Monday, March 15, 2004

On Ramps, Fences and Proctors

Heavy eyes and not a lot of time to post tonight.  So here are a few things I'm reading alongside each other to round out (balloonishly round!) my prep for tomorrow morning's EN106 class session:

Mark Federman's essay, "The Cultural Paradox of the Global Village" (PDF) from the McLuhan Studies program at Toronto.  I want to talk about the wheelbarrow anecdote as a like conveyance of Postman's "Invisible Technologies" pitch in c. 8 of Technopoly.  Postman's chapter is all about the bent information of statistics and poll data.  I'm mildly concerned that I'll have to jitterbug through the end section on management and systematized technique--as Postman calls it.  It's a tough concept, and even though I'm rerereading it, it's more of a puzzler than some of the other stuff.  Perhaps that's precisely where we should begin.  Here's a snippet of the wheelbarrow story from Federman:

There's a cute story about a man who, during wartime, would come to the country's border with a wheelbarrow full of dirt. The border guard looked at the man's papers and all was in order for him to cross. But the guard was certain the man was smuggling some sort of contraband in the wheelbarrow. So the guard took a shovel, poked around in the dirt, but found nothing. The man was allowed to cross.

The next week, the man once again comes to the border with a wheelbarrow full of dirt. Again, the border guard found that the papers were in order and dug through the dirt, but still found nothing. And again, the man was allowed to cross. Week after week, it was the same story: Man approaches the border with wheelbarrow full of dirt. Guard finds nothing of interest and the man crosses. At the end of the war, the guard sees the man and asks him: "Look, I know you were smuggling something across the border, but I could never find a thing hidden in the dirt. What were you smuggling all those years?" The man answered: "Wheelbarrows."

And then (like so many fence posts thinly wired and roughly in a row) this from CNN via Scripting News: "Welcome to the 'new' Web, same as the 'old' Web."  We're going to use it as a way to talk about web quests and exploratory exertion.  Is RSS spoiling us?  Complacency, so on.  The CNN article returns to the info superhighway model to suggest that RSS feeds will serve as a different kind of "on-ramp."  But I know when I lived in Detroit I generally had to accelerate on the on-ramp, despite the caution signs, because my survival in that context of pace and flow (I-696 W from Gratiot, 7 a.m. Monday morning) depended on it.  Conversely, in KC, yield signs are, well, like stop signs.  They actually mediate the traffic; in fact, it's quite common to see someone stopped on the on-ramp.  In brief, there's plenty of variation in on-ramping; probably always will be.  Not to mention the contraption whose pedal you're mashing: Yugo or Caddy, dial-up or Ether, on-ramping might have less to do with the ambitions of the driver than the technical machinery making it possible.

Speaking of fence posts, this bit from National Geographic News explains what Max, our ancient Yorkshire Terrier, has been failing to do on his trips to the yard for all these years.  Why a failure?  Well, for one, we still have the Christmas black cat hanging around the back porch.  My only question for Max, which he won't hear because he tends to be tonally numb or, at the very least, indifferent, is: fencing in or fencing out?

And I have a student this term--the online term that started today--in HU211 who is on assignment in Uzbekistan.  She slid me an email today asking who she should use for a proctor (on the final exam) in Uzbekistan.  It's an intro to humanities course.  Can't anyone proctor the exam?  *Looking at the ceiling*  I replied that I'd think about it, then flicked up a red flag in Outlook so I don't forget. 

Bookmark and Share Posted by at March 15, 2004 10:57 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking