Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lidae Beetle


Spent the early evening with friends in Cicero, just a few minutes north of Syracuse. Quiet, uneventful, decent weather. They have a daughter Is.'s age who was dressed as a pink poodle. Is. dressed as a lady bug. And Ph., he put on the E.T. mask and lurked in and around the front yard just to lend some peculiarity to the routine passes up and down the front walk.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Seasonal Pumpkintensity

Sunday unexpectedly turned into a small-time festival of pumpkin-carving around here. We already had two of them (pumpkins, not festivals), but Ph. lugged another home from work and was intent on carving it.



Small One

Seeds? Out?

Get the Seeds Out

Seeds? Out?


Salted, Roasted

Cinn'n'sugar Seeds

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Was Here

Is Was Here

Aside from the unmistakable Kilroy pose, most striking about this one is that we have no idea how Is. managed to set up the tripod, touch off the timer, and climb to the other side of the gate again before the camera did its thing.

Network Typology

There are other typologies. There will be more. I may have glanced a few of them casually (i.e., lightly & forgetfully), but I have not gathered them together as part of any concentrated, focused effort or project. What I am trying to work through here is hit and miss. I think hit more than miss; if you think miss more than hit, tell me why, will you?

"Network" gets to be a God term. Invoked at every turn, it lugs around a fleet of connotations, some of them especially burdensome for the sluggishness they assign to the term. Consider my least favorite: network as a verb for professional hobnobbing (business attire preferred). Here is network in its commonplace form. Networking is schmoozing, clinking glasses, play-acting, pretending to pay attention, death-by-boredom conversation, etc. This mythology of network is bad for network studies and bad for the complex-ion of networks. Unfortunately we begin with this term, but it is a loose, pre-emptive reference (an I like the sound of networks, but who knows what's been said about them). I don't have any misgivings about the phenomenon of professional and organizational networks, complex systems, making one's way, etc. (see Burt, right?, also Weick). My itch is with the verb network for the way it implies the gaming of advantageous associations (this plays with Modern rules and roles, not subjectivities). It reminds me of the mass media references to "rhetoric" as only the most deliberately misleading and propagandistic political discourses, where "mere," "dirty-rotten," and "icky" are implied.

I said there would be a typology. I'm getting to it. There are five terms, but I think there need to be more. And like the dramatisms and the stases, there are two- and three-term ratios among them, depending on the network in consideration, the methodology, and so on. I will try to give explanations or examples, but I don't know yet whether I have them lined up for each one--the network -eses.

Mathesis/Mathetic: Schematic/mechanistic. Quantification and metrology. We find this in Social Network Analysis (SNA) and mathematical sociology. Mathesis as learning produces a rupture that causes confusion (or some other sort of fusion) between this and noesis.

Aethesis/Aesthetic: Evaluative/artistic. Distributed artistic production, collaborative design, and collectively curated and circulated works. We find this in distributed aesthetics and Saper's Networked Art. Saper keys on Barthes' receivables for networked art; it is also a useful alternative to readerly/writerly for aesthetic networks and their "enigmatic" experimentation.

Poiesis/Poetic: Rhetorical/productive*. I am tempted to align this with new media, but these more generally organize around rhetorical practices (invention, circulation). Poetic networks are more self-consciously rhetorical than the other types (but I can't think of any reason why this should always be so). In network studies, poetic networks are behind in the horse race. I mean that these other four network -eses seem to me more common. This will change because of the growing convergence of network studies with rhetoric and composition.

Noesis/Noetic: Rhetorical/epistemic*. Contemporary network studies has emerged with these last two types, primarily. Knowledge as networked (slime molds and emergence, semantic networks, etc.). I am tempted to call this the broadest category. How what is known/knowable can be traced; knowing as connective. This type (though not exclusively) guides many of the networkists: Barabasi, Watts, Ball, Buchanan.

Graphesis/Graphetic: Presentational/visual. Also rhetorical, this one is introduced by Johanna Drucker, even if she doesn't write explicitly of networks. It is the wedge (or bridge?) between aesthesis and mathesis where visual presentation motivates the approach. Many approaches to networks involve graphesis; those that do not instead rely on narrative and databasic modes of presentation (of course these have a visual quality, but they are more discursive than presentational).

*I have started to think of these as identifiably rhetorical, but this does not mean that the others are arhetorical. I was thinking here of primary characterizations, not exclusive, inflexible ones.

I also want to say something about how network substitutes for community. Community is easily falsified (named but not identified beyond the act of naming). We have a community here in our graduate program, let's say (this has been said before, it's just one example that comes to mind). But what is the network? To know this, we must granularize the community. Flatten it out (Latourian-style, an actor-network) so that we can put a finger on the ties. Who is working with whom? Who has had courses with whom? Who has regular conversations with whom? A community turned network answers a different set of questions (even if you never ask them) because the paths are lighted (or otherwise shone) and, consequently, patterned. This might sound like a wild runaround. It's not. I only mean that I prefer "network" to "community." Community is more elusive, more capacious. I don't find the concept all that helpful (no, it conceals more than it reveals). Too often when it is muttered I am surprised to learn that I belong to anything promoted as so grandiose, well-understood, and inclusive (such a thin gravy as to never have realized it was there). On the other hand, I can sense a network, put a finger on it, tie it for oneself (a community, I ca-knot).

I put this together because I want something with more explanatory power than what I have found in work I would describe as network studies. What happens when we attempt a quantitative project (bean-counting) but attempt it in service of other network aspects--not mathesis alone. This is tremendously important to my work. I need to be able to explain these ratios because, even while distant reading toward disciplinary "network sense" is, on the first floor, mathematically invested, it is not ultimately mechanical, structural, or schematic. It is, instead (and by my modest insistence) contorted (Latour would say "acrobatically") into poiesis--into the making and doing, into a heuristic that ought to mobilize.

What? That's all? No. I said I thought there should be more categories in this tentative, provisional typology based on network -eses. I don't know what to do with Benkler because I haven't been careful about reading Wealth, yet. I don't know where infrastructural networks fit in (the wires, routers, and such). Material and geospatial networks? Latour helps me (with 'hybrids' and 'all points local') think of these two as either noetic or poetic. But this can be another cause for the wheels to fall off at anything above Earth Wide Miles per hour.

Multiple, Sequential, Reciprocal

This one is from the same Nagi Noda who made "Sentimental Journey,"
the other when I'm observed, I watch this.

I think these three--multiple, sequential, reciprocal--ought to apply to teaching observations. Were I a WPA, I would prefer an approach to classrooms observations that involved multiple visits in a sequence of classes, if at all possible. I would also prefer to see teaching observations arranged reciprocally, where each person involved observes the other. One-time teaching observations are good for verification, for affirming that one's work checks off as acceptable on a list of program, department, and institutional expectations. But that is the end. Until next cycle. This is the typical approach, right?, the automobile inspection version of teaching observations.

A preferable (perhaps also idealistic) model is one where senior teachers (i.e., those with experience) opt in and enter into a mentorship arrangement with new, inexperienced teachers. This could work for new and returning TAs, too, depending on the nature of the program. Each would observe the other three times in a semester. They would also sit down to talk about their impressions, about in-class happenings, about the shape of the course, its successes, its shortcomings, its surprises, and maybe even student writing. Much of this interchange could be handled via email, if schedules conflict. The culminating piece would be a brief (few pages) record of the conversation representing both participants, with some evidence of what materialized in their conversations. It could even be formatted as a dialogue. This would go to the WPA would would, in turn, sign off on a small stipend (oh, say, $50 or $100 bucks). These conversation pieces could also be circulated internally, turned into a resource for future practicums, colloquia, and so on. There is not money for this? Then it isn't important enough to do. But this is a weak defense when money (or release time, other forms of compensation) are already offered for some form of observation and reporting. I'm sure I'm oversimplifying. I've just been thinking about teaching observations over the past couple of days.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Inobservance II

The teaching was observed this evening. The 105ers were sharp, so it went well, although observations always feel like, hold still now, freezemation. I would characterize my part in tonight's class session as slightly plastic. Neither terrible, nor embarrassing. But somewhat best-behaviorally tense.

Yes, this entry is, in fact, a rerun from a year ago.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Writers House

I may have mentioned before that I subscribe to the RSS feed for my network. For me this means big things. I use Google Reader to aggregate all of the links bookmarked in by users I have identified as belonging to my network. Twenty-two more or less active gatherers of the net's goods, the whole team working in service of, well, themselves (I almost wrote me). They don't necessarily post links for me (although makes this possible, and others have shared links with me directly a time or two). But because they post them for themselves, the bookmarks carry something like credibility, a small portion of this sort of matters to somebody. How much time do I spend sifting through the feed bubbling with all of these links from my network? Rarely more than a minute. Sometimes I herd the links into my own collection. Other times I open a link in a new tab and see what it's all about (this is the most time-consuming practice; also, sometimes, the most rewarding). Most of the time I move along, having merely glanced the bookmarks. Even when I pass them by, they give me a vague sense of what someone else is collecting (or researching or doing or even buying for holiday gifts...I won't say whose gift ideas I borrow every December). These practices, like many others (not all of them digital), promote what I think of as network sense (this, a key idea I am developing in the diss).

I learned about the Rutgers Writers House this way. The program has posted a YouTube video documenting the "house" (a lavish basement, really). I would have embedded the video for you, but embedding has been disabled (!). The video itself seems like the sort of thing that would have been mentioned on a listserv. Perhaps it was. But I didn't find it that way. When I subscribe, I subscribe by digest, and those listservs are either dead, dying, or--surprisingly--overflowing with such torrential interchanges as to be unreadable. I learned about the Writing House in this other way--from my network. Alex and Spencer recently posted it to their accounts. I followed. A small, distal circuit, one barely noticeable to anyone involved. Is there any value in this?

I think there is, and I'm more and more inclined to think of it as a nuanced form of apprenticeship or something like a mentorship model. It's not the typical hierarchical mentor-mentee dyad, but it functions in a similar way, fostering patterns of local, interested circulation among people who more or less know each other and whose participation is both self-interested (a link for one's self) and transparent (a link you too can have if you care to). It's not the typical gift-economy, right? Instead it is driven by a strange blend of beneficent self-indulgence (if collecting links is, indeed, indulgent...maybe not). It doesn't require thanks, (so the guides to netiquette tell me...okay, I made that up; really I wanted to use "netiquette" for the first time at see whether anyone's still reading). In fact, thanking someone for posting to would be, uh, unusual, let's say.

I mention the Writing House link because it is a tangible example of these in-network practices--practices that because they manifest behind the scenes are especially difficult to identify. We cannot easily tell if they are happening for other people (even by asking, the decision to add a bookmark is not always memorable). While I don't want to make too much of this, I want to note it because it seems important to me to be able to articulate that nexus of exchange, particularly as an apprenticeship model. It's one of the more basic rationale when I encourage others to use, and it's a variation of connection that runs counter to the problems of isolation, insularity, and dispersion bound up with distance, disciplinary geographies, and specialization. I would like to see more people doing it, but to get to that point, I think we need still more examples of these effects if they are, as I think they are, a substantive form of something like apprenticeship (maybe holarchic apprenticeship).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nost Algos

Several weeks ago, I was standing around at an outdoor get-together (picnic-like, the scene). A small gathering with people I know at a small distance. They were mostly associates of D.'s. But I got into a conversation with someone I'd met before, partner of another colleague. Whatever. These details are less important than what he said. "The -algia in nostalgia is a kind of illness." It wasn't out of the blue, this comment. And there was more to it than this. An interest in words, recollection: a passing moment in college when someone was gushing nostalgic but insisting that nostalgia was good, good for its embrace of memory. Nost-. To return home. Algos. To feel pain or sickness.

The return home can be temporal or spatial, home to moment or home to place. And the nostalgia I've been weighed down by this afternoon is a little bit of both--a chronotopic noodle-bowl, returning me to a time almost exactly nine years ago when I was in the first year of my M.A. program. What was different about my M.A. program--different from any program I was in before it or after--was that I didn't belong to a cohort. I entered the program singularly, at mid-year, called upon at the last minute when another TA slipped their obligation (an early applicant, I hadn't intended to enroll until the fall; ten days later I was teaching and taking courses). A few years before as an undergrad, there were others in my class with whom I shared a major. They were my cohort. There were two of them (three of us in all). In my current grad program, my cohort is also three. But the M.A. was different. In terms of cohorts, I was odd-out, in-between, an isolate. And so I folded in with those who came to UMKC later, in the fall of '98.

One of them emailed me today to report that another member of the cohort--the '98 M.A. group--was killed tragically over the weekend, murdered, in fact. The local news has carried a few small reports. Googling Rick's name, I found that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America posted a note about it, too. He was, as you might expect from the SFFWA reference, a sci-fi creative writer. Today I learned that he wrote a short story titled "The Gas Man" that was a hit in 1988 (contest-winning, anthologized, etc.).

Anyway, this is all just to say that I've been thinking a lot this afternoon about this awful, tragic event and also by some association about UMKC, about the second-floor open office we all shared (a large room, 20' vaulted ceiling, full-height windows, six desks, a couple of couches, file cabinets, and bookcases; also multiple copies of Writing Without Teachers on the shelves). Shared by ten or twelve TAs--two to a desk. My nostalgia is for that space, a space long since re-claimed for other uses, I imagine, and also a time when I can remember Rick very much alive and working feverishly on a short story (desk closest to the door), conferencing animatedly with a student (his conferences were some of the best, every exchange worth eaves-dropping), or kicking back and whiling away an hour talking pedagogy--those were some of the best conversations about teaching. Nostalgia. It was a good time to be at UMKC, a good time to be an M.A. student in that particular program, good as much for those reasons as for being in the company of Rick and others.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Are You Going to Eat That Roll?

Unfortunately, I will miss SU's "Graduate Student Etiquette Dinner" on Thursday evening because it conflicts with my teaching schedule. Nevertheless, I've been reflecting on my manners and whether they're elegant enough for a professional meal. Consider this an opening for you to add your insights on dinner etiquette to this short list I've started.
  • Order something easy to eat. No ribs or chicken. If you can't pass up the chicken (it's the special, and you want to seem a frugal budgeter more than a spendthrift when it comes to the prospective department's dime) do not slurp down the skin of the chicken or chew the marrow from the bones.
  • Do not order anything that will have you eating happily before your hosts have their food.
  • Take small bites so as to be able to carry on conversation without talking out a pie-hole full of half-chewed food.
  • Unless it really stinks (viz., moldy bun, piece of hair in the pasta, etc.), don't complain about the food.
  • Don't swear, get drunk, launch a point-by-point critique of anyone's research, or audibly belch.
  • Don't air out your own program's dirty laundry.
  • Don't refer your prospective colleagues to your blog for answers to the questions they ask, even if you've blogged about such matters extensively.
  • Avoid chiming in knowingly on every tangent of the conversation.
  • Lap your napkin, even if you never spill crumbs down there. Use the utensils in the order of outer-most inward.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kibble Debacle

Not Always C
Originally uploaded by ewidem

Y. overdid it last evening, ransacked his food stash until he was sickly engorged. We aren't able to give a good estimate of just how much he ate, but it was considerably more than the usual helping.

Another dog, Tony, is my gauge for crises like this one. T. was the dog whose company I enjoyed when I was in high school and college. I'd seen him eat overmuch a few times before. With my fading memory of T.'s full-rounded stomach as my guide, I guessed that Y. would be okay. Y.'s about the same size, anyway, and even though he's not as seasoned at gluttony as T. was, I'm fairly sure he'll survive this event.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Field & Bleacher

What the kids were doing today:

vs. Binghamton, Oct. 6

vs. Binghamton, Oct. 6

I didn't get around to taking any photos of Ph. until the second half, and although he played well, the unseasonably warm temps (a record, 85F and balmy) had everyone on the field pretty tuckered out by then. The topmost photo is of him running the right wing, getting ready to receive a pass from a teammate. The bottom photo came at the end of the match, which turned out to be a 4-1 win over Binghamton despite wrapping up seven minutes ahead of schedule due to lightning on the horizon. The middle clip--that's Is. carefree-stepping to the end-of-game tunes. She's been going to Toddler Tango sessions on most Saturday mornings, and this footage does indeed suggest that the sessions are paying off, no?

Friday, October 5, 2007


A run-down of the week:

It helped to read "How To Grade A Dissertation" as I launched into chapter one.

Writing this week was B or B-. The ongoing decisions are piled thick; one of the more challenging layers of decisions for me is just how polished to make the first draft. How will revisions go? I have to draft more before this can be settled.

Wednesday I attended a colloquium on my program's qualifying exam process. I was invited to share a select few insights into the process. When it was my turn to talk, it seemed like others had covered everything already. I talked anyway. More than anything else, I was in it for the face time. I have so few occasions to interact with those who are in coursework. Plus, with the diss, I appreciate excuses to get out of the house.

A meeting with my chair turned up some promising ideas for the first chapter. I was having a hard time differentiating the first chapter as an introduction from the first chapter as a part of the diss where I set up why this? why now? I'm fairly sure that I'm still overshooting in my sense of what chapter one can accomplish, but I have a better plan as of Wednesday than I had on Monday or Tuesday. The writing I did on those days will wind up in the actual introduction--a short introduction that will be a mini-chapter unto itself. More of a teaser and an abbreviated overview of what follows. So the few pages from early in the week will be appropriate for the intro, but I don't need to mess with that section any more until I've finished drafting and major revisions (June or July?).

Other than the diss? Shoot, let's see. I missed another of Ph.'s soccer matches on Thursday evening because I was teaching. His team won, 3-0. The class I'm teaching this fall is the best teaching I've done since I arrived in Syracuse in '04. Every session has lift to it for some reason or another. Spatial analysis projects (a defensible fit with the shared syllabus). Recently we read a chapter ("Thrashing Downtown") from Steven Flusty's The Spaces of Postmodernity. Thinking...thinking. I bought Y. a new bag of dog food this week. And a new ball. We play fetch in the back yard just about every day. But he won't fetch the new ball. He runs it down and then returns without it. What the heck, Yoki? I'm trying to cuss less. Is. is acquiring the language at a supersonic pace. And you never know who is reading the blog. What else? I swept under the couches today. Quite a few Cheerios under there, and also several of Is.'s small toys piling up out of sight. What else? At the water/sand table in the back yard this afternoon, Is. shoveled a heaping helping of sand into her mouth. Nothing can be done about this. I'm forgetting some stuff. I didn't run as far as usual this week. I've been covering 2.7 miles up to five days per week. But I ran it just three times this week. I don't know whether it's seasonal allergies, a head cold, or some other phlegmatic whatnot. Been getting roughed up in Facebook Scrabble. I'll keep playing the tiles I've got and then give it up for good.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pumpkins Weighed

Is. is fourteen months today, and my dad, he turned fifty-eight (uh, 696 mos.). I talked with him on the phone earlier this evening, and he shared with me a maxim from his brother (my uncle) who lives in Marquette, the metropolis of the U.P.: You're not old until your dead. Fifty-eight is the new forty, I guess.

The "pumpkins weighed" photo reminds me again of Latour's gem on scale and slowciology. I was writing about scalability last week and re-encountered the passage then, just after D. snapped this photo on an excursion to Something-or-other Farms in Cazenovia. Speaking of writing, I topped off chapter two this morning. Saved it away where it will ferment, awaiting revisions. Tomorrow, chapter one. And once again, I have a nagging sense that I should take a month just to read dissertations (ridiculous, right?...right!?). I'm not sure that I've have read one from cover to cover. Only in the case of the monographs that come out of revisions. Most of the diss-to-books are overhauled from their earlier versions. The pumpkin photo reminds me of Latour on pumpkins, which in turn reminds of me of Latour on accounts: "And most of the things we have been studying, we have ignored or misunderstood" (122).

There's so much more to say--a perfect sweet potato and ginger soup, am I getting a cold?, the great Scrabulous distraction of 2007, the Lions are 3-1 (sign of the end times?)--but I tend to feel consumed, exhausted just by writing a little bit each day toward this project. Plus I have one more conference proposal to tune up and send away this week--the last one for a while. Maybe I'll aim for a ten-entry month? Twelve?