Criminal Code: Procedural Logic and Rhetorical Excess in Videogames

Great example of the application of well-established humanities critical processes to the analysis of a technological artifact. Of all the possible options in the real world — increasing funding for education, reducing overcrowded housing, building mixed use developments, creating employment opportunities, and so on — it’s the presence of the police that lowers crime in SimCity. This is the argument that game makes, its procedural rhetoric. Naïve though it may…


Office Hours Are Obsolete

I have nothing against holding office hours. If no students show up, I just use the time to answer emails or check my gradebook and reach out to students who are falling behind. My office is also in a somewhat out-of-the-way place — at least, so students tell me. A colleague ends the first day of classes by leading all her first-year-writing students from the classroom to her office door,…


Astronauts cloaked Klingon space patch: Star Trek-inspired emblem revealed

The current commander of the International Space Station initially designed a mission badge that paid homage to Klingons. Too bad that design didn’t fly. Swanson, who currently is commander of the International Space Station, collaborated with his daughter to create an insignia for the outpost’s Expedition 40 crew. What he and his fellow astronauts and cosmonauts ultimately launched with to the space station was a patch depicting the “past, present,…

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Digital Storytelling: Empower the Multimodal Writing Classroom with Scratch

How can the busy writing teacher interested in new media storytelling deepen the pedagogical value of multimodality in the classroom — especially for students with limited programming experience? Students who learn to design, code, revise, and publish multimodal texts are empowered by their encounters with technology, and can be more critical of the interfaces they face in daily life. Yet too frequently we ask students to submit a multimedia project…

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Even in the U.S., Chinese Students May Have Tiananmen ‘Amnesia’

But now that he was at college in America, someone had mentioned Tiananmen, a friend. And he went online, to YouTube and Google, and pulled up videos and photographs from 25 years earlier, images not easily accessible behind China’s Great Firewall, as its Internet-censoring regime is called. He kept looking at one, he said, “the one.” A photograph of an unknown man, futilely trying to block a column of tanks.…

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What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

When I used a Windows XP Tablet computer a few years ago, I got more interested in handwriting, so that Windows could better recognize my scrawled text. I’m a traditionalist in many ways, but truthfully I’m not all that worked up about the loss of handwriting. (Having said that, I felt like a very bad parent when my daughter received congratulations note that she couldn’t read because it was written…

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What Causes the Smell of New & Old Books?

Generally, it is the chemical breakdown of compounds within paper that leads to the production of ‘old book smell’. Paper contains, amongst other chemicals, cellulose, and smaller amounts of lignin. Both of these originate from the trees the paper is made from; finer papers will contain less lignin than, for example, newsprint. In trees, lignin helps bind cellulose fibres together, keeping the wood stiff; it’s also responsible for paper yellowing…

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DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER)

Live in the DC area? June 19 I’ll be speaking about the play Rossum’s Universal Robots for a panel on “robots and theater,” sponsored by Cultural Programs of National Academy of Sciences. (The event will also be webcast.) D.C. Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER) is a monthly discussion forum on art science projects providing a snapshot of the cultural environment of the region and fostering interdisciplinary networking. This month, DASER explores…


It’s alive! What NPR learned from turning its @nprnews Twitter account from a bot into a human

My student journalists tell me they learn a lot from assignments that involve livetweeting events. It’s encouraging when students ramp up the social media work on their own, outside of classroom assignments, as part of their work for The Setonian Online. This article offers a helpful reminder that even the pros have to experiment in order to discover current best practices (which change rapidly, with the technology). But no matter…