Monday, March 14, 2011

Loud in the Library

UCLA Student Alexandra Wallace is all over Facebook today, but not for all the reasons that the buxom co-ed who created an anti-Asian YouTube video might desire. Despite the recentness of the hullaballoo over the weekend, coverage of Wallace's three-minute rant on "Asians in the Library" now ranges from the local LA Weekly blog to the global Daily Mail. The racism of her comments about diverse campuses and her insensitivity toward tsunami victims were particularly egregious. The video was such a black eye for UCLA that the chancellor of the campus has already issued both a text press release and a video statement at "Chancellor Block appalled by student video disparaging Asians."

Although the original video has already been pulled down, it has been mirrored and reposted in a number of places, including here. Asian male students have posted responses like White Girls in the Library and this spoof that emphasize both Wallace's foolishness and their own interest in interracial sexual dynamics on campus. Wallace has apparently complained of losing her privacy now that she has been named, and ad feminem attacks like this text-based video probably explain the Chancellor's call for civility in response.

Of course, like all viral videos, it has already been autotuned and dance remixed. What surprises me is that little has been said about the fact that the UCLA library also played a role in another YouTube controversy when a student of color was tasered on cell phone camera by campus police.

(Thanks to my wonderful CAT 125 students Nikita Shah and Jonathan Hu for their insights on the controversy. I now have 200+ people keeping me current on Virtualpolitik.)

Update: One of the most watched videos thus far is this one that mocks Wallace with declarations that "we grow our food!" and "there's a reason that you outsource your jobs!" Also worthy of note is this response from a self-described "gay Asian Jew" at my own institution, UC San Diego. And, yes, the dance remixes will be unstoppable, as this example demonstrates.

More Updates: This video of a digital one-man band song to Wallace has already earned hundreds of thousands of views. It points people back to the original video, the crooner's a capella Mario song and Britney covery, and an iTunes version of his serenade available for purchase.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

DML/Kairos Webinar

If you missed the webinar with David Parry, Mark Marino, Katherine Harris, and me, you can click on this link and see the archived version.

It began as a Twitter conversation between Harris and Parry, which can now be followed with the hashtag #infoarts. As people involved in teaching writing, we asserted that the main issues have less to do with tools and more to do with linking facts and creativity, as Harris argued. Parry noted that moving from "information" to "knowledge" involves engaging students rhetorically in "information arts" rather than "information science." I argued that thinking about information flows is central for this kind of teaching and cited Siva Vaidhyanathan's Critical Information Studies Manifesto.

In particular, we discussed the limitation of using the term "digital literacy," because it is 1) excessively text-centered, 2) often perceived as remedial by students, 3) invites turf battles between different departments and academic units, and 4) ignores the importance of digital rights. Mark also questioned the assumption that "digital natives" were competent at search or able to understand how to author metadata and use social bookmarking tools, and Parry claimed that teaching these skills involves thinking about a new kind of reading, the reading that a computer does, so that students learn to "write for the machine." (Parry also observed that reading web stats was useful for students to "dig into.")

The conversation contained a number of assertion that might seem at odds with traditional pedagogy. For example, Harris insisted on the value of "play" and making students "comfortable with being uncomfortable," Parry argued for both "loose" or "unstructured" assignments oriented around time limits rather than page limits, as well as the importance of "failure," and Marino describes his class as on of the "workaround" and "Zen patience." Our unconventional assignments include telling a lie on Facebook or photographic surveillance cameras in their daily lives.

We also grappled with some hard questions about student privacy, academic labor, corporate interests, and the unintended consequences of engaging with the "real world." (See Parry's blog entry on "It's Not the Public Internet; It is the Internet Public" for more.)

As Harris pointed out, by describing a "Food and You" class with a public audience and lots of face-to-face tasting time, we aren't talking about distance learning in the conventional sense.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

When the Sheen Is Off

As someone who has written about web generators and mash-ups, I have to say something about the latest series of Internet memes involving rehab-refusing actor Charlie Sheen and his wild statements in recent transgressive public appearances. In the mash-up category, we have Cats Quote Charlie Sheen and online quizzes about "Whose Line Is It Anyway: Gaddafi/Sheen," as well as a YouTube video in which Sheen serves as Gaddafi's translator.

The Charlie Sheen Random Quote Generator is also making the virtual rounds. You can even have a quote generating widget as a Wordpress plugin.

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