Audience and Surveillance: Who is Watching? Who is Reading? — Computers and Writing 2009

I arrived late and completely missed the first talk, so I’ll start with the three I did see.

Surveillance of Power and the Power of Surveillance
Mike Edwards, United States Military Academy at West Point

Hansel and Gretel in Cyberspace: Following Breadcrumbs in a Forest of Hypertext
Mary Karcher

The Digital Emergence of the Public/Private Authority
Casey McArdle
Ball State University


I arrived late and completely missed the first talk.

Surveillance of Power and the Power of Surveillance
Mike Edwards, United States Military Academy at West Point

Begins
by showing the military legalese that greets him every time he turns on
his computer.  Led to a history of human networks of surveillance in
the Roman empire, via Tacitus.  Ubiquitous surveillance in Rome meant
there was no safe place for orators.

Acc to Tacitus,
gain-getting rhetoric is a recent innovation, from a depraved society.
Even under “good” emperors, authors such as Juvenal can be persecuted
for what they right.

Many commanders interpret army regs as if
blogging is banned. Mike only knows of one cadet who blogs under his
real name.  Cadet Observation Report — a form for reporting
outstanding or deficient behavior (including unshined shoes). Straus —
observation leads writers who hold heterodox views to write between the
lines. Highly perceptive reader can detect secret, hidden meanigs in a
text. Persecution cannot prevent even the expression of independent
thought Shows an example in doublespeak, where Struas says “it is as
true today as it was 200 years ago” that it’s safe to speak the truth
to friends and reasonable power figures (the footnote illustrates that
it was NOT in fact safe 2000 years ago, so he’s saying it’s  NOT safe
now).

Showed a problematic text. Cadets present “A Briefing You
Missed”  which presents a critique of the military power structures.
(Dancing to “A Million ways to be Cruel.”  Faces of cadets visible,
wearing uniforms inappropriately, on a stage where cadets shouldn’t be,
visible on YouTube — off limits to cadet.)

Refers to Edwards’
story, In the Clickstream, which had been sent up the chain of command
at West Point.  Not the author who regulates how a text under
surveillance functions in relation to power, it’s the audience.

In
2006, Synchroneyes — software surveillance of computer screens. 
Students used the tool by making the observing instructor (who had
displayed the student screen on the overhead) complicit in an act of
transgression, by viewing porn when their screen was being observed
(and projected on the class screen).

Students are increasingly
certain that they are being seen all the time; not a Strussian reliance
on obscurity, but a Tacitanian reliance upon ever more open modes of
communication.

Mike understands that he is being watched, and
acknowledges that observation to his superiors.  In reply to “Who
watches the watchers,” Edwards says, “We ourselves, all of us.”

Hansel and Gretel in Cyberspace: Following Breadcrumbs in a Forest of Hypertext
Mary Karcher

Creating coherence in a text is creating meaning. Contrasts the organization of traditional essays, what happens to coherency when we move from llinear, author-focused, to hypertext.

Confusion and user disorientation is an issue for everyone involved in e-text (includes comp instructors, even if they don’t assign hypertext assignments, and technological students don’t hesitate in turning in hypertext documents to fulfil print-based assignments,

Surveyed product-oriented ways to deal with coherency issues.  Consider the expectations of the reader, instead.   Joyce refers to exploratory documents and constructive (collaboratory) hypertext.  

Narrative conventions: site map, drop-down menu, back button [but that’s a feature of the browser, not the authored site], breadcrumb.

Refers to the breadcrumb as becoming popular “in recent years” .  (She offers > and | as options for division, but I’d say that > indicates hierchy, and | separates itemas at the same level.)

Location (hierarchy), path (variable history), and attribute breadcrumbs (ecomemrce sites, breadcrumbs are meta keywords, meta-information to advertise the components of the site, “other pages you might like” predictions).

Drawing from Jakob Nielsen and Keith Instone.  She started by relating this material directly to composition, but has shifted into describing breadcrumbs themselves… a good brief lecture, but I think the C&W audience probably knows most of this already, so I’m looking for  a little more of the pedagogical application or theoretical analysis.

The last line or two of her presentation brought everything back to her opening discussion of coherence.

The Digital Emergence of the Public/Private Authority
Casey McArdle
Ball State University

Says an earlier version of this talk “ruined the internet” for his undergraduates.

Sees his job as arming students with tools “so they won’t get tricked by the man”.  Presented Tim O’Reilley’s 2005 “Web 1.0 and Web. 2.0″ chart.

McArdle says O’Reilley gets Web 2.0 wrong, because he says that speculators embrace the power of the web. Web 1.0 is print stuffed online, interactive sites are designed for the web and are therefore 2.0.

.Anything that extends itself past the web is no longer the web (suggests maybe Google Wave will do it). 

Back to Habermas and the public sphere. Leitch says Harbermas defines modernity as the product of the Enlightement dream of a free society.  DIsco — the intellgentisa wanting to liberate itself from doctrinal dominance.

Public and private authority… Herbst defines authority as a force to be reckoned with, authority looms as a phantom. In any political setting, authority is exercised, blocked, debated, accepted, and noticed… we think we know authority when we see it.

Weisser on controlling the web… the internet does not really offer us a way to interact free from constraints.

Invokes browsers as lenses, code interpreting other code, constructing an image of what’s out there.

To describe the web browser, invoked the tiny computer screen from Brazil, using the giant lens to magnify what’s on the tiny screen.

Leitch — in civil society, people gather for no particular apparent meaning, meeting to exchange opinions and information… to congregate without acting in any official capactity. (This is Web 2.0, but constrained by our tools.)

The blogosphere is contstant mental chatter in the forebrain, the equivalent of conscious thought, constructed on top of the collective consciousness. (O’Reilly.) 

Any web application is software above the level of a single advice. (O’Reilly.)  Multiple computers, multiple users, multiple ISPs.  It’s an illusion (McArdle notes) that all this is free and unconstrained.

James A. Evans — Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship.  Analyzed 34 million journal articles, noted that scientists are citing the same popular papers and over again, resulting in a feedback loop.  An acceleration of concensus. As the web becomes more powerful, the more the range of scientific discourse shrinks.

Do we really have access to everything we think we have access to?

Habermas call to action — affect our self-understanding and orientate us in action.  [McArdle slipped in an interesting reference to author intent, suggesting that preserving the intended mode of delivery is an important goal, using collective intellignece to advise people which browsers are necessary for which sites to perform in the way the authors intended.  ]