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?* 🙂


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.

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.


Still sickly after all these days: but on with the bloggin’ about third spaces

April 14, 2008

I had a dream I could buy my way to heaven/when I awoke I spent that on a necklace…
-Kanye West

So apologies again if you’re a regular reader; I cannot, for the life of me, get well, so I’ve been devoting my time to resting, doing things you don’t describe on the blog (and jogging to and from the restroom), and trying to keep up with my scholarly work.

I took a mulligan on an assignment this weekend because of one of those beautiful “you can drop one” policies that some professors put in their syllabi, but I feel like doing the thought work now (late) so I figure I’ll blog it.

We’re currently reading a book called The Third Space of Sovereignty by Kevin Bruyneel. The main thrust of Bruyneel’s argument is that scholars (and everyone else, for that matter) have to resist the idea that there’s a binary relationship for indigenous people in America (i.e. “part of the United States” or “independent nations”). He illustrates this tension in the introduction by using the example of Jesse Ventura and the Mille Lacs Band regarding hunting and fishing rights.

The third space, then, is somewhere in the middle. And it’s relevant.

This makes me wonder why there’s been so much flack given to my considerations of mixed bloodedness, as I would define mixed-bloods, in particular, as the vanguards of this third space.  In fact it seems that mixed blood– as a theoretical concept– gets to the heart of at least one of the issues that dominated the last book we read, Blood Narrative by Chadwick Allen.

Allen creates a triad (Blood, land, memory) that he uses to explore indigenity. I don’t personally agree with his comparisons across hemispheres (though I’ve already been criticized for criticizing), but I do see a dual-point intervention to be made for a mixed blood (like myself, part Cherokee and part European). Blood, obviously, is our major point of contention (we have SOME native blood– in many cases not enough, or not proven by enough paperwork, to be enrolled). Mixed bloodedness also touches on the idea of memory, though, as our histories and our understandings of tradition are skewed and modified– they occupy a third space of their own.

I see all these triangles emerging (curses, Aristotle!). Blood-Memory-Land. United States-third space-Tribal Government. Authentic-dependant-massmarket.

I wonder if my scholarship is turning into “native rhetoric”-Phill-“the field of rhetoric” and “native rhetoric”-Phil-“the field of native studies.” Perhaps I hover so much in the third space that no one can really figure out exactly where my work belongs. “gaming rhetoric”-Phill-“gaming studies.” “pop culture rhetoric”-Phill-“pop culture studies.”

It’s maddening!

But triangular.


Virtual presentation/virtual A to virtual Q

April 7, 2008

In my room/on a pad/is written a letter/return addressed to you…
-For Squirrels

Me and my peeps got some pub! http://www.vitia.org/wordpress/2008/04/06/cccc08-a25-reading-and-writing-virtual-realities/ (warning: if you click here, you’ll see my full name and might get beyond the thin disguise of me not identifying where I’m a student, so read at your own risk).

First of all, a sincere thanks to Mike for giving the panel some attention, and again a thanks to Doug for toting my video around New Orleans. I wish I’d been there to see everyone.

But Mike asked a good question. Allow me to quote:

The point of contention, I guess, is over reasons for bringing it into the classroom. I can see a games studies course as a cultural studies course, certainly. But what is the compelling argument for the connection between games studies and composition? What does game studies as an area of scholarly inquiry help us teach writing students to do that other areas of scholarly inquiry cannot do? There was some discussion of this in the Q&A, particularly in the concerns expressed about colonizing our students’ culture and appropriating it into a school genre, but I’d be curious to hear from the game scholars out there: why are games important to writing?

This is a familiar question for me, coming from an MA program where I faced a fair amount of skepticism. My first response is always this: we’re in a new moment. We now accept that it’s fine to subject a student to Moby Dick or The Dubliners, but there was no doubt a time when someone said “wait, is it fair to ask writing students to read this?” During my MA, the most popular text taught in first year comp was Fight Club; there would SURELY have been a moment when someone would ask if we should be teaching that.

So my first argument is that assigned texts don’t really “define” a writing course (unless someone’s assigning something like Stephen King’s On Writing, in which case I think that person is doing it wrong). Texts in a composition classroom open the discussion and provide a place where the class can have a common experience and see a common discourse. But the writing course is about the students writing first and foremost, and not nearly so much about what we have them read so that we can then ask them to write. If anyone wants to see what this sort of gaming comp class would look like, I’m going to present one of my syllabi with some notes at the upcoming Computers and Writing conference. I’d love to see anyone/everyone in the audience.

My second argument would be that while “reading” a game, students are much more active than they are while reading a book. *Phill ducks the lit scholars throwing things*. While I’m a fond, fond reader (I think all of us have to be in order to survive in this field), I think we can all agree that the agency for a reader in most of the texts that would be used in a composition class is limited, at least during the initial reading.  In a gaming environment– at least the multi-player games I personally promote and study– the reader/player must interact and make choices from the very beginning. In that sense, I believe the student has more agency and hence experiences something more robust than just leafing through a standard text. Students are starting to write as they read a game; I’m not sure we can claim that in the same way about most other texts.

My third reason for thinking gaming is valid in the composition classroom is that the idea that we’re “colonizing” a student genre to make it a school genre– which I know many use as an argument against it– doesn’t work IF certain criteria are met. For one, I think you really should be a gamer if you’re going to teach with games. That’s not to say you have to be a lifer (though many in my generation are); but you shouldn’t be someone who just started playing two weeks before the course. In that sense, you’re not “colonizing” the student’s discursive space– you’re visiting. The second thing is that moreso than with traditional texts (though I think we should all be open to this when we teach anything) one has to allow for the students to be better/smarter in the area. Let them own it. And if we’re not worried that we’re “colonizing” a space, we suddenly have an intricate digital media space that allows us to quickly move to video, to audio, to visual rhetorics, to digital identity or simply identity studies. Gaming is a rather solid hub for issues that can lead to unique and interesting writing.

And the last reason I’ll offer here, for now (I have many more justifications :)), is that gaming is fun, and all too often we squeeze the fun from academia, particularly for our first year students who we bombard with grammar rules and MLA/APA citation formats and invention and revision and “don’t write the five paragraph essay” and “this is a good source/this is a bad source.” I’d like to think that most of us came to writing because we love it, and we had fun doing it when we were younger (there are better way to inflict torture), so why should we allow our classes to become stale, boring places? I want mine to be fun, and students tend to respond well to it.

So… there’s a bit of an answer. 🙂 I could go on, but it’s almost 1:30 in the morning and I have a full day o’ classes tomorrow. More later, if anyone wants me to keep ranting.


And now, a little ranting…

April 6, 2008

You do it to yourself/you do/and that’s why it really hurts/you do it to yourself/just you/you and no one else…


I recently received a few response papers back with comments. Now I know it’s taboo to talk about comments from an instructor to a graduate student, as all of that is supposed to be kept under wraps, but two things came up. They were “term” corrections.

One was when I said “America” which prompted “Do you mean The United States?”

Another was when I said “Native American” and was told “American Indian.”

Mundane things, right? Yeah… not earth shattering. I’m not going to cry myself to sleep over such “errors,” nor do I feel particularly slighted. But… it reminded me of a presentation I gave last semester on John Locke. The philosopher, not the awesome bald dude from LOST.

Locke had a lot to say for politicians and for other social scientists, but for rhetoric, his grand contribution is his sense of language. Now I’ve been told by some that I’m not reading Locke right, so feel free to slam me in response (as if you’d hold back had I not given you permission! :)), but this is what I took away from Locke’s work as being important.

We have words, in our language. We seek, through those words, to express things to each other. But our words lack precision, and our attempts to say things in attractive– or high minded– ways often clouds understanding. As academics we might be the worst offenders of all. We say “heuristic” when we could say “tool” in many cases. We claim something is “structural linguistics” when no one needed to know. We pontificate upon how something has “concrecience” (did I spell that right, Dr. Latour?) or is “polemic.”

Clarity, Locke claimed, would lead us to much easier communication. And to get to that clarity, we had to know what words mean.

Right now I’m having a word war with my own mind over the term “practice.” I know what it means… generally. I also know that in high school I went to both basketball and speech team practice. I know that David E. Kelly wrote a fantastic TV program called The Practice. I know that practice makes perfect. I know that De Certeau is concerned with The Practice of Everyday Life. 🙂 But when we talk about practices… what do we mean?

The answer– which I find maddening– is that it varies wildly from scholar to scholar.

Which is why it’s funny that “America” and “United States” didn’t parse across a set of two academics.

I think Locke was being idealistic (and that he had lots of other problems), but I’m thinking that the desire to have clear, concise language might be the smartest thing anyone ever asked for.

Or as my tenth grade honors English teacher said, “Phill, brevity is the soul of wit. You witless punk.”


What is this?

April 6, 2008

this is a list of what I should have been/but I’m not/this is a list of the things that I should have seen/but I’m not seeing…

-Counting Crows
I mentioned a few posts back– when I included the two The Usual Suspects clips– that I was doing research for another project. The project is to create one of these cool things that Julie showed me (I’ve lost the initial link– it was on my other laptop). Here’s one, from YouTube:

The author of this one calls it Kinetic Typography.  I think I like that.

But what IS this?

I plan to see if I can make one (using the Verbal Kent/Keyser Soze story). I did some scouring and someone said “use Adobe After Effects!” so… I’ll be learning new software. If it doesn’t kill me, I’d like to teach students to do this as a scaffold into new media composing.

But what IS it?

That’s been troubling me a little. Not in the “oh no! Life is awful!” way, but in the “well, it’s not…”

These are Remixes, obviously, on some level, as most of the Kinetic Typography on YouTube is set to movie quotes. But is it digital poetry? Is it strictly an exercise in visual rhetoric? Are they movies? Is this a new way of ‘writing’ in the ‘pencil to paper’ sense?

What is kinetic typography?