10.0824 times & standards

WILLARD MCCARTY (willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Tue, 1 Apr 1997 21:55:23 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 10, No. 824.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@VMA.SMSU.EDU> (67)
Subject: Re: 10.0819 o tempora o mores

[2] From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org> (9)
Subject: Re: 10.0819 o tempora o mores

[3] From: alan harris <vcspc005@email.csun.edu> (69)
Subject: the state of things

Date: Tue, 01 Apr 97 07:41:14 CST
From: Charles Ess <DRU001D@VMA.SMSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 10.0819 o tempora o mores

Some comments in response to Willard's friendly posting of the
Washington Post article on the apparently dreadful state of higher
education in the U.S.

While Matthews says much that coheres with my experience as a teacher
in a largely liberal arts setting for nearly two decades (Lord! how
did I ever get to be _that_ old?) - I think she oversimplifies
regarding the now familiar claim that our print-culture faculty are
increasingly unable to reach students conditioned by an extravagently
wired world.

This semester I have used Web-based materials rather intensively, on
the assumption that my students are indeed Web- and computer-literate
-- only to get responses such as the following:

"I hate the Web! I can never find that stuff you tell us to look at..."
Particularly stunning was the result of my posting a Web page which
listed the names of various informal fallacies under study in my logic/
critical thinking class - with each name linked to a description of the
fallacy and several examples. Each name, accordingly, appears in the
color identifying a link, and is underlined as well - if ever there were
a universal icon for a link marker on the Web, I would have thought this
was it.

I was not overly surprised when a faculty member told me that he had looked
at the site, and didn't find the list of names very helpful - i.e., he
did not recognize that the names were link markers. But when several
of my allegedly Web-literate students told me the same thing, I began
to doubt the easy assumption I had made regarding their ability to
read Web documents.

In general, experiences such as these, along with other considerations
suggested by the available literature, collegial comments, etc. have
moved me from ardent enthusiasm for the new media as an exciting,
or at least culturally-mandated next phase for education and dialogue
to a somewhat chastened, more cautious, somewhat skeptical posture.
Does making important information available to our students through the
click of a mouse on a work or concept linked to greater explanation better
scholars more likely to explore such important connections when they
encounter these in print media (in the form of words they need to look
up in a dictionary, footnotes and references they need to pursue, etc.)
- or simply lazier souls who are even less likely to pursue such connections
if they are _not_ hyperlinked already for them by some well-meaning
faculty member? Are students made better researchers by the increasingly
civilized and organized world of scholarly resources available on the
Web - or are they led to believe that "research" amounts to generating
an impressive bibliography of materials from a computer database, materials
they've not bothered to pursue because the computer couldn't deliver
the full text of the article cited? I'd be curious to know what
other HUMANIST readers find in their experience - but my experience
inclines me more and more to find the second responses more accurate
than the first.

All of which is to say that the dichotomy between print-culture faculty
and Web- and computer-literate students seems too simple - and there may
be reason to believe (hope?) that the apparently inevitable transmediation
of higher education into cyberspace is not so inevitable. If we find
that much of the technology simply doesn't deliver on its promise, and
that faculty and students are often equally illiterate in both print and
electronic domains - enough of us may move to a less gushing embrace of
the Bill Gates/Nicholas Negroponte "resistance is futile" vision of a
social and educational future driven by largely corporate interests,
towards a more nuanced ability to use these tools appropriately and
effectively in humane education.

It's Easter...one can always hope for resurrections.

Cheers and best wishes,
Charles Ess "...for the struggle to be good rather
Drury College than bad is important, Glaucon, much
Springfield, MO 65802 USA more important than people think.
Therefore, we mustn't be tempted by
honor, money, rule, or even poetry
into neglecting justice and the rest
of virtue."
Socrates in _The Republic_, Book X

Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 14:20:04 -0800
From: Mary Dee Harris <mdharris@acm.org>
Subject: Re: 10.0819 o tempora o mores

I just heard last week from a friend that his 20-something son has
discovered the Internet and found it is most useful to him as a means for
sharing his poetry with other budding poets.

So much for the naysayers -- all is NOT lost!

Mary Dee

Mary Dee Harris, Ph.D.			202-387-0626	
Language Technology, Inc.		202-387-0625 (fax)
2153 California St. NW			mdharris@acm.org
Washington, DC 20008			mdharris@aol.com

--[3]---------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 10:22:52 -0500 (EST) From: alan harris <vcspc005@email.csun.edu>

=============================================================== Alan C. Harris, Ph. D. TELNOS: main off: 818-677-2853 Professor, Communication/Linguistics direct off: 818-677-2874 Speech Communication Department California State University, Northridge home: 818-366-3165 SPCH CSUN FAX: 818-677-2663 Northridge, CA 91330-8257 INTERNET email: ALAN.HARRIS@CSUN.EDU WWW homepage: http://www.csun.edu/~vcspc005 =============================================================== FYI ("for your information")// cheers, ach =============================================>>>>>>

The recent publication of the second edition of Jack Solomon and Sonia Maasik's SIGNS OF LIFE IN THE USA: READINGS ON POPULAR CULTURE FOR WRITERS (Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, January 1997) can itself be taken as a sign of the state of both popular cultural and semiotic study in America. For Solomon and Maasik's book, designed for use in both freshman composition classrooms as well as upper division courses in cultural studies, brings together two scholarly traditions that have, until recently, been marginalized in the academy. On the one hand, the study of popular culture has been excluded from academic study on the grounds that it pays attention to a "low culture" that is too trivial for university attention, and on the other hand, semiotics has tended to be marginalized upward, so to speak, reserved for graduate coursework on the grounds that it is too difficult for undergraduates to comprehend. The first edition of SIGNS OF LIFE IN THE USA, published in 1994, challenged both marginalizations by combining a focus on popular culture with an explicit grounding in semiotics, and the appearance of a second edition would suggest that the combination has met with some success.

This is good news for advocates of semiotics and cultural studies alike. The appearance of a growing number of popular culture readers testifies to the acceptance of the topic as a whole, while the publication of the second edition of SIGNS OF LIFE IN THE USA testifies to the viability of semiotics in the composition classroom. For those instructors who wish to make use of semiotics in their teaching, the text provides clear explanations of semiotics in both the instructor handbook and a lengthy general introduction The handbook also contains a brief bibliography of semiotic source works.

More specifically, the book instructs its users to analyze particular popular cultural phenomena within the context of various culturally-based systems of signs. Students are instructed to at once associate cultural products with other related cultural phenomena and to differentiate them from other phenemena in the course of their analyses. It is the simultaneous interaction of association and differentiation that constitutes a semiotic analysis, as the authors argue, and this provides a non-technical formula for freshman students to use as they write their own semiotic analyses.

Each chapter begins with an introduction that takes students through the process of association and differentiation in the context of a particular pop cultural phenomenon: the introduction to the advertising chapter, for example, guides students through an analysis of a Calvin Klein advertisement, suggesting how a critical essay could be written on it. An appendix containing student essays written in response to assignments assigned out of the first edition of SIGNS OF LIFE furthers the text's modeling of critical writing > using semiotic methods.

The authors' premise in making explicit use of semiotics is that essays on popular culture can turn into exercises that simply state whether or not the writer likes, say, a given television show or movie. The semiotic method guides students to think critically, and culturally, about such things. The book presents two kinds of readings for such analyses in its two sections, titled, respectively, Images and Issues.

The Images readings address popular cultural behavior and consumption, beginning with a chapter on consumption as such, and proceeding through chapters on advertising, television and music video, movies, and American characters (from Elvis to superman). The Issues section contains readings on gender, race relations, outlaw cultures (street gangs, hackers and militias), AIDS, and the internet. The book also contains exercises and web addresses for users who want to make use of the internet in their classrooms.

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