Thursday, December 18, 2008


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when USF means university of san francisco

for years and years and years, a google search for USF gave the university of south florida - with its 46,000+ students, its four campuses, and its beefy $1.8 billion annual budget - top billing. yet as michael robertson has been saying since 2007, there's really only one USF. these days, as some of my students from intro pointed out last week, the real USF is back on top.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

students saving money

this semester, for the first time ever, i included the following rule in intro to media studies:

Starting Tuesday (September 2), no drinking out of non-reusable containers. Be creative with your thirst-quenching solutions.

i wasn't sure if it was going to work, but i knew it was worth trying. on the first day of classes, i announced, "if you're thirsty, get a thermos and fill it with delicious california tap water. if you need caffeine, get a mug and fill it with coffee." then i paused and took a refreshing gulp or two out of my beloved blue bottle and said, "ahhhh."

throughout the semester, there were only a few infractions - a plastic water bottle accidentally brought to class, a can of red bull smuggled (unsuccessfully) into the back of class - but overall the students easily abided.

last tuesday was the last day of class for fall semester. we ate. we talked excitedly about our wikipedia project. we watched a few youtube clips, including human tetris, lemon baby, and guy vomiting on live tv news.

and then, before i left the room to allow students to fill out teacher evaluations, i asked them to take a moment to think about how much money we saved. i asked: "if i hadn't banned plastic bottles and aluminum cans and paper coffee cups, how many of you would have bought and brought to class a soda or bottled water or a latte?" i then asked the students to consider that intro met twice a week for the last fifteen weeks. the students sit in rows so i asked each row to calculate their totals. i walked over to the chalkboard and began adding up our totals.

the morning class saved $812.50

the afternoon class saved $1,528

in all, my students saved $2,340.50, a pretty nice chunk of change.

"imagine," i think i remember saying to my students, "how much money you'd save if you did this with all of your classes for your remaining time here at USF?" and i think i remember smiling upon hearing the distinct buzz of many brains calculating collectively.


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Saturday, December 06, 2008

good food: a book display in gleeson library

good food: slow food, cooking, gardening, organic farming, and food, currently on exhibit in gleeson library, is my kind of book display. designed by USF librarian and summer garden crew member sherise kimura, the display includes books about food, growing food, cooking food, and the politics and pleasures of food.

there's something here for everyone. for those interested in growing, there's w. hensel's gardening for beginners and barbara pleasant and deborah martin's the complete compost gardening guide. for those interested in cooking, and for those interested in expanding their repertoires, there is gerry g. gelle's filipino cuisine, copeland marks' the exotic kitchens of peru, ruth reichl's the gourmet cookbook, and corby kummer's the pleasures of slow food. for those with a nursing and nutritional interest, there is reader's digest's foods that harm, foods that heal and the american dietetic association's complete food and nutrition guide. and for those of us who like to read and eat and read about what we eat, there's barbara kingsolver's animal, vegetable, miracle, marion nestle's food politics and what to eat, and a suite of michael pollan books, including the omnivore's dilemma (which i'll be assigning in my spring seminar eating san francisco).

the book display also includes an excellent four-page reading list of relevant gleeson library books, cookbooks, and guidebooks. a free holiday gift for readers!

the great thing about book displays at libraries is that the materials circulate freely. interested in learning how to compost? want new, delicious recipes? looking for some foodie-related winter-break reading? go to the library and borrow a book for free.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


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new reviews in cyberculture studies (december 2008)

each month, the resource center for cyberculture studies publishes book reviews and author responses.

the book of the month for december 2008 is:

Playback: Simulierte Wirklichkeiten / Playback: Simulated Realities
Editor: Sabine Himmelsbach
Publisher: Kehrer Verlag, 2007
Review 1: Claudia Costa Pederson

stay tuned - there's lots more where that came from.

Monday, December 01, 2008

final group project: editing USF’s wikipedia page

tomorrow, i’ll hand out the final group project to intro to media studies students.

Final Group Project: Editing USF’s Wikipedia Page
Intro to Media Studies
Professor Silver

Two weeks ago, we began reading and thinking about USF’s wikipedia page. In class, we talked about ways we would edit and add to the page. We brainstormed topics that could be researched and written, and discussed sources worthy of citing. Last week, with help from Phoebe Ayers, we learned how wikipedia works and how people like you and me can edit the pages. For your final project in Intro to Media Studies, you will work in groups to significantly add or edit the University of San Francisco and San Francisco Dons wikipedia pages.


1. You must join a group of two or more students.

2. You must create your own wikipedia account.

3. By the end of today, a member of your group must post a brief description of your topic to our USF WikiProject page.

4. Your group project assignment is to add significantly to the University of San Francisco and San Francisco Dons wikipedia pages. Your addition should abide by wikipedia’s three main rules: neutral point of view, verifiability, and no original research.

5. Your group contribution should also be interesting - to you, to your group, and to others.

6. Back up what you add and edit with at least five good references. If you are unsure about what makes a good reference, ask your group. If your group cannot decide, ask me.

7. At least three of your references must come directly from Gleeson Library. Please do not underestimate requirement seven. Group projects that do not adhere to this requirement will receive failing grades.

8. If you are lucky, other wikipedians will edit and interact with your work. This is a good thing. Work with not against them.

9. As a group, write a three page essay about your contribution, your references, and who did what. Group-edit your essay until it has zero errors.

10. Print out one copy of your paper and turn it in at the beginning of class on Tuesday, December 9th. Also, turn in your journals.

Monday, November 17, 2008

cool events coming soon

this week USF plays host to all kinds of interesting and exciting events. here are some:

monday, november 17th at 7:15 pm
come see filmmaker and activist kevin epps discuss and show clips from his film straight outta hunters point. this event takes place in lone mountain 100, is sponsored by pedro arrupe hall, and is hosted by USF student and filmmaker kevin kunze. for more info, see the facebook page. free.

(photo of kevin epps by lulu mcallister)

tuesday, november 18th at 7 pm
why did san francisco get rid of nearly all of its graveyards and how did they do it? learn how and why by attending an outdoor screening of trina lopez's film a second final rest: the history of san francisco's lost cemeteries. this is, i think, the first event taking place in kalmanavitz hall's nearly completed outdoor amphitheater! the outdoor screening is sponsored by the thacher gallery, film studies, and media studies. free.

thursday, november 20th at 5 pm
do you ever wonder what a sustainable society would look like? author ernest callenbach offers one vision in ecotopia, published in 1975 and frighteningly and inspiringly relevant today. callenbach's talk is part of, i believe, professor steve zavestoski's global environments/societies class and takes place in lone mountain 100. free.

Friday, November 07, 2008


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tag clouds of our most immediate times

everyone everywhere it seems is filled with hope and excitement now that obama is our president. it's such a wonderful, widespread, and unfamiliar feeling.

i began my morning class by asking students to think of a word that describes their reactions to the election. then, i explained, get a piece of chalk and write that word on the chalk board. if someone else has a similar feeling, they should use chalk to make the word more bold. i left the class, walked around lone mountain for about five minutes, and then returned to the class to find this tag cloud on the chalk board.

hope and new america were the boldest. so was relief and change and pride and excitement. other reactions were bandaid, walk the walk, amazed, yes we can, historical, AWW SHIT!, and monumental.

after we discussed the words on the chalk board, i asked, "how many of you know what tag clouds are?" two maybe three students raised their hands. so i launched and made a tag cloud by cutting and pasting two or three week's worth of our syllabus. "tag clouds," i explained, "are visual representations of repetitive and important information. they're usually made of pixels but they can also be made of chalk."

after that, and after talking about our next group show-and-tell project, we left the classroom and stepped into the california sun. we walked from lone mountain to gleeson library where the students disassembled their half of the election exhibit.

in the afternoon section of intro, i flipped the script.

i began by asking how many students know what a tag cloud is. about two or three raised their hands. so i showed them wordle. i cut and pasted a foghorn scene article and we discussed the resulting tag cloud. then i cut and pasted the first (of six) pages of obama's acceptance speech and we discussed the resulting tag cloud.

then i asked students to think of how they felt when they learned that obama was our president. and then i asked them to think of how they felt now, today, two days after the election. get a piece of chalk, i instructed, and write that word on the chalk board. if someone has written your word, go to the chalk board and make the word bolder.

then i walked out of the room. i walked up and down the hallway and up and down the stairs. and then i walked back into the room, walked up to the chalk board, and read the words my students wrote and made bolder.

proud. excited. hopeful. change. primal. elated. relief. happy. ¡si se puede! empowered. disbelief. yay! undecided. ecstatic. surprised. emotional. rollercoaster. shock. curious. aloha. inspired. stoked. and we've taken our country back! =)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

paper 2: 1984 in popular media

last week, i assigned my intro to media studies students their second paper.

Paper 2: 1984 in Popular Media
Intro to Media Studies
Professor Silver

For the last week and a half, we have been reading, discussing, and deciphering George Orwell’s 1984. We’ve discussed the Ministry of Truth, two-minute hate, telescreens, and surveillance society. We’ve analyzed the role of sex, the potential of the proles, and the purpose of war. And we’ve interpreted the symbolism of food, the othering of enemies, and the power of collective memory.

We’ve also been interpreting instances of 1984 in popular media, including Rage Against the Machine’s song and video “Testify” and Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil. Indeed, the wikipedia page “1984 in Popular Media” lists over a hundred uses of and references to Orwell’s 1984 in television, radio, film, music, books, comics, and video games.

For project two, I want you to select one element or scene from 1984 and one element or scene from another media text (book, film, music, poster, billboard, computer game) and say something original and interesting.

Things to consider:

o Select an element or scene from 1984 that interests you. Be sure to describe the scene with direct examples from the book.

o Select a media text that interests you. Your media text does not have to be from the “1984 in Popular Media” wikipedia page. When discussing your media text, assume your readers have little if any familiarity with it.

o In this paper, I am expecting three things from you: a) an excellent description and analysis of a particular scene from 1984; b) an excellent description and analysis of a particular scene from another media text; and c) most importantly something interesting about the two.

o Before you write your paper, think about your paper. Go to a park. Go to the ocean. Go to your favorite café. Think hard and creatively about the ideas you wish to discuss in your paper. Then write it.

o I expect zero grammar and editing mistakes. If I find more than three errors in your paper, I will stop grading it and require a second draft.

o Your paper must not be longer than three double-spaced pages (including a bibliography) and is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, November 6.

Friday, October 31, 2008

new reviews in cyberculture studies (november 2008)

each month, the resource center for cyberculture studies publishes book reviews and author responses.

books of the month for november 2008 are:

Reclaiming the Media: Communication Rights and Democratic Media Roles
Editors: Bart Cammaerts & Nico Carpentier
Publisher: Intellect, 2007
Review 1: Arthur L. Morin

Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art
Editor: Caroline A. Jones
Publisher: MIT Press, 2006
Review 1: Kathleen O'Riordan
Author Response: Caroline Jones

there's lots more where that came from.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

my old office

sometime in may 2006, my old office, located on the first floor of the communications building at the university of washington, looked like this:

it started with a NO IRAQ WAR sign.

sometime in 2003, i taped a NO IRAQ WAR sign to the hallway window of my office. within days, it was stolen. so i got another NO IRAQ WAR sign and taped it to the outside window of my office. within a day, it was taken down, torn into four or five pieces, and pushed under my door and into my office. so i got a third NO IRAQ WAR sign and taped it to the outside of my office. within a day, it was taken down and torn up, into dozens of pieces this time, and jammed under my door and into my office.

so i got a fourth NO IRAQ WAR sign. but this time, i taped it from the inside.

soon after, the stickers began to appear.

i put up the first few - war is terrorism. keep santa cruz weird. god bless the freaks.

within days, people, students i assume, began sticking stickers to my office window. stickers with all kinds of slogans - arms are for hugging. arthur magazine. keep abortion legal. chicago bulls. indian country. kexp. are you part of the problem or part of the solution? trust women.

one day, a UW student-athlete enrolled in my intro to communication class and playing on the football team asked me if i would stick a husky football sticker on my office window. "sure," i answered, "but it would be cooler if you did it."

miraculously - and beautifully - none of the stickers covered the NO IRAQ WAR sign.

about once a semester, i'd drag out some boxes, cover them in colorful tapestries, and offer free books, magazines, tapes, CDs, masks, canteens, candle-sticks, stickers, and other assorted freebies. above the colorful boxes, i taped a sign that said FREE STUFF. most of the stuff would disappear by the end of the day.

one time, i put out 10-15 years-worth of issues of journal of communication, a prestigious journal in the field of communication. no issues were taken. on the other hand, this wooden cow head mask got taken within minutes.

the last detail was a vertical column of print-outs of my gone series. starting with the resignation of tom delay, the gone series is an archive of politicians, mostly linked to george w. bush, who have recently resigned, been fired, or been thrown in jail.

back in may 2006, i began to print out the blog entries and tape them to the wall next to the window. if i had stayed at UW, the print-outs of the criminals would have taken over my office wall, window, and door.

last weekend, i traveled to UW for irina gendelman's dissertation defense. while on campus, i skipped down the hall to see my old office. it's much cleaner and more shiny. and it has less stickers.