The most common words of my dissertation using the site Wordle
For a new segment called Tucson Authors, Poets, and Playwrights in my Online WRT 102 I interviewed Elizabeth Frankie Rollins. She was absolutely wonderful! Steve Salmoni and Les Hunter will be pressured into doing it as well. Thanks for being the first Frankie!
Recently, some Google+ users have expressed displeasure with the company’s mandate that they use their real names on their accounts. The guideline is not unique among social networking sites and both Linkedin and Facebook require the use of one’s real name. The BBC story I read about it reminds me of a blog I wrote some time ago entitled “The End of Anonymity in the World (of Warcraft) and the Implications for Democratic Social Media“. Blizzard backed down in the face of overwhelming negative customer response but the proposal called for members to attach their real names to their accounts. At the time Blizzard saw the move as a way to address falling community standards, unhelpful behavior from members and trolling. It was too difficult for Blizzard to institute such a sweeping change to its terms of service in the face of its established community of several million players. Google+, on the other hand, is still in its infancy and it seems that the move is sticking for better or worse. The whole discussion leads me to ask “What’s in a name?” or, perhaps more clearly, “What’s in namelessness?”
After years of teaching freshman writing I was at an impasse when it came to selecting a reader. I felt guilty for assigning an expensive reader when even the ones I liked the most contained texts I would most likely not assign. Sometimes, I made the justification that even if I didn’t assign them they were good readings and very proactive students might utilize them eventually. Sometimes, I tried to make a custom reading packet. The later often proved very time consuming, cumbersome to carry for my students and myself and a nightmare of logistics when considering intellectual property rights.
The “smart” board desperately clings to the tired, dusty black board and has become a curious representation of the liminal state of technology in the classroom. The device theoretically enables the professor to create an interactive space on the board from which to launch and navigate class discussions. I say theoretically because after nine years of teaching in college classrooms that have the smart board I have only ever seen it in it’s inert state. Mostly it makes it incovienent for me to write things on the board. Despite a very healthy interest in technology and a desire to improve and expand intellectual space, I have never received (or, to be fair, asked for) training in how to use that particular device.
Recently, I asked my writing classes to discuss this article which describes how the Attorney General of Utah announced on Twitter the moment he gave the order to execute Ronnie Lee Gardner. I gave the assignment, in part, because I wanted to get them thinking about the current boundaries of what we think acceptable uses of social networking sites by government officials is and also because, as the interactions with some of my colleagues and students sometimes evidences, very smart people often misjudge the potentiality of social media in general and of Twitter specifically.
I was exceptionally pleased with the opportunity to teach Mass Media for the first time last semester as it was a refreshing change and challenge after many semesters of teaching mostly introduction to writing courses. A few days after I was assigned to teach the course at Suffolk Community College, in a strange twist of fate, I received instructor copies of several textbooks for that course at SUNY Stony Brook. Along with two of the more traditional text books I was sent an evaluation copy of Paul Levinson’s latest book “New New Media.”
As the producer of the largest MMORPG by far, Blizzard Entertainment has had a long history of taking risks and the company wouldn’t be able to boast almost 12 million active subscriptions if those risks had not paid out. But the latest news about its Real ID feature has many concerned that what Blizzard is risking is the user’s personal information and safety. A recent post on their official forums by a community manager has revealed that in the near future anytime a player logs into the forums and posts that post will contain the real first and last name of the person who owns that account. The major reason given for this change was for the sake of community building. Blizzard is positioning itself as a cornerstone in the social gaming community with its Battle.net system as its poster child for what the future of the online gaming community will look like. Sounds good, but why do they want to reveal a person’s real name? Anyone who has had to navigate a field of internet anonymity will probably be able to recognize a troll even if they don’t call it such. Blizzard’s forums have provided a space where trolling has had room to flourish. Blizzard is betting that attaching a real name to every post will discourage the majority of trolls by linking a person to the flame (incendiary, unhelpful post). Many are concerned, however, that posting their real name will be damaging in some way to them in terms of employment, or identity theft, stalkers and so on. There are a good many reasons why a person wouldn’t want his/her real name posted where conceivably the entire world can see that have nothing to do with a desire by that person to be unhelpful or incendiary. Amid the uproar and threats of lawsuits there have been some supporters of the idea from people who genuinely believe that a better community will arise out of this great experiment. What interests me most is, “How will this play out if Blizzard goes through with it?”
A few months ago Roger Ebert reignited a debate throughout the blogosphere and Twitter by penning a blog reaffirming his belief that “video games can never be art.” He was met with stiff resistance from both the overly juvenile and from more sophisticated opponents who, in their defense of video games, pointed to various potentialities in that media and drew compelling similarities between film and video games. The intensity and scope of the debate says something of Ebert’s reach as the issue gushed from new media to old almost overnight. The continued and persistent dialogue between both sides of the “video games as art form” debate is a productive and enlightening discussion that can teach us a great deal about the forms and functions we expect our art to take and do. But at present, I’m less concerned with the artistic status of video games than with our perception of what constitutes art. One of Ebert’s long standing suppositions about the relation of the reader (viewer, player) to the text (poem, film, video game) seems to me to be central to his denial of artistic status to video games.
In a recent talk by John Carlos Rowe entitled the “The State of Advertising” he made a passing, though I think accurate, observation that the majority of discourse present in new forms of social media mostly operates to reinforce traditional values by reproducing the readymade ideas and concepts championed by the neoliberal status quo. He was addressing, if I remember correctly, the widely held belief that the absence of physical gatekeepers in new social media has created an opportunity for democracy without the oversight of corporate censors who usually take their places as editors of publishing houses or other producers of traditional forms of content. Paul Levinson articulates many such possibilities for the new kinds of democratic space that could be made in those media in his book New New Media. And, those possibilities are exciting. What Rowe’s comment reminded me of last Monday night was that even in the absence of the physical person serving as gatekeeper there is still the conceptual gatekeeper which has to be broken down before New Social Media can start the project of creating a new age for democratic thinking. I’d like to address one such aspect of that conceptual gatekeeper as I perceive it to effect both my students and other academics I have talked with.