NEW update: Concept in 93,280,191

Last Tuesday, I happily posted a “progress report” regarding my Concept in 60 project, which I thought was moving along nicely… I had added a few really interesting features, and finished scripting and storyboarding and whatnot, and was beginning to actually compile the footage for the actual video. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized that the entire concept was flawed.

The game show scenario I had envisioned unavoidably requires some actual video of ‘contestants’ answering questions, or characters asking them, or both… even if I’m CREATING the footage (live action or animation or whatever)… the audio must be married to the video in order for it to work. That’s against the rules.

So I’m starting over from scratch *sigh* … same basic concept, different scenario entirely. The new idea will involve some images (CARA movie ratings, TV guidelines, etc.) juxtaposed footage from The Jetsons and from Terminator or The Matrix or some other very recognizable dystopian sci-fi thing, and soe kinetic typography (which means, I have to learn at least a LITTLE about how to get around in Adobe After Effects, about which my knowledge is now ZERO)…

But, hey– too early to panic quite yet. I bet it’ll be fine.

"Is This Thing On?"

An update regarding my “Concept in 60″ project

As time marches on and December 6th approaches, I continue to work on my project and things are really coming along well. I took Kevin’s advice and played around with different ways I might “incorporate” some theoretical information into the contestants’ answers (I also am playing around with the possibility of having the ‘game show’ take place in the future, with “Marshal McLuhan’s Head,” “Hans Enzensberger’s Head” and so forth being “celebrity guests.” I’m still not sure how all this is gonna work out, but it’s definitely beginning to come together. I also have arranged for a few voice actor pieces… obviously, I need a good “announcer voice” and whatnot, which I have arranged for… I’m beginning to make some headway with Adobe Premiere, by the way… I really like that there can be text layers that you can animate, so that putting scrolling text subtitles (which might be useful for quoting stuff) over video is pretty straightforward. Lots left to do, but I think that by December 6, what I’ll end up with will be very cool :)

Concept in 60 [very] rough draft

Note: The computer with all my content on it is running a “startup repair” that has been running for at least an hour… I may not be able to upload actual content before 5pm… The below explanation/description, though, I believe will give you a good idea where I’m trying to go with this…

Further computer update: (11/19 1:00pm): Well, good thing I bought a new laptop a few weeks ago: the ‘transition’ between the old one and the new one– Windows 8, which I am NOT proficient with– is obviously gonna occur more hastily than I had planned… *sigh*

My process is somewhat different than what we’ve seen so far, among the projects “in progress.” My approach is to formulate a concept, then a treatment of that concept that is appropriate for the medium (in this case, a short video), then proceed to BUILD that object (a video):
Building the video involves three major parts:

  • Amassing a bunch of third-party content, including proper attribution of that content and whatever manipulations/adjustments to that content are necessary to get those pieces to “work” in the re-purposed piece, including meeting “fair use” criteria under copyright law.
  • Designing and producing original content that’s needed (both visual and aural)
  • Once all those “chunks” are done, the actual “piecing together” of the final piece can begin. I plan to use Audacity to piece together a “soundtrack,” then use a video editor (like MS Movie Maker) to create visuals to go with that soundtrack.

So far, I haven’t actually begun piecing together a final “cut,” so to speak (not to be confused with Final Cut, incidentally), but I can offer a script, some audio clips, and a few graphics, plus some planning for continuation of this process. I didn’t want to get too far along before I was sure this was what I actually wanted to do, and that others were on board with it.

Conceptual Underpinning:

It’s been half a century since Marshall McLuhan predicted that the “New Media” would revolutionize society, every bit as much as the printing press did.
He claimed that media are neutral, and it makes no difference what message they contain.

  • Hans Magnus Enzenberger explained, “The new media are egalitarian by nature.”
  • Hegel = “zeitgeist”
  • Marx & Engels: call it “base and superstructure”
  • McLuhan: media are “natural resources” [and thus make up part of the ‘base’?]
  • Lord: Oral/written forms are “superstructure” reflective of the communication ‘base.’
  • McLuhan (“typographic man”): culture fundamentally changed by printing
  • “literate man” evolved to “typographic man” who the new media will revolutionize again…
  • Marx and Engels, way back in the 19th Century, explained that the logical progression of society was feudalism -> bourgeois capitalism -> socialism -> Utopian communism
  • Antonio Gramsei added to that concept, explaining that in a capitalist society, the “ideology” that is spewed forth by the “bourgeoisie” helps to maintain the “hegemony” that keeps them in power, and maintains the current social order.
  • Television, radio, and other instantaneous or near-instantaneous communication tools (McLuhan predicted the Internet, but didn’t spend much time focusing on advances in telephones) in theory could enhance the “feedback loop” that allows consumers to actually become “producers” after a fashion, influencing the content of messages, and even producing their own messages, diluting that ideology enough that the proletariat could escape the hegemony that “keeps them in their place.”

French revolutionWhat McLuhan did NOT anticipate is that the content of media (television then, and the Internet now) mattered a great deal indeed.

By the early 60s, when McLuhan was writing, nearly 93% of American households had a television. Such penetration and intrusion into so many aspects of the personal lives of the proletariat had never been possible before new media. Just like inviting a vampire over the threshold to your home, obtaining a television receiver (then) or accumulating “rewards cards” or joining “Facebook” (now), consumers are becoming willing participants in their own hegemonic oppression.

In the half-century since McLuhan’s groundbreaking media studies, the intrusion of the capitalists into our lives, and the intricacy with which just about every aspect of our lives is immersed in the hegemony THEY WANT, suggests that, just as Marx and Engels predicted a century before McLuhan predicted the Internet, the only way the society will move forward past capitalism is when the proletariat becomes SO oppressed and SO impoverished and SO desperate that a “point of crisis” is reached, and a revolution of a very different sort than McLuhan predicted occurs.


Game show: “Real or not real?”
[sound clip from Family Feud intro] “On your mark, let’s start… [record announcer voice]“REAL or NOT REAL!” [sound clip: “… and may the odds be ever in your favor!”]
Some sample questions (there need to be about 3, I think):

Q. Hyperlinks, as predicted by Ted Nelson more than 45 years ago, now can be used to link to virtually all the world’s accumulated knowledge.
A. NOT REAL [clip of clicking a link and being led to a “payment” page, or clip of clicking a link and being led to a “forbidden” error—need to build mock site, probably… use Debut video screencap software to create video clip]
Q. New media has led to the world’s abandonment of the “mainstream media” in favor of a diversity of voices, breaking the bonds of propaganda and oppressive ideology. Revolution is just over the horizon!
A. NOT REAL [clip of “amateurish” video and people’s immediate rejection of it based on what we’re taught is “professional” and “acceptable” – Baudrillard quote, maybe?]
Q. Online petitions and the status quo’s use of new media to thwart efforts to effect change are ever-increasingly successful.
A. REAL [Baudrillard again, maybe?]

Additional background music as needed: “Hyper-Gamma-Spaces” from Pyramid. Alan Parsons Project, 1978.

Closing credits over Closing Theme from Split Second. Viacom, 1986.

Some Decisions yet to be made/Input requested:

Who are the contestants? (One option: create animated avatar characters in GoAnimate– use ____ (theorists? Writers? Idk) as models)

What/how much introductory info needs to be given? (could we maybe use the background music from the opening of Family Feud, for example, overlaid with narration of theoretical underpinning?)

How much of the 60 seconds should that introductory/theoretical stuff take up? Can it be incorporated into the “game show” theme, or should it be a ‘frame story’?

"Is it just semantics?"
"Well yeah, but isn’t that what English language study is all about?"

I was thinking some more about the semantic discussion we had in class last week about terms like “text” and “write” and the way that those terms have been expanded and broadened by the advent of “new media,” which itself is such a term. Most pointedly, I suppose, I was interested in the word “literacy.” It was pointed out that “reading” (another such term) involved a lot more than just decoding letters and words, but also about understanding (or at least grasping) such concepts as symbolism, irony, and metaphor. Indeed. And then it was also pointed out that this understanding of “literary” concepts extended to things other than books. Thus, although the words “literate” and “literacy” and such all originated from the root “lit-,” evoking “letters,” the term could describe many other things than just being able to handle written texts.

I’d argue that simply is not true, but demonstrates a problem with the word “text” as well. “Literacy” cannot just broadly mean “competence” for the same reason that Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (or Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” if you prefer) or the Mona Lisa or films like Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz are not considered “literary.” Certainly, there’s a need to describe a consumer’s competence at “handling” those works, but it isn’t “literacy.”

To be sure, I’m not in all cases advocating a “prescriptive” rather than “descriptive” understanding of language. Honestly, just generally, I hold with Steven Fry about the ridiculousness of the “grammar police.” Indeed, as well-known RPG designer James Nicoll once famously said, “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

That is to say, I’m not so much concerned not that the meanings of words have shifted (certainly they do– and rightly so– that’s why it bothers me that people base their religious beliefs on a 17th century Elizabethan English translation of sacred writings), but rather that the ever-more broadening “meanings” of those words renders them ambiguous. And THAT’S a problem: after all, the goal of communication is to be CLEAR. And if “literally” means “in effect; in substance; very nearly; virtually,” then we definitely are losing control over the language. (I was heartened to find, in preparing this post, that although’s ‘clarifying’ usage note is little more than an apologist defense of its absurd ‘definition,’ makes it abundantly clear that the use of the word as an intensifier before a figurative expression is clearly a usage error.

Again, my concern is not with words “changing” meanings over time, but of words’ meanings becoming so vague and broad as to render them useless. I’m a big advocate of coining new words as needed. Just not “twerk” and “selfie,” two new additions to the OED (they’ve listed “booty call” for over a decade now, so perhaps they’re just really thorough).

Non-Print Presentation

Note: I wasn’t really clear about the subject matter of this project, or the duration… so I just “winged it.”

Is Google making us stupid? The “signs” that the world is coming to an end have been around almost as long as there has been writing. In fact, Socrates warned 2500 years ago that the world was coming to an end BECAUSE of writing… well, it ain’t over yet. Things change, but people adapt. And it’s still a world full of promise as we move forward.

Some thoughts: this video could benefit from scrolling subtitles during the narration; I know that Adobe Premiere will do that, but it’s very intimidating and quite frankly, I’m afraid to commit to using it when I have a tight deadline. The voice processing was intended to give a “synthetic” feel to it (kinda edgy), but it turned out a little muffled and garbled. I think subtitles would help. I’ll continue investigating how to get that done.

Even Calvinists Look Both Ways Before They Cross the Street

Peering into the past AND the future of media

(Forewarning: if you’re not up on Marxist critical theory, you probably need to read this brief primer by Professor David Newton, English and Philosophy Chair at the University of West GA)

It’s been half a century since Marshall McLuhan predicted the imminent “revolution” of “new media” (or “electric media” or “technology,” whatever you want to call it). The stifling power of the capitalists has, so far, prevented the actual fruition of that potential, though.

Basically, McLuhan looked at the beginnings of writing (and how, as Albert Lord had also studied, it changed the very structure of communication from the oral tradition that had come before), then of printing (and of course, “publishing” and “mass media” and all the things that went with that) and now (in the 1960s) of radio, television — and predictively, the Internet– as major sea-changes in culture. He Marx and Engels’ explanation of “base” and “superstructure,” looking at communication structures as the base, rather than economics. It doesn’t matter, he explains, whether the machine makes “cornflakes or Cadillacs;” the STRUCTURE of the media itself is what brings about the change in the society’s superstructure.

I disagree. Hans Ensensberger insisted, in a very Marxist analysis of McLuhan’s writings of the early 1960s, that the new media were NOT ‘neutral,’ but ‘egalitarian by nature.’ That the supposed “blurring” of the distinction between producer and consumer was circumvented by “arbitrary legal and administrative means.” That is, the “bourgeoisie,” as Marx might put it, fought (and continues to fight to this day) to maintain the status quo of power. And through media consolidation, ever-more-restrictive “anti-piracy measures” like DMCA and most recently SOPA, they continue to tirelessly work to circumvent efforts to dilute the message of the “proper” ideology to maintain the hegemony so important to perpetuating traditional power structures.

Jean Baudrillard says that indeed, the “feedback loop” that is so enhanced by New Media, giving consumers the power to become producers, is anticipated by the extant producers, and factored into their very presentation to begin with. He also argues that a major effort by the “producers” is to define what new media “look like,” so that the attempts at production by Others clearly and plainly does not resemble “real” media.

Media consolidation since 1980 has been alarming, so much so that now, over 95% of all the “media” (television, radio, print, music, film, etc.) is owned by a half-dozen or so companies with similar viewpoints. So although your cable box gives you several hundred options of ‘programming,’ the vast majority of it is controlled by the same half-dozen giant multi-national companies, who all share a particular ideology (promoted by their main revenue source, the advertisers who by-and-large are ALSO giant multinational corporations with the same mindset).

This “intellectual property” problem, wherein objects of knowledge are “owned” by individual entities, and are not freely available to the society-at-large, stifles the development and evolution of media. Among other things, hypertext as we know it is “trivialized” and Continue reading Even Calvinists Look Both Ways Before They Cross the Street

Some Marxist Criticism Ramblings

Tonight’s discussion in Dr. Bird’s ENGL 600 class about Marxist critical theory started with Marx and Engels‘ notion that the superstructure (institutions, religion, education, and other systems) of a society grows out of– and reflects– the base of that society (or the economic means of production). That is to say, in an agrarian society, the educational structure will be geared towards preparing people to become productive farmers; the art, architecture, literature– in short, all the “trappings” of that society– will all reflect its agrarian base. As the base changes (say, with the industrial revolution, for example), these guys theorize, the superstructure changes to reflect that base.
Through a lively class discussion, we demonstrated how in contemporary society, there are plenty of microcosmic “closed systems” that bear out this notion (the former “mill towns” of the Old South, for example). We looked at Rock Hill, and also Mooresville, NC, specifically, as well as a former coal mining town in West Virginia and the similar development of a tobacco-farming community. I would also offer up as an example Kannapolis, NC, which was only incorporated as a town at all upon the “death” of the textile industry, after existing for nearly a century under the sole ownership of Cannon Mills (James Cannon — they owned the school, the hospital, the grocery stores, the residential real estate, the whole thing). Amazing how things have changed in the last 30 years, since the economic means of production in THAT burg has shifted so dramatically.
Continue reading Some Marxist Criticism Ramblings

Evaluation Heuristic

I have discussed this idea in my previous post, the first part of the Values and Criteria Assessment assignment.

Importantly, there are three things that I believe need to be considered:

  • The traditional measures of “writing” are probably important here: coherence, unity, evidence, etc.
  • Since digital content is somewhat different than writing, a combination of “visual” and “writing” components, plus multimedia content (sound, etc.), some consideration should be given to those layout-dependent things as well as the actual “writing” content. The Visualizing Composition criteria are probably important to this end.
  • Usability/universality: one frustration users often have is the relative lack of standards for digital media. Does the presentation render the same way in various browsers? Are special ‘readers’ or ‘viewers’ needed to view the content? That sort of thing.

Is it stupid to worry about how Google is affecting our intelligence?

Thoughts concerning the shift from accumulating knowledge to retrieving information as the cornerstone of ‘educational’ mastery

Is Google Making Us Stupid? Is Stupid Making Us Google?
Socrates, some 2500 years ago, predicted doom and gloom as the result of the shift from oral to written discourse: “The discovery of the alphabet will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves… you give your disciples not truth but only the semblance of truth; they will be heroes of many things, and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing.” ~ from Phaedrus
Continue reading Is it stupid to worry about how Google is affecting our intelligence?

Criteria and Values Analysis– Part I

Testing out a heuristic’s usability

Throughout this semester, a foremost puzzle that is continually revisited (and on which this assignment is based) involves a series of questions: how does one effectively assess new media and digital multimedia content? Is digital multimedia the same as traditional writing or different? In what ways? Do the priorities about what is important for successful presentation change?

The basics

I’ve had plenty of experience as a writing teacher, tutor, and coach in assessing people’s writing. Over the years, I have found that one effective way of assessing writing generally has begun with the “6+1 trait Writing” concept, and slightly modifies it for specific purposes.

According to the Education Northwest folks, the “6 key qualities that define strong writing” are:

  • Ideas: the main message
  • Organization: the internal structure of the piece
  • Voice: the personal tone and flavor of the author’s message
  • Word Choice: the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning;
  • Sentence Fluency: the rhythm and flow of the language
  • Conventions: the mechanical correctness

In short, there’s an emphasis on thesis and organizational structure, lots of emphasis on diction and syntax, and a nod to mechanics. I think this particular typology doesn’t emphasize what I consider to be the most important element of writing: support and depth. Without well-presented, thorough evidence and logic, credibility suffers greatly, in my opinion.

I’ve seen many similar, but slightly different, dimensional breakdowns, some of which address this absence: one four-pronged measure used for assessing student writing in K-12 exit exams, for example, looks at Focus, Organization, Support, and Conventions.

This measure, though, doesn’t take voice into account much, and since it’s generally used for standardized testing, there aren’t any allowances for variation of audience. I think that’s a problem.

In any case, certainly there are plenty of variations, but what they all seem to have in common are a basic concern for focus and coherence, demand for depth and thoroughness of content (support/evidence/etc.), and some final consideration of language mastery.

Why fluency is important, but picky mechanics might not be: It’s important, I think, to see the forest in spite of the trees. the NCTE, for example, insists that there are two kinds of “mechanics” errors: those that obscure meaning, and those that don’t. Occasional mechanical errors that do little to obscure meaning– a misspelled word here and there, or an extraneous comma in a compound predicate with only two verbs, for example– are probably not worth making a big deal over. A profusion of egregious errors (such as homophone confusion, misplaced apostrophes and the like), though, can be really distracting and may hurt a writer’s credibility, so should be taken into consideration.)

How Digital Multimedia might be different than traditional writing: The “+1″ in Education Northwest’s model, of course, is a little more subjective than their six basic traits:

  • Presentation: how the writing actually looks on the page

It would seem to me that for multimedia presentations, that “+1″ would be of prime importance, a lot more so than with traditional writing, but the other six qualities apply to all communication, in my opinion, and not just writing on paper, so they certainly can’t be ignored.

Test what you mean to test

When I was first earning my professional teaching certificate, my pedagogical training included an “assessment and evaluation” course. For multimedia presentations, though, I see that a lot of the methods from that class (and used widely in academia) are inapplicable or inappropriate. However, some core principles that– in my experience, at least– are too often not carefully considered in designing a system to assess and evaluate academic work, certainly apply. Most important among these, I think, is this consideration: “Does the assessment method actually evaluate mastery of the instructional objectives?”

An example scenario A good example of this problem would be the FCAT math test: the test designers believe that math competency is best demonstrated by a person’s ability to solve real-world problems, so all the questions on the test are word problems. It means little, these folks believe, to adeptly juggle lines of numbers on paper if they don’t represent anything real… thus, instead of asking folks to “solve for x,” the test might ask “how many people can this elevator hold?” or something of that nature.
The problem: The test is only available in English. Over 40% of Florida’s student population speaks Spanish as their first language, and the Orange County Public Schools, for example, states in their Parent Guide ( page 44) that “More than 161 languages are spoken in our schools.” It’s reasonable that the FCAT READING test be presented in English, since it’s clearly a test of literacy in English, but the math test? Why is it assessing a person’s literacy in English instead of mathematical agility? People who don’t read well in English will score poorly on this math test regardless of their mathematical ability.
Why this matters: In this same way, it makes little sense to use the same structure that is used to assess “writing” without some major adaptations to assess digital multimedia.

Adapting a writing heuristic to new media

Cheryl Ball, in her paper “Assessing Scholarly Multimedia: A Rhetorical Genre Studies Approach,” explains how four parameters developed by students and identified by Kairos (conceptual core, research component, form and content, creative realization) might be expanded and generalized to evaluate some webtexts effectively: she adds two additional dimensions: audience and timeliness.

Audience, I think, is important in examining public online pieces, because they are indeed valuable regardless of the “rigor” that often is overemphasized in academic settings, as Ball points out in her paper’s endnotes. Not only is academically “rigorous” content valuable, but certainly the heightened appeal to a wider distribution of folks, engaging imagery, and so forth, is of some worth in multimedia presentations.

Timeliness is particularly important of online content, I believe, because of the very nature of the medium’s distribution. Since much work is nearly instantly and globally distributed, the consideration of what’s “timely” (good), what’s “evergreen” (inoccuous and inoffensive), and what’s “dated” (bad), becomes a much bigger consideration than it might in a traditional journal format.

One possibly workable heuristic

So: in general, Ball’s proposed six dimensions address our main concerns, IMO:

  • creativity: the “+1″ in the “6+1 Traits” model
  • conceptual core: including considerations of focus, coherence, unity, and the like
  • research/credibility: evidence/support
  • form/content: mechanics, conventions
  • audience: rhetorical choices involving tone, voice, appropriate evidence, and the like
  • timeliness currency or evergreen content where appropriate

So, theoretically, this heuristic makes sense. However, my experience in working with rubrics and heuristics has also taught me that the only sure way to find out if a given heuristic actually works, is to actually try it out and use it.

Testing it out

So, let’s look at a few pieces from various “genres” within the digital realm, and see how this assessment tool holds up:

And a response video:

The topic of “Obamacare” is, of course, highly controversial (oddly, because it seems as if it would be a no-brainer), and I won’t get into the debate over the rightness or wrongness of the policy here (this is neither the time nor place). I’ll just stick to analyzing and assessing the two pieces, which present opposing views of the controversy.

Initial Impression: One striking contrast between the two pieces is the choice of “splash page”: the first video emphasizes care, and the response video emphasizes money, specifically using the word “investors” lest there be any ambiguity provoked by a visual image.

Further analysis:
Initially, applying our 6 dimensions, it’s tough to find the “difference” between the two in terms of organization or thesis or whatnot, because the “response” piece directly edits the initial piece, and thus they are substantively identical. However, once we start looking at actual language, audience, and so forth, we notice some particular differences:

Instructive vs. Combative
The first video presents a very easily understood analogy (fire protection). “Whatever-you-want-to-call-it…” immediately acknowledges the notion that “naming” and “labeling” of the concept is unimportant, and that propagandists have variously used all sorts of different labels to describe what essentially is the same concept. The interjection “eeeeek!” under the word “socialist” is designed (and fairly effective, I think) at mocking the notion that “socialism is evil.”

It’s notable that the second video is very specific and combative in its language: right up front, we notice that the title refers to “socialized medicine” and the first few seconds, it already engages in name-calling and derision in an attempt to discredit and mock the initial video. It’s notable that the word “and” is emphasized in the opening attack, substituting the “necessity” of a specific, all-encompassing view rather than providing inclusive choices for the viewer.

Regarding evidence/support: A comment under the first video on Youtube complains of unsourced data. That’s a valid complaint. The metrics presented in the video are easily verified, but there are no “links in the description” or whatever to support the video’s contentions. This hurts its credibility, in my view… additionally, sources that DO report, for example, the administrative costs of Medicare show a murkier picture than the video presents. Apparently, Medicare itself presents two different measures of administrative costs annually, and they diverge from 1% to 6% (still much lower than private insurance, and thus more “efficient,” perhaps. Also, sources repeatedly show that private insurance companies spend MUCH more than 10-20% on “other” expenditures: the PP-ACA requires that insurers spend 80-85% (depending on policy) of premiums on actual care, and companies complain that doing so is impossible. So those data are inaccurate and unsourced. That’s a pretty glaring problem.

There are a number of logical fallacies presented in both videos… most notably, it isn’t a fair comparison.

Another animation: Ben Cohen’s take on the federal budget using Oreo cookies

Some strong choices regarding audience: Americans have a lot of trouble understanding very large numbers… basically, things that end in “billion” or “million” really are meaningless, relatively. Most people have difficulty explaining that $120 million is roughly 1/8 of a billion dollars, for example. This Oreo Cookie symbolism is great in that regard.

I like the way the video pre-empts objections: “what do I care?” or “I’m just one person [and thus powerless]”; such a move would weaken the military… those are common objections to such proposals IRL, so it’s good that this presentation preempts them, perhaps.

Evidence/Support: Incomplete data: This animation ignore some really major categories of government expenditures: namely, “entitlements” (social safety net programs, like TANF and SNAP and so forth, for example). The word “entitlement” is an accounting term that refers to items that are not negotiable, and thus perhaps they’re not worthy of consideration in this animation. However, ‘entitlement reform’ is a major controversial issue in the political budget debate, and thus to not even dismissively acknowledge it hurts the credibility of this piece, in my opinion. Under “conceptual core,” the Kairos people specifically insist that “the project must effectively engage the primary issue/s of the subject area in which it is intervening.” In my view, by ignoring “entitlement reform” (even if the producer believes it’s an irrelevant red herring in the debate, which I suspect), the piece fails this test.

Timeliness: The figures the Ben Cohen character quotes are outdated. This video was posted nearly a decade ago, and since it continues to be viewed and continues to figure into the ongoing debate, perhaps it should be periodically updated.

A satirical “news” site

The Duffel Blog
The Duffel Blog is a satirical news site, much like The Onion or The Daily Currant, focusing on topics of special interest to military folks.

Creativity: I for one am a bit put out by the recent explosion of satirical “news” sites. What once was successful has been so oft (and not necessarily so adroitly) repeated that somehow the ‘genre’ has begun to lose its appeal. The Duffel Blog, in my estimation, merely replicates a genre that is really common and tiresome, and doesn’t offer anything particularly unique or interesting.

Audience: What can be said for The Duffel Blog is that it does indeed monitor the pulse of the military community and addresses issues of particular interest to its audience. My sister is a naval intelligence officer, for example, and her husband is a marine gunnery sergeant. In my observation, the absurdities presented on the Duffel Blog often reflect the actual topics that are most important to those folks.

On the other hand, it reminds me a great deal of Johnny Carson’s monologue on The Tonight Show some years ago: it was funny, but only if you were informed of the most current topics in the media. Otherwise, you just plainly didn’t get it. Likewise, with The Duffel Blog, if you aren’t involved with the target audience, you might often miss the jokes.

I do question the flippancy with which the site uses Google’s advertising network. The ads that were served up when I reviewed th site were for RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo, a gay-oriented cable channel. Military folks (the primary audience of this site) are known to be more homophobic than the general population. Is that a deliberate choice, or an oversight? If it’s deliberate, to what end?

The use of a “blog” type CMS allows for the timely address of current events, and even in reviewing the archives, a reader is keenly aware of the timeliness of a given piece.

Other potential ways to evaluate websites

Chairigami: cardboard furniture for the urban nomadConsider Chairigami, designer Zach Rotholz’s presentation of his innovative cardboard furniture design. A different way of assessing this site may be appropriate: since it’s not particularly “digital scholarship,” maybe the considerations we’ve been looking at don’t apply. Another way of evaluating it would be to consider dimensions such as those discussed in the tutorial series we’ve been looking at in this class, “visualizing composition.” Alignment, contrast, color (and texture), and the like … those design concerns involve distinct rhetorical choices regarding audience, presentation, and so forth, and of course a website should have unity and coherence, as with pretty much all communication. But perhaps it’s a bit more of a challenge to develop an “all-inclusive” evaluation tool for digital content, so our heuristic is maybe not as applicable here, or universally.


Response and Research after reading Winner and Joyce

Pardon me for perhaps being perceived as a sort of Johnny One-Note or whatever, but this week’s readings once again underscore the problematic nature of the powers that be, and their aggressive efforts to perpetuate the power structure (I write a lot of Marxist lit crit too)…

Reading #40 (Winner) right up front succinctly declares this problem: “The transitions accompanying computer technologies may have some democratizing potential, but… Winner explains in detail how new media technologies do not necessarily predicate egalitarianism, and that the powers that be actually are able to leverage this technology to strengthen the oligarchic tendencies of society. Joyce then follows up in reading #42, showing that the potential for hypertext is greatly stifled by arbitrary and unnecessary constraints. He goes on to discuss innovative ways that hypertext could be developed in novel and “constructive” ways based on available technology. Unfortunately, it’s not technological constraints, but socio-political and bureaucratic ones, that hold us back.
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Is “New Media” Only for Fine Art?

Rereading Manovich

I’m rereading some of the early articles that were assigned for this class, and I’m finding that with a month’s worth of reflection and additional information, I’m gleaning some things that I didn’t notice (or at least didn’t highlight or annotate LOL) the first time.

New Media is for art?

Manovich, for example, in an offhanded parenthetical clarification, explains that “new media” is “understood as computer-based artistic activities.” Is it? Perhaps in the past 10 years, things have changed… as for ME, at least (I can only speak for myself), I don’t understand it that way at all. He differentiates between new media and cyberculture, and places a lot of the things that I would include in the realm of “new media” (like multi-player game playing, particularly).

This week, we have Laurel arguing that video games are a quintessential example of the “art” that is New Media, by Manovich’s own initial definition. Meanwhile, lots of informative communication and technical writing is very much the province of New Media, IMO. What it boils down to for me is that If new media is only for creative “art,” then “Writing For New Media” ought only be concerned with creative writing.… I think most of us– and most of the writers in The New Media Reader, for that matter– would disagree.

Raiders of the Lost Star

Response and Research after reading selections by Turkle and Laurel

Turkle expresses her apparent alarm with the “obsession” young people seem to have with video games, and goes on to explain how that transactional relationship works. In 1984, nearly three decades ago, speaking of first-generation arcade games like Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Pac Man. I shudder to think what she might have to say about today’s really complex games like The Legend of Zelda, Grand Theft Auto, or Skyrim– not to mention MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. She does speak briefly about the “grandaddy” of such games, Dungeons and Dragons, but mostly speaks of short-duration, “primitive” by our standards, arcade games. The closest she comes to discussing multiplayer games is a section about multiplayer arcade games like “Joust” (I personally would have chosen “Gauntlet” as my example, but it wasn’t released until 1985, a year after her article was published).
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Literacy Narrative

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Computer Dreams

Reaction and Research after reading Selections by Ted Nelson

This week’s readings provoked a LOT of highlighting, margin-note scribbling, and the like: it’s hard to know where to begin. Nelson is writing just BEFORE the advent of the Microcomputer, a decade or so before the introduction of the first PCs and the Apple IIE. Certainly the Computer-Aided Instruction he discusses is hardly the same as the LMS platforms we’re familiar with four decades later (like Blackboard (which now owns WebCT, MOODLE, and the like). The best-known of the CAI models he’s talking about, I imagine, would be PLATO. The question to me is: was he right? Did his writing actually influence the development of such tools? Did the direction of CAI dramatically change after this indictment? Are we better off?
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Understanding Media Politics

Reaction and Research after reading Enzenberger and Baudrillard

This week’s pair of readings by Enzenberger and Baudrillard offered a distinctly different, perhaps even confrontational view to McLuhan’s take on New Media. Enzenberger, particularly, is harsh to McLuhan, calling him a “charlatan” who is “incapable of any theoretical construction,” producing a work that amounts to “provocative idiocy.” Most importantly, he points out that media, at bottom, is NOT apolitical at all, and that McLuhan works from an assumption that it’s objective and unbiased and doesn’t itself represent any social processes, while he (McLuhan) simultaneously insists that the very existence of new media manipulates the messages it carries.
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Literacy Narrative (draft)

Note: this is, of course, a ‘draft.’ It is wordy, not as well organized as it will be later, and, I imagine, not necessarily even focused the same way it will be when it is a finished product in another medium entirely. Nevertheless, I believe it’s a good starting point. Please read it accordingly:

Throughout my life, I’ve been a pretty prolific writer and voracious reader. Although I have a personal interest in creative writing (I mostly write short fiction, but I dabble in formal poetry and remember being described by an Orlando Sentinel writer a while back as a “not-bad poet), most of my actual published writing is technical in nature, primarily on computer- and technology-related topics. I earned a BA-English magna cum laude at Rollins College (home of the Norton Anthology editors *smirk*), studied TESOL at UCF on a provost’s fellowship, and taught writing and literature analysis as a high school LA teacher for some years. Through all those experiences and more, I have, needless to say, finely honed both my reading and writing skills.
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The Continually Expanding Galaxy

Reaction and research after reading Two by McLuhan

The two passages in this week’s reading address two different concepts, and quite frankly I’m not sure how to marry the two (and I’m sure that some folks in this class will have some ideas, so I will look forward to reading those and responding as I develop some thoughts in that regard).

The Galaxy Reconfigured

Meanwhile, what really interests me most about these writings of McLuhan, and particularly the book chapter from The Gutenberg Galaxy, is the concept that McLuhan emphasizes from a Polanyi quote he emphasizes: “a market economy can only exist in a market society.” Western culture was fundamentally changed by Gutenberg’s invention: the printing press amplified individual voice so that books could contain knowledge to be shared with many people and needn’t be copied out by hand. Thus the accessibility to others’ thought was forever changed.
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Introduction to New Media

Reaction and research after reading Manovich

Wow! Either of these articles lends itself to a hundred different blog posts: Eliza -vs- Siri, for example; the concept of “virtual” space and its effect on object permanence, and how that differs for us “old-timers” from “digital natives;” What the word “media” really means, and if it can be considered a plural, like the word “opera,” which of course is plural for “opus,” which makes perfect sense if you think about it.
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What is New Media?

“New media” is a nebulous term (is it even one thing, or a collective term– plural– for a lot of things?), I suppose, but I think of it as basically differentiating between technology-mediated (and interactive) communication and traditional communication. Digital encylopedic resources like Wikipedia, for example, are far superior to traditional print encyclopedias, as they can include rich multimedia like video, audio, and animation, and make great use of hypertext (links) so that the writing is not necessarily “linear,” having no definite beginning, middle, and end. Hypertext allows the reader more control and flexibility in examining a written text. Whereas the sender’s choices largely dictate presentation in traditional media, that power is increasingly transferred to the receiver.
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Syllabus Response

Writing for New Media sounds like a very exciting and useful class for me. The course goals listed are really like the “standards” I became accustomed to using as a HS English teacher. The things called “learning goals” are mostly applicable to undergraduates, of course, but are reasonable, broad-based, and help to align the curriculum. Both the “content and skill” goals and the “technology goals” I’m pretty comfortable with.
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First Draft Finished

I’ve got the basic configuration of this blog finished.   I’m quite interested to hear other people’s thoughts and suggestions.  One thing I really like about WordPress blogs is that they’re ever-evolving, and changes in the appearance and secondary functions are really easy to implement.  So have at it, and let me know what would be helpful!  Thanks!

Still Configuring This Blog

Over the course of the next few hours, the appearance of this page will change a LOT, and there’s not yet any useful content on it.  Please be patient.  Something very exciting will be here soon.