Sunday, February 27, 2005

Rusesabagina and Network Externality

We walked two blocks over to the Westcott Movie House last evening to catch an 8 p.m. showing of Hotel Rwanda.  The Westcott is a single-show, old-style theater with only mildly graded seating so part of the view includes half-head silhouettes from the people one row up. Westcott picks up a few arts-cinema runs, shows them once each weekday and twice on weekends. 

Hotel Rwanda is full of events and scenarios suited to our developing vocabulary of networkacy, especially related to crisis and adaptation.  I'll keep it brief, considering that some folks probably haven't seen the film.  Because it's based on the Hutu-Tutsi clashes in Rwanda during the early '90s, the tragic premise of mass genocide is, perhaps, familiar enough for these connections to seem plausible.

Very much a connector, Paul Rusesabagina--the lead character played by Don Cheadle--navigates a series of variously constituted networks--from failed communications channels to unconvinced or indifferent international political structures and their agents.  So while I don't want to reduce network theory to a simple device for analysis and critique, I was struck--throughout the film--by the application of many of the notions Watts works through in Six Degrees. In one scene, for example, Rusesabagina urges the refugees to exercise their connections, shame their ties (weak or strong) into action. What of it? Enough visas to help some of the families. I wonder if we could call this some sort of rhetorical externality, a slight variation on information externalities (211).  I guess this could be read as a grand leap, so I only want to suggest one other connection. Watts says, "From a scientific point of view, therefore, if we want to understand what might happen in the future, it is critical to consider not only what happened but also what could have happened" (245, emphasis in original). In terms of Hotel Rwanda and the complexity of networked roles moderated by Rusesabagina, we might agree that just one of the compelling dimensions of network studies involves sorting through the "could have happened" questions.  And it reminds me, too, of Milgram's research on agency in "dispensing brutality" (131), which, through his Obedience to Authority research, sought to come to terms with Adolph Eichmann's part in genocidal crimes.

Cross-posted to Network(ed) Rhetorics.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Rebus Revival


FlickrReplacr (via): Revival of the rebus.

On Chaney Sending in Ingram

Alrighty.  So that last entry about perl/M.Pearl was a bottom-scraper EWM.  Then let me say something about Temple Owls' coach John Chaney.  "If you're going to use a foul, make it count."  He crossed a line; it's not excusable. Fine.  Went too far by coaching 6-8, 250-pound Nehemiah Ingram to impact the loss against St. Joseph's by going in there and stopping somebody. "I don't care if you foul out.  You can't let him look like an All-American on us.  He's kicking our ass.  I want somebody who will play defense.  I want somebody to stop somebody.  You've got just a few minutes to leave a mark."  So I agree that it's terribly unfortunate that senior John Bryant of St. Joe's suffered a broken arm, and I didn't even see the play, which means I'm just spouting off about some stuff I know barely anything about.  But my point is less to defend Chaney or Ingram than it is call out the resulting spike of oh-my-goodnesses aimed at college basketball, as if it's not a contact sport, as if coaches don't commonly urge players to play physically, as if intentional fouls are never coached. 

Pat Forde's column is especially exemplary in this regard:

I watched one recent college practice that included very matter-of-fact coaching orders to "stand up" all cutters coming through the lane. Translated, that's a forearm shiver to the chest, or higher. It's such a common off-the-ball practice today that officials almost never call it a foul.

Impede progress of a lane-cutting player?  That should be a foul?  How in heck are you supposed to play post defense, Pat?  What is post defense if it doesn't involve a heckuva lot of wrangling for position, especially between the colossus bodies of forwards and centers?  So that's all.  Chaney messed up.  Ingram went too far.  And five fouls in four minutes, including an arm-breaker gives it away.  But coaches urge extra-physical play all the time (shoot, SU's Hakeem Warrick has been getting stood up, pulled down, wrestled all season), and it goes by mostly unnoticed--un-addressed by officials, little mentioned by reporters, and unflagged as proof of up-trend of violence in sport.  In short, the "stand up" method observed by Forde was inconsequential until it was translatable to a grander association with Ingram. 


For the last twenty-four hours, I've been obsessing and scrambling to figure out how to modify a perl script for a project I'm working on.  And just when I was beginning to feel like things were near collapse and failure was imminent, along came an email reminding me that I've already got a solid method and usable data without perl. At the very same moment an un-named family member said, "You're worked up over Pearl...from Hee-Haw?"  (imagine side-splitting laughter, all at my expense). But everything's back to fine and manageable. Just.  Like.  That.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I'm still grogging through a hyper-invasive head cold.  'Snot easy to read and write through the sinus pressure, drainage and trips to the kettle for another hot tea.  I've gotten on with reading Robert Connors, Hayden White and a couple of chapters from Barabasi's Linked for tomorrow in addition to a project overview for comp history and a trip to the tax prep office to sign the proper filing forms.  This was only the second time I've sought an accountant's assistance with taxes; with the move, bi-state filing, and limited opportunities for sorting through tax forms, we turned over to the pros.  And today when we were at their office nodding our heads to the double-check of name-spellings and socials, the friendly accountant showed us an itemization asking nearly twice what they'd initially quoted.  I'm too ashamed to share the number; I'll just say that I'm ordering the software next year and doing it myself again.  The $70 worksheet pushed me off the edge (of chair, cliff, reason).  In the late age of computer-spun accounting, no single worksheet prep should cost seventy bucks.

So we signed all the forms and came back home. I was too head-coldy to give the guy hell for puffing up the tax prep bill. 

Once home, about hot tea, I learned this: Peppermint will re-steep for a second good cup.  Raspberry zinger will not.

Renormalization is a term credited to physics (perhaps other fields, too).  According to Barabasi, it comes from the work of Cornell professor and 1982 Nobel prize winner Kenneth Wilson who assigned the term to the event following a physical phase transition.  Renormalization (granted, read second hand) accounts for the paradoxical flux and structural stiffening of real networks--the shift from chaos to complexity, from disorder to system:

By giving a rigorous mathematical foundation to scale invariance, [Wilson's] theory spat out power laws each time he approached the critical point, the place where disorder makes room for order.  Wilson's renormalization group not only called for power laws but for the first time could predict the values of two missing critical exponents as well. (77)


We had finally learned that when giving birth to order, complex systems divest themselves of their unique features and display a universal behavior that has similar characteristics in a wide range of systems. (78)

It's quite possible, even likely, that I'm misunderstanding or misapplying this concept.  Even so, I find something catchy--sticky--in renormalization, and I wanted to put it on the table, set it out there for other possible connections (even if only my own, later on).  Barabasi goes on to explain two basic features of scale-free networks that complicate earlier theories that treat such structures as static and random.  To detail the importance of hubs, he names the characteristics of growth and preferential attachment.  And although his notion of growth seems teleologically biased, allowing for decay or detritus only briefly in a discussion of aging, I continue to be struck by the application of concepts from physics to social patterns.  At least for tonight (no telling how much credit to my head cold or tax fiasco), renormalization seems an especially interesting idea.

[Added: Renormalization is the same as order-disorder-order in story structures?]

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Weights and Measures

Common quantities of phlegm and reading have moved me to install an organizer and an expectorant (to go with the Foxytunes plugin and a Firefox upgrade).

Monday, February 21, 2005

Savage Journeys

I started the day by glancing through a few feeds in Bloglines and there I learned about Hunter S. Thompson's suicide, which so many others have taken up in entries today.  These two pages sat open in separate Firefox tabs all day, tucked behind other more active tabs, although today has been, by and large, rather quiet in terms of blogging, blog-reading.  I'm writing an essay for a class tomorrow morning, and it has been a drudge working through saying saying saying stuff that reads as careful, polished and seamless.  And I walked (a rather deep-snow high-knee march across the park) to campus for a 670 (teacher-practicum) meeting.  But that essay has tied me up.

I haven't even read the articles about Hunter S., and I haven't been moved to dig into the entries posted by others.  It's an effect of other presiding forces that such an event hasn't really drawn more than a few minutes of my attention.  Family in town.  And that essay.

I didn't know what I'd blog tonight, or even if I'd have time.  Still need to scrape smooth the many rough edges of the essay, an essay yet in need of expanding by another paragraph or two (especially brilliant ones, the sort that rescue us from textual disasters, if possible).  I just printed a copy in the office, and when I went to grab it from the printer, instead I took Fear and Loathing from the shelf, flipped through it quickly to see whether I'd left any notes or paper scraps in there when I last read it, maybe three years ago.  Just one page is dog-eared; a folded sticky note book-marks another page.  Hmm.  And I returned to crank out this entry (over the noise of Ph. and T. playing silly chess, UConn vs. Notre Dame on the tube, and a match of bickering wits between J. and three-year-old T.) without even thinking to grab the draft of that disappointing essay from the printer.  It's still there, ink drying.

So it's enough, for today, to post the two paragraphs I think I must have been flagging with the bent page a few years ago.  They're sufficiently panegyric, insufficiently funereal:

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas.  Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era--the kind of peak that never comes again.  San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to run...but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch the sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world.  Whatever it meant...

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of "history" it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long find flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time--and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. (67)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Snows of Mount Thornden

When the Syracuse City Snow Gauge (shown here; doubles as the municipal pool during summer months) indicated three or four inches of new fluff overnight, we figured a sunny Sunday morning on the precarious, un-groomed slopes of Mount Thornden would lift the February funk.  Plus, with my brother and nephews visiting for three days, we needed to give the house a rest and restore the nerves of landlord and landlord's always-on-edge dog.  To the hill!

Pool and Snow Gauge
Only six inches of base and four inches of fluff--a meager accumulation compared to last winter, they say.

Atop Mount Thornden
View from the top of Mount Thornden, just to the east of SU's campus. 

Here's the full Flickr slideshow from the morning (which includes more than one spill resulting from crooked steering).  The first-run face-dusters were especially thrilling.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Meme-fluence, Elaboration, Chains

When I read Chuck's entry this morning, I turned to the 123rd page of four different books, three of which I had slated to read from throughout the day today (yah, bring on the meme police bc I didn't follow the rules).  Well, that's one way to get to the 123rd page: start there.  Fifth sentences of each went like this:

No. 1: "In other words, over the course of ages or over the course of an individual's biography, the 'life' of the work resides in the history of individual reading-events, lived-through experiences, which may have a continuity, but which may also be discontinuous with only a varying 'family' resemblance" (123).
No. 2: "He generously agreed" (123).
No. 3: "So we analyzed the discourse itself, finding the revealing words, the signature expressions, the tell-tale grammatical forms" (123).
No. 4: "Lately, however, he had been avoiding the popular discos and the hottest nightclubs" (123).

The books, differently ordered: Bruner's Acts of Meaning, Barabasi's Linked, Watts' Six Degrees, and Louise Rosenblatt's The Reader, The Text, the Poem.

And nicely enough, the juxtapositions got me thinking about a few things. Now that I've read all day long, I'll leave notes here about two of them.

Watts and Barabasi open their books on network theory with anecdotes about vulnerability.  Watts starts with the "cascading failure" of the power grid in the Pacific Northwest during the summer of 1996; Barabasi begins with the upheaval of Mafiaboy's efforts to incapacitate Yahoo with a hack-load of "ghost" queries.  Watts shifts into a narrative on the formative days of his research project at Cornell; Barabasi gives us an example of network robustness in the dissemination of early Christianity a la the apostle Paul.  Watts: emergence and "How does individual behavior aggregate to collective behavior?" (24); Barabasi: The Konigsberg Bridges.  And then, together, Erdos and Euler, Milgram, graphs, as if surfing tandem on scroll waves.  Almost.

Notably absent from Watts' accounting for the premise of six degrees is Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy's short story from 1929, "Chains" or "Lancszemek." Last night, after my first class session involving Linked with 205ers, I was rooting around the web for way to get my hands on a copy of "Chains."  Didn't find much.  I mean there are plenty of references to it, but I didn't find much of anything beyond references, mentions. Barabasi's notes tell us that he doesn't think it's ever been translated from Hungarian into English.  I'm just curious whether, as Barabasi speculates, the degrees of separation idea stemmed from the fiction of Karinthy.  He evens supposes that Erdos and Renyi might have read the story and found, in it, a sufficiently sticky premise to stimulate their later mathematical work.  I wouldn't say it diminishes Watts' project or points to a gap in his research, but it does leave me wondering about "Chains."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

In This Corner

Google Fight (via).  It's a simple Flash movie depicting the brutal one-round clashes between search strings.  Just to see what would happen, I tested it with these:

Google Fight
Composition vs. Rhetoric
Dialectic vs. Binary
Irenic vs. Agonistic

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Daze Awf

As the semester chugs ahead (unbalanced load of wash? no...that's the sound of Semester), I'm finding it harder and harder to manage the demands and commitments. Oh bore, another lament on the challenges of grad school.  No mind-blowing revelations in this, fair enough, but it's what's working on me right now as I think about all that I didn't get accomplished today, a Wednesday throughout which I didn't so much as leave the house (hey it was thunder-snowing and I biked 10 miles w/o crossing the room, so it wasn't a total veg-day).  And I get the all the old rules about "read as much as you can," "learn to power-skim," and so on and so on.  But it's still tough as heck to keep it all moving merrily along.  Weinberger, Hayden White, Ong, Barabasi, brief, predictive-reads on Linked (from 205ers), CCCC paper, perl scripts (wtf?), and something or another "publishable quality" on pedagogy, cognition and performance. And a 30-minute phone call with my brother who's temporarily in Boise dismantling and assembling intricately-programmed, adhesive-dispensing robotic arms. Splodge!

I'm only on campus two days a week--Tuesdays and Thursdays (other than practicum meetings on alternating Mondays).  Turn over three grad seminars and a section of sophomore-level research writing on those two days.  It's fine, efficient.  But it leaves me idling low on Wednesdays and Fridays--barely capable of flopping a home-row-frozen set of key-punchers on the laptop to plunk out any few words, much less reading more than forty or fifty pages very carefully (or interestedly).  Began the day today by searching with no end in sight (piece by piece) through a file cabinet for an article from last semester.  Found it.  It was folded.  The only one folded.  All credit to me, thanks.  Then, in a second-wave ransack of the various paper piles, notebooks, folders (paper, plastic, and digital bits) and cabinets, I searched for a couple of pages of notes (white legal pad...I can see them!) I scribbled down last summer--before the move.  Didn't find 'em. Gone. But I did find this old photo of the house I grew up in (hey, you want cohesion, my brother's the maestro of industrial glues, not me).  So here it is.  The place in middle Michigan where I lived for about seven years, from ~10 to ~17.  Must have been J.'s turn to cut the lawn. 


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Affordance and Manipulanda

What does a network afford?

I'm setting out with hopes that I can wrap together a few thought-strands running through other coursework this week. It tracks through Weinberger, as well, so the application here isn't out of the blue.  In his chapter on Space in Small Pieces Loosely Joined Weinberger says, "Our space is full of opportunities, obstacles and dangers, or what the psychologist James Gibson called affordances (e.g., the chair affords us the possibility of sitting) and the philosopher Martin Heidegger called the ready-to-hand" (32).  I can't remember if I'd learned about affordances before this semester; seems like a basketball coach once hollered something about the affordances of the game:  playing through potentials and opportunism constantly responsive to in-game context, or something.  But maybe not.

Whatever the case, affordances came up in other reading this week. This succinct bit comes from a 1974 essay from Bransford and McCarrell called "A Sketch of a Cognitive Approach to Comprehension," and it matched up nicely, I think, with another term--manipulanda--and, as well, some of our conversation last week about characterizing network literacy (whatever you call it):

The notion of a nonarbitrary relation between what something looks like and what it means is related to J.J. Gibson's (1966) notion of affordances.  Certain objects and their properties provide visual information for the activities and interactions they afford.  So, for example, sharp objects afford piercing, certain extensions (e.g., handles) afford grasping, hardness affords pounding, and roundness affords rolling.  Even surfaces afford activities since they are 'walk-onable,' 'climbable,' and the like.  Tolman (1958) presented similar notions in his essay on 'sign-gestalts.' These are not simply information about 'the larger wholes in which the perceived configuration will itself be embedded as one term in a larger means-end proposition [p. 79]." Tolman further introduced the term "manipulanda" which he defines as:
properties of objects which support (or make possible) motor manipulations of the species...One and the same environmental object will afford quite different manipulanda to an animal which possesses hands from what it can and will to an animal which possesses only a mouth, or only a bill, on only claws...grasp-ableness, pick-up-ableness, throw-ableness, heaviness (heave-ableness) and the like--these are manipulanda [p. 82].

Basically, I'd like to propose the inclusion of these terms in the network(ed) rhetorics glossary (wanna second it?).  I'm finding these terms/concepts helpful for understanding many of the paradoxes Weinberger works through and many of the tensions surrounding the assignment of genres to weblogs (or weblogs to genres).  It's as if we have available to us an abundance of digital manipulanda--affordance-ness with the network and with our related involvements. 

What does a web(log) afford?  A link?  A network?

Cross-posted to Network(ed) Rhetorics.

Monday, February 14, 2005

RGB Averages; Pixel as Metonymy

{125, 127, 73}

(Average RGB from the butterfly image below when rinsed into a single pixel.  Expanded again for easy viewing.)

Bumgardner explains Color Pickr in the comments over here.

I use a Perl script to retrieve all the thumbnails of all the photos in the group, which takes a few minutes. Then, using ImageMagick, I reduce each thumbnail to 1 pixel in size, and record the color in a datastructure.

The data structure, containing the photo's ID and average R,G,B values are then written to an actionscript file.

Well, no, I don't know how to do it, yet (yet!), but the process is beginning to make sense (and not just in its applicability to images, but that's all I'll say about that for right now).  It's the basic rendering of an image into a color-based number (Hit Song Science for the designing eye?).  The single pixel functions as a kind of meta-name for the image, a name by which it gets to associate with others like it through action script referencing.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


I'm reading Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined for 711, and hyperthreadedness lingers among a few of the sticky ideas I've run across.  Describing the multithreadedness of ordinary conversation, Weinberger tells us that "threading is practically a law when it comes to conversations: if you're talking about the ending of the movie Deliverance, you can't suddenly say, 'How about those Red Sox?' (67).  Of course, much of this presupposes coherence--the turn-taking assembling of packets (textual units) into more or less intelligible arrangement (focal, listening, attentive).  I suppose I'm leaving something off of this.  I've thought about threading or "threads" in some of the online teaching I've done, and I always thought it was odd that the simplest notion of threading suggests that conversational interchanges are best represented by local (spatial, therefore temporal, gathering together) in the interface.  Sure, it's easier that way.  What happens when you mention Red Sox after Deliverance in that sudden conversational switch?

Web conversations are also like this, but they aren't just multithreaded; they're hyperthreaded.  Although they usually start with a topic that's more formally defined than real-world conversations, because Web discussion may spread out across weeks or months the threads can become entangled.  And because Web time is so fragmented, we can pose new topics that are only tenuously related to the declared theme. (67)

The entangled quality of webbed discourse seems to me to be a more robust (confused) variety of the intertextuality commonly mentioned when we talk about referential, allusive language/text matrices.  But just when I think I have a handle on the subtle distinctions, Weinberger introduces another factor: "Web conversations can be hyperthreaded because the Web, free of the drag of space and free of a permission-based social structure, unsticks our interests.  The threads of our attention come unglued and are rejoined with a much thinner paste" (68).  As much as I think I understand Weinberger's effort to distinguish web conversations from "real world" lunchtime conversations, I wonder if this is more a matter of communication models than it is about substantial differences in the threadedness of internet conversation versus other kinds of conversation.  The notion of "unstick[ing] our interests" seems especially useful; for me, it partially accounts for what accompanies the habitude of reading and writing the web. Stick, unstick.  But I've still got more work to do in this fast-passing weekend, so this'll have to do for now.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Why Some Weekends Go By So Quickly

Ph. indoor soccer match Sunday AM at 7:50
Run down Ph.'s uniform (call, pick a time, drive around, etc.)
Read, respond to 18 essays from WRT205ers (leafed through 'em)
Read Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined for 711 (net-rhets) (ch. 1-2)
Tax prep appointment
Set up dentist appointment
Wiki futzing (had to set up one of my own for experimentiking)
Develop/refine the assignment for essay-project two in 205
Re-read first-three chapters of Barabasi's Linked
Regular blogging (forever ongoing)
Dig around for CCCC funding app paperwork
For 611 (comp histories):
Read ch. 5 "The Fictions of Factual Representation" and ch. 6 "The Irrational and the Problem of Historical Knowledge in the Enlightenment" from White's Tropics of Discourse
Read ch. 2 "Shaping Tools: Textbooks and the Development of Composition-Rhetoric" from Robert Connors' Composition-Rhetoric
For 720 (making meaning)--for Tuesday morning discussion-leading, re/read/visit:
From the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences. 1999. On Computational Theory of Mind, Situatedness/Embededness, and Schemata.
Phelps, Louise. "Cross-Sections in an Emerging Psychology of Composition." 1984.
Bransford, John and Nancy McCarrell. "A Sketch of a Cognitive Approach to Comprehension." 1974.
Norman, Donald. "Twelve Issues for Cognitive Science." 1981.
Tannen, Deborah. "What's in a Frame? Surface Evidence and Underlying Expectations." 1979.
Spiro, Rand. "Constructive Processes in Prose Comprehension and Recall." 1980.
Adams, Marilyn J. and Allan Collins. "A Schema-Theoretic View of Reading." 1979.
Plunk out notes on the whole lot (this might get dropped)
Catch a few minutes of college hoops on the TV set (this might get dropped, too)
Leave incoherent blog comments a few carefully selected places
Pick up more Advil

So that's most of what I'll be doing (with lots of help from D., of course) between now and Monday night (to say nothing of pitching in on meals, laundry, groceries, Valentining and tidying house).

Thursday, February 10, 2005



Not sure where I pickred up the link, but I keep getting drawn back to Jim Bumgardner's Experimental Colr Pickrs.  Scheme appears to be running through Flash (in concert with a PHP script?), but I haven't the time to dig around for clues about how the images from Flickr are sifted, arranged, and so on.  But I've got to look into it; probably won't be able to rest well until I dig through how it works.  Especially worth a visit: the urban decay and graffiti pickrs.

Wednesday, February 9, 2005


This morning, I thought I'd have time for three blog entries.  I told myself that today would be the day I posted thrice.  Hmph.  Never written thrice before.  I'm having a bit of "dogfish in the dissection pan" with hyper-consciousness about post-literacy, studying the network, tweening the EWM-style blogging I know and love with more academicky smelting--dutifully dumping into whatever contrivance, as assigned.  Of course it is my own sense of what happens that flattens all of this out, rolls over it again and again.  Scalpel, glassine envelope....

A thought-splice:  I signed up for this semester.  Built a profile, uploaded an image, listed a set of tags to cross-reference me with the thousands of others--mostly undergrads--who dig the same stuff I dig. I did it because I wanted to start the semester in WRT205 with some talk about social connection, self-identified tags, and mediated connections all as buildup into McLuhan, Barabasi, and writing critical research.  I was clear with students that they didn't have to keep profiles; turned out all but one or two of them already kept extensive listings in thefacebook.  They knew more about it than I did.  They were already doing creative computing, in one sense, making themselves into data, encoding other (small) worlds with discriminating presences.  It was fun; and I told them, shortly after I built a profile, that even though I didn't have any facebook friends, none of them should feel any obligation to list me.  But two did anyway.  In this space, I am, categorically, friends with my students. I've kept it perfectly centripetal, never listing anyone else as a friend of mine, but just standing still, checking things out, welcoming pulses. 

In the past two weeks, I've been listed by three students from last semester's WRT105.  I get emails, "such and such has listed you as a friend."  When I click on the link from the email, I'm transported to a site where I can confirm the friendship, and I have in each case, although other options (reject, deny, wait a minute?) are available to me also.  I've also joined the "I Hate WRT105" group.  It's the only group I belong to, and I really should do something about that since I teach the course and I'm doing doctoral work in the program responsible for devising the curriculum.  And, what'd'ya know, I happened across the profile of a familiar student or two in there.  Thought, heh, what're you doing in here?  Same to you.  Hate, the acerbic cousin of critical (the mask of doing).

Thought-splice: Miles and Yuille's Creative Computing manifesto sets out to define "how we use computers in teaching and learning for creative industries" in IT contexts.  They offer a thoughtful list, but it leaves me feeling ambivalent about the think treatment of some of the grander concepts included. Perhaps that's how it's designed to work; its gross under-development invokes a busy array of associations.  Seems more like a move to stimulate rather than define.  Even in its simplicity, the list teases out a few useful distinctions about with-ness rather than working "on the network," and about "learning by doing."  Indeed, "these literacies are learnt by doing." Which literacies aren't?

We could describe literacy not as a monolithic term but as a cloud of sometimes contradictory nexus points among different positions.  Literacy can be seen as not a skill but a process of situating and resituating in social spaces (Wysocki 367).

Jill Walker's talk at Brown and, just as much, the comments following her account push me to consider the reversal of network and representation (composed, in writing or otherwise).  I don't know how to put this, but maybe Walker's title will help me find a grip.  Rather than writing in the network, it's rather more--in my thinking--like writing the network. The network is written, I mean.  It materializes in language (oftentimes language that is not written, but otherly, I suppose, oral, imagistic...dunno about all of this, though).  Cripes, I'm slogging....  I'm trying to say that the sociality of the network is an enticement/motivation to writing (for people who've never had a care for Composition, I mean). Beyond the academy, lots of folks are compelled to write because of the sociality of the network, and this seems like an interesting turnabout of motivation, one that ought to interest teachers of writing.

Cross-posted to 711.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

At the Corner of

Encompassing: Google Maps, now in beta.  (via)

Monday, February 7, 2005

Name-Calling at BCHS

Do you miss high school?
Nah, I don't really miss high school so much.  And when, just for a split little minute, I do, the monthly Aggie Express Newsletter sets me right again.  For example, the February edition, hotly distilled to PDF, suggests that once again--much like in bygone days--the school system is infested with name-calling, other excitables.  Whenever you're ready, Judith Butler.   The feature, "Verbal Abuse--Slurs and Name-calling," basically reduces to "tend to your foul-mouthed kids!"  So in case you don't have time or inclination to read it, that pretty much sums it up: endlessly curbing intolerant slurs in small town middle Michigan.  In an effort to be more solution oriented, I was speculating about a connection to the school's song (scales are in common with Notre Dame, fwiw).  Notice the ratio of fight to all other words, except and, which pops up twice-6:1.  Pattern, see?

Fight, fight for BCHS,
Keep up the spirit, we'll always try,
Then our team will fight and win
and march on to victory.  Fight! Fight! Fight!


Confess to being plumb wore out right now.  Lots of things seem to be are going awry, which is an expected feeling around the fourth week of a demanding semester.  And yes, one self-monitor cautions me to buck up, chill out, keep it steady, and another self-monitor--Disrupter--takes a more rancorous tenor, blares like a high-and-whiny siren.  And another....

Instead of pining over a lackluster day and a stack of work among other stressors, I suppose I ought to wrap this back into broader issues (from classes, of course) about network literacy and identity.  I think my only point for now is that finding a rhythm is just one tender, deceptive sliver of living the interconnection; rhythm-finding is obscured by ease, yes?  When the process/system (of blogging, since, what the heck, that's under the micro-scope) is least visible, it is susceptible to disruption. Writing is easy, not easy. What I'm trying to work through is the extent to which the bumps are explicit or the extent to which the strain of doctoral study makes its way into a space frequented by colleagues whom I see every day at work.  And so I suppose this gives an opening to theorizing the network as wrought with dynamics I still don't understand, new and unpredictable avenues for being placed into various statements.  The schizo-network (made possible by meeting twice or doubly), as a consequence of competing, overlapping and near-simultaneous representations, is vulnerable and, perhaps no matter how widely distributed, somewhat degraded.  Yeah, that's what I wanted to say.  It knows woe; it interpolates absence, it senses strain, recovers quietly.

The unbinding can become so overpowering that it colonizes subjectivities and tears them apart; with no guarantee of either a stable past or a connected future, it is impossible to believe in the unity of a single, stable subject--the subject of our previous discussions of literacy. (Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola 365)

Saturday, February 5, 2005


Predictive first-thoughts on post-literacy (my-ning def'ns for 711):



Edited to add: network literacy is happen-stance image conversation.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Adobe Agitation

Without extensive qualification, this is a working-through-hang-ups kind of entry.  Warning: check.

Increasingly, I find myself annoyed by PDFs.  One or two PDFs, I can handle.  When they come in lesser installments, I'm fine. But more than that, and I bristle, fume.  In a graduate seminar, for example, I understand that we might read widely from an assortment of sources.  I think of PDFs as supplements, add-on, and because they're harder to scale to the screen's dimensions, unlike fluid web texts with which I can enlarge the font, I struggle to read them on the screen.  I can read scalable web texts on the screen; even when the font is wonky, it's easy enough to enlarge it or otherwise alter it for readability.  Plus, I've been using Scrapbook for annotations, highlighting, and tabbed browsing in Firefox keeps all of it manageable. 

PDFs, depending on how they're laid out, can be nearly impossible to read on the screen.  And so I print them out.  And I don't mind printing them out, especially when they come in the range of 1-3 per week, let's say.  But let's just say they come in a wave of more than that--say 10 or 15, hypothetically, of course.  If that were to happen, now I become a book-making friggin print-house manager.  I have to print, collate, arrange, run to the store for more printer cartridges, etcetera.  It bumps the needle on my "busy work" dial into "Pain in the Ass" range.  Warning lights start to blink.

I printed out 300 pages of PDFs last evening.  The docs were copied one codex page to one PDF page, so gobs of white space make margin around a 5x7 peninsula of text.  Room for notations, I guess.  But I can only print the PDFs single-sided, rather than double-sided, as I might do with a photocopier.  Late Wednesday night, when I drove over to Kinko's thinking they'd have a way of helping me switch 15 PDF files from my USB drive to a photocopier, through which I could churn them out back-front for under a dime a page, it was another zinger to learn "Um, no, we can't do that.  Print them from the computers for 25 cents per page, but only if you've fewer than three files."  I didn't even try to talk about it, just thanked him and walked on out.

These intermediary forms leave a lot to be desired, and yet I get the feeling that lots of folks see PDFs as the wondrous saving grace of print in a digitized world.  PDF it, that's easy. Easier even than pre-determined course packs. In fact, the department photocopier is set up to PDF with amazing efficiency, even emailing it to you when the conversion of copy is complete. As I think through this, I guess I see it as a convenience to teachers and an inconvenience to students.  It's a kind of relocation of the photocopier burden or paper chase from one to the other.  And I'll be using three PDFed chapters/essays with 205 students this spring.  It's as much a matter of threshold, especially when variforms of text are criss-crossing in all these different spaces, the result of confusion among incommensurable mediations.  This morning when I opened yet another PDF--reading for a Monday meeting--and found it, like to oh so many others to be a 1:1 scan, one page per, and copied with huge smears of black toner-noise filling half of the lower margin, I had an attack of PDF agitation.  Since both print and digital texts are with us--all around us--and both necessary and pertinent, I'll continue to work on my hang-ups about PDFs, roll my neck until it pops, take a deep breath, and carry on reading.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Forming with Small Hands

I've been meaning to weave three disparate threads together, triple helix style; they converged--blink!--for an instant while I was reading the other day, and it seemed like more than another drill.  Who's running this time?  Ann Berthoff, Steve Berlin Johnson, and one more (Coach: I don't care who goes, dammit.  Fill in the lines.)  First, I've got to tell you a bit about the weave:

In college, we'd run a lot of early morning practices--stretched and ready by 6 a.m.  We shared one small gym among several sports, so folks took turns getting the prime 3-5 afternoon slot.  Until volleyball season ended, basketballers worked out in the morning.  I won't go too far into the context of practices or the conditions in the gym.  Think of a box with three outer walls aligning tightly with the out of bounds line, a tight 88' court (right...88) where the temperature inside matched whatever was outside, at least until the hot-water heat system kicked in (6:30 or 6:45). 

Unsurprisingly, we ran a lot of drills, especially early in the season and throughout the preseason months leading up to a first game sometime in early November.  With just two baskets, practices tested the limits of simultaneous activity.  For everyone to be involved, we often worked through stations, did a lot of ball work, agility circuits, speed and quickness, heavy ball and weight vests--rituals that could be performed without a hoop.  Shooting time was spare; forcing those who cared enough to work on their jumpers into a separate, custom slot squeezed by all other practices.  Half hour wherever it would fit. 

The weave is a common basketball drill; the commonest (all that bullshit "gym time" just jacking up shots, that's not making you a better player). The conditions of the drill: three lines beginning with regular spacing, pass, go behind, pass, go behind, pass, go behind.  The trivium advances the length of the court through a braided pattern; players ex through the middle of the court, but otherwise they push into one outer lane or the other outer lane--broad S-ing-curves the length of the court.  Strike a 45-degree slant from the hash mark, and punctuate with a simple lay-up.  Then back again.

The weave is a hands drill (but not just a hands drill).  Don't let the ball hit the floor (again and again, voice and echo in escalating rejoinders). Except on the bounce pass leading the lay-up, the ball can't touch.  When the ball touched the floor (cause: fumble), the trio would return to the beginning and start again, continuing until they worked the pattern quasi-algorithmically.  A once and back was easy; down and back twice, tougher.  Three trips?  So the condition of flawless execution and return trips stretched as far as was needed to exceed the lowest threshold for physical or mental fatigue by one among the group of three.  Key: seek a strong group for the run--good hands, reliable finishers.  If you run with an unreliable finisher, pace so the lay-up goes to somebody who will score it.  Every time.  Make plays easy for those around you.

Berthoff, who, when I was reading this week, said this: 

That's why it's useful, I think, to keep in mind that a paragraph gathers like a hand.  Note that the gathering hand operates in different ways: the hand that holds a couple of eggs or tennis balls works differently from the hand that holds a bridle or a motorbike handle.  When you measure out spaghetti by the handful, scoop up water by the handful, hold a load of books on your hip, knead bread, shape a stack of papers, build a sand castle, your hands move in different planes and with different motions, according to the nature of the material being gathered.  But in any case, the hand can gather because of the opposable thumb. (The thumb of the human hand can be brought into opposition with the fingers.) A paragraph gathers by opposing a concept and the elements that develop and substantiate it.  The kind of gathering a paragraph makes is thus dependent on the kinds of elements and the way in which they have been gathered. (Making of Meaning 6)

But we're gathering a basketball.  (Can you catch the ball? Make your hands big. Squeeze the ball when you catch it.) Clean pass, clean catch.  Collect the ball. Keep it simple.  Refrain from the flashy. Work together. One drop and all three reset for another try.  Worst case.  Get out of my gym.

I didn't really need a metaphor...

Steve Berlin Johnson on "Tools for Thought" and DevonThink, in his NYT article, tells us about a gather-minded text-search app that can intuit the lexical resemblances associating in a sampling of documents. 

No doubt some will say that these tools remind them of the way they use Google already, and the comparison is apt. (One of the new applications that came out last year was Google Desktop -- using the search engine's tools to filter through your personal files.) But there's a fundamental difference between searching a universe of documents created by strangers and searching your own personal library. When you're freewheeling through ideas that you yourself have collated -- particularly when you'd long ago forgotten about them -- there's something about the experience that seems uncannily like freewheeling through the corridors of your own memory. It feels like thinking. (Johnson)

I didn't really need a metaphor to extend my sense of the ways gathering and collecting and forming have changed.  But this one took me, induced me to "freewheeling through the corridors of [my] own memory."  Metaphors, I was reminded, when I tried to open a little bit of this up, are only useful to the extent that they give us expanded understandings of the relationships between things (and concepts?).  They are neither inherently true nor false; metaphors merely serve us more or less well depending on how they compel us, perhaps idiosyncratically, to think differently, with new understanding (not only my ideas, exactly...comes from a talk in the 720 course this week). I guess I'll stop here.