A little DMAC snippet

June 3, 2008

you gotta be cruel to be kind
-Nick Lowe

On the fly… pardon the roughness.

Someone asked in this morning’s discussion about how to address the fact that we’re “taking” that which belongs to the students and making it part of academia. As someone who studies popular culture and gaming, I’ve heard this one before (over and over, in fact). Some people go so far as to call it “colonizing,” which just isn’t the right word (more on this later), but I think it also indicates a problem with how we characterize such things.

It seems really simple for me: as a teacher, one has to be “legit.” It’s an issue of ethos with a subject. If one of us were to walk into the classroom and just recast/retask that which belongs to the student, it would be an act of intellectual violence. But when it’s OUR “stuff,” too, we’re just sharing and helping students to learn using media and cultural artifacts that have meaning to them (instead of continuing to insure that they consider books “our” thing).

For example, I’ve taught units on parody in cartoons (Family Guy, South Park, the Simpsons), and I’ve taught with comic books and sci-fi movies (Spider-Man, Superman, The Matrix). I have as much—if not more—experience with these things as almost every student that comes into my classroom. In that sense, I’m not taking from them… I’m encouraging the creation of a community of us.

So maybe the short answer is that if one isn’t familiar with an idea or media, one should only allow students to work with it. We can’t teach what we don’t know. But at the same time, when I teach with World of Warcraft in the fall, my students will see my high-level toons and know that I’m not just fiddling with one of “their” toys.


June 2, 2008

My book is called “The Ascent of Man”/I marked your chapter with a catamaran


We’re learning Sophie, a new digital media “book” format that you can check out here: http://www.sophieproject.org/ .

Quick note: the workshop is being taught well, but it’s reassuring to see some chaos here and there. It reminds me of my own classes at times, on those days when I was fearful that I was failing.

More later. Just trying to get back into the idea of blogging, but I should be paying attention. 🙂



DMAC Day 1: Not live like Doug, but still here.

May 30, 2008

you should blast Young Jeezy with your friends in a parking lot

-Mike Doughty

So first, random reflections on the first day of DMAC:

1. My feet are SO sore (I tried a pair of orthotic inserts– bad idea)
2. Parking services at OSU is insane
3. It’s great to see all the folks here

The first day of work here was somewhat familiar; DMAC starts much in the same way that I start my own classes on digital media composing: with audio. And anyone who has some experience with Audacity knows that it’s one of the easier things to pick up and run with.

We recorded short interviews. By “we,” I mean myself, Doug (who is from my current institution) and two folks from my old institution. We then copied the recorded MP3s onto the computers and played a bit in Audacity. I’m going to finish my edits tonight.

Thus far the institute has been good. I’m going to hopefully learn to do something really cool while I’m here (I don’t want to make a blog promise and break it, since I sort of broke my main blog promise already, but if I learn what I want to learn I’ll have a cool product soon). In the meantime, I continue to marvel at the skills of the instructors here. If ever there was a walking example of “best practices,” Cindy and Scott would surely be the model.

I also received my first teaching assignment at my current school today. It’s a nice slot– 3 to 4:50 in the afternoon, in a lab. I’m looking forward to getting back to teaching.

More tomorrow. LOST is on, and I’m SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO tired.

Oh, Doug’s blog is here: http://wallsdmaclive08.blogspot.com/

It includes a photo of the mug I “customized” today. Tomorrow I find a green sharpie and add “details.”



To borrow a line from Julie…

February 14, 2008

you’re doing it wrong.

Or, rather, *I* am doing it wrong. It’s the 13th. I missed five posts. GAH! GOOD GRAVY WTF MY BFF JILL?

 In rapid succession tonight I will Phill in the gaps (ah! puns, too? Is this guy a sadist?). With any luck, I won’t fall this head-over-fail again.

Who am I kidding? 365 days of blogging? I’m going to trip a few times. All I can promise is that I’ll make it all up in time.

This is going to count as my reflection on my goals for this week. FAIL!

In a dream I had…

February 4, 2008

In a dream I had/I was on the stage with Queen/Michael Stipe and Elton John/Bono, Springsteen…


I’ve been thinking a great deal about “spirituality” these last few weeks. I feel like it’s all “postmodern” and “selfish” to claim that I’m a beautiful and unique snowflake, but I feel like my spiritual exploration comes from a weird spot.

I was born and raised in a “Christian” house. My “grandmother”* was Catholic, but my mother wasn’t, so we ended up bouncing from midwestern church to midwestern church. My uncle was a holy roller (literally– he thought he was taken over by the spirit and rolled about at times), but he was also just a tiny bit insane. I never really, truly bought into what I was hearing about God and the universe, but I knew there was something. Something bigger.

Because of my upbringing, I still sort of fear “hell,” even as I’m not sure that I believe in it, and I worry about disappointing God, though I don’t think the thing I worship would claim that name.

I’m what I guess would be defined as a “mixed blood.” I’m part Cherokee. I’m part German. I’m not entirely sure what my mother is, though we believe she’s mostly Navajo. As such, I’ve always felt a tie to nature and the Earth. I never felt quite right adopting a religion like Wicca, but it made good sense to me when I went through that period in high school where midwestern kids experiment with Wicca.

I’ve been reading a great deal of Indigenous theory. As I read about connections to origin myths, tradition, and land,  I find that I’m… mad. Not like raging, freaking out mad, but I wish I’d realized what I was missing in my life a long time ago. I feel like many of the hard lessons I’ve had to learn over the years could have been easier to learn if I’d read some of this stuff sooner.

I’ve come to understand that peace is happiness, and that happiness and peace comes from understanding and accepting the self/moving forward with the struggle.

I’m a lucky man, but I still find myself wondering what, exactly, it is that I believe in. I know something is looking out for me (trust me– I’ve had amazing luck of late), and I meditate/pray every night. I just wish I could put my finger on what I’m talking about when I talk about faith.

Or to quote Freedy Johnston:

I’m not saying you’ve gotta believe me/but something’s out there.

Fragments of Phillosophy

January 27, 2008

People cry, and people moan/look for a dry place to call their home/try to find a place to rest their bones/while the angels and the devils fight to make them their own…

-Cobain, singing a Meat Puppets song

The temple of Apollo at Delphi bears the inscription “γνωθι σεαυτόν”: know thyself.

It’s possible my work will bend and twist in a thousand different ways before I graduate, but right now my primary interest as a scholar is the intersection of identity formation, digital identities, the formation of discursive social groups (primarily online) and the impact of popular culture on individual identity. One of the things I’m quickly realizing is that as much as I still fear the Lester Faigley gargoyle (I wonder if anyone reading this knows that story), my reflections on po-mo fragmentation and the discursive, ever-rewritten self are going to be much more important than that page of notes I took the night before my thesis defense.

I think the fragmentation is the sort of “key” to the dilemma of digital identity. Yes, there are those (Lisa Nakamura in particular, who does a fantastic job of addressing it) who believe that people enter the online world to participate in “identity tourism,” it is my belief (currently with no proof—that’s stage two and will be coming soon) that people go online to wear selves that they cannot or choose not to wear in their normal lives.

I am thinking of an example that some people would probably scream at me for invoking, but this seems readily apparent in Second Life. There is a massive, massive sexual/erotic fantasy element to Second Life, and most of the people I have discussed it with—admittedly a small sample compared to the massive number of people ENGAGED in it—have reacted immediately with either shocked disgust or all-too-curious questions. If one factors in the puritanical suppression of sexual expression in the current world (other than the sexual imagery we have packaged as a culture and consider “safe,” such as the ever expanding and contracting chest of Pamela Anderson or the sock packed crotch of an air-suit wearing Texan governor), it seems only logical that people aren’t participating in “sickening sexual perversion” in SL but rather are looking for a “safe” place to be “sexual” (for lack of a better way of saying that). With AIDS and neo-conservatism, it’s not exactly safe to look for a public orgy, but if you can be Phill Juicylicious and walk around a virtual world, suddenly there’s an outlet. *

If we extend this outward and look at how people package themselves in different places, we can start to chart the fragmented pieces of various individual human being’s identities. For example, here are but a few pieces of me:

1.    I belong to an Indianapolis Colts discussion forum (which I’ve been a member of for several years). In that space, I talk about football. I am not interested in discussing my life in general in that environment. It’s not important who or what else I am.

2.    A few posts ago I talked about my “primary” WoW character. It doesn’t matter, cosmically, what else he does. He’s digital animal-hunting, monster slayin’ Lyon.

3.    My Facebook profile is littered with all sorts of little pieces of Phill, from my favorite songs and such to my goofy virtual pet squirrel (squirrels are relevant to my life) and my tricked out little Nissan which only races against two of my favorite scholars and one of my classmates. Taken just as a page, though, it doesn’t really express “me.”

4.    Then there’s this blog, which is slowly starting to add up some content. It’s pieces of me, but certainly not all of me.

There are more, obviously, but this isn’t a post that’s meant to make an exhaustive list. I’m simply trying to illustrate how these fragments work. Someone claimed once on the football message board that I was being “mysterious” or “dishonest” when I claimed that it didn’t really matter what I do for a living (right now I do nothing for a living—ahhh!) or where I lived. My point was that in that particular space, doing what that space is designed to do, it didn’t matter at all. What mattered was my level of knowledge and ability to share opinions about football/to interact with fellow fans. It matters if I know who Craphonzo “The Sh!t” Thorpe is. It doesn’t matter that I live in a place named after a literary figure’s watery retreat.

I don’t think many people go so far as to make that move transparent, to say “hey, it doesn’t matter who I am outside the screen—this is just a part of me,” but I think many, many of us treat digital identities that way. They are not “true” identities, in that they are not comprehensive, round, fleshed out images of who we are and what we want. They are, instead, rhetorical instances, carefully crafted masks (people don’t like me using the word mask because of the other ways it is used, but my blog, my rules!) that people wear in spaces.

But that brings me back to my initial quote: know thyself.

We DO forge our “true” identities (which I would argue are endlessly more complex but no less rhetorically constructed than the digital identities I’m talking about here) out of these fragments we craft in other aspects of life. So while football fan Phill cannot truly stand for the whole Phill (one would see Phill through a scanner, darkly, if one were to look at him that way), the whole Phill contains football fan Phill. To study the importance of digital identity we will have to first understand, to some degree, the identity (or at least the awareness) of the person wearing the virtual mask. If not, we fall into another of my favorite quotes, this one from that ray of sunshine known as Fredrick Neitzsche (slightly altered for content):

“if you stare long enough into the flat panel, the flat panel stares into you.”

*note: to the best of my knowledge there is no Phill Juicylicious. I don’t think SL even has that available as a last name. There is a Phill Theas that belongs to me, but I realized after making it that I didn’t read the name aloud, and I have a hard time now taking Filthy Ass seriously. I must also admit that while I’m curious about the SL sex scene as a point of study, I didn’t dive down the rabbit hole. I walked around the outer edge and peered in, but I figured if I was going to go “all in” I should have IRB approval and actually do research instead of just feeling virtually dirty.