Thursday, February 07, 2008


I'm reading the blogs of students in my "Writing Web 2.0" class, and I'm noticing the pleasure of it. (Although I've been practicing mindfulness for awhile, I'm taking an 8-week class, offered freely to MU students, faculty, and staff, on "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction." I'm planning to use aspects of that class for a class I'll be teaching in the fall, "Mindful Writing." And the reason I mention this class is that one of our homework assignments is to notice something pleasant everyday. Today, I'm noticing how pleasant it is to read these blog entries.)

Why pleasure? There's the pleasure of a person's excitement in encountering a text, the recognition that this is d*** fine writing, as in Aa's post. After a long quotation from David Weinberger's Small Pieces Loosely Joined, he writes:


So, after I ignore that strange quotation mark, this is something I really wish I'd written. In a thesis or something. Maybe for the dissertation, to be named later.

I love the ALL CAPS of inspiration, of, as Aa goes on to say, feeling good.

Lauren also uses quotations as a way of blogging, writing,
Because it's late, and I've worked 9 hours today, and I'm very tired; the following is a simple list of my favorite quotes from The Medium is the Massage.

Yes, absolutely: favorite quotations are a great blogging strategy, a great way to use a blog as an extension of the brain. A way of tapping into Web 2.0's ability to aid the rhetorical canon of MEMORY.

And what are some of her favorites? Those are a pleasure, too:
"The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a precess of specialism and of detachment. Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement"

"The amateur can afford to lose."

Yes, yes. And, as amateurs together, we're bringing our expertise to bear, our outside connections to bear, teaching each other, as Julia frequently does, linking readings in our course to her current schooling in law. Her most recent blog entry, for example, links the idea of crowd wisdom to the jury system. She notes that the jury system is similar to "the wisdom of crowds" insofar as "the individual intelligence, prejudice (or lack thereof), and innate and learned biases will balance to result in a reasoned and appropriate judgment." But, the similarity goes only so far, causing her to question what really makes the jury system work:
The author notes that four conditions characterize wise crowds: diversity of opinion, independence, decentralization, and aggregation. These conditions do not exist in the jury system because jurors are severely limited in what personal, specialized knowledge they apply to the facts of a case. Jurors who are experts in certain fields may be excluded from sitting on a jury; jurors are not allowed to draw on local knowledge, and their private information is not supposed to inform their decision. . . .
The limits placed on juries lead me to wonder: is it the “wisdom of crowds” or legal rhetoric that shapes a jury’s decision?

Good question. And that simultaneous linking with and questioning with a text is another thing that Web 2.0 makes visible: connection is learning, and connection is what the web enables, and what the social web enables even more. And when those connections don't quite fit, questions emerge, and that leads to more inquiry, more learning.

jsdp59 offers another good example of linking, using the traditional rhetorical appeals to think about political rhetoric:
I think the most effective form of rhetorical communication is probably pathos. Appealing to people’s emotions is generally the best way to get a response out of them. I think if you play off of people’s fears and worries, you will generally get more of a response out of them. I was watching the political debate tonight, and I was looking for examples of these three types of communication and which one would be used the most. I saw examples of the candidates using pathos appeals when talking about the economy. They tried to say that right now it is bad, but if you elect them they will fix it for you. This probably isn’t completely true, but nevertheless it makes us feel good.

I'm also moved by pathos, finding pleasure in the sheer beauty, the sheer facility in writing that many of the folks in class are sharing with me and the rest of the class. Riffing off Anne Wysocki's notion of "reciprocal communication" in design, another Anne writes:
But people “in love,” or those choosing to practice the art of loving others have long participated in the tradition of building beauty. Parents find their children beautiful. Spouses find each other beautiful. Dog owners find their mutts beautiful. Many children, spouses, and dogs (to make an odd collection) may possess the kind of beauty (abstract formality?) that would win them facebook contests and endorsements, but not all of us that have found ourselves lucky to be loved in one of these ways could make that claim!

So beauty is (or ought to be) reciprocal. It involves communication. Communication is reciprocal. Even blogging.

How will I understand this union of form and content that I call my blog? Is it beautiful? Will I be able to make “day-to-day particular[s] stand out against the background of the larger realm of steady social practices”? Can I make that change?

A beautiful reflection on beauty. The whole entry is quite beautiful. You should go read it.

And in contemplating a similar question (how to understand the "union of form and content" that is the blog), Jake writes:
Consider what is necessary: everything.

Well, not exactly. I guess it's no surprise that in this age of technology more and more things go into a work of composition to make it work. I am not simply a writer. I am a graphic designer. I am a computer programmer. I think I may even be an interior designer--at least in some sense of the word.

I love the isolated first line, the follow up that qualifies it. The rhythm of the repeated subject, and then the surprise of that final line that interrupts the repetition: "I think."

And there's humor. McLuhan:
Humor as a system of communications and as a probe of our environment--of what's really going on--affords us our most appealing anti-environmental tool" (The Medium is the Massage 92)

I can't figure out how to attach my blog to my Facebook account, so I just put it in the info column as my website. Is there another way? I started going through the applications to see if that would give me a clue about attaching my blog, but I got distracted by the hugs, farts, and how-smart-are-you ads.

I love how the humor here gets at the amazing mix of fun and annoyance of the environment that is Facebook.

And that isn't even all the blogs. That isn't even all the pleasure.