Today I am speaking on a panel about “nerd discourse” with author Neal Stephenson and structural engineer Keith Hjelmstad: it was assembled by my colleague Ed Finn, who is launching ASU’s new Center for Science and the Imagination. Here’s the link – http://ihr.asu.edu/news-events/events/nerd-talk-geek-speak-and-challenges-21st-century-knowledge-silos
I want to share a few examples of some of my favorite ways that people express “nerd discourse” (I believe that’s Ed Finn’s term) by showing the following:
Your Argument is Invalid (and Pancake Bunny and tl; dr) - http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/your-argument-is-invalid
*an excellent internet version of “oh snap”
Shaq vs. Oprah on Twitter – http://www.buzzfeed.com/lindseyweber/therealshaq-vs-oprah-ru
*outside the Discourse*
That’s a moire (Reddit thread) – http://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/8wya7/moir%C3%A9_is_cool_gif/c0ap1j2
*puns and plays with language*
Also referenced this joke about nerds & geeks: https://twitter.com/LarsHinrichs/status/237610447375839233
So…I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been kinda busy. Since my last post (in November, 2009!), I’ve bought a house, got a new dog, got married, traveled a LOT, went on junior leave, went on maternity leave, endured 10 months of pregnancy, had a baby, and survived the first 14 months of motherhood while maintaining a junior faculty position at the biggest university in the U.S. All of this is to say that I do *not* feel guilty for letting this site slide, but it’s time now to resurrect it a bit in time for the new semester to start.
This fall, I’ll be teaching two classes here at Arizona State. The first is a class I’ve taught before, but this time, I’ll be teaching it as a fully-online course. It’s English 654: Advanced Studies in Rhetoric, Writing, Technology and Culture. My subtitle: “Digital Literacies and Social Media.” In essence, it’s an advanced grad seminar in Rhetoric and Composition studies that’s focused on internet culture and online literacies. The second course is taught through ASU’s Writing Programs and I’m calling it “Writing in Digital Communities.” It’s geared toward advanced undergrads and will focus on the ethnographic study of online affinity spaces. We’ll look at how people talk, think, produce, act, and write in the context of online fan communities.
So right now I’m working on cleaning up this site and building the schedules for fall. Stay tuned for syllabi!
Turns out that when you study digital literacies and social media, you tend to be more active around the web than on your own site. That’s the case for me, anyway. Others are much better at this than I.
So if you’re looking for more information on me and my whereabouts and thoughts, thanks! You might find out more by visiting my Friendfeed, my public Twitter account, or my Facebook page. I am more active there than here, mostly because I’m saving all my writing energies for the book manuscript I’m working on. Trying to be a diligent junior academic, you know.
And if you’re just looking for some quick information on who I am and what I do, visit my “About” page here. The gist: I’m an assistant professor of English at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, where I am a member of the Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics Program. I teach first-year writing courses and graduate courses on videogames and social media.
Before I came to ASU I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, where I worked with Henry Jenkins on the New Media Literacies Project. I did my PhD in English (Rhetoric and Composition Studies) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I was a founding member of the Games+Learning+Society program in the School of Education. It was directed by James Paul Gee and Kurt Squire, with whom I worked to develop some of the early research on videogames and literacy learning.
My work has shifted a bit from videogames to social media more broadly. I consider myself a digital literacies researcher, especially with regard to how people use language in social media spaces, both online and off.
Thanks again for stopping by!
This week at the Games+Learning+Society conference, Local no. 12 (Colleen Macklin, John Sharp, Eric Zimmerman, and Mike Edwards) made a game called Backchatter. I will post more thoughts on the game later on, but Eric asked me to say a few words about why I thought the game is meaningful to those of us at the conference. I noted a few of these things during the awards ceremony but here’s what I wrote up in preparation for those oral comments.
Backchannels are a term from psycholinguistics, referring to the sounds or gestures people make when they’re in conversation or listening to others. “Mmm hmm,” “yes,” “yeah,” “ok,” “right,” etc. Nodding, acknowledging. However, they are popularly known as subversive– like passing notes in class.
In games, backchannels take place as “whispers” (in MMOs) or asychronously as forums or boards.
The backchatter game, however, by giving us rules and play, has had the effect of creating an collaborative narrative about an event, in real time. As the story unfolds, we are able to decide as a group what’s important, what’s interesting, and, to play upon a Seinfeld reference to a woman’s contraceptive device, what’s “tweet-worthy.”
Backchatter also instantly placed us all in the perspective of what it’s like to be a novice or student in a land of experts. Those who were new to Twitter and those who’ve been using Twitter for two long years or more– all of us played with the system and customized it for our needs as players and writers of the story of this conference. We didn’t just listen, talk, and experience. We wrote the story of it.
Teachers often worry (for good reason, sometimes) that backchannels are subversive, but I would suggest that subversiveness with backchannels and backchatter can also be good. Some systems *ought* to be subverted, and I think Julian did a great job of taking us through how that might work for good. But he also pointed out that subverting a system can, over time, take on a pernicious quality, doing harm over the long term even when it’s intended only to have a short term effect. That’s definitely true. It’s the difference between a flash mob and a smart mob, for example.
Backchatter can be seen as “doing it for the lulz.” But I think it’s more than that. It gives people a safe, low-cost, informal way to care about participating in an event in real time. By doing so we write the story of the event and immediately decide whether it’s a success, whether these conversations and ideas are worth sharing in the first place. In that sense, Backchatter has played a part in developing a culture around our thoughts and ideas about games, learning, and society. Through our play, we think together.
Backchannels It gives us a chance to run simulations, to test out what we are passionate about, to see whether those passions have any traction with others who share our interests. Those are the seeds of social change.
We were rewarded for active participation, yes. But even more, we were rewarded for caring. Backchatter developed an occasion to share our personal stories and be invested in the social and public need to do so. It helped us articulate the “grit” of our passions, giving them traction and, hopefully, persistence beyond these few days together.
I am a member of a listserv for folks who work in the areas of rhetoric, writing, teaching, and technology. Recently, someone raised the question of how to properly use and cite images found on the web. There are many different responses one could offer, but this is what I wrote in response. It all depends on context, etc. Still, these small notes might be useful.
Dear Listserv Writer:
First of all: thumbs-up for asking!
There are lots of ways to go about using images you find on the web. My general rule is to only use Creative Commons-licensed images that allow for non-commercial, share-alike use. You can very easily find those images using the Creative Commons search page: http://search.creativecommons.org/#
In fact, they’ve even got a project dedicated to teaching and learning about licenses and educational materials – http://learn.creativecommons.org
When I find an image that I’d like to use (typically through the CC search of Flickr), I download it and send a quick email to the user to tell him/her that I’m using it and what I’m using it for. Or, if I’m not yet sure I want to use it, I’ll download it and save the file with something like IMAGE DESCRIPTION – FLICKR USERNAME. PNG or something. That way I can keep track of whose image it is so that I can tell them later how and where I used it.
I also license my own work with Creative Commons, including slide decks, published syllabi, and my personal website. I’ve found that folks take pics of slides while I’m giving talks. They also record talks without asking for permissions. So licensing stuff up-front keeps you covered and gives people the credit they deserve for offering up the images in the first place.
Here’s an example of a slide deck of mine that uses and attributes images - http://www.slideshare.net/alist/robison-new-agendas-for-media-literacy
For more information, I HIGHLY recommend the Center for Social Media’s work on this, especially their piece on “The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.” See here – http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/resources/publications/the_cost_of_copyright_confusion_for_media_literacy/
They also offer plenty of “best practices” and FAQs for students, researchers, and educators.
Hope this is useful.
So I post these things to Twitter with some regularity, but thought I’d post them here too, for the record. People often ask me what I’m playing and listening to and watching, etc. So here’s a short list (though you can check out the links on the right side of this page for more details). All of these are in no particular order cuz I’m being lazy and have a stack of grading to do at the moment.
Peter Bjorn and John
Ra Ra Riot
The Main Drag
Dawn of War 2 (PC)
And Yet it Moves (PC/Mac, available on Steam)
The Maw (XBLA)
Drop 7 (iPhone)
Tweetie (iPhone Twitter client)
Slate’s Political Gabfest (podcast)
NPR’s Planet Money (podcast)
NYTimes Political Points (podcast)
iTalk (for recording interviews with iPhone)
Quicksilver for Mac