYPE)
“Embodiment in Virtual Environments… Avatar as a New Literacy?


This workshop launched me into the idea of literacy as embodied. I have been reading some, viewing and hearing a lot about SECOND LIFE (hereafter SL), but did not know any specifics. In this two-hour workshop, we went into SL, to the Teachers College island to meet up with Angela Thomas’ avatar. It is in SL that she presented her talk in “virtual booklet form? on “The Avatar as New Literacy.?

Going into SL, learning to fly, bumping into other avatars, and fumbling with the workings of this virtual body, was both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. I don’t mean to position the two experiences as opposed, but I feel that this experience, filled with both fun and layered analysis tapped into the aims that Walt Jacobs discussed in his Keynote speech (more on this below)—the idea of being critical of media without losing the pleasure. In applying that idea to my SL experience, I realize that one cannot really critique a form of media without having, in some way, experienced the pleasure that it offers.

The pleasure I experience in SL was one of amazement and awe of the possibilities. To take vision as just one example, I found the ability (modality?) of zooming in and out from such a wide perspective to be liberating in the sense that my virtual being was not only centered within a body, but at the click of the mouse, I could be looking at myself from behind, or above my body. This expanded perspective disperses one’s sense of self and relation to space. I don’t know exactly know how to further articulate this at the moment, but it’s helping me to see how much, at least for me, my sense of space is highly defined by the limits of what my forward placed eyeballs allow. Maybe I’ll come back to this later.

Another point I want to make about this workshop was the CBS news story on Simon Stevens (sp?—see avatar image above) who is limited physically by his cerebal palsy but has found a second way to live through SL. Simon Stevens has a nightclub “Wheelies? in SL. In this club he talks, drinks cocktails, and dances with other avatars---all physical activities that he is unable to do in his “real-world? identity. As Stevens describes, SL is “a platform where I can be more myself than in real life? Wow! This news story moved me both intellectually and emotionally. Simon Steven’s narrative of his experience in SL exemplified everything I had been reading and writing about in preparation for the conference. (Gee’s 2004 identity triad of “real-world? and “virtual world? identities merging into a “projective? identity)

This moment, which nearly brought tears to my eyes was one of many “embodiments? I experience at NCTEAR.


As for SL and Avatar as new literacy (Angela Thomas’s talk--see more recent entry for complete slide show), I have many questions that I’d like to explore further? I wonder how much our avatar performances, once situated, become exaggerated or forefronted in certain ways to be recognized and accurately “read? as a certain type of person, sexuality ect.? (I’m thinking about the virtual pressure not to be labeled a “mary sue?—-an avatar whose appearance is near perfect—without flaws and thus the real-world identity exaggerates body elements in order to be appear abnormal.) Is this need to exaggerate motivated by some distance that we sense is between the “real-world? and “virtual identities?? In terms of avatar literacy, how do others read these exaggerations? Do they become an expected aspect of the avatar genre?

Opening Keynote: “Like Guy Ropes on a Tent: An Interdependent Model of Critical Literacy?
Hilary Janks,
University of Witwatersrand, South Africa:

The presentation of her four-part model (Power, Access, Diversity and Design/Redesign)in the form of a matrix that can be read in different ways in terms of the relationships between and presence/absence of these different concepts helped me to start thinking about productive ways in which to organize and penetrate abstract ideas.

Also the Jank’s claim that design without access eliminates agency was helpful in terms of my current thinking about agency and how it is presented within critical discourse studies.

Saturday, 2/24

8:15am Keynote: “Literacies of the Lower Frequencies: Social Ghosts and Experimental Media Pedagogy?
Walt Jacobs
University of Minnesota

First of all, I have to comment on Walt Jacob’s style of presentation. Instead of doing the more traditional power point presentation, he engaged the audience by positioning himself as a facilitator of idea exploration led by questions based both on his own intellectual ponderings and those of the conference theme (“What is literacy??). This format was perfect for getting my mind to participate with the ideas.

One idea that still resonates with me from Jacobs’ talk is that of teaching students (and ourselves) how to critique media without taking away the pleasure of its consumption.

This may not be a new concept to others, but for me I felt that my personal pleasures had been validated. Experiencing pleasure isn’t something to be ashamed of. In fact I’ll say it right here. “I LOVE THE TV SHOW LOST? This concept helped me to quit the guilt start to think more about why I love the show. Could it be a social ghost that I am trying to reconcile?

Lunch Keynote: Mimi Ito
“Amateur, Mashed Up, and Derivative: New Media Literacies and Otaku Culture?


Her representation on comics and animation culture as subculture unrecognized and presentations of various AMV remixes was delectable consumption on my part. But instead of feeling guilt about being a passive consumer, I instead was motivated to think about how I might do some remixing of various texts myself. Consumption through remixing of animation, movie, poetry, music, etc. is hardly passive. In fact, the disruption of genre that occurs in remixing was toted by almost every keynote speaker at the conference as a vehicle of empowerment and/or agency.

Research Lunch Box talks: Chris Eddings University of Arizona

Her research on L2 language learners and how they embody the literacy of classroom performance rituals as infrastructure to learn verbal literacies, was generative in my thinking about imitation in writing, research, and teaching as steps to gaining a “performative/productive literacy?(??not exactly sure what I mean with that phrase yet)

Eddings plans to send me a recent piece she wrote on imitation in writing.

January 12, 2007

the growing biblio

stacked books.jpg

The following is a list of books, some known, some not, that may be of interest today or tomorrow.

PERSONAL rating system :
1-3 (3 being best)= theoretical presentation
A-C (A being best)= practical application to life/teaching
NA (not available) = I’m not familiar enough to rate the book. It has been recommended to me by someone.


Blasingame, J. 7 Bushman, J. (2005) Teaching Writing in Middle and Secondary Schools. (rating=NA)

Burkhardt, R. (2003) Writing for Real: Strategies for Engaging Adolescent Writers. (rating=NA)

Olson, C. B. (2003) The Reading/Writing Connection: Strategies for teaching and learning in the Secondary Classroom.


Wysocki, Anne Francis; Self, Cynthia; Sirc, Geoffrey. (2004). Writing New Media
Aimed for college composition instructors. Theoretical chapters with practical, sequenced lesson plans for application. (rating=3A)


Clark, Andy. (2003). Natural Born Cyborgs
A fun read that explores how technology expands our traditional sense of intelligence. The book's central premise is to complicate thinking as occurring only within the mind, or what Clark calls the "skin skull sac." (rating=4C)

Hayles, Kathrine. Writing Machines & My Mother Was a Computer (rating=NA)
I have yet to read these books. They were both recommended to me by Thom Swiss because of my interest in digital writing/literacies. I look forward to the opportunity to read them perhaps this summer.