Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Blog Face

I have often found students feeling stymied by the task of choosing a title for their essays. I’ve been there too. I often just get done writing this THING, this organic fusion of thoughts and experiences and facts and outside opinions, and now I have to name it? And not just any name, but something that both gives a fairly clear sense of the actual content of the essay and yet offers a hint of creativity or language play. It’s no wonder academics “cheat” by introducing a colon to the mix; thus, as McDonald’s two-sided Styrofoam McDLT containers kept “the hot side hot and the cool side cool,” the two-sided academic essay title can keep the creative side separate from the quasi-literal side.

Which is taking longer to decompose? The styrofoam containers or the McDLTs?

Similar to the agony of choosing a title (an agony bloggers are not free from), there can be much hand-wringing when choosing an appropriate image to represent your blog. Much like an essay title, this image “labels” the blog. It offers a specific visual to the reader that to some degree influences the tenor of the site. Most popular blogs simply have a logo that incorporates their blog title that serves this function as the blog’s image. We in the 109.02 class are not ready to create custom logos for our oh-so-many followers yet, as I assume that no one in the class is strong enough at HTML to introduce a comprehensive design change, replete with logo. What we can do is let a graphic do the representation for us.

My particular choice of clipart shows a young man, “The Genuine Drafter,” fretting in front of a chalkboard, who appears to be contemplating what he wrote and what he will be writing. I am quite happy with this image, as it captures in the face of the young man what I call “the sweet agony” of the writing act. I have considered changing the image because it looks as if the young man might be currently engaged in a math problem; however, at the picture’s size, all that can be made out for certain is that there is writing on the board, and, truly, the expression of the writer is what I most want my blog image to, ahem, express.

A rejected image. Consternation, yes. Sweet agony? Nuh uh.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coming this Fall on MTV: Real World Freshman Comp Class

This past autumn, I was fortunate to take part of an English course at The Ohio State University designed to offer experience and guidance in writing articles for professional journals. For the course, designed and taught by Dr. Cindy Selfe, we students were prompted to select a previously written (in some form) essay that we see as being a strong candidate for publication. We selected our work and the target journal and set about revising for the audience we now hand in mind. Additionally, we assumed the mantle of reviewers for the pieces that our clasmates wrote. The entire course was not only an opportunity to better understand the process of producing and re-producing (AND . . . re-producing) an article for a professional journal, it also gave "real-world" application (that is to say an actual audience and purpose) for the writing we were doing in the course.

This real-world application for freshman composition is often harder to achieve for many reasons. As graduate students with backgrounds in Rhetoric and Composition, we in Dr. Selfe's course shared a common discourse community that--despite our specializations and journal selections--kept genre from being an issue in peer review. Likewise, our experience with writing cannot be discounted. Finally, despite what we may believe, I would hazard a guess that most school administrators and department heads (even publicly vocal former heads) would argue that the writing in our classrooms should be designed to be applicable primarily for the writing done in other classrooms (and secondarily to keep T. Rex from symbolically destroying the fabric of the universe). That is to say, composition is first and foremost an instruction in academic literacy. And, in many senses, this class is no different.

However, by turning our attention to blogs while simultaneously writing many conventional schoolroom compositions, we in 109.02 may are trying to better acquaint ourselves with both the academic essay as genre and the blog as genre. A better understanding of both makes for a better understanding of either. At least, that's the hope.Like other classes that try to make such writing tasks more palatable, freedom of topic choice is key. Such is so for the blogs we write, and it is so for the outsider blogs we are expected to read and comment on each week.

Despite this freedom, I am fully aware that most students would not participate in reading blogs weekly (no matter the topic) and contributing comments unless a grade depended upon it. And depend upon it it does, so we will be participating in something quite artificial, even as we venture into the "real world" and comment upon the blogs of others. So the best I can hope for is that at some point during any given comment, the spirit of the conversation inhabits the writer, the 109.02 blogger, and she or he finds herself or himself posting comments of interest, out of the need to communicate, expressand further the conversation--even if the spirit grips for merely half a sentence.

Of course, I may be seller the 109.02 bloggers short. They've had some fun reads thus far.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It begins . . .

As we embark upon the coming semester of weekly blog posts, let us remember, 109.02 class and followers, that the writing and reading we will be doing online is indeed real writing and reading. It is not "less than" the writing that you will be expected to deliver in the form of essays, nor is it necessarily easier to convey messages and emotion. We will investigate how form and function is similar to most classroom writing and how it differs.

Ultimately, if I can be allowed a moment of cheerleading, I hope that these blogs serve to be sites of agency for you--places where you feel that you can express, analyze, synthesize, champion, and reject ideas without too much restriction (of course, with a concurrent awareness of an audience nonetheless). If much of the communication in our lives take the form of static or noise, let these blogs be distinct, proud voices that carry over the rabble. And let's have fun with them too.