Thursday, April 26, 2007

Going Public

The truth is, you have been in the public eye since your very first posts on your blogs. Nonetheless, while the public eye is ever-vigilant, the web is a mighty big landscape, and most visitors prefer returning to their favorite haunts. To truly appreciate the potential of the Internet as a communicative tool, to see how it allows for the expedient dispatch of information and how it fosters a deepening of discussion on important--and not-so-important--topics, one must wander.

The web, I believe, is a postmodern extrapolation of Kenneth Burke's Parlor, which suggests the omnipresent and interminable nature of conversation:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.

The Philosophy of Literary Form 110-111

Your blogs won't be the be-all, end-all on your subjects; hopefully, they will be just the opposite, serving to perpetuate and instigate discussion about nursing, crew, stress.

To some extent, you have already been out ramblin' in the Burkean Parlor by commenting on each others' blogs and seeking out others who are writing blogs similar to your own. And by writing your responses to these strangers' entries and posting the responses in your own blogs, you are advancing the dialogue even further. But thus far, it has been a controlled experiment. Now you will be inviting strangers to visit your blogs by posting comments and links to their blogs. You will also be receiving more and more comments from people you don't know, as I send the word around to more people to check you out.

I'd also like you to add your blog to the directory at by following this link, signing up for an account, and claiming your blog. You're welcome to spread the word at the other sites I listed last week, but this is the only site I will require that you to sign up with. As we interact with people beyond the classroom, let's pay attention to how this new sense of audience affects our composition. I say "we" because I'm already registered at Technorati.

Off we go, into the wild web yonder . . .

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In an Instant . . .

I have been exhorting an active effort from you to be graphic in your writing--by showing and not just telling events, experiences, feelings--in order to give your readers a vivid picture, to pull them into your mind as you recall the narrative. However, there are events that we may not necessarily wish to be shown explicitly, yet we feel too compelled to pull away. Such is the case of many of the major tragedies of our lifetimes, including the horrible shootings this past Monday at Virginia Tech University. If you are like me, when confronted by the news of such an awful occurrence, you simultaneously want to know everything and wish you had never heard about it in the first place. You wish to turn away from the reports of terror, and yet you cannot, as you are prodded by a overwhelming desire to make sense of the situation.

In the age of instant news updates, when nearly everyone has the capability to be a reporter, it is even harder to detach from the news and easier to virtually be "shown." Much has already been made about the impact of student blogging, like those sent to the college newspaper site, which offered instantaneous first-hand accounts of the horror of the shootings. These blogs, and those written immediately in the aftermath, have been used as primary sources by news outlets nationwide. And it's not just the blogs. People can glimpse--if you wish; these items may be too graphic or simply just to "real" for some--both an instant message conversation between a Virginia Tech student (who was trapped in a classroom the gunman entered) and his brother and also footage taken by a student's cellular phone (in which multiple shots can be heard). The immediacy of these media-- cell phones, blog, instant messaging--along with the fact that nearly everyone has access to them, speeds up the news and perhaps even democratizes it. We will discuss over the ensuing weeks whether this is ultimately a positive change in how we receive information or if the downsides (like the quick scouring of blogs kept by Virginia Tech students leading to some people to accuse Wayne Chiang of being the shooter based on circumstantial evidence) ultimately outweigh the benefits.

And maybe through the discussion, we can make a little more sense of this mess.

UPDATE (4/26/07): A student in Canada was arrested for remarks he made in his blog regarding the Virginia Tech shootings and threats he made to schoolmates. Apparently, police felt there was the potential of Joshua Bryn Bauman committing copycat murders. Another dimension of blogging: the semi-anonymity can lead to private discussion becoming very, very public.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Linkin', Linkin', I've Been Thinkin' . . .

Hello all. Week three already! Time whooshes, swoops, and soars when you teach on the quarter system. I imagine it may feel a tad different to those of you who are getting graded and not giving grades, but I trust there will be some point in the quarter when you wish you could manufacture a few extra hours or so. Of course, sooner or later, we all run out of time.

But while we're all here, I'd like to offer you some suggestions on how to spend a handful of your preciously finite minutes. Specifically, I want to tell you what I'd like you to do to your blogs. I want you to make the blogs more resourceful by adding a list of links or two. First, I'd like you to add a list of links to your classmates' (and my) blogs, like I have in the left sidebar of Genuine Drafting.

In order to do so, you need to click on the "Template" tab at the top of the page, then click on "Add a Page Element" on the template sidebar or bottom. I recommend you add the link list to the sidebar, as fewer people scroll at the way to a blog's bottom. Then choose "Add to Blog" for the Link List option. Title the List "109.02 Class blogs," copy and paste the URLs and blog titles from my list, and you are on your way!

Additionally, I'd like to see you add a list of blogs written by people not in our class. In order to do so, you will need to find jobs with a similar (it does not necessarily have to be the same) theme to yours and link to it. Use Google Blog Search, Technorati,, Blog Search Engine,,,, or other blog search engines to find blogs about like topics.

And when you visit these sites, feel free to peruse what others are saying about your subject!

Friday, April 6, 2007

With Great Blogging Comes Great Responsibility

One of the notions that I tend to emphasize in composition classes is that of the responsible responder—that is, I encourage my students (and constantly remind myself) to practice at being critically engaged with texts that they confront. These texts go beyond the mere printed word; we must train ourselves to be critical readers of television, radio, advertisements, gestures, social events—anything that can be analyzed and interpreted. We must constantly flex these muscles in our brain, lest they become weak and flabby.

Blogging, I believe, offers us a wonderful opportunity to work on the skills we need to cultivate to become responsible responders. This is not to say that all people who blog do so with a critical eye toward outside stimuli (blogs can become purely narcissistic smatterings); however, many bloggers are writing in direct response to news items, cultural artifacts, or other people’s online journals. Not only do these writers continually engage in the critical assessment of texts, but the nature of the medium makes it easier for their readers to do so as well.

By linking to the texts they are discussing, bloggers give their readers immediate access to those texts. This accessibility encourages readers to be more critical (or, at least, to offer better critiques) of the author’s interpretation of the texts he is discussing. We are more willing to take the word of the author of a printed article at face value, simply because, if we are not already familiar with the text (news item, cultural artifact, resource used for support), we are less likely to take the effort to research it ourselves. With instant access to the texts (even video) on the Internet, readers can instantly evaluate if the author’s analysis in one they agree with.

So get on out there and surf, read, write, link: begin responding responsibly!