Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mapping a 12-Year Gap - Selfe & Selfe

Selfe and Selfe provide an interesting - and increasingly common - map-based metaphorical lens through which they examine what is now frequently called the "Digital Divide."  The map is a useful rhetorical tool: an icon of cultural narrative that serves as a representative of control, one particularly suited to this area of discussion.  I do feel, however, that their discussion is somewhat dated. I found myself really having to stretch to see the contemporary relevance of some of their statements, and in at least one instance, I found myself wondering if they, too, were reaching to make a point.

Their taking issue with the graphical user interface as an example of cultural imperialism by embodying the "corporate culture and the values of professionalism" (486) was probably the first point at which I truly felt that their examples were strained, if not downright classist and racist.  As alternatives, they give the kitchen counter top, the mechanic's workbench, or a fast-food restaurant (486-87), which would be completely inappropriate considering the type of work for which computers are most frequently used.  Kitchen counter tops are used to prepare food, not documents, spreadsheets, or graphics.  Presumably, most university students - even freshman students from minority families - understand that at some point during college, they will have to use a desk to study, write, or perform some other form of schoolwork.  (PS - The pointer on a Macintosh has never been a "white hand," it's always been a black arrow).

Many of the other issues they state are now anachronisms: the default language of the computer world may still be English (490), but almost every major software package used in universities worldwide has hundreds of linguistic options.  Interface design incorporating heirarchical builds may be interpreted as oppressive (492), but it can also be interpreted as a response to a logical request for organization: search through eight thousand documents for the one you need without some form of organization and see how long it is before you find yourself clamoring for a file folder or directory. 

The digital divide may still exist - as strongly as ever - but the lens that Selfe and Selfe provide, while powerful in 1994, needs to be repurposed to reflect the new nature of the beast.

--Chris

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Interesting article

Burns, Philip J. "Supporting Deliberative Democracy: Pedagogical Arts of the Contact Zone of the Electronic Public Sphere."  Rhetoric Review 18.1 (1999): 128-46.  [Available through JSTOR on the NCSU Library website]

Burns's interests lie in enabling students' participation in democratic deliberation and culture through writing, using web-based technologies.  The Intercollegiate Electronic Democracy Project (IEDP), of which he is a member, focuses on three topics important to pedagogy in the electronic world: computers and writing, public discourse (especially deliberative rhetoric), and multiculturalism (via "contact-zone theory" and pedagogy).  The article discusses the pedagogical implications of the convergence of the three.

I've read this article before, and cited it in at least two papers about deliberative political discourse; however, the pedagogical arguments that Burns makes are equally strong.  It might be a useful source for us to look at during the semester.

- Chris

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An article I helped with that might be applicable

I posted a link to an article on the wiki I thought might be helpful.
Not sure where it would fall yet in the course.

Test Post

This should work as the first post.