Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Daily We"

The article "Daily We" discusses how using the Internet is like a democracy. Cass R. Sustein talks about how people have so much freedom when it comes to using the Internet. I think the Internet is an excellent tool, when you want to find information. I use the Internet to search for the information I want and I only go to websites that I'm interested in. I think that this freedom is great! Why would I want to go to websites that I have no interest in? I don't feel that I'm limited in receiving information. The Internet exposes us to information a whole lot faster than ever before, which is a good thing. If I want to know something, I look it up on line. The news I want to learn about is ready and available. I also read the newspaper and watch the news. There are so many different ways to gather information. The articles that I find interesting in the newspaper, I read. When I'm watching the news I listen to what I think is important or what interests me. I agree that the Internet is like a democracy and I think it's great that we have the freedom to choose.

"The Daily We"

According to Cass R. Sunstein he agrees that the "developments he discussed makes life much more convenient and in some ways much better. But from the standpoint of democracy, filtering is a mixed blessing. An understanding of the mix will permit us to obtain a better sense of what makes for a well-functioning system of free expression. In a heterogeneous society, such a system requires something other than free, or publicly unrestricted, individual choices. On the contrary, it imposes two distinctive requirements. First, people should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance. Unanticipated encounters, involving topics and points of view that people have not sought out and perhaps find irritating, are central to democracy and even to freedom itself. Second, many or most citizens should have a range of common experiences. Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a more difficult time addressing social problems and understanding one another." While I understand Sunstein's point of view, I also think that his premise is a bit of a paradox because he is spouting democratic ideologies, yet he believes that the right for people to choose to "tailor" their existence is errorneous. If indeed it erroneous, it is their right to do so and shouldn't be deemed as dangerous or unpatriotic. I feel like the article was redundant and continued to address the same issue with various examples.

The Internet and Democracy/The Internet and Social Communities

The article “The Daily We,” by Cass R. Sunstein mentions ways in which the Internet can foster democracy. He provides examples of tools that can be used to make it more efficient to engage in entertainment and news. The user can customize music, movies, news, sports, and fashion programs. Programs can also be manipulated so that they can be recorded and viewed at the users will (e.g. TiVo). Because such a wealth of information is close at hand, Sunstein explains that this availability allows users to learn about so much more now than they have ever been able to before the Internet. This knowledge gives users not only a choice, but it also allows them to establish a voice. In this a la carte Internet world, Sunstein suggests that there may be a drawback in this design. Tailoring what we view and listen to actually limits democracy because it limits what we are aware of in the world and even in our own community. Disallowing these limits puts the user in a position to become conscious of issues and facts that they would have otherwise never known about. But allowing the user to filter unwanted material creates a less informative environment.
In chapter eight of the article, “Here Comes Everybody,” Clay Shirky mentions a lot of the things we discussed in class such as Wikipedia, the Wayback Machine, which is used for archiving sites. He also focuses on the need or importance of social communities. He suggests that participating in such communities benefits people by not only providing them with company, but it does more than that. It creates trust. Shirky seems to imply that this relativity may even prevent crime. This concept is logical. When someone knows you and they know that you know them, they are less likely to steal from you. My mom always said, “Get to know your neighbors.” Being a part of this type of community ensures that someone will be there for you more likely than if they do not know who you are. Moreover, you will more than likely be there for them. Shirky believes that the Internet can provide this and more.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Reading

I'll post a second reading later today, but for now, you can start with Cass Sunstein's "The Daily We."

Update: For now, here is a Google Books version of Shirky's "Solving Social Dilemmas." If that link breaks, just Google "shirky solving social dilemmas" without the quotation marks. If you have Shirky's book, the reading is chapter eight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hoping to find some other examples, but here are some pedagogical uses of video games:

"The Classroom of Popular Culture"

While the premise that video games purposefully engage players to think critically while moving through the game, the article fails to fully explain how. As an educator, I advocate using technology to teach students critical thinking skills and key concepts related to my subject matter. However, merely stating that this can be accomplished without explaining in detail what skillls are being taught, how they're being taught and the instrument used to assess the effectiveness of the game leaves me scratching my head.
Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington
This was informative in that it exposes "Washington's agenda" to stack the deck in order to prove their point. While I do believe that the media has a big effect on the choices that some teens make, I do believe that all sides of the issue deserve to be heard and understood.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Video Games

The first and only comment that my daughter made to me as I read the article, “Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington” by Henry Jenkins was, “Why is it so black?” She was referring to the background that this article was written on. This display is something that I honestly did not notice. But it sealed my suspicious thoughts about Jenkins’ position on video games, and generally, his position on “popular culture.” Just like Congress, I was fooled into believing that he acknowledged the effects of video games on our youth. The title alone of his book from Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games evokes feelings of good versus evil. This tone was misleading. It led me to believe that Jenkins would take a more prosecutorial point of view on the topic of violence in video games much like the one Lloyd Garver took in his Newsweek article titled “A Veto on Video Games”. But in fact, he literally brings the very opposite to the table. He is defensive on the matter. I thought that the purpose of his testimony was to discuss the possible effects of popular media on the youth. But it didn’t. Even if his goal was to explain the devastating effects of children combining their own problems with this type of medium would have been understandable. But that is not what he did. Instead, he used this platform as an opportunity to vent on behalf of children who display all the socially unacceptable behaviors that lead to bullying and, consequently, retaliation. Congress called Jenkins to witness on the effects violent games have on children. In fact, he states in his speech to Congress that “[t]he mass media didn’t make Harris and Klebold [students who participated in retaliatory violence in Littleton, Colorado] violent and destructive… but it provided them both with the raw materials necessary to construct their fantasies.” Although this very comment suggests that violent games foster maladjusted behaviors and violent tendencies, Jenkins turns his attention to blaming everyone else for Harris’ and Klebold’s actions instead of the games. He suggests that if they were not feared or bullied and just accepted for who they are, then they would not have turned to such enabling tools that led to their violent acts. While Jenkins goes on to say that our fear and reactions to it will ultimately “…lead us down the wrong path,” he still does not own up to the fact that popular culture is leading many of our youth down the wrong path and encouraging them to stay there. After coming to the conclusion that Jenkins is comfortable with “…the very concept of giving yourself over to the ‘dark side,’” I see that there is no wonder why he chose black as his background color for his article to be written on. At the end of his speech, he urges us to “[l]isten to our children.” I agree that we should do that. But, instead of fearing them, I believe that we need to fear instead is what they listen to—and I believe that Jenkins falls somewhere in that category!
In James Paul Gee’s article, “The Classroom of Popular Culture: What video games can teach us about making students want to learn,” he talks about just that. While reading the article, I felt intimidated about the strong attraction video games have on students. I feel that we teachers cannot compete. This makes me think of the possibility that one day computers will take over the job of teaching our children. This must be the feeling that people got when new machinery came and took over jobs that factory workers once had. Still, it’s cool how video games allow children to participate in designing the game or strategies as they play. They can “…customize games to fit their learning.” This appeals to what we educators describe as multiple intelligences. It allows kids of all learning levels and styles to monitor and adjust their own learning. Another thing that appeals to the gamester is the fact that they can “…learn to view the virtual world through the eyes of a distinctive personality.” Players are also encouraged “to take risks” because “…they can start over…[which gives them] a real sense of…ownership, and control.” They learn and build concepts as they play. They build skills by learning and applying them to each sequential level of the game. These games also provide realistic experiences that foster real world skills. The only question, however, is how can we transfer this virtual world into our real classroom experiences.
In “The War between Effects and Meaning,” the author suggests that video games should not be banned. He states that video games do not teach gamers how to behave but allows each individual to gain his or her own meaning from it. Then he contradicts himself by quoting James Paul Gee and by proving examples of how video games can be used as learning tools. He practically says that hate games don’t encourage hate, but in fact “…encourage critical thinking about the roots of racism….” How crazy is that!!!!! He continues to contradict what he’s professing by quoting Kurt Squire and stating that “…game-based learning builds upon player’s existing beliefs…” So, if they believe that killing is OK, then these games will affirm their beliefs. He goes on to discuss the severity of violent games and how certain organizations and video designers are creating less violent games. While in the end of this article the author tends to admit the detriment violent games have on our youth, he begins the article by defending them. This sounds like Jenkins. Is it he???

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Classroom of Popular Culture

This article makes me think about my son, and how he loves to play his games. My son has X-box 360, Wii, Guitar Hero, Play Station, U-dance, and Nintendo DS. He can sit and play on all these systems hours at a time. However, being that I'm a concerned parent I don't allow him to do it! This is very common with most young people today, they love video games. I agree that if they could incorporate what is going on with the video games, into the classrooms, schools would probably close the achievement gaps. I have observed my son playing many of his games, and they are not easy to play. There are kids that play these same games and are able to master them, but are not able to sit still in a classroom and read for 30 minutes. What's going on? Well, the games are interesting. My son loves his X-box 360, one of his favorite games is WWE Smackdown vs. Raw. In this game you have over 40 wrestlers you can choose from and 20 different matches. You can create your own wrestler, change your skill level, create your own moves, and entrances to the ring. All of these things make this an enjoyable and challenging game for my son. Not to mention all the stuff you have to do with the control. All of these things require students to think, concentrate, read, and follow directions. Which in school, some of them act like that can't do any of the above. I think that we need to bottle the same devices that are being used in these video games. Maybe it would help students to become more disciplined learners in school.

Video Game Readings

Here are the video game readings for Wednesday:
  • "Professor Jenkins Goes to Washington" (you can also read the version in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers if you bought it).
  • "The Classroom of Popular Culture," James Gee.
  • For "The War Between Effects and Meanings," try this link to a Google Search that takes you to the chapter (you'll have to click through a "preview" page and then click the appropriate link for Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers). Let me know if this doesn't work. Again, if you have FBG, you should just read the chapter there.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

English 110 Discussion

For English 110 students a couple of sample review links:
I'll post this to Blackboard later, but didn't want the links to be hidden/broken, which often happens on Blackboard.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Cumberland County Spring Break

Because the county schools are on Spring Break this week, I will give you the week to catch up on your papers and other course reading assignments. If yu have any questions, feel free to email me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lisa Gerrard: Feminist Research in Computers and Compositions

In Feminist Research in Computers and Composition, Lisa Gerrard suggests that understanding women’s “epistemological perspective” and their “position in society” will help us understand “how our male and female students are learning in the computer-based writing course…” She describes computers as having a masculine quality. Because of the nature of the computer, it may not meet the needs of female students. The purpose of this study is to raise and answer questions about “feminist research in computer and writing.” Computers were created by men and were used for “masculine” jobs e.g. warfare. Mostly men hold high computer tech jobs and have high tech skills. They also dominate the Internet. Gerrard does acknowledge a few women who took part in programming and computer inventions. She also mentions that computer companies recognize that more females are participating in this technology, which has created a market for female consumers. Because “composition,” or writing, tends to lean towards women and computer use leans towards men, Gerrard suggests that the playing field is evened out as far as final output is concerned. Nevertheless, the question exists as to why computers appeal to boys versus girls. While computers appeal to both boys and girls equally before fourth grade, by the time they’re in fifth grade, girls lose interest. The computer software that appeals to boys are the violent games and the stereotypes appeal to the girls, e.g. Barbie games. Studies show that girls spend less time playing games and prefer doing something useful and entertaining. Men “tinker and explore…women want to accomplish something.” Non-stereotypical games have been created for girls to meet these needs. Still, girls have less computer experience than boys going into high school and college. When girls have confidence in using the computer, they have more confidence in wordprocessing and blogging, etc. on the computer. Computers affect writing styles. Women are more “intimate” and prefer more privacy, but men are more public and informative, and therefore post more than women. Studies show that being more involved on the Net allows girls to become more socially involved. It presents a less inhibited environment. It allows the girls to create a “public voice.” Some sites are geared towards women and allow them to express themselves and provides a collective voice for females especially when so many other sites that gear to men use language that many women are uncomfortable with. Towards the end of this piece, Gerrard does explain that no matter the differences studies show about men and women and computer technology, generalizing leads to inconsistencies; because not all men or women fit the stereotype.
One statement that I found interesting:
The image of the composition instructor is described as a “sadomasochistic disciplinarian.”

"Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites"

Danah Boyd writes an interesting paper about the role of social network sites in the life of teenagers and young adults. It examines how teenagers use MySpace and other public sites in order to communicate with one another and share information anout themselves. I am unfamiliar with the inner workings of MySpace so this article enlightened me about how social networking sites may be useful.

"Male Designs on Technology"

Judy Wajcman's chapter on Male Designs was extremely uninspiring! I wasn't sure what motivated her research even though she states that "the point was to identify major areas of gender inequality and oppression, and seek to change them." I was more interested in the way women relate and interact to technology and that wasn't realy addressed. Wajcman asserts that "post-industrial theorists concentrated on hierarchies of class, rather than those of gender and, like thier predecessors, the new theorists of technology also fail to consider whether this technological revolution might have a differential impact on women and men. While the common theme is that everything in the digital future will be different, it is not clear if the social relations of gender will also be different becuse the question is seldom raised. While the optimistic commentators on the digital revolution promise freedom, empowerment and wealth, rarely do they show any consciousness of the relationship between technology and gender." I believe that there may be very real differences among genders as it relates to technology and its advances but I also believe that those differences shouldn't hinder the freedom, empowerment and wealth of all people. "Many studies identified the structural barriers to women's participation, looking at sex discrimination in employment and the kind of socialization and education that girls receive which channel them away from studying mathematics and science. Schooling, youth cultures, the family and the mass media all transmit meanings and values that identify masculinity with machines and technological competence." While I do agree that boys and girls are socialized differently, I also think that despite that socialization girls and boys can develop preferences and skill sets outside of their "normal" gender "role." Therefore, girls can contribute to technological advances just as easily as boys and can enjoy the "masculinity of technology." I was unsure as to why the author felt like women must forsake their femininity if they enter the world of technology if its systems aren't emasculated. There are women who don't desire a husband and children and prefer the long hours of research and to suggest otherwise is misleading. "Technology was seen as an extension of patriarchal and capitalist domination. As a result, feminist approaches mainly dismissed technoscience as inherently patriarchal and malignant." I don't agree with this line of reasoning and think that it fails to utilize the role that women can play even in a perceived patriarchal technological existence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Hi everyone, the "Technofeminism" reading by Judy Wajcman should be on the library course reserves page. I'd also like to talk briefly about this University of Richmond wiki project, History Engine, treating it as a possible model for some discussion.

I can't find the other reading offhand, so unless you've found it (in which case a link would be appreciated), here is an alternative reading, danah boyd's article on social networking technologies. Since we have been discussing many of these ideas all semester, please start with the Wajcman article, but I think boyd raises some important questions about how these tools are used.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Menu Driven Identities

The article "Menu-Driven Identities" was very strange to me. I can't understand why race is important on the internet. It seems to me that Lisa Nakamura is saying race should not matter, however we still in some kind of way need to be interested in race when we are on the web. The difference between blacks and whites having access to computers or being on line, is not about race. I think it is more about socio-economic issues. This article made me think about some of the students I have taught in the pass. These students were not computer literate because they did not have computers in their homes. However, the students who did, were computer literate. These students were both black and white, they just came from low socio-economic backgrounds. The school where I teach now, both the black and white students seem to have access to the computer. I don't think it is about just black and white, it seems to be who can afford a computer. I think at the end black students realize how important it is to be literate. They must use all of their resources outside of the home to become more involved with internet.

The Persistence of Difference

Todd Taylor’s article, “The Persistence of Difference in Networked Classrooms: Non-negotiable Difference and the African American Student Body” is not one that I understand fully why it was written. According to Taylor, Online attention has been predominantly given to differences in gender and those of various sexual orientations, but not enough attention has been given to racial differences. Taylor believes that these “electronic and networked learning environments” can provide cues to “teachers and students to become more responsive to racial differences” and can help “the teaching of writing in general.” I think that Taylor wasted time arguing over the definition of difference in order to explain “the debate over assimilation versus reverse acculturation.” He goes on to discuss the need for white educators to have a better understanding of black students. I guess, in order to successfully teach them. What does this have to do with computer literacy? I ask. Blacks are just as interested in going Online as Whites. I think that this difference is an economic dilemma, not a racial one. When Taylor talks about body language and cues teachers interpret from students as they use the computer, I fail to see what it has to do with race. To me, it has more to do with multiple intelligences, or learning styles. He says that teachers can read student body language better when students are on the computer and therefore can tell if they’re on task or are having difficulty than they would have if they were in a regular classroom setting. Again, what does that have to do with race? Taylor makes too many, what I consider racist, assumptions. “[Chris] is less comfortable speaking in class than…Stephanie, perhaps due to self-consciousness about his predominantly black spoken dialect.” I’m offended!!! What does dialect have to do with participation? Did he conduct a survey on this theory???? He can’t read minds!!! Maybe Chris had a zit or forgot his Tic-Tac.:) Maybe the black students have more of a problem with the professor than the class. The rumor may go as such: “That professor is weird!!! He’s always staring at the black kids and writing things down.” That’s probably why the black students are so timid. Maybe Stephanie is a nark. Or maybe Stephanie just has high self-esteem, and Chris and Felicia have less confidence. This has nothing to do with race. While I disagree with points mentioned in this article, I do have to agree with Taylor’s final thoughts about the fact that in the end “[w]e need to consider individuals as individuals…”

"Menu-Driven Identities"

Lisa Nakamura's chapter on Making Race Happen Online proved to be wordy and convoluted at times. I chose this topic because I was interested in how race effects users of the internet and if there is a correlation between frequent usage and race. The introduction to the chapter spent a great deal of time explaining how particular websites define arrange and offer inforamtion about specific races. I found this information to be unneccessary and unconvincing in trying to explain the role of race on the web. I did find the paragraph dealing with Excite's organization of race and gender intriguing. Nakamura says, "Excite's guided reading of race on the web performs another interesting textual move: it lumps gender, sexual orientation, religion, and age together with race. This organization of identity does not include"white" as a category: it is not on the menu at all. This omission is a disturbing example of the colonist or imperialit gaze that sets up a racial other: whitness is defined by its invisibility rather than its presence. The racial category of "whitness" is assumed to be a default option, thus creating a guided reading of the web that assumes that its reader is white." "Disturbing?" Why is Nakamura disturbed? The web reflects our society and its norms. "Whiteness" has always been "the standard" and everyone else is the exception. To contradict this notion, Nakamura sites Zickimund's statement that states, "the openess of the Internet may endanger the notion of a closed community and could become an ally in the struggle against bigotry and racism." Despite the anonymitiy of the web, races aren't merely defined by skin color but preferences, hobbies, and interests can be shaped by race as well. Therefore, identifying someone's race maybe apparant through their searches and browsing. "Web demographics are always in flux. It has been known for some time, however, that racial minorities use the web less than do whites. Whites are more likely than African-Americans to have access to a computer at home and work, while African-Americans are more likey to want access." Despite this, "government al funding to support computer instruction in public schools in the 1980s tended to favor upper-middle-class and white students who were, ironically, already those most likely to possess access to computers in the home." This is a very interesting fact that demonstrates the causes of the "digital divide" among races. Overall, this chapter dealt with controversial topics and sought to expound upon the premise that the web creates menu that fail to address ALL people, thus widening the digital divide.

Menu-Driven Identities

This article, “Menu-Driven Identities”, is really starting to confuse me. First, it is not fun to read; the text makes it hard to read. Second, I don’t know what Lisa Nakamura is talking about. First it’s all about race or the lack there of on the web, then she starts talking about portals and the overload of information found on the web. She compares it to literature. Then, she loses me. I wish that at least at the beginning she would stay focused! She then discusses how portals have discreet way of identifying your race by tracing the type of sites you focus on. The portals mentioned above refers to Yahoo and something I’ve never heard of: Excites. This portal does focus on race. In fact, they use white as its default race. Gender is also included. This article seems to feel that while race should not be an issue via the Web, identifying race is important. I say this because the author seemed to be slighted since some of the ethnic groups, such as, interracial,l is not listed as a choice. Would you make up your mind? Guess what, as long as race is important to people, racism will be an issue on the Internet. As mentioned, while participating in chatrooms, people sometimes live out stereotypes. The article eases its way into the discussion of the division between Whites and Blacks and their computer literacy and access. While the lack of a connection is made with Blacks of the World Wide Web due to the fact that the creators are white, Blacks are encouraged to get involved and create web sites that address their needs.