Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Pencil

Cross-posted from the Center for Science and the Imagination Blog

This past fall I took part in a fascinating event on the future of education here at Arizona State University. It was organized by theGordon Commission and the Center for Games and Impact, and the instructions I got from Jim Gee were simple. Five minutes to give an experimental talk, with a maximum of two slides.

I decided to talk about a creative tool that has done more to unlock the human imagination than almost anything else: the humble pencil. You can inscribe the world with it, from writing poems and tracing inscriptions to poking holes, making music and holding your hair together. Plus most pencils come with an undo feature, so it’s a tool that teaches both sides of the creative coin: authoring and editing, marking and erasing, sharing and hiding. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the pencil. And I close with a question: how can we imagine the future pencil, the new tool that will change how we learn and share?



Media Literacies and Composition

Last week saw the start of a new semester at ASU and the start of a new course I’m teaching, Media Literacies and Composition. It’s my first chance to teach our Digital Culture students and I’m excited to meet such a diverse group: musicians, film-makers, designers and artists. Oh, and a few writers to keep me company.

We’ll be looking at the ideas of close reading, composition and narrative in across a number of media old and new. And, since this is a digital culture course, the students will be making a lot of cool stuff as we go along. I’m looking forward to seeing it!

Hello again!

After a few years of slumming it with free hosting I’ve ponied up for an actual (shared) server. Welcome to the new and improved* blog.

*Novelty and improvements forthcoming. Potentially.

On Dissertations

I just typed “Why do we write dissertations” into Google and the first result was for a website that offers to write it for you for $12 a page. Having just sent a solid 60 or 70 pages off to my committee, I’m wondering if I should have been auctioning them on eBay instead.

Seriously, though, it’s worth asking what function the traditional dissertation serves anymore, particularly since its logical terminus is as a scholarly book in an increasingly challenged academic publishing landscape. The topic is on my mind because I am getting close to finishing my own dissertation, I hope, and because I recently received word of a lecture Sidonie Smith will be giving at Stanford on the subject.

My graduate program involved three years of coursework. Everything since then has been dissertation-land, a lonely place where I’ve spent a further three years working on my own little corner of the digital humanities domain. At the end I’ll have a couple of hundred pages of research and a pretty good knowledge base about contemporary literary reception and a handful of contemporary writers. And, in fact, I do plan to turn this project into a book–but I’m expecting it to be a very different book from the author-chapter model that I’ve been working on so far.

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