I tried again

April 16, 2008

You’ll find me sitting by myself/no excuses/then I know…
-Alice in Chains

I played around with some additional filters, trying to get a “screened on canvas” look. Still not quite what I wanted, but closer…


The original Spidey image is by my childhood hero Todd McFarlane.



I think this one catches me up…

April 15, 2008

…every hand’s a winner/and every hand’s a loser…
-A Kenny Rogers as sung by Mike Doughty repeat

Just a drive-by.

Today, before class, I explained was talking about The Boondocks with a fellow student.

I mentioned a scene with Thugnificent (my new blogging hero, it seems), where he refers to a member of his crew as “bitchmade.” Now I know, as academic moments go, being able to explain the discursive power of “bitchmade” and how it is employed in context isn’t super impressive. In fact I feel a little weird typing “bitchmade” into a blog  that I’ve linked to my academic life. But words are words (and we use words sometimes that some wouldn’t like) and the larger point of my anecote is this…

This fellow student indicated that I had shown the ethos to be part of the African American studies program. I was even given the name of someone to look up. A professor I’m currently Googling (that sounds so dirty).

I mention this only because of how it relates to posts from last week. It seems at least in the eyes of those who are graduate students there, I have every right to speak.

Phill 1, Spivak 0.

*okay, not really, but how often do you get a chance to claim victory over Spivak?* 🙂

Tried again…

April 15, 2008

I am just a worthless liar/I am just an imbecile…

This is more the effect I wanted, but it’s still not quite there. I love this Joker image. It’s originally from the cover of The Killing Joke.

I saw something like this on eBay

April 15, 2008

The sort of stuff you’d throw away/I’ll buy it on eBay!
-Weird Al

I saw this Warholish pop-art print of Spiderman’s face on eBay.

I wanted to try copying it.

So far, so… not sure.

How gold farming ruined research…

April 15, 2008

the singer/he had long hair/and the drummer/he knew restraint…

Okay, my friend Jeff says I owe five posts today (curses, flu! my stomach needs to come back to me so I can do my work!), so I’m going to try a few shorter ones. I’m working on a side-paper about gaming research as an addendum to my ethics of researching online article.  I learned something new this weekend.

On message boards, World of Warcraft gold farmers have ruined the concept of research. They’ve impersonated researchers so often that my attempt to do research was outright snapped at. In a few cases in violent ways. It was… sort of sad.

Not that I don’t have thick enough skin. I’ve taken more than one insult to the side of the head in my life.

It was sad because it illustrated the first discussion I ever had with anyone about researching gaming is STILL of critical importance. IRBs need to understand that to solicit a community you have to speak like/look like the community. I AM a gamer. I can talk like a gamer and post like a gamer and walk like a gamer. But the rigid language the IRB demands to see and stamp for approval (which I agree we need, legally, for consent forms) makes any attempts to solicit look weird.

There’s no way around it, unless we can teach IRBs to understand that we have to solicit a certain way to get real results. My post looked like (to quote someone) “some tool-ass gold farmer trying to get market research.” It was, in actuality, very “form letterish” and exactly what an IRB wants.

So let’s start a revolution, folks. If you research gaming, write your solicitation in gamer language and tell your friendly neighborhood IRB you don’t want to look like “Some tool-ass gold farmer.” I’ll be right there with you, pwning noobs.

Attempting to break the non-silence

April 15, 2008

I wanna be in a band/when I get to heaven/anyone can play guitar…

I mentioned in a post somewhere lost to the archive that I have a course taught through video conference this semester. I’ve actually done this before with a larger lecture course, but never on the small scale. One of the problems I noted early on was that there’s a real sense of disconnection between the groups. I also think there’s a bit of animosity (maybe the class needs a third space!).

In another post I talked about speaking space in courses. I have long thought that the biggest problem with graduate pedagogy is that instructors seem to forget what we do with our first-year students (or in the case of some remember all the bad things and forget the good things). For example, a “professor” should faciliate discussion. As an instructor, that’s what I do. I don’t lead, but I don’t allow trainwrecks, either.

In the video class there are a few people on the other site– where the professor is– who like to perform. I certainly don’t begrudge them that. I know there are students among us who enjoy speaking for long periods of time and being heard in spite of the topic. The more quiet, I-want-that-in-my-notes people like me sort of need them. But they create a situation where I feel the professor MUST intervene.

I’ve tried to be extremely careful and courteous about this course. I’ve mentioned to the professor that we feel alienated at the remote site and feel like we don’t have a space to speak (and that we’re received harshly by the students in the actual classroom in some cases). The professor did mention it to class, but there was not real change.

So today, I decided to try to turn what I do in a regular classroom into something that works with a camera and speakers. In a normal class, if someone is rambling off-topic and I want the right to speak, I make “ready to speak face.” Those of you who have taken grad classes and have been the person who doesn’t shout over everyone else know the face I mean— eyebrow darted, hand on chin, lips curled slightly… maybe one eye squinting if it’s just critical that you get the floor. This look doesn’t work on TV.

But mumbling into the microphone does.

I started innocently enough. Someone made a REALLY outlandish metaphorical comparison, and it wasn’t working, so I mumbled “the metaphor is falling apart.” I hoped someone in the other room would say “what?” and perhaps someone else could speak, but no one did. Later someone contradicted the book, and I said to the person next to me, over the mic, “that’s not what the book says.” Again– I was trying, in a subtle way, to work my way into conversation.

Eventually I’d had enough, and I interrupted someone to make my point.  I felt bad, but I did it. Because my point (illustrated in my previous post) needed to be made. It was quickly buried by people who were positive that there had to be all sorts of slack in spaces 1 and 2, but at least I got the idea out there.

But the story doesn’t end here. If anyone’s heard the Dane Cook joke about cutting in line, this one goes like that. One of the other students in our remote classroom tried to speak. And was ignored. And she tried again. And she was ignored. A third time, someone raised their voice to speak over her. So I mumbled, into the microphone, “Just talk if you want to talk. They aren’t going to leave a space.”

Finally the professor intervenes, giving me the usual response to a smart-ass: “Phill, do you have something to add?” tacking on “we can hear everything you’ve been saying,” as if I should feel some sense of intense shame for mumbling about course content while one person monopolized a three hour seminar. I also found it funny that he asked if I had something to add while clarifying that they heard everything I said, but that’s just because I like riddles.

Without pause I responded with “no, I don’t, but *name removed to protect the innocent* does. People keep talking over *person.*” And though she blushed out of talking in that moment, she FINALLY got to say what she wanted to say a few seconds later as people reacted in confusion to the class being derailed.

It seemed obvious to the others in our classroom that I had offended our professor. I hope that isn’t the case, but I have to be honest: if I did, I am not sorry. All of us in that class paid money to learn the material and to discuss it. We didn’t pay to listen to a single voice rant about off-topic personal politics while bashing the book and the concept of the course. I don’t ever want to be remembered as the Bart Simpson of a grad program, but if someone had to snipe and snicker to get the conversation to be an actual conversation and not a monologue, I’ll gladly take the ire of a professor for the sake of everyone.

Don’t have a cow, man.


Trying to get back on track– more third space

April 15, 2008

I could/I/I could… turn you inside out…
-R.E.M. (it continues)

Okay, before I start what is going to end up being a rant, a simple concept. I think it’s simple, anyway. It’s entirely possible I’m an idiot. 🙂

We read, as I mentioned in my previous post, Third Space

The author starts the book by proposing that two spaces are essentially “us” and “not us” or “in” and “out” or however you’d like to express it. This is a staple of American (US) Political Philosophy, as the whole of this nation’s under-culture is a huge binary. Good guys and bad guys. White hats and black hats. Vader and Luke. Lex and Clark. Binaries.

The third space, then, is the abstract area where things exist outside that.

Image time:

image of 3rd space

Bear in mind I quickly whipped the image above up in Photoshop, so I know it’s not beautiful. 🙂

But here’s how *I* saw those relationships. I mentioned Ventura and the fishers/hunters in the post before. That is a binary. It’s fixed and situated. Ventura basically said “you’re one of us or you’re them.” Those aren’t areas that allow for gradation. They are bounded boxes. If I say “you’re Phill, or you’re not” there isn’t a way for those of you who are not me to enter the box of “Phillness.” It’s closed to you. You’d have to remove my skin or steal my identity to get into the box, and then you’d change it.

So 1 and 2 are “closed.” They’re solid states, fixed within the greater system of this concept of third space. I didn’t designate which is the United States and which is the independent tribe, if we’re using the book’s binary. I think attributing the number shows bias. But those are fixed. Sure, those which constitute the group could change their definition of “us,” but in so long as we theoretically believe in an “us,” they are fixed boxes.

The third space is everything in the middle, but it isn’t fixed. It’s gradation. It’s fades and mixes and violations, and those who would hope to be both (in the construction the author addresses, one cannot be both– us or them, not “us and them”). I chose to represent it triangularly, instead of as a straight line, because the spacial movement indicated by the triangle is more indicative of how this would work than a bar is.

So in class, what seems like a pretty simple idea basically fell apart. Someone placed the “first space” of this system inside her head (which is fine on an individual level, but it violates the rest of the system if that person wants to talk about spaces with everyone else) and we somehow ended up talking about how the US forces want to take the souls of Muslims who they torture.

I maintain my belief that sometimes as powerful as theory is people do bad things with it. The author of this book is a Political Scientist. In the Poli-Sci world, this sort of concept makes good sense, as the binary is the enemy of true political understanding (us/them has dominated much of human interaction). If we yank away the Poli-Sci frame and don’t pay attention to what the author is saying, suddenly third space becomes really confusing when it actually isn’t. It would shift, depending on the binary (there is no “third space” we can always assume; we can only assume that every binary creates a third space of some manner).

Or maybe I just don’t get it.