February 2010 Archives

Your portfolio is your chance to demonstrate your ability to connect what you have learned so far.

If you have been keeping up with your blogging, this assignment will simply involve collecting and reflecting.  If there are gaps in your blogging, this is your chance to catch up.

It begins with a richly-linked blog entry that introduces your reader to blog entries that you have created, and discussions from your peers' blogs in which you have participated, as part of a reflective statement on your progress so far.

Examples of portfolios from previous classes have included a no-nonsense list and a more personal essay.

Either format is fine, but however you present your work, it's important to me that you specify where each of your posts falls amongst the categories listed below. 

The same post can count for more than one category, but if you keep re-using the same handful of posts that's probably a sign you can do a little better next time.

Assigned Text:

Trithemius (WM)

"In Praise of Scribes"
Assigned Text:

Baron, N. (WM)

"The Art and Science of Handwriting."
We'll start with a short video.
The prop used in this skit is clearly printed, but we'll ignore that and instead focus on the question that arises at the end of the skit. The monk cannot interpret the use of a codex except through the technology he's familiar with (the scroll), and the tech-savvy book specialist has a hard time thinking of text from the perspective of a newbie. (So do we, which is why we laugh at this monk's struggles.)

Here's a kid who has beautiful handwriting. How does this news reporter portray the child? What do the visuals, the quotes, and the context add up to represent?

Exercise 1 is a three-page essay that demonstrates your ability to apply, analyze, and evaluate the ideas you have encountered in the readings so far, with a special focus on Chapter 10 of Havelock's The Muse learns to Write.  Submit your exercise by uploading it to Turnitin.com. (CourseID 3139124, password "mediaRplural".)

Since this is a 300-level class, I will assume you already know how to come up with a clear thesis statement, how to organize your argument around a blueprint, and how to integrate brief quotations from your sources. 

Remembering and understanding are important critical thinking skills; indeed, you can't go any higher unless you've got the basics.  This assignment already assumes that you can identify the key points and summarize the argument found in our assigned readings, and that in our in-class and online discussions we have already hashed out what we think the readings mean.

Instead of asking you to do that low-level thinking again, this assignment asks you to focus on applying, analyzing, and evaluating.

In-class Activity

Oral Workshop

Assigned Text:

Havelock (79-97)

This chapter finishes all of Havelock's set-up.

In the next chapter (which you will read and write about for Exercise 1), Havelock launches his main argument about the shift from oral culture to literate culture, and is a good way for us to start wrapping up the oral unit.
Assigned Text:

Havelock (63-78)

Note that this chapter sets up the points Havelock wants to make in the next. Peek ahead to the first two pages of Chapter 9 (pages 79 and  80), which explain how chapter 7 and 8 work together to make the point Havelock is going to make in Chapter 9.  Then return to Chapter 8 (63-78) and choose a quote to talk about, as usual.
Assigned Text:

Havelock (44-63)

I'm going to re-assign 44-63, simply because I think these chapters are worth closer study, and ask that everyone include a new quote from this section.
Assigned Text:

Parker (WM)

In Writing Materials.
Assigned Text:

McMillan (YouTube)

Can you connect this video to the points you have encountered in other readings? The complaints of Socrates are an obvious place to start, but what else does this video suggest?

Assigned Text:

Ong (WM)

In Writing Materials.
Assigned Text:

Di Renzo (GriffinGate)

Di Renzo, Anthony. "His Master's Voice: Tiro and the Rise of the Roman Secretarial Class." Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 30.2 (2000) 155-168.

Read the full article via GriffinGate (under "Handouts").
Abstract: The foundation for Rome's imperial bureaucracy was laid during the first century B.C., when functional and administrative writing played an increasingly dominant role in the Late Republic. During the First and Second Triumvirates, Roman society, once primarily oral, relied more and more on documentation to get its official business done. By the reign of Augustus, the orator had ceded power to the secretary, usually a slave trained as a scribe or librarian. This cultural and political transformation can be traced in the career of Marcus Tullius Tiro (94 B.C. to 4 A.D.), Cicero's confidant and amanuensis. A freedman credited with the invention of Latin shorthand (the notae Tironianae), Tiro transcribed and edited Cicero's speeches, composed, collected, and eventually published his voluminous correspondence, and organized and managed his archives and library. As his former master s fortune sank with the dying Republic, Tiro's began to rise. After Cicero's assassination, he became the orator's literary executor and biographer. His talents were always in demand under the new bureaucratic regime, and he prospered by producing popular grammars and secretarial manuals. He died a wealthy centenarian and a full Roman citizen.
The phrase "His Master's Voice" would be well-known to the boomer generation as the slogan for RCA Victor records.  It was part of a long-running advertising campaign that was at the time as iconic as the dancing iPod silhouettes. See ("Nipper Hears 'His Master's Voice'").

As you read this article, note the stakeholders -- who benefits from the new writing technology that Tiro devises? Who stands to lose?  This story takes place long after the Roman Empire was well on the path towards a manuscript culture, but we still see the interplay between Cicero's reputation as an orator, and his servant's skill as a writer (which, historians tell us, was largely responsible for Cicero's reputation, just as Socrates' reputation largely comes to us thanks to the fact that his student Plato used Socrates as a character in his written dialogs.)
Assigned Text:

Havelock (19-62)

I didn't assign the introduction, mostly because its purpose is to situate this book in the landscape of research that was current at the time the book first came out, rather than actually promote an argument. 

I do think that what Havelock says on pages 7-8 is worth noting.  In that passage, he explains the reasoning that led him to argue (for the first time in such a convincing way) that what happened when the Greeks shifted from an oral culture to a literate (manuscript) culture was the key to the greatest advances in Western culture. 

While I cannot pretend to understand the details, Havelock argues that a particular quality of the Greek written language made it an extremely efficient and useful tool for recording the richness and detail of spoken language. 

The poets had the important ritualistic job of preserving and passing along Greek culture (telling stories about heroes and gods, illustrating the values that Greeks felt they needed to pass along to the next generation).

In The Republic, Plato famously bans poets from the ideal society, arguing that poets arouse emotions by making up stories about imaginary things, and that these stories distract people from the facts.  Havelock says it's not so much the poems that are bad, but the fact that the bards who compose and/or recite those poems become authorities in the subject, without actually knowing anything about the subject (ship-building, or war) other than how to tell a good story about it. 

Plato wrote (or whose students and followers undertook to write) his teachings, was consciously promoting a writing-based body of knowledge (Plato's own teachings) to replace the traditional oral learning.  Havelock (and others) compared our existing transcribed (written-down) versions of ancient materials of many cultures, and concluded that, while it was impossible that the Greeks were evolutionarily more advanced than peoples of other regions, something about the Greek writing system did a far better job of capturing the fullness of scope and richness of detail that must have been in the original Greek myths. (I'll insert my own observation here... in the stories that are passed down to us from the Bible, we almost never get a detail such as the speaker's tone of voice, or facial expression.)

Rather than imagining that the ancient Greek epics were wholly oral, and then written down for the first time in the form we have them now, Havelock sees evidence that these epics were "the result of some interlock between the oral and the literate" (13), so that the "acoustic flow of language contrived by echo to hold the attention of the ear [oral communication is noted for call-and-response patterns, refrains, rhythms, and stock phrases] has been reshuffled into visual patterns created by the thoughtful attention of the eye."

In short, the rhythms and patterns of oral communication are aids to the memory.  A blues song starts with a line, then repeats that line, then goes on to provide a rhyme for that song.  One of the benefits of this structure is that you can compose the first line on the spot, then while you sing the line over again you can think of a good rhyme, and have it ready by the time the third line of the song comes around.  Then there's a bit of a music break, while you can think up the next line.  (I don't pretend to be any kind of musician, but my daughter enjoys making up songs -- this pattern really does yield better results than, for instance, always having one person make up the first line, and the second person make up the second line.)

A few notes on the chapters.

Recent activity on the blogs of all members of this course. This page will update regularly, though it will often lag a few hours behind.
50 Recent Peer Entries
Assigned Text:

Rheingold (WM)

Give visitors to this page a reason to click on the link you post.  You could type a short quotation, a question, or anything else that invites a response.

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