genre affordances...?

so we had this conversation in class the other night about different genres affording different "stuff" - of course, the students in the class were much more articulate that i am being here! but it's a question that surfaced in the context of our discussion of blogs and spoken word as literate spaces. i wrote down in my journal:
- who composes what?
- who uses what to compose what?
- what is afforded by what genre?

going in reverse for a minute, i should note that i understand that the language can be affordances constraining and even deterministic in nature. however, i am intrigued by how a language of affordances can be illuminating and full of possibility. (but that is a post for a different time...)

our conversation led me to wonder about the "what"s noted above as we explored ways to look at the "how" and "who" of blogs and spoken word. is it necessarily the nature of spoken word that compositions be imbued with stories of struggle and resistance? (as one author we read seemed to imply) recently, i read a piece in newsweek that wondered why "white men" are dominating the blogosphere.

i had a lot more written here that i just erased. i will simply ask this (in response to the above):
  • what mechanisms do we have for talking about and making sense of adolescents' practices, genres, and groups that fracture existing, (loosely) bounded categorization?
  • in this age of "ies" (multiplicity of literacy, technology, practice, story, identity...), when the existing ways of knowing in schools are out of sync with the knowledge and insights that are emerging from the growing body of scholarship involving youth, what are the spaces for possibility that we can and should address as educators and researchers?

manchester, england... england (indeed!)

makes me wonder how the hell we're going to get anything done anywhere when "educators" are in the business of deciding what "cultures" can wear what hairstyles...

case in point: olivia's story


economics and the digital divide

from this week's economist:
"So even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read."

hmm... is there another dimension to this statement, and to their overall point in this article? before i go on, i should note: the thrust of this article - The real digital divide - calls for funding to focus on increasing the availability of mobile phone technology in areas of the world that are currently without mobile networks. A few cases of shared mobile phone use are presented in order to argue that "the mobile phone is the technology with the greatest impact on development." the article concludes with the following plea:

"Rather than trying to close the digital divide through top-down IT infrastructure projects, governments in the developing world should open their telecoms markets."

asserting that, "firms and customers, on their own and even in the poorest countries, will close the divide themselves."

it's an interesting argument, and certainly one that rings true in this country where mobile phone use is not only on the rise but is fast becoming the ubiquitous mode of communication across demographic boundaries. (as opposed to within, what Gee might call, affinity groups)

but i want to return to the casual use of reading and writing mentioned earlier, and restated below later in the article: "Mobile phones do not rely on a permanent electricity supply and can be used by people who cannot read or write." as a reader, i am making the assertion that the author(s) of this piece want me to think about reading and writing in the functional sense. (is this true?) if this is true, then the resulting thinking might be something along the lines of the following thought:
- the digital divide is primarily concerned with addressing the chasm of access to technologies that afford financial viability and competition in the global marketplace

i spend a lot of time thinking about and observing literacies in practice, and in recent years have shrugged off the burden of economics placed on my liberal (progressive?) sensibilities by what i call the luxury of graduate school. that is, in my work with youth in and out of urban schools, i regularly engaged in and documented literate practice that goes unrecognized by officially sanctioned institutions and formal educational spaces. but what happens when the question is about reading and writing? what is the space between reading and literacy?

i admit that my immediate reaction to this piece was one of indignance - who "says that people in monetarily poor countries can't read and write?" and "is this a measure of their english proficiency?" these questions have not gone away entirely, but this article made me wonder: what if we understood literacy as globally situated, with local meaning? that is, given recent debates about the "limits of the local" (see Brandt & Clinton; Street) could we imagine a way of talking about literacies that is at once local and global? could we, i wonder, take up the charge presented by the economist and assert this dynamic relationship in the context of the growing telecom industry? or, perhaps it is more accurate to say, in light of the growing telecom mediated literacy practices?

these are still "bubbling thoughts" - evolving in their form and content - and in that vein, i want to pose a question to the economist:

could it be that increasing the availability of telecommunications around the world, and particularly in monetarily poor countries, we might not only "close the digital divide" from an economic perspective within these countries, but we might also establish and strengthen lines of participation/collaboration/communication between people situated across these contexts in order to reshape what we understand the be global marketplace in the first place?

more simply put: could increased telecom markets help with learning from and with the local that many ethnographers advocate for, in a way yet to be fulfilled by the promise of the internet?

i'm off to read the rest of the related articles. in the meantime, for another interesting take on the digital divide, check out: Reconceptualizing the Digital Divide by Mark Warschauer.



until a few minutes ago i hadn't really articulated what the purpose of this blog was. sure, i noted that this blog was a risk i was taking, but i never really described why. so, in the midst of IMing my sister just now it came to me: this is part of my inquiry about making pedagogy transparent.

now, i am forced to wonder whether there are any readers of this blog and whether any of them happen to be enrolled in students in C&T 6501.001... b/c one could ask: "to/for whom am i interested in making pedagogy transparent?"

i suppose this inquiry is informed, in part, by my earlier readings into democratic and feminist pedagogies - moved by texts, stories, and experiences of others who strive, on and ongoing basis, to truly co-construct(pardon the hackneyed term) a teaching/learning space. in the courses that i've taught in the past, i've been aware of the gaps between the thinking and observing going on in my head and the "stuff" that was happening in the classroom. that is to say that i have been working on enacting a "with" pedagogy and attempting to do so as explicitly as possible. that's not without the aforementioned risks - mainly, admitting that i'm not really sure how something is going to turn out; and, more recently, recognizing that there may be times when boundary-less assignments truly are frustrating. a responsive pedagogy must attend to the need for structures as well as flexibility. that is my challenge.

on a related note, this past thursday the class shared their field observations. the assignment:
Students will conduct two field observations to be shared over the course of the class. These are intended to be opportunities to situate inquiry questions in the context of adolescents. Students will identify locations in their daily travels in which adolescents are engaged in meaning making, are hanging out, and are employing various literacy practices for a variety of purposes (e.g. the park, subway, local diner, school hallway, afterschool club, etc.). After a few informal observations, students will take descriptive notes on what the youth are doing, paying close attention to their meaning making in a particular context. Field observations can be constructed and represented as audio, visual, or written texts; students will pick two of the three when doing their observations. For example, if the first observation is in the form of written fieldnotes, students should choose to represent the second observation as an audio or visual text. Students should also include a brief discussion section to each observation in which they should make connections to the course texts. Examples of possible formats will be discussed in class prior to the first observation.

in class, in the weeks leading up to the due date, there was some considerable anxiety and confusion around what exactly i was expecting. and, to be honest, i wasn't sure...! i really was interested to learn about the different spaces for literate engagement that the students would explore, as well as the ways in which they would experiment with the representations of these observations. they didn't let me down. there were several online explorations: blogs, blogrings, icons, poetry, discussion boards; some meatspace reflections: in a local starbucks, at home during a LOTF re-enactment; and a few in-school observations: a school-wide literacy discussion, in-class play... and throughout our conversation, the question of representation continued to pulsate.
  • what does it mean to represent literacies in the lives of adolescents?
  • how can we show analysis multimodally?
  • what do we need to know in order to make sense of and represent adolescents' hybrid meaning making?

we're on spring break this week and i'm hoping that we all return rejuvenated, inspired, and full of possibilities as approach the next half of the semester. in the meantime i will continue my personal inquiry of (critical?) transparent pedagogy both in and out of the lovely seminar room in which we convene these discussions and explorations.

here is a site that continues to help me sort through questions & issues related to representation (of ethnography, in particular):
Visualising Ethnography

and a lovely piece from the always-inspiring doug kellner:
Critical Perspectives on Visual Imagery in Media and Cyberculture


engineering wonders...

i started out as an engineering student oh so many years ago, but after a year and half i realized that it wasn't through engineering - mech-e to b.e., to be precise - that i was going to be able to fulfill my then-naive desire to engage in some creative problem solving. (let's not worry that i didn't know what problems i wanted solved, save the o-ring snafu that left an indelible mark on my 5th grade psyche that led me down the path of engineering to begin with!)

today, i discovered another reason to love engineering: the i/o brush. those folks at mit are doing it again - enticing me with their truly fabulous imaginations and love of possibilities. scroll down and watch the video demonstration for some real fun!

off to find more wonders that i can play with :)


things i learned this week

- about wikis and the wikipedia

- teachers can be together for several days at a time and never once consider that what children and youth do out of school might be relevant to their in-school learning

- running on a track really is different than running outside

- cold stone creamery mix-in delights are definitely worth seconds

- the current administration wants to help america's youth