Thursday, October 25, 2007

a new blog on campus

earlier this week, USF students, staff, and faculty received an interesting email. it said that the president of the university, father stephen privett, decided to start a blog.

here's what we know. the blog is called USF 2028. it is hosted by blogger. it is moderated (which means reader comments are approved prior to being posted to the blog). the blog was set up "to facilitate the exchange of ideas about USF's future" and will be available for approximately one month. prior to commenting, readers are encouraged to a) read "USF 2028" (pdf, 4 pages) and b) watch "shift happens" (video, 6:06 minutes - feels like twenty). the blog was launched on monday and by today, thursday, there are seven comments.

there are many unknowns. will the blog have multiple entries or is this a one-post blog? will the blog's topics change over time? so far, the comments are constructive and the conversation is civil - will it remain this way? currently, the majority of comments come from USF professors (more detailed profile: white male profs, with and without tenure, who also blog) - when will that change? when will more students like sara contribute their ideas and questions to the conversation?

in theory, USF 2028 establishes an open, public, and archived conversation between campus leadership and the campus community. that is cool. also, multiple stakeholders - students, staff, faculty - are invited to participate in the conversation. that is very cool. as long as the blog remains transparent and the comments remain constructive, USF 2028 could be an interesting experiment for healthy campus conversation. but first: more peeps gotta get involved.


....J.Michael Robertson said...

I'd love to hear you talk about this aspect of the thing, David: People need to learn to blog. They need to overcome the initial fear of saying anything, particularly since sometimes our fingers fail us and we make misteaks. For those of us who have dealt with words on paper for so long, it's hard to find the synthesis in a long string of comments, many of which address an aspect of the conversation that does not matter to us. Civility and humility are so important, and we live in a overly ironized culture where insults have raced twice around the earth while reason is still putting on its boots. Blogging is an acquired skill, and not everyone agrees what the constituent parts of that skill are supposed to be.

P.S. Seeing only the headline, I thought you were going to welcome Professor Goodwin's blog. He does both the thoughtful and the personal, and I am suitably impressed.

david silver said...

michael - i agree.

first, everytime i get read a new entry on andrew goodwin's blog i say, i wanna blahg about andrew's blog! then he writes a new entry that is more interesting than the previous one, and so on and so on.

second, i also agree: people need to learn to blog. and by blogging i think we mean both blogging and commenting on blogs. true indeed.

but also, i can imagine there's an extra layer of fear or hesitation going on. i mean this is father privett's blog after all! there's a lot at stake here, especially for those with unpopular ideas and opinions. it's one thing to meet private with campus leadership about a concern or suggestion and quite another thing to post that idea or suggestion for all to see and, through search engines, for all to find.

it's an interesting experiment and i sure hope it works.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

You'll notice my comment was all about throwing oil on troubled waters, and the waters were not currently troubled. Easier to talk about process than about substance! No disrespect to anyone or anything, but if I were an untenured faculty member, I would measure twice and cut once if you know what I mean (and I think that you do).

Professor Of Pop said...

Much obliged, Michael. I appreciate the forum -- thus agreeing with DS -- and also want to underscore MR's point about getting students into the library. I am realizing that blogging can be used to encourage reading & critical thinking. And to widen the media studies agenda to its proper dimensions. But the raw truth of the matter at USF is that (I took a breath & counted to 10, Michael) the students are lazy about reading & about struggling with difficult reading, and that problem, sadly, does not seem to have a hi-tech solution.

Sara said...

I agree that people need to learn how to blog, but I also think society needs to work out norms for the blogosphere before everybody will feel comfortable in that space. I also agree with Silver's comment regarding the balance of power that exists in the blog of a university official; Yes it is an open forum, but there is usually a resistance to biting the hand that signs your diploma (or paycheck).

Students also need to get accustomed to having discussions online, whether it be via blogs, message boards, or other forums. They are used to expressing themselves online via Facebook, MySpace, LiveJournal, etc. They are also used to having intellectual discussions inside the four walls of a classroom, and sometimes maybe in a professor's office. Somehow, I don't think the two have melded yet. I see this disconnect happening with the Ning site that somebody set up for Silver's class, as well as with debate via email that Goodwin has tried to generate. Even when given a forum to discuss relevant topics, the students don't necessarily seize the opportunity. This isn't due to lack of engagement, but really because the precedent hasn't been set for expressing opinions online (unless those opinions are related to a friend's facebook profile).

There is also a cynical part of me that believes that the reason online forms haven't caught on with students is because they aren't interested in spending any more time than they have to discussing academic subjects. But, I know students who seek knowledge simply for the sake of learning (rather than for a grade or a diploma) are out there. I've even taken classes with some of them. We (I am still deciding who that 'we' is comprised of) just need to get them involved in the digital media with which they can discuss their ideas.

On the other hand, Michael Robertson has proven that when confronted with a topic that angers them, students are quick to learn how to comment on blogs.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

And the fact that it takes a pointed stick thrust through the bars of the cage to get a response from most of us is ... terrible but true. Blogging ethics and blogging etiquette: At the etiquette end, I suppose we need to reward civility. Does that mean we should ever remove blog comments? I haven't yet, but there are plenty of things I would remove if they appeared in comments. And always the flip side: fierce, brilliant incivility is invigorating and should be welcomed. But there is so little of it probably we do not need to worry.

Kelci said...

What happened to father privett's blog? And how does one find the blog set up to brainstorm cost saving measures??

Kelci said...

i found it! by searching my old emails! i guess this replaced usf2028?

david silver said...

hey kelci - you answered your own question! =)

i think you're right, that it replaces usf2028. regardless of *where* he blogs, i'd like to see father privett blog regularly.