Thursday, May 15, 2003

Digital Student, CyberClassroom:
Writing What You Are, How You Are, And Why You Are

The penultimate assignent in my Media Literacy class is simply presented: create, I tell them, a hypertext on identity in a digital age...In pairs, develop a natively non-linear document, both structurally and content-wise consistent with knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation values of the new digital age -- among them communality, democratization, delinearity, collaboration, and fragmentation -- which addresses as subject some aspect of modern individual identity...Speak subjectively and objectively, thus embracing fluidity between yourselves and your readers; promise engagement and interaction, and deliver.

In the past, the assignment has resulted in all sorts of wild and wonderful things: wire-and-paper mobiles on the emerging sexual self of the adolescent; board games and choose your own adventures exploring the new ways we make and evaluate choices in our daily lives; webtexts and almost-papers on everything from the leisure hobbyist self to the self as community member, once geographically grounded, now fragmented and multiple and phase-shifted. Primary sources, including the environments and sometimes even the humans under discussion, link by blue-and-underline or umbillical tape-and-string to the body of work. In their final form these projects take their places around the classroom, and the vast school body is invited in to visit and explore our Museum of Hypertext, where visitor comments can be addedon to the permanently open and unfinished body of work that we have made.

This term, as in the Fall, a pair of students are writing a blog on blogging, and in their early stages they are asking for comments and ideas; please visit them, and leave your kindness and critique. Interestingly, as with the first blogproject, I find that the blog begins with a short testing...are-you-there blogentry, followed quite shortly by a complaint that blogger keeps "eating" their entries; perhaps this commonality is unsurprising given the narrow course-specific approach coupled with the common newness of the blog itself in each case.

Other projects this term include:
- an exploration of video games and the phenomenon of avatar self-identification,
- a look at the new possibilities and norms of various forms of online dating, as compared to "traditional" dating,
- an analysis of the spectrum web-based identity opportunities, including static (web pages), mostly one-way (blogs) and interactive (web boards) examples, and
- a close dissection of AIM as an identity-sharing space, with attention to the ways in which identity is both self-determined and peer-determined.

Of course, the best part of the project is asking students to rethink the idea of "project" or "document" at the end of the process -- for, ultimately, the finished museum can be seen as a single hypertext, much as Bolter suggests that one might envision the entire Internet as a single hypertext. That, and the way in which we show how the digital age destroys the subjective/objective dichotomy, once so stilted and formal in the written wor(l)d, by thinking about whose experience the museum ultimately was as an afterthought.

Man, I'm going to miss teaching this class.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:06 AM |

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