Creationistas & copyright reform in Australia

Posted by Angela on November 04, 2013
Technology / Comments Off on Creationistas & copyright reform in Australia

Creationistas launched today as part of a movement calling for Australian copyright law to be updated with language on fair use, rather than the current “fair dealing” exceptions that are narrowly defined and outdated (VHS, anyone?). The site includes this video, which explains how many Australians are currently breaching copyright.

Culture doesn’t happen to people, culture is made and shared and experienced by people. Samples, loops, clips, memes, pictures, quotes, tweets, these are the building blocks of culture, and creators need to use them in creating new works to feed back into the system. When you can be sued for mash-ups, collages, or including a line of a childhood song in a new work, it discourages experimentation and sharing. It criminalises creation.

This video was shown at “We Are All Creators Now: Collections, Creation and Copyright”, which was held today in Sydney (#allcreatorsnow) and was filled with smart discussions around copyright and creation. Check out the Storify of the active backchannel from the event (the hashtag started trending in Australia around midday). I also took some notes on each session. For more about copyright law in Australia, check out the Australian Digital Association’s blog.

Related/Recommended reading:
No Copyright Intended
Creative Commons: Supporting Copyright Reform
Everything is a Remix
Transformation as Authorship

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Connections, writing, and the web

Posted by Angela on October 21, 2013
Thoughts, Writing / Comments Off on Connections, writing, and the web

This post actually started as a draft nearly a week ago, and the morning after I typed out my initial thoughts, I received an email reminder from the National Council of Teachers of English about the 5th annual National Day on Writing. This year’s theme? write2connect:

Writing today is the way we most often connect—through texts, status updates, blog posts, and multimedia compositions. And writing, as ever, continues to be the way we connect our ideas, connect across disciplines, and connect to other writers, thinkers, and makers.

As I read the email about this year’s theme, I realized I wasn’t the only one thinking lately about the connections made when writing. That’s why I decided to save this post until October 21, when writers will be connecting on Twitter through the #write2connect, #dayonwriting, and #nwp hashtags.


This seems like the appropriate space to create a bookmark of sorts of what has been percolating at the back of my mind over the past few months about connections, writing, and the web (and of course actually writing out these connections on the web as a means of thinking about them further):

This tweet is from the “How I Write” seminar that Jeff Grabill gave at the University of Sydney in August. Writing to figure out what we think rather than figuring out what we think and then writing it down—that resonated with me, with my own writing process, and with how I teach. And partly because of the nature of the talk (and the act of tweeting during it), and partly because of Jeff’s research on unprofessional writing, that quote came to mind when I read an article by NPR’s Elise Hu, who in turn was writing about Clive Thompson‘s recent articles on “How Blogging and Twitter Are Making Us Smarter“:

Writing in public, whether it’s in the form of blogs or microblogs, like a Twitter stream, is forcing us to be clearer, more convincing and smarter. A big audience isn’t required. Knowing you write for an audience of just a few people will force you to stretch and grow.

In the original article for Wired, Thompson argues that the cognitive shift from an audience of 0 to 10 is more significant than increasing your audience from 10 to 1 million. The very act of writing in public, however limited that public may be, has cognitive value. (And sometimes, there is economic value as well.)

I write in public nearly every day, mainly through Twitter. Blogging, on the other hand, tends to happen in bursts, both here and in other spaces. But each time I return to it, I remember how much I enjoy it and how helpful it is to think/write “aloud”. And as a teacher, I’ve found that using blogs in the classroom, even when it means blogging for a limited public within the confines of an LMS, is a practice that students find valuable. Writing publicly and making connections to ideas is a reflective act, one that develops audience awareness and connects us to that audience. That’s why I enjoy Twitter so much—it connects me to smart people writing and helps me make smarter connections as well.

Writing machine

Posted by Angela on October 04, 2013
Technology, Writing / Comments Off on Writing machine

A fascinating look at Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s automaton for BBC’s Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams.

Inside the little writer is all his source of energy and all the machinery that drives him. He works on his own. […] The wheel that controls the cans was made up of letters that could be removed and then replaced and reordered. These allowed the writer, in principle, to make any word and any sentence — in other words, it allowed the writer to be programmed.

While the video ultimately compares the automaton to the modern computer, when I heard the explanation of the clockwork, I immediately thought of algorithmic writing and the writers asked to produce such writing. From my dissertation:

The gaming of the algorithm has evolved into algorithmic software that generates content and completely bypasses the human writer in favor of the writing machine. […] It is crucial for professional writers to be a part of the future of online content production in a meaningful way that does not reduce them to mere machines in the age of the algorithm.

I love when I come across things like this (thanks to @ilovetypography). Like the clockwork inside the automaton, gears begin moving and writing starts again.


The ever-tightening Net

Posted by Angela on September 30, 2013
Technology / Comments Off on The ever-tightening Net

We’ve always been so aware of the strings all around us, but now it’s starting to seem like there really is a web, tying all of these platforms and services together, making the Internet feel like an increasingly closed-off space, instead of an ever expanding universe. It’s not necessarily that the deck was stacked, though in the case of our Internet privacy, it’s certainly starting to seem that way — it’s that we were playing the wrong game, by an entirely different set of rules, and someone else has been playing it better.

Marie Connelly for The Pastry Box Project

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Writing with Wikipedia

Posted by Angela on September 25, 2013
Academia, Rhetoric, Technology, Writing / Comments Off on Writing with Wikipedia

While writing instructors in the US have had success with using Wikipedia in the classroom to teach students how to write, edit, and research collaboratively in a real-world context, similar use in Australia is practically unheard of.

My colleague, Dr Frances Di Lauro, has been spearheading efforts to get discussion going on the pedagogical reasons for using Wikipedia in Australian universities. She organized the Wikipedia in Higher Education symposium hosted by the Writing Hub at the University of Sydney earlier this year, which brought together academics, Wikimedians, and educational designers to explore how Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia Foundation projects) can be used in teaching, and she is currently developing the first Australian Wikipedia Education Program.

TWT CoverTo practice what we teach, we have tested various Wikipedia activities in Writing Hub classes, including one that focuses on developing collaborative research skills. From these efforts came our co-authored chapter, “Writing with Wikipedia: Building ethos through collaborative academic research”, which was recently published in Preparing Teachers to Teach Writing Using Technology. Here is an abstract:

This chapter explores the use of digital media and technology in the writing classroom to engage and empower students, focusing primarily on the creation and implementation of an in-class activity designed to teach academic research and referencing skills through Wikipedia. Rather than banning students from using Wikipedia, we have developed an activity that demonstrates why sources need to be verified in terms of credibility. This teaching moment opens up a dialogue about how academic research should be conducted, as well as how the credibility of a source can either lend or detract from the credibility of a writer. Not only does this engage the students in a discussion that is relevant to their academic and personal lives, but it also gives them authority as they discover how their knowledge and their ability to find knowledge contributes to a wider audience. This chapter will show how Wikipedia can be used to increase engagement in the classroom by teaching collaborative writing in a global, networked community.

Our chapter—and the rest of the edited collection—is available for free download under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License through ETC Press.

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Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World

Posted by Angela on September 10, 2013
Academia, Design, Rhetoric, Writing / Comments Off on Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World

Multimodal Writing Instruction in a Global World” is a collaborative webtext my colleagues and I did for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. This special issue was edited by Karen Lunsford and focused on the theme of multimodal research within/across/without borders.


Our webtext explores the work we do at the University of Sydney Writing Hub:

The Hub represents a departure from the way writing is usually conceived of and taught in Australia, in that it emphasizes writing as a discipline with a classical rhetorical framework. … Through preliminary longitudinal data from our Sydney Study of Writing as well as student interviews and program feedback, we demonstrate how and why a rhetorical approach best supports the development of student writing in multimodal contexts.

To give a sense of the process involved from idea to production: I joined the collaboration in April 2012; the first submission went to peer review in July; revisions were done in October and submitted in November; the final submission was done in January; and the issue went live in May. It was a great experience to be a part of, particularly as I had the opportunity to take the lead on the design and digital components as well as the editorial process on our end.

It’s funny now to look back at early mockups, particularly of the navigational design. Early discussions led to a few mockups that had a more traditional tabbed navigation, but the ‘hub’ of nodes/modes was inspired by the name of the Hub itself, the origins of which are explained in the introduction of the webtext:

Since ‘centre’ in Australia carries a different connotation from that in North America, the name Hub was chosen to reflect Kenneth Burke’s (1973) idea of communication (arguably the highest form of human action) as spokes radiating from a wheel, thus implying multiple pathways and modalities that undergird, shape, and define the writing process.

This hub design went through a variety of iterations as well, and as it did, the writing shifted along with it, ultimately resulting in a webtext that reflects the Hub’s philosophy and rhetorical approach to supporting the development of student writing in multimodal contexts.

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New connections

Posted by Angela on July 30, 2013
Technology / Comments Off on New connections

As we move more fully onto networks, a lot of our major cultural arguments are stuck on bookshelves in dark rooms—but have a look at conversations that combine the bookish and networked worlds and it’s like stepping into a surprise deep end: the “future of the book” world zips so easily between screens and scrolls and between McLuhan and monasteries that it’s easy to get jaded about yet another dive into the Gutenbergian past intended to somehow illuminate our near future. But I think they’re onto something, and that their counterparts in every other facet of our online lives are worth seeking out and celebrating.

Erin Kissane for The Pastry Box Project

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The Last Bookshop

Posted by Angela on April 27, 2013
Reading, Technology / Comments Off on The Last Bookshop

The Last Bookshop imagines a future where holographic entertainment has replaced books. But “there have always been stories, and there always will be.”

A lovely short by The Bakery.

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Real beauty, sketched

Posted by Angela on April 17, 2013
Rhetoric / Comments Off on Real beauty, sketched

I love Dove’s latest addition to the Real Beauty campaign: Real Beauty Sketches. This time, Dove invited a forensic artist and a group of women to take part in a revealing social experiment.

Hearing these women talk about themselves and how they see themselves is all too familiar. But to then have the opportunity to see them see themselves through another person’s eyes is powerful and inspiring (I admit it, I cried). As one participant says in the video, “We spend a lot of time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right. We should spend more time appreciating the things we do like.”

Thank you to Dove for this lovely experiment to help women combat the beauty myth. For more, check out all the sketches and interviews and join the conversation at #wearebeautiful.

Update: Other reactions to Real Beauty Sketches
Dove Real Beauty Sketches – Men
Counterpoint from Jazz @ little drops

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The body, information, and technology

Posted by Angela on November 30, 2012
Academia, Technology, Writing / Comments Off on The body, information, and technology

Note: This blog was originally written as part of my MA coursework (Saturday, 19 May 2012 4:36:12 PM EST). It is the final of three that I am posting here in order to have the writing on my own space rather than a university archive.

Cyborgs are as much based upon information. They indicate a culture in which information has got under our skin.

— Murphie and Potts, 2003, p. 128

Amber Case begins her 2010 TED talk with the statement: “You are all actually cyborgs.” She goes on to explain that tools have always been an extension of the physical self and now digital tools are extending the cognitive self. This is not a new claim, but rather one that has been espoused in various ways by McLuhan, Haraway, Deleuze, and other theorists. But in thinking about how tools extend us while reading Murphie and Potts’ “Cyborgs: the Body, Information and Technology”, I thought not about social networking enabling communication and connection, as Case does, but instead about a piece of equipment called BodyBugg. While there are numerous positive examples of how technology makes us cyborgs, this is one that shows the negative affects on both the physical and cognitive aspects of our selves.

The BodyBugg is a digital calorie management tool that the user wears in order to monitor their daily activity and calories. The device is generally worn on the upper arm, and is strapped in place. The longer a person wears the device, the more customized it becomes, all in an effort to increase the accuracy of the data output. The armband device can also be synchronized with your mobile and computer.

I first learned about the BodyBugg from a friend who had purchased it in hopes of losing the last, stubborn 10 pounds that prevented her from reaching her goal weight. She is an active person and at the time was a vegan, and thus highly conscious of her activity and diet already. It wasn’t long after she strapped on the armband that she became obsessed with the data it spewed out. We would meet for coffee and she would make her purchase based on how many calories the device said were left in her daily amount. She would report on whether or not the day was more or less active than the day before, again according to the device. She wore it 24/7 except for when she showered, and she began to say things like how she was tired and it must be because she had had such active dreams. How did she know? The BodyBugg showed an increase in activity while she was sleeping.

The device became more than just a tool for her. It became a part of her, affecting her physically and mentally. She consulted the device to determine how good or bad she was feeling, to decide what she could or couldn’t eat, to find out if she needed to extend her usual workout that day. She grew obsessed with the data and didn’t seem to notice that the device was creating a permanent indent on her skin because she wore it so tightly. This was the effect of the information on her body. As Murphie and Potts write: “Information is no longer about something else that it refers to. It is the thing or process in itself. Information seems more and more to take the place of the ‘soul’, the ‘mind’, or anything else once considered to be at the core of our existence” (p. 120). Software had turned her activities into “mindless ‘rituals’ whose steps are ‘encoded in the logic of web pages'” (Carr, 2010, p. 218-219). She was going through the motions rather than acting on her own.

What had started as a way to lose a bit of weight became a way of life, and she eventually realized that it wasn’t a healthy way of living. It wasn’t enough for her to simply take off the BodyBugg. She had to disable it, delete all the records, and give it away in order to break the connection. She was a cyborg who had let the machine control her, shape her body, and program her mind. And while the effects that the device had on her while she was wearing it were apparent, the long-lasting effects are not. Even though the armband is now on someone else’s arm, her mind is still linked to the data and the actions that were necessary to produce it.

Carr, N. (2010). The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. New York & London: W.W. Norton & Company.

Case, A. (2010). “We are all cyborgs now”. TED. Retrieved from

Murphie, A., & Potts, J. (2003). Culture and technology. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

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