Monday, May 26, 2008

seeing the whole of web studies

six years later, in an essay for the book web.studies edited by david gauntlett, i again thought i'd seen the whole of the web - or, to be more precise, the whole of web studies. in "looking backwards, looking forward: cyberculture studies 1990-2000," i attempted to map three major stages of the then-emerging academic field of digital media and culture, or what i liked to call cyberculture studies, or what many of the contributors to this book call internet studies. the three stages were popular cyberculture, cyberculture studies, and critical cyberculture studies.

the origins story begins with popular cyberculture. starting in the early-1990s, a handful of wired writers and journalists began filing stories in major newspapers about what some called cyberspace and others called the information superhighway. newspaper stories soon blossomed into magazine features which soon grew into how-to books like the internet for dummies and the whole internet.

with roots in journalism, popular cyberculture was regularly characterized by a limited utopian vs. dystopian dualism (see rob kling's "hopes and horrors" and roy rosenzweig's "live free or die?"). on one side were the technofuturists, a collection of writers, editors, and especially entrepreneurs who believed that the internet would smash traditional institutions and hierarchies and usher in new means of commerce and communication. they gathered loosely within the pages of wired magazine, the most enthusiastic cheerleader of the internet revolution. (for an early take on wired, see paulina borsook's "the memoirs of a token: an aging berkeley feminist examines wired"; for a longer history, see fred turner's from counterculture to cyberculture, especially chapter seven.)

on the other side were the neo-luddites, cultural critics who blamed the then-still nascent internet for many of society's ills. for example, in the gutenberg elegies: the fate of reading in an electronic age, sven birkerts warned that the internet, hypertext, and a host of electronic technologies would produce declining literacy and a less-than-grounded sense of reality. kirkpatrick sale drove home the points he made in his book rebels against the future: the luddites and their war on the industrial revolution: lessons for the computer age by smashing computers on his promotional tour, while clifford stoll, in silicon snake oil: second thoughts on the information highway, begged cybernauts to log off, reminding us that "life in the real world is far more interesting, far more important, far richer, than anything you'll ever find on a computer screen" (13).

our second stage, cyberculture studies, came about in the mid-1990s as a result of many developments including the arrival of two books: howard rheingold's the virtual community and sherry turkle's life on the screen. drawing heavily from his extensive experience on the WELL, one of the earliest and most influential online communities (for more see katie hafner's the well), rheingold transcended the earlier question of internet: good or bad? and instead approached networked communications and interactions as online communities. likewise, turkle abandoned simple black and white depictions of internet users and instead put forth a more nuanced understanding of online identities. together, virtual communities and online identities served as the twin pillars of early internet studies.

also arriving during this time was mosaic, the first popular browser for the world wide web. developed at the national center for supercomputing applications (NCSA) at the university of illinois at urbana-champaign, mosaic was not only a technological innovation but also a user innovation, and helped to introduced a new generation of users to the internet via the easy-to-navigate world wide web. this increase in users was especially felt within academia, where early adopters of unix, Usenet, gopher, and lambdaMOO found themselves surfing the same web as many of their non-technical colleagues in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

in addition to the aforementioned, there was another factor: steve jones. with a string of anthologies, including cybersociety and virtual culture, jones assembled a collection of (mostly) communication scholars to push to new levels our understanding of online communities and identities. in 1999, he helped establish the association of internet researchers, or aoir, which, ten years later, has grown into an international and interdisciplinary academic conference (next aoir conference happens october 15-18 in copenhagen, denmark). other important and influential anthologies and books from scholars from anthropology (including arturo escobar and turkle), communication (nancy baym and mia consalvo), gender studies (lynn cherney and elizabeth reba weise, donna haraway), linguistics (susan herring), and sociology (marc smith and peter kollock, and barry wellman) helped shore up the field's social science roots.

the third stage, critical cyberculture studies, appeared in the twenty-first century.

to be continued ...

works cited:

nancy baym, "from practice to culture on usenet." in susan leigh star, editor, the cultures of computing, pp. 29-52. oxford: blackwell publishers, 1995.

sven birkerts, the gutenberg elegies: the fate of reading in an electronic age. winchester, MA: faber and faber, 1994.

paulina borsook, "the memoirs of a token: an aging berkeley feminist examines wired." in lynn cherney and elizabeth reba weise, editors, wired women: gender and new realities in cyberspace, pp. 24-41. seattle: seal press, 1996.

lynn cherney and elizabeth reba weise, editors, wired women: gender and new realities in cyberspace. seattle: seal press, 1996.

kiersten conner-sax and ed krol, the whole internet: the next generation. sebastopol, CA: o'reilly, 1992.

mia consalvo, "cash cows hit the web: gender and communications technology," journal of communication inquiry (21:1, 1997), pp. 98-115.

shelley correll, "the ethnography of an electronic bar: the lesbian cafe," journal of contemporary ethnography (24:3, 1995), pp. 270-298.

arturo escobar, "welcome to cyberia: notes on the anthropology of cyberculture." in ziauddin sardar and jerome ravetz, editors, cyberfutures: culture and politics on the information superhighway, pp. 111-137. new york: new york university press, 1996.

david gauntlett, editor, web.studies: rewiring media studies for the digital age. london, UK: arnold, 2000.

katie hafner, the well: a story of love, death & real life in the seminal online community. new york: carroll & graf, 2001.

donna haraway, "a cyborg manifesto: science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century," in simians, cyborgs and women: the reinvention of nature, pp. 149-181. new york; routledge, 1991.

susan herring, editor, computer-mediated communication: linguistic, social and cross-cultural perspectives. amsterdam: john benjamins publishing, 1996.

steve jones, editor, cybersociety: computer-mediated communication and community. thousand oaks, CA: sage, 1995.

_____, editor, virtual culture: identity & communication in cybersociety. london: sage, 1997.

rob kling, "hopes and horrors: technological utopianism and anti-utopianism in narratives of computerization." in rob kling, editor, computerization and controversy: value conflicts and social choices, pp. 40-58. san diego, CA: academic press, 1996.

howard rheingold, the virtual community: homesteading on the electronic frontier. reading, MA: addison-wesley publishing, 1993.

roy rosenzweig, "live free or die? death, life, survival, and sobriety on the information superhighway," american quarterly (51.1, 1999), pp.160-174.

kirkpatrick sale, rebels against the future: the luddites and their war on the industrial revolution: lessons for the computer age. reading, MA: addison-wesley publishing, 1995

marc a. smith and peter kollock, editors, communities in cyberspace. london: routledge, 1999.

clifford stoll, silicon snake oil: second thoughts on the information highway. new york: doubleday, 1995.

fred turner, from counterculture to cyberculture: stewart brand, the whole earth network, and the rise of digital utopianism, chicago, IL: university of chicago press, 2006.

barry wellman, "an electronic group is virtually a social network." in sara kiesler, editor, culture of the internet, pp. 179-205. mahwah, NJ: lawrence erlbaum associates, 1997.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

seeing the whole of the web

in august 1994, i moved from los angeles to college park, maryland, to pursue a PhD in american studies at the university of maryland. having neither classes nor friends, i'd take my bike out to learn the local landscape. often i'd end the day at the campus computer lab, where i'd snag an empty computer and use a program called pine to access my email.

one evening, i arrived at the lab with a super-sized coffee and a goal. earlier that day, my new housemate, a graduate student in computer science, told me about a new thing called the world wide web. "it's cool," he said, "you should really check it out." my goal that evening was to see and explore this world wide web thingy.

before firefox there was IE, before that there was netscape, and before that there was mosaic, whose icon i double-clicked and there i was on the world wide web. my first web site ever was the computer lab's homepage which contained, in school colors, the lab's hours, rules, and acceptable behaviors. promptly and intuitively, i mouse-clicked a blue hyperlink and proceeded to click and read, click and read, for hours, uninterrupted except to relieve myself of the super-sized coffee.

sometime around two or three in the morning, i clicked a link that magically brought me back to where i had begun - the homepage for maryland's computer labs. i had travelled a full circle. exhausted and exhilarated, i had seen, i thought, the whole of the web.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

digital journalism

last year, my digital journalism students began the semester working collectively on a group blog and ended the semester working individually on blogs of their own. this year, we did the opposite. students spent the majority of the semester working individually on their own blogs (and flickr accounts) and ended the semester working collectively to create a map of our city.

we diligently followed the digital journalism syllabus for the first six weeks, but by week seven things had to change.

in early march, i attended a panel discussion in the donohue rare book room (third floor, gleeson library). the panel included sasha carrera, education coordinator for the corita art center in los angeles, and amy franceschini and stuart mckee, both USF graphic design professors. the panel was part of the opening of POWER UP: Serigraphs by Corita Kent in USF's thacher gallery. long story ridiculously short: corita kent, also known as sister corita, ran the art department at immaculate heart college in los angeles until 1968, the year she left the order and moved to boston to focus on art and social justice. her serigraphs gained gained international fame during the 1960s and 1970s, and although you may not recognize her name you might recognize this:

or, perhaps, this:

during the panel, i learned about an assignment sister corita would give to her art students. first, she would have them draw an object. next, she'd give the students two or three days to draw the same object one hundred times.

during discussion, a number of audience members identified themselves as former students of sister corita, including one who remembered well the draw-this-a-hundred-times assignment. "i began thinking i knew what i was drawing," she said. "but after four or five drawings, i realized i had no idea. after a while, maybe around seventy or eighty drawings, patterns began to emerge. by the time i reached one hundred, i had a better understanding of what it was i was trying to draw."

the following day class met and i had a proposal for my students - let's suspend the syllabus for one week, maybe two. instead, i proposed, we'll explore different parts of USF campus and blog about them consistently and creatively.

the proposal passed unanimously.

over the course of the semester, i assigned my students three beats. first, campus. next, golden gate park. third, san francisco. and like sister corita, i'd tell my students to do it and do it again and do it again. they'd come to class to share a killer blog post they wrote the night before (or that morning) and we'd use a laptop to project it on a screen on the wall and i'd read it aloud and we'd laugh and say "yeah!" for the parts we liked and gave suggestions for the parts in need of improvement and then right when my students began to feel comfortable even content with what they had created i'd say: "good, now do it again."

through my assignments (grueling!) and their interest in blogging (budding!), i kept my students busy. all i required was that they had to physically visit the places they were blogging about. log off before you blog off.

and they did, first with campus.

later, we turned our blogging and photo-snapping attentions to golden gate park, a park packed with goodies to explore and located a cool two blocks from campus.

finally, we stepped into the big leagues and gave san francisco a spin. then, the last week, fueled by pizza, we filled our map full of posts.

although corita kent may have scoffed at our mere fifty pins, i'm sure she'd acknowledge that my students - austin, brigid, emilia, jacob, laura, and miles - and i now have a better understanding of the campus and city we call home.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

faculty innovation award; or, being stalked down the aisle by a man with a plan

yesterday, i won USF's full-time faculty innovation award and michael robertson somehow recorded nearly every second of it.

thanks, USF, for creating a space where experimentation is encouraged, valued, and rewarded.

the rest of the recipients include:

Katie Baum, Program Assistant for Environmental Science, received the College Staff Service Award.

Paula Birnbaum, Assistant Professor of Visual Arts, received the University Distinguished Teaching Award.

Gaƫlle Corvaisier, Adjunct Professor of Modern and Classical Languages, received the College Part-time Faculty Service Award.

Krysten Elbers, Program Assistant for the Center for the Pacific Rim, received the College Staff Service Award.

Katherine Elder, Adjunct Professor of English, received the University Adjunct Teaching Award.

Kara Gardner, Adjunct Professor of Performing Arts, received the University Adjunct Teaching Award.

Jeremy Howell, Associate Professor of Exercise and Sport Science, received the Ignatian Faculty Service Award.

Deneb Karentz and Mary Jane Niles, Professors of Biology, received the Frank L. Beach Award for Outstanding Leadership in Service to the College.

Scott McElwain, Professor of Politics, received the University Sarlo Prize.

Karyn Schell, Assistant Professor of Modern and Classical Languages, received the College Full-time Faculty Service Award.

James L. Taylor, Associate Professor of Politics, received a College Media Award.

The Writing for the Real World Committee (Brian Dempster, David Holler, Devon Holmes, Theresa Newman, and David Ryan) received the University Team Merit Award.

Monday, May 05, 2008

literacy, e-literacy, me-literacy, we-literacy: a talk for and from art librarians

since friday, i've been in denver, colorado, attending the 36th annual art libraries society of north america (ARLIS/NA) conference.

today is my turn to talk and i will use a recent field trip to work through four different and overlapping literacies: literacy, e-literacy, me-literacy, and we-literacy. i will also share some stories about getting students - and faculty - into their libraries. some of these stories will be about projects i heard about here in denver at ARLIS/NA 08.

for the more linear minded, my talk may go a lil something like this:

stonelake farm, I: literacy and e-literacy

i'll begin with a brief explanation of the davies forum on digital literacy and the series of events that led to our four-day field trip to stonelake farm, an organic, off-the-grid homestead in humboldt county, california. all the while, i'll try to tease out what i mean by literacy and e-literacy.

stonelake farm, II: me-literacy and we-literacy

next, i'll discuss the differences and overlaps between me-literacy and we-literacy and share my students' experiences with individual blog posts and collective tags and tag clouds. i hope to show, as ArLiSNAP's web 2.0 tech kiosk did, that we learn more when we learn together.

getting student and faculty bodies into libraries

the heart of campus is the library -- how do we get more of we inside?

one idea is to do what they do at wertz art and architecture library at miami university in oxford, ohio. there, junior and senior art majors matthew addison, caroline brown, sam doan, kim hogan, katie leone, emily moorshead, chris skaggs, hilary stevens, and ellen warner teamed with librarian stacy nakamura brinkman and art professor sara young to create a site-specific installation that encompasses two study/reading rooms.

to make it happen, the students - collectively - had to brainstorm ideas, write a grant, and establish a dialogue with library staff (in this case, stacy). plus, they had to follow two rules: 1) no physical alterations could be made to the site and 2) the installation could not interfere with daily activities and services of the library.

as far as i can understand, images of book spines and covers were printed onto acetate panels that served as translucent curtains for the reading room's windows. a video was projected on opposite screens in the study rooms. and bringing it all together was a woven paper cord that ran the length of the ceiling.

student art surrounding studying students. awesome.

or maybe we should do what they do at depauw university libraries visual resource center (the same center that creates super smart, award-winning videos that market their library services). there, graduate intern jessica bozeman worked with visual resources librarian brooke cox to create a research scavenger hunt game. the game was based on the da vinci code and engaged students (and, i hope, faculty) in library research, resources, and services. (more info on the panel wiki.)

or maybe we should take a tip from amanda gluibizzi, subject specialist for history of art, fine arts, and art education at the fine arts library at ohio state university. noticing that there was a lot of excellent public art across OSU's campus, amanda created a map with pins on various pieces of art. when users click the pins, they will see images of the art, thereby, i hope, making them more aware of the work the next time they walk by. but clicking on the pins reveals another thing: a keyword search for any OSU holdings relevant to the artist. online tools to enhance offline campus walk-abouts. online tools to highlight offline library services. excellent.

stonelake farm, III: steven's ipod

i'll end my talk with a special story about an ipod, a six-hour drive home, and students remixing and curating content.

update: pics from the stage!