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Why I haughtta...

I must confess that, since I saw the following WPA-L post lovingly linked on Jeff's page, it's been a coin flip all morning for me. Do I let it slide or risk putting off other visitors with my haughty tone?

Thanks, Glenn, for the link [to yesterday's post]. I'm really glad to see our discussion picked up by people interested in but outside our community. The haughty tone is offputting but the perspective is valuable.

I think there are two issues here that we have not attended to sufficiently: Just what kinds of technology learning we are prepared to take public responsibility for, and how we are to deal with that responsibility under current circumstances? That is, we must resist merging what students should be able to do with technology with what we can accomplish in fyc. [snip]

I must similarly confess that my first impulse was to send Ed White, whose comments these are, an email asking him to open to the first page of the latest CCC and scan down the first column to the bottom, where he might find some small piece of evidence as to whether or not I deserve to have the last 16 years of my life, 9 of them as a university professor, so casually dismissed as "outside our community." Tempting, tempting.

But instead, allow me to offer a second quote, or rather, a pair:

The arts and letters have not yet outgrown the antipathy to industrial enterprise, the world of stuff, left over from their nineteenth-century delusions of a static, rural, earthly paradise. The world of affairs is still pretty much the enemy. But the arts and letters, in an attention economy, constitute the world of affairs. For those of us who teach in the humanities, that enemy is now us. (14-15)

Information does not come in simple neutral boxes and its distribution is a more complex matter altogether. We need a more capacious conception of human communication, one that can accommodate the full range of human purpose. (para) All the more do we need it because the digital computer has created a new expressive space. The screen works differently from the page. (20-21)

These are both from Richard Lanham's new book, The Economics of Attention (Amazon), and it was interesting to me to read him arguing for the same kind of inventive, networky, rhetorical approach to the study of technology that Jeff does. We're coming up on 15 years since Lanham blasted the instrumentalist Weak Defense approach to rhetoric, and in that time, it's eaten away at me on a regular basis to watch people in "our community" take the very approach that Lanham decries, only to technology.

It boils down to this for me: if you honestly don't get that what we're talking about is more than simply material access, more than empty gestures towards the watchwords of the University of Excellence, and more than "stuff" that will somehow interfere with writing instruction, well, then I'm not sure I feel all that upset by your lack of recognition.

That is all.


Go, Collin! Go Collin!
*dancing that little what is it called mashing potato or whatever dance*

I've been offline on vacation for a few weeks so I'm coming to this discussion a bit late, but I have to say bravo! I was totally underwhelmed when I read the OS. To me it also smacked of C&W literature circa 1980-1995 or so. Yikes! Shouldn't an OS push institutions rather than validate their *often* lackadaisical approach to technology in the humanities?

Rock on, brother!

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