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May 29, 2004

World's shortest post about the world's largest collection of the world's smallest versions of the world's largest things


May 28, 2004

Converging on Austin

A whole bunch of rhetoric folk have converged on Austin this weekend for the biennial Rhetoric Society of America conference, and while I don't wish that I'd spent the last week finalizing a paper, I wouldn't mind being there. RSA (pronounced like RZA with a hard S in the middle) is always a good conference.

Jenny and I were chatting the other night, bc she's on a panel about bridging the gap between rhet/comp and rhet/comm, and what the benefits of doing so are. One of the central points she'll be raising, and a reason why RSA is a good conference in the first place, is that communications studies doesn't suffer under the same pedagogical imperative that composition seems to. It's something that almost every rhetoric scholar in rhet/comp ends up struggling with, the overwhelming pressure in our field to translate everything we do for the classroom. And that comes in part from our schools' failure to understand the difference between teaching a subject and teaching practice, as Alex has been observing. In rhet/comp, what began as a shortcut, a way to work on both pedagogy and scholarship simultaneously, has normed to the point where scholarship that isn't pedagogical (or whose applications in that direction aren't immediately apparent) is frowned upon.

And despite the best attempts of some, this isn't really a theory/practice issue. Some of the panels at RSA will be theoretical, others historical, others analytical, and others cultural/critical. And these conversations, I suspect, will suffer much less for the absence of the old "Monday morning" trump card that is deployed far too often at other conferences I attend.

So, yeah, wish I was there.

Update: Mike is blogging some of RSA, and has a couple of entries on the sessions he's attending.

Go, Fish

How did I miss this? Last Friday, the New York Times published Stanley Fish's farewell to academia:

I exit with a three-part piece of wisdom for those who work in higher education: do your job; don't try to do someone else's job, as you are unlikely to be qualified; and don't let anyone else do your job.

There's not a whole lot in his farewell that will come as much of a surprise to anyone who's had cause to read All in the Game, the column that he's done for the Chronicle of Higher Education for the past couple of academic years. Fish's basic point, if I'm allowed to boil it down, is that academics tend to bite off more than they're qualified to chew, and they should stop. Whether it's couched in terms of overestimating the relevance of theory, faux interdisciplinarity, or more recently, the insistence on politicizing the academy, it seems like Fish has been engaged in a broad campaign to convince us all (in the academy, at least) that we're not as smart as we think we are. And thus, his conclusion,

Performing academic work responsibly and at the highest level is a job big enough for any scholar and for any institution. And, as I look around, it does not seem to me that we academics do that job so well that we can now take it upon ourselves to do everyone else's job too. We should look to the practices in our own shop, narrowly conceived, before we set out to alter the entire world by forming moral character, or fashioning democratic citizens, or combating globalization, or embracing globalization, or anything else.

One would like to think that even the exaggerated sense of virtue that is so much a part of the academic mentality has its limits. If we aim low and stick to the tasks we are paid to perform, we might actually get something done.

It's always been hard to argue with Fish--if there's ever been a writer who's as successful as he is at defining an argument in such a way as to rule disagreements out-of-bounds, I have yet to read that person. It's hard to resist the seductive simplicity of the idea that "the true task of academic work [is] the search for truth and the dissemination of it through teaching." Of course, it would be a lot harder to resist if he could honestly describe his own career that way, a career that ends with generous space on the Op-Ed page of arguably the leading newspaper in the country, a space not normally provided to those who have sought truth and disseminated it through teaching. Here's how Slate described his career when he was hired on at UIC:

He is receiving such a princely sum from the University of Illinois not just because he's famous--or notorious--but because he was the chief architect of two of the most well-thought-of (though controversial) American academic programs in the 1980s and '90s, Johns Hopkins University's Humanities Center and Duke University's English department. His success as an administrator rested on two insights that are now commonplace: first, that the academic star system could be used to create departments with high-profile brand names, and second, that the longing of academic couples to live in the same place represents an administrative opportunity, not a headache. Fish built both the Humanities Center and Duke's English department by hiring celebrity couples and finding room for both, rather than wooing one member of the couple and banishing the other to a lesser department, or condemning husband and wife to a commuter marriage. That both departments are now falling apart can be chalked up either to his considerable skill at maintaining allies or to his cynical lack of concern with long-term stability.

Ahh, yes. The $tar $y$tem, faithful underwriter of the $earch for truth. I should be so lucky, when one day my job is to be a $tar. I promise I won't let someone else do it for me...

May 27, 2004

academicky discourse

Steven Shaviro's got a nice entry about Lindsay Waters' new book Enemies of Promise, which SS describes as "a jeremiad about troubles in the world of academia and academic publishing. Waters says that too many academic books are being published, books that sell poorly for the most part, and that this situation is not sustainable either economically or intellectually." Waters is the humanities editor at Harvard UP, so presumably he knows whereof he speaks.

I haven't read the book, but I probably will now. What's unfortunate about it, if Shaviro's description is accurate, is that it offers no real solution to a huge problem that stretches throughout the academy at large, one that can probably be linked in any number of ways to the University of Excellence. As curmudgeonly as we seem to be about grade inflation, it would be refreshing to hear my senior colleagues (and I'm casting that net as broadly as it will fly, not critiquing my immediate ones) admit some culpability in what I think of as "grind inflation," the assumption that tenure requirements must grow over time, to the point where junior faculty are held to far higher standards than those who judge us are themselves capable of meeting.

Like Shaviro, I'm lucky, but for a different reason. I didn't waive any years towards tenure when I moved up here from Virginia, and the result (I hope) will be a far better first book than I could have written otherwise. Rather than flipping my dissertation around, I've reworked it almost entirely, and framed it as a project with much broader implications. In that way, I can identify with the one "solution" Waters offers:

At the end of the book, Waters praises silence; "it is possible to be a great thinker and not publish anything" (78), he writes, citing the obvious example of Socrates. Water urges scholars and critics to hold back, to publish less, to give their ideas more breathing space to develop.

At the same time, this strikes me as woefully naive, because it simply ignores the realities that face junior faculty, who have been taught for years, both in and out of graduate school, that "breathing space" is a luxury reserved for the tenured, and fenced off by tenure committees. That's part of what I take Shaviro to mean when he says that "the way we train graduate students is the main culprit in creating this situation." I don't know that I'd agree that there is a "main culprit," because I'm as complicit as anyone when it comes to trying to prepare graduate students to compete for positions and to succeed in them once they arrive. But I'm equally loathe to fall back into a lame defense of "the market made me do it." Seems to me that it's a vicious cycle with multiple factors, and the only answer is to intervene at some point to keep it from feeding back and accelerating.

Shaviro says that Waters rejects the Internet as an option, which is disappointing, but not wholly unexpected. Intellectual sustainability is one thing (and a big thing), but I continue to believe that projects like Parlor Press and print-on-demand are a powerful answer to the question of economic sustainability. If Dave Blakesley's experience is any indication, I think that most of the UP's in our field will have to move in that direction, one way or another, over the next ten years. That's not the Internet per se, but it does offer one way out of the cycle, and a far better one than, say, widespread adjunctification.

At any rate, I'll put Enemies of Promise on my fall reading list, which I'll tackle once I've--what else?--finished up that first book manuscript...

May 26, 2004


I didn't start blogging last year until the end of the summer, after the SU Intramural Summer Softball season was over, so my Devoted Readers haven't yet had the chance to share with me the glory, agony, and ennui that is summer softball.

So anyway, our team name, in honor of the fact that nearly half of us are currently dissertating, is One Inch Margins. And as has been pointed out to me, yes, technically it should be One and a Quarter Inch Margins, but as captain, I take a little creative license to make it simpler. We lost a number of players off of last year's team, so we're still feeling our way a bit. We were rained out on Monday, but did get a game in today. Thanks to a little bit of pitching trouble on the other squad, we jumped out fast in the second inning and never looked back. Final score? 28-6.

A pretty solid day for me, all around. Hit a couple of doubles on the way to a 5 for 6 performance from the plate, and on the mound, I think I ran one or two people to 2-ball counts, but that was it. No walks, and with the exception of a 4-run inning, we kept the other team pretty well controlled. They had a lot of players new to the game of softball, so it was nice and casual, and it was the first time that we had actually played as a team. Color us 1-0...

May 24, 2004

Prostitutes and Virgin Priestesses

Okay, so Saturday night, a friend and I decide to go see Troy. I drive by her place to pick her up, and I'm a few minutes early. We're going to the late showing, so it's nice and dark, and starting to rain a little. I pull up in front of her house, slow down, and I see someone who looks a little like her waving at me. Hair's a little different, but what do I know? I shave my head rather than getting haircuts. I stop, pop the lock, and she gets in.

Yeah, it's not my friend. This woman says something and reaches over and grabs my crotch. Ummmm, yeah. Yeah, she did. To my credit, before I slipped into complete shock, I asked her to step out of my car. I had to ask her three times, and refuse her request for a dollar (bus fare?), but she did finally leave. It took a bit for the cloud of perfume wafting off of her to do likewise. I drove a couple of blocks, windows rolled down, and just sat there dumbfounded. Five minutes later, pulled back up, my friend came out, no further surreality.

As if that wasn't enough.

So anyhow, made it to Troy, watched the epic, dropped my friend off, made it home, again without any additional incident. What did I learn from Troy?

  1. Our country's fetish with Nordic blondes as the ideal of beauty apparently stretches back to ancient Greece (iow, I agree with Aly)
  2. This was the one thing that the movie had in common with Clash of the Titans (Ursula Andress as Aphrodite).
  3. Orlando Bloom now need only play Robin Hood to cement his status as the greatest cinematic archer of all time.
  4. My tendency in contemporary epics is to appreciate the second-tier roles far more than the central ones--that's where the real acting seems to occur.
  5. There's a new movie about King Arthur coming out that appears to buck that trend.
  6. Brad Pitt makes a more convincing Achilles when his mouth is closed.
  7. Hector > Hulk, for Eric Bana's career.
  8. Peter O'Toole is still alive and still talented.
  9. I wouldn't mind seeing Sean Bean reprise his role as Odysseus in an adaptation of the Odyssey.

All in all, not bad. They made some serious choices about the story, certainly, not the least of which was to seriously downplay the role of the gods, but it's hard to fault them for that, given their audience. Most of their choices, in fact, seemed to have to do with stereotypes about American audiences. Not a full price epic, but probably a matinee.

May 22, 2004

My new screensaver?

Found this via the Eyebeam Reblog: I'm relatively certain that it would be easy to duplicate in Flash, but for whatever reason, my mind hasn't quite wrapped itself around how just yet.

In other news, my blogroll columns are now even. DaveR has decided that his infrequency doesn't justify the Typepad subscription. Sorry to hear it, but certainly I understand...

May 21, 2004

Bill 'n' blogs, sittin' in a tree...

Steven Johnson offers up a link to a Reuters story, "Now, Gates has a crush on blogs." Apparently, Microsoft is holding its annual CEO Summit (no, no invite for me), and Gates spent a fair chunk of time explaining to his audience just how useful blogs could be as a communications tool for businesses.

The latter part of the essay features an interview with an industry analyst who predicts that blogs will become the next "battleground." Truth be told, though, I'm a little dubious--inflammatory comments suffixed with "analysts said" don't exactly inspire me much.

May 20, 2004

robot protest

Ahh, to be in Madison, Wisconsin in the springtime...

robot protest

My personal fave is the one where one of the robots is dancing on top of a cement block to Kraftwerk.

May 19, 2004

Network pedagogy

Every once in a while, several of the posts from my meanderings come together into a broader stream of thought, and it's happening right now. First, I wanted to acknowledge the weblog that Adrian Miles and Jeremy Yuille put together to support their Creative Computing Manifesto (see my original post). Jeremy dropped a comment here, but since the post has faded to archive, I thought I'd put their link up front for a spell.

In an entry on pedagogy, Adrian cites Ilana Snyder's injunction that we begin to reshape education according to networked technologies rather than doing the reverse, what McLuhan would have described as asking new media to do the work of the old. Charlie just posted the chapter that he and Terra Williams contributed to Into the Blogosphere, "Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom." Jeff has some interesting end-of-semester thoughts about the plagiarism vultures. And at the Social Software Weblog, Judith Meskill talks about how we might start tracking and visualizing weblog conversations.

All right. Toss it all into the Blog-o-Matic, set to blend, and...

One of the things I've thought most about from the manifesto is the idea that "Network literacy is the ability to engage with and represent yourself within the network." Charlie and Terra talk about this to a certain degree in their chapter:

As two teachers who have used weblogs in our classrooms for the past two years, we have found that by extending the discourse to a large community outside of the classroom, our student bloggers regularly confront "real" rhetorical situations in a very social, supportive setting.

One of the worries I have about claims like this is the tendency to assume that putting something onto the network automatically gives writers access to something called a "public." That's not what I see Charlie and Terra doing, but there are those who make that claim, that putting something online instantly guarantees writers a huge audience, as though public were simply a threshold that could be crossed by assigning one's work a URL. For me, that underestimates drastically the importance of both engaging with the network and representing one's self.

And it doesn't help that we're still really just now working out tools (both technological and conceptual) for engaging the network. According to Mary Hodder, "Technorati can help find conversations across blogs but only if there are links to one another or everyone uses the same key words." The post at SSW, among other things, makes it clear that we have nothing "specifically designed to map and follow weblogging conversations over time and space," which strikes me as one of the more useful pedagogical possibilities for the blogosphere.

I've found it more useful to think of networks as something closer to conversations than to publics, but it can be difficult to explain to people (students) who aren't themselves already conversing in these spaces. And as I think about how we can best engage networks without domesticating them, I'm conscious of Jeff's claim that "The network could care less about citation." That is, I'm not interested in putting together point-by-point "rules" for blog posting (e.g., always use the permalink, trackback whenever possible, etc.), even though I think that these things need to be addressed.

[Aside: one of the lists I'm on had a discussion about citation styles, and why one style used a period where another uses a comma. OMG. I can feel myself falling asleep just thinking about it...]

In other words, the worst kind of domestication would be to translate network engagement into a kind of citation practice, taught the same way that we do MLA or APA style. And yet, these things can't be ignored. Trackback, for example, allowed the flap over the MT3.0 announcement to coalesce into a massive, spontaneous grid blog, in a matter of days. For me, that's what separates it from being a simple matter of citation. It's not just about where we find a source text--this stuff shapes the network itself.

So I guess the question is what sorts of practices do we need to start teaching to tip our students to the network? Last semester, even though almost none of them took me up on it, I talked about Technorati, Google web queries, using aggregators, and following trackbacks as a new set of research practices. What else needs to be there?

And yes, I'm writing an article about this currently, which is part of why it's on my mind...

Signed, sealed, delivering

This won't be a shock to many of you since you've already probably heard, but I can say now that it's official. As of today (yesterday, really), I am now officially contracted with Hampton Press for my first book, Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media. It was accepted into Cindy Selfe's and Gail Hawisher's series on "New Dimensions in Computers and Composition Studies," the same series that's publishing Johndan's Datacloud.

I heard from Gail and Cindy a couple of weeks ago, but figured I should wait to say anything "official" until I actually put pen to paper.

And now to put fingers to keyboard...

May 17, 2004

Double duty

Over the next month or so, I'm going to be contributing over at Datacloud. Johndan is taking a break from the net for a month. Kind of like Morgan Spurlock, but without the extra cholesterol, depression, and persistent life threatenaity. One would hope, anyway.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking about what I'm going to do differently (or rather, if I'm going to do anything differently). I visit Johndan's site regularly in part because there are some sites (bOING bOING, Design Observer) whose stories I access through the 'cloud. So does that mean that I should try and set my feeds a little wider, and do more reporting while I'm there? There are several of us guesting, so it's not like there won't be some of that already, I'm sure. I've already started referencing others' posts within the site, which is something I don't do here all that often, unless a topic stays with me for more than a day or two. I could ask him to set up a second account for me, under an alias, and start bitter arguments with myself...

The answer, I think, is this: I won't think about it nearly as much as I have just now. At least, not once I've figured out whether I should post twice as often (once here, once there), or divide my weblog mojo in two for the month.

Yes, that's a joke.

May 16, 2004

"like a weed in a field of flowers"

No, not this blog.

According to Telegraph: publication of first-ever novel without verbs (verb as weed, in quote above), "The Train from Nowhere." A French author (Michel Thaler), of course. Necessarily, a great deal of interior monologue and framgentary sentences--"Instead of action, lengthy passages [of] florid adjectives in a series of vitriolic portraits of dislikeable passengers on a train" (Telegraph). An interesting thought experiment, if nothing else. Given pedagogical goals of attention to language, even a potentially useful or productive experiment for a FY composition course?

Tough to say. Fine lines among implicit verbs, nominalizations, gerunds, etc.--worth the trouble? And on top of that, an annoyingly pompous author:

"I am like a car driver who has smashed the windscreen so he cannot see into the future, smashed the rear-view mirror so he cannot see the past, and is travelling in the present."

Ummm, yeah. "A revolution in the history of literature," or imminent 6-car pile-up? Tomato, to-mah-to. Bon chance, Michel!

[via kottke]

May 15, 2004

Caruso, Carradine, Hasselhoff

I feel like I've been way too serious here lately. And so: Ideal Roster of an American League Baseball Team Composed Only of Famous Davids Without Obvious Athletic Ability. There are probably precious few of my readers who follow baseball as avidly as I, but even so, McSweeney's Fantasy Baseball is worth a chuckle or three, every couple of weeks.

May 13, 2004

The Glass is now half MT

There's no sense in piling on to all the criticism that Six Apart is coming under for their announcements today about MT3--to Mena Trott's credit, she's left an awful lot of disappointed, critical trackbacks intact, at least as far as I can tell.

What I want to do instead is to talk a little about the way that I use MT, and the way that I had hoped to use it. First, I should be clear that I have no objection to 6A trying to make MT a source of revenue. Second, there are indications on the MT site that their licensing structure will make some allowances for educational users, which may go some distance to answering my concerns. That being said, here's what I'd once hoped for MT:


Currently, I'm maintaining two sites, but I've experimented with using MT as my primary interface for course syllabi. Under the current license structure, if I want to continue using MT this way, I'll either have to pay or dump sites once a course is over. Nor can I allow students temporary accounts to post to a site. And honestly, I don't make the kind of money that would allow me to pay for the kind of license I'd need to do these things. (3 users/5 blogs I can afford, but this year, I had upwards of 35 students in each semester.) The pricing structure appears to me to do very little to understand different classes of authors--as far as I can tell, there'd be no price difference between my attempt to enable a semester's worth of access to 20 students for a single course blog (or even hosting 20 blogs for a semester for students) and a company that hosts permanent blogs for 20 users.

But that's relatively minor. I can switch to 3, I suppose, although it will severely limit my range of possible activities, enough so that I'll probably take up Wordpress or Textpattern for potential course blogs.


Ever since the U of Minnesota announced their UThink program, I've been thinking about how we (in my department) might do some of what that program does, albeit on a smaller scale. I've spoken with our tech people about installing MT on our server, putting together some site-specific documentation, and making it available to all faculty and grad students for personal and/or course use. Needless to say, our technology budget would not be sufficient to the task with MT3--there's no way to predict how many users there'd be, or how quickly people would take advantage of it, or even if they would. And given the initial sweep of their price scale, we'd be talking about thousands of dollars, which is prohibitive for us. We're a Mac unit on a PC campus, and even though we get great financial support from the university (fairly frequent upgrades, licenses, etc.), we don't have access to the root IT budget.

I'd also hoped to use MT in the fall to start up a department newsletter (or to restart it, I guess), again a many-to-one blog, but one that was ongoing rather than semesterly. We've talked about transferring our dept's homepage over into MT, or enabling an RSS feed on the homepage that would serve up newsletter items. But again, the cost would be prohibitive, unless we simply stick with MT2.6, and I don't guess that there'll be a whole lot of support or development for it down the road.

I'm going to go ahead and send 6A some feedback, and I hope that they take this to heart (if nothing else): the traditional model for educational licensing has been to drop 10-20% off of the price, but that's simply not going to do it here. With educational users, you're talking about very different patterns of usage, and a price scale that doesn't acknowledge those differences is going to simply drive off that market. It's conceivable, with even just a handful of power users, that the number of users and blogs in a writing program could reach into the thousands over a period of, say, 5 years. But the vast majority of those would be temporary and educational (i.e., non-commercial). Even the stable core (given grad students graduating and professors migrating) wouldn't necessarily be permanent. But you're talking about potentially wide fluctuations in the number of current users, and several potential levels of usage. Should a student required to post to a course blog once a week for 15 weeks cost as much as someone who's maintaining a daily site for years? Of course not. It's a lesson that Textpattern has already learned--I'll be waiting to see if 6A can say the same.

I must confess that I feel a little sad about this. MT has had a great deal to do with how I've learned about weblogs, and a disproportionate influence on how I think about them. The prospect of learning a new system and installation doesn't interest me a whole lot, but unless some major revisions occur, it doesn't look like MT3 is going to be my platform of choice. I haven't decided yet what I'm going to do, but I'll be really thinking about it this summer.

Depicting speed and a competitive edge


How shameful is it that it took Derek's post to remind me to make note of SU's logo, color, and mascot redesign? Well, okay, not that shameful. After all, I've had vastly more important redesign thoughts on the brain as of late.

SU also announced that it will no longer clunk around with Orangemen and Orangewomen for teams--from now on, we're just plain Orange. Oh wait, I mean that we're speedy, competitive, angular, aggressive Orange from now on...

May 12, 2004

Clickety-click! go the mutant fingers of the future!

There's only so many times that local news affiliates can recycle that same damn cyberporn story. And so, in the interest of catching us up, Fox "News" Chicago presents "The Latest Cyber Craze," aka blogging.

Wendy McClure, among others, was interviewed for a Fox segment on blogging, and she provides running summary, commentary, and wit, complete with screen shots. It's a hoot. My fave moment is the apparent importance of distinguishing blogs from chat rooms (chat rooms?!):

NEWSCASTER VOICE-OVER CONT'D: "...without losing what's been written, like in a chat room." And here Matt Weiler has to patiently explain the difference between a weblog and a chat room.
No kidding, they asked both of us about that.
It's like getting a squirrel confused with a mailbox because they're both on the sidewalk.

May 10, 2004

Climbing the charts

"For Mother’s Day, Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, announced the top baby names in the United States for 2003." And where, you ask, does Collin rank?


My single-L variant cracked the top 100 for the first time last year. But more interesting to me is that little stretch in '96-'97, where double-L actually sneaks ahead of single-L. My best guess? That's about the same time when country music star Collin Raye was hitting his peak, give or take 9+ months...

May 9, 2004

slow weekend

It's the end of the semester 'round these parts, and that means a couple of things: a tall stack of final essays for me to get through, an influx of parents for graduation weekend, and the official start of "panic time" for the dissertators. I've been pretty scarce this weekend, doing a little leisure reading (starting Lessig and Norman, among other books) and taking it easy. This week I hope to start a somewhat different regimen, one that involves a renewed focus on my own writing (my non-blogged writing, anyway) and exercise. We'll see how that works out for me.

In other news, I've changed up my sidebar again, this time in response to what can only be described as Typepad envy. I've sat by and watched while Lori, Aly, and others were able to include album and book covers along their sidebars, and silently tried to take comfort in my various tweaks. No longer. Thanks to the generous folks over at All Consuming, I can now keep a running list, expose the top few items on it, and I get covers. The joy I feel about this is truly disproportionate to the actual good, I'm sure. Told you it was a slow weekend.

May 7, 2004

Redefining blogging

Gordon Gould has an interesting post over at the Social Software Weblog called "Micro-famous: Defining and redefining success in the blogosphere, and it's particularly interesting in light of recent discussions about the Kairos award for Best Academic Weblog. According to Gould,

As millions more bloggers come online, the challenge of garnering significant amounts of people’s attention (which converts to social capital and, therefore, personal fame) is going to grow exponentially more difficult.  Fame, as measured by services like Google, Popdex, Technorati, etc, is going to grow very far out of reach for nearly all bloggers. This will be very frustrating for many people unless expectations get reset.

Although I'd argue that A-lists are an inevitable feature of networks that grow beyond a certain point, Gould raises the interesting issue of how such lists condition our expectations for weblogs. I think of it as the Gates-Walton factor: I can remember sitting in a cafeteria in grad school, and overhearing some undergraduates talk about how "useless" their degrees were, because "Bill Gates and Sam Walton never graduated from college." Or call it the American Idol phenomenon--people measure themselves unrealistically against those they see at the top of the heap ("I'm a better writer than Kottke!!"), and then turn bitter or drop out altogether when those expectations aren't met. Put more concretely, according to Gould, "For the average blogger, fame-as-success model needs to become pride in publishing on what is effectively the new refrigerator door. It needs to move away from being stack-ranked against bOING bOING and become much, much more socially localized."

This is where it connects for me with the Kairos award--it's not about asserting that there are C&W (or even rhet-comp) bloggers whose work is as influential as Invisible Adjunct or Crooked Timber. It's about cultivating "the concept of micro-fame among one’s peers, friends, and families." According to Gould, "this is both a technical infrastructure change and a social redefinition." That doesn't mean that we all need to just blog for each other in our little corner of the world--just as there are those among us who publish work outside of our disciplinary network of journals or present at non-R/C conferences, there will be plenty of us who target a broader (or different) audience. But recognizing those who do good work strikes me as the kind of micro-fame that Gould's advocating...

May 6, 2004


newcar.jpg Monday and Tuesday, I spent a fair chunk of time over at Romano Toyota--the lease on my 2000 Camry "matured" on Tuesday. And despite my thoughts about going with a different car, I decided to re-up with Toyota and re-up on a Camry, the results of which are pictured here. Graduated from 4 cylinders to 6, and have spent the last couple of days getting used to the fact that the new one sits the driver a little higher, comes with different console positions, is a little more sensitive in terms of starting and stopping, etc. I also continue to be struck by the fact that the Camry has moved away from the "used bar of soap" model of car design--it's a little more angular and the body has more in the way of decorative ridges and grooves on it.


It's been a couple of weeks since this was posted, but I've been trying to pare down my bookmarks here at the end of the semester. I just re-read this post by Rick Poynor over at Design Observer, and was struck again by the reason I bookmarked it in the first place.

Poynor reprints about half of an article ("The Critic and His Purpose") that came out in the late 60s, and setting aside that pesky "his," the article is a 62-point list, collectively generated, about art criticism. The first half is over at DO, and is subtitled "Critical Method." Some of it seems a little dated, of course, but otherwise, it's a pretty accurate distillation of what most fields in the Arts and Humanities expect from criticism--our students and colleagues could do worse than consulting this for guidance...

May 5, 2004

May I replicate fries for you with that?

I was out driving today, running errands, and I swept through McD's to grab a drink. Rather than having to chat into the squawk box, I pulled up and found a young woman standing outside about 10 feet away, taking orders. She did so on one of those notepad computers, not unlike the little portable units that you might see on Star Trek. Not quite as small as a Palm, but obviously much lighter than a laptop.

Next step: a swipe alley on the side of the notepad for one of my cards.

Next step: beam the drink directly to my cupholder.

Next step: merger with OnStar, for anywhere service.

You heard it here first.

May 4, 2004

The Brain-Dead of Night

I've spent the last 3 hours trying to figure out how to take an RSS feed from my second site, and place it on this site as a secondary "Recent Entries" kind of deal. Unfortunately, much of that time was spent tweaking and jiving with MT plugins. While I'm fairly certain that they represent the most stable solution to my problem, they were also the most opaque to me.

Just as I was about to give up, I stumbled upon Elise Bauer's site, which offers no less than four methods for so doing. I went with the third option, which involves some stylistic rigidity and third-party hosting. So far, ten minutes later, I have no complaints. We'll see, though. For the record, I was able to do a little extra tweaking to get the font I wanted and to hide their tag in favor of one embedded in my description.

Now, hopefully, this will prompt me to cycle my entries on that site with a little more frequency...

May 3, 2004

saturday (part 1)

One of the things that kept me pretty well tied up for the day on Saturday was a symposium that we hosted here at SU. We invited faculty and grad students from RPI, UMass, and Penn State to join us in thinking about the future of the field and to do a little bit of regional networking.

One of the things that I'm hoping to accomplish over the next few years is more of this kind of activity. Next year, I'll be taking over our dept's PhD program, and I'd like to see us develop some kind of regional consortium of such programs. I hope that we'll share some resources, connect more often as colleagues, etc. For my part, I had really nice conversations with Bill Hart-Davidson and Jim Zappen of RPI, and had a chance to chat about my network rhetoric course. And due to some no-shows, I had a chance to give what I hope was productive feedback to a couple of students from other programs.

Another one of the things that we did at this program that differed from most, as you'll note in the schedule, is that it was set up with two "plenary" sessions with several colleagues delivering short, more informal pieces on graduate education, the future of rhetoric and composition, etc. We did have a Friday night keynote (Elaine Richardson), but I liked the move away from "keynotes" towards shorter, more intentionally provocative talks (mini-manifestos).

I'm fairly sure that there's an underlying logic (beyond my own ADD) to my preferences for both shorter talks and regional (as opposed to national) networking, but I need to think through it a little more carefully first. More weekend recaps as the evening progresses...

Best Academic Weblog?

It's been a couple of days, and I've got a big mental list of things I've been meaning to yammer about, but that stuff will have to wait. Today, across several of the lists I'm subscribed to, the following appeared:

As a step toward recognizing the valuable contributions that weblogs are making to our field, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy will be offering an award for Best Academic Weblog. The award will be given to the weblog which best meets the following criteria. The weblog must:
  • Be at least six months old from the date of submission for consideration.
  • Be updated regularly (an average of at least once per week).
  • Actively engage other academic weblogs; in other words, the blogger must be a public intellectual.
  • Deal with the kind of issues addressed in Kairos and other journals in rhetoric and composition studies.

Jenny is getting a host of comments regarding her suggestion that we develop counter-awards, which sounds to me like a much more entertaining prospect--be sure to track her comments from today...

I'm sure that some of this ground is being covered on at least one of my lists, but digest mode requires me to reserve any contribution for tomorrow. My initial reaction, though, is a mix. On the one hand, I'm glad to see that, at least in terms of computers and writing, there's acknowledgment that weblogs fill a different space in the media ecology--in other words, there's a difference between Kairos's "webtext" award and this new one, and appropriately so. And I think that it's valuable to start recognizing some of the quality blogs in our field. On the other, I'd dread having to (a) actually read all the nominees (a minimum of weekly posts and 6 months worth of activity = an awful lot of textual ground to cover just to get a sense of a single blog), and (b) coming up with defensible criteria for what makes a weblog worthy of recognition in this fashion. This is not a new issue, by any means--any attempt to evaluate weblogs has run up against it. On the third hand, though, I suppose that the conversations that will inevitably result will be valuable. If indeed we are going to start acknowledging the academic and/or scholarly value of weblogs, then these conversations need to take place (pace Jeff).

That's it for the moment--I'm sure I'll have more when the digests come rolling in...