Open Source Ecology

This morning I came across this short video on efforts by the Open Source Ecology initiative to develop prototypes for easy cast, easily assembled, low cost farming and building technologies, what they’re calling the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS). It connected with some of the things I’ve been thinking about for ENGL505: Rhetoric of Science and Technology this fall.

Global Village Construction Set in 2 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

How? First, we hear nowadays about everything “ecology.” And I have ideas about how “ecology” in many cases functions as a metonym for rhetorical action, which of course includes readily identifiable material qualities in the case of OSE. The video itself is not all that different from Marcin Jakubowski’s short TED Talk, and I haven’t spent much time going carefully over what’s posted at the site and wiki (wish there was an RSS feed or date stamps for their blog). But I can already see issues of modularity and scale foregrounded here, which, combined with the ideals of open source might be enough to return to this as a rich case for further consideration.

Pull the Plug?

A couple of months ago, D., Is., and I were out strolling around the streets of Syracuse, along Colvin Ave., in fact, huffing up the big hill.

“I think it’s time to cut the blog loose and set it out to sea, put an end to it,” I said.

I went on to explain why I was thinking this way, although today I can’t recall what were the reasons so clear to me at the time (realizing recently that “chicken” won as the Big Word of the Month at EWM in September was a sobering reminder of the conversation). This is just to say that merciful blogicide has crossed my mind. It’s not like the blogosphere of 2008 has half the pulse it did for me 2005 or 2006.

Wired’s Paul Boutin pressed a similar point today, suggesting in an article titled “Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004” that blogs are out of fashion, succumbing to some of the latest online developments:

Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

There’s some obvious polemic framing at play here, some baiting, some stick-poking, as if to imply, “Yo, bloggers, still at it?” To which I say, “Maybe.” And, “For now.”

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Muchiri, 1996, “Importing Composition”

Mary, et al. “Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing
Beyond North America.” On Writing Research: The Braddock Essays, 1975-1998.
Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 1999. 352-371.

Big Idea
     Four university composition instructors
collaborated on this article, "Importing Composition," to address the
global reach of research and prevalent assumptions disseminating from the capital centers of knowledge in the field.  Composition research often suffers a narrowed utility when it makes its way into the variously removed, distant contexts.  Muchiri’s group sets composition in the US against trends in English Language Teaching (ELT) abroad, where writing pedagogies are (almost always) combined with communication studies, where content reigns superior to personal narrative, where examinations hold greater assessment value than coursework, and where limited institutional resources make one-on-one mentoring and extensive essay-marking impractical. The project seeks to stir further conversations on these matters.  Other key issues are the political and institutional pressures proliferating a "dullness of correction and compliance"–the idea that students might not be willing to take risks because they fear failure or rebuke; Kenyan and Nigerian students often align into note-sharing groups whose solidarity is often seen as a form of resistance to the teacher’s authority; the field’s research map as a geography marked by "distant and powerful research centers"; and composition research’s assumption that students have multiple chances and plenty of time to move toward proficiencies.

Terms of Export

– primary language; L1 studies are language studies in one’s primary,
native language

English for Academic Purposes (EAP),
English for Specific Purposes (ESP)
– academic categories commonly
used to name departments responsible for teaching practical communications in
English aimed at mobilizing students’ progression toward advanced study
dependent on basic English literacy and "immediate needs."  

English Language Teaching (ELT)
– Unlike L1, ELT sets out to work with
students who come at English as a second, third or fourth language

(Kiswahili, pro-democracy movement),
(Kiswahili, crowbar),
(Kiswahili, missile),
(Economic Community of West African States)–vernacular terms shared
among students to name their systems of group resistance to institutional
forces.  Such resistance takes the form of note-sharing and
collaboration–collaboration that might be characterized as cheating in a
rigidly individualistic assessment system

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