Thursday, February 27, 2003

Peeling The Onion

This Week In History, Feb 26, 1913

Here at NMH we chatter among ourselves almost predominantly through SWIS, a First-Class-driven all-in-one, email, chat, bulletin boards and conferences, private and public folders, web publishing space. SWIS technically stands for School-Wide Information System, but after a dozen years of use the term is by now both active verb and noun, both swis me that paper on Hawthorne as an attachment and Did you get that swis I sent you? I have had all my Media Literacy students write an analysis of swis as a medium in the context of its user community since I first began teaching the course in 1998; it's been interesting to watch swis evolve through their eyes.

And swis has changed over that time. For one thing, it's gotten more conservative, or at least, the combination of technological development and administrative expectations for appropriate use have driven a move towards more structure and oversight in student folders over time. Students lost the use of the the resume function, which allows one to create a small web page-like thing in content much like the AIM buddy info, but in design more like a hybrid between a basic web page and a jazzed-up MSWord document, a few years ago due to inappropriate language, and the aforementioned AIM is by far the preferred choice when chat is desired. One might say that as the cultural situation of swis matures, the culture of NMH and the culture of swis continue on parallel but tonally distinct tracks, each serving as a fundamental layer of discourse, part of the process of constant self recreation that is inherent in, nay, vital to the healthy growth of any community. But I digress.

Among the conferences provided for faculty and staff but invisible to students, a Community Circle folder contains several subfolders, like For Sale and Kids Corner; among them, a Humor folder, generally filled with a sprinkling of smart satire and a small flood of Irish/Blonde/Priest/Southerner jokes (Race and sexuality are off the table in the modern post-PC universe, but ethnicity, regionality, vocation and intelligence continue to be fair game). It's a good dump for that mildly funny office joke making the e-rounds, better than the old email account, subtle and surreptitious, easily taken or left as the user prefers. It's a good read when you're bored, too.

Today I posted the following in the Humor folder, from this week's issue of The Onion™:

God Quietly Phasing Holy Ghost Out Of Trinity

HEAVEN—Calling the Holy Trinity "overstaffed and over budget," God announced plans Monday to downsize the group by slowly phasing out the Holy Ghost. "Given the poor economic climate and the unclear nature of the Holy Ghost's duties, I felt this was a sensible and necessary decision," God said. "The Holy Ghost will be given fewer and fewer responsibilities until His formal resignation from Trinity duty following Easter services on April 20. Thereafter, the Father and the Son shall be referred to as the Holy Duo."

It was up for an hour, and then an English teacher, not coincidentally the advisor to the Catholic Student Organization, suggested that the post oversteps the line into bad taste. Not because of the recent loss of 30 jobs here at the school. Because it mocks God.

My opinion: The satirical target in the above example is businesses, not the Holy Trinity. Jokes which target nuns and Priests as stereotypes are more damaging, and more frequent to boot. But action in an institution is (and should be) motivated by a complex web of reasons political, communal, social; moreso should the role models of that institution (the teachers) practice moral appropriateness as a norm in society where it does not compromise their own values as individuals (an invaluable caveat, I note). And action in a PC culture is best erred on the side of caution and politeness -- this is an age where misunderstandings of words and meanings spoken are the fault of he-who-speaks, not the misunderstood.

He asked me to delete the post. I deleted the post. And I'm okay with that...I think.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 AM |

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