Monday, December 31, 2007

new reviews in cyberculture studies (january 2008)

a new year, new book reviews!

each month, the resource center for cyberculture studies (RCCS) publishes a set of book reviews and author responses. books of the month for january 2008 include:

META/DATA: A Digital Poetics
Author: Mark Amerika
Publisher: MIT Press, 2007
Review 1: Vika Zafrin
Author Response: Mark Amerika

The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship
Author: Michele White
Publisher: MIT Press, 2006
Review 1: Jessica Brophy
Review 2: Gabriel Jones
Review 3: Adi Kuntsman
Review 4: Kelly McWilliam
Review 5: Alison Miller
Author Response: Michele White

Youth Online: Identity and Literacy in the Digital Age
Author: Angela Thomas
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishers, 2007
Review 1: Alison Harvey

authors and publishers: if you would like RCCS to consider reviewing your book, please send us a review copy. if you think your book would benefit from the ideas and perspectives of multiple reviewers, please send us multiple review copies. we are especially eager to receive and review books written in languages other than english and books published in countries other than the US and UK. send books to:

David Silver/RCCS
Department of Media Studies
University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117

enjoy. there's more where that came from.

Friday, December 28, 2007

gardening 101

my dad taught me how to garden when i was eight and when we lived in north hollywood. in the backyard we dug up a big patch, made rows, and planted corn, tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, and other assorted goodness. once everything was planted, we'd water, we'd weed, we'd hoe. sometimes we'd get up really early, like at five or six in the morning, run outside, and search for snails. it was fun to learn how to grow veggies and it was fun hanging out with dad.

this spring i'm going back to school to learn how to garden better. sarah and i are going to take garden practice 101. the course meets saturday mornings from mid-january to late-may at city college of san francisco. the course is taught by pam peirce, author of golden gate gardening (highly recommended!), weekly gardening columnist for the san francisco chronicle, and blogger.

hopefully, by spring, our garden on the deck, as well as the garden-to-be on the cement sidewalk that meets our first step outside, will be in full swing.


gone gallery

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


gone gallery

a trip to maastricht

on friday, i attended "creating new perspectives for academic libraries," a farewell symposium for maastricht university librarian john gilbert. speakers from the netherlands, the UK, and the US were invited and asked to give presentations on "change, innovation, creativity, new solutions and concepts." it took place in a room that looked like this:

gerard mols, a maastricht university rector (or what we in the states would call provost), began the symposium. he welcomed attendees, spoke about john gilbert's contributions to the library and to the university, and then stayed through the whole symposium.

the first speaker was anne bell (presentation title: "convivial spaces, convivial services: space re-design and its potential impact on the future of academic libraries"), head librarian at the university of warwick. anne shared many projects but focused on the learning grid, a physical building - a learning center - that is affiliated with but separate from the campus library. as anne revealed, the design of the learning grid's space encourages and facilitates different kinds of collaborative learning - individual, silo-like seats are replaced with moveable, changeable, group desks and seating arrangements that invite students to learn collectively. further, the learning grid is home to library, technological, and university services, with highly trained and well paid students assistants, hired on the basis of social skills, not technical skills, roaming the learning grid looking to help other students. space and services that encourage students teaching students situations. plus, there's no no's in the learning grid: students are allowed to eat, drink, talk, and use their cell phones at will. also: since the learning grid's launch in 2004, student use of the university library has increased thirty percent. brilliant.

next up was rein de wilde ("can universities survive without a library?"), dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences at maastricht university. using a single example, rein highlighted a key problem and a key possibility of library/university resources. rein focused on one entry for one book (someone help me: immanuel kant was the author; what was the book?) within the university library's online catalog. he read out loud all of the information contained on that entry and noted how most of it was relevant to librarians, not general library users. he then began to imagine an open catalog, and asked what catalog entries would look like if they contained user reviews, user tags, and user suggestions. what, in other words, would the library catalog look like if library users could contribute to it? (two examples of open catalogs can be seen with the PennTags project and ann arbor public library's catalog.)

the next speaker was the oddest speaker - "dr howard becker," from cambridge, who apparently is in charge of google's western european operations. "dr becker," it turns out, is a professional comedian. being american, and therefore a little slow, i did not realize what was happening until five or six minutes into his routine. he was hilarious. i have never witnessed so much laughter at an academic conference. it was wonderful. more academic events should feature comedy.

and then ... lunch!

after lunch (mmm, dutch cheese), maarten van roosen ("digital information paradise"), professor of history at utrecht university, got things rolling. with no notes, maarteen gave a stunning talk about one professor's history with different kinds of libraries: first, an experience at columbia university's library that changed his dissertation topic; second, his home library of walls of books built largely with the help of; and third, the library that is the internet. a professor of contemporary american history, especially recent presidential history, maarten said his primary library is the internet. who needs a library, he asked, when american newspapers, CNN, and presidential candidates are all online? a rousing, challenging, and, especially when considering maarten is a professor of history, unpredictable talk. i loved it.

next up was me ("to give and to get: libraries, web 2.0, and collective intelligence"), and i gave an extended version of the talk i delivered a day earlier. i began with bad news regarding my students' (from 1996-present) literacy. each year, my students read less and less books, which means they are less interested and/or less able to work with complex ideas that take 200-300 pages to explore. each year, my students' traditional research skills become more and more abysmal; many of today's students believe that research begins and ends with google. and each year, my students' ability to reflect - to log off; to exist without cellphone, without facebook, without ipods, without IM, without music, without television; to just be for extended amounts of time - appears to be evaporating. i added that this particular american generation is a confused generation. my 18 year old first year students were 10 when bush took office, 11 on 9-11, 12 when we began war on afghanistan, 13 when we began war on iraq, 13 1/2 when bush, in a very silly flight suit, announced the war in iraq was over, 14 when pictures of US torture at abu ghraib were released, and 16 when katrina revealed that the US could no longer take care of its citizens, especially those who are poor and black. further, most of our first year students arrived to campus with cellphones surgically attached to their ears. call me crazy but i'll say it and i'll say it in five simple words: american attention spans are shrinking.

and then i changed gears and talked about eliteracy, and went off on how creative our students are. this is the remix generation. our students believe - correctly - that knowledge is a process, that information is negotiated: distributed freely, commented on, debated over, laughed at, compromised over, and collectively constructed. our students make stuff. they make media, distribute media, and comment on other media. when it comes to things digital, this generation is extremely creative.

it took me about forty minutes but somehow i went from literacy to e-literacy to me-literacy to we-literacy, and finished by introducing GarageBand, a site patrick goodwin, a USF student enrolled in my fall semester intro to media studies course, shared with class and wrote about in his final paper. with GarageBand, you can upload your own music and people can listen and comment on it. but before you get reviews, you are required to give reviews - fifteen of them. i tried to explain that whether my students are giving to wikipedia, or giving to yelp, or giving to GarageBand, they are giving - and giving, especially within a country all too accustomed to getting, is a good thing. i said that the best web 2.0 tools allow users - us - to give and to get. i ended with the same question i asked the librarians in tulsa, oklahoma: what happens when students give to the library?

john gilbert finished the symposium with a farewell speech. he highlighted past achievements of the library (especially in the area of digital resources and digital journals) and looked forward to new developments in the library and in librarianship. he stressed customer-based services and customers' ability to comment on the resources they find.

later, at the reception (more cheese! huge slabs of beautifully multicolored cheese!), john was given and then told to release a big batch of balloons, a symbol of letting go of the library.

over breakfast at the charming hotel les charmes, anne bell remarked how nice it was to devote a retirement ceremony to a symposium about the future. i totally agree - instead of looking backwards, we were encouraged to look forward. i enjoyed speaking and i enjoyed listening. all of the talks were stimulating and each of them overlapped and conversed with portions of the other talks. it was easily one of the finest symposium i have attended in my career. my only wish would have been a larger room so that more librarians could have attended.

many people helped to organize the event, including peter niesten and coen van laer. getting to know these two was one of the highlights of the trip. peter is a fellow dylanologist and we shared dylan stories the whole time, including one night over delicious deer steak. i very much enjoyed talking with coen and hearing his ideas about libraries, technology, and space. at one point during my visit, coen gave me a tour of the library, ending with the top floor - a fascinating mixed-use space that includes a computer lab, a group work space, a language lab, and a silent study hall.

i snapped a picture of the top floor and later was quite upset to learn that my picture was blurry. but then, after spending some time looking at the image, i realized, no - that's what collaborative learning looks like.

thank you maastricht.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

to give and to get: a talk at the university of maastricht

as part of tomorrow's symposium honoring the work and contributions of university of maastricht librarian john gilbert, i am giving a talk called "to give and to get: libraries, web 2.0, and collective intelligence." today, i am giving a preconference talk for librarians who are unable to attend tomorrow's events. my hope is that the discussion during today's preconference talk will inform portions of tomorrow's conference talk.

i plan to begin by briefly discussing four kinds of literacy: literacy (reading, research, reflection), e-literacy (digital literacy), me-literacy (facebook), and we-literacy (web 2.0 with a quick tour through the gones).

next, i'll explain we-literacy in terms of collective intelligence. with help from wikipedia, yelp, and GarageBand, i'll argue that the best of web 2.0 is when users give and get in meaningful ways.

finally, i'll ask a question for all of us to answer: what happens when students give to the library? in supplying a few of my own answers, i'm sure i'll discuss "yes, i read comic books."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

a solid, well-written college paper

last week, the professor of pop blogged "On Writing A Grown-Up Paper." if you're in college, majoring in media studies or not, you should read it.

the timing of andrew's blog post was perfect. tomorrow, my seventy intro to media studies students turn in their final papers. that means last week's class periods were spent brainstorming good paper topics, discussing what makes sources credible, and talking about the basic ingredients that go into a solid, well-written college paper. my students' paper topics are really interesting; i look forward to reading their papers.

(i also look forward to finishing them. as soon as my grades are in, my winter break begins. spring classes don't start until january 22. do the math.)

so, last week, for both my morning and afternoon sections of intro to media studies i shared goodwin's "On Writing A Grown-Up Paper" with my students. to do this, i fired up the computer that is in our "smart classroom," launched mozilla, and typed in then i dragged the browser's bottom-right corner so that we could only read one paragraph at a time. from the students' perspective, the overhead screen looked something like this:

we read together, to ourselves, one paragraph at a time. i'd give us 30-60 seconds to read a paragraph and then i'd scroll down another paragraph within our shrunken mozilla browser. when we reached the third paragraph, i highlighted the last sentence with the mouse: "Learning how to find mental stamina in the last days & weeks of a project, and what a huge difference this can make to the final outcome, is one of the most important (but least heralded?) tasks that can be learned in college." i jumped up and down a few times and said: "read this sentence twice! this is very important!"

and it is. receiving a mediocre or bad final paper or project, especially from a student who has spent the semester being neither mediocre nor bad, is the worst. i told my students it was like seeing a great show only to have the band's encore suck. or like watching your favorite team play three inspired quarters only to collapse in the fourth. or like reading a novel that begins and mids like a flame only to not. quite. have. enough. steam to end.

i think they got my point. tomorrow i get their papers.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

we got married

sarah and i got married last weekend in santa cruz. our families were there and it was beautiful.

jini, sarah's mom, designed and made the rings. at some point during the wedding ceremony, sarah and i were surrounded by a circle of family. the rings were passed around the circle and moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and nephews touched and held and examined and admired them. by the time the rings reached sarah and me, they were full of love.

november 24, 2007, santa cruz, california