Not as many

Less does not mean “not as many.” Less means “not as much.” Fewer means “not as many.”

10_items_or_less.jpg fewer.jpg
Wrong Right

Do not write:
I didn’t have a stomachache because I ate less M&M’s than last Halloween.

Do write:
I didn’t have a stomachache because I ate fewer M&M’s than last Halloween. I still had a sugar high, though.

The “naked ‘this'”

Do not use this as a pronoun. Include the noun to which you are referring.

Do not write:
The answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. This has puzzled scholars and fans of silly novels for years.

Do write:
The answer to “life, the universe, and everything” is 42. This mystery has puzzled scholars and fans of silly novels for years.

Using a “naked ‘this'” leaves the reader guessing at your meaning; don’t make them guess! (Thanks, Doug!)



So I started playing Half-Life 2 today and, to my surprise, heard Robert Guillume’s voice. Weird! I haven’t seen him since Sports Night. It’s always strange to hear recognizable voices in odd places–James Coburn selling Dodge trucks, Gene Hackman shilling for Lowe’s, and now Benson in my video game. Lord help me if Carrot Top shows up.

Odd mix

This week, I’m putting three pretty different CDs in the stereo. Makes for some interesting juxtapositions if I put them on shuffle.

    In the CD player now:
  • Muff Ugga, Hustlin Man Blues

  • Sum 41, Chuck
  • The Killers


Don’t say “in my opinion.” The whole paper is your opinion.

Don’t write:
In my opinion, Evil Dead 2 is Sam Raimi’s best work.

Evil Dead 2 is Sam Raimi’s best work.

Gender words

“Male” should be an adjective unless you have good reason for it not to be. Use “man” and “woman” when appropriate.

Do not write:
The elevator was full of females and I hadn’t showered that morning.

The elevator was full of women and I hadn’t showered that morning!

Using “females” here makes it sound like you’re doing animal behavior studies: The four females chased the amorous male over the hill and clubbed him with branches.

“the engines of invention”

My favorite bits of what Ulmer says are the bits about “invention.” I have since attempted to work the process of invention into all my assignments, regardless of whether I feel they do the work of new media or not. Of course, invention is a fun term in its own right, what with Barthomome’s students inventing the university, among others.

I take glee in Jeff’s comments on WPA, as well as his blog posts, because they say, very eloquently and much more brazenly, things that resonate with me.

It seems that the New York Times is catching up with the Florida school. Erich Kunhardt’s Op-Ed piece from 14 December, “Necessity as the Mother of Tenure?” suggests that universities need to embrace invention as one of their main goals. He writes:

However, “academic entrepreneurship” – the patenting and licensing by universities and their faculty – has not become part of the academic mainstream, and is generally viewed within the Ivory Tower as conflicting with the mission of the university. That mission is now often captured by the phrase: “to teach, and to research.” I think a third element should be added: “to invent.” There are two compelling reasons for broadening the academic mission. First, the university shapes the thinking and outlook of our future workers, and also offers one of the most stable environments for bright Americans to work on new things and sustain our creative leadership. Second, putting an emphasis on invention would enrich the academic community by adding a new dimension of creative expression. Independent of whether inventing can be taught or not, affirming the creative process as a long-term value in the university will serve to stimulate faculty and students alike. (par 3)

Of course, Kunhardt writes here about patents as the result of invention, which isn’t what I’m suggesting we do. Rather, I’m walking in the same direction Ulmer walks when he suggests that “The best way to learn about the potential of websites and the internet for supporting learning in the Arts and Letters disciplines, is to invent a new practice of writing native to hypermedia”(Internet Invention, xiii). Rice makes a similar move in Writing About Cool, inventing a method for writing hypertext through concepts of “cool.”

So, if we ignore the passage about “patents,” Kunhardt’s piece becomes a campaign for web-writing using the logic of invention (heuretics instead of hermeneutics).

Continue reading “the engines of invention”

New CDs!

I love the holidays. Friends, family, and new music.

    In the stereo now:

  • Flogging Molly, drunken lullabies
  • Green Day, American Idiot
  • Live, Secret Samadhi

I got the Live album from a friend’s “CD Warehouse rejects” box.

More Kress

Another quote I enjoy:

The specificity is the same at one level: the affordance of the logic of time governs writing, and the affordance of the logic of space governs the image. Within that, there is the possibility of generic variation. And the generic variation of the ensembles, in each case, produce an overall difference of a significant kind (115).


In that new communicational world there are now choices about how what is to be represented should be represented: in what mode, in what genre, in what ensembles of modes and genres and on what occasions. These were not decisions open to students … some twenty years ago (117).

Perhaps part of the task writing teachers should be doing is helping students learn how to choose in this multimodal culture. Hmmm.

More Gunther Kress

We finished discussing Literacy in the New Media Age on the 15th, but I’ve just now had a chance to post about it.

We wrestled, at the meeting, with the question of what Kress’ ideas—particularly the teaching of design/digital rhetoric instead of more traditional kinds of writing assignments—would get us. I came from the “Of course we should be teaching this stuff” side of things, while another person at the meeting played the “I don’t see what all this gets us” role.

The most interesting objection, for me, was that electrate communication has yet to develop the kind of analytical significance/power that literate argument has. My response was that argument is the literate thing—the electrate is something else, something that plays more on affect. I suggested that the power of news media to determine political candidates was one such use of affect.

To return to Kress, I found chapter 10 particularly enlightening. He says a couple neat things (excerpted here for your convenience):

The notion of competence in use will give way to that of interested design. Competence in use starts with that which exists, shaped in the social history of the group in which the user acts. Hence competence in use is oriented to the past. It is also oriented to allegiance to the conventions of the group. Design, by contrast, starts from the interest and the intent of the designer to act in a specific way in a specific environment, to act with a set of available resources and to act with an understanding of what the task at hand is, in relationship to a specific audience. Design is prospective, future-oriented: in this environment, with these (multiple) resources, and out of my interests now to act newly I will shape a message. (169)

Kress, here, seems quite relevant to the recent discussion on WPA. The argument (mostly between Rice and Gordon), seems to rumble down the same old lines. What Kress brings to this discussion is a reasoned assertion (one of many, of course) about what/why we should change what we do. His use of the term design intrigues me. I like the idea of having students consider design (and have done so) because it seems to be an integral part of electrate rhetoric.

Another point he makes in this chapter again reminds me of things I’ve heard Ulmer say. Kress writes

The new forms of reading by contrast require action on the world: to impose the order of a reading path on that which is to be read, arising out of my interests. Ordering a message entity in the world in this manner is a different form of action—not contemplative but actional, not inner-directed but directed outwardly”(172).

So how do we teach students to write for these readers? I think one of Rice’s many points on WPA continues to be that students are already this kind of reader. We need to learn to teach writing for these readers.

One final point. As I write this, I’m reminded of Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, in which Toffler suggests that as technology speeds up, we have less and less time to deal with it, something that affects us psychologically and bodily. He suggests that, like a tourist who is “culture shocked” when s/he enters a foreign country and can find no familiar cultural hooks on which to hang her/his mental hat, we will all become victims of “future shock,” people living in a world changing so fast that it constantly seems like another world. One answer to Toffler’s proposed problem might be that our students, people raised in an electrate world, might feel the sense of change as inevitable, their culture is one that must work at its pace. As such, their communicative strategies will have to be different.

Spam postings

Why do [name deleted to avoid spam] websites keep posting to my blog? I’ve left a few comments in the original post (which is where they keep turning up), but I’m stymied. The original post wasn’t so confusing, I guess, since they were just links to [words deleted to avoid spam] sites. I guess the spambot thinks Google will love ’em if Brendan links there. Then they started posting content, not just links. Jokes, poems (claiming to be from Stanislaw Lem), and such. Weird. I’m going to delete any new ones from now on, but I’m amused.

Dickens rolls over

So I watched Karrol’s Christmas last night, an amusing (if schmaltzy) re-telling of the Dickens that asks “what if the ghosts visted the wrong guy?”


    Two things amused me about the movie.

  1. When the main character and the Scrooge character appear and then disappear at the original nativity, one of the wise men sees them and is bewildered. “I’ve gotta lay off the Myrrh.” Drug jokes about the three wise men rock!
  2. When “Jacob Marley” comes to visit the main character, he’s a cheery Jamaican guy with dreadlocks (at the left side of the picture). The film suggests that he’s related to Bob Marley, who was one of the “original” Marley’s descendants. Dickens’ Marley apparently had a son who went on a trip to Jamaica.

This Week’s (Holiday) Music

    Now in my CD player:

  1. The Nutcracker Suite
  2. Swing N’ Jive Christmas
  3. Celtic Christmas III: A Windham Hill Sampler

Collages are more Blog-ish

In my Composition I course ( Mapping the Self), students are in the late stages of their third paper, a textual collage documenting a memory of an Entertainment text. (The students use collage techniques from Elbow‘s Being a Writer to conduct an experiment loosely based on Chapter 5 of Ulmer‘s Internet Invention.) The other day, we had a discussion about the characteristics and techniques used to create collages as opposed to essays or other more traditional writing forms. One of my more technologically savvy students commented that “collages are more blog-ish.”

I’m intrigued by a couple things there:
1. That my student is so familiar with blogs that they become a descriptive form–he conceives collages as a sort-of remediated blog. Of course, the characteristics of the network culture that blogs propegate don’t work so well on ink-and-paper assignments, but the same rhetorical moves occur. Nonetheless, my electracytometer (measures how strongly electracy appears in a context) buzzed high. I like that he sees the digital as the primary mode for this kind of work.
2. That many others in the class had no idea what he was talking about. I had to explain what blogs are, and where they might have seen them. Does this constitute another kind of “digital divide”? One based less in access (most of these students have the same opportunities for access) and more in education and appetite?