June 16, 2009

Cloud Composing I

Filed under: networks,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 10:19 am

The basic concepts of cloud composing: non-representational (reference is spread elsewhere), meaning saved in another space (punctum based composing since meaning is not found in the space you read but rather in some personal connection motivated by a detail or two), and functions by hyperlinks (the logic of <A>, but not as a mere linking tool – rather as a spatially organizing tool).

Classic Rock

The frequency of Foreigner. One of the most humdrum of all classic rock bands is one of the most dominant on classic rock stations. Where is the line drawn between Bad Company, Free, and Foreigner? One and the same? An F.M. radio station. Scanning the frequency. “Hot Blooded.” “Dirty White Boy.” “Urgent.” Any given day, one can and will hear Foreigner.

The only radio equivalent to Foreigner is The Eagles. If I name all the rock bands I saw in concert growing up in suburban Miami, these are the two I did not see. Why are they not numbered among my many concerts?

1983. In the small music store where I bought my first guitar and amp, I walk past the items for sale toward the backroom where lessons are taught. Each week I am to bring a song I want to learn on tape. The instructor will listen to it, figure out how to play it, and teach it to me. The first song we worked on was “Dirty White Boy.”

2009. On the way to work. 96.7. The meta-ad (as if we are not already listening to this station – we need to be reminded that it exists) comes on using three songs to promote the station. “Hot Blooded” and “Hotel California” are number one and two of the songs. The third is “Slow Ride.”

# has become the symbol of what is happening right now. We process information so quickly, that we need tags (markers) to help us organization it among the various outlets of reception.  Like a conversation about Foreigner. # is also symbolic for the number sign. A “greatest hits” album collects the “top” songs by a given band. The songs are metaphorically numbered.

Every year, we rate the year’s best. #1! We’re #1. Some  people list “Hotel California” as #24 of all time rock songs.  Others as #49.

My permanent “right now” is the status update. Indeed, most of us in the cloud are constantly updating our status.To know who I am, we say, you have to know what I am doing right now. Identity is of the moment.

In “Funky #49,” Joe Walsh sings “Don’t misunderstand me.”

What are you listening to is the always present status update. What are you writing is the status update of the Web. What am I writing right now? Every post, update, feed, twit, etc is a way to get at the question: what am I writing right now. The number (#) of posts I compose on a web space like a blog could be interpreted as numerical and thus representational (i.e., one might point to them in order to demonstrate legitimacy – I work – or importance – I’ve written a lot) or these posts might merely be updates of the same idea. The blog can be merely a way to update.

A Foreigner song might be explained as the update of three chords (either root, fourth, fifth or three chord structure in general). The Eagles song might be explained as the update of the country/folk structure: G, C, D. The number is still three.

When I was 15, and MTV still played videos, I saw a Joe Walsh video for the song “The Confessor.”  The video opens with a shot of a parched landscape. Walsh sings: “When you try to see the meaning hidden underneath/ The measure of the depth can be deceiving.”  I taped it as I did all videos: waiting at the video machine already set to record/pause. When the video I wanted came on, I lifted the pause. My personal video collection is updated with others’ video collections. “The Confessor,” though, is not yet uploaded to YouTube. It’s metaphoric number, what are you listening to, has not yet been called. I cannot understand my own relationship to classic rock until I understand this last point. Why are we updating some information and not other information? What kind of information have we been holding on to all these years, waiting to update (a video, a performance, and idea, a text, a post, a family photo, etc)?

June 3, 2009

The Hyperlinked Notes Before a Trip

Filed under: folksonomy,hypertext,imagination,networks,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 10:18 am

Listening to Frank Zappa’s “Illinois Enema Bandit” this morning.  We are on our way to Chicago soon. We are driving. In the opening scene of The Blues Brothers, Elwood pulls up to the Illinois prison where Jake is being held. His knuckles reveal tattooed letters of his name. He grips the steering wheel tightly. B.B. King’s “Live at the Cook County Jail” features the classic song “How Blue Can You Get?” The narrator, stuck on a woman who abuses him, sings:

I bought you a brand new Ford
You said, I want a Cadillac

Ford, GM, Detroit. Our current news headlines. In the final chapter of the Digital Detroit draft (which takes up networked decision making), I draw a connection between the MC5 and Norman Mailer. Mailer, writing from the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968, obsesses over the headlines of the late ’60s: war. Mailer, like others who comment on the MC5, conflates electronic media, technology, and hyperbole as he watches the Detroit band perform. Mailer believed he was seeing the truth: the future of politics. The end of war in favor of the emerging revolution brought on by a new generation.

The Illinois Enema Bandit is a true story. His crimes took place in the late ’60s, at the University of Illinois.

The Illinois Enema Bandit
One day he’ll have to pay
One day he’ll have to pay
The police will say, “You’re under arrest!”
And the judge would have him for a special guest
The D.A. will order a secret test
And stuff his pudgy little thumbs in the side of his vest
Then they’ll put out a call for the jury folks
And the judge would say, “No poo-poo jokes!”

As we drop our daughter off at day care  – on the university campus – we wait for her declaration: Poo-Poo? It is always asked as a question, rather than as an affirmation that, yes, she has poo-poo. A similar gesture is made in the Robert Johnson classic “Sweet Home Chicago” (featured on The Blues Brothers soundtrack): Baby don’t you want to go?

Hyperbolic narrative? It is the future of writing pedagogy. The decision of organization and arrangement. What goes where in the networked world of information? How to draw connections?

April 9, 2009

Plato Comes to Missouri Part II Told as Open Source Pedagogy

Filed under: folksonomy,invention,networks,notes,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 12:44 pm

Open source pedagogy suggests the open-display of lecture/notes. Explanation, however, is missing. Understand at your own risk. “Plato Comes to Missouri” is the subject of an upcoming Media Ecology Association talk, a supplement to a graduate seminar reading to be taught today – A Space on the Side of the Road by Kathleen Stewart – and a noetic interest. The seminar asks: What is your space on the side of the road? I, as teacher, must supply example as well. To lead by example is my exigence.

Space as gaps, talk, anecdotes – Ong’s “noetic” (sensation, emotion, affect) as organizational strategy

Space by allusion, reference, citation
TALK. The elusive and the concrete (THANGS)/ Ideals are like placing people – so I want to PLACE ideas/ideals in relationship with one another
Stewart: *146 signs don’t explain – they are a way of reading / signs suggest associations but the also deflect certainty

St. Louis, Missouri
My story occurs between two industrial, Midwestern cities: Detroit and St. Louis. Walking through parts of downtown St. Louis, I feel like I am in the mirror image of Detroit. Rust. Abandoned Industry. Factories. Soulard Market is the flipside of Eastern Market. Detroit, for me, is a database of allusions, anecdotes, references. As the Detroit flipside, so, too, can St. Louis be such a place.

“Imagine life in a place that was encompassed by the weight of an industry and subject to a century of boom and bust, repeated mass migrations and returns, cultural destabilizations, and displacements” (Stewart 15).

The Michigan Daily,  Oct 30, 2006. “St Louis, Detroit Most Dangerous Cities in America” (http://www.michigandaily.com/content/st-louis-detroit-most-dangerous-cities-report)

“Take the life of objects themselves” (Stewart 21).

St. Louis objects:

Naked Lunch: “And always car trouble. In St Louis traded the 1942 Studebaker in (it has a build in engineering flaw like the Rube) on an old Packard limousine heated up and barely made Kansas City”(12)

Nova Express: “But what in St Louis?  Memory picture coming in – So we turn over silver sets and banks and clubs as old troupers.” (20)
“Cool basement toilets in St Louis” (161)

The Ticket that Exploded: “Half an hour?  St Louis, MO, giving hope you mean it’s not finished yet? This photo the stripper exuberance its going to fade away?” (11)
“Weak and torn I’ll hurry to my blue heaven as I sank in panic suffocation of rusty St Louis woman – With just a photograph” (45)
“Last round from St Louis melted flesh identity” (184)

The Mechanical Bride, now recognized as a book that predicted the cultural and social dislocation of the information age, was conceived and partially drafted just a short walk from St. Louis’s Grand Center. (http://www.eyeproduction.com/projects/pulitzer/)

McLuhan fond support for this internationalist viewpoint in a book he read during his first term teaching in St Louis, Andre Siegfried’s Canada: An International Power (1937)” (McLuhan in Space 198)

“Still, it is McLuhan’s Bride that serves as a two-sided signpost, pointing toward both Paris and Birmingham from, of all places, St. Louis” (McLuhan and Baudrillard 34)

Socrates:” According to my source, the story teller’s ‘sieve’ is the mind; he used the image of a sieve to imply that the minds of fools are leaky” (81)
“There is no manual work in rhetoric. It relies entirely on the spoken word in performing its task and achieving its results” (8)
Socrates: “I’m thinking here of painting, sculpture, and so on and so forth. I suppose these are the kinds of areas of expertise you were talking about when you said that there are some of which rhetoric bears no relation to. Or am I wrong?”
Gorgias: “No, you’re quite right, Socrates.” (9)
Socrates:  “So now you know what I think about rhetoric. It corresponds to cookery: as cookery is to the body, so rhetoric is to the mind” (33)

McLuhan put St. Louis between two cultural cities.

Birmingham —————————–St. Louis ————————Paris
The Grand Center (marked by education: the University)

As we will learn in Ulmer (and heard in Liggett), spatial matrixes serve as heuristics (Benjamin) or educational practices.  I currently work on Detroit, but what about its flipside, St. Louis?

A narrative matrix

French – Midwest-French

Stewart 29 narrative – organizational tool, ordering events

January 12,  2008, Grand Avenue, Lemongrass, Vered orders Vietnamese food. We were 2 miles from the Grand Center. To order: the grand gesture of organization (food or rhetorical expression)

The image/memory of an international restaurant (cookery, toilets, sculpture)
For us, rawness is a strong sense of food – Barthes, Empire of Signs

“Last round from St Louis melted flesh identity” (184) – St. Louis – where Provel cheese was invented (soft cheese mixture of provolone, cheddar, swiss with low melting point). The raw made processed. Identity of process.

Blues City Deli, August 2, 2008. Four miles from The Grand Center

Mimesis. Representational space as anecdote. “With just a photograph”
Vered poked at the cheese, eating it with enthusiasm. Cheese is the staple ingredient of deli food. On the walls were paintings of bluesmen. Their “cool” looks surveyed customers wandering in through the trendy neighborhood.

Diegesis, narrative space as anecdote. “Cool basement toilets in St Louis”

Nadoz Euro Bakery and Café (3701 Lindell)
The image/memory of a place I have not been to (digital diegesis/space on the road). “the European sophisticated ambiance of our city location in a suburban location” Mimesis. Represented one image with another (European in American)

We went to eat at Franco with Vered when she was about 1 ½.  Normally, she is good at restaurants. But at this age, restlessness kicks in. To top it off, the restaurant, located in Soulard Market, had no highchairs. We swapped her back and forth while we ate. The waiter nodded affectionately and called her “little boy.”

Birmingham —————————–St. Louis ————————Paris
Cultural Studies

Nadoz was less than 3 miles away, but we never made it. Franco, a French Bistro, promised Euro-culture/image of food. I remember fries being served….as if were in a deli, not a bistro. The difference is in the cone….bistro fries are served in a cone and with mayonnaise

Rhetoric corresponds to cookery

24 cultural critique that does not decode but engages
26 culture (OR RHETORIC ) is the space produced in the gap

Engaging figures (not people) in a space.  Merging the distances of place via anecdote, reference, figure, and object. “How in the expansive scan of narrative space connections between things are always partial; there is always something more to say” (32)

January 25, 2009

Media Hipstering

Filed under: nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 10:08 am

My daughter has a way of asking for her favorite video: she yells, “FAT!”  She is not referring to my belly. She means, of course, Sesame Street’s “Fat Cat Sat Hat,” a 1970s sketch in which a bunch of hipsters spit out words until a crazy looking freak yells all their words at once.

The sunglasses wearing hipsters battle the prototypical hippie who must butt in on their language performance. It is a conflicted video.  And she loves it. She mimes the words as each is spoken. She moves her head to the vaudevillian music. She demonstrates media recognition.

While it is popular to bemoan children watching TV, it is another matter to marvel over the educational value of pattern recognition, interface design, and technological functionality. Vered making calls on our phone or her plastic phone, Vered pushing buttons on the computer, Vered learning vocabulary and gestures from Dora the Explorer all indicate learning. Filter out the obsession with a particular children icon’s marketing, and you have a pretty amazing experience occurring. She is only 21 months and she can read and is starting to count. She knows every kid in her class’ name. We are pretty amazed. Video and technology haven’t stunned her intellectual growth; they seem to have sparked it.

I think of my own learning in parallel: View Source, copy and paste, interface recognition (e.g., control V across the board), open and closed tag logic, and so on. These moments of exposure allowed me an extensive learning experience that went beyond merely using a program. Fat. Cat. Sat. Hat. A similar experience for the under 2 year old.

So what makes this a media hipster experience beyond the exigence of a 30 year old skit from a children’s show? The Hipster Handbook defines hipster as:

Hipster – One who possesses tastes, social attitudes, and opinions deemed cool by the cool. (Note: it is no longer recommended that one use the term “cool”; a Hipster would instead say “deck.”) The Hipster walks among the masses in daily life but is not a part of them and shuns or reduces to kitsch anything held dear by the mainstream. A Hipster ideally possesses no more than 2% body fat.

Allen Ginsberg opened his canonical poet “Howl” with the observation of “angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.” Neither definition feels appropriate here. But the four bald headed, sunglasses-wearing one word chanting muppets do seem to provide adequate terminology. They are confident in their one word statements, they are defiant at being interrupted, they are forming a chain of pattern (via the rhyme) recognition that makes sense to them. Media hipstering? Maybe.

Now if I could only get Vered to keep her socks on. I’d have a very different post for a Sunday A.M.

January 4, 2009

Public Moments #2

Filed under: networks,notes,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 1:05 pm

There are various public moments. Kids selling newspapers at the turn of the century in St. Louis. An Elvis Presley concert in the same city; the kung-fu years. Archived, the moments return to us on the Web, in a blog post, in a piece of brief and fragmented writing.

Our public identity is tied to the public moment. I can bend that moment (i.e.,make it do something other than be about newspapers or Elvis). I can represent that moment (i.e., clarify its position and context). I can interpret that moment (I.e., engage in cultural studies). Or, I can simply be in that moment.

Take the memoir, for example. This break, I read two memoirs: Michael Pierre White’s The Devil in the Kitchen and Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. My public image/identity may involve, to some degree, cooking, but I have no relationship to running. While I like to go to the gym everyday,  I can’t run. I’m slow. My knees buckle. My back tightens. I can barely make it around the block. My wife runs. My close friend runs. But I do not. Yet I engage with the memoir of running.

Of all the public moments, the memoir fascinates. It wraps up small points in order to produce a narrative of identity.  Barthes’ memoir is still the most complex, but others, too, focus on the detail, the obsession, the mundane, the skill as central motif of story telling. A narrative of one of these items opens up public identity in ways chronological narrative doesn’t.

This may be where personal writing fails in its pedagogical context. It is not memoir enough. Personal writing attempts to squeeze the moment out of the narrative rather than make the moment produce a narrative. The same holds true for meta-critical moments (as we see in new media or composition studies, for example) that squeeze ideas out of media representations and work. The ideas are not producing narrative; a formed narrative already exists (“new media does X; new media does Y”).

Dylan’s Chronicles is another example of the moment producing narrative. A mystory, for pedagogy, as well. I imagine a series of spatial stories producing narratives. My book in progress, Digital Detroit, is meant as such a story (about networks).  But as these blog posts may show, I’ve been searching for ways to do the same for St. Louis: Burroughs, McLuhan, Plato, newspaper, Elvis posts are small fragments of this process. Ideas, like narratives, have to be generalizable.

We can call this process, then, the quest for public identity. It is, as well, a photo-journal(istic) writing (the photo/image imagined as much as it is represented).

January 1, 2009

Photojournalist Spaces

Filed under: networks,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 8:24 pm

“We are interested in photojournalism in part because we believe that public images provide a distinctively effective means for both displaying and negotiating the various combinations making up political identity” – Harriman and Lucaites, No Caption Needed 16

St Louis.

Photojournalist moment #1: Skeeter’s Branch 1910

Borrowed from Shorpy.com

Photojournalist moment #2. Elvis Presley, Kiel Auditorium, St Louis, Sept 10, 1970.

Media moments. Newspaper delivery. Concert performance. Both take place in a city I have never lived in, but that, because of spatial proximity – I try to identity with.  A political identity, a public identity like the one that I form here, on this blog, what might it be? Its political traits carry over from the politics of writing publicly in general. Its politics, however, as shaped by the communal image (communal since thousands or maybe millions have seen the image by the time it is seen and shared by me) is media based. The politics of the new media image, its ethos, is the dwelling in the moment.

This is the politics of context via moment. The encounter with the moment generates another type of rhetorical space. This space is personal. Yet, as each post on this blog pushes the point more, I’m encouraging a politics of writing that is not journal – istic. I.e., a writing that is not based on the diary. This is a politics that dismisses anonymous writing, daily breakdowns (“I met with X; she shared a soda with me”), or confession (“My school did Y to me the other day”). The academic, set free from the illusion of “academic” writing, turns the space into one of these kinds of writings. The academic produces a writing as if the journal is the only way to get out of the illusion of academic writing. Every blog post, on the other hand, can serve as a moment or encounter. Not a confession. Not a daily dime. Not that the writing would not be academic. Most likely it would (as I consider everything I write), but not as the illusion dictates.

There is no obligation to do so, of course, and no shame in not doing so. But if I – or anyone for that matter – wants to take at their word the various theoretical positions we circulate in our profession, then let’s try them on from time to time. Let’s try on ideas more frequently. Let’s try on an idea like: the public image allows us to negotiate public identity.

Here are, then, two very public images. A newspaper stand. Elvis Presley.

September 11, 2008


Filed under: imagination,invention,keywords,nu media,pedagogy,writing — jrice @ 2:49 pm

“Instead of ‘digital multimedia’ – designs that simply combine elements from different media – we see what I call ‘metamedia’ – the remixing of working methods and techniques of different media within a single project” – Lev Manovich “Import/Export”

Manovich’s focus is software (the short essay is from Software Studies/A Lexicon). Software studies, as it is now called, breaks down cultural, ideological, theoretical issues relevant to software production and usage. The conceptual gesture – a space called metamedia – interests me here, for its focus is on remixing methods and techniques as opposed to images, sound, or text. When we speak of “remix,” we typically mean the latter, not the former.

This practice, what Manovich labels metamedia, has long been the focus of this blog space. Methods and techniques derived from rhetorical study, advertising, popular culture, composition, theory, humor, alter egos, fiction, made up moments, and whatever else I can get my hands on have been my principle tools.

I call attention to this quotation for no purpose other than to highlight or underline. As a  perpetual, reluctant WPA, methodology is at the core of all I teach. Program administration must make methodology its core. How do you do what you do? Or how do you do? Fine, thank you.

If I were to tag cloud this blog, that methodology or remix of methodologies might spit out keywords as central to whatever it is I am doing here: Dylan, writing, Nu, Zappa, networks, Burroughs, Detroit. The post tag is helpful with such work. A long list of such tags accompanies the right hand side of this blog.

What I underline here – as with a bright yellow marker in a thick ass textbook – is the mix of methods. I want to call this methodology, “Fine, thank you.” It is probably no different than the concept of metamedia. In the tradition of my graduate education, however, I opt for the whimsical name (as I have done previously) rather than the supposed academic tag (it relies strongly on the connotation of “meta”). Fine, thank you is the answer to methodological perplexity. How do you do? I remix methods. I remix techniques.

In other words, Fine, thank you.

August 31, 2008

Random Pedagogies

Filed under: pedagogy — jrice @ 2:56 pm
  • 8th grade, Mrs Braun (?)’s class. The entire class must memorize a list of about 100 prepositions. Not an overnight task, but rather one that will be treated like a semester long project. At its end, we went around the room and performed this memorization. I suceeded. Today, with, to, about come readily to mind.
  • 7th grade. The English class did pre-class journal writing. To create a mood while we wrote, students were asked to bring in records to play in the background. I brought in a new album called Texas Flood. Everyone in the class hated it and made fun of me for bringing it.
  • For a job interview at an all girls high school in a Jerusalem neighborhood (1992?), I bring in several magazine pictures to use as a writing prompt. My youth and inexperience shows, and the girls all take advantage of it when I do a teaching session as part of the interview  (“Do you have a girlfriend?” “How old are you?”). The session ends, and I knew I bombed. I walk all the way back to the bus station and go home. A few days later, I receive an offer to teach at the school. I turn it down. I feel too intimidated.
  • 9th grade science class. “What is the 8th planet,” the teacher asks. “Uranus,” I respond. He throws me out of class and gives me a suspension.
  • Graduate school teaching. A freshmen in my writing class begins an appointment with me by saying, “I was telling my therapist about you….”
  • Sante Fe Community College 1996. The main instructor who runs the basic writing program turns to me and days: “These kids need something like the army. Or national service. They need to grow up.”
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