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December 31, 2004

Dear 2004,

I haven't been as attentive here towards the end as I know I probably should have. But then, my years always seem to end with more of a slow fade than any sort of big send-off. Blame it on circumstance--I always wait until after the turn of the year to leave Iowa, and as a result, I've never really celebrated NYE. Yeah, I know there was that one year in New York, but it was so cold we didn't end up seeing the ball drop. Fact is that if I weren't always awake at midnight anyway, I probably wouldn't bother.

At the same time, I feel like I owe you more than a disinterested shrug. I mean, this was going to be a pretty big year, an end-of-the-tunnel year, right? I did finish a draft of the manuscript, and got a start on a second one. That's pretty solid. I took a real vacation, physically and psychologically, for most of the fall. And it was my first full calendar year with this site--granted, momentum's fallen off a bit lately, but you can't complain too much about that. I honestly didn't believe I'd last more than about six months, enough to say I'd done it and that's all.

Subtract all of the run-of-the-mill, and what else did I accomplish? I'd like to think that I've gotten a little more reflective, in specific ways, and that perhaps I've even added some clarity where before I didn't have it. Most days, that feels like a good thing. I don't know that my life's changed as much as I'd hoped it would a year ago, but perhaps that'll give me enough incentive to change it more than I expect over the next year. Then again, who doesn't say that? How many years have I experienced where I've wished for less change?

Still, all things considered, not bad. Not bad at all. So long, thanks, and I'll see you round the corner.


December 22, 2004

Various points along the "welcome" spectrum

As I continue to update my blogroll, I humbly call your alphabetically ordered attention to

  • Susan Adams, one of our students who's in the midst of her dissertation
  • Chris Anderson, whose Wired article on the long tail is fast becoming (a) required reading for anyone interested in network studies (including my class next semester, and (b) a book
  • Tyra O'Bryan, who's in her 2nd year at SU, and will be auditing my course this spring
  • Amy Robillard, who finished up her diss this past summer and is in her first year as a tenure-track prof at Illinois State.
  • Jen Wingard, also a 2nd year student at SU, also taking my course in the spring.

It's interesting to note that blogging in the CCR program now has moved definitely from "a few" to "some," and with both Becky and myself using them in our spring graduate courses, it stands to become "many," at least for a little while. It'll be even more interesting, I suspect, to see if (a) it lasts, and (b) what lasting effects (if any) they will have in the program. While I'm excited about my course, obviously, I'm also pretty jazzed that Becky's course, which is not explicitly about technology, will be doing some tech as well. Ultimately, that's one of the keys to actually integrating this kind of work--it's not about the program's "tech person" using tech, but rather everyone else...

That is all.

December 20, 2004


Okay, not quite all. I can never remember centripetal and centrifugal, or rather, which is which. I always start by thinking "fugal" means fleeing (as in tempus fugit--I did take Latin for a couple of years), meaning that centrifugal is tending outwards, but then I see "petal" and think the petals of a flower spreading outwards. Ugh. But my "fugal" hunch is the right one. Centripetal tends towards the center; centrifugal towards the edge.

And it's relevant because I wanted to bookmark both Alex's and more recently Clancy's reflections on using blogs for the classroom, albeit in different ways and contexts. Clancy notes,

I wanted the weblog to serve one of my central pedagogical objectives, namely to facilitate a close community ethos in the classroom...Reflecting on the experience, I am even more convinced that it's best to, if at all possible, have one weblog for the whole class rather than individual weblogs.

This is an issue that Steve talks about as well, in his piece for Kairos. More and more, I think that it's important to distinguish between the centripetal and centrifugal modes of blogging, and to understand how each might occupy space in the classroom. I've got a lot more to say on this than time to actually say it, but for the moment:

I'll be doing some of each in my class this spring. Unlike Clancy, I don't feel a strong need to build community in the course--it'll be a small class, made up of people who have been taking courses with each other for at least a semester and in some cases nearly two years. This is not to say that this isn't a valid goal for a course--particularly when the students come in with no knowledge of each other--but it's a goal that is specific to certain courses.

And I suspect that part of the reason why many of us have really gotten into blogging is the centri-mix. Some of my blogroll is made up of people I'd know anyway (grad school buds, fellow Syracusans, etc.), some of it is made up of people I've gotten to know better as a result of blogging, and some of it is a wishlist of people I'd like to know. Point being that community is sometimes a precondition, sometimes an outcome, sometimes a projection. The mix, and the future possibilities inherent in a mix like that, is part of what keeps me interested.

One of the arguments I'd make on behalf of centrifugal blogging is that having students looking outward makes it more likely that they'll continue once the object of a centripetal gaze (the course and their clasmates) is gone, and that's one of my goals as well. For me, that's one of the key differences between blogs and say, journals or email lists: there's a payoff to blogging that continues beyond the boundaries of the course or even the school.

This is not to disagree with Clancy, who does the right thing, I think, in being explicit about her goals and measuring the degree to which blogs helped her meet them. And Steve's article does much the same thing. If you want to accomplish this, then use this kind of application or use it in this fashion. But I'd argue that it's important to bear that conditional in mind, and to understand that different conditions may apply.

I should stop there. That is all, at least for the moment.


Well, more like 20-25% baked. Christmas is coming, which means that the blog gets short shrift, and a Collin's attention is shifted to the Annual Christmas Cookie Bake-Off, where I spend every spare moment preparing a bevy of cookies for Eve, Day, Night, and Snack desserts. Completed so far? Golden cookies, Clove cookies, & Peppermint Fudge. Next up? Chocolate Crinkles, M&M cookies, and Peanut Butter Kisses, all by the end of the day, I hope.

Travel was a little asymmetric this time around. I will grumble until the end of my days about how nothing good is ever preceded by the phrase "lake effect," and that includes the weather in the Buffalo-Erie corridor, which stopped me dead in my increasingly-deepening tracks on Thursday night. And unfortunately, that left me with 12-13 hours of the drive to complete on Friday. Which I did. Johndan talks about Yahoo's claim that they're going to be offering real-time traffic conditions on their maps, which is a mixed bag, as he notes. For my purposes, I'd much rather have a lagged map, one that actually attempts to present conditions in travel time. So for example, when I look at a map, it gives me local conditions where I'm at, and projected conditions for the time I actually hit that area. Sounds a little complicated, but actually, it's probably easier than I think. Not to mention less likely than I would wish.

Back to baking. That is all.

December 17, 2004

en route

Well, not anymore, technically. I'm back in the heartland, and have more to say once I've slept for more than a couple of hours.

December 14, 2004


Thanks, all, for the good wishes. Tonight, in celebration of the departure of the alien in my belly, I hunkered down for a little screening--tonight was the first half of the SciFi Channel's Legend of Earthsea, a four-hour versioning of Ursula K. LeGuin's classic novels.

When I say classic here, I mean it. Wizard of Earthsea was published a month before I was, and along with Narnia, Shannara, and Middle-Earth, Earthsea was one of the lands I cut my geek teeth on way back when. I've since bought new copies of the books, but I still have the ones I bought back in the late 70s, frail as they are now. So it's no exaggeration to say that they occupy a pretty soft spot in the swirling mythologies of my fandom. That in itself was almost reason enough to pass on the movie version, but I held out hope. From time to time SciFi does a nice enough job with shows. About a month ago, I read about LeGuin's own reaction to the movie, where she writes:

I've tried very hard to keep from saying anything at all about this production, being well aware that movies must differ in many ways from the books they're based on, and feeling that I really had no business talking about it, since I was not included in planning it and was given no part in discussions or decisions.

Uh-oh. And then there's this in response to the director's claim that the movie is a "very, very" faithful treatment:

I wonder if the people who made the film of The Lord of the Rings had ended it with Frodo putting on the Ring and ruling happily ever after, and then claimed that that was what Tolkien "intended..." would people think they'd been "very, very honest to the books"?

Yeah. Not so encouraging. And still, still I was hoping that maybe there was enough redeeming value to warrant watching it. Well, so much for that hope. I won't be watching the second half tomorrow, and I'm a little sorry that I caught the first.

Of course, changes had to be made, for the sake of its movieness. A year or two can pass in a chapter of Wizard, but movies don't have that luxury. And the gradual unfolding of scale that happens in every great fantasy novel? Again, a luxury that movies can't afford. And so, instead of a coming-of-age story about a young man who's constantly trying to catch his wisdom up with his power, we have visions of Kristin Kreuk, prophecies, conquerors, teen rebellions, and a suspiciously Potteresque Island of Wizards (complete with Draco Malfoy Jasper of Eolg), mixed together with a few nifty special effects, some pretty atrocious dialogue, and a perfect example of a movie that's quite faithful to an apparently random assortment of details from the book while violating its spirit, plot, and intelligence repeatedly.

Oh, and did I mention that every single time one character left another, we heard pseudo-Enya, pseudo-Celtic, muzak-y Uillean pipe and pennywhistle. I mean, every single time. It worked in LOTR just fine, but it's stupid and utterly cliched here. Ugh.

I can't go on, at least not in this vein. The NYT review just about captures the level of dislike that I felt by the end of part 1 tonight. Keep in mind, though, if you will--every time Martel implies (or outright says) that the movie is derivative--that the books themselves predate everything that the movie is deriving from. And there is some saving grace in the fact that Borders is one of the sponsors--maybe some of the people who watch it, if they're able to make it far enough through to see the ad, will go buy the books instead.

As for me, I've already got them. And I'll spend an hour or two tonight wiping the disappointment from my short-term memory. Ask me in a couple of days, and I'll spin an entry here about how Earthsea prepared me for a career in rhetoric. Really.

That is all.

December 12, 2004

Shopping List for the Temporarily Damned

4 cans, Campbell's Chicken N Stars soup
3 2-liter bottles, Canada Dry Ginger Ale
1 box, Original Premium Saltine Crackers
1 bottle, Pepto-Abysmal, Cherry

Repeat as necessary.

The blog eyes me suspiciously, but only for as long as it takes to hear my stomach continue its long stream of alien noises. I know that this is surely a failure of imagination on my part, but right now, it's hard for me to imagine a weekend much worse than one where my sole focus is on rehydration, at least when the dehydration is neither voluntary nor alcohol-related.

That is all.

December 9, 2004

He blog, she blog?

I don't really have the energy to link and trackback this discussion to the degree it deserves, but there's been a discussion lately about whether or to what degree we might speak of gender differences in blogging. The best site for this is probably profgrrrrl's, who engages in a bit of impromptu surveying as a way of getting at this question, but I came into the discussion via Chuck and a pair of posts from George, the former of which has more links for your perusal. Much of this is in response to the following hypothesis from profgrrrrl:

My hunch (and I could be very very wrong about this) is that women just tend to feel freer expressing themselves about personal stuff (albeit pseudonymously) than men do. And feel the need to do so more. Which is not at all to say that men might not benefit from the activity, but that it might not come as easily to them?

My reaction to this idea parallels George's, I think, but isn't quite as visceral as his. Part of that, I suspect, comes from the fact that, for as long as I've been teaching things like argumentative theory, I've been aware of the fact that much of my personal style is "female," at least in the ways that folk like Deborah Tannen categorize it (or the old Gender Genie, for that matter). And yet, I doubt that anyone would mistake cgbvb for a more personal or intimate weblog like the ones that many of profgrrrrl's respondents cite as their preference.

I'd argue that, in addition to an incredibly small, self-conscious sample size, one of the troubles with drawing broad conclusions about gender and academic blogs is that it rips them out of their various individual contexts. This is a mecology thing for me--I didn't simply decide to keep a weblog out of the blue. That decision, for me, occurred in a professional context, and I continue to see my weblog as a space where I can do a kind of writing that is academic yet more informal and in-process than I could otherwise. The question for me was, what can I do in this space that I can't already do somewhere else or that might make more sense for me to do here. And so, I spend more time on my blog and less time on listservs, less time watching or reading news offline, and a little less time with leisure reading. That's the place that it occupies in my life--expression of more personal thoughts, for me, occurs elsewhere, as I've always been better talking those kinds of things through than I am at writing about them.

Does gender play a role in issues of technology adoption? Of course. Does the context of adoption go on to affect the way that people use a given technology? Again, I'm sure that it does. But I'm slower to move to conclusions about gendered blogging, in part because I think those conclusions are often self-fulfilling prophecies (the patterns/conclusions almost inevitably predate the actual inquiry, and tend to color it) and in part because stereotypes like these can have a chilling effect on the very people who might work against them. I was chatting with Madeline today about these ideas, and was struck by how conscious she was of the "kind of blogger" she was. My feeling was that it's hard enough to write every day without imposing all sorts of standards upon what you write. It's not as though anyone in the discussion is approaching it with the idea of "developing gendered blog guidelines," but observations about gendered behavior have a nasty habit of translating pretty quickly into norms. I may very well be the archetypal academic male blogger for all I know, but honestly, I don't really want to know that. I am indeed male, and that does affect the choices I make when I blog, but these facts surely don't exhaust the rationale behind my choices.

On a related note, Madeline informed me that the reason I can't blog pseudonymously is that I'd be completely unable to write about anything related to my scholarship. Granted, she's known me for like 6 years or so now, but according to her, even my "public," "professional," "scholarly," "academic" self is shot through and through with recognizable personality. And that's another reason why I'm hesitant to draw conclusions--it's hard not to think that any definition of personal or intimate is going to prefigure the answers to the questions grounded in that definition. Even something as seemingly bureaucratese as ending my posts with "that is all," for me, is a wink to Lori, Alyson, and Dylan--what seems pretty impersonal to one audience is a marker of intimacy to another. I realize that I'm collapsing here a difference between subject and style with reference to the "personal," but I feel pretty secure in the fact that I'm not the only one...

Yeah. That's all.

(Oh, and yes, you should see me when I do have "the energy to link and trackback." Heh.)

December 8, 2004

I wonder if I could just give them my Flickr password?

This is downright cool. There's a service called iPod my Photo, whereby you can send them a picture and $20, and they'll remake it in the style of the iPod commercials, like so:

This link comes courtesy, by the way, of Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting, which is easily one of my favorite mind candy sites. I highly recommend it. And for all of you wondering what my logo would like iPodified--okay, I'm the only one wondering--I present to you the results of a quick sidetrip to Photoshop:

iPod my logo

December 7, 2004

It's alive!

Tonight, I've finally gotten off my ass and started working on the course weblog for next semester's CCR 711: Network(ed) Rhetorics. Over the next week or so, I'll be posting a number of entries on course logistics. Feel free to take a look, make suggestions, etc.

That is all.

December 6, 2004

Anni-Vs. Blog

Now, I promised myself that, no matter what, I would avoid waxing tragic on the occasion of my birthday. Figuring that the easiest way to fulfill my promise was to simply avoid posting, I almost decided not to. Instead, though, I'll confine myself to a couple of observations:

I've been more conscious lately of how, when you're growing up, birthdays are an occasion to gather people together and to make a big production of things. At some point, for me at least, that sort of flipped. My plan today? Go see a movie, maybe get myself a new pair of kicks, and avoid the department faculty meeting. It's like the difference between freedom to and freedom from. Now, birthdays mean I get permission to avoid big productions and indulge my will-to-hermit.

And like BicycleMark, I tend to be very conscious of the old-man/nerisms that I've started to pick up. For whatever reason, I find myself drifting back to a mild Texas-ish accent from time to time (that's "tahm to tahm," for those of you keeping score). I've noticed that my identifications when I watch tv or see a movie have started to skew older--it's now harder for me to identify straight protagonist. I'm increasingly convinced that life is too short to care about every little detail. On occasion, I find that I'm all right with being the villain in someone else's epic, even at the cost of being the hero of mine. I'm still passionately in love with my own symptoms, at the same time that I quietly disparage others for their own irrational attachments. Blah blah blah. I'm not quite ready to roll my trousers and whine about peaches and mermaids, but I feel older today than I think I did last year at this time (tahm).

That is all.

December 4, 2004


Three entries in a single day?! I must admit that I've thought about pre-dating one or two of them so as to fill in my calendar--and I'd admit further that I continue to mock this impulse as a way of trying to break myself of it. I'll let you know how that works out for me.

Anyhow, yesterday I had a couple of different conversations based on my post from Wednesday about individual/collective commitments to technology, and as is almost always the case, I found myself distilling my point even further and wishing that I had taken the time to do so as I was writing it. So what's my point? Here it is: it's a mistake to think that you get to choose when to become part of the network, and this is particularly true of academics. Here's the question that I wish I'd asked the students in Steve's class on Tuesday:

What happens when you Google your name?

This is not a technical question, nor does the actual answer matter all that much. It's a question, first, of knowing how you are represented to/in/by the network, and second, exercising what agency you can over that representation. By and large, I'm with Jeff when it comes to the largely mythic nature of literacy, but I'm tempted here to suggest that knowing the results of an egosurf (Googling your name) is to new media/electracy what being able to sign your name is to literacy.

The obsession over tracking data is a bit of a joke among bloggers, and goodness knows, there are tools a plenty that feed that particular addiction, but there's a serious side to being able to speak of one's site traffic with some degree of accuracy. In the grand scheme of things, my Ecosystem ranking or my Technorati report may not mean a great deal, but they give me some sense of my place, some barometer of connectivity that can be articulated in broad terms. In many ways, this is the new version of the curriculum vitae--when I sit on a search committee, and I'm looking through CVs, I'm looking for signs that a particular candidate is engaged with the field, and most of the categories found there are simply chronological accounts of that engagement. They're also so conventional as to become eye-glazing after a while. Contrast the CV, which is a tightly controlled self-presentation, with Technorati search results, over which I have virtually no control and which actually tells a body more about my interests, influences, and place in the network.

Any guesses about the ratio of CV workshops in graduate school to Google workshops? Five or ten years ago, that ratio (which hasn't changed thus far) was arguably justified--it's far less so now, and that justification is receding further as you read this sentence. You can get away without a vita until you go on the market, but a web presence isn't an add-on. It's getting closer and closer to a sine qua non.

(Just imagine how this entry would look if I weren't "distilling." That is all.)

groupthink revisited

Few weeks back, I offered some thoughts on the whole "intellectual diversity" thing, and specifically on Mark Bauerlein's Chronicle article on the same. Well, Timothy Burke has weighed in, and quite nicely:

The critique of groupthink in academia has already gone badly astray when it begins by counting up voter registrations and assuming that this is both evidence and cause of the problem. Political partisanship as we conventionally think about it and practice it in the public sphere is only an epiphenomenal dimension of the groupthink issue in academic life. It is telling that those who perceive the issue largely as a matter of Democrats vs. Republicans or liberals vs. conservatives operate either as pundits or as think-tank intellectuals, contexts where those oppositions really do clearly structure how an intellectual operates.

Academics are not motivated to groupthink out of a loyalty to liberal causes, left-wing politics or registration in the Democratic Party, though in many disciplines at the moment, they may end up predominantly having those affiliations in a smug, uninterrogated manner. They’re motivated to groupthink by the institutional organization of academic life. The same forces that help academics to produce knowledge and scholarship are the forces which produce unwholesome close-mindedness and inbred self-satisfied attitudes. These forces would act on conservatives as well were we to magically remove the current professoriate and replace them with registered Republicans. They do act already on academics who operate in disciplines where certain kinds of political conservatism are more orthodox, or in institutional contexts, like religious universities, where conservative values are expressly connected to institutional missions.

I highly recommend going to Burke's site to read the rest of this, because he's spot on. There are serious problems with academia (not the least of which is this month's Demotivator), but to believe that those problems are solvable with an influx of registered Republicans is no less smug or uninterrogated. Instead, Burke argues, "The question is how to reconstruct the everyday working of scholarly business, to open up the ways in which we legitimate, value and authenticate scholarly work, to change the entire infrastructure of publication, presentation and pedagogy." If only there were genuine interest in doing this, as opposed to the thinly veiled, partisan perpetuation of the "one state, two state, red state, blue state" nonsense...

Anyhow, good stuff over yonder.

State of the Blogora Address

I don't know that I ever made the conscious decision to restrict my blogroll to the "one name, one blog" kind of list that it's turned out to be lately. Whatever the reason, it's kept me from throwing down a link to the Blogora, a cooperative effort from the Rhetoric Society of America, the CWRL at Texas, and Jim Aune, Diane Davis, and Rosa Eberly, an effort that's been taking place for the last month or so.

Anyhow, in honor of Webster's inclusion of "blog" in their next iteration (and in grand meta fashion, a decision which has been blogshausted over the last week), Rosa offers some "state of the Blogora" questions and reflections:

What's "a public blogspace for and about rhetoric and rhetoricians" supposed to be? What's it supposed to DO? How is and could The Blogora be different from other blogs? And how might The Blogora (need to) be the same?

For one, and despite its limitations, The Blogora is more collaborative and public than most blogs. At least that was our intent, despite the structural limitations of the best blogging software we could find.

I have my own feelings about the appropriateness of top-down sorts of designs in blogspace, but I'll let them fade while I respond to the second para here. My gut response to these claims is, of course, yes and no. (and yes, nes and yo.) The idea that any blog is more public than another strikes me as a category mistake, but Rosa goes on to suggest that

Many are autobiographical. Until recently, most blogs involved "expressive" and "personal" rather than "argumentative" or "deliberative" and "public" topoi and tropoi.

and while I think that this is dubious at best, I understand the point she's making. If I'm allowed to talk about the early days of blogging (despite not having been there myself), I'd argue that regularly updated lists of links are themselves implicit arguments (this has value), deliberative (you should visit), and public (this is worth sharing beyond myself). Check out Jill on links and power if you don't believe me, or reflect for a few minutes on just why comment/ping spammers are so damn persistent. This type of argument has more to do with network literacy, though, and ultimately combines the expressive and argumentative in ways that we're still coming to grips with.

Network literacy raises questions about collaboration as well, our model for which tends to be multiple authors and single texts. So is a weblog collaborative if there's more than one person posting there? Again, yes and no. Yes in the obvious ways, but "collaboration" in blogspace is more than that. For instance, I cannot send a trackback ping to Rosa's entry, much as I'd like to. I don't claim to have collaborated with her on the entry, but trackbacks enable a collaboration that's distributive; they encourage a conversational engagement that I take to be one of the most productive forms of collaboration, similar in kind perhaps to citation, but of a far more immediate degree. Or, to take another example, my blogroll is not perhaps a direct act of collaboration, but it provides a symptom of the influences on my own blogging, and in a way that's more immediate to me than saying I'm influenced by the work of Barthes or Burke. Implicitly or explicitly, these are the people with whom I collaborate in the production of knowledge (whether they like it or not--heh.). I was going to say that collaboration online is more than production or invention, that it's also distribution and circulation, but I'd tweak that slightly, saying instead that circulation becomes a form of production in blogspace.

I don't have any answers for the questions that Rosa asked, although I suppose that there are some implicit answers buried here, and probably not too far from the surface. One such is that there are some subtle ways that I'd re-ask those questions--at the least, I'd interrogate the questions a little bit more. To be fair, that's one of the things that I think Rosa is calling for--I don't mean to sound as critical here as I probably do. That is all.

December 1, 2004

(b)light at the end of the tunnel

Ten years from now, my professional biographer will look back at Nov. 30, 2004 as the day I took my first baby step back into the flow of the Writing Program, the first concrete sign of the impending conclusion to my sabbatical.

Okay, but I did actually spend the day at school yesterday, from about 11 to 6, give or take. My primary mission was to visit Steve's graduate course and to share a little of my tech-spertise with the students. That sounds much more top-down than I actually meant it to. They had read portions of The Geopolitics of Academic Discourse, and spent the first half of class talking about the implications of globalism for composition--I was the second-half attraction, responsible for the implications of technology.

I was more than a little scattered, I fear, but oh well. One of the things that I did talk about was something that I had thought about in a different form, an essay that Paul and I put together a while back on the role of technology in graduate programs. There, we argued that departments need to move away from making technology hires that become, in recent parlance, the programs' "tech support generation." The default position of too many departments, in our field at least, is that technology is presumed to be an area of coverage, and too many departments feel that their commitment to technology is fulfilled by the hiring of one or two people in that "area." One of our major claims was that the integration of technology necessitates moving from a model that locates responsibility for technology with the individual to one that treats it as a collective responsibility.

Yesterday, I came at this issue from the question (that I raised myself, but have heard time and again) of where individual instructors can possibly find the time outside of class to learn technologies and inside of class when they've already got so much to accomplish. For me, this question is a symptom of this individual/collective problem, one that manifests itself in a great deal of wasted time and energy for those of us who are proficient. Here's one example: each year, as part of preparing our students for the market, we hold a workshop for the candidates to work on their web presence--initially, that workshop was public, and inevitably, the only people who showed up were those who felt the individual urgency of getting pages up. That urgency has yet to trickle down to students who aren't on the market, however, nor am I especially optimistic that it will. The end result of this is that those of us who are capable of putting up sites end up repeating the process each year for a small group of individuals rather than initiating a process that the program itself might take up and maintain.

The answer to this problem is not that every one must know as much as I do about technology--that would be unrealistic and ultimately it would defeat the purpose of hiring me in the first place. But it's also not the optimal use of my skills and resources to expect me (and I'm speaking generically here and not of my program specifically) to focus solely on the basics, to exist in a constant state of evangelizing for each new group of students and faculty that enter the department. It is worth asking what a program's baseline expectations are, and asking further whether those expectations have changed in the past 5 years--if they haven't changed substantially, then something's wrong. Technology specialists commit themselves to a difficult task, which is made up of departmental support, personal innovation, and an obligation to track the conversations going on in the fields/industries related to technology. Too many departments hire technology specialists with only the first of these in mind, without thought about how neglecting the other two will ultimately affect his or her ability to provide the first. Individuals can't be responsible for an entire program's innovation; assuming that they can is a recipe for stagnation, pure and simple.

Back in the day, my first encounter with "instructional design" people was largely a bust. I told them: tell me what's possible and I'll design a course around the possibilities. They told me: tell me what you want to do, and we'll make it possible. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that both stances are important ones. I'm interested in finding the possibilities, and imagining what they might look like or how they might help us reconceive our roles as writing teachers. But there also needs to be a collective interest, one that isn't simply "tell me what to do" but actively takes an interest and pushes the specialist to seek out possibilities. But it can't just be a reaction to insititutional course outcomes or market expectations--reactions like those entrench the idea that technology is something that individuals take up rather than groups.

I don't really have a grand conclusion to all of this--it's just what I was thinking about. That is all.