Several years ago, I enjoyed reading Howard Rheingold’s _Smart Mobs_, a volume that both analyzed and predicted social trends tied to emergent mobile computing technologies. The “gee-whiz” factor is powerful in the book, but HR is also savvy thinker about how networking can be used to build or change community.
I know nothing about the Collab Tech 2010 conference, but I was sent this link to HR’s keynote address at this conference. Other speakers were also filmed and posted to Youtube as well.
For myself as a writer, teacher and technologist (read: computer geek), the blog is one of the most attractive forms in the abstract. With my students, I have consistently used blogging for a number of years. Students in relatively large (70 student) and small classes have blogged for me and each other. It has been successful in courses ranging from Freshman Writing to Graduate seminars. In fact, I even require doctoral students working on comps lists with me to keep a blog. Like any good writing teacher, I definitely aim to practice what I preach to my students; so I typically DO keep a parallel “teacher’s blog” when I am teaching a course in which students blog.
Not only as a teacher, but as a reader, I use blogs regularly. From so-called professional blogs from my favorite traditional media NPR or Nation Magazine to classic political opinion blogs, I enjoy reading them. Oddly– for a technology advocate and blogging fan–I have to admit that I have not consistently kept a personal blog. Even though I have an official IUP faculty blog, I don’t keep it updated. And it’s not just because I don’t like the Moveable Type blogging system that IUP installed. Somehow, I haven’t cultivated my own identity as a “blogger” or, at least, found the time and necessity for doing so.
In practice then, it’s actually the Wiki that I most use as a writer. I have created personal, private wiki for my own organizational and writing uses on a number of platforms. I use a basic note-taking hypertext system on my laptop for everything from daily “to-do” lists to brainstorming poems or critical essays. I have structured critical writing and academic presentations using Tikiwiki, and I also sometimes use wiki on a stick.
I suppose the simply fact is that I “talk to an audience” many hours and days a week, in the classroom, so I feel less compulsion to use the expressive tool of the blog. But what I really often seek is the means to structure and link my rambling thoughts. At this level of need, it is wikis to which I so frequently turn — and not so much for collaboration as for the ease of hypertextual structuring that they facilitate.
A reading of Landow’s aspirations for how hypertext can reconfigure literary education is complicated by the facts of how little seems to have changed with 17 years of the web. Still, to the degree that the canon, syllabi, and curricula have shaped and excluded for material reasons, the promise (or, let’s be realistic, the opportunity) for transformation persists.
In teaching literature, the questions of what texts we read and how we read them are always shaped be the selection of texts. The packaging of anthologies does as much to reproduce dominant cultural values as does any abstract, ideological commitment on the part of teachers or editors. Can you see web-based reading as changing English education? How? What obstacles does Landow acknowledge or do you foresee? Is it “hypertextuality” or simply “digital texts” that will lay the groundwork for this change?
There are a number of aspects of Ted Nelson’s prophetic / eccentric writing that continue to provoke me. One is the simple insistence on working with, mastering, shaping computers to our own needs. The dominance of Microsoft and Apple and the consumer market for software certainly take us in a different direction; but even general education in computer literacy seems to have shifted from an emphasis on being able to understand and manipulate computers … to being able to use Microsoft Office (i.e. office tasks rather than literacy).
Another dimension that fascinates me is the emphasis on reading, on connecting texts, on using the machine as an extension of the thinking / writing subject. Here I “hear” the echoes of Vannevar Bush but also Marshall McLuhan.
As digital teachers, I think we face some of these issues in different form as we are offered the use of so-called “Learning Management Systems” like Blackboard or WebCT. Without categorically rejecting the possibility that creative teachers might make good use of such systems, I think it’s fair to say that some of Nelson’s critique of “C.A.I” could be extended to the current manifestation in LMS. Though, to be fair, there is no guarantee that swapping one’s “Blackboard” (TM) for a class wiki is a step towards adopting a liberatory pedagogy worthy of Paulo Freire.
Finally, of course, there’s the intriguing format of these books themselves — of which you get at least a hint in the reproduction….
This is another one of those oldie-but-goodie texts. This volume is in its third edition, with significant additions to address changes in the landscape since 1992, when he first published:
Hypertext: The Convergence of Critical Theory and Technology.
In some respects then, the vision of this book is very much that of a hypertext practitioner (author and teacher) before the web existed and is also of its historical moment, i.e. a decade in which post-structuralist theory dominated English, Comparative Literature, and, to a lesser extent, other humanities fields. How do its emphases speak to the current relationship between English and technology, between different “materialities” of texts (manuscript, books, hypertexts)?