This is a presentation I’ll be giving on identity of the self in a psychology class this week.
I know, I know. I used Foucault. How could I not since he talks about mirrors? Damn him. ;-)
This is a presentation I’ll be giving on identity of the self in a psychology class this week.
I know, I know. I used Foucault. How could I not since he talks about mirrors? Damn him. ;-)
On twitter and facebook I recently wrote:
Words have become my main form of collateral, and now I think I fear using them. It’s more than writer’s block. It’s about identity.
I wrote this in the midst of struggling with a paper. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since this and these are some of the issues that have arisen from it:
Because this is the first time in my life that my words and my thoughts are REALLY paying my bills, I’m much more cognizant of them than I’ve been in the past. I fear speaking out and/or writing in public now more than I have because I will be held accountable for my words, and people may challenge them. What if I can’t hold my own in the challenge? What if I just don’t have the knowledge and/or skills to do so? I have great fears of disappointing people I respect and, conversely, not being respected for who I am and what I think. This manifests itself in problems with writing. Academics can be snarky. As I’ve followed recent tweets by academics at one of the largest conferences in my field, I’ve noticed that so many of them were snarky, negative complaints about silly things. They weren’t issues with theory, but personal digs. Why do we do this to ourselves, to people who actually *get* us? Recently I was told that I talk too much in class. I like to add to discussions, but if others think I’m talking too much, I shut down. I choose seminars because there is discussion and they are interesting and engaging. I need to find that place of medium existence in which I can feel safe expressing my words and not intrude on others’ spaces. I’m not sure where that is or if it is possible.
Finally, Peter Elbow, a respected and controversial professor in my field, said this at a recent conference:
Nobody can write well unless they are able to make a fool of themselves.
In the end, maybe most of us, especially those of us who are engaged in social mediums in online spaces, are willing to make fools of ourselves. It may be the degree in which we do so that makes us better writers.
Last week, on The Daily Show, Samantha Bee did a segment on Male Inequality. I laughed. I did. I know, highly insensitive and inappropriate of me.
It reminded me of the men’s movements in the early 90s. Remember Robert Bly? Beating on drums? Heading out into the woods to get back to the basics of being a man?
Fast forward nearly twenty years. Dodge, oh Dodge. You produce a BEAUTIFUL Charger and you have to make it a machine that is indicative of a certain kind of MAN.
Samantha Bee, what would you say to these men? I’m guessing it would be quite similar to what these women say.
I don’t think ALL men are like this. I DO think that the media tries to define people of all types and we the public often follow their lead without thinking about it too seriously. Shame on us.
And during the 2010 Winter Olympics, Audi comes out with an “I’ve been told…” ad that addresses this.
Sound Unseen screened rip! a remix manifesto, a film by Brett Gaylor, last night in a small, intimate theater recently established (this was the premiere showing) in Minneapolis, filled almost to capacity.
View the film at http://www.ripremix.com/. Pay what you think it is worth (and it is worth the money, I promise), then can rip it, do a mashup, or simply watch it. Just don’t sell it.
Figuring prominently in the film are Lawrence Lessig (@lessig on Twitter), Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, Cory Doctorow (@doctorow on Twitter), science fiction novelist and blogger, and GirlTalk (aka Gregg Gillis), mashup artist, who not only give us information about remixing and mashups, but give us background and historical references to copyright laws. Each of them also shows how complex this subject is, from Lessig commenting on the illegality of segments of the video, to Doctorow discussing the Dickens / Twain copyright issues of the 19th century, to GirlTalk’s previous career in a field steeped in intellectual property issues (biomedical engineering).
The movie is informative and entertaining. The music is amazing, the sound bites are funny, and Gaylor discusses the reasons behind his advocacy of a remix manifesto. What he doesn’t do is discuss in depth the middle of the road between complete copyright control and no copyright control and what the differences are. There is a sense of US versus THEM to this film, but in the end the lines of US and THEM are definitely blurred.
At the end of the screening, the audience was given the chance to talk to the filmmaker over Skype. The conversation was lively and interesting.
In other news in the copyright fight, BoingBoing reported today the USA, Canada, and the EU attempted to kill a treaty to protect blind people’s access to written material. Doctorow writes
At issue is a treaty to protect the rights of blind people and people with other disabilities that affect reading (people with dyslexia, people who are paralyzed or lack arms or hands for turning pages), introduced by Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay. This should be a slam dunk: who wouldn’t want a harmonized system of copyright exceptions that ensure that it’s possible for disabled people to get access to the written word?
Doctorow amends the piece and says there is victory (for now):
Victory! — the treaty proposal survived this meeting and will be back on the agenda at the next one. We’ve got a couple months to lobby our governments and make sure that the next time they show up, they don’t embarrass us by opposing this.
See the the final conclusions of the SCCR Eighteenth Session at Knowledge Ecology Notes.
And finally, the Chronicle of Higher Education, news was posted about different copyright law curricula being offered in higher education. The author, Marc Beja, discusses the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) curriculum for teaching copyright law, and the response of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in releasing their own curriculum. He writes,
The foundation’s program, “Teaching Copyright,” includes a Web site and five 60-minute lessons that the foundation hopes will give students what it calls “the real story” about their rights when it comes to downloading movies, music, and other media from the Internet.
Interesting that Brazil figures predominantly in both the rip/remix issues and the copyright issues. While Lessig was in Brazil talking about Creative Commons, he said
I come from the land where we talk about being free. I come from a land where we are lost. You are our brother in this debate, and you must remind us of what we have lost.
Brazil, again, has reminded us. Now it is up to us to listen.
After I wrote my post on faeries, a friend sent me a link to the comic strip PartiallyClips. In this particular strip, the characters are talking about magic, and how magic would be a useless discipline, like humanities or communications–although I argue that communications is in the “humanities.” Later in the week, PhD posted a strip about budget cuts and how the first to go were the humanities characters. I started thinking about two things: first, the idea of magic within the humanities, and secondly, the idea that humanities are an expendable discipline because no one quite understands them.
Magic scares people. It isn’t easy to explain, and it is often wielded by those on the outer edges of society. In much the same way, the humanities scare people. The humanities are about people. We extract information about people, analyze it, and reproduce it in different forms. This is scary for some. It is disruptive and worrisome. But it’s also the way humans are.
It is said that Socrates claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living” (I say this speculatively, because there is some question about Socrates’ actual existence). We have been examining ourselves since the beginning of time. Is this why it is so ridiculed and feared? Have those in the hard sciences decided that we know everything there is to know about ourselves, whether it is philosophical, artistic, or linguistic? Is it possible to know everything? And if we look at it from a hard science perspective, understanding that we are still trying to understand the full capacity of our brains, isn’t the argument furthered that there is always something to learn about the human condition?
If there was a magic discipline, it probably would be the humanities. The humanities bring us the literature, art, dance, music, thoughts, and so much more that allow us to dream about the impossible. Do you think we could have gone to the moon if we hadn’t ever dreamed about what existed up there first? Would we have cared?
Maybe I’m biased — ok, I am. I love working in a field that looks at how humans use language, how it develops identity, and how all of it changes dramatically over time. I love understanding how images and text work in conjunction to create something more powerful than if the two stood on their own. I love it. It is magic. And it’s also science. And it’s also human.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have been thinking about storytelling quite a bit lately. I’ve been thinking about the importance of storytelling, of sharing information via tales and stories. I’ve been thinking about the modes of storytelling, too.
When Willow was four, we took a vacation to southern California together. As we drove across the hot, barren Mojave desert, she sat in her child seat in the back of the car and told me stories about the companions we had on our trip.
“Can you see them, Aunt Dawn?” she would ask. She would point to the distant mountains. “See? They are right there, keeping up with us. Running along the mountains to go to California with us.”
I know she saw them. And in some ways, I began to see them, too. I can still remember them. Horses and children running parallel to the car in the setting sun of the mountains of the desert
In this day and age, there are a million ways to tell a story. We are not limited to moments where an entire clan is situated around a fire, a dinner table, or any other gathering place. We read books, we pass things along to one another verbally, we write in blogs, on Twitter, on Facebook, and we make audio and video stories. I have experience in all of these, and I think if you took all of my stories and put them together, it might be an interesting tale. But I’m curious, would it be one full of delight and wonder, or would it be one full of the same thing that all autobiographies are full of — I’ve had to struggle to make it, I overcame huge obstacles, and I’m now successful at X, Y, and/or Z? I have a feeling, unfortunately, it would be the latter. That saddens me.
When I lived on my few acres in Arizona, Willow would spend a lot of time with me at my house. We were surrounded by others who had horses, llamas, dogs, cats, turkeys, chickens, goats, and many other animals. I had one dog. And while she loved him, it wasn’t quite the same as having a “cool” animal. So she gave me some cool animals.
All of a sudden I had horses. She told me that they were really hers, but that they wanted to stay at my house so I didn’t get lonely. She said they were great friends and they liked to run together. She asked me to feed them and make sure they were ok. She said if they weren’t together, they, too, would get lonely like the horse down the street who chased after cars along his fenced area.
I saw her horses. I encouraged her to share this story with me often. It’s good to dream.
I have always delighted in being an adult who sees the world through rose-colored glasses. Who can believe in things that defy our scientific knowledge. But when I write, that doesn’t come out. I write in a very dry and humorless way, I think. Maybe that is from years and years of academic writing. Maybe it’s from writing and editing in technical and professional areas.
Willow and I went to many movies together. It was rare if we didn’t come out and imagine living within the space of that movie. My favorite, though, was “The Spiderwyck Chronicles.” We had read all of the books before going to the movie.
After that movie, she kept asking me if I saw faeries. She told me that they were real, and that if I was a true believer, I could see them, too. I told her that I was sure I did, but it was when the sun was setting in the grasses and they sparkled in that golden light.
She said I only half believed. If I really believed, I’d see them all of the time.
Maybe I do, and I didn’t realize it until that moment.
But that’s boring! Really. Sure, I can make a set of instructions that will wow you, and make it easy for you to program your VCR / DVD player / computer / rice cooker / or any other thing you want to program. I can do that. It’s easy for me. I’m good at it. But is it fun?
“My friend and I are witches,” she said to me.
“Witches?” I asked. She nodded. This was not long after we had been to see book 4 of the Harry Potter series, and she was in the middle of reading them with her family.
“We can cast spells, but they are only good spells. We can make you a witch, if you’d like. Do you want to be a witch?”
“More than you know.”
I’m thinking about this because I recently had student tell me that maybe I should be a creative writing and/or digital media instructor instead of a technical and professional writing instructor. I think this is because I emphasize creativity. Don’t give in to the boring, I suggest. Try creating your resume on a website, a video, a wiki, or anything else you can come up with. Correspondence? Oh, yes…what do you have in mind? Using Twitter or IM’ing? Texting, maybe? It doesn’t have to be digital. Use your imagination.
We turn on Van Morrison and The Chieftains. Willow and Justice have spent the night and we’ve just finished breakfast.
“Let’s put on a show!” she exclaims.
I smile. I remember when I did that with my siblings and cousins. The adults would politely sit while we play-acted or did ice skating shows for them.
“What would you like to do?”
“We’re dancing an Irish jig!” she yells. She starts kicking up her heels. Justice joins in. I join in. We’re dancing so hard and fast that we’re all gasping for breath. But we’re smiling the whole time. Perma-smiles that make our cheeks hurt.
We’d collapse in a heap, hear a new song, and jump back up, giggling wildly.
I am 41. They are 4 and 9. But that didn’t matter. We were having the times of our lives.
It’s not that easy, I’ve found. Somewhere in between childhood and college, students lose the belief that their creativity is important. I want them to believe. I want them to know that that side of them is important, too. That creativity will go a long way in a job.
I hope, for their sake, and for ours, that they can see where the faeries play. And to cherish that sight.
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.
David Foster Wallace — Commencement Speech at Kenyon College
I’ve had a hard time being a fan of David Foster Wallace. I mean, I’m supposed to, right? He’s the intellectual’s intellectual. But I have a hard time with his writing, much in the same way I have trouble with theorists in my field. They go on and on and on, never quite reaching their point. They talk in circles about their ideas, and we are to bow down before the alter of this philosophy. Why? Well, because–these are brilliant philosophers (dead white men, most of them).
I can’t. I keep trying to believe that what I read is important, that maybe if I understood it more it would make more sense. It doesn’t. Not only do I not find so much of the theory incomprehensible, but I also find it steeped in a belief system that I don’t hold, don’t follow, and won’t be converted to.
Perhaps this is the real meaning of my college education. It’s to give me the voice to say I don’t like this person’s theories, or that I don’t believe in what this person has to say, and to stick to my guns.
It’s hard sometimes, especially when it seems that everyone around you worships this philosopher or that, and you haven’t bought in. Or maybe, just maybe, I trust my own instincts more than I do people who write to an audience that didn’t include me in the first place.
“There are trees in our hearts.”
On Facebook yesterday, my friend, Betty Schlueter, (who is an amazing photographer), posted a link to the TED video of Nalini Nadkarni, an ecologist who looks at tree canopies, interdisciplinary studies, and urging people of different backgrounds to unite for a common cause.
The first time I watched, I was attracted to the emotional appeal. I’m a tree-hugger. I love trees. I love to touch them, smell them, and talk to them. I’m not ashamed to admit that. I was interested in the idea of creating bonds between people who don’t have that connection to nature to nature itself. But I was also amused by her humor and the way she connected that humor to a very serious issue.
My second time through the video, I began to see the similarities in the way we approach our particular fields of inquiry. She invites artists into the forests to interpret them in a way that connects two seemingly different areas of interest: the sciences and arts. And this is how I approach my studies and teaching practices.
Yes, I’m a writing instructor. But I started off in geology. I like looking down, thinking about how everything is constructed from a foundational support, how it is built, layer upon layer, until it becomes something stronger and more stable.
When I’m in a writing class, I think of writing in different terms. I don’t think about how I interpret it. I’m much more interested in how the students in the class interpret it and how they can find it useful.
We’re working on the final projects of the semester. My classroom is entirely collaborative and students are working as a part of a team to put together the projects. I asked them, “what matters to you?” “What are your interests?” The class isn’t about me. I already know how to do this stuff.
So I ask them to be creative. Not because I expect them to be artists. I don’t. Many of them are pre-professional (med, vet, dentist, etc.), and others are business or agricultural students. While some of them may consider themselves artistic, what I really want to encourage them to do is to look outside of the box to think about what will suit their project the best. Sometimes that’s a wiki, sometimes a webpage, sometimes a video, and sometimes a message in a bottle (yes, I’ve received projects in all of these forms).
It’s about taking what is inside and bringing it out. It’s about going into the forest, looking up, and seeing the possibilities. It’s about looking into their hearts, and seeing the roots that grow there, waiting to connect to something bigger.
It’s about communicating with one another, sharing the excitement, and watching a project come to fruition.
I haven’t been disappointed yet. Each of them is amazing and contributes in ways that I could have never imagined.
I was in San Francisco last week for the annual ATTW conference and CCCC convention. I was absolutely thrilled to go west, to see mountains, bluer than blue skies, warm sunshine, and a bit of a city I loved living in.
As we flew over the Rockies and then the Sierras, I felt such joy. I saw mountains. Mountains! Oh, how I have missed real mountains. I never realized how much I would miss them.
San Francisco did not disappoint. We touched down in beautiful sunny 55+ degrees (it was below freezing back home). The saltiness of the air pulled me in, and I breathed deep. I was in heaven.
The week was a rush. I attended sessions (mostly on rhetoric and technology), and even presented on one panel (.pdf of my presentation cccc09 presentation (2Mb)) dealing with mobile technology, twitter, and podcasts in the classroom. I spent time with fellow Minnesota people, having lunch and dinner at various places.
The thing that strikes me the most, though, is the blue skies. Having lived in the western U.S. most of my life, I think I’ve become used to having these amazingly blue skies. They aren’t pale or diffused. They are brilliant blues, so blue it almost hurts to look at them (ok, not really — but it’s good for effect). The blue skies of San Francisco were the same blues I remembered of Southern California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. It is the kind of blue that makes a day feel good,.
I came home to Minnesota where the sun was also shining and it warmed up to a lovely 64 degrees today. But the blue skies are not the same. They are not a deep, penetrating blue. Instead, they are a hazy, mystical, daring-you-to-believe spring-is-on-the-way blue. Instead of achingly beautiful, they are hauntingly beautiful. It’s different, but no less beautiful.
When we think of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech, it is often the words “I have a Dream” or “Free at last” that we remember best. But the reality is that none of those words are the most frequently spoken words in the speech. What is spoken the most is a word that defines a concept that we, as Americans — all of us — consider a right.
What is freedom though? What does it mean to be free and how do we define it? Is it different for each of us? I’m pretty sure that my freedom, the ways I define it, are going to be indicative of my experiences and yours of your own. But I also think of how much the concept of freedom has changed the world. I can still hear Mel Gibson yelling, as William Wallace in Braveheart, “Freedom!” at the end of the movie. He wasn’t free, but he knew that his actions would induce the Scots to fight for their own freedom even more (and beyond the movie, William Wallace was a great warrior of the Scots (as anyone who has visited the battlefield at Stirling can attest), fighting for their freedom from a tyrannical government). How many other times has the bell of freedom been rung? And in how many other places?
Tonight in our Stylistics class, I started thinking about Dr. King’s speech on a more detailed level. I was thinking beyond the metaphors, beyond the parts of speech, trying to understand the way Dr. King meant these words, how he wanted his audience to accept them, and how he wanted the world to hear them.
The words he used the most were “Freedom,” “Let,” and “Negro.” If I’m only thinking of those three words, then some of the power of his speech is lost. Is he asking for Negros to have freedom? Should “the man” LET them have freedom? Should we throw out “let” altogether in this equation and only look at Negro and Freedom? Does that ring more true? Is it more powerful to link only those two words together?
What happens when we start to add in some of the other words he used less: “ring,” “one,” “dream?” Freedom rings. It rings bell towers, it rings in hearts and minds, it rings with rally cries and marches. It rings from coast to coast, border to border. It rings around the world, and beyond (especially if it is true that our radio waves reach into far galaxies).
Dr. King had a dream. That dream’s name was freedom.