Sunday, May 21, 2006

Jo, Mary, Glenn, Paul, Jim, and Julia

This is one of the few photographs that capture all six of us in one place. It is a favorite of mine. I am second from the left.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

First-Year Composition: Lessons in PR

Part of “closing a semester” is the look back at the teaching I’ve done and time spent in considering how I might improve my work for the coming semester. I have some ideas that include incorporating Wiki-writing in a collaborative note-taking enterprise, a shift in projects to include a broader look at cultural influences and how they are composed, and a reflective writing that begins with a “digital fast” – six hours without digital media. These ideas are in development right now, but I can feel the excitement building.

An article found among the papers I’ve been reviewing bounced me into thoughts about first-year composition. I don’t remember now how I came to print and save it – who recommended it or why, but the six facets given as fundamentally definite for “the future of the PR industry” (Ross Dawson, Marketing, March 2006) seem equally to define the shift my students must realize in learning to be better writers for the 21st century. Here’s the list re-worked a bit to reflect emerging demands on composition:

  • People expect more. We have become vastly more demanding in our dealings with content and service providers. Details matter. A “conversational tone” isn’t necessarily easier to write. The idea of “paying” attention has more meaning today.
  • Information is transformable; media are participatory. Effective composition requires competence in multiple modes of production and perception. Connection drives meaning.
  • Information exchange is more a conversation than a “lecture.” People expect to be included and extend greater value to practiced participants.
  • Information flows in every direction and along multiple channels. Learning to “read” layers of data is essential. Learning to compose in layers of intentional expression is expected.
  • Credibility shows. The old catch-phrase “information wants to be free” is more true today than ever before, and now information has a means of escape. Know – expect – you can be seen, and compose yourself accordingly.
  • “Influence Networks” – those few folks close, familiar, and interested in what you have to say – are the source of greatest opportunity and determination for your future. Nurture the networks. Pay attention to the networks.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Class of 2005-2006

Can you tell I'm "cleaning my desk" and organizing papers? I can't help passing along the one or two great "finds" I've run across in the process. ...should have done this long ago, but I'm calling it good now, so here's another favorite:

The "national trends" mentioned below were given as part of the information I received at the start of the school year - tidbits of orientation. Time seems so easily to slip by without notice, and changes come in packets of surprise that catch me off guard for how big the cat has grown, how many more businesses have moved into town, how much smarter the kids have become, and how I don't remember seeing when any of the changes happened. The surprise is one of my favorite parts of life on the planet.

I've listed a few of "reminders" I was given - those most meaningful for me. The university undergraduates of 2006:

  • They do not know what the Selective Service is, even when the men routinely register for it on their financial aid forms.
  • They were born the same year as the PC and the MAC,
  • For them a browser is not someone relaxing in a bookstore; a virus does not make humans sick, and a mouse in not a rodent.
  • God has never been a "he" in most churches.
  • Recording TV programs on VCRs became illegal the year they were born.
  • Boeing has not built the 727 since they were born.
  • They are the first generation to prefer tanning indoors.
  • Artificial hearts have always been ticking.
  • Most know someone who was born with the help of a test tube.
  • And, one earring on a man indicates that he is probably pretty conservative.

There's a Word for It

Lisa Belkin (NYTimes April 9, 2006) spins a bit of fun from words suggested to describe conditions arising in response to emerging technologies and the changing pace of life. Here are some of my favorites with my own explanations added:

  • screensucking - the inability to function without the mediation of one screen or another to mediate
  • EVM (e-mail voice) - the palpable "absence" evident when the person you're talking to drifts off to an email read
  • frazzing - multitasking that crashes
  • regurgimailer - nothing but forwards
  • cylences - the quiet that happens when real-world conversation gets interrupted by one screen "call" or another
  • cyberdysgraphia - the disappearance of "standard" composition cues
  • chimping - working the keypad with thumbs
  • and... earburst - the result of unintentionally turning the volume up on your iPod
I'm relating to the cylences and to the earburst in particular these days ... ouch and oh, yeah!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tommi, Abraham, and James

And then there was Tommi, Abraham, and James.

I celebrate each of you even as I know that today you celebrate me.

Happy Mother's Day.

Phyllis Evelyn (Dill) Eakins

Phyllis Evelyn Dill married Wayne Francis Miller and were parents to Jim, Paul, Mary, Jo, Glenn, and Julia.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Julia Katherine (Raska) Dill

Julia Katherine Raska Dill (born March 27, 1887 and died January 7, 1956) married William Dill and were parents to Ester, Lloyd, Lucille, Francis, and Phyllis.

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Civilized Internet

An all-volunteer force of 500 students work covertly from the shadows of Internet conversation and bulletin board postings to guide interactions toward a "harmonious society." The program enlists students at China's Shanghai Normal University to monitor, steer conversation with well-place comments, and report anything they believe to be offensive. The campaign is entitled "Let the Winds of a Civilized Internet Blow," but the wind is being so carefully controlled that few other students even know it exists.

"Five hundred members sounds unbelievable," said a male undergraduate who, fearing official reprisals, asked that he be identified only as Zhu. "It feels very weird to think there are 500 people out there anonymously trying to guide you."
Hu Yingying, a plain-dressed, ordinary, yet eager sophomore at the university, is proud of the contribution she makes to the effort for a moral society. "We don't control things," she said, "but we really don't want bad or wrong things to appear on the Web sites. According to our social and educational systems, we should judge what is right and wrong ... I need to play a pioneer role among other students, to express my opinion, and make stronger my belief in Communism."

This NYTimes story (May 8, "As Chinese Students Go Online, Little Sister Is Watching") reads too close for comfort to notions of what could happen in the U.S. if increasing numbers of us continue to believe that freedom of speech and individual civil liberties should be subject to law and governed in the name of moral imperative. Let it not be so.

Composing Protest

Update: Matt reminds me there are many protesting through music and mentions one song in particular from artist Josh Ritter. Here is the audio for "A Girl in the War," and although you all know that Tommi is home safe now, the song strikes a chord for me and reminds me of the others still in harm's way.

powered by ODEO

From the May 15 Newsweek story,
"Music: Sounding Off on Bush":
The protest songs of the Vietnam era railed against the war and The Man, but the new wave of dissent is aimed directly at Bush ... When the Dixie Chicks spoke out against Bush onstage three years ago,
they were all but dropped from country-music radio. But with the
president's approval ratings at a record low, criticizing Bush or
opposing the war in song isn't quite as risky. "There's a greater
political intensity now than there's been in years," says Danny
Goldberg, a music-industry veteran who's now vice chairman of Air
America Radio. "These artists are expressing what a lot of the country
is feeling—a growing disenchantment with the way this government is
doing things."

Neil Young: "Let's impeach the president, for hijacking our religion and using it to get elected/Dividing our country into colors, and still leaving black people neglected."

Pink: "Mr. President, how do you sleep at night while the rest of us cry?"

Eddie Vedder: "Medals on a wooden mantel, next to a handsome face/That the president took for granted, writing checks that others pay."

Eminem: "Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war."

Merle Haggard and Paul Simon: songs forthcoming.

Listen to exerpts from the above mentioned music here.

Beautiful People

In her song, "Beautiful People," Melanie sings about a party she'd throw, the people she'd invite, and the buttons she'd pass out to all the folks who came. Here are a few of the people I'd want to be there:

Ester Schodowski, Francis Dill, Phyllis Eakins, Julia Katherine Dill, Wayne Miller, Ruth Miller, Paul Miller, Jo Ozimek, Glenn Miller, Suzanne, Julia Miller, Charles White, Jim Miller, James Godwin, Abe Godwin, Tommi Godwin, Jennifer Godwin, Harold and Carol Schumacher, Oshia, Emil, Herbert Stark, Bradley Dean, Bob Cooper, Aaron, Jessica, Ben, Devon, Aunt Jane, Aunt Alice, Connie Beck, Sandy, Shari, Mary Henry, Don and Gerry, Jane Rudenick, Carol Jensen, Jessica, Phil Hennock, Tom Hagan, Carol, Jenine Carlson, Ophie Godwin, Cerise, Bill Deffenbaugh, Ginny Allie, Rosie Gonzalus, Anita Finn, Jim Finn, Julie Hagan, Daniel, Harold and Carol Schumacher, Darlene Kyllo, Yvonne Walden, Margie Mowe, Dean Albertson, Carly, Margie Skaran, Vicki Krage, Trish, Susan, Paula, Lynne Baum, Suzy, Betsy, Francis Hakaloba, Julie Garneau, Gennifer, Diane, Paul, Gwen, Derek, Stephen, David, Daniel, Pat Steuer, Judy Comstock, Barbara Richards, Anne Reed, Jesus Christ, Peter, Job, Mary, Mark Born, Lyla Berands, Pat Cosgrove, Mary Knudson, Ursula Hovet, Pat Speckman, Carol Ann Russell-Schlemper, Russ Lee, Eileen Walsh, Elizabeth Dunn, Kathy Meyer, Nancy Michael, Stephen Gurney, Dan Smith, Patrick Riley, Natalie Himmirska, Rebecca Schauer, Stephanie Edwards, Arkady Plotnitsky, Thomas Rickert, Samantha Blackmon, Lisa Schade, Mark French, Patrocinio Schweickart, Jennifer Bay, Katherine Hayles, Mathew Kirschenbaum, Stephen Downes, George Siemens, Matt, Haughey, Norm Jensen, Michael Hyatt, David Sifry, Olga Medvedeva, Jessica Kohl, Alice D’Amore, Gigi Taylor, Amy Ferdinandt-Stolley, Adryan Glasgow, Rita Rudd, Michael Michau, Sol Neely, Marc Santos, Nichol Livingood, Monica Osborn, Karen Schiler, John Spartz, Margaret Morris, Tarez Grabau, Karl Stolley, Jaisree, Maria Hadjipolycarpou, Junebugg, Will, Tamar, Winston, Charlie, Brenda Clews, Kat, Ken Camp, David Isenberg, Jerry Michalski, Martin Geddes, Dean Landsman, Frank Paynter, Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Kenneth Burke, Mikhail Bakhtin, C.S.Lewis, Jacques Derrida, Friedrich Nietzsche, Samuel Beckett, Virginia Wolfe, William Shakespeare, Mary Godwin-Shelley, Daisy Pignetti, Virginia Kuhn, Thomas Friedman, Hilary, Doug Day, Jennifer Sharkey, Donna Enerson, Wendy Anderson, Geoff Carter, Gill Cook, Megan Hughes, Emily Sampson, Ryan Weber, Lisa Hartman, Fara Stalker, Mitch Simpson, and so many more…

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Productive Connections

Jerry Michalski was reflecting on a then recently published article in The Economist ("Among the Audience") when he wrote what follows. The writing caught my attention most for the celebration it offered in anticipation of emerging talent – writers, artists, musicians, and creators of ideas yet to unfold. Jerry's April 24 post has since been taken down, and I hope I’m not out of line to republish this bit of what I saved from that day as meaningful to me on so many levels. Regard this writing as an opening to the rather “longish” conversation I have with myself in the next post. In both cases the topic for me is freedom to connect and the benefits we all realize when information moves freely. Here’s a bit from Jerry:

The thing we tend to forget is that until this Internet thingie came along, an average person could not leave stuff out in the world for many others to find and use. Impossible. Through all of human history.

This remarkable, short period of time since the very end of the last century is the first time ever that we've been able to share essays, comments, songs, film clips and code with one another. Worldwide. All the time. With very few constraints.It's remarkable and brilliant, a turning point in human history.

Even better, the tools for producing all this stuff now cost a couple thousand dollars, not several hundred thousand. And when you buy a commodity connection to the Net, global distribution comes free.

So of course there will be excesses. People will post junky, goofy things. They will experiment. They will do the most senseless things with the new medium. They will also get obsessive about it, sinking hours and hours into it. No wonder: they can now connect to everyone. It's overwhelming and exciting. And messy.

As they learn the tools, experiment with the forms and invent new ones, we will see the latent talent that exists everywhere.

Perhaps more interesting, their talent won't be constrained by artificial business pressures that so constrain "media" today … I realize this will sound too utopian and "everything will be free"-ish, so let me add that I'm actively involved in creating novel ways for talented people to be rewarded.

It happens that much new media can be produced at low cost merely for the attention it attracts or the needs it fills. Over time, though, we'll find ways for new media to support promising talent outside the dysfunctional music industry, for example, or the painting scene. Solutions are likely to be authentic and low-cost, with fractal markets built through long-term relationships. But all these things will take a couple decades to materialize.

Till then, I'm betting on an abundance of talent.

technorati tags: Jerry Michalski, F2C, many to many

Net Neutrality

For those of us who may not have kept up with the conversation, “catching up” can be a difficult thing to do, but there’s talk taking place right now that wants your attention in a big way. If you are one of the millions of folks managing and informing your life through online applications – Google, Yahoo, Flickr, news outlets, or any of the thousands of social circuits connecting you to friends, music, and fast data, your freedom to connect is being threatened right now by the resurrected –opoly we once knew/know as AT&T.

Listen for the phrase, “net neutrality,” and when you hear it, recognize the conversation to be about whether or not AT&T has the right to charge content providers a “toll” for sending information at high speeds over the internet.

You currently pay “extra” for speed … ok. The additional discussion is about whether the service provider can charge the information sender an “extra” charge, too.

Think it through. Can you see where this leads? If the Telcom –opolies impose a cost for sending information, they essentially control which packet of information you can access. Your “choice” is protected only if you choose to wait on dial-up speeds to get the information you prefer to receive – the information that comes from a content provider who can’t afford to pay the AT&T toll.

When you hear “freedom to connect” and “net neutrality,” you’re at the door of a conversation aimed at protecting your access to information … ALL the information. You’ve paid for access. You’ve paid for speed. It isn’t right that you now have to fight to protect your purchase, but it appears a fight is at hand, and protecting your liberty in accessing information is exactly at issue right now.

You bought your spiffy new car, and you even bought a terrific garage to keep it in, but now, if the trucker that was supposed to deliver the car won’t ante up another fistful of cash, Ford won’t put the car on her rig. Sorry, you’ll have to wait for the next available tow.

Don’t let it happen!

Rebecca Blood uses another analogy to present the case:

Think of the way cable companies operate … They always choose the programs you want to see for "Basic cable." Do you have any recourse if they decide not to carry a particular station you want to watch? Now imagine that same state of affairs when you surf the Web. If this issue is new to you, it's worth your while to understand why the Telcos are lobbying Congress so hard.

From the Salon feature story on the topic, this:

AT&T is back, it's big, and according to consumer advocates and some of the nation's largest technology companies, AT&T wants to take over the Internet.

The critics -- including Apple, Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo -- point out that AT&T, along with Verizon and Comcast, its main rivals in the telecom business, will dominate the U.S. market for residential high-speed Internet service – a market currently worth $20 billion, and according to the Federal Communications Commission, the major "incumbent" phone and cable companies -- such as AT&T -- control 98 percent of that business. Critics say that these giants gained their power through years of deregulation and lax oversight. Now many fear that phone and cable firms will gain enormous sway over what Americans do online.

AT&T has hinted that it plans to charge Web companies a kind of toll to send data at the highest speeds down DSL lines. The plan would make AT&T a gatekeeper of media in your home. Tens of millions of people might only be able to access heavy-bandwidth applications -- audio, video, and Internet phone service -- from the companies that have paid AT&T a fee. Meanwhile, firms that don't pay -- perhaps Google, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, Salon, or anyone else -- would be forced to use a smaller and slower section of the network, what Internet pioneer Vint Cerf calls a "dirt road."

I am almost certainly missing pieces of understanding, maybe even large chunks of the conversation, but I’m learning. Ken, if you’ve read this far and can improve on any of the points I’m trying to make, please do … always appreciated. So many of our future liberties depend on the work we do today to keep the Net free. Some very savvy folks are shouting as loud as they can on all our behalves right now, and I mean to add my voice in chorus.

technorati tags: ,

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Oh Say Can You See ...

David Sifry's "State of the Blogosphere, April 2006" includes a report on the distribution of use according to the primary language in which the posting was composed. Sifry prefaces with a number of qualifiers that include differences in posting styles, the need for more sophisticated tracking for blogging in the Koreas, China, and France, and potential issues with the software that "reads" the languages.

The outcome is nonetheless as surprising as Sifry suggests it might be for English speaking bloggers: "English isn't the biggest language of the blogosphere. In fact, English isn't even the primary language of one third of all posts that Technorati tracks anymore." I note this aspect of the report largely with thought toward my first-year composition students who often engage online writing for the first time when they begin my class. Here is one more way to bring the global community into view, to situate the measure of familiarity and homogeneity in new light, and to provoke reconsideration for stablized perspectives. If at no other point, taking my students online pays big returns in that moment when one or more of them realize what "not alone in the world" might really mean.

technorati tags: , ,

Missing the "G"irls in G-rated Films

This today from Kevin Drum, Washington Monthy:

DIVERSITY REDUX.... News about the portrayal of boys vs. girls in G-rated films:

  • There are three male characters for every female.

  • Fewer than one out of three (28 percent) of the speaking characters (real and animated) are female.

  • Less than one in five (17 percent) of the characters in crowd scenes are female.

  • More than four out of five (83 percent) of films’ narrators are male.

"The full report, based on the 101 top-grossing G-rated films from 1990 to 2004, is here. The authors also note that males are less likely than females to be portrayed as parents and that nonwhite males are way less likely to be portrayed as parents. In addition, Black and Hispanic
males are extremely scarce in G-rated films (they appear at well under half their actual rate in the general population), and when they are present they're far more often portrayed as violent than white males."

USA Today offers the only notable coverage reporting research findings from the University of California, and even then gives the bulk of its 450 words to a counter critique that would dismiss the study as "overplaying the issue."

The research is sponsored by Geena Davis, Golden Globe winner for her role as the first female U.S. president in the TV show Commander in Chief. Davis' group, See Jane, plans several more studies of G-rated movies. Davis, 50 and herself a mother of three, says the group aims to promote balance in movies, a distribution of roles in movies where women and girls "have half of the adventures" and are just as interesting as men.

You wouldn't think that a difficult goal to accomplish, would you?

Weather Watching

My friend, Winston, prompts me to think about rainbows today ... about lovers and dreamers. This last bit comes from a song he mentions from the philosopher Kermit, "The Rainbow Connection." I tracked down the audio and am posting it here in honor of rainbows, morning stars, and wishes.

Oh, and by the way, when I followed Winston's lead to identify an expression of weather most like me, this was the result. ...ha! No surprise.

You Are Lightning
Beautiful yet dangerous
People will stop and watch you when you appear
Even though you're capable of random violence
You are best known for: your power
Your dominant state: performing

It's a Wrap!

The grading is finished and final paperwork submitted. The semester is officially over, and summer scheduled to begin for me one week from Monday. It'll take a few days to prepare my reading list, and then I'll be making a swing through Michigan to visit family before heading back up north to sink into the rest of being home.

This semester has been a great ride. I have found reward in the work, the wins, and in deepening relationships with friends. Work in teaching put me in touch with some great students this semester, many who are certain to accomplish amazing things. A new job for the fall will open opportunity to work with incoming teaching assistants as a mentor to their work with technology. I'm looking forward to the change and the challenge. If all goes as planned, August will bring preliminary exams. Most of my summer will be spent reading and writing in preparation for that work. You'll hear more as I progress, I'm sure.

For now ... home is calling me, and I'll soon be on my way.

Catching Up

Greg Knauss's bit of writing, "The Backlogged Life," popped up this week on a number of blogs I read. I find myself in good company with those many of us who can identify with the feeling of being overwhelmed and the need to do something about it. Greg writes:

My entire life has devolved into an endless, grinding slog through my back-log. Everything I do is about catching up, doing the stuff I didn't get done the day before ... There are times when it piles up faster than I can shovel it away.

And the computers are at fault, of course. Always the computers.

The tools I use to manage information have evolved to the point where I can abdicate the tedious process of gathering it all together to them, and they now do a very diligent job of making sure that it's all brought to my attention. Endlessly. Maddeningly.

Years ago, someone phoned you and you weren't home, you missed the call and they had to try back -- now, the messages queue up in voice-mail ... The Web originally required me to actually go out and do something as quaint as visit sites to read them -- these days, my feed reader pulls down megabytes of data -- a large portion of it, of course, cat pictures -- and piles it up, forever. Each of these swollen reservoirs of data silently mocks me with my inadequacy.

And ... It's all hard stuff, too, the sedimentary layers at the bottom of my various in-boxes. One e-mail message can imply a month of work. One feed item can be hours of reading. A single voice-mail can be days of back-and-forth.

Greg's solution is to put the "Entirety of Human Knowledge" on notice:

If I haven't gotten to something in a week, it dies. Stick that in your attention economy and smoke it. I'm re-booting. Feed list: empty. In-box: empty. TiVo: OK, OK, I still need to watch "24." But other than that: empty.

So screw you, info-glut! I'm not going to be the responsible info-citizen I'm expected to info-be anymore. If I get to it, I get to it. If I don't, well, then it couldn't have been very important in the first place ... You're on notice, Entirety of Human Knowledge. You get a week. If you can't get my attention in that time -- and it's plenty of time -- then you're tossed, junked, thrown away and forgotten.

Call me back if its important.