Readings, and Related Inspirations

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Inspiration in a Podcast

As I prepare to dig deep into my dissertation, I have learned a lot about my own writing process(es) – one of which is podcasting.

Let me explain:

In order to stay healthy and brain-stimulated, I run several times a week. When I run, I don’t like to listen to music. The beat forces my pace and this frustrates me. Instead, I podcast. I don’t listen to funny podcasts because laughing while running is also not wonderful. Instead, I podcast educational materials. Recently I have discovered the material theorists dream – The History of the World in 100 Objects sponsored by the British Museum.

Not only has this lead to several hours of fascinating discovery about significant bits of history of which I was unaware, it has also (today) lead to some rather large bits of inspiration. In podacst 015: “Early Writing Tablet“, broadcast on 5 February 2010, the narrator says, “Of all mankind’s great advances, the development of writing is surely the giant. I think you can say, it’s had more impact on the evolution of human society than any other invention.”  The episode, which I have linked you to above, goes on to talk about one of the first discoveries of writing in Uruk. The writing is record keeping – and the record is about beer. Suffice it to say, this program is worth a listen.

As I listened to this short episode, I realized that I don’t have to do much to connect the theoretical lens that I am using to frame my dissertation to the study of writing. Writing is so immensely important to humans, civilization, and the labor we put into making those civilizations work, almost any object, space, or even software can be linked to how important writing on, in, or about is crucial to deciphering how to better ourselves, and the civilizations in which we live.

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Sound Shorts

This post is undergoing some serious post-iPad editing as of 22OCT2012 10:52AM PST

I’m currently suffering from an access issue, so this blog is going to be a little out of the ordinary for me. I just finished THATCamp Hybrid Pedagogy, and am currently using someone else’s iPad, which I have pretty much no idea how to use.

That said, I was able to access the blogs that we read, except for one of them. However, because I don’t understand fully how to use this machine, I can’t figure out how to listen to the tracks. This prompts me to write about two interesting topics for me: interface and found sound.

One of the things we talked about at THATCamp this weekend was whether or not scholarship needs to be long. I contend that it does not. Our sound articles for this week prove to me that really rich content can be had without a long traditional, journal-style article. And also, I love HASTAC. I recommend that if you haven’t ever been on HASTAC before that you visit and consider becoming a member, as the sharing community there is large, and deep. The members of HASTAC throw out some wonderful ideas and they do it in short bites, much like the Sound Out! blog, and our own blog entries here.

I tend to really enjoy the blog entries, like the HASTAC entry and the São Paulo entry. The Sao Paulo entry reminds me of a concept called found sound because of its focus on all the sounds that exist around us, whether or not we want to hear them. Found sound is when you create meaning out of sounds you hear around  you. For example, sometimes, when I’m waiting for a train, I sing a song to the bells and even do a little dance. I can’t help it. It’s like music that the Santa Fe line has provided for me several times a day (if I’m hanging out in Flagstaff, Arizona). The Jessica Barness site does this exceptionally well.

Click on the dots to get a sound – all the sounds have a similar beat and they make ‘music’ together.

But if we thinking about it, there are a LOT of found sounds all around us. During a talk that Audrey Watters gave at THATCamp this morning,

Audrey Watters gives a talk on her blog

the sound of clicking came from almost every person in the room (look at all those laptops. I see 3 and a desktop in this shot alone). This was not strange because it’s 2012. But if I think about it, ten years ago, this would have been such a strange and distracting background sound feed. Often, as I type, I find that I type with a bit of a beat. And maybe I’m the only one that does this, but I definitely feel a beat when I compose using a keyboard.

I have reached the end of my ‘playing with this iPad’ experiment. I plan on revising this entry and adding my usual image/video/hyperlink addition, but I have to wait to get back to my computer.

— I would like to add an additional statement about my small experiment in access: this weekend I did a lot of ‘winging it’ during the conference and ended up a lot of places without a computer. I also I don’t have a smart phone. I tweeted the conference out by texting my tweets to twitter. But I couldn’t read anything coming in, nor could I participate in the google docs work that was happening at the conference. Thankfully, Pete had an extra iPad on him, so I got to learn by ‘being thrown in the water’ – and I feel like I learned SO much about computers and composition here, that I recommend that you jump onto the conference and check out the virtual link to see some of what we did there: ThatCampHP Virtual


Don’t Forget the Sound

Reading through Cynthia Selfe’s article, “”The Movement of Air, The Breath of Meaning,” I am reminded of Cheryl Ball’s essay, “Show Not Tell” because both articles apologize for not reflecting the mediums about which they are writing. The part I thought was most interesting though, is that Selfe incorporates links for listening. This was a really cool addition.

I have to admit, sonic aurality is not something I had ever heard of before Computers and Composition class. I saw it on the syllabus and thought, “what could that possibly be about?” My brain went to physics: vibrations. Would we be studying vibrations? And if so, Why the heck would we do that? I mean – I get it – rhetoric is interdisciplinary. But physics? Really?

Turns out that when we talk about aurality, we are talking about how sound factors into composing, especially in multimodal composing. If someone had told me a few years ago that I might be considering incorporating aurality into my beginning composition course, I would have told you you are crazy. What does aurality have to do with composition?

But then I think about all the areas of my life that are filled with sound. When I get out of bed in the morning, I stream National Public Radio to listen to the news since Atlanta seems to have something against decent member stations. When I ride the train, I often listen to my iPod, sometimes music, sometimes podcasts with more news. At school I listen to people talking. I listen to my students. I listen to my colleagues. And they all listen to me (and I talk a lot). On my way home, I often listen to my iPod again. At home, sometimes I watch movies, or listen to Pandora on my computer as I’m working. I am surrounded by sound constantly. Why wouldn’t I think this is a completely acceptable focus for a composition course?

After reading the Comstock and Hocks article, “Voice in the Cultural Soundscape: Sonic Literacy in Composition Studies,” I thought about assignments I might make using aurality. Actually – first I went online and found Mary’s 2009 album and listened to it. And then I thought about what I might teach.

I am a musician. I think about it like people think about alcoholism. Even though I don’t play anymore, I’ll always be a musician. Here’s something really embarrassing that I just need to share:

That’s me on the left. That’s my trumpet – not my principle instrument. I was about seventeen in that picture. Music was a HUGE part of my life. But composing it was not something I was good at. I tried once or twice, but it’s MUCH harder than it looks.

So I thought about how there could be the coolest FLC (Freshmen Learning Community) where music students all compose a piece for an actual English assignment. Then I thought: disaster.

Watching and listening to the clips incorporated into our readings helped. I really enjoyed most of them. I’m not a big fan of poetry slam (coincidentally, a poetry slam just started right behind me), so I would probably avoid assignments like this. However, podcast creation would be awesome. Or digital video creation with focus on the narrative. Or even music for students who want to give that a try. This allows us to break out of our traditional notions of composition and  focus on the fact that composition is so much bigger than writing.

This leaves me with 2 questions:

1. How do we assess these assignments?

2. If speaking and listening are roommates, what is the difference between Orality and AUrality?