Monday, November 30, 2009


I'll concede that Ning is obviously an important tool. The concept of the SNS is rather interesting, let alone engineering one to one's own design. It allows the sitecreator to put a spin on the social climate within the site. For example, there is an obvious difference between the kinds of individuals and their behaviors on my group's Ning as opposed to a Lady Gaga Fan Club Ning. Yet, the creation of either space involved a single human intention to consort with like minds for some particular purpose.

Even so, I still wonder about the efficacy of SNSes in the "meat space." It's way too easy to type, click and drag one's way into several different groups. Personal conviction is necessary, otherwise the effort to orchestrate social change falls through even with the technology available.

SNSes have this transient effect on people. They'll feel strongly, one way or another, about any group or cause their asked to join or decide to join. However, once this moment of announcing some affiliation is over, users typically are complacent; it becomes an act of hollow association. Still, I don't think this temporary inspiration can be denied. Even the most fleeting spirits of advocacy do not pass without some mention from the user. I think people glean causes and groups as part of impression management, adding various plumes to their rears to vaunt about online.

Participation in the case isn't held as valuable as association with the cause. Some of the smartest individuals can still fall pray to this. It isn't troubling. It's almost the model. In combining the vices of my generation: political apathy, indifference to personal values, and an enduring pursuit of instant gratification, a simulated political move becomes appealing. A no-effort, simultaneous, double-click and "virtually" my peers can claim their ideological superiority or their "concern" for the downtrodden and disadvantaged.

I think things will change in time. My generation will become more politically active. But very, very slowly.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Belated Bit on Boyd and Bennett

(or A Digital Native on Digital Discourse)

My generation doesn't have a political voice, it has a political tweet.

Can a political tweet be taken seriously?

Could the ideology presented in the Constitution, or any country's founding document, be expressed in under 150 characters?

After reading the articles by both Bennett and Boyd, I find myself nestled somewhere in between. I believe very firmly that any ideological conviction, any conviction, should be held out of personal fulfillment and not a "sense of duty." And I will agree if there is one thing my generation is interested by en masse: it is opportunities personal fulfillment.

There is a strange dimension of the internet that allows people to truly express themselves. I've received e-mails which are more telling of a persons character than the lump sum of our casual confabulations. But this is fleeting. The internet is abuzz with countless, meaningless memes which require no thought to delight the viewer. Like Boyd argues, while technology offers untapped potential, it is being spent idly.

Yet, this is true offline. Conversation offline with my peers on these topics is sadly affected by entropy. All too soon is the intellectual rapport disrupted by thoughtful silence which is very often preyed upon by a lurking dirty joke or TV program. However, it might be that I'm such a stunning conversationalist that its difficult to keep up with me.

Granted, Bennett is right in saying my generation's political "voice" is growing online. There are multitudes of political groups on Facebook, forums specialized to certain beliefs (with matching smilies).

At the same time, individuals might never be active in any cause they join. My peers may never think twice about the groups they apply to. People might advocate for things in their statuses but lack the courage to boldly push things forward in real life. What is more, my peers might wear causes and groups like badges on their profile, a fashionable charm bracelet featuring PETA, Obama, Support Our Troops and Stop the Hate. I think SNS use is predisposed to vanity. Like Boyd, I think all this technology can get in the way of actual civic engagement. After all, it's a lot easier to post something boldly onto the news-feed, than defend it over dinner with the same intensity.

Still, I'll agree with Bennett that all this technology is a powerful tool for civic engagement. The issue simply isn't the technology available, but the character of my generation.

I think it goes back to shyness and electronic environments. My generation is very shy about its convictions. It doesn't want to believe in anything too strongly or for longer than a twitter-post. Intellectual commitment-issues and abridged attention spans.

I think things can change, but not without great reluctance.

What did Vonnegut say about terror?

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Discussion Topics

1. Do you remember what it was like to read your first book?

2. Has your literacy improved or depreciated since school? Why?

3. What problems within Rhode Island are thwarting the development of literate high school graduates?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

3 Blog Topics

  • Parents place in literacy
  • Creative writing and literacy
  • Encouraging a love of reading

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Bri's presentation about Facebook, as well as the reading from last week, had me thinking about impression management as I traipsed back to my room. Although I would be completely comfortable with the class exploring my Facebook profile, I still decided to adapt some things. There were several pictures I had taken of myself making purposefully weird faces, but these, I was convinced, had no place online. There are still several pictures I cannot explain briefly, but have kept up or kept my profile tagged to. In one snapshot, my face is painted and I'm puckering red lips at the camera. In the next, I'm attending a Baptist Palm Sunday sermon with a lunch lady.

To confess: since college, I've taken Facebook seriously. I am not so much the dandified liar I was. Changes in my circle of friends necesitated that I treat Facebook more like a tool and less like an ornament.

When I was younger, and thought I could write the great American novel in a single evening, I produced a separate myspace for my literary persona. I began to correspond with two individuals who I didn't know, and we became pen pals. When they wanted to friend me over Facebook, my perspective shifted. My friends knew who I was, and could see through my attitude online, but these two could only get to know me through my profile. I felt it due to invest a little bit more of myself and apply some discretion with the contents of my Facebook.

Facebook and other online spaces doe not require honesty to real life, as anyone who has faked their age to sign up might know. Yet, if we are not faithful to real life's details, what are we loyal to? Are there other options? One that leaps to mind is fantasy. Facebook can catch the refracted beams of a life we'd like to lead and broadcast that to others. Yet, is this limp mendacity the only alternative? Are there other causes for managing our profiles contrary to the facts of our lives?

One of my pen pals is named Kirsten. We've never met in person, and I doubt we will unless I make extensive travel plans. I only know her from her MySpace and Facebook profiles and our conversations we have using messaging features on either website. We have conversations about sex, sexuality, gender, love and identity. Consequentially, these are deeper correspondences than I keep with most of my friends.

What is interesting about her impression management is that online she is a woman, offline she reluctantly lives as a man. Online profiles allow her to interact with others and exhibit herself in this female persona she has trouble presenting to others in the street.

One might liken it to a shy student in an online class who is more gregarious in an electronic environment. However, a student in such a situation still goes by the same name, the same ID number online as offline. Also, between an online class and Facebook there are many differences, Facebook calls for different interactions and demands different information from its users. Kirsten practices a deft power of... omission? ...reinvention?

There are no pictures of her in men's clothes. There are no pictures of her outside of her house. She has pruned these visuals which don't apply to her true self. I've been writing to Kirsten for at least two years, and I don't know her male name. For both she and myself, "Kirsten" suits her better than her given birth name.

"Kirsten" is her "real" name.

How's that for impression management?!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Response to

"Facebook Science"

I had no idea that there was such a depth of scholarship involving websites like Myspace or Livejournal. Nevertheless, I suppose a wealth of observations about human behavior could be made studying them. And apparently, a wealth of observations have been made. The article raises several interesting ideas, some which mirror my own casual cognizance—and others which I had hardly conceived. There's also quite a bit of history to social networking sites which I hadn't expected.

I was one of the teenagers mentioned in the article whom found their way onto Myspace. By the time I signed on, all my friends already had established profiles. It was only the beginning of high school, yet half of my hometown was already using Myspace. Had this Myspace craze happened overnight or some nonchalant day in middle school? Myspace would interestingly be covered in the town newspaper, the Bristol Phoenix, I think it might have even made the front page.

There was a great amount of time spent on "impression management." I too worked myself silly on accurately expressing my person through Myspace. The freedom it allowed caused many of my friends to do the same. Celebrated vacation photos lined the background of many a page. I myself favored victorian wallpaper. I would tamper with the hues of my backdrops to match the tonal quality of the music I selected for my Myspace space. I tooled around with my picture as well, giving myself blue hair and a wanned complexion at one point. I felt it suited Enya's "Carribean Blue" which I frequently had whirling in the background. The over all effect was melancholy and tacky at once—an uncanny fit for my teenaged self.

My parents didn't like my flamboyant myspace displays. I was asked how I was presenting myself on the internet one day, when the Bristol Phoenix covered the Myspace phenomenon. Bringing up the page, my dad grimaced. I felt a little insulted. Especially because I had seen worse craft on my friend's pages, and my myspace excluded any embarrassingly sexual content.

Who should influence content on these personal pages? Who should a user expect as their audience?

These questions resonate with the legal issues the article raises. I know several people who've stamped big old hemp leaves in their backgrounds and feature blunts often in their photos. Are they protected against any police official who happens to be exploring Myspace for something else?

Do our legal documents give such protection in cyberspace?

Can any country's legal document be effective within the internet? The internet is after all, an international zone.

The article also conveys the trend that most people are more interested in connecting with people they already know rather than strangers. It had bothered me that so many were content to reaffirm their own little cliques online as opposed to actually networking and getting to know people they weren't friends with. I got to know a couple people who were in my graduating class a lot better from simply branching out.

I have noticed that people want to connect with certain groups. They want to network with all their old high school friends, and the individuals they encounter in their classes. Sites like facebook allow for these beneficial interlinkings to be managed. It is alarmingly easy to pass information among different individuals. This is perhaps why rumors can spread so quickly through facebook, all the same people become involved with one-another's secrets.

Five Interests

  • Advocacy of Creative Writing programs
  • Children's literacy
  • Gay Rights
  • Resistance against animal rights coercion
  • Awareness and resistance against abusive relationships

Monday, November 9, 2009

Late Blong Entry No. 3 "Post-Project-Process-Post"

I really don't know if I did a good enough job remodeling the landing page through Google sites. I know for a fact that it is certainly better than what was originally designed by the Student Entertainment Committee. Initially it was unclean and tough to read.

I think I could've tidied up a bit farther. There might have been ways to make the text more aesthetically pleasing. The alignment, although constant, seemed a little at odds with the alignment of the navigation bar. Try as I might however, I couldn't seem to change that.

I wonder if a change of font could've made things visually improved. Or, if a different color for the text would've suited the Meeting Times page better.

I will, however, acknowledge the things I did do well.

I alphabetized the various subcommittees. Before they seemed to be stacked on top of one another without any real association. I also tried to account for the accurate meeting times. On the original SEC page, there were at least two sets of different meeting times for each committee. Knowing a couple of people on the SEC, I was able to check a few of the meeting times, but not all of them.

I wonder if the bulleted system I chose to display the information in did any justice to the information itself. Would it have been better to format it some other way?

While I do not get a chance to revise this project, I will be thinking about these things when I redo some old enthusiast blog entries and write some new ones.

Late Blog Entry No. 2 "E-Volution"

What's in a name? Plenty.

The group of students my group members and I peer reviewed redesigned a website devoted to creationism under the guise of "E-Volution Design". I thought this wasy deliciously clever, but perhaps in ways which didn't dawn on them. I am sure that the name was a sardonic jab at the web-owners. A creationist website done so poorly it needed an "e-volution" of its own. This is in and of itself amusing: the creationist web page is perhaps a leading counterexample against "intelligent design"...

Yet, I find this semantic situation goes even deeper.

"E-volution" like "e-mail"...

E-volution is, seemingly, the state of a dynamic internet. Without a doubt, the web is changing, the way sites are managed is changing. Things are with some speed becoming more sophisticated. It is as if the various species of website are evolving. However, evolving into what? and for what purpose?

Organisms grow to adapt to their situation. They produce features through subtle mutations to see what works and what does not work to aid in their survival. Webpages also adapt, but the environment that they respond to happens to be more volatile than the most inclement regions on Earth: human interest.

Human interest is what drives investments of time and money into webdesign. Inevitably as new ways of presenting material through various media emerge, it is human interest to keep up—or be left behind. Sites that do not update their features are obviously less favored by web-users in comparison to those webpages which do update.

Websites which are maintained find ways to stay on top of web developments and become easier to use as well as deeper and broader in their functions. It is arguable, I suppose, that advancements also allow websites to deftly specialize for a given purpose.

Expectations change as both usage and utility change. One way or the next, each new change redefines the whole, each new step becomes the popular dance. People anticipate certain things from a website that they wouldn't have a decade ago.

Websites are stretching human ingenuity. A muscle, which I think, grows from its tears—provided it gets some rest!

Late Entry No. 1 "The Google Empire"

Google sites is yet another extension of the services the web server Google offers. It boasts an extensive translator (Bulgarian, Polish, Serbia, Farsi are among the languages convertible to and from English), Google Docs is at this point unrivaled in utility, and Google has recently grown the stones to design a web-browser.

For some, Google seems like a monstrous octopus waiting to consume the web. However, this is far from the case. If Google is expanding so rapidly, it is a sign it is so thoroughly threatened. Competition in the market place both of dollars and ideas is the cause for Google's growth. If it didn't grow, it would turn into cyber-dust.

"Don't be evil" is the "informal" slogan of Google. And I think this is greatly overlooked by the sadist soothsayers predicting a grim-googled future. A future where Google is the sole web tool for everything, and Google itself has power over what users see and what users don't see...

I do not think this is an accurate prediction of the future.

Through Google I've done many things. I've learned how to say "I love you" several different languages. I've learned about the likes of Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker with Google's help. I would never have known their names otherwise.

Looking at Google's web-building tool, I doubt that Google has what it takes to dominate the world of information. Namely, it doesn't have the desire to. Google is not this entity which pervades all facets of the internet, it is a tool and a group people. It is both the people who invent the tools and the people who use the tools. With this in mind, those colorful letters inviting all worldly and otherworldly inquiries is less a smug simper and more a friendly smile.

What becomes of google remains to be seen. There are already creatures like Wolfram on the prowl which might make Google look like a search steam-engine.

Yet the goal is not to dominate knowledge. It is to disseminate, create and share knowledge all the faster.

The goal then is not to fear the future, but to embrace it. We will be all the better for it.