Friday, April 28, 2006

Next: Disciplinary Facebook

I'm intrigued by the Facebook's expansion beyond colleges, as reported here (via). Like any social networking app, the euphoria surrounding it is offset (too often in extremes) by abuses, missteps, skepticism, and lags in the adaptation of institutional policies to respond to the activity at the site. Yet recent shift--ten corporations signing on--gets at the spreading recognition of the value of social networking apps beyond mere friend-making, beyond "poking" strangers as a casual gesture of interest. Prepared to engage social networking as something more than trivial?

I'll watch with interest as more reactions to the latest expansion crop up. And those reactions will vary, of course, from jeering to the more serious. The announcement brings me all the way back to the earliest announcements of the Facebook in 2004. If they're expanding to workplaces, maybe it won't be long before leadership in the discipline starts weighing the possibilities of the Facebook for an entire field, such as composition and rhetoric. Granted, it wouldn't be perfect, but the way I see it, it'd be a marked improvement on the existing means for building and locating profiles, tracing interests through those who've written on such things, and so on. Imagine a use of Facebook with a professional orientation whereby disciplinary bibliographies, institutional affiliations (and histories), and linked tags for research and interests. I know it's a wild, data-based fantasy, and it would require us to see Facebook as more than forum for delinquency, but here's hoping. What, maybe five or ten years from now?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I'm not thinking of buying a house, but if was, I'd refer to, a site layered with maps, orthophoto aerial images, residential housing data and tax-assessed valuations. I delivered my final "mini-briefing" of the semester in GEO781 yesterday, touted Zillow's finer points. I find it interesting because it aspires to aggregate the cadastre data from multiple municipalities in a single database while tying into Navteq maps (like Google) and GlobeXplorer aerials and the impressive bird's-eye views from Most of the description and assessment data is available for specific cities and counties, but it's often listed in a table without dynamic mapping interfaces to make reading across multiple properties efficient or easy. We should expect Zillow to expand, too, because it's growing the information side of the real estate market; the bird's-eye stuff was added just two weeks ago. And ultimately, for me, therein lies the treat of the site. The cadastre data is fine (even if it's not searchable by the owner's name like it is at many city/county web sites), but the twin-view of the maps/photos/hybrids and the bird's-eye views of properties are nice to look at. And the two frames are synched; click-n-drag action in one frame has the same effect in the adjacent frame. The same applies to directional rotation. Bird's-eye from the east? Select it and the same turn happens in the map view. The compass-dial in the upper left is smooth, too. It's not limited to four or eight directions like so many others.

Market comparisons for recent home sales aren't yet available in CNY, and when I checked them out for our former house in KC, the comps were negligible. I suspect it to be a condition of a project in its infancy. Someone in class yesterday said Zillow will spell the end of the real estate agent. Maybe. What good is an agent when you have agency? Or zagency. That's the other thing. runs the risk of going wild with the reasoning that goes "people remember z-words" (they say their favorite letter is z). Where market-data supports it (tracking county-wide trends in sales), offers what they've coined as a "zestimate." A happy collision of zest+estimate? There's also a trade-marked "Zestimator." Here's hoping there's not too much more of ZatTM. Still, the interface design and mapping uses are cool.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Unitization Reports

On a break from writing end-of-semester papers for CCR651 and GEO781, I thought I'd shock each of them into a list of noun and noun phrases by applying the same methods we've strung together for CCC Online. Et voila! The lists aren't meaningful in quite the way a sentence-long summary would be.  Yet that's the point.  They're differently meaningful, suggestive.  Maybe even generative if I can trace through some of the terminal knots tomorrow.

CCR651 (~14 pp.): Syracuse 25, material 23, place 23, destiny 22, city 19, Marback 19, work 18, making 17, Cushman 16, project 15, place making 14, U.S.A. 14, site 12, ways 11, Afrofuturism 9, future 9, mall 9, question 9, cityscape 8, essay 8, issues 8, spectacle 8, conditions 7, Destiny U.S.A. 7, people 7

GEO781 (~16 pp.): writing 49, composition 35, literacy 24, applications 23, studies 23, cybercartography 22, students 21, composition studies 19, online 19, mapping 17, activity 15, new 14, technologies 14, map 13, media 13, work 13, site 12, computer 11, 11, 11, space 11, unit 11, course 10, integration 10, spaces 10

Most of what's here is recognizable and unsurprising to me.  But I wonder what's going on with "work," "ways," and "unit."  Those stick out as drab-emes. But I can snift those out with a quick search.  I still have to tack a conclusion on each of the papers and brush back over them with an eye for concise wording.  The general structures are adequate (the 781 paper had a tight outline and I obliged most of it).  The 651 piece needs to get up to 15 pp.  The 781 paper can't go above 20 pp., and I still need to add a few more quotations, three screenshots, footnotes, and a conclusion that's going to take at least 300-400 words.  Plus, I need to have the 781 paper in eight-page presentable form for a week from Tuesday, so I'll have to back a thinned version out from the longer one, smooth transitions, etc.

There's a third project in the works, too, mostly flitting around among the neural bounceways upstairs.  I still have about three weeks to get it into ship shape, and now that the semestral reading list is dwindling there ought to be more room for pressing ahead with this last one.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


SU Quad

The SU Quad on my walk to campus for class this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The upcoming issue of The New Yorker includes an article first released yesterday to the magazine's web site.  "Getting There: The science of driving directions," offers a sharp-right overview of evolving navigational technologies, running from Rand McNally paper maps to their updated on-dash equivalents.  A brief history of automobile navigation gets a few column inches, too; both the "Jones Live-Map" and the "Photo-Auto Guide" were early twentieth century contrivances for first-person (um, first-vehicle?) navigating.  Though it's only briefly mentioned and mixed in with a bunch of other fun, interesting details, one proposition is that we're seeing a resurgence in egocentric navigational devices with various mobile gadgets.

Ground-truthing comes up in the mid-section of the piece.  I'm sure this is common parlance for geographers, but ground-truthing is basically a validation process--driving the map to confirm its correspondence to the real (locating attributes, checking them off, tracking the new, etc.).  It gets at the correspondence between places and their abstractions, whether digitally coded or paper based.  And so ground-truthers, working for geographic outfits such as Navtek, free-drive the urbanscapes noting signs of discord.

Seeing the road through the eyes of a ground-truther made it seem a thicket of signage--commands and designations vying for attention, like a nightmare you might have after a day of studying for a driving exam. Once you start looking for attributes, you spot them everywhere.

And there are also a few sweet moments of meta-:

A map is a piece of art. It is also a form of language--a rendering of information. A good map can occupy the eye and the mind longer than almost any other single page of data, including Scripture, poetry, sheet music, and baseball box scores. A map contains multitudes.

Read the rest of it if any of this sounds good. I stole a few minutes this morning to do just that, and I was glad for it.  Next, in GEO781 we looked at Moretti's chapter on maps.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but everyone was really taken by his project (even the physical geographers in the group!).  We tangled with wide range of issues related to place-name stability, databases and automation of mapping textual data, transmedia and fictional maps (re Lord of the Rings, mainly), and Moretti's distinction between geography (locative logics) and geometry (relational/directional logics).  One question got at whether Graphs, Maps, Trees is being thought over by folks beyond the humanities. And one of the most salient suggestions was for the book to be reviewed for a geography journal toward broader and cross-disciplinary conversations/projects emerging from his work.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bob Barkerization of Mutts

Tony - Back Porch

I'm not sure what the cause is or who is to blame, but I'm finding it distressingly difficult to find a good dog these days. We're generally in agreement that, should we stumble across the right dog, we're ready to take one on. But there are no mutts to be found, and I have a proclivity for mutts, a fondness for cheap, smart dogs. The pet store at the mall has tempted me with a $900 "AKC registered" pug (it was looking straight at me). But I can't justify plunking down that kind of cash on a store-weaned pup. No way.

I've been to and searched through all of the suitable breeds: pugs and cairn terriers top the list (medium-small, quiet and with attitude/personality). Sifted through the Post-Standard classifieds a few times. Haven't found much. Owners/breeders live too far away (Pennsylvania, New Jersey), or they still want a big chunk of cash because their dogs are pure. And then there's a local agency that places animals in "good" homes, but the screening process is so rigorous that I haven't had time. I'm all for pet rescue, but they want to inspect your property. They want a narrative report on all the pets you've owned and what became of them. They want the name and number of our landlord (who has approved this decision, tyvm). They want evidence that you can fill a water bowl and clean an oopsey without swearing. And so on. The entire system seems constrained, bureaucratized. Don't get me wrong. I understand the solid reasons these filters and protections have come to be standard. But it's so much different than I remember it twenty years ago. [In the picture: Tony, one of the best dogs ever. Price: five bucks at the Isabella County pound in 1989.]

I suppose some of those differences result from urban controls versus a rural lack when it comes to being uptight about free-range animals. Few free-roaming domestic animals in the parts of Syracuse we've lived in. A couple of aimless cats stroll about but few unclaimed dogs. I suppose the same was true in rural lower Michigan twenty years ago. There we could always find a dog. The Sunday paper was loaded with ads. Just place a few calls, drive around to a few houses, and come home with a new dog. It was easy. At least I remember it that way.

I'm sure we'll find a dog eventually, and if luck is on our side, it'll be the right one, a good one--healthy, smart, even-tempered, friendly, trainable, loyal. But I'm still feeling uneasy about the outlook for finding a mutt around Syracuse. There just don't seem to be many. If you hear of one or have other ideas, let me know.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chairs Enough

Write Room

Strangely enough, I've been writing in the Florida room lately. I'd never heard of a Fla. room until my brother and his family threw down a mortgage on a place in East Detroit ten years ago. The house had a glass-enclosed room on the south end of the house. High sun exposure. A soft urban breeze. They called it a Florida room. And that was that. I stayed in that room when I visited on the weekends away from Saginaw.

Now, in the place we've called home since November, we have a comparable room. Lately it has been warm enough to set up a makeshift workspace in t/here, and over the last few days, it's been not-too-hard-not-too-soft writing environ of goodly inspiration. I've never before been conscious of an oversensitivity to writing spaces. Thought I was above it, immune, able to write here, there, anywhere, in other words, no matter the circumstances. But whereas the official office and living room (both adequate for working, with decent furniture, lighting, etc.) have been fine for reading lately, they're traps for writing. Snares! I don't want to overemphasize the consequences of space for what I perceived to be a brief and now-passing writing rut--a moment of dread at the immanence of semester's end. Might've been the full moon for all I know. But a change of scene has done something; I've vacated the stifling writing sites, replacing them with this one: an over-sunshined porch with a card table and enough folding chairs to host a small party. Headphones leveled up with entrancing techno loops from I hope not to jinx myself by saying it, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the difference brought on by simply changing scenes.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Egg and Cap

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Well yes, I suppose it could be perceived to be a grim preview depending on which side of the gape you call home. Oh, workpile!

I'm naming it Pit(h): An Inspiration for the Away-slipping Semestrocity. Aided and abetted by this (via). Mid-May, one small bound away. Thirty hyperworkadelic frenzies until then.

Saturday, April 8, 2006


Reading from Technicolor yesterday (for 651), I ran across this bit on Juan Atkins, producer with Cybotron and key figure in the emerging techno scene in the early 1980s. From an essay by Ben Williams called "Black Street Technology: Detroit Techno and the Information Age":

Davies and Atkins had met in a "future studies" class at Washtenaw Community College in Ypsilanti, which Atkins attended in order to study data processing after reading a Giorgio Moroder album sleeve that describe d the sequencers the Italian producer had used to create his metronomic disco epics. After realizing he didn't need to be able to program computers to use electronic instruments, Atkins dropped the course, but not before encountering the work of Alvin Toffler. In his book The Third Wave, Toffler articulated America's impending transition to a postindustrial, high-tech economy in a distinctly utopian manner; in the process, he also popularized many of the most enduring myths of what is now known as "the new economy." (157)

What holds me about this is the matter of school's temporal economy: timing. Atkins read Toffler and only later on, according to Williams, does Atkins acknowledge a tinge of influence, a generalized impression he felt when he recognized the second wave machinations of Detroit's three-shifts-per-day labor cycles and Toffler's foresight. This is not to say Atkins wasn't influenced by Toffler immediately in the WCC classroom. But I think it's reasonable to imagine that the influence was different later on, that it wasn't constant. Perhaps such things as memory, learning and uptake never level, never stabilize. More about school time: The temporal orthodoxies of the academy persist despite composition's post-process crisis (had the po-pro era dissipated so soon?). As our own processual-temporal enigmas grind against the larger clock's slots, especially at this time of the semester, I'm reminded about the burden of the institution's march, the academy's variation on the five o'clock whistle. My slow or fast doesn't matter; it's un-self-regulated many times and instead, differed or shifted.

But more than my own pace and workload, the excerpt from Williams reminded me of how this works for other students, FYC students let's say, particularly at evaluation time. Formal evaluations turn up on the institution's timer, always inviting critique only at the terminal moment, the semester's end. Why should this point in time be the most lucid for reflection and valuation of experience? Efficiency. I can't argue with that (presence is a precondition for filling in the encumbered spaces with no. 2 leaded pencils). But, as with Atkins, tinges of influence often aren't realized until later on. Learning, of course, is both an now-effect and an after-effect; it's a during, an after, and an after after. But the temporal economies of schools can't tolerate open futures; sure, just try to get alumni to fill out a questionnaire. This is not surprising nor is it particularly insightful.

Before CCCC, I sent a WRT302 promo email to former students chosen from the 80 I've had in class at Syracuse in these two years. Sign up for Digital Writing in the fall, I insisted. Just checked enrollments, and four lucky somebodies have registered. One student responded to say he regretted that he wouldn't be able to take the course. He was an early admit to law school, starting in the fall. But he went on to say how taken he'd become with network studies, the loose theme of a research writing course I taught a year ago. He expressed gratitude and acknowledged that he didn't much appreciate the fullness of our study at the time (now, his project: network studies to understand political conceptions of unity). Heh, perhaps I didn't either. Again, time. A semester ends and only later, perhaps many months or years later, we realize that we were getting somewhere. And though it eludes the formal institutional recognition, it's reassuring when the echoes of a few good moments long-ago taught turn up--unabated by the arrhythmia of school time.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Geek Boots

If I had a pair of kicks like these, I might even try going for a jog tomorrow morning because then I could work on a seminar paper just by clickety-clacking through the neighborhood.

They took first place in the sports category and sixth overall for design at the China International Clothing & Accessories Fair (via). In stores soon, I hope. Maybe even in time for my b-day.

Had to chuckle (okay, more like a nerdy snort), too, at the idea of connecting these up with J.'s "composing on foot" piece from CCCC.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

On Notice

Notice! Things the final month of coursework (EVER) will compel a body do to:

I signed up for a Snubster account after reading about it in Wired News. Antisocial Software, a place for crabasses and cranks. Down with the network! You basically get to enter the names of things and give them a full-over ranting. Also you can designate the objects of critique as "on notice" or "dead to me," followed by hyperbolic explanations. Others who feel compelled to bitch and moan about the same things might designate you as a contact with thoughtful messages (i.e. "Piss off. I didn't want you as a contact anyway."). For my first entry, coursework's on notice. Yeah, that's right.  Namby-pamby coursework. Just the thing I needed to snub so I could restore a happy grin to my Wednesday. ;)

You can try to resist, but I don't know how.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Diversity Writing

Marzluf, Phillip P. "Diversity Writing: Natural Languages, Authentic Voices." CCC 57.3 (2006): 503-522.

Later today our grad group (CCRGC) is engaging Marzluf's recent CCC essay in conversation for an hour. We developed the grad group at the beginning of the semester as a supplement to what's already a solid lineup of colloquia. Why? Primarily so we could invite faculty for focused discussions and devise our own brief sessions around common concerns (CV workshops, conference proposal collaboration, practicing talking about our work, reading stuff outside of coursework, etc.).

I'm short on time and really should be writing toward the three (better conceived as 1+1+1 or .1+.1+.1+.1...tiny installments) seminar papers whose terminal buzzers go off at the end of the month or thereabouts, but I wanted to get down a few notes about issues I'd like us to take up during today's session. First, Marzluf's article works like this:

After opening with a brief account of what he means by diversity writing, Marzluf sketches a brief history of Natural Language Theory (oral language is purer than written; generally favors rationalism). In the third section of the essay he critiques expressivist commitments to the authentic voices of students, commitments Marzluf contends too easily lead to a salvationist ethic, embracing a student's "natural" vernacular at the expense of more self-detached models of rational (i.e. serious) academic discourse. Failed writing, Marzluf argues, paraphrasing Elbow, results "when writers falsify their voices" (513), and diversity writing can lead to such falsifications if teachers over-correlate student identity and demonstrations of authenticity through writing in the vernacular. Marzluf levels a strong critique of the salvationist proclivities that too easily align with diversity writing, including uneven valuations of authenticity in voice (505). He writes,

My goal in this article has been to reject a salvationist tendency in diversity-writing scholarship, one that attempts to save, affirm or legitimate students. Though diversity writing should provide students a comfortable space for interrogating difference, it need not force students to perform their commitment to language and their communities. This is not to imply that diversity writing should be apolitical or impersonal, only that it is a clumsy apparatus indeed for students to use to reveal and perform themselves. (517)

Early in the essay he defines "diversity writing" as "a pedagogical approach that invites students to apply critical reading and writing strategies to situate themselves within, analyze, and research the political and cultural assumptions, consequences, and issues that constitute human difference" (503). Diversity writing becomes synonymous with diversity studies, or, as I read it, a label consistent with "studies of difference."

Here are a few of questions/concerns I want to get at later today:
1. On the basis of his description, how does our FYC curriculum at Syracuse match with the curriculum at Kansas State--particular to their "diversity writing" orientations? Does his definition work for us? Does it adequately name the thing we're trying to do or enact when we teach in a "diversity writing" curriculum?
2. With his overt emphasis on race in "diversity writing," how is his curricular model problematic for this narrowed focus? How might his arguments about Natural Language Theory, salvationist motives, and authenticity generalize to broader identifications?
3. What do you make of his use of content as a rhetorical strategy for answering "an audience of skeptical students, parents, and administrators, who may react strongly to the political connotations of 'diversity' or fear that evaluation will be based on the ideological whims of individual writing instructors" (519)?

Sunday, April 2, 2006


I thought I should include some sort of baby poem or baby song ("Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be _______"). I decided not to. There will be plenty enough time for that later on.

Until last Sunday we'd kept the news top secret, but now that several friends and family members are in the loop (except E., man, what's up with your cell phone number?, and G. & S., never at home or not answering), I figure, time to let loose to all of blogspace or at the very least those who might be interested in such an event. Many apologies if the news reaches you this way and seems, therefore, impersonal (I wanted to tell you in person!) A baby's on the way, due in early September. Everyone's excited, happy, healthy (and deep wishes for continued health persist...oh, well, yes, and excitement, happiness, too).

I'm not sure how the rest of this announcement is supposed to go. I think it's complete. And to remind you, I've copied in the code for a due-date ticker which will linger for the next several months up top.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Adventures in Illegal Art

We caught up with a friend last night for dinner followed by Mark Hosler's presentation, "Adventures in Illegal Art: Creative Media Resistance and Negativeland" in SU's Shemin Auditorium. Hosler's been involved with Negativeland for 25 years. The group self-identifies with media hoaxes; provocative audio-mixed new media films and shorts; and radical fair use politics (i.e., it's all public domain). They're well-known for lifting material from U2, mixing it into a two-sided vinyl single including profanity and stolen U2 cuts, then repackaging the album in a jacket with U2 featured prominently so as to dupe unsuspecting consumers. Lawsuits followed, as you might expect, and Hosler alluded to a dicey four years, fraught with legal uncertainty. Here's that album cover:

Hosler opened with a short on stealing, mixed from "There's No Business Like Show Business Stealing" sung by Ethel Merman. Other segments included "Guns" (lots of B&W footage of ads for guns, westerns, etc.), and "The Mashin' of the Christ." "Mashin" used a mix of some evangelical preacher's Cold War prophecy that the West would be overrun with Communism, that everyone would be converted by a mantra of "Christianity is stupid; Communism is great." The song was matched with clips from 25 crucifixion scenes from movies, but I'm not sure I took the critique. It was violent, to be sure, but beyond that I was unclear whether it sought to comment on Christianity, illogical evangelicalism, or the spectacle of crucifixion scenes. Hosler told us about Negativeland's well-known media prank--a press release they distributed in California about a cancelled tour, shut down because federal authorities connected them to a quadruple homicide in Rochester, Minn (much of which was fabrication, only the murders were real). The San Francisco NBC (or was it CBS) affiliate eventually caught wind of the release and covered it, interviewing the "band" and featuring the event as a top news story. Then there was fallout and confusion (it had to be true because it was on the tube). He also shared shorts on Casey Casem losing his cool--a tirade of shrits and flucks--while recording a Top 40 dedication for a deceased pet; Ariel, the Little Mermaid, drawn to synch with the dialogue from a tapped phone conversation with some exec on proprietary rights; and a remix of Julie Andrews' "Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music made-over to express only contemptible things.

The best part by far was Hosler's description of the group's methods, the uncanny ways materials accrete, piling up and mounting an almost irresistible force. "It's as if a good idea walks in the room. You can't just slam the door on it," he said. It echoed Sirc in "Box-logic" from Writing New Media: a dissatisfied collector who gathers, assembles, and realizes surprising ties. And also, there was a surprising dig on SU's Newhouse journalism program and on formal, explicit education in art ("I'd never attend an art program," or something close to that.)

Hosler refined his craft--cuts and pastes--during the 80's and 90's. He spoke of splicing tape and two-reel recorders. And he also made it clear that he thought of Negativeland's albums as concept albums; he thought of those albums as having a kind of coherence that dissolves in the age of mp3 exchange. Any individual track--detached from the artifact of the album or CD, the jacket notes--diminished the conceptual coherence of the album. His response to new media, to the digital's blurring of media, was tentative, uncertain (or perhaps just underdeveloped because we were out of time). He also said he wasn't sure whether the group had a myspace account. Apparently someone outside the group claimed a space for Negativeland, but they haven't done much to bolster their online presence. Hosler ended by noting that times have changed. Once scarce materials (the Casey Casem rant, for example) now circulate more freely than before. They're abundant. And as he said so, I had the impression that the counterculture rush of Negativeland's work has--for Hosler--lost some of its novelty because of massification, diminished in waves of hobbyists trying--through success and failure--to create homegrown, DIY media projects.