As I mentioned last week, STA and I have started a weekly podcast. This week was episode 5 or One Long Parenthetical Aside. Of course, we didn’t get to everything that I wanted to discuss, so here are some of my notes:
TOPIC ONE: CITING SOURCES ON WEB/IN BLOG WRITING
I see this as an issue of:
ethics (“best practices”) + logistics + politics + writing style
I recently wrote a blog post, “The Trouble with Footnotes” or “My Trouble with Footnotes” in which I discussed how I used to really like footnotes but now embrace hyperlinks and parenthetical asides. It got me thinking about the purpose (or lack of purpose) of footnotes in blog posts.
some questions: Academic writing requires citing sources, oftentimes in footnotes that may also include asides + tracing of sources. Should these be eliminated when writing online? Are links enough for citing sources? Sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of links and to be able to refer back to them later on. Should blog posts be all about the immediate experience? How can we use it to archive ideas and sources?
Here’s how Paula Petrik, a history and new media prof at George Mason University, describes the purpose of footnotes:
The superscripted footnote/endnote reference mark and its accompanying footnote/endnote text and reference mark are the hallmark of scholarship in the humanities. It is the “breadcrumb trail” that allows scholars to gauge the quality of the evidence underpinning research and to follow the evidentiary path.
In Scholarship on the Web: Managing and Presenting footnotes and endnotes, Pretnik provides different CSS (cascading style sheets) for creating footnotes/endnotes in a post. I’m still uncertain about footnotes in blog posts; they seem counter to the spirit of blog posting. What I am convinced of, however, is that we need to have many more difficult, troubling, messy conversations about what “serious” scholarship online should look like. Maybe this conversation is a good place to start?
On our first podcast, STA and I talked a little bit about how to determine if something is a reliable source. Now, I’m wondering, how do we ensure that we are citing properly? That we are engaging with and sharing other cites/sources/authors/ideas responsibly? I think that this is a question of ethics. In the podcast I briefly mentioned how this ethical question gets complicated/contextualized by the politics of who systematically fails to cite (I focused on white feminist bloggers) and whose work they appropriate/exploit (namely, women of color bloggers). Ethical “best practices” must involve considerations of power and privilege.
Politics: Does using footnotes (and citing lots of sources) make your work inaccessible and too formal? In the podcast I mentioned a story that I read in this article about bell hooks and the politics of her footnote-free writing:
She once declared that she knew that many of her readers outside academia could not always afford to buy books. Thus, she found a rhythm in her writing and thinking that formed itself into short, essayistic chapters without footnotes and seldom more than 10–15 pages. She concluded this to be a format ideal for free-of-charge, stand-up reading—behind the shelves in a bookshop: long enough to allow thought lines to be evolved, but short enough for the reader to be captured in a stolen moment. In this way, the ideas would still surface and linger on in the mind of the reader—as potential tools of resistance and vehicles of “alternative epistemologies” (hooks, Remembered Rapture: 16).
Logistics: What’s the best way to provide/share information that makes it easier for others to follow your trail and to learn about new sources that they can return to? I’m always experimenting with how to cite and curate/annotate sources on my blog. I think I like the idea of having a link list at the bottom of the post. Or, what about a weekly list of links done (sort of like show notes for a podcast) posted on the blog? Hmm…maybe I should do some research to see how other bloggers/researchers handle this problem.
Style: Footnotes (and links or parenthetical asides) can disrupt the easy reading of prose. In what ways does this effect one’s style? What are some stylistic ways to deal with this issue? I am always wondering about how blog writing changes the way that we think, engage, process and articulate ideas. What are the advantages of this new writing style? What are the disadvantages? I’m sure tons of writers have discussed this question. I think I want to revisit Chéla Sandoval and her discussions of hyperlinking in Methodology of the Oppressed.
TOPIC TWO: THE 4 Rs
Why we need a 4th r: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and algoRithms
In the above article, Cathy Davidson discusses the changing needs for learning and the new literacies that successful, engaged citizens need to have. According to her, we’ve moved way beyond the bubble standard (multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble), which was developed during a teaching shortage and focused on a factory (systematic, efficient, fast, highly regulated) model of learning; now students need skills for creating, improvising, collaborating, re-mixing and doing. They need to learn to code (not learning code)…always in process, not a finite set of skills that one learns but tools for solving ever-changing puzzles and problems. Experimenting!
What is marvelous about algorithmic thinking and Webmaking is that you can actually see abstract thinking transformed into your own customized multimedia stories on the Web, offered to a community, and therefore contributing to the Web. Algorithmic thinking is less about “learning code” than “learning to code.” Code is never finished, it is always in process, something you build on and, in many situations, that you build together with others. Answers aren’t simply “right” guesses among pre-determined choices, but puzzles to be worked over, improved, and adapted for the next situation, the next iteration. You look at examples, you try your own, you run the program, you see if it works. If it doesn’t, you see where you started to go wrong, return to that place, and try something else. The better you become, the more possibilities open for you. Your motivation for learning isn’t to score in the 99th percentile on your end-of-grade exam but to have more complex, surprising, or beautiful results that you can work on and share with your friends. Isn’t that what all learning should be?