networks: May 2004 Archives

Every once in a while, several of the posts from my meanderings come together into a broader stream of thought, and it's happening right now. First, I wanted to acknowledge the weblog that Adrian Miles and Jeremy Yuille put together to support their Creative Computing Manifesto (see my original post). Jeremy dropped a comment here, but since the post has faded to archive, I thought I'd put their link up front for a spell.

In an entry on pedagogy, Adrian cites Ilana Snyder's injunction that we begin to reshape education according to networked technologies rather than doing the reverse, what McLuhan would have described as asking new media to do the work of the old. Charlie just posted the chapter that he and Terra Williams contributed to Into the Blogosphere, "Moving to the Public: Weblogs in the Writing Classroom." Jeff has some interesting end-of-semester thoughts about the plagiarism vultures. And at the Social Software Weblog, Judith Meskill talks about how we might start tracking and visualizing weblog conversations.

All right. Toss it all into the Blog-o-Matic, set to blend, and...

One of the things I've thought most about from the manifesto is the idea that "Network literacy is the ability to engage with and represent yourself within the network." Charlie and Terra talk about this to a certain degree in their chapter:

As two teachers who have used weblogs in our classrooms for the past two years, we have found that by extending the discourse to a large community outside of the classroom, our student bloggers regularly confront "real" rhetorical situations in a very social, supportive setting.

One of the worries I have about claims like this is the tendency to assume that putting something onto the network automatically gives writers access to something called a "public." That's not what I see Charlie and Terra doing, but there are those who make that claim, that putting something online instantly guarantees writers a huge audience, as though public were simply a threshold that could be crossed by assigning one's work a URL. For me, that underestimates drastically the importance of both engaging with the network and representing one's self.

And it doesn't help that we're still really just now working out tools (both technological and conceptual) for engaging the network. According to Mary Hodder, "Technorati can help find conversations across blogs but only if there are links to one another or everyone uses the same key words." The post at SSW, among other things, makes it clear that we have nothing "specifically designed to map and follow weblogging conversations over time and space," which strikes me as one of the more useful pedagogical possibilities for the blogosphere.

I've found it more useful to think of networks as something closer to conversations than to publics, but it can be difficult to explain to people (students) who aren't themselves already conversing in these spaces. And as I think about how we can best engage networks without domesticating them, I'm conscious of Jeff's claim that "The network could care less about citation." That is, I'm not interested in putting together point-by-point "rules" for blog posting (e.g., always use the permalink, trackback whenever possible, etc.), even though I think that these things need to be addressed.

[Aside: one of the lists I'm on had a discussion about citation styles, and why one style used a period where another uses a comma. OMG. I can feel myself falling asleep just thinking about it...]

In other words, the worst kind of domestication would be to translate network engagement into a kind of citation practice, taught the same way that we do MLA or APA style. And yet, these things can't be ignored. Trackback, for example, allowed the flap over the MT3.0 announcement to coalesce into a massive, spontaneous grid blog, in a matter of days. For me, that's what separates it from being a simple matter of citation. It's not just about where we find a source text--this stuff shapes the network itself.

So I guess the question is what sorts of practices do we need to start teaching to tip our students to the network? Last semester, even though almost none of them took me up on it, I talked about Technorati, Google web queries, using aggregators, and following trackbacks as a new set of research practices. What else needs to be there?

And yes, I'm writing an article about this currently, which is part of why it's on my mind...



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This page is a archive of entries in the networks category from May 2004.

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