Monday, April 02, 2007

Day Two: CCCC

Dennis Jerz from Seton Hill and Sally Chandler from Kean University brought along some graduate students and put together a panel/session called “When Student Experts Remix the Discipline: New Media in the Composition Classroom.” And there was pretty good turnout, considering that these graduate students were “up against” the likes of David Bartholomae and Gerald Graff in the Grand Ballroom.

Student 1- Mike Rubino presented on multiple-authored blogs and collaborating in academic environments. He pointed out differences between academic discussion blogs, which seek to toss around various ideas on a shared topic and focused message blogs, which have a singular message they want to get across to the readers.

Student 2- Matthew Harabin presented ways to teach with EBay in order to develop students’ analytical and critical thinking skills.

Student 3- Amanda Cochran studied blog desertion, focusing specifically on why college students desert their blogs. She argued that this is not a “bad” thing, that it actually shows a “wising up” of these students, as they take in horror stories about bloggers who end up being punished (lost jobs, incarceration—such as the Egyptian blogger arrested over his critiques of religion, etc.) over something they’ve written. Students also showed concern over their blogs being inaccurate representations of their writing skills. This “moving on” she argued is a positive representation of students’ understanding of new media. She described students “moving on” to “gated communities” like Facebook and MySpace.

I guess I don’t see MySpace or Facebook (though I have never used the latter) as “gated communities” per se. Anyone has access to them, and there is ample information about the possibility of losing jobs (or not getting hired for one) on account of a myspace profile. Now I am not weighing in on the controversy here over whether or not this is fair or an invasion of privacy or what kind of “space” (public or otherwise) that myspace might be. I’m just not sure that a “moving on” to myspace or Facebook can accurately be described as a “wising up”, but I found the topic of blog desertion interesting. A couple of audience members described it maybe not as desertion per se, but rather as a kind of moving on. I also wasn’t entirely clear on Amanda’s distinctions between academic and social blogging. Isn’t all blogging supposed to be social?

Student 4 – Nadia Lahens presented on fan fiction and entertained the audience with a quote taken from Anne Rice’s website: “I do not allow fan fiction….” Rice goes on to say that writers of fan fiction must obey her wishes (I don’t have the exact quote for this).

During the discussion one audience member mentioned that we all laughed at Rice’s comment, but that to some extent her comment is understandable – that we are all somewhat protective of our own work. I personally laughed at Rice’s comment because it’s not as if Anne Rice created the vampire story herself. Her lack of recognition of her own “remixing,” her own version of fan fiction, is what made me laugh (an annoyed kind of laughter...more like a grunt, I guess).

Finally, Sally Chandler presented on youth culture in the (composition) classroom with a focus on remixing and its reliance on parody. She discussed the differences between digital and material space: digital space is immersive, interactive, symbol mediated, and information intensive. The mindset is or has to be different when working in a digital space as compared to material space. How, she asked, does this affect our teaching of writing? This difference is the same as differences based on race, class, gender that we’ve spent years addressing. Chandler drew on an example from last year’s Cs. She attended a panel on remixing as writing where the panelists showed that students see remixing as standard. Some audience members, however, was concerned about plagiarism and argued that patchwriting is not remixing. The panelists stood their ground, arguing remixing = writing, while Chandler was left agreeing with both sides. Ultimately she argued that we need to re-imagine what constitutes the writing process. Often times our reactions (as illustrated by the reactions of last year’s audience members) are material world reactions where economy is based on scarcity, but, as Chandler points out, the information is economy is not – where the more something is used/circulated, the more it is worth. We need to reassess our view of the writing process based on our use of new media literacy.

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