Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Composition as Viritual Gumball Machine Collection

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Writing Classroom as Factory.”  Composition Studies 36.1 (2008):  29-38.  Print.

In this piece, Geoffrey Sirc takes the reader through an in-depth look into the life of Andy Warhol.  Along the way, he pauses to demonstrate parallel’s between this artist’s life and the life of the composition classroom. 

First, he reveals several sites of conflict in composition pedagogy through the lens of Warhol’s life experiences.  For example, Sirc demonstrates how even this brilliant artist was anxious about the self he presented to the world so much that he was content to allow Allen Midgette to impersonate him.   Sirc suggests that the writing class student faces the same anxiety and thus opts to plagiarize because they believe the text the have found more closely resembles the text we want than what they could produce themselves. 

Sirc also describes Warhol’s exceptionally long films (6 hours) and the viewing experience that went with these works.  Folks would roam in and out of the screening room, rather than sitting the duration. Sirc uses this viewing approach to discuss reading practices in the composition class.  He explains that we teach as tough all readers maintain close attention to all that they read and never miss any detail, when really we ourselves slip in and out of texts as we read too. 

After describing Warhol’s studio, “The Factory, and the rich creative environment it afforded those that spent time there, Sirc moves to envisioning a classroom model that takes this framework as the model for pedagogical design.  Warhol’s site was a “production center crossed with a social space” (35).  Folks who spent time there praised it as a space for education.  One assistant even claimed it provided a better space to learn art than his actual art school.  Our composition classes, like the art school this assistant spoke of, don’t always have the same energy that the Factory provided.  Instead, students come to these spaces and experience what Sirc calls “curricular buzz-kill” (36).  He proposes instead “assignments that consist simply of a title—say Bar or Video Game or Sex at College—and a set length (500 words or 3 ½ minutes or 16 images)” and opportunities for students to create a series of variations on the same subject (36).  The point in this approach is to break out of the typical modes of classroom exercises and create “a laboratory of taste experiments, a studio course allowing the na├»ve exploration of forms and technologies: […] and writing” (35-36).

This piece helps us to see how seemingly unrelated moments in ordinary life can serve as lessons to those of us who are teachers.  The world around us has much to teach us about what environments stimulate learning.  As contemporary composition teachers we ought to ask ourselves not only “what can we learn from Warhol’s factory” but more importantly “what are today’s ‘factories’ and how can we appropriate them as true sites of learning, but also learn from them ourselves?”

Monday, May 21, 2012

Considering the Merit of "On-the-Fly Jottings of Pop-Crazed Youth"

Sirc, Geoffrey.  "Writing in the Post--"Man-of-Letters" Modern World."  College Composition and Communication 60.4 (2009):  W16-W31.  Print.

Geoffrey Sirc's article revolves around these questions, which he asks himself when designing writing prompts: "what does writing count for anymore, who's doing it, why, what does it look like?" (W16).  He develops his answer for what writing ought to do from a Phi Beta Kappa address given by Allen Tate in 1952.   Tate describes a “man of letters,” who is skilled in communication that is also communion.  This communicative communion ought to have a specific purpose. The purpose of this work is threefold:  to show something new about "an unchanging source of knowledge"; to tell "the false from the true"; and to preserve "the integrity, the purity, and the reality of language" (Tate qtd in Sirc W18).  

It is Sirc's intention to build writing classes that meet Tate's call to action for the modern man of letters.  He hopes that by doing so, he might "give students occasions for writing that truly count for something in their world" (W17).  To identify such an occasion for writing, he turns to iTunes.  Sirc shows how the iTunes reviewer enacts the threefold work of the man of letters.  These reivews demonstrate authentic writing occasions; as Sirc says, "this new genre of and occasion for prose proves to me conclusively that traditional school-sponsored writing is effectively over as an object of both practice and study.  If we want to teach something credible, it must have this genuine occasion of participatory communion, as these new species of pulpit oratory do" (W19).

Sirc suggests that iTunes writing would allow for a kind of classical rhetoric revival in the contemporary classroom that Robert Gorrell calls for.  He explains, “MP3 criticism is a true site of rhetoric, a key scene in the contemporary art of persuasion” (W22-23).  He demonstrates how these reviews might be seen as instances of rhetorical rebirth in particular for their use of contemporary Attic style, using brevity, figures of wit, and metaphor, for example.  Sirc demonstrates the ways in which these short jottings provide the platform for studying a variety of rhetorical techniques.  While Sirc admits that some reviews are “thoughtless raves or rants,” he still maintains that they are worthy genres to consider because so many are engaged in a “speculative, rhetorical search for truth,” (W30) which is much more than we can say for many stilted, artificial genres of the FYC classroom.

Whether the reader of this article concludes his or her reading wanting to adopt the iTunes review as a genre for inquiry and composition in his or her own classroom is not important.  Sirc’s writing reminds us to consider what business we’re in.  Are we preparing students to be men and women of letters?  Those engaged in purposeful communicative communion?  Or are we content to preoccupy them with the busy work of occasionless genres?  As we develop course materials, no matter what the course delivery platform, we must engage these questions. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Final New Media Project

For the end of this semester's New Media Theory and Practice class we had to create an final individual project using some form of new media.  The project asked specifically that we demonstrate a blend of theory and practice with an eye toward production.

Despite what I wrote about in terms of intention in my last post, I opted to focus on developing an interactive wall space during the space of my course project because it asked me to use programming elements that were furthest from my comfort zone.  I originally planned to do this piece using Adobe Flash, but elected not to since it is likely a dying cause.  So I opted instead for HTML5 and Javascript, with a touch of CSS for page formatting.  This portion of the project required the most learning, while the other elements of this project employ skill sets that I am already mostly comfortable with (Photoshop, basic HTML and CSS).  I feel that those portions of the project will be time consuming, but do not reflect new skill development necessarily, which is what I wanted to showcase for this New Media project.

In the end, I created this (mouse click to draw):

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What’s most fun about this project is that it really is an opportunity for me to bring to life some of the theory from this class and put it into practice.  While the product thus far doesn’t necessarily capture the theories that were motivating me with project, the overall rhetorical situation that I’m consider does.  Throughout this term I had three terms that captured my interest most, which I kept coming back to as I thought through material for class:  interactivity, archive and persistence.

While I did develop a product that is a interactive drawing space, I did so by modifying rather than writing a Javascript file from scratch.  In the future, I want to get to where I can write that Javascript file from scratch like I can an HTML file, but I know that will come in due time.  I’m looking forwarding to spending the summer playing with more Javascript.  Through this project I’ve been able to discern the real power that Javascript has to enhance web development.  It has helped me to see just a bit of what I can really do and that makes me more excited.  I am happy to have a specific project to work toward because that will motivate me to learn.  I can’t see myself sitting through Javascript workshops or watching videos, because I never went that route for HTML, but I can see myself Googling and trying things out.  I know I’ll keep failing with this program and banging my head on the wall trying to figure out how to get something done.  BUT!  I now have a virtual wall to bang on and that rocks!

For a more detailed look at this production process, see my end of class reflection.