Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Whose/What/Why is Identity /Are We Talking About?/Is it?/Important?

Alrighty then, Identity is contested. After all the readings about identity and technology, I confess to some identity-fatigue, but overall I was struck that not many authors even tried to define “identity,” as Helen Kennedy mentions. But alas, Kennedy only calls for more research on what it might mean to have a whole or fragmented identity.

I think Kennedy mentions Stuart Hall, and he certainly has discussed the meaning of identity as tied to culture and a host of social mechanisms. I don’t know what cutting edge is when it comes to identity and the Internet, but James Gee’s take on risk-taking and identity role-playing etc. would probably seen by Kennedy as falling short of interrogating the notion of anonymity as useful or even possible (still, her academic identity is not stable, she could’ve changed her mind?).

As for the her@ study sample Kennedy examines, I was a bit perplexed by her assessment of the homepages she examines. The personal pages featured images and collections from their lives, but I’m not sure why these seemed especially expressive of identity disclosure. I realize Kennedy is testing the claims of anonymity as a staple feature of internet social forums, and she acknowledges the different nature of homepages that invite images, links, and such, that can reveal much about the authors, but would she view white mainstream pages with the same features as “outing” one’s racial identity as she does with those of the women of color? Whose identity are we talking about here?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pointing out the gendered electronic environment, this week’s readings emphasize the power of technology to heighten and possibly mitigate existing ideologies and cultural binaries. Laura Sullivan’s “Cyberbabes” reviews influential feminist theories that explore and reveal the objectification of the female image and websites that invite men (and women) to participate in this process. Her own experience with the “long hair” website demonstrates that the social construction of gendered identities and roles continues unabated if not assisted by the internet, which should come as no surprise, but the details of appropriating images opened my eyes to the different e-encounters gender enjoins. The gender gap is not only in the number of users, but in the different way that men and women use and are used by the Internet. The “gap” is still there (check out this Pew Study from 2005 ), but it continues to be viewed as a numbers contest and not a description of systemically enforced gender identities as such.

I was moved by Sullivan’s desire to communicate with her male audience, in spite of the difficulties and frustrations, and I found her conclusions about the need to contextualize “a materialist view of technology” in the classroom compelling. Helping students to realize the potential pitfalls of identity formation can offer a platform to discuss long-standing and newly emerging sexism on the Web.

Hawisher and Sullivan propose that maybe with more women internet users, the nature of the Web can change, but it does not seem to be case. The Web, like the universe, expands outward, so this means sexism and counter-sexism will exists side by side. New liberatory (Check this Women's Resource's page out) and sexism as usual will proliferate, but unfortunately, I don't see the kind of reaching out and changing from the inside that Laura Sullivan seems to point to.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sycrhonous Chat: Babel In Burke's Barnyard of Human Noises

"The Rhetoric must lead us through the Scramble, the Wrangle of the Market Place, the flurries and flare-ups of the Human Barnyard, the Give and Take, the wavering line of pressure and counterpressure, the Logomachy, the onus of ownership, the Wars of Nerves, the War. It too has its peaceful moments: at times its endless competition can add up to the transcending of itself . . . Rhetoric is concerned with the state of Babel after the Fall" (23) K. Burke Rhetoric of Motives

Our class chat shows seems to touch on the this "Babel after the Fall," in which all of our collective voices touched off a set of actions and reactions that quite often take the form of "pressure and counterpressure,' even as some of us sought some transcending benefit, the momentum of personal fractious concerns and barnyard yelps remained a persistent feature.

Did our experiment prove anything about Synchronous Chats? I suppose there are some items worth considering, especially in light of some of the studies I've asked us to review for this next debriefing session. First, I don't thing we are a representative sample, and our experiment was clearly not graded for performance--this influenced the outcome no doubt. Our familiarity with each other no doubt changed the course of this discussion. I don't see a typical class beginning their chats like this, but they may end up there once people feel free to pull each other's chains.

One thing seems likely, at least with respect to our class: The even if the purpose of a chat is clearly outlined and prompted there is still no guarantee that all participants will adhere ground rules or to stick to topic issues only. It also seems likely that any chat is apt to succumb to the lowest common denominator (no offense to anybody, really). If enough participants do not want to stay "on topic" the rest of the class can only "yelp" in response or give in.

What it did seem to do was either loosen-up or wind-up participants, sometimes both in the same session.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Life in the Sirc-us or

Sirc MMM-Venting Conventional Texts

I’ve always wanted to write something like the Rhetoric of Rock-n-Roll, or make some concert t-shirts with images of cartoon heroic ancient toga-wearing guitar-toting heavies, a civic battle of the bands, if you will.
I survived the “Revenge of the Rhetors Greek City-State Known World Tour 338!” and all I got was this lousy pedagogical attitude about what constitutes good writing . . . I mean this lousy t-shirt. Whooooo! “Free bird” “Free bird” Free bird”

O.K. well, this is what happens when I see Geoffrey Sirc use lyrics from REM to make a point about revolutionizing what teachers do when they talk about composition. For Sirc the artistic effrontery of works of Marcel Duchamp offers:
“Modernism-in-general: self-definitions when the definitions are endless, disciplinary critique as anti-discipline, and composition as a catalogue of the ideas that grow from such work. Duchamp wanted to evolve a new language, a new aesthetics, a new physics, dissolving the conventions that would inhibit such a realization” (183).

Sirc locates hypertext and new writing technologies to the plastic arts, because they are so easy to lift, reconstitute, and all without the effort of finding one’s voice or following a model text. It means that taking a urinal and putting a mustache on it makes a statement that is both artistic and anti-artistic, because it provokingly subverts the notion of conventional aesthetics as the only game in town. The critics and three-headed dogs of the Art World told Duchamp to take his art and go home, you can’t play if you don’t observe the rules. Who cares if people ate it up---he got so hot you can’t even piss in his urinal anymore—because now its is

Sirc would trade Bartholomae’s notion of the ideal text students must strive to achieve in the voice of their disciplinary communities and Bizzel’s contact zone for William Burroughs’ “Interzone” (192). “You can cut into Naked Lunch at any intersection point . . . Naked Lunch is a blueprint, a How-To-Book” Burroughs says of his stream-of-tonic-consciousness style. I decided to try it:
“Panorama of the City of Interzone. Opening bars of East St. Louis Toodleoo . . . at times loud and clear then faint and intermittent like the music down a windy street . . The room seems to shake with vibrate with motion . . . Migrations, incredible journeys through deserts and jungles and mountains (stasis and death in closed mountain valleys where plants grow out of genitals, vast crustaceans hatch inside the break the shell of body) across the Pacific in an outrigger canoe to Easter Island. The Composite City where all human potentials are spread out in a vast silent market” (Lunch 96).

Make sense now? Sirc says “over-specification, hyper-pedantry” (203) keeps the kids/and us down (gotta cite the pages George) and wants “composition to be seen as writing-at-large . . . let our default setting be the document, rich text format” (202). Alright, but this sounds a lot like a USA Network/Hallmark/Lifetime movie of a creepy commune where no one knows whose fucking who, but nobody understands or cares because they are so far out man, until the craziest one of um all takes things a bit too far. People will then take their stuff and go home, because we need some rules, otherwise it's just too groovy for real people with real lives.

What would George and Wysocki and Shipka say:
I know, but Sirc, “we all want to change the whir r-u-ld” Beatles