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April 30, 2006

The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling for a Knowledge-Log Revolution

Originally published in the 2004 University of Minnesota edited collection: Into the Blogosphere: Rhetoric, Community, and Culture of Weblogs.

Download FreireBlogland04.pdf

Reprinted here with permission.

Full Citation:

Boese, C. (2004). The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling for a Knowledge-Log Revolution. In L.J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, & J. Reyman (Eds.), Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Retrieved April 30, 2006, from http://blog.lib.umn.edu/blogosphere/the_spirit_of_paulo_freire.html.

By Christine Boese, Independent researcher

Weblogs and knowledge-logs, or “blogs” and “klogs,” have emerged into the post-dot.com bubble online world as a notable (and often non-commercial) social phenomenon. While some hear echoes of Web homepage voices from the mid-1990s, the blogging phenomenon during the Iraq war may have taken Web cybercultures in new directions. This qualitative and exploratory research considers the viability and social effects of the altered web page phenomenon of blogs and klogs as they affect the lives of information workers, in public Internet spaces, and with implications for private intranets. It combines ethnographic observations from a single case within the Iraq warblog phenomenon with the   standpoints and personal observations from the author’s professional experience launching a klog inside CNN Headline News shortly after the war. It seeks to gain insight into the utopian and often unnecessarily technologically deterministic promise of a knowledge-log revolution and find points where the movement falls far short of that promise. While knowledge-logs can appear as efficient groupware   tools for organizations, klog interface features allow political openings to change corporate cultures in ways most groupware never intended, with a goal of a dialogic, critical pedagogy through workers helping and teaching other workers outside the realm of “official policy.” Personal blog sites   of journalists in the employ of large, knowledge-commodity organizations such as Time Warner release this same tension into public spaces and reveal the very real disruption on a large scale that klogs can create on a small scale. Ideas and models presented by Paulo Freire and Michel de Certeau are used as a lens   for one possible interpretation of the events studied from March to November   2003.

The Other Side: Josh Kucera
March 09, 2003

An introduction

Welcome to my blog, all. First, to introduce myself and The Other Side. I am a freelance journalist based in Erbil, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. I am new to the world of blogging, and I heartily thank Chris Boese, a friend of a friend whom I’ve never even met, for suggesting this to me and for setting up all the technical stuff.

I chose to call the blog The Other Side for a couple of reasons. One, I want to show the other side of the news. I don’t intend for this site to be a substitute for the ordinary media, but as a complement to it. You can get good information from the New York Times, BBC and Associated Press. But you won’t hear unvarnished opinion from a guy on the ground, or what ordinary days are like for the people here: about pornographic movie theaters,     tragic love stories or the sunset over Erbil.

Secondly, “the other side” refers to the land outside America’s borders, a big place that most Americans, even well educated ones, are not very familiar with. Reading the news about the Middle East or Indonesia or Venezuela is as about as meaningful as watching a game of Risk if you don’ know what the streets smell like there or what people eat. I hope this blog can be a small substitute for that sort of experience. . . .

That’ll be it for today … soon to come will be more reports, focusing on particular issues, relating particular incidents, etc. Stay tuned.  

Posted by Josh at 10:39 PM |Comments (16) |TrackBack (1)

Weblogs, or “blogs,” like the excerpt above, are a site of online communication that has sprung up in the margins around several forms of mainstream public discourses and professional communication practices, and in some cases become a deceptively powerful and somewhat erosive force in mainstream journalism--erosive in the sense that blogs have a dialogic and unobtrusive way of nibbling at established   mass media power bases, sometimes without institutional awareness.

As blogs enter mainstream public consciousness from the margins of the Internet where they originated, they bring a hidden and newly awakened army of interactive participants who may be experiencing the kinds of unsettling (to the powers that be) critical consciousness that is within the goals of an increasingly democratized culture such as Paulo Freire as an educator sought to foster. While blogs are now part and parcel of presidential campaigns, they really came into their own with the warblogs of the Iraq war in 2003.

For the purposes of this paper, a blog is defined as a regularly updated webpage using blogging software which functions as a database-driven, dynamic, content-focused shell (Carl, 2003, p 1, 3). Into that space, single authors or groups can take   any number of rhetorical stances and post creative and analytical source material and links, published with a reverse chronological order of most recent postings at the top, linked to a permanent archive through “permalinks.” While web pages are static, blogs are intended as part of an ongoing conversation through contextual “comments” bulletin boards attached to each post. Once installed, blogs require next to no technical knowledge to update and maintain. In addition, a social movement has sprung up around blogs, giving the technical   artifact meaning in a larger context, in what some call “neighborhoods” or “blog ecosystems.”

Klogs are simply blog software interfaces appropriated for company knowledge-management tools as a quick and easy, and participatory, content management system. Some firms may have IT departments build content management tools from scratch, often with uneven results due to usability difficulty. The sheer number of blog users online testifies to the ease of use for blog software, which may speak for their adoption for in-house klogs.

This qualitative and exploratory research considers the viability and social effects of the web page phenomenon of blogs and klogs as they affect the lives of information workers, in public Internet spaces with implications for private intranets. It combines ethnographic observations from a single case within the Iraq warblog phenomenon with the personal standpoints and observations from my professional experience launching a klog inside CNN Headline News shortly   after the war. It seeks to gain insight into the utopian and often unnecessarily technologically deterministic promise of a knowledge-log revolution and find   points where the movement falls far short of that promise.

The ethnographic methods employed in this qualitative study are informed by insider access to two separate sites. In each case, I participated on some level as a web designer and host and was an interested party in the blogs launched. While this may be seen as compromising the data gathered (in the case of the first site) or the personal observations (in the case of the second site), there is no other way that this information could have been obtained without being   one of the parties involved. The stories here would have remained invisible. But my standpoint must be claimed and foregrounded, from the perspective of   feminist standpoint theory as it affects scholarship (Rich, 1984), even while   distancing myself from the essentialism of identity politics to embrace a role more as a shifting cyborg hybrid from within the larger Time Warner organization (Haraway, 1991). According to Haraway, cyborgs are invisible and ubiquitous, "illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to   mention state socialism" (153), without loyalties or origins, "committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity, it is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence" (151). In adopting such a role, my perspective becomes part of the story.

The two sites studied will be described in terms of ideas of “critical consciousness” (Freire, 1973) and “textual poaching” (de Certeau, 1984) in an effort to unpack the complex interplay of events through an Iraq war blog on a large scale and the launch of an intranet klog on a small scale.

Blogs as a site for research

Because 2003 was such a seminal year for blogging and bloggers, there is currently   little existing scholarship on blogs or klogs, other than the vast echo system bloggers have created themselves, a system the mainstream media is beginning to cover as a “beat.” The blogosphere shrugged itself into existence   most notably following the events of September 11, 2001, with a very small but   intensely interested audience (Carl, 2003). When regular communications broke down in New York City, personal blogs tracked the concerns of the many laid   off or employed tech workers. As war began against Afghanistan, conventions of warblogging also began to emerge. With the crash of the space shuttle and   the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, mainstream media became   aware of blogs. Blogs may have fully landed on the scholarly radar in 2003 with the Iraq warblogs and the Howard Dean blogs. Undoubtedly, more articles and collections like this one are in preparation as well.

The usual popular and trade press articles have appeared, evangelizing blogs   and klogs as the next hot new thing (Heyboer, 2003; Lewis, 2004; Rosencrance,   2004; Creamer, 2004). At least one master’s thesis has been written (Carl   2003). In addition to a careful history of the blogging phenomenon (drawn largely   from bloggers’ own histories), Christine Carl conducted a significant   survey of blogger demographics and practices with more than 1,400 respondents   in the United States, analyzing age, race, employment status, income, and education   level, among other factors.

Most conference panels on blogs also first appeared in 2003, with papers such   as Sybil Nolan’s from the proceedings at the Digital Arts and Culture   Conference in Melbourne, focusing on blogging’s impact on journalism (2003).

Jane B. Singer (2003) may have published the most complete study on the journalistic   aspect of blogging to date, focusing not on blogs per se, but on the challenge   to journalistic standards of professionalism by online journalists, particularly   bloggers. Still, given the general dearth of scholarship on blogging and bloggers,   there is more work to be done if blogging remains a significant social phenomenon   and not simply another Internet fad.

While also addressing the impact of warblogging on journalism, this paper attempts   to situate the movement in the larger context of information workers crafting   their products in both public and private work sites, and to look at the political   and social ramifications of those actions. As such, it considers all blogs to   some degree as knowledge-logs.

The Other Side and OJO: Iraq Warblogs

The primary site studied using ethnographic methods are the Iraqi warblogs   of Joshua Kucera and Carolina Podesta. Both journalists worked for several years   as foreign correspondents in Bosnia before going together to Erbil, Kurdistan,   in Northern Iraq just before the start of the war. I built and hosted these   sites, The Other Side, and OJO, on my domain, serendipit-e.com. Podesta’s   blog is entirely in Spanish, with a Google machine translation link on the side.   Because I don’t speak Spanish, my understanding of the zeitgeist of this   blog remains rough, although I did sense that something literary and quite transcendent   was occurring for Carolina and her legion of fans. I gathered additional data   through personal correspondence with both Kucera and Podesta before and throughout   the war. Both had laptops and satellite phones, as well as freelance contracts,   Kucera with TIME magazine, Podesta with an Argentine news service. While training   the journalists to use the software from a war zone, we discussed contingency   plans, but decided against outfitting the site for mobile blogging or “mo-blogging”   from cell phones. If their laptop access went down, they told me they had access   to the Internet at various cybercafes.



Lest you think everyone in the Middle East hates America... I've had the     Big Mac there, and it's not bad. This restaurant is in Suleymaniya, there     is also a fake McDonald's advertisement in the soccer stadium in Erbil.


Posted by Josh at 12:11 PM |Comments (0) |TrackBack (0)

I first met Josh Kucera through a friend at work, and through him also met   Carolina Podesta, at the time his partner. I was working for CNN Headline News,   writing the afternoon on-screen headline ticker Mondays through Fridays. In   the time leading up to the start of the Iraq war, I was watching colleagues   prepare for the “embedding process,” going to D.C. and completing   Pentagon training for chemical weapons and basic military rules in order to   travel with the units in which they would be reporting. Remembering the restrictions   on reporters during the first Gulf War, I was apprehensive about the embedding   process, even with good journalists in the units. I worried that their reports   would be censored by restricted satellite phone access, or worse, unconsciously   biased.

My reasons for offering to build blogs for Josh and Carolina were personal   as much as anything. I wanted to know I had a source on the ground in Iraq that   was independent of U.S. military control. I wanted to build their sites because   I wanted to read their blogs. At the time I had built several other blogs using   Movable Type, and I’d been following the warblogging movement closely.   It seemed that the most prominent names among the warbloggers were people in   the U.S., processing and reprocessing war coverage at a distance. “This   isn’t right,” I thought, “Independent, experienced reporters   in Iraq need to be blogging during this war. That’s what I want to read.”

About that same time, my employer, CNN, asked video journalist Kevin Sites,   already in Iraq, to stop posting to his popular blog. That sealed my decision.   Josh asked for permission to keep the blog from TIME magazine, since he had   an exclusive contract. TIME said as long as it was non-commercial and he wasn’t   posting things TIME wanted to publish, he could create the blog. The same company   that owns CNN, Time Warner, owns TIME magazine.

My immediate supervisors at CNN Headline News knew I built and kept blogs,   but given my on-air anonymity and relative unimportance to the news gathering   process within our organization, my extracurricular activities weren’t   seen as a conflict to the performance of my duties as a ticker writer. I largely   refrained from commenting about my employer on any of my personal blogs out   of ethical considerations.

Textual Poaching and Critical Consciousness

This research pulls together two frames, the Marxist radical pedagogical approach   of Paulo Freire, who sought venues for dialogic teaching and learning outside   traditional classrooms, with the postmodern cultural theorist Michel de Certeau,   who wrote on subversive ways ordinary people resist being defined by their workplaces   and by a consumer society. I believe these two lenses dovetail, as Freire escapes   the often totalizing frame of Marxism with his emphasis on dialogic co-learning,   and de Certeau’s writing on everyday practices can empower a more contingent   style of democratized knowledge-making in blogs, with a liberatory sense of   resistance even when workers are oppressed or dominated. Both look at what vibrates   outside of areas of rigid control and professional editing.

While weblogs and knowledge-logs can appear as efficient groupware tools for   organizations, klog interface features seem to allow political openings to change   corporate cultures in ways most groupware never intended, through a goal of   a dialogic, critical pedagogy of workers helping and teaching other workers   outside the realm of “official policy.” Given the unvarnished nature   of such in-house knowledge making, institutional controls on worker’s   minds and voices can be undermined, creating a tension between officially sanctioned   controls and policies and contingent and disciplinary knowledge or professional   expertise (Friedson, 1986; Gilbert & Mulkay, 1984; Edwards & Mercer,   1987; Geisler, 1994). Personal blog sites of journalists in the employ of large,   knowledge-commodity organizations such as Time Warner release this same tension   into public spaces and reveal the very real disruption on a large scale that   klogs can create on a small scale. As another journalist covering the war, I   was reading warblogs as my own kind of public knowledge-log, to expand my knowledge   of the subject I was covering by reading the postings of independent colleagues   in the field.

Michel de Certeau, in The Practice of Everyday Life, is concerned with workplace   practices that live in the margins and engage in a kind of “textual poaching,”   as he writes:


Reading introduces an “art” which is anything but passive. …Imbricated     within the strategies of modernity (which identify creation with the invention     of a personal language, whether cultural or scientific), the procedures of     contemporary consumption appear to constitute a subtle art of “renters”     who know how to insinuate their countless differences into the dominant text.     … Today this text no longer comes from a tradition. It is imposed by     the generation of a productivist technocracy. It is no longer a referential     book, but a whole society made into a book, into the writings of the anonymous     law of production. (1984, p. xxii)

The practices of bloggers seem most clearly described in this quotation. While   de Certeau’s study has to look hard to discover how the seemingly passive   readers find ways to “poach” on the dominant texts as a form of   resistance, blogging during the Iraq war seemed to bring the resistance into   the open, as a more open rebellion. As a practicing journalist, Josh Kucera   was not typically someone in such open rebellion, although many warbloggers   outside of Iraq were. As we will see later, he resists becoming a “poster   child” for the independent media movement. Even so, with his quiet and   observant posts from Erbil, Josh was “insinuating countless differences   into the dominant text.” Ironically, in my position from inside CNN Headline   News, covering the war on the headline ticker at the same time, I was also most   clearly implicated and complicit with the “anonymous law of production”   de Certeau mentions above. I was part of the dominant text the bloggers were   resisting, one of its many authors. Given the contradictions I was experiencing,   I had no choice but to turn to Haraway (1991), to see myself as the cyborg hybrid   inside the belly of the “productivist technocracy.”

CNN Headline News Knowledge-Log

That cyborg sensibility led me, concurrently, to propose and build a knowledge-log   for the Headline News intranet, as a way to share this empowering interface   with my colleagues, so that THEY could share contingent knowledge, lore, and   professional practices that helped them produce excellent work day in and day   out. This is the second site studied in this paper, not through formal research   methods, but merely reported from my personal observations as an advocate and   klog evangelist. This work could not be called “ethnographic” because   I did not have permission to undertake such a study in the newsroom, and even   if I had had such permission, I was far too involved as an advocate to be able   to step back from it with an ethnographer’s eye.

I wanted to plumb beneath the surface of this respectable and reasonable practice   of knowledge management in the Information Age to find the contingent practices   in a workplace where the “widgets” are information products created   by knowledge workers and knowledge-makers, through the shaping and social use   of the information products in their workplaces and at large. I wanted to try   out the effects of democratization and subversion on this process of keeping   a klog, and in doing so, possibly learn ways workplace practices could one day   be further affected by the force of these software systems.

I also saw a visible (and documentable) clash of cultures between old and new   media—perhaps made even more acute than it might be at more “typical”   large corporations because the primary, external “product” or knowledge   commodity of Time Warner embodies almost in its entirety the assumptions of   broadcast or mass media, often unreflexively, as stated or even unstated truisms.   Before coming to CNN, I held certain beliefs about “old media” from   my dissertation research (Boese, 1998), which focused on power struggles between   the creators of the show “Xena: Warrior Princess” and the interactive   online fan community, seen through an ethnography in that fandom culture (populated   with active textual poachers as well).

On the other side of the fence, from inside the world of mass media production,   I was prepared to have those beliefs challenged. Instead I was surprised to   find them reinforced. The mass media model of communication appears so deeply   ingrained among so-called “old media” broadcast writers that it   is nearly unheard of in the newsroom to question issues relating to “good   news judgment,” “lowest common denominator” programming, and   demographic assumptions about 18- to 35-year-olds. Perhaps I was naïve.   Scholarly literature seems well aware of a “tension between the news media   and the discipline of cultural studies,” according to Sybil Nolan (2003).   I had left the field of journalism to spend 15 years in academia. Perhaps because   I’d changed over the years, I assumed journalistic assumptions about audiences   and interactivity would have changed also.

These are my personal observations, however, and not part of a formal study   of newsroom cultures. I made these observations as I studied the audience for   the klog I was building, as part of the design process. And in the end, these   observations were reinforced when I went on to launch the klog. The most startling   thing I found was that these broadcast writers (the klog was primarily to serve   newsroom writers and copyeditors) envisioned viewers as passive recipients of   media products, and they also constructed THEMSELVES as passive recipients of   media products, despite the fact that they were actively writing and shaping   those media products every day at work. The anonymity of the “voice”   with which they were conditioned to write seemed to preclude finding a voice   with which to speak up on a klog.

The second thing I encountered was widespread technophobia or technological   ignorance relating to the Internet. One copyeditor told me web browsers still   were not on most CNN newsroom computers in 1996, when a co-worker showed him   the Internet for the first time. The newsroom still relies on mainframe-based   research tools and writing spaces at the time of this writing in 2004. While   I was able to easily teach Josh and Carolina (who speaks and writes basic English,   but I speak no Spanish) to use the input form interfaces of their blogs by email   from Atlanta to Kurdistan, I struggled to train colleagues face-to-face in the   newsroom to feel at ease posting to our intranet klog.

Bruce Garrison (2001) has studied the diffusion of online information technologies   in newspaper newsrooms, looking at critical mass and diffusion theory. Although   his study pre-dates the appearance of blogs and klogs, I compared his data to   the “diffusion of technology” anecdotes shared by my colleagues   who had been on site since the early 1990s. It does appear that the Headline   News newsroom at least (and anecdotally, the entire Turner building in Atlanta)   integrated online research tools somewhat behind the curve reported by Garrison.   I also observed colleagues’ reluctance to explore online research tools   on their own, as evidenced by the slow adoption of the beta “Google News”   algorithm tool, as well as slow discovery of the handy Google toolbar, which   also blocks annoying pop-up ads.


War Begins
    The Other Side
    March 17, 2003


War Panic in Erbil


Today is the first official day of war panic in Erbil. Yesterday everything     looked much like it has since I got here. Today many shops are closed, there     are fewer cars in the street and people tell me their neighbors are fleeing     the city for towns further towards the Iranian border. My translator's family     all left for their hometown of Koy Sanjak, which is closer to the Iraqi lines     but which they feel is less of a target. Shop owners are emptying their stores,     putting their stuff in more secure locations in case there are looting during     the war.


Most people are afraid of chemical weapons. As you know, this area was attacked     hundreds of times by chemical weapons during the Anfal campaign of the 1980s.     The most notorious incident, in Halabja, was 15 years ago this weekend. Over     7,000 people died in that one attack. Now people here are afraid that it will     happen again. But people aren’t preparing much. Very few people have     gas masks – other than the foreigners, of course. There is a military     market here in Erbil, and I went a couple of weeks ago to stock up. I bought     four German-made masks (for me, Carolina, our driver and translator) for $150,     a little out of the range of ordinary Iraqis. The dealer told me the only     locals who bought the masks were the richest ones. “The poor people     want to die,” he said. “The rich people want to live 200 years.”     One political party today was giving out leaflets on how to make a homemade     gas mask. You take flour, coal and salt, wrap it in a cloth and hold it over     your mouth. . . .


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Both Josh's and Carolina’s blogs began getting heavy publicity during   the course of the war. Carolina’s site was featured on Argentine TV, so   traffic shot up to about 1,000 hits a day after her first week. It eventually   developed such an enduring presence (significant hits from areas beyond Argentina   as well, particularly Mexican domain names) that when she returned to Argentina   after the war, she got a contract to turn it into a book (2003b) and a conference   was held with the OJO blog as one of its central topics.

  Josh’s blog was in English, well written and visual, with respectable   citations from other blogs, leading up to the battle of Baghdad. Then it got   written up in The Boston Globe (Bray 2003), as the stories of the Baghdad Blogger,   Salam Pax, and the Back to Iraq blog sites put the issue on the national news   agenda. The Boston Globe article appeared to mock TIME, suggesting that the   writing and topics on Josh’s site were more immediate and compelling than   what TIME was publishing from him.

  The day after that article came out, March 25, 2003, TIME demanded Josh stop   posting to his blog, just as CNN’s Kevin Sites had also been forbidden   to post to his blog as it started gaining popular acclaim during the war. The   screenshot below shows Josh’s two final posts on the permanent site archive.




Figure 1: The Other Side, Joshua Kucera’s weblog. http://www.serendipit-e.com/otherside


Many may remember the flurry of blog stories on the eve of the “Battle   of Baghdad” in 2003. Salam Pax had stopped posting at Dear Raed and many   blogs echoed the fear that something had happened to him (he later re-emerged,   safe). Kevin Sites and Joshua Kucera had been asked to suspend posting (after   the conclusion of the formal part of the war, Kevin Sites left CNN and is once   again posting to his blog). Sean Paul Kelly at Agonist.org was accused of plagiarism.   The cessation of Josh’s active posting was a disappointing development.   Josh’s style of first-person observation about the price of gas or the   porn movie houses open in Erbil had ruined me for the rehashing and linking   styles of many of the US-based warblogs. Traffic on Josh’s site shot through   the roof as its closing was written up prominently in The Wall Street Journal,   on the MSNBC site, and in a depth analysis article in The Chicago Tribune (Rose   & Cooper 2003, Femia 2003, Ryan 2003). Both MSNBC and the BBC had embraced   the warblog movement and were hosting warblogs by their own correspondents on   their official sites. For Time Warner, and CNN, a division of that company,   it was as if the warblog movement did not exist, despite perfunctory news coverage   of warblogging as a “gee whiz” tech story.

  So while I was putting in six-day weeks, 10-hour days as part of our intensive   Iraq war coverage, I was also caught up in the ongoing drama that saw mainstream   media’s war coverage challenged by this upstart blog phenomenon. The challenge   was to try to make meaning from conflicts between the two different universes   of discourse, one severely restricted by mass media assumptions about the patriotic   attitudes of US audiences, and the other, in the blogosphere, situated much   more firmly in the discourse of international media coverage, which differed   significantly from U.S. war coverage in its skepticism toward the U.S. point   of view.

  The frame I found most helpful placed these divergent journalistic endeavors   as rhetorically epistemic knowledge-making, a macro version with corporate broadcast   journalism content contrasted with international warblogs, echoed on a smaller   level with klogs, and with the tensions and frustrations in the delayed launch   of my intranet klog. The lines were starting to blur, once I considered journalism   and professional communication in blogs and klogs as a commodity and site for   interactive and contingent knowledge products and knowledge making.

Paulo Freire and Empowered Knowledge-Making

  Let’s step back and look at blogs and klogs in terms of this interesting   dance with corporate entities, some of which see knowledge management as asset   management for the Information Age. Ostensibly, blogs and klogs would seem to   help corporate entities to “manage” the “intellectual assets”   of a company in an information-based economy, particularly in the context of   knowledge workers, but who is managing whom? It has been said that companies   are increasingly concerned that the greatest assets of the firm are walking   out the door every night at the end of their shifts. The wolf in sheep’s   clothing in the dance could be the knowledge-logs that seek to create artifacts   based on those information assets. The contingent knowledge disseminated through   both intranet company klogs and more public, journalistic or topical extracurricular   blogs of journalists or other experts, writers, and communicators create a kind   of knowledge commodity that exists outside conventional economic systems of   value. If understood as formal publishing ventures, there is a model for thinking   of blogs and klogs, the kind of model that would put TIME magazine in the right   for protecting its own publishing venture from a rival or competing publishing   venture by shutting down Josh’s blog. But are these formal publishing   ventures?

  The late Paulo Freire was a Brazilian educator wrestling with the problem of   how to bring democracy to a colonized and oppressed people who had never in   the better part of their cultural memory known anything like democracy. Literacy   was not the only problem. Empowerment and responsibility for self-governance   had to come from somewhere. Rather than accept traditional models of teaching   and learning, Freire saw that those models, such as the “banking model   of education,” were actually working against the larger goals of democracy.   From these realizations, he developed a Pedagogy of the Oppressed, his most   famous work, and also the concept of “critical consciousness” or   "conscientização,” the goal of his model of education.   This concept involved being an active participant in one’s life, not merely   a spectator, making choices rather than oppressed by the illusion of choice.   This he saw as a key to an open society (Freire, 1973).

  If worker brain power is the warehouse capital of the Information Age, it certainly   seems reasonable for a company to develop its own intellectual and knowledge-based   assets, also as a way to preserve and document processes and policies developed   by employees, the information products of employees, to guard against the loss   of these assets should a worker leave the company. Worker intellectual development,   continuing education, and collaboration all seem to speak to the value to a   company of fostering an active and thinking work force. Intranet klogs, which   dialogically explore aspects of one’s work product, team projects, processes,   and so on, would seem to be a valuable tool to refine such workplace assets.   It would appear, then, that Paulo Freire’s goals and the goals of those   creating software to support workplace knowledge management would be in alignment.

  While klogs can craft a form of groupware to assist in this knowledge management,   they can also appeal to business hierarchies that want to know what their employees   are thinking and doing, that may even view these klogs as a tool of company   surveillance. Indeed, in both the journalistic articles and the klog discussion   groups, this issue is often addressed and cited at times as a reason for a less   than enthusiastic response from one’s co-workers when it comes to participating   in the klog, particularly in workplace cultures where workers are afraid to   speak up in their own voices, even if fears of reprisal are unintended by management   and not at all overt, as I found with my fellow journalists at CNN Headline   News. In a time of recession and constant corporate cutbacks, where many are   doing the jobs of more than one person already, most workers keep their heads   down and say little because one never knows if an unvarnished opinion may hit   some random boss the wrong way. Many in the larger corporate workplace have   also witnessed higher paid co-workers in their 50s with considerable intellectual   capital for the company jettisoned by cost-cutting managers looking to fill   those positions with younger people on smaller salaries. In these situations,   it would appear that those greater intellectual assets are not valued.

La perruque, or the Wig

  Some companies take possessiveness of worker intellectual products a step further,   claiming all items on a worker’s hard drive should the employee leave   the company, for instance. Marshall McLuhan (1963) demonstrates that a hard   drive, like a book, is an extension of the worker’s mind. How much of   a worker’s intellectual activity can a company reasonably claim to own?   If telecommuting, can the company lay claim to all writing one does at home?   In the case of personal blogs of journalists, we see Time Warner was threatened   by the non-professional publishing activities of Kevin Sites and Joshua Kucera,   implying that a different economy or scale of value is superceding money in   this marketplace. But those are the kinds of instances savvy lawyers might think   to cover in a standard non-compete clause. What if Josh were writing letters   home to his family, writing many of the same kinds of things that did appear   in his blog? Could he keep a password-protected blog, a private and personal   intranet, ostensibly for his family and friends (and a few hundred others) to   access? I offered to host such a site, but Josh worried he might get in trouble   for that and didn’t want to risk it. Is it the intellectual content of   Josh’s brain that Time Warner coveted, or the fact that the publication   site allowed him to reach an audience that hurt the future viability of one   of the largest media chains in the world? Or was it his point of view, standard   for blogs, what we might call “first person idiosyncratic,” in such   a marked contrast to the depersonalized style of TIME reporting?

  Michel de Certeau writes of a diversionary workplace tactic called ‘”la   perruque,” or “the wig” within the sometimes invisible “arts   of practice.” Something of a ruse, “the wig” is


…the worker’s own work disguised as work for his [sic] employer.     It differs from pilfering in that nothing of material value is stolen. It     differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. …The     worker who indulges in la perruque actually diverts time (not goods, since     he uses only scraps) from the factory for work that is free, creative, and     precisely not directed toward profit. In the very place where the machine     he must serve reigns supreme, he cunningly takes pleasure in finding a way     to create gratuitous products whose sole purpose is to signify his own capabilities     through his work and to confirm his solidarity with other workers or his family.     (1984, pp. 24-26)

In other words, “the wig” is a form of poaching from the workplace   by only appropriating products that are to some extent invisible and unvalued   or undervalued in the workplace. In an information marketplace peopled by knowledge   workers, the “scraps” that the worker diverts come from the firings   of her own mind, just as Josh’s blog consisted of the “leftovers”   that he perceived TIME did not want to publish. Josh told me that TIME was not   so much concerned with getting a first shot at his best observations as much   as it didn’t want anyone else to be able to see his cast-offs. The reach   of Internet publishing through blog software gave these seemingly “gratuitous   products” a value outside of the conventional system of money or information   economics. The “scraps” Josh used were whatever happened to catch   his eye outside of his more formal tasks. At issue are boundaries, partitions   information workers would seemingly have to erect inside their own brains between   work for their employer and work for themselves. Perhaps a reporter might say,   “TIME magazine is renting my eyeballs right now. No one else is allowed   to use them for the moment…” New boundaries are coming up for negotiation.

  One could even argue in a klog context that Freire’s “critical consciousness”   is a trait that is undervalued in the workplace, along with a worker’s   ability to make knowledge, to take scraps and develop truths about workplace   practices, best professional communication practices, disciplinary practices,   and lore. But here is the subversion of unedited and interactive blogs and klogs.   They live in a place at the intersections of a number of different border regions,   between expert and contingent knowledge-making, between disciplinary boundaries,   between populist and elitist systems of access to research or technology or   capital or power, boundaries between professional life and home life, not to   mention, with telecommuting, physical boundaries between work and home (Friedson,   1986; Gilbert & Mulkay, 1984; Edwards & Mercer, 1987; Geisler, 1994).

  As blogs and klogs enter the mainstream from the margins, they bring along the   ruse of “the wig,” with dialogic and interactive participants who   may be experiencing the kinds of unsettling (to the powers that be) critical   consciousness that is within the goals of a more democratized technoculture   such as Paulo Freire as an educator sought to foster. Whether journalists are   publicly assisting other journalists through their public blogs or workers are   helping to train colleagues in internal klog contexts, an active critical awareness   supercedes the passive absorption of information or top-down policies.

  By design, blogs are oriented toward humanization and textual poaching with   active and dialogic co-participants rather than a passive audience. Klogs seemingly   appear to allow corporate entities to “manage” the “intellectual   assets” of a company in an information-based economy, particularly in   the context of knowledge workers. But intranet klogs and some of their more   public counterparts such as these knowledge products created by journalists   during the Iraq war have the potential to release voices as “humanized”   knowledge-makers with a claim on power that can force many institutions to change   with the force of awakened and empowered dialogue, creativity, and analytical   power, even as other institutions react strongly and resist change (a move both   described and discussed by Freire through his experiences in Brazil).

  While corresponding with Josh through our several weeks of notoriety before   the Battle of Baghdad, he told me something that I came to understand was very   important to him. He had worked as a freelancer in Bosnia for several years   before moving to Kurdistan to cover the war. After TIME shut the blog down,   Josh was clearly disturbed by the anti-mass media ranting and the level of anger   against big media corporations in the comments field of his blog. He strongly   resisted becoming a poster child for the independent journalism movement. Josh   said he had been trained to focus on the story and not to become the story.   Still, he said, in four years working as a freelancer overseas, he had not ever   gotten as much feedback and interest in his work as he had in the weeks of the   Iraq war through his blog. His writing was being published by one of the largest   circulation newsmagazines in the West, yet his blog audience cared about him,   worried about him, gave his work constant dialogue and feedback. He was blown   away by it.

  I know I was affected by it as well, but in a different way. I’d never   met Josh or Carolina face to face, but as the war moved closer to Erbil, I found   myself worrying about them, involved in their stories, in their blogs. If I   didn’t hear from them by email regularly, I became very anxious. There   was a human face, a level of personal involvement, with war correspondents breaking   through the impersonal barrier of the affectation of the journalistic voice.

The Practices of Blogs and Klogs

  In developing my intranet klog for Headline News, I turned to helpful klog evangelist   sites online such as Phil Wolff’s "a klog apart.” Wolff has   undertaken a form of dialogic, critical pedagogy to help klog evangelists in   organizations teach co-workers to communicate in blog-format, also looking at   issues involving teaching colleagues to write, not simply with words, but through   posting images, diagrams, audio and video clips, etc. In quite a number of posts,   he sounds very much like a composition teacher, seeking ways to encourage and   empower writers, to help co-workers not feel self conscious, to help them find   their voices. Without teachers and classrooms, the atmosphere for learning and   sharing invokes not only Paulo Freire, but also Peter Elbow (1973), in Writing   Without Teachers.



Figure 2: Phil Wolff’s “a klog apart”   site at http://www.dijest.com/aka

Wolff collects tips and tricks and future ideas for use of klog software from   his network of correspondents and contributors. These ideas range from the practical   to the theoretical to speculative “what if” projections and software   wish lists, like one big collaborative klog-brainstorming session. One post   suggests klogs can be used to help generate PowerPoint presentations. Another   addresses literacy problems in the workplace. One has tips for would-be writing   coaches. Another, ideas for empowering shy writers by developing mixed media   klogs with audio clips, video clips, captured white board graphics, etc. with   the idea that different thinking and learning styles will express themselves   in different ways.

  Ethical and workplace power and politics are also discussed quite bluntly on   “a klog apart’ and on the klog Yahoo! discussion group, including   fears of panoptic surveillance by supervisors (Foucault 1977).

  Peter Elbow would likely recognize these klog evangelists as leaders of a dialogic   writing workshop without teachers, with co-teachers, outside of traditional   classrooms. But this is also something more—something like the Freire   model as a response to oppression, a kind of oppression Freire himself would   be hesitant to name as such, centered as it is in the overprivileged West. But   if spontaneous and dialogic writing workshops are springing up in this medium,   is this not what Freire sought to foster outside the socially limiting and often   authoritarian spaces of traditional classrooms? As a tool that not only poaches   the texts of the mass media and business knowledge-making, but also discourses   of the classroom, klogs as envisioned by Phil Wolff have a very auspicious beginning,   at least in theory.

  On the other hand, I can also describe the difficulties I had once my Headline   News intranet klog launched, well after the formal end of the war. Management   decided to hold six weeks of writing and script coding seminars conducted by   copyeditors, attendance required. I adjusted the klog I had built to specifically   support handouts and discussions from the seminars and was given the seventh   week in the schedule to hold klog training seminars.

  The klog that I launched had anything but an auspicious beginning. Despite enthusiasm   from management and my own evangelizing, writers and copyeditors seemed ill   equipped to use it for anything except as a passive reference for handouts.   I billed the klog as a place to talk about the craft of writing and ways to   make our work better. People at Headline News are very ambitious and are always   training to move to their next position, often taking overtime, double shifts,   or overnight shifts to do it. Even so, they seemed not to have ways to talk   about craft, about what made writing good or bad for our particular context   and audience. Writers complained orally that copyeditors were unable tell them   what they were doing wrong, would instead just say, “this script sucks”   and leave it at that. I’d hoped our klog could address these issues in   script workshops. These are journalists, I thought. Writing is what they do.   Surely they will have a lot to say.

  Instead I came to understand the very real barriers against posting to our klog,   barriers ingrained in the CNN workplace culture and probably many workplace   cultures. It wasn’t just fear of reprisals. People in low-end positions   striving to move up can be afraid to speak because it can hurt their chances   at promotion, despite honest management encouragement. Most could talk about   facts in stories but did not have a vocabulary to talk about writing, across   all ranks. These are also people who are exhausted, overworked, dragging themselves   through stressful television shifts that push them to the limit. After their   show gets off the air, they head out the door or to another training session.   Finally, to a person, I could not find anyone who was not intimidated by technology   and the Internet, even people who work in the control room or route video through   complex series of feeds in the CNN system. To post is to have a voice, however   it may be socially constructed, and to have confidence in that voice. I encountered   people who froze up staring at the “Post to Blog” button on our   klog, and those who thought they would never be able to figure out the blog   in the first place, despite working at terminals every day.

  Our klog still has value as a database, a shell to hold training materials,   style guides, and official policies. It is more easily searched or cross-referenced   than the file on the mainframe that holds these materials. But that is top-down   communication. The grassroots empowerment with our klog never happened. As an   alternative, I tried to interest friends in the newsroom in creating personal   blogs, offering to help, still puzzled at the reticence of professional writers   in developing an outlet for what they did best. My best guess at why so few   took up my offer has to do with the learned impersonal tone of mass media journalism,   a tone that erases the author’s point of view. These are writers who spend   every day at work trying to erase their biases and points of view, to make their   writing voice sound like the voice of the anchor of the show they are on.

  How do groups evolve and contribute when shaping and being shaped by blog interfaces?   Partly the answer to that question can be found in the sudden rise to power   of the blog movement as a social force as compared to static web pages or pages   merely generated from databases, such as I studied in my research into the Xenaverse,   the constellation of fan web sites around the television show “Xena: Warrior   Princess,” (1998). While it may be too soon to tell, given the complexity   of forces arrayed within interfaces and cultures, I do believe the interactive   interface features unique to the blog social movement deserve a good part of   the credit for harnessing dialogic energy on the Web. I am not taking a technologically   deterministic stance when I say this, however. The interface features minus   the social movement could not create the same force alone, as Phil Wolfe has   written of in “a klog apart” and as I found out for myself with   the Headline News klog. It seems to be bit of a “chicken and egg”   question of which came first, the interactive features or the social movement   that rises up and is empowered by the interactive features. Bruce Garrison’s   (2001) study into a “critical mass” in the diffusion of online information   technologies in newsrooms also shows how gradual increases in adoption rate   can create a snowball social effect.

  The Xenaverse was an empowered social movement that existed before the blog   interfaces became available. The connected communities and regular posters and   commenters around some of the most popular blogs, like Boing Boing or Kuro5hin   don’t have to be goaded into participating. They are people who seem to   feel they have something to say, and are technically adept enough to see how   useful the simple web forms can be. Yet offline groups don’t migrate into   online spaces nearly as well, no matter what opportunities exist, or how easy   they are to use, or even by virtue of the fact that the people in the group   are already skilled professional writers.


  A Business 2.0 newsletter article considered the viability of “Management   by Blog?” (2003) and came to the conclusion that, despite many strong   proponents, the klog movement has not caught on yet. The article notes that   companies are still more likely to incorporate blog features into public customer   service web sites (such as Macromedia has done) than they are to use it as a   method for workgroup teams to pool thoughts, progress reports, documentation   for projects, etc, as another tool for computer support for collaborative groups,   in other words. Why the reticence? It may be because blogging grew up from a   grassroots social movement and not necessarily a dot.com business plan seeking   venture capital. Blogs didn’t show up on business radar until Google bought   Blogger. It could also reflect worker resistance to groupware blog tools, as   I found at Headline News.

  The Business 2.0 article claims that the move of Google buying Blogger alone   gives the business knowledge-management klog camp such force that it can only   be the next big thing. On the other hand, anyone who follows the often-uncritical   hype of Business 2.0 has heard that story before. Many who have tried to launch   company intranet blogs realize that a bigger problem can be training and levels   of participation with harried and overworked colleagues, issues that Phil Wolff   at “a klog apart’ is more than prepared to address. I’m not   ready to declare such an easy victory for intranet-based knowledge logs primarily   because the borders and gates of intranets are still deeply affected by corporate   cultures built on information control, and are too rigidly exclusive for concepts   of information-sharing, both by turf-guarding employees within competitive corporations,   and by turf-guarding corporations that would rather live with restrictive technology   and knowledge management tools than experience a more democratized workplace.  

  We can see how deeply these interests are threatened by blog interfaces by looking   at what Time Warner did to attempt to control the flow of knowledge commodities   by its “intellectual assets.” Joshua Kucera was a freelancer, not   even a full employee of Time Warner, a distinction might has well have been   moot, since the issue was about leverage, power, and control of his intellectual   “scraps.” Also lost are the dialogues, the enrichment, the Freire-style   learning and growth that would ultimately improve knowledge products in the   workplace because certain topics are so off-limits they cannot be broached in   public discourse or on company intranets, except anonymously on “gripe”   blogs such as enronsucks.com and the like.

  Personal blog sites of journalists in the employ of large, knowledge-commodity   organizations such as Time Warner release the same tensions and conflicting   issues into public spaces and thus reveal the very real disruption on a large   scale that klogs can create on a small scale within organizations as voices   enter into dialogues rather than listen to the one-way monologues of policies,   of being told what to think, about in-house corporate processes or the role   of the Kurds in Erbil. However, as I found with the Headline News klog, there   are still many challenges to be overcome before off-line groups can successfully   migrate to klog-style interactions.

  As Paulo Freire set reflection, questioning, and dialogue as ideals in fostering   critical consciousness in Brazil, so also does the use of these same techniques   within a corporate environment let a genie out of a bottle. Freire discusses   how repression and backlash by elites are often the result of the “oppressed”   gaining too much power of voice and consciousness. While we are not seeing here   a military coup and repression as backlash such in Brazil, I do believe we are   seeing and will continue to see a backlash. Even so, the greatest counterforce   that keeps the genie from going back into the bottle may be what de Certeau’s   describes as the poaching technique of “la perruque,” “the   wig,” a worker’s own work disguised as work for his employer. This   is the site of cultural resistance I will be watching from my feminist cyborg   hybrid post as this phenomenon evolves, as a backlash drives some underground,   or at least, under the wig.


March 25, 2003


Goodbye for now


My editors have demanded that I stop posting to this site until the war ends.     And they pay the bills, so what can I do. Thanks everyone for reading, and     I hope to be back here soon. Peace, Josh.


Posted by Josh at 10:00 PM |Comments (33) |TrackBack (0)



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April 30, 2006 in Books, Journalism, Published Research, Television, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2006

Cyberprof reflects on Pollner semester

Link: University of Montana School of Journalism: Cyberprof reflects on Pollner semester.

News & Events • February 2006

Cyberprof reflects on Pollner semester

By Christine Boese
2005 Pollner Distinguished Professor

photo by Teresa Tamura

2005 Pollner prof Chris Boese gets tricky with computer screens.

To say that I was a bit of a fish out of water when I came to Missoula might be an understatement.

True, I'd grown up in Alaska and traveled and camped extensively throughout the Midwest and West. I am no tenderfoot. But since the early 1990s, I became obsessed with the study of cyberspace, cybercultures, radical democracy, independent media and voices that weren't necessarily backed by the power of a major corporation. I'm the kind of person who has found the work she loves, and that's about the worst thing, because I'm my own workaholic.

Somewhere along the way I started seeing myself as a citizen of cyberspace first, and in the walking-around-world second. I was happy, but people often worried about me. They sent emissaries to try to get me to come out and play. "What was I missing?" I wondered.

In coming to Missoula, I knew I'd have a good opportunity to give the walking-around-world another chance, because here was a place as idyllic as anything I could imagine, a college town, a tranquil yet interesting campus populated with deer the way squirrels run around on most campuses. A river runs through a downtown haunted with hundred-year-old structures. Bike trails are everywhere. It's surely a paradise for dogs, and I take my mutt with me everywhere I travel. Not to mention the fact that I was hoping for snow and a chance to hit the ski slopes. Montana did not disappoint.

photo courtesy of Chris Boese

Boese skiing at Big Mountain, with Glacier National Park in the distance.

People here care about where their food comes from, and the farmers' markets promise abundant feasts on healthy, living things. I'm told Missoula is in a region that could sustain itself with locally-grown food if something bad and apocalyptic were to happen, and I believe it. In some ways, Missoula is like an island tucked over here on the other side of the Continental Divide.

I'd grown up hearing stories about the J-school in Missoula, and over the years classmates in other places would tell me about their "triggering town." What better place to pull my head out of the computer for a while and find some good people and good conversations?

Folks may think I'm a big gearhead, but conversations are what I'm all about, not the machine itself. Dan Gillmor, author of the book "We the Media" that I used as a primary text for my Pollner seminar on blogging and the citizen journalism movement, has adopted the emblematic slogan that "news should be a conversation, not a lecture," and I found my way into the Blogosphere because of the magnetic force of its dialogues, its probing and prying, and yes, its flame wars.

As I emerged, blinking, in the Montana light, I found people who were engaged in a different kind of life, the life of their gardens, their communities, their state. Faculty focused on teaching the timeless values of asking hard questions. Students came to Missoula not just to milk careers out of college, but instead to use college as a time to engage fully with the landscape and activities all around them.

They didn't spend very much time on their computers at all. How did they do it?

I didn't get to ponder that question for very long, because shortly after I got settled in Missoula something happened that turned my sensibilities upside down: Hurricane Katrina.

I should mention that I didn't just pull back from cyberspace in taking the Pollner Professorship. I also live deep in the 24-hour news cycle of CNN Headline News newsroom, and since one month before 9/11, I've been holding in my head in the details of just about every majorbreaking news story around the world, and a lot of minor ones too.Besides covering wars and terrorist attacks, I'm a bit of a weather nut who once chased storms with my camera around Arkansas and Oklahoma. The leading arm of what was Hurricane Ivan actually passed right over us in Atlanta the previous year. Before coming to Missoula, the last big story I'd covered was the tsunami and its effects around the Indian Ocean. I don't go to these places. I cover the stories "virtually," from Atlanta.

It doesn't occur to me that people don't obsess on cable news the wayI do. I stayed up all night watching Katrina's eyewall come ashore. When I came to my class later that day, many students were just becoming aware that there had been a big storm somewhere far away, but the effects of that storm soon rose up and enveloped us all. Students working on the Kaimin worked hard at pulling local angles for their Katrina coverage, and I was proud of how they came to shape and package the Katrina-related material, to bring the impact of what had happened to a student body that can seem a bit disconnected from larger, global events.

Katrina also provided an object lesson in what the blogosphere does best, and it gave the Pollner Seminar plenty to study from the bloggers and citizen journalists, not to mention outstanding coverage under duress from the New Orleans newspaper's online site. One student in my seminar found a person blogging from a ten-story building with a generator in New Orleans, right in the middle of the worst flooding. Prior to Katrina I'd been surfing the science/weather blogs, checking conditions like a nervous mother, but as the events afterward unfolded, bloggers rose up in a chorus, detailing exactly how the relief effort was being botched, sharing first-person stories of truck drivers ordered to take loads of ice everywhere except to New Orleans.

We read stories of rescues, of unimaginable horrors. We saw bloggers helping to reunite families, and coordinating massive charity efforts through cyberspace.

And we also saw journalists from CNN and other mainstream venues begin keeping Katrina blogs, first-person accounts, as the television coverage left its objective tone behind and began reacting emotionally to the tragedy and incompetence.

In the Pollner Seminar, in addition to keeping individual blogs, students also participated in a 24-hour virtual class blog, our group discussion space. I kept it behind a firewall, so students could speak freely and comment without restriction about what we were reading and finding. We also used the space to share links and follow trails around the different spaces in the Blogosphere. For me, this was where some of the best interactions of the seminar took place, and it enriched our classroom discussions considerably.

One of my primary jobs as the Pollner Professor was to assist with the online Web site for the Montana Kaimin. I helped convert the site to RSS feeds so it would be subscribable on news feed readers like Bloglines.com. Web editor Denny Lester became a regular fixture in my office as we worked through a series of logistical nightmares plaguing the site, from a non-working search engine to an inconsistent archive. We explored different content management solutions that also left room for the Kaimin to incorporate blogging columnists and guest bloggers in the future, such as the idea of a professor blogging from Pakistan while participating in an earthquake relief effort, or blogs for students studying abroad, or even ROTC students posting updates from Iraq.

Ultimately we had to abandon the existing content management system and begin the process of transitioning the Kaimin to a new platform. The better part of that job is in Denny's capable hands right now, and I'll still help him however I can, from where I am now, back in my virtual home in cyberspace.

There were some things I wish we could have tried with the Kaimin site, like setting up a subscribable mobile phone-blogging feature, so students could get text messages of quick headlines on their cell phones, say of sports scores, or quick bulletins announcing that the governor is on campus, and where he was speaking. I'd like to see student government representatives given space to blog on the Kaimin site as an ancillary to the Kaimin's traditional meeting coverage.

But the bigger problem is that University of Montana students are immersed in life more than they are immersed in technology. Students and faculty are still learning that there are news feed readers that can give instant headline summaries. The pace is different here. Back where I come from, people want quick text message updates on their cell phones. Studies show that since the Iraq war, more and more people are getting their news from the Internet, and compiling their own customized sources.

Yet at the same time, one of the most innovative citizen journalism ventures in the U.S. is based right here in Missoula: NewWest.net. I was very excited to meet the first Pollner Professor, Jonathan Weber, and to observe how the interfaces and communities of New West are structured. I know that people at CNN.com are watching sites like New West closely as well. It is a difficult thing, building community, encouraging ordinary people to find their voices and speak out about what is happening, about the walking-around life in their communities, and to get them to go into cyberspace to do it. New West is sponsoring WiFi hot spots around town, to bring the site to the people in the places where they have conversations, a terrific idea.

I fully believe this is the last bridge to be built for cyberspace communities to be truly vital, which is for them to migrate from face-to-face into cyberspace. I've always struggled when it comes to bringing groups I know face-to-face into cyberspace. I wish New West the best of luck, because in some respect, I believe ventures like these are our last hope, not just because so many small newspapers are just gone, but because the dialogues of the public square are disappearing as well, and I want them to come back.

And while I may be content to live here, inside this little box, people who live large, in big sky country with big mountains and big fish, can get cramped in these tight spaces. They want to escape from boxes. This is what I learned from the people of Montana. Where I find life in cyberspace, they long to escape.

What I wish for them: electronic "paper" to attach to the front of your fridge with a magnet, not to tell you the milk is sour, but rather, a news feed reader, with headline summaries in type big enough to read before you've had your coffee, before you hit the bike trail, before you head for the ski slopes.

The headline feeds tell you if there's something inside that computer box worth reading quick before you head out to bigger and better things.

They tell you so you can wait just a bit and not miss a Hurricane Katrina or an earthquake in Pakistan. Why? Because John Donne not only said "No man is an island, apart from the main." He also said, "Send not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."

Thank you to the University of Montana Journalism faculty and students, and so many others who also had me in to speak to their classes, for sharing their lovely campus, stimulating ideas, and hard questions with me.

April 26, 2006 in Citations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 25, 2006

Past Syllabi: JOUR 494 Pollner Seminar Syllabus

University of Montana, Missoula:

Who controls a free press? Blogging and the citizen journalists' challenge to Mainstream Media

Fall 2005 Syllabus

Instructor:  Dr. Christine Boese
Meetings:  11 am to 1 pm Mondays in 2nd Floor Journalism Library & Honors Computer Lab
Class Blog:  www.serendipit-e.com/494private 
Office Phone:  406-243-2934
Office:  208 Journalism Building
Office Hours:  1-3 pm Weds., Tues., Thurs. unless I'm meeting with other classes. I'll also be available M-F during the day most days

Texts and Electronic Tools:

Available in the campus bookstore. The Gillmor text can also be downloaded free online at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/wemedia/book/index.csp, but I want you to bring the book to class, so you'll need to print the whole thing out somewhere. Also, the two optional texts are usually available with two-for-one discount pricing as a package deal at Amazon.com.


We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, For the People. Dan Gillmor. O'Reilly Media Books, 2004. See also http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/wemedia/book/index.csp.


The Weblog Handbook: Practical Advice on Creating and Maintaining Your Blog. Rebecca Blood. Perseus Publishing, 2002.

We've Got Blog: How Weblogs are Changing Our Culture. Perseus Publishers ed. Introduction by Rebecca Blood. Perseus Publishing, 2002.

Blog Software:

Each student will be setting up at least two (if not more) individual blogs as a course requirement. One will be a blog publishing forum and the other will be a professional journalism portfolio you can use to archive your clips and career achievements and show to potential employers (also part of your final grade). DO NOT jump ahead, as I will walk you through the process if you don't have a blog already. There are certain advantages to pre-planning and I want to make sure you understand the features and options before you plunge in.

The software I hope all will use (unless you are already a web-tech whiz-bang) can be found at Typepad.com. There is a low monthly fee, but I want to make sure you set up the account that will best fit your needs. I know that free blog accounts can be set up at places like Blogger.com (and even LiveJournal, egad!), but ultimately you will find future options limited at the free sites, and this is an investment in your professional credibility. Whiz-bangs may consider excellent products such as WordPress or Drupal, but prepare to be technically challenged by the installation and maintenance (and onerous comment spam, something Typepad has cured).

Finally, I'm hoping some adventurous students will take a stab at podcasting this semester, and Typepad just set up the easiest on-ramp to podcasting I've seen so far, to go along with its streamlined interface for photoblogging and mo-blogging. Typepad has also indicated that video-blogging will also be supported with the new podcast features.

Course Description

New Yorker press critic A.J. Liebling wrote in 1960, "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one." In this course we will examine and participate in one of the most radical restructurings of media ownership since moveable type displaced monks copying manuscripts by hand. Now the price of owning a "press" has fallen to nearly zero. In this time of great social change, the media landscape and its "powers that be" seem thrown into chaos. Some (like RIAA) are fighting the changes while others embrace them. The stress of change also releases great creative energy. These are exciting times for journalists! We will compare the social structures and technologies of broadcast and interactive media, and discuss the idea of a coming "convergence." We will also launch our own blogs and join the larger blogging "ecosystem." Along the way, we'll conduct online research into the bloggers' challenge to mainstream media (or MSM, as they call it), in an attempt to discover what is giving this grassroots journalism movement its power.

No specialized technical knowledge or web-building skills are required to take this course. We will learn to maintain web templates and style sheets with blog software. We will also learn practical writing strategies and media management skills for interactive journalism. By the end of the course, each student will have created a polished professional portfolio blog as well.


This course will look at the impact of blogging on journalism and journalists as bloggers from the standpoint of effective writing and micropublishing practices, basic technical skills, and in the context of the history and evolution of media and technology, particularly the idea of media convergence and the tensions between what is often called "old media" and "new media."

My goal for this course is not to turn you into technical experts, but rather to prepare you to confidently enter and succeed as content-generators and micropublishers in this new journalistic landscape. We will also critically study and analyze these latest trends in interactive journalism from the standpoint of your future employment in journalism, where you may find yourself managing a citizen journalism site or interactive element of a larger media enterprise. There are currently few "blog experts" in traditional newsrooms right now, but upon completing this course, you will be able to cite your specialized knowledge and experience as an additional asset on the job market.

In this class we will look at the world of blogging from three different perspectives: 1) as online readers or consumers; 2) as active bloggers; 3) and as reporters who work as online researchers covering this new "blog beat."

This class will involve active, hands-on learning, with interactive discussions (face-to-face and electronic) and student presentations rather than straight lectures.

I am waiting to set the course schedule until I learn more about you, your experience and interests, as well as your technical backgrounds. The course will look into a series of topics, with weekly research presentations by students or student teams as jumping off points for informal discussions. YOUR interests will also drive these topics, so feel free to suggest a topic for the class to pursue! I plan to explore the history of blogs, the power struggle between bloggers and mainstream media (MSM), the citizen journalism movement, blog ecosystems, gaming Google (or not), cliques and lynch mobs, flash and smart mobs, mo-blogging, podcasting, photoblogs, blog ethics and so on.

This course will help you improve your ability to adapt to fast-changing web cultures and trends, as well as to critically examine the social effects of those trends. It will not be organized around creating a list of "RULES" for blogs, because the web is in a constant state of change. Rather, we will learn to ride the chaos with critical tools to grow and thrive with the web as it continues to evolve as a force in our culture.

Technically, each student will create and maintain a blog in the course, and contribute to our class discussion blog (required weekly). While I do not lean toward "how-to" software courses, I will teach you to read CSS files and maintain and tweak your own templates.

Your professional portfolio blog will be part of your final project in the course, planned and developed in individual conferences with me. We will use it to put your best foot forward!


Coursework will be evaluated as follows:

Student/Team Topic Presentations:  20%

Participation:  20%
(attendance, private class discussion blog, individual blogs,
keeping up with RSS feeds of classmates, and face-to-face
classroom activities and discussions)

Mid-Term Exam:  15%
(short answer, based on concepts from readings and handouts)

Final Course and Professional Portfolio Blog:  45%

Tentative Class Calendar

This is subject to revision and modification as events in the blogosphere (or student suggestions) arise. Check the class blog from week to week to see if the assignments have changed. Handouts or links will be passed out in class.

Unit One: Looking at blogs as critical readers

Week One, August 29

Introductions, discussion of course software and policies. Getting on Bloglines. Assignment to listen to regular podcasts listed on the class blog.

Week Two, September 5, Labor Day

Virtual class. Assignment: cyberspace immersion. Read Bloglines and listen to Podcasts daily, and read and post to our class blog.

Week Three, September 12

Discussion: Blogs and Katrina, charting a story through the blogosphere. Assigning research teams.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor Introduction & pp. 1-43, History of Blogs.
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Intro & Part 1, A Brief History, "Handbook" Chapter 3, Creating and Maintaining Your Weblog, Chapter 4, Finding Your Voice.
Lab: Setting up individual blogs!

Unit Two: Looking at Blogs as Journalist-Bloggers

Week Four, September 19

Discussion: History of Blogging, led by Research Team of Christina W and Trista S. Discussion continues on Class Blog.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 44-87
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 2, Meet the Bloggers, "Handbook" Chapter 5, "Finding an Audience."
Lab: Building Typelists, Photo Albums, taking your blog public.

Week Five, September 26

Discussion: Mapping the Blogosphere: Ecosystems, Linklove, Blogrolling, gaming Google, and other publicity and promotion strategies, led by Research Team of Kristi and Peter C.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 88-109 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part Four, "Handbook" Chapter 6
Lab: Assessing results, show and tell

Week Six, October 3

Discussion: Blog Mobs: Cliques, A-lists, lynch mobs, smart mobs, flash mobs, mo-blogging, photoblogs, v-logs, led by Research Team of Amanda D and Denny L.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 110-157 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 4
Lab: Making the turn to journalism: how to go about it?

Week Seven, October 10

Discussion: Warblogging and political blogs, a backgrounder on the Pollner Lecture, led by the instructor.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 158-190 & handouts
Optional Readings: "We've Got Blog" Part 5, "Handbook" Chapter 7
Lab: Pushing the limits of your blog: bells & whistles & podcasts oh my!

Week Eight, October 17

Midterm short-answer exam based on readings, and class discussions face-to-face and online.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Thinking about portfolios, usability, templates, and design.

Unit Three: Blogs as Your Beat: Cyberspace research and investigative journalism

Week Nine, October 24

Discussion: Citizen journalism and the rebellion against mainstream media (MSM) led by Research Team of Joe P and Tim K.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 191-235 & handouts.
Lab: Designing your portfolio and blog empire, maintaining your blogs

Week Ten, October 31

Discussion: Legal issues and challenges for blogs and bloggers, led by Research Team of Beth B and Sara L.
Reading Assignment: Gillmor pp. 236-end & handouts.
Lab: Building portfolios, expanding your blogs.

Week 11, November 7

Discussion: How to cover the "Blog beat:" A reporter's responsibilities, led by the Research Team of Dylan T, Nicole T, and Erin M.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Entreprenuers: how to launch blog-based micropublishing ventures.

Week 12, November 14

Discussion: Negotiating credibility and ethics for blogging and bloggers, led by the Research Team of Krissi and Jaime D.
Reading Assignment: Handouts & links.
Lab: Cascading Style Sheets and advanced templates.

Week 13, November 21, Thanksgiving week

Discussion: Implications of interactivity, collaboration, and community for both old and new media, led by the instructor.
Reading Assignment: Handouts.
Lab: Work on Final Projects.

Week 14, November 28

Discussion: Open class debate on Old or New Media: Convergence or Conflict? Reflecting on what we have learned.
Lab: Wrapping up final projects, begin class presentations of the finished work if necessary to give everyone enough time.

Week 15, December 5

Final Project Presentations in the Lab, with feedback for Finals revisions.

Week 16, Final

All contributions to class blog and revisions to individual and portfolio blogs must be complete by MIDNIGHT Sunday, December 11th for portfolio grading.

Research Team Topics & Presentation Dates

I've very nearly got the class readings schedule firmed up, and here is a key part of the seminar structure (and 20% of your grade).

Depending on which topic you choose, you will either be presenting some additional research in teams of two or with me assisting. What you are really doing is acting as seminar discussion leaders on that particular day, drawing the rest of the class into the topic as well. The class will be doing readings on the same topic, but you will have the job of digging a little deeper online and filling in some of the gaps.

We'll talk about this more in class, and assign topics Monday, but I wanted to give you a chance to scope out the schedule ahead of time.

  1. Sept 19: History of blogs and blogging as a web phenomenon and social movement: Christina & Trista S
  2. Sept 26: Mapping the Blogosphere: Blog ecosystems, linklove, blogrolling, gaming Google, and other publicity and promotion strategies: Kristi A & Peter C
  3. Oct 3: Blog Mobs: Cliques, A-lists, lynch mobs, "smart mobs," flash mobs, mo-blogging, photoblogs, v-logs: Amanda D & Denny L
  4. Oct 10: Pollner Lecture Backgrounder: Instructor leads discussion on warblogging and the effect of blogs on politics: Chris B
  5. Oct 17: Midterm
  6. Oct 24: Citizen journalism and the rebellion against Mainstream Media (MSM): Joe P & Tim K
  7. Oct 31: Legal issues and challenges for blogs and bloggers: Beth B & Sara L
  8. Nov 7: How to cover the "blog beat": A reporter's responsibilities: Dylan T, Nicole T & Erin M
  9. Nov 14: Negotiating credibility and ethics for blogging and bloggers: Krissi & Jaime D
  10. Nov 21 (Thanksgiving week): Implications of interactivity, collaboration, and community for old and new media: Chris B
  11. Nov 28: Open class debate on old vs. new media: Convergence, symbiosis, or conflict? Reflecting on what we have learned
  12. Dec 5: Final Project Presentations

Inventory and Criteria for Portfolio Final

Portfolio Inventory

These are the items that should be clearly linked and present in your final portfolio for my class (your professional portfolio may be different than your class version. You can use your third blog for the class-specific stuff, so long as all the links are there, working, and items can be easily found):

Portfolio/Semester Reflection Cover Letter

A Professional Journalist's Portfolio Blog Site:

  1. Introduction/Professional Cover Letter.
  2. Resume' and/or Vita.
  3. A Category/Listing of Publications with links to electronic versions of clips and published images (plain text version, link, and PDF if possible). If you have a lot, perhaps you will make categories for different things, like "Kaimin Clips," "Internship Clips," etc. to make a more logical and clear navigation.
  4. If you don't have many published clips, create a category of class project clips and sites you've worked on (plain text version, link, and PDF if possible).
  5. Links or a showcase of other professional projects you've worked on (freelance work in technical writing, business writing, web writing and design, layout and design, Flash, interactive media, photography, audio, video).
  6. Anything else that puts your best foot forward as a job candidate.
  7. Optional: a Typelist blogroll of other sites you've worked with professionally.


  • References names or addresses. Say "References available upon request."
  • Your street address or phone number (identity thieves and fraudsters harvest this information online to rip you off). Use your email address and web URL as your primary form of contact

A Vital and Ongoing Personal/Individual Blog
with evidence of involvement in at least one blog community or ecosystem (our class's ecosystem and beyond).

Any Additional Blog Projects you have undertaken,
in this class or outside it (that you want to claim). This includes links to any streaming podcasts you've tried, or video clips or audio slide shows.

Any Additional Web Projects you've worked on, in this class or outside it (that you want to claim).

A Copy/Paste Capture of both the Technorati and Google search results for your most well-known blog, with the name of your site in QUOTATION MARKS. (You will want to configure Google Preferences to show 100 results)

Portfolio Grading Criteria

The best overall portfolios will be attractively designed and easy to navigate. All items in the inventory above should be easily accessable, and all links should work.

What to include in the Portfolio/Semester Cover Letter:

This is perhaps the second most important part of your portfolio, after its wholistic completeness. And this is the thing you should do last, and perhaps also revise through several drafts.

In this letter addressed to me, you should look back over your experience of the semester, from where you started to where you are now, reflecting on what you've learned about blogs, the blogosphere, and the citizen journalism movement. This letter serves an indirect PR function because it introduces and explains all the work that is in your portfolio, but lathering on flattery or overtly brown-nosing will be obvious and will serve you far less well than honestly talking about what you've learned and will take away from the class.

Parroting the teacher is not necessary to get a good grade! Rather, if you have a bold or contrarian-style opinion about blogs, it is not enough to just state it. You must back up your statements with REASONS and SUPPORT. You should do the same thing if you happen to agree with the teacher's POV as well. You can also provide links to representative sites that illustrate the points your are making.

In short, your Semester Cover Letter is a bit like a personal manifesto for you, for this point in time.

In addition, there are some other specific things I will be looking for in it:

At least one detailed paragraph introducing and discussing the first blog you made this semester, telling how you adjusted, revised, and refined it over the course of the semester, and why you did the things you did. You should also discuss feedback you got on your blog, from classmates, in class, and in the comments section of your blog. Talk about the audience for your blog, any themes you were striving to create, and how successful you feel your attempt was.

Note, you are not required in one semester to have created a famous and wildly successful blog. Failed attempts, false starts, etc. are also as much of a learning experience as successes, perhaps more so, if you  explain what you learned from what you did. Also, it would be nice if you talked about what it feels like to speak in your own voice, as opposed to the deliberately depersonalized voice of more traditional journalism.

You should also give some space to discussing your side menus and lists, your blogrolls, what you put on them, in what order, and why.

Another detailed paragraph introducing and discussing your professional portfolio blog, what your goals were in putting it together, what use you could possibly make of it, and how well it represents you. If you feel like your professional portfolio is still largely unfinished because your career development is still in progress, THAT'S OK! Talk about that. Discuss the depth of your clips, and what kind of clips or work you could show in the future that might help your professional viability.

Also note that creating this portfolio in no way commits you to a particular career path. Even if you change careers many times (as I have), your portfolio is valuable because it shows you did work at a professional level (even if it wasn't published), revealing a work ethic, a care about the product of your work, and a commitment to professionalism. That kind of thing impresses any employer. If you want to change your career focus in the future, reflecting on your portfolio here and now may help you see clearly what is needed to redirect your focus and get you where you want to go.

Another paragraph on your resume', talking about what it does for you, and what you feel it still needs.

Another paragraph introducing your clips, photos, graphic design or layout, the guts of your portfolio, reflecting on how well you think they represent you.

A final paragraph that again looks at the whole kit kaboodle and reflects on what you might have done differently, had you world enough and time. You can include here plans for the future. And if you are someone who plans to chuck the whole blog thing at the end of the semester, talk about it, and what you will gain from doing that, as well as what you may lose.

Portfolio Intro, Resume' and Clip File Criteria

The look and feel of your professional portfolio will vary widely from person to person. The most important thing to remember is that this is your PROFESSIONAL FACE that you show the world. Because it is in blog format, some personality should show through, but your Professional Resume' SHOULD NOT contain Hobbies or Personal Interests. Perhaps, if you feel a personal statement is required (far more common for artists and creative types), you might make a category for a short personal statement about who you are. I don't think I'd use the portfolio Introduction for too much personal material. Some personality can shine through there, but strictly within a professional context. Imagine in that Intro that you are speaking to some potential employer and trying to land an interview. That is all that Intro has to do. Grab an employer's interest, lead them to the resume' and clips, and motivate her or him to contact you right away for an interview.

Your resume' wording can always be polished, so get some feedback from me on formatting and wording. I used to revise people's resume's as a freelance service I offered, going back 20 years, so USE ME.

The most important thing about your clips is that they load quickly and easily. Whether you include a short paragraph with each telling about it, or not, is not important. That's your decision. Images should not be so big as to take forever to load. No audio or video files should play automatically. The user should have the option to click and load the larger files, but a low bandwidth description or text version is more important than the larger files. The larger files exist largely to provide proof that you were published where you say you were, or to provide proof that your work is your own in a world of widespread plagiarism. If they come from an online source with a live link, that provides further proof that you are legit.

If you have furthur questions about the portfolio requirements, ask me or post them here, in the comments section of this post.

NOTE: I intend to use the remaining class periods for oral presentations of completed or nearly complete portfolios, to celebrate the work you've done this semester and give you feedback so you can revise navigational problems or oversights before the official FINAL DEADLINE. Obviously, if your work isn't complete enough to show on the big screen in class, you will suffer from a lack of feedback, so try to get as much done as you can as soon as possible.

April 25, 2006 in Course Syllabi | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2006

Past Syllabus: The Rhetoric of Web Publishing

Fall 1999 Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Christine Boese
Meetings:4:00 pm to 6:30 pm Weds. in 413 Daniel
Bulletin Board: WebPub
Class Web: Ginger
E-mail: cboese@clemson.edu
Phone: 656-5416
Office:605 Strode Tower Office Hours2-4 pm Weds., Tues., Thurs.
Department: English
ProgramMasters of Arts in Professional Communication
Institution: Clemson University

Table of Contents

Required Texts:

Available in the off-campus Student Bookstore, corner of College and Sloan, and at www.bigwords.com, access code B-UBR9. This is a new service, so if they give you any trouble, there is always AMAZON. You might also look into a new online college bookstore, www.varsitybooks.com, which is giving away $10 gift certificates to new users.

Creating Killer Web Sites: The Art of Third Generation Site Design. 2nd ed. David Siegel. Hayden Books, 1997. See also http://www.killersites.com.

The Secrets of Successful Web Sites: Project Management on the World Wide Web. David Siegel. Hayden Books, 1997. See also http://www.secretsites.com.

Other Readings provided on Electronic Reserve and in a box in the MATRF Lab.

Optional texts recommended but not required:

Deconstructing Web Graphics 2: Web Design Case Studies and Tutorials. Lynda Weinman, Jon Warren Lentz, 1998.

Snow Crash. Neal Stephenson. Bantam paperback.1993.

You will also be REQUIRED to subscribe to the World Wide Web Artists Coalition (WWWAC) listserv during the time that you are enrolled in this class. It is part of the weekly assigned course readings. I recommend you subscribe in digest form, and refrain from posting to the list itself. This is a very active professional listserv based in New York City, and its members work in the heart of Silicon Alley. Naive newbies are often flamed if they say the wrong thing. Instead, if you want to discuss topics from the WWWAC list, lets take them to our class listserv, WebPub, instead, where we don't have to worry about sophisticated web professionals flaming us.

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Course Description

This course is a graduate seminar in the theory and practice of communicating effectively on the World Wide Web.

Prerequisites: Visual Communication Seminar 860.

Objectives: This course examines the evolving cultures of the World Wide Web in a proactive fashion, taking a rhetorical approach to interactivity and hypertextual structuring. Students will also study methods of professional conduct in the burgeoning field of new media, preparing them to enter a workplace where their skills are in high demand. Students will learn to plan, produce, and launch comprehensive "third generation" Web sites with a high degree of sophistication. They will also develop (on their own) personal project sites that will serve as their online portfolios to show future employers and freelance clients. By using a rhetorical framework and considering the effects on online audiences and cultures, students will be able to apply what they have learned to other situations as new media evolve online.

We will be using the collaborative electronic learning forum on the CLE. I will also introduce you to other leading edge forms of electronic communication, as we explore what it may mean to communicate effectively in the future. The most important goal for me is that the computers do not obstruct human interactions, but rather, that they become a tool for accessing people, images, and ideas, and thinking and writing about them.

This course will take both a theoretical and hands-on approach to web publishing and will include topics such as "real" and "pseudo" interactivity, hypertext theory, privacy and ethics, the rhetorics of online social movements, as well as issues in technology and social theory. This course will help you improve your ability to adapt to fast-changing web cultures and design trends, as well as to critically examine the social effects of those trends. It will not be organized around creating a list of "RULES" for web design, because the web is in a constant state of flux. Rather, we will learn to ride the chaos as the fragmented and socially constructed subjects we are. My goal is to give you critical tools to grow and thrive with the web as it continues to evolve as a significant force in our culture.

Four types of activities will take place in this class, and you are expected to actively participate in all of them.

We will have active discussions of assigned scholarly and professional readings (both paper and electronic texts). You are expected to come to class prepared to contribute to the seminar discussions at a graduate level.

We will also have public viewing of our case study presentations and projects, called "Crit Sessions" or "Crits," in which everyone will contribute positive and constructive comments, articulating the principles we have developed and learned. As part of this activity, you are expected to collaboratively author a class "textbook" for the course, as we creatively archive our collective knowledge-making in a class web site, called "Ginger" (named for the movie star in Gilligan's Island).

We will have minimal lecture and instruction in various software packages, as needed. You are expected to follow along in any tutorials, and to come to the aid of any nearby classmates who might be struggling. This class operates under the principle that learning is a collaborative experience. We will cover a lot of ground very quickly. You will have to stay sharp and help each other in order to keep up. If we all work together, we will be able to move past html fundamentals in order to have sophisticated discussions and third generation projects by the end of the semester.

Finally, a good portion of this class will involve hands-on workshop time, as you work on your projects and get help in process. Even with this in-class workshop time, you are expected to put in considerable hours outside of class on your projects.

Academic honesty is expected. Due to the interactive nature of the class, there will be many opportunities for collaboration on projects. However, it is not acceptable to turn in pieces professionally designed by someone else as your own work. I will enforce this rule most strictly. 

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Coursework will be evaluated as follows:

Case Study Presentations: 10%
Participation in class listserv, chats, and face-to-face classroom activities and discussions: 10%
Audience Analyses: 15%
Storyboards and Site Planning Materials: 15%
Web Projects: 40%
Final Exam (Academic Research Paper): 10%

There will be three major web projects, one wild and crazy, existing as a site of experimental bleeding edge web design, one community-based and focused on evolving web cultures, and one more focused on pragmatic information delivery or e-commerce. There will also be

Twenty percent of your grade is based on Class Participation. This includes required reading response papers posted weekly to the WebPub class bulletin board, weekly case study presentations on the readings (archived and linked afterward on Ginger), and a final academic research paper that seeks to integrate what you have learned about hypertext theory, cyberculture, and e-commerce. Clearly attendance is mandatory, especially because this is an evening seminar where so much ground is covered. Please speak to me if you absolutely must miss class. More than one absence will adversely affect your grade.

I want to specifically request that you keep flaming to a minimum and treat all classmates with the honor and respect all human beings deserve.  I will be just another list member, posting along with you. You may also email me privately at any time during the semester.  Also, should you get carried away and accidentally write a response paper that you realize in hindsight is too personal or volatile for the public forum, you may send it to me privately, with a clear disclaimer explaining what happened.  I will give you credit and keep such correspondence private, but I expect it not to happen too often. Since this is a 15 week semester, there will be a required 15 minimum posts to WebPub, spaced out over the semester, on either assigned topics or open topics. If you do not meet this minimum number of posts, IT WILL adversely affect your grade. Please read that sentence again.

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Project #1: Collaborative Class Web Site. A no-holds-barred exercise in web creativity. Here is where we push on the envelope of web interface design. Ginger is YOUR site. It will evolve and grow over the course of the semester, linking our case study reports, archived discussions, and ongoing projects.

Project #2: Entering a Dialogic Web Community or Culture. Investigate and observe how cultures and communities sustain themselves on the Web. Individually or in groups, choose a sector of cyberspace that interests you and attempt to create a web site that both introduces and integrates your site into the ongoing conversations of that community. This is a study in rhetorical ethos and interactive communication. The biggest mistake web designers make is operating out of the model of an individualistic creator foisting her completed work out on an unsuspecting Internet, a shortsighted and one-way approach that doesn't really fit in a dialogic medium. During this project, we will be trying to develop a class definition of interactivity, as well as an attempt to hash out exactly what makes up an online culture or community.

Project #3 Developing a Professional Information Delivery or E-Commerce Site. Individually or in groups, find a real world client in need of a comprehensive and navigable web site. The selection of a client and site must be approved by the instructor. A simple storefront "hanging out a shingle" site will not be adequate for this project. Those kinds of pages are a dime a dozen, and the jury is still out on whether or not they will be effective. Rather, the proposed site design (and redesigns will only be considered if the work required is substantive) must adopt a comprehensive web marketing strategy, incorporating audience analysis and all that we will have learned about interactivity and user testing. There should be a clear navigational strategy as well, worked out in storyboards through various sectors of the site. The goal for this project is to take you beyond the status quo, beyond entry level, and turn you into sophisticated and web savvy site designers.

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Tentative Class Calendar

Note:  Please stay on top of class activities, since this is only a rough guide of what we will be doing and when.  I like to make adjustments as student needs and interests (or computer glitches) dictate.

Week 1
Wed. Aug 18

Introduction to Web publishing and third generation sites.
Project Assignment: Learn Dreamweaver features, particularly round-trip html, styles, behaviors, and rollovers. Create Ginger with links to each student's homepage.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap.&2.
First Case Study Presentation assigned, Secrets/Decon.

Handouts: Hypertext theory

Week 2 
Wed. Aug 25

First Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Learn Photoshop features to control image size and color cube on the web. Fill Ginger full of rollovers. Refine homepages. Get crazy.
Reading Assignment for next week: "Preparing images for the Web," Creating Chap 3&4, and Secrets Part II, pp. 151-192.

Week 3
Wed. Sept. 1
Professionalism, teams, and the client relationship.
Second Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Form teams to begin Project 2, Community/Cultural Web Site. Work on sites.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 5&6

Week 4 
Wed. Sept. 8
Interactive design, interface metaphors, invisible tables, and page layout.
Third Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Participant Observation Reports in an online culture. Structured Audience Analysis vs. Cultural Observation.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 7&8, Secrets Chap. 7&8
Week 5 
Wed. Sept. 15
Audience analysis, assessing client needs. "Storyboarding"
Fourth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon. Project Assignment: Wrap up Project 2, Community/Cultural Web Sites, to get ready for site critiques next week.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 7&8, Secrets Chap. 6.
Week 6 
Wed. Sept. 22

"Page makeovers," "Project sites," "Personal sites."
Team Presentations of
Project 2, Community/Cultural Web Sites.
Project Assignment: Project 2 revision and makeover, with the linking all projects to a special area of Ginger.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 7&8, Secrets Chap. 7.

Week 7 
Wed. Sept. 22

"Phase One: Strategy and Tactics," Site structure, "Storefronts."
Fifth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Begin finding clients for Project 3 Information Delivery or E-Commerce Site. Form teams and develop a production schedule. Arrange initial client meeting.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 9&10, Secrets Chap. 8.

Guest Speaker Betsy Book, Director of Production from flooz.com (formerly of iVillage.com) will be coming to class either in person or virtually sometime around here!! Think up lots of good questions to ask her.

Week 8 
Wed. Sept. 29
"Phase Two: Content Development and Design."
Sixth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Work on Project 2.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 11&12, Secrets Chap. 9.
Week 9 
Wed. Oct. 6
"Phase Three: Production," "Galleries,"
Seventh Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Eighth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Work on Project 2.
Reading Assignment for next week: Extra Credit: Read the novel Snow Crash.
Week 10 
Wed. Oct. 13
"Creative Design Solutions"
Instructor Presentation of two contrasting sites.
Project Assignment: Field Trip to two contrasting graphical chat rooms. Online Debate over issues in navigation and interactivity, to be archived on Ginger, along with a DEFINITION of REAL interactivity.
Reading Assignment for next week: Find sites for next week's Show and Tell, Cheers and Jeers. Prepare a list of URLs with summary analysis for Ginger.
Week 11 
Wed. Oct. 20
Hypertext theory redux, online surveillance, copyright, and ethics.
Show and Tell, Cheers and Jeers.

Project Assignment: Continue work on Project 2. Begin work on Final Research Project. Confer with instructor for topic approval. Update Ginger with Cheers and Jeers.
Reading Assignment for next week: Creating Chap. 13.

Week 12
Tues. Mar. 30
Shockwave, Java, and CGI-Perl, PDF, VRML, and the future of the Web.
Ninth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Continue work on Project 2 and on Final Research Project. Informal Shockwave and Flash demos.
Reading Assignment for next week: Secrets Chap. 10.

Week 13
Tues. April 6
"Phase Four: Launch and Maintenance."
Tenth Case Study Team Presentation/Crit, Secrets/Decon.
Project Assignment: Group Peer Reviews of Project 2 works-in-progress. Research Project Peer Reviews. Comments archived on Ginger.
Week 14
Tues. April 13

Site Presentations and Evaluation
Reports on Client feedback and launch date.
Final version of Project 2 Due.

Week 15
Tues. April 20
Research Presentation Symposium
Research Presentations.
Final Draft of Research Projects due at time of Final.
December 8 Final Exam 6:30-9:30 pm

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The Rhetoric of Web Publishing, English 860, Clemson University.
© 1999
Christine Boese, cboese@clemson.edu All Rights Reserved

April 24, 2006 in Course Syllabi | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack