Beginning to fill the box

Box Logic Notes #2

Interface-Is the goal transparency or hypermedia?

Rokeby (1995) is clearly adopting a modernist aesthetic when he writes that “while engineers strive to maintain the illusion of transparency in the design and refinement of media technologies, artists explore the meaning of the interface itself, using various transformations of the media as their palette (133)” (quoted in Bolter and Grusin 42).

I found this portion of Bolter and Grusin’s text on remediation as it relates to interface very interesting. If I’m honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of abstract, modern, or post modern art. I’ve never really “gotten” it, but this idea of artists who “explore the meaning of the interface itself” actually makes sense to me. Who would have thought that a course on new media studies would help me develop an appreciate for art?

But I did find the idea that “engineers [of new media] strive to maintain the illusion of transparency” very interesting, and I have bought into the idea that this is truly the reason for remediation– that we change our media to make the interface less transparent.

Then, Bolter and Grusin introduced the concept of hypermedia, and I had to take a few steps back. If remediation is, in fact, a sort of evolution of media, then why don’t all changes to interface attempt to remove the appearance of the media? This is a thread that I will look to explore further later on.

“Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media” by David Rokeby

In reading this text by Rokeby, I am struck by the similarities between art and new media, between the ways interfaces act to be the connection between reader/viewer/human and text/artwork/new media. In a sense, they are all connected because they are all forms of communication meant to express understanding and meaning in the world. Rokeby argues that “the work is mirror, image, and window combined” (135). This idea that an interface is the meeting place of all players emphasizes the importance of the interface in any sort of communication, be it traditional media or new media. That the interface acts as a mirror is an interesting concept as well. Next week, I think I’m going to delve more into this text.

The cultural influence on interface

Media theorist Simon Penny (1995) points out that for interface designers: “transparent means that the computer interface fades into the experiential background and the analogy on which the software is based (typewriter, drawing table, paintbox, etc) is foregrounded. If the paintbox software is ‘intuitive,’ it is only intuitive because the paintbox is a culturally familiar object (55)” (quoted in Bolter and Grusin 32).

I’m reminded of a conversation I had this week with a friend of mine. She teaches English Language Learners at the elementary level. She had just begun her three weeks of testing with her students; she tests students from 1st to 4th grade. This year, she was testing them all on laptop computers. For many of the students, they had never touched a laptop before, but most of them had been exposed to smartphones and tablets at home. The keyboard was an enigma to many of these students. My friend told me many of them were touching the screen and complaining that “this is the weirdest iPad ever!”

Now this leads me to think about interface and remediation. Clearly, as humans, we feel the need to change our media (otherwise, our forms of communication wouldn’t have changed much over millennia). In many ways this is a form of evolution, like any other. As our cultural conditions change, so do our media, and often times it is the interface that changes. But this example of the tiny testers shows, like Simon Penny says in the above quote, that these changes are intuitive because [the interface/object] that came before was a “culturally familiar object.” Touching the laptop screen makes sense to those tiny children, not because this interface was superior or “natural,” but because this was their cultural expectation, having used a similar interface before.

The multiplicity of windows and the heterogeneity of their contents mean that the user is repeatedly brought back into contact with the interface, which she learns to read just as she would ready any hypertext” (Bolter and Grusin 33)

And this quote, I hope, will be my starting off point next week…

Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2003.

Delaunay, Robert. Le Premier Disque. Digital image. Wikimedia. 02 Mar. 2019 <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art#/media/File:Robert_Delaunay,_1913,_Premier_Disque,_134_cm,_52.7_inches,_Private_collection.jpg&gt;.

Goldengruen, Paul Salvator. Der-Malerfürst. Digital image. Wikimedia. 2008. 02 Mar. 2019 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Salvator_Goldengruen;_Der_Maler-F%C3%BCrst.jpg#globalusage&gt;.

Kramer, Margia. CIA Screen. Digital image. Wikimedia. 2017. 02 Mar. 2019 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIAScreen_IMG_0370-1.jpg&gt;.

Penny, Simon, ed. 1995. Critical Issues in Electronic Media. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Rokeby, David. 1995. “Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media.” In Simon Penny, ed., Critical Issues in Electronic Media, pp. 133-158. Albany: State University of New York Press.

An emotional journey with interactivity

Step 1- Frustration

“the supposed interactivity of the digital age is a myth because new media technologies are often no more interactive than their analogue counterparts” (Gane and Beer 90).


from SlideShare

I definitely went on a journey with this activity. I found myself feeling really frustrated trying to understand Wireframe from this tutorial. Ironically, I found myself wishing it was more “interactive.” I wanted audio, I wanted to click on something other than the left and right arrows. I wanted to see animation. For me, this was very cool media because I was having to fill in a lot of the gaps and conceptualize the ideas in my own mind.

Step 2-Excitement

“For Kiousis suggests, by contrast, that the experience of interactivity may not simply be the product of technical systems, but may also relate to the user’s sense of this interaction and to the desired effects he/she wishes to produce from his/her machines” (Gane and Beer 93).

Here, I started actually getting it! I think that once I began to “interact” with the wireframe on Gliffy, the ideas started to gel and the original concept that I was having trouble grasping (just by reading the tutorial) was starting to take shape for me. I’m not sure how I would categorize this media, however. I felt that it was very interactive, but I do have to think about Manovich’s concepts of the “predefined pathway” as the technology has set menu options to choose from.

It reminded me a lot of the software that I use to create yearbook spreads in my Photojournalism class at school. A bit of muscle memory started to come into play. This makes me think about how exposure to different technologies “trains” us in terms of our interactivity with new technologies.

Step 3-Digging Deeper

“Such media are interactive but only in a limited way, for rather than really engaging us for the most part they prompt us to select from menus or follow predefined pathways” (Gane and Beer 93).

After my fun with Gliffy, I started to think about the interactivity I experience on Facebook. Looking at this section of my Facebook page and my wireframe had me thinking about the quote from Gane and Beer above. I think this is a great example of the “illusion” of interactivity. I certainly have the choice to click on these profiles and joins these groups, but they are also profiles and groups that Facebook have “offered” me. The technology is making more choices for me than I had really thought about before.

From here…

I think I’m going to think about the relationship between interactivity and interface. Since I chose interface as my focus for my Box Logic Project, I’d like to think about how these two concepts are similar, how they interact with one another, and where they differ. At first, I was sort of seeing them as the same thing, but I think the nuanced differences are starting to play out a little for me. An interface, I think, can have an effect on the levels of interactivity between a user and a technology. And creators of interfaces will need to think about the level of interactivity they want in a technology. Just thoughts…

Works Cited

Casali, Davide. “Different Ways to Tell a Story.” LinkedIn SlideShare. 05 Mar. 2013. 23 Feb. 2019 <https://www.slideshare.net/folletto/introduction-to-building-wireframes/13-DIFFERENT_WAYS_TO_TELL_A&gt;.

Facebook. 2019. 23 Feb. 2019 <https://www.facebook.com/&gt;.

Gane, Nicholas, and David Beer. “Interactivity.” New media: The key concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008. 87-102.

Gliffy, Inc. Gliffy. 23 Feb. 2019 <https://go.gliffy.com/go/html5/launch&gt;.

Opening the Box…

Box Logic Notes #1

Where I started this week… with a surprise.

“Indeed, the term interface can be used to conceptualize engagements with all communications media–whether ‘old’ or ‘new.'” (Gane and Beer 55).


“Old” or “New”? Which is better?

“Shelved” by Roz Chast

This image “Shelved” got me started this week thinking about how we interface with information. I came across this cartoon in an AP style synthesis prompt that I was giving my students for practice. I was surprised by my students’ initial reactions.

This image and the prompt below came from a teacher workbook by Renee Shea that supplements my copy of 50 Essays, A Portable Anthology (Samuel Cohen)

Not what I expected…

With this prompt, my students and I began a conversation about which media or interface is “better” or “best”… the “old” or the “new”? Certainly expecting my students to get their hackles up with the question posed in this prompt, I was surprised to learn that many of them agreed with Bauerlein’s claim. I had assumed that my teenaged students would defend the virtues of new media, but I found that many of them had a “nostalgia” for the printed text. Whether this was from their own experiences or learned from parents and/or teachers, I’m not sure.

Digging a little deeper…

This discussion with my students had me “interfacing” online to find more information about our push-and-pull with new media interfaces. In doing so, I ran across an interesting article in The New Yorker that discusses the death of the printed newspaper.

from The New Yorker, artist Erick Carter

Does Journalism Have a Future?  

While Jill Lepore admits, “nostalgia for dead papers is itself pitiful at this point,” she still laments the decline of the printed paper.” As the older generation, we bemoan the loss of older “interfaces” suggesting that somehow print text is inherently superior. I know I’m guilty of this nostalgia, myself. Ironically, though, I have not turned once to a printed newspaper or magazine in my research for this project. I have, however, interfaced with information in multiple new ways via my laptop, phone, online discussion technologies and the like. All of this has made me question the “value” of particular interfaces. Is any one inherently superior to another… or is it more about adapting to the time, audience, and context of the exchange? It is the latter, I think.

And even more surprises…

“…the interface and also how things interface… that enables us to reflect on our constant switched-on-ness” (Gane and Beer 68).



What was even more surprising than my students agreeing with Bauerlein that new media and new media interfaces had somehow made the younger generations “dumber” was a discussion I had with an adult friend of mine about interfacing with new technology. She is an avid book clubber who has just started using a Kindle. When I asked her this morning on our daily run how she liked interfacing with the Kindle over a paper book, she couldn’t stop singing the praises of new media. All the elements of interfacing with a paper book that she thought she would miss (the feel of the paper, knowing how many pages she had left) were non-issues for her. The convenience and immediacy of interfacing with the Kindle far outweighed any downsides. It just goes to show that it’s not necessary just the newer generation that adapts to new media interfaces.

Where I’m heading next week…

“…the interface becomes increasingly ambient and unseen…” (Gane and Beer 64)

Works Cited

Bauerlein, Mark – Young Americans Are the Dumbest Generation. Dir. ReasonTV. Perf. Mark Bauerlein. YouTube. 23 July 2008. 17 Feb. 2019 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzNkW2eyR-I&gt;.

Carter, Erick. “Untitled.” Cartoon. The New Yorker Online. 28 Jan. 2019. The New Yorker. 16 Feb. 2019 <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/28/does-journalism-have-a-future&gt;.

Chast, Roz. “Shelved.” Cartoon. The New Yorker. October 18, 2010. New York: The New Yorker, 2010.

Gane, Nicholas, and David Beer. “Interface.” New media: The key concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008. 53-69.

Lepore, Jill. “Does Journalism Have a Future?” The New Yorker. 25 Jan. 2019. The New Yorker. 16 Feb. 2019 <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/28/does-journalism-have-a-future&gt;.

Ortiz, Mariordo. Kindle Fire and Ipad. Wikimedia Commons. 13 May 2012. 17 Feb. 2019 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikipedia_ Kindle_Fire_%26_iPad_1440.JPG>.

Shea, Renee. Teacher’s Manual 50 Essays a Portable Anthology. 5th ed. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2004.

The Medium is the Message… Where to start?

I know… let’s code?

What?!

First…

This chapter 3rd chapter from Nicholas Gane and David Beer’s New Media, titled “Information” certainly had me for a loop as I started my reading this week. Trying to unpack the connection between Claude Shannon’s five main components of information systems: “the information source, the transmitter, the channel, the receiver and the destination” (Gane and Beer 37) had me seriously questioning what I had gotten myself into.

And then..

To take the study even further into Donna Haraway’s “Cyborg Manifesto” where she claims this sort of interaction has created “cyborgs: organisms that are not purely human, animal, or machine, and which cross and confuse more boundaries than they uphold?” (Gane and Beer 42).

Where was I to go from here?

And finally…

Perhaps straight to Marshall McLuhan who “prioritiz[es] analysis of the technology of message transmission over interpretation of its content, hence his famous declaration that the ‘medium is the message'” (Gane and Beer 39).

At this point in my study of information through the lens of new media, I was becoming a little disenfranchised. How was I supposed to digest these complex, dare I say, ludicrous, theories?

I’m starting to get it, maybe…

It wasn’t until I started reading McLuhan’s chapter “Media: Hot and Cold” from his Understanding Media the Extensions of Man that things started to click for me.

Woman pointing to her temple with her eyebrows raised.
Ah Ha!

“High media are, therefore, low in participation and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience” -McLuhan (Media Hot and Cold 39).

Hands on really helped

It’s slowly starting to gel for me, but not completely. My first attempt at coding later that week helped to solidify some of these really complex concepts. Truly, our choice of medium has an effect on our understanding of information and in some ways that medium can change the information itself, purely through the ways the medium interacts (or fails to interact) with the receiver.

The experience of creating the “webpage” (on the middle and right) through the use of “code” (on the left) was truly an experience of cool media requiring high engagement on my part.

What I found particularly interesting, however, was how much I enjoyed the experience.

What I take away…

And honestly, that seems to be my takeaway here: the cooler the media, the more I interact and the more information I’m going to take away from that interaction. This, in and of itself, is really important because it emphasizes the importance of our media choices.

While, on the surface, thinking about whether information is delivered through book, social media interface, website, etc, might be a secondary concern, I’m beginning to realize that the choice of media is just as important as the content I’m trying to convey.

And what makes the choice difficult is determining the right “temperature” of the medium. Too hot, too little engagement. Too cold, and you lose your audience who won’t commit to the effort needed to engage.

Final thoughts…

So… while I wouldn’t say, I’m an expert at this new media thing… having a little hands-on practice and thinking critically about some of my experiences as an online graduate student, I can say… “I’m getting there.”

Plus, I did some coding! Go English teacher!

I can’t believe it!

Look what I did…

certificate of achievement
Images created using Code Academy

Works Cited

Codecademy. 2019. 09 Feb. 2019 <https://www.codecademy.com/learn&gt;.

The Medium is the Message by Marshall McLuhan | Animated Book Review. Dir. Eudaimonia. YouTube. 07 Dec. 2016. 09 Feb. 2019 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCr2binb4Fs&gt;.

Gane, Nicholas, and David F. Beer. “Information.” New media: The key concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008. 35-52.

McLuhan, Marshall. “Media Hot and Cold.” Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Ed. W. Torrence Gordon. Critical Edition ed. Berkeley, CA: Ginko P. 38-50.

Networking 101

AM’s technology usage on Friday, 2/1

created with Mindmeister.com

My Map

The above map represents my use of technology on an average Friday. I chose to create my map with an emphasis on purpose.  Each thread, as is indicated by the text (lessons/teaching, bookkeeping, planning, communication, etc.) represents the task I was doing or the purpose for my use of technology.  I then used the image of the clock to represent the amount of time I spent on each task during the given day.  The larger the clock, the more amount of time spent.

Clearly, the largest portion of my time with technology was on direct instruction or teaching.  Within each thread, there are several images that I used to represent the tool, the location, and whether or not the interaction also included face-to-face networking at the same time. 

Icons on map

  • used laptop: Apple icon
  • used phone: cellphone icon
  • at school: stack of books
  • in the car: red car
  • at home: house
  • included face-to-face: smiley face

“[We] cannot understand the relations of two people-or a small group-online without considering the broader social networks in which they are connected, offline as well as online”-Wellman and Haythornwaite (qtd in Gane and Beer 25).

Surprises

I was mostly surprised at how little time I used my phone and how “disconnected” I was at home.  Although I am not a huge phone person (I was one of the last holdouts to get a smartphone), the screen time via my phone was even less than I would have thought.  This, however, was likely due to the fact that I was tracking my technology usage on a Friday.  I usually “unplug” much earlier on a Friday night than on other weeknights.

“Castell’s argument is that new media, while not causing the rise of networked individualism, has provided the technical infrastructure for it to develop, be sustained and perhaps even intensified over time” (Gane and Beer 23).

What does it say? 

I think this map says that I spend a great deal of energy and networking on my work.  Just from the visual of the clocks, it’s apparent that a large majority of my screen time is spent on work activities.  Only the tiny little portion in the upper right-hand corner involves home and friends.

“Communities… were based on the sharing of values and social organization.  Networks are built by the choices and strategies of social actors” –Manuel Castells (qtd in Gane and Beer 23).

Other ways of looking at it?

When I first began mapping out my networking, I used pen and paper and focused less on type of activity and more on the device that I used to connect.  I noticed that 90% of my interactions with information and other people came through my laptop rather than my phone.  (I did not initially recreate this on Mindmeister because I was having trouble figuring out how to make one thread look larger than another.) 

When I was initially focusing on device, it was important to me that the laptop on the map looked significantly larger than the phone appeared, since so much of my time was spent interacting with this device.  It wasn’t until I was almost finished with piecing it together, with a focus on task rather than device, that I discovered the ability to make the clock images larger.   Either way, however, whether the map focused on task or device, it is clear that the majority of my networking time is done at work and for work-related activities.  Very little networking was personal.

“When a computer network connects people or organizations, it is a social network” –Garton (qtd in Gane and Beer 27).

Works Cited

Gane, Nicholas, and David F. Beer. “Network.” New media: The key concepts. Oxford: Berg, 2008. 15-33.

MeisterLabs. “Online Mind Mapping and Brainstorming.” MindMeister. 2019. 03 Feb. 2019 <https://www.mindmeister.com/&gt;.

Box Logic and Cornell Boxes in a High School Composition Course

Photo and box provided by Wendy Sittner

Inspiration

Influenced by my recent study of Geoffrey Sirc’s chapter “Box-Logic” from Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition, I was inspired to think about how I could use some of his ideas in my high school composition courses to help my students think about how they think about writing. 

Here are my initial thoughts…

“We still have not learned from the work done by our field’s historical avant-garde about the failure to see our composition classes in the larger world, particularly in terms of the student-imaginary” (Sirc 127).

  • After reading Dana Goldstein’s article, “Why Kids Can’t Write,” I was pressed to begin thinking about my own students, and what I can do to help them get over the hump that holds them back from exploring writing.  I fear that I, personally, put my students in a “box” with too much attention paid to formulaic writing.  In an effort to help our students pass standardized tests, we often ignore the importance of exploration that has little or no regimented parameters.   In response to this, I plan to challenge myself to begin my composition courses with a Cornell box assignment that will allow my students to examine their experiences with writing

“text as box=author as collector” (Sirc 117).

  • I often think that beginning with the simple and then moving on to the more complex is a good way to ease students into something new.  Inspired by this simple activity from Asha McLoughlin’s “Fun for Kids: Make a Box Like Cornell,” I decided to start with the basics.  I will challenge my students to “think outside of the box” (pun intended) and collect items that will help them express their own personal experiences and views on the writing process.  Is the writing process mostly pleasant or mostly unpleasant for you?  Do you have an understanding of how your own writing process works?  What does that look like?

“Text, then, as a collection of retrojective, idiosyncratic dream-moments, now electronically gathered, framed and exhibited” (Sirc 116).

  • Ultimately, I would like my students to be able to grow their physical Cornell boxes into new media “Cornell boxes.”  Throughout the course of the year, I will ask my students to continue to add to their physical boxes as their ideas about the writing process change and develop.  Somewhere around mid-year, I would like to see my students begin to transition this idea to a new media platform.  I will use Susan Delegrange’s Wunderkammer (obviously as an exemplar) as inspiration for what an online “box” might look like.

“True connection with one’s composition is when the work has a strong life in the writer, when it’s part of an on-going project, which means it continues growing, appearing in variant versions” (Sirc 120).

  • By the end of the year, I hope that my students have produced an online version of the Cornell box that they started in August.  It will have changed and grown, a fluid “document” as it is a reflection of their thoughts on writing.

Works Cited

Delagrange, Susan. “Wunderkammer, Cornell, and the Visual Canon of Arrangement.” Why teach digital writing? a rhetorical view of writing. 15 Jan. 2009. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. 26 Jan. 2019 <http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/13.2/topoi/delagrange/index.html&gt;.

Goldstein, Dana. “Why Kids Can’t Write.” The New York Times. 02 Aug. 2017. The New York Times. 26 Jan. 2019 <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/education/edlife/writing-education-grammar-students-children.html&gt;.

McLoughlin, Asha. “Fun for kids: Make a box like Cornell | Blog.” Royal Academy of Arts. 01 Sept. 2015. 26 Jan. 2019 <https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/how-to-make-a-box-like-cornell&gt;.

Sirc, Geoffrey. “Box-Logic.” Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. By Anne Wysocki, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Cynthia L. Selfe, and Geoffrey Sirc. Logan: Utah State UP, 2007. 111-46.

Sittner, Wendy. Cornell Box. 25 Jan. 2019.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that…

More than any other time in my life, I feel like I’ve got a lot going on. It’s hard for me to fully define myself by just one aspect of my very busy day-to-day. I see myself through a lot of different lenses…

Teacher

Needless to say, I love my students. They keep me inspired to work harder every day and make me want to be a life-long learner myself. I’ve had the privilege of learning with these students, or ones very much like them, for going on 14 years now…. It makes me feel old, but it keeps me young.

2nd block AP English Lang students posting tweets for our October “Optimism Challenge”

Collaborator

I also truly and honestly believe that the best teachers are the ones that listen to those that are wiser than they. I teach collaboratively in 3 of my courses this year and have become a better teacher because of it. It takes two to tango– and to provide a rich environment for kids.

Planning time with Ms. Stegner

Teacher Leader

My collaborative experiences have made me want to share my knowledge with others. As the English Department Team Lead, I want to make sure that none of my fellow English Colleagues “get left behind,” so I cherish the work I get to do with them every Monday through Friday. Together we are providing meaningful reading and writing experiences for our students.

a little gift from a publisher for attending a training session

Puppy Parent

What can I say… this little booger helps me decompress after a busy, busy day. While I don’t have any two-legged babies, I do have this one fur baby, and she is the apple of my husband’s and my eye. She is REALLY spoiled, but she deserves it for all of the love and snuggles we get in return.

Greta never gets any attention.

Runner Friend

And when all else fails, this is what reins be back in when too much of “this” or too much of “that” gets too overwhelming. Running is my get-it-all-out, have-time-with-friends therapy. I’m not speedy, but I am persistent. I’ve tackled 4 full marathons and over a dozen half marathons. Some people think that it makes me a little crazy, but I really think it is keeping me sane.

Some of the ladies after a holiday lights run

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