Batteries not included

We all know that books with pictures tend to qualify as “easy-readers”. I remember when my mother, an English-teacher, forbade me from reading anything that had an excess of pictures,  less than 300 pages, or font larger than a pencil’s eraser. At the time, I was sure that this was just another element of my mother’s plot to limit my childhood enjoyment. Even though she claimed that “real books” were the only way to allow my own ideas to form, I was convinced that she just didn’t believe in the fundamentals of being a kid.

Ironically, now, 26 years later, I am able to recognize that my mother was enforcing the fundamentals of being a kid, which of course I knew nothing about at the time. She was not holding me back from enjoying my childhood, but was equipping me with abilities to think outside of the box. Reading seemed to be anything but fun, but now I realize that fun doesn’t always have to be easy. Pretty pictures, magnified words, and paper-thin paperbacks make reading (and comprehending) easy, but certainly not memorable. Now, as an adult, I love what I used to despise because of my mom’s strict reading policies. In a general sense, my mom isn’t opposed to television or picture books, but she is opposed to anything that could hinder the ability to exercise the best part of childhood: imagination.

Chapter 6 emphasizes that the mass market press expanded as a reaction to the drastic increase in advertising revenue (107). Consequently, “readership increased because of the rising literacy and economic levels (107). This statement prompted me to wonder if readership has decreased in our modern-day society; economic levels certainly have, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that literacy levels have, as well.

Target News, a composite of Reuters, offers pre-selected topics, videos, and News Graphics, which “provides informative graphic elements that explain concepts behind the news” (114). I thought back to the countless number of times in which my mom explained how television is an intellectual cop-out; television and easy-readers told you how you should perceive the appearance, vocal qualities, and habits of the characters depicted. Real books force you to utilize your own mind in conjunction with the text to formulate your own perception. With that in mind, does the news really need to be explained with pictures? Are adults actually incapable of firing off the necessary synapses to connect the dots of a reported story?

I realize that the Internet will vastly improve global communication flow, for it already has. Furthermore, more people will be able to access ideas, news, and resources to facilitate a higher cultural awareness, worldwide. Admittedly, I don’t know what I would do without Winthrop’s Dacus Library online database, the New York Times online, or even Google, for that matter. However, my ability to formulate ideas, my methods for approaching research, and my techniques for writing academic papers, truly, have nothing to do with the Internet or all of the ways in which I use it. 

Perhaps I got lost in yet another, pro-literacy tangent, but I do believe this chapter raises several important issues. The notion of the Internet serving to handicap future generations of learners, while unpopular, is certainly plausible. Amidst the hype of globalizing internet access, and efforts towards creating a democratic flow of information to all countries, I can only hope that credibility and hard work, are recognized as valuable skills for one to embody.

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“Social-Seating”

Steve Olenski, of Forbes online, reports that KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, has officially left their competitors in social networking dust cloud. KLM has launched “Meet & Seat”, an online program that allows passengers to link up with eachother via Twitter, Facebook and other social media forums. By accessing these profiles, passengers can choose to sit next to those with similar interests, careers, and perhaps, sleeping schedules. In other words, the conservative, white-collar gentleman no longer has to worry about getting seated next to the vodka-guzzling, Chatty-Cathy, but can rest assured knowing that his in-flight companion would much rather sleep or read.

Olenski states that KLM made history last year by “being the first airline to reschedule a flight following a request from a user on Twitter”. He also mentions that the airline entered The Guiness Book of World Records for having the highest altitude dance party”. The majority of airlines have resorted to overpriced peanuts and exhorbant baggage fees to keep their heads above the murky waters of a struggling economy, but KLM seems to have tapped into a gold-mine-of-a-method for reclaiming the traveler’s desire to not just take a flight, but to also enjoy it. When the commercial airline industry made its debut, it was donned with perky, stunning stewardesses and armchair ashtrays. Furthermore, if you paid for the ticket, you didn’t pay extra to bring your suitcase with you, nor did you pay for cocktails and snacks. These days, even the idea of flying tends to invoke a sense of panic, not just for the financial burden incurred, but also for the inability to escape from the misery of in-flight staff, or from the stench of body odor and hangovers.

I am curious to see how “Meet & Seat” ultimately materializes, and am equally interested to see who utilizes this new form of networking. Will it be the business world that eats up all of the potential clients M&S may have to offer? Will “social-seating” be utilized more so by students, teachers, retirees, or none of the above? Will frequent-flyers travel more or less, knowing that seating assigments may drastically improve the quality of their flights?

Link to Steve Olenski’s article: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2012/02/27/klm-a-company-that-gets-social-media/

Social Laziness?

Teppi Johnson is a wife, mother, sales representative, and blogger. Her most recent post, entitled Is social media making us lazy?, discusses the potential hazards that Facebooking, Tweeting, and texting (along with other forms of social media) may pose. Initially, it seemed rather ironic that a blogger would publicly bash the very mode of communication that she actively utilizes. I could not help but wonder, is Teppi Johnson a hypocrite? In short, the answer is no. Upon reading the rest of the post, I concluded that Johnson is not a hypocrite, but rather, she is an individual who questions her own habits and inclinations to follow societal trends. Inadvertently, Johnson brought to light a series of questions that I have asked myself. Those questions are essentially, summed up in the title of Johnson’s post.

While the general public consensus, regarding the aftershock of social media, appears to oppose Johnson’s personal opinion, she undoubtedly raises valid points. Additionally, Johnson’s research raises the level of her argument’s credibility. Johnson states that ” Facebook users go on the site an average of 40 times per month [and they] spend an average of 23 minutes per visit [or] 15 1/2 hours a month”. Johnson also reports that Pinterest is the “fastest growing site in history”, averaging “10 million monthlyvisitors in its first year”. These statistics are staggering, and they beg the question, is social media becoming “social laziness”? Are the high-speed communication channels that we currently depend on sucking the life out of human interaction? Is Facebooking considered a hobby? Can Tweeting qualify as an extra-curricular activity?

Admittedly, Johnson is “certainly guilty of falling into the social networking trap”, and she recognizes her inclinations to “constantantly [check] Facebook”. She also states that “traditional” phone conversations reap more emotional benefits than do the currently more popular automated messages and texts. Why? According to Johnson, “you could hear […]emotions” and phone calls were “personal and it felt great”.

The only issue that I had is the occasional broad generalization made by Johnson. For example, towards the end of the post, Johnson advises people to “pick up [the] phone and call an old friend instead of texting or ‘Facebooking’ them”. Many people credit Facebook with re-connecting them to long-lost friends or family members when the more traditional practices of letter-writing and hopeful phone number dialing failed. So, what if you are unable to find an old comrade via yellow or white pages? While she does call herself out, Johnson needs to remember that there are ways to find the balance between social media and human tendencies; the difficulty in finding this balance has little to do with the temptations of technology, but much to do with self-awareness. Simply put, if you don’t actually live the life that your Facebook profile advertises, then you are missing the point of both Facebook and life.

http://www.chicagonow.com/when-you-put-it-that-way/2012/02/is-social-networking-making-us-all-lazy/

Sometimes Two is Better Than One

English Department Rubric vs. Individual Course/Assignment Rubric → 2 Rubrics

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “Great. MORE things for me to take into consideration while documenting my  next draft”. I know all too well how English majors become programmed to diligently and correctly dot their “i’s” and cross their “t’s”, always taking care to properly cite how, where, and when they did so. While one instructor may regard a paper or project as perfect (or at least worthy of an “A”), another instructor may find that very same assignment to be less than extraordinary. Furthermore, sometimes it seems as if MLA is subjective, and the rules for this citation format seem to change every other week. I can attest to many frustrating moments where my use of any and all “official” MLA documentation guides only resulted in my receiving of a graded paper, littered with red lines and comments pertaining to my inadequate citation page. Therefore, I believe that the English department at Winthrop should develop a revised, general rubric, and instructors should develop their own, individualized rubric for each course or assignment.

Okay, so how is this extra set of “rules” supposed to make my academic life easier?

Before I answer this question, I would like to say that I believe students should be provided with MLA citation examples from each instructor/for each course, in conjunction with assignment prompts for reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. That being said, here are 3 reasons/explanations regarding how having 2 rubrics can benefit students and instructors alike:

1) The English department’s rubric…

-should be objective

-should support the expectations of the instructor

-may help to track usage trends for varying project mediums

2) Individual course/assignment rubric…

-should clearly indicate professor’s definitions for descriptive words like “exceptional” (Letter grade “A”, Winthrop University’s English department rubric). (i.e., certain words are subjective and have varying interpretations; therefore,  descriptive words should be clarified.)

-should indicate priority of expectations (regarding the use of mediums) for course/assignments

3) 2 rubrics can “protect” students and instructors by…

– guaranteeing correct MLA citation

-recognizing the diligent student who turns assignments in early/on time; likewise, the careless student absorbs consequences for failing to abide by course/assignment deadline

-giving students a chance to accurately tap into each instructor’s likes and dislikes, regarding style, content, format, and medium preferences; thus, potentially giving students a “leg up” in accurately processing the course/assignment requirements.

Here is a PDF link to my suggested revision of the English department rubric: newrubric

@seriously?

Steve Olenski reports that the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Philadelphia Wings teammates will adorn the backs of their jerseys with Twitter names, rather than the player’s last name. I wasn’t so sure about this concept when I read the headline, nor was I when I was done reading the article. Call me old-fashioned, but seriously, what’s the point?

In the midst of NFL players proudly donning throw-back jerseys, athletes and team owners embrace tradition. Baseball uniforms have looked the same for what seems like forever, and players for teams like the New York Yankees are not allowed to display body art or shaggy hair. Golf is still referred to as the “gentleman’s sport”, and foxhunting show clothes remain unchanged. Could these and other examples provide evidence to prove that sports enthusiasts want to hold on to the “old” way of doing things?

In my opinion, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I realize that that mindset tends to bore the heck out of our frenzied, fast-paced society. And heaven forbid, what exactly do players without Twitter accounts do? Do they get kicked off the team? Furthermore, I venture again to ask what the point of all of this is. As much as it costs even the not-as-popular NLL (compared to the NFL, per say) to produce new jerseys each season for each team, why not just keep it simple?

I don’t mean to go on an anti-social media rant, but I just feel that sometimes it is the tendency of our current world to go overboard. As Olenski states, the NFL’s pro-bowl players were allowed the chance to Tweet live from the sidelines, and that seems perfectly reasonable. This example of sideline-Tweeting is a healthy marriage between social networking and fan-loyalty recognition from the players and league’s big-heads. 

Fans don’t want to have to jot down their favorite player’s Twitter handle in order to recognize them on the field; they want to be able to just recognize their favorite player.

Link to article: http://www.business2community.com/social-media/the-lines-between-social-media-and-sports-continue-to-blur-0133339

Picture This:

Props to Lerer.

He still has my full attention. This week’s reading on war and language in Listening to Private Ryan made me realize that there is yet another, “sub-layer” to American dialectal culture. I found myself going into this chapter with a degree of hesitation, for I had never thought about war’s impact on language…or vice versa.

Lerer states, “In reading […] words make us see, and this, it seems to me […] is what the legacy of war is to the English language” (252). This statement is reflective of my most substantial realization regarding war and language. Earlier Lerer said that it is the journalist’s job to “picture things through words” (251), and I could not agree more. Furthermore, if journalism ever had a place in American history, it was certainly during war. To me, it is unfortunate that America’s conflicts with other territories had to be handled so violently, but there is no doubt that the results and experiences were most richly portrayed through words. (And just to mention for argument’s sake, art.)

I also feel that Lerer raised an interesting and important point, and that is that the “journalist of war is an observer, but he is also a great reader” and that “life becomes a series of recognizable documents” (250). I believe that reading in modern society is completely under-rated  (whether by hardcover or kindle), and I believe that the biggest loss for those who do not read is the experiences that come with the moments beyond the page: where you were when you read your first Nancy Drew, how you came to openly worship David Sedaris, or when you realized that Shakespeare could help mend a broken heart. Language gives us something to relate to, just like American dialects give us something to feel patriotic about.

Cultural UNawareness.

http://amazonwatch.org/take-action/stop-the-belo-monte-monster-dam

Please click on this link and sign the petition if you believe in human rights.

“While newspapers and television talk about the lives of celebrities, the chief of the Kayapo tribe received the worst news of his life: Dilma, “The new president of Brazil, has given approval to build a huge hydroelectric plant (the third largest in the world). It is the death sentence for all the people near the river because the dam will flood 400,000 hectares of forest. More than 40,000 Indians will have to find another place to live. The natural habitat destruction, deforestation and the disappearance of many species is a fact.”
What moves me in my very bowels , making me ashamed of being part of Western culture, is the reaction of the chief of the Kayapo community when he learned of the decision—his gesture of dignity and helplessness before the advance of capitalist progress, modern predatory civilization that does not respect the differences . . .”

By: Kevin (*Note: “Kevin” is the author of the above paragraph. This was a shared link on Facebook, but I wanted to cite my source to the best of my ability.)

 

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens!

For this research blog post, I decided to represent one of literature’s greatest authors, Charles Dickens. Today  marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth, but within the realms of online, virtual, and viral communication, his birthday marks something even more substantial. Technology has immense power over the functionality of our world, as well as over our modes of communicating, but this power does not always have to be so daunting a concept. To be honest, if it weren’t for Google, I would not have known that today was Mr. Dickens’ birthday, and on that note, I feel that it is imperative to once again recognize the priveledge of balancing technology with the traditional ideals that make us human.

Ian Evans, author of Charles Dickens: ‘Can I have some more?’ for the Christian-Science Monitor, outlines several prominent points regarding this 200th birthday celebration. For me, the most outstanding point that Evans made was that “Dickens was no saint and was quite vain but he never wanted to leave behind or let go social injustice and what he saw. He wanted to stay connected to issues and keep them alive”. Evans provides examples about what this statement means including how Dickens’ plots parallel many of those we contend with on a contemporary basis. For example, Little Dorrit is about “debt and the financial system [and] its about speculation and financial chaos.” Sound familiar? You betcha.

One of Dickens’ 200-or-so descendants, Ian Dickens, states that he is “immensely proud” to stem from the literary genius’ family tree. He continues by proclaiming the accessibility of Dickens’ work, noting that “his work is accessible because he grew up poor and knew it was important that all sections of society could read”.

What a poignant thought to be mentioned by Dickens’ great, great grandson! And how appropriate a thought, based on last week’s dialogue. The meaning of “literacy”, as a concept or as a word, just got a lot more wholesome; for, if literacy is something that everyone deserves, is it a skill? A learned, applied principle? Or a human right?

Dickens has, in many ways, changed the world’s perception regarding what Christmas should be about, but perhaps he intended for even more to occur as a result of his writings. Maybe Dickens wanted his work to encourage all eras and communities to take care in eliminating ignorance. Perhaps he wanted to raise our eyebrows regarding what literacy really means to a society, or how or why literacy may need to be regarded as an inherent human right, not just a skill or course curriculum.  

Link to Ian Evans’ article:

http://http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0207/Charles-Dickens-Can-I-have-some-more-still-resonates-video

I speak American

As I made my way through this week’s reading assignment, I became increasingly intrigued. So many quotables, so many insightful reading moments, and so many reasons to be proud of my American heritage, inundated my thought process. On the one hand, I realized that last week,  perhaps, I was a bit harsh on the dear old U-S of A. On the other hand, readings like this week’s are what provokes me to vocalize the not-so-favorable American tendencies (like the fact that I think many Americans reek of entitlement, especially when traveling abroad) because the crummy characteristics and bad habits should never down out the positive aspects of American history.

If one category of American history should qualify as the best part, than to me, it is the history of American dialects. Here are a few quotables, describing America’s dialectology, that I was particularily fond of:

“It is the place of the proverbial, the wisdom of the folk, the unadulterated voice of felt experience” (194).

“The essence of nation was to be found in its folk wisdom: as if tellers of tall tales or homespun Homers could be counted on to give us the truth of experience” (194).

“The natural, careless, unconscious, colloquial speech” (195).

It was this suggestion of American dialect embodying, and fully representing, the American ideal that captured me, causing me to think twice about thinking less of Americans. As the author continues, providing the list of Literary Representations of American Dialects (197-200), I could not help but be proud of how much American dialect stands for. It fascinates me to realize that just by reading an excerpt from a particular publication, we are able to identify different dialects, and their assigned regions of our nation, in a matter of sentences. Why do we know, even if we have never lived or visited there, that “Well, suh” (199) is obviously the start of something Southern? Why do we, as Americans, implicitly understand that the “dialect spoken by all those firemen on TV after September 11 was pure, unmodified New York speech from the nineteen-fifties” (194)?

I believe the answer lies in the love we as Americans have for the roots of what history says we based the establishment of this country on: the freedom to be unconscious; the guarantee of truthful experience; the ability to feel someone else’s journey. We want to connect with the fireman from New York, because we want to connect to the American in him/her that all Americans can identify with. There is a sense of unity in our country, and I do not feel that independence is all Americans want. It just seems that sometimes we forget about how our differences as Americans tend to bring us together for the greater good, uniting us in the rich traditions of the American way.