Blogging

Notes on 2006 CCCC Blogging SIG

NB: Mike Edwards contributed heavily to these notes. In fact, most of what's here is his work, so I want him to get credit for it.

The CCCC Blogging SIG had a large and productive meeting Thursday night in Chicago. We began by discussing some of the initiatives the SIG had proposed the previous year, including the one-page paper handout guide for teachers new to blogging (which, we might hope, will continue to be revised collaboratively and kept up to date as necessary), as well as thoughts about assessment of weblog writing, outcomes of weblog use in writing courses and professional endeavors, and a possible large multi-institution study investigating the classroom uses of weblogs.

Following the initial discussion, we split up into five small groups focusing on action in specific areas. The groups discussed their areas and reported back when we reconvened. Here are the results of our discussion:

  1. Securing grant funding for a large, qualitative multi-institution study on weblogs in writing pedagogy: This group thought it would be most appropriate to start with simply laying out the steps in the grant-writing process. So:
    1. Put out open call for researchers on Kairosnews and other weblogs: have you done classroom- based blog research, and would you be willing to share the results? (This, initially, might likely involve a simple survey with questions about the number of students involved, the longevity of the study, what the classes were (tech comm? FYC? Advanced composition? Literature courses? etc.), and so forth.)
    2. Mine past CCCC programs for presentations on qualitative blog studies to get a sense of what classroom research people have already done on blogs.
    3. Use the information gathered to shape the drafting of possible research questions focused on the consequences of assigning weblog work. (Feedback here with considerations for shaping those questions is welcomed!)
    4. Review grant guidelines again given the information gathered. (CCCC research initiative and the NCTE Citigroup technology grant are possibilities; again, other suggestions are welcomed.)
    5. Compose a budget. (Possible line items include funding for research assistants to code data, consultants with expertise in qualitative research, SRSS software.)
    6. Flesh out the grant proposal, especially with expected outcomes from the study. (One possibility suggested might be an annotated bibliography, in the manner of Bedford, of weblog scholarship.)
  2. Assessment and outcomes considerations for weblogs and teaching, possibly including questions of genre (Facebook, MySpace, et cetera). This group analytically framed its approach as a highly specific (and provocative) question: what constitutes an "outcome" for a single blog post? Top-down solutions for constructing outcomes seem problematic, so what happens if we look for a Web 2.0-style bottom-up mode of analysis; using "dynamic criteria mapping" to see how evaluative criteria (as tags) cluster themselves, and possibly setting up a space for that online -- what would that look like? (Well, let's do it and see!)
  3. Institutional blogging / social software considerations. Action here seems fairly straightforward: Compose a position statement to push to the resolution committee next year; something that covers comprehensively all these areas we're talking about, partly to help move away from the problems of ad- hocracy.
  4. Weblogs and professionalization. Again, fairly straightforward: we need to move the profession towards a space where we're more aware of blogging as professional activity. To what degree can we "get credit" for blogging? And, deriving from that, how can we start thinking about blogging as professionals? (One question that was asked in response: if blogging becomes a professional activity, does it lose some portion of its value as teaching/writing tool?) It might be useful to compile blog posts that illustrate the professional virtues of blogging (viz. Deborah Hawhee's post in order to respond to those frequent doubts and questions about the professional value of blogging. There's a need, as well, to map and illustrate (viz. Clancy's map of p2p review) for our colleagues how academic interaction operates on blogs.
  5. Rethinking the design and architecture of weblogs and other social software tools as a necessary component of our discipline, and possibly thinking about weblogs as a "gateway technology." With blogging, there's a need to move beyond composition's ubiquitous pedagogical imperative and ask other questions: perhaps about the pitfalls of institutional support (e.g., those who see it as not "cool" to use university blog spaces because of the perceived lack of "ownership"); about how to aggregate or represent or link to student work (e.g., the question of whether to use a hub or a distributed model; about doing more work with design rather than plugging content into preexisting templates.
So: an ambitious agenda, with lots of stuff to do. The next necessary question would seem to be: are there people who would be willing to shepherd these projects, either individually or collaboratively? Finally, two questions and an announcement:
  • Would it perhaps be useful and productive to merge the efforts of the Blogging SIG and the Wiki Rhetoricians SIG -- perhaps into the CCCC Social Software SIG?
  • Would a SIG blog be useful? (Consensus: yes.) There seemed to be broad agreement that the easiest solution might be adding a SIG category for posts at Kairosnews. [Done.--Clancy]
  • And now the announcement: During the meeting, Collin proposed that Kairos name the Best Academic Weblog award after John Lovas. We felt that it was the best idea presented the whole night. Mike emailed Doug Eyman, who wholeheartedly agreed. Thanks to everyone for a great meeting.

Cross-posted at Kairosnews.

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Ms. and Blogging

A minute ago, I took a look at the blogs that Ms. started up after Christine Cupaiuolo stopped blogging for them. It doesn't look like there's much going on at The Smeal Report or A New Leif, and I think that's too bad. What Ms. should have done, and could still do, is recruit someone who's already been blogging for a long time, someone the blogosphere knows who already has an audience, and get her to blog for Ms. Some obvious choices would be Lauren (I know she retired, but perhaps she could be brought back in if it paid), Tiffany, Echidne, anyone from Feministing, Twisty, etc. etc.

I've found my blog idol

...and it is Oso Raro of Slaves in Academe. Ze combines frank and lucid critique of academia with a command of pop culture, a camp aesthetic, and just an overall sharp cleverness. I know some may think I'm overreacting in my intense appreciation for this blog, but I can't help it. It's right up my alley, what I never knew I always wanted. Please go there and read every post.

I'm so behind

I'm just now reading and linking to the February edition of the Radical Women of Color Carnival and the February Big Fat Carnival. It's the first-ever instantiation of both, and I hope to see many more. This is important work.

WATW by the Numbers

As most of you know, I'm writing a dissertation about rhetoric, gender, and blogging using where are the women? as a case study. I should say that I'm not looking at every post on the list I compiled, only the spikes of activity: August 2002, September 2002, March through August of 2004, December 2004, and February 2005. So here are the numbers:

Total number of posts: 102
Total number of comments: 2243 (not counting spam or those accidental duplicate comments)
Total number of trackbacks: 171

Total number of posts by men: 33
Total number of posts by women: 69

Total number of comments by men: 885
Total number of comments by women: 1059
Total number of comments by gender-free: 349

Total number of trackbacks by men: 60
Total number of trackbacks by women: 105
Total number of trackbacks by gender-free: 6

Total number of posts by men that allowed comments: 30
Total number of posts by women that allowed comments: 53

Total number of comments under posts by men: 1374
Total number of comments under posts by women: 869

Average number of comments readers left under a post written by a man: 46
Average number of comments readers left under a post written by a woman: 16

Now here's my problem. I think these numbers are kind of interesting -- they help provide a tie-in to findings in previous research in gender and computer-mediated communication, especially that of Susan Herring, that show that men's online postings get more replies than women's, etc. These numbers certainly corroborate that. I'm interested in the implications of the numbers: The fact, for example, that there are more than twice as many posts by women than by men speaks to how important this question is to this particular group of women. These women took the time and expended the effort to write all these posts; despite the fact that some of the posts are flippant and parodic, obviously they care about the issue. And, taking into account the context and patterns of online interaction, the numbers arguably reveal something about how heated these discussions are.

But: In my experience, when I even think about counting something, everyone giving me feedback on the given project gets a little too excited and wants me to go whole-hog to the empirical and quantitative approach. (Why don't you count the number of words per post?! Devise a coding scheme and code everything!) I'm not necessarily talking about my committee, just scholars in general. Although that's very valuable and interesting research, it's not what I'm interested in doing. I'm taking a naturalistic approach, mostly consisting of interpretive close intertextual reading. So far that's okay with my committee -- they seem fine with whatever approach I choose as long as I can define/articulate/defend it -- but I'm thinking about not even putting these numbers in my dissertation anywhere, lest they be held against me. What do the rest of you think? If you can give me some language to use to introduce and explain the numbers and my choice to include them, that would be especially helpful.

Edited to add: By "men" and "women," I mean people presenting online as men and women. For the purposes of my dissertation research, I'm thinking of gender as a rhetorical position (i.e., positioning oneself as...). This is because someone might strategically present hirself as a man or woman because ze knows that the audience will respond to hir in a certain way. In this sense I'm thinking of gender as performative.

Nuggets

Title lifted from Dean Dad. These are some items I need to mark here so that they don't keep occupying a window with 500 tabs open:

Mike Garcia's dissertation notes. It's going to rock the field of rhetoric and composition; I'm sure it's going to be one of the best critiques of assessment out there. I also like what he's doing with del.icio.us.

Some of you know that I've recently suffered a series of crushing career-related disappointments, and I want to be honest about that in this space, if vague and oblique. This has made it a lot more difficult to finish my dissertation. I'm not facing a running-out-of-funding situation, but I am still determined to be finished by this summer. So: I'm interested in inspiring stories, like this one about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and this one about several other women who accomplished so much under much more adverse circumstances than mine.

What's also helped me during this time is reading beautiful posts by outstanding, talented writers about What Really Matters, like this one from Flea:

And after his shower, he asked me, "Mommy, do you still like me?"

"Not only do I like you, I love you," I told him, towelling off his hair, "I love you more than anyone."

I felt like I had to cram six years of talking to him into this one day, because I didn't know if I'd ever have it again. I had one day to find out if he liked Tae Kwan Do, if he had any friends at school, what he did in gym class, if he was having difficulty in any area. One day to help him with reading and tying his shoes, one day to tell him how much I loved him before he disappeared back inside himself. Which he did, today. That sweet little stranger that curled up in my lap yesterday morning and sang "Rich Girl" and showed me his fancy dance moves and looked right into my face and laughed and smiled is gone today. Is that what parents of normally functioning children have every day? And, if that's what you have every day, why would there be a rush to put that kind of kid on Ritalin?

And Dooce's latest monthly newsletter:

A few moments later he returned to tell me that they had found a seat for me and that I needed to hurry, they were holding the plane. I took off flying, my suitcase turning flips behind me, and as I ran down the indoor tarmac someone suddenly called out my name. I stopped suddenly to scan the faces in the crowd only to see my mother standing twenty feet in front of me, my beautiful, perfect mother. It seems ridiculous now, but in that moment it seemed as if she had appeared out of thin air, that she had dropped out of heaven. When I saw the features in her face, the way her cheekbones meet her thin nose in symmetrical angles, her milky complexion peeking out of the black of her business suit, I realized that everything was going to be okay. That was one of the most spiritual moments of my life.

I wanted to tell you that story because that is my hope for you, that no matter how far away you go or how different we may become — I know it’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of time — that when you see my face you will find strength. Look for me.

Also, the new issue of Kairos just came out.

And to close with a few things coming up that I'm excited about: first, I'm going to do a stint of guest-blogging at The Valve soon. Second, I've been invited to participate in a meeting for the Institute for the Future of the Book. We'll be talking about digital/networked textbooks in the field of rhetoric and composition. Finally, I'm going to be interviewed for a story in The Minnesota Daily about my use of blogging in my teaching. [Edited to clarify: The story is about using blogging in teaching in general; it's not an entire story devoted to MY use of blogs in my teaching.] I'm thinking of this as an opportunity to be pushed to find something new to say about using blogging in teaching. It's tempting sometimes to make it easy and trot out the same old examples and comments.

Noted and Recommended

  • A follow-up to my post about the MLA forum on political literacy: Patricia Roberts-Miller has posted the paper she presented at that session. My summary didn't do her presentation justice, especially the "political Calvinism" idea she set forth. Highly recommended read.
  • Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I'd recommend taking a look at Donald Lazere's (another presenter in that forum) textbook Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy. You can download and read chapter 1 (PDF) for free.
  • Finally, via Michael Bowen with a tip from Yvette Perry, a paper (PDF) on race and blogging titled "Black Bloggers and the Blogosphere" by Antoinette Pole of Brown University. I recommend both the paper and Bowen's post about it.

Friedan, Blogging, and Aleatory Research

The Feminine Mystique is one of those (many) books I've never read but intend to someday. After Friedan's passing, I read Rad Geek's tribute and noticed that he had links to Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, so I promptly read them and was, well, impressed is an understatement. It's remarkable how relevant Friedan's work still is. For example, you might remember chapter 4 of my dissertation, in which I discuss themes that are commonly brought up in the where are the women (political bloggers threads. One recurring theme is the claim that "women aren't interested in politics." If you'll allow me a bit of aleatory research, check out what Friedan has to say about this argument in chapter 2 of The Feminine Mystique, my emphasis:

I sat one night at a meeting of magazine writers, mostly men, who work for all kinds of magazines, including women's magazines. The main speaker was a leader of the desegregation battle. Before he spoke, another man outlined the needs of the large women's magazine he edited:

Our readers are housewives, full time. They're not interested in the broad public issues of the day. They are not interested in national or international affairs. They are only interested in the family and the home. They aren't interested in politics, unless it's related to an immediate need in the home, like the price of coffee. Humor? Has to be gentle, they don't get satire. Travel? We have almost completely dropped it. Education? That's a problem. Their own education level is going up. They've generally all had a high school education and many, college. They're tremendously interested in education for their children--fourth-grade arithmetic. You just can't write about ideas or broad issues of the day for women. That's why we're publishing 90 per cent service vice now and 10 per cent general interest.

[. . .]

By the time I started writing for women's magazines, in the fifties, it was simply taken for granted by editors, and accepted as an immutable fact of life by writers, that women were not interested in politics, life outside the United States, national issues, art, science, ideas, adventure, education, or even their own communities, except where they could be sold through their emotions as wives and mothers.

Politics, for women, became Mamie's clothes and the Nixons' home life. Out of conscience, a sense of duty, the Ladies' Home Journal might run a series like "Political Pilgrim's Progress," showing women trying to improve their children's schools and playgrounds. But even approaching politics through mother love did not really interest women, it was thought in the trade. Everyone knew those readership percentages. An editor of Redbook ingeniously tried to bring the bomb down to the feminine level by showing the emotions of a wife whose husband sailed into a contaminated area.

"Women can't take an idea, an issue, pure," men who edited the mass women's magazines agreed. "It had to be translated in terms they can understand as women." This was so well understood by those who wrote for women's magazines that a natural childbirth expert submitted an article to a leading woman's magazine called "How to Have a Baby in a Atom Bomb Shelter." "The article was not well written," an editor told me, "or we might have bought it." According to the mystique, women, in their mysterious femininity, might be interested in the concrete biological details of having a baby in a bomb shelter, but never in the abstract idea of the bomb's power to destroy the human race.

Such a belief, of course, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In 1960, a perceptive social psychologist showed me some sad statistics which seemed to prove unmistakably that American women under thirty-five are not interested in politics. "They may have the vote, but they don't dream about running for office," he told me. "If you write a political piece, they won't read it. You have to translate it into issues they can understand--romance, pregnancy, nursing, home furnishings, clothes. Run an article on the economy, or the race question, civil rights, and you'd think that women had never heard of them."

This quotation'll be going into the revision of chapter 4 somewhere, that's for sure, if only as a footnote. For now, back to chapter 5.

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