post-grad pressures & disposable students

too rad for grad school

jb of Sassyfrass Circus offers a great/conflicted/confessional/humorous rant that explores the pressures to pursue graduate school and the uncomfortable exclusions of the university system.

this year, many of my friends are graduating seniors who have applied to grad schools in various departments (history, english, political science, philosophy) and the letters of acceptance and rejection have started to trickle in. it’s an entirely scary and upsetting process, even from a (slightly) removed position. how do you capture the worth of a student on few sheets of paper? sure, there are ways to individuate yourself through a dynamic personal statement or a collection of activities and awards, but both can be easily skewed and neither are exhaustive accounts of an individual being. and i guess i don’t know anything that meets that last requirement but it’s still painful to see the reduction of the student to the application, particularly when the application is denied.

in digital ethnography, we’ve talked a lot about the pressure to go to college but we haven’t yet discussed the pressure to continue in post-grad education. for anyone wanting srs intellectual pursuits, the pressure for a phd operates in much the same way. scholarship can exist outside the university, but it’s much more difficult without an established community or access to published work (which is why publicly available scholarship should be demanded!). i would like to say i don’t need degrees to continue my intellectual endeavors but i find myself just a dependent on pursing a traditional academic path.

perhaps my research into cracks and fissures within (and now without) the educational system will change my mind.


excerpts from existencilism by banksy

cracks and fissures// deterritorializaitons and reterritorializations // graffitti is to city as x is to education?


“If you want to say something and have people listen then you have to wear a mask. If you want to be honest then you have to lie. Being yourself is overrated anyway. It doesn’t help. People say ‘I’m just being myself’ as if that’s some kind of fucking achievement. That’s not an achievement, that’s not honesty, its lack of imagination and cowardice.”

“People think that cutting stuff up is destructive but it’s acutally a very creative thing to do because you’re making loads of new stuff.”

“Twisted little people go out every day and deface this great city. lLeaving their idiotic little scribblings, invading communities and making people feel dirty and used. They just take, take, take, and they don’t put anything back. they’re mean and selfish and they make the world and ugly place to be. We call them adversiding agencies and town planners. People say there is a graffitt prolem. The only problem with graffiti is that there isn’t enough of it. Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where veyrbody could draw what they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a living, breathing thing which belonged to everybody, not just the estate agents of barons of big business. Imagine a city like this and stop leaning agianst that wall- it’s wet.”

read more here.


planning, whereby the present interpenetrates the future

In digital ethnography, we have moved towards developing our individual projects and areas of focus. While the entire class will continue to explore the juncture of mediation and education, each of us are now responsible for a particular subject. My project aims to explore the cracks and fissures within the current education system. Understanding that the current educational structure isn’t going to evaporate anytime soon (or at least, not has not yet), I am trying to find stories of students and instructors thriving within given circumstances. I suspect this thriving takes on a variety of forms: an individual student passionate about a lecture environment, a student using technology to extend his/her education outside of a classroom, alternative pedagogies, and/or collaboration/group sourcing. The activity of parkour offers a visual example of the cracks and fissures process: the participant runs in an urban setting over building and structures, transforming various personal and commercial environments into a novel environment for adventures. This transformation can be understood as a form of reterritorialization. The use of physical, spacial language is particularly apporpriate in the context of education- trying to make sense of how students operate within classrooms, within university structures.

Here’s the tentative research schedule. Planning is not one of my strengths and I intend to get side-tracked but each week does outline some points I would like to explore specifically. Please share any relevant stories, sites, or sources, if possible.

Week 1: Reread d&g, find blog articles, journal articles, specifically read up on educational revolts in UK

Week 2: Find instances (video/picture/audio/interview) of educational cultural jamming: the collegian trolling,  papers with lolcats/subversive grammar

Week 3:  Find instances/ do research on crowd sourcing and group collaboration

Week 4:  Do more research on educational fissures- try to talk to success stories/get interviews via text/phone/other

Week 5:  Re-evaluate

oddly awesome, or why music makes a difference

I have no obvious reason to be invested in the geometric shapes appearing on my screen but I know that I am. They are meaningful, important, their work is urgent. Not only must I watch them, but I must care about them, identify with them, root for their success.

Musical manipulation. Wonderful juxtaposition. An entertaining reminder of the power of sound.

geologizing striated technology

“What seems to be lost in the constant eulogy for the old guard forms of cultural content and dissemination is the fact that we have just as much agency to get off the computer and become archeologists of an analogue past.”

– M. Borkowski, Arguing the Web

Much of the criticism of technology focuses on the constant bombardment of news forms, new gadgets, new updates. The user finds his/herself standing before an insurmountable pile of endless newness, unable to account for the whole of options, let alone make informed decisions regarding any particular piece of technology. In “Arguing the Web”, Burkowski draws attention to the fact that, even with the constant production of new technology, old technology remains in use. The claim resonates with my own experiences: my record player sits next to my iHome and gets more use. Bicycles are increasingly the preferred method of transportation. Interwebs-speak blends harmoniously with OED approved english. A sketch pad coexists with a digital notepad. The pdfs stored on my macbook certainly don’t receive the same attention that my books, stacked lovingly on chairs, shelves, and the floor both receive and deserve.

There’s something significant about the technology that remains important, despite updates/upgrades. How do different layers of technology co-exist? How do our striated mediations vary from person to person? More thoughts to come…

(dis)connections: technology, mediation, and community

I had to write a chapter proposal for an anthology on american feminisms in 1873 and decided to explore the question of mediation in a very particular time period and setting. It’s markedly different than my standard explorations of mediation from my own social location.

Proposal for Anthology: “Feminisms” in 1873 and 1973

submitted by: blake hallinan

Title: (dis)connections: technology, mediation, and community


Technology acts as a mediator between various subjects, objects, and events, an expression of the very possibility for connections and disconnections. Although contemporarily understood as the latest smart phone or operating system, technology encompasses a much broader field and includes constructions such as written and spoken language. Technology operates as an important, relevant factor in the historical space of 1873. Developments in transportation technology- particularly the rapid expansion of railway tracks across the United States- help enable the emergence of a national identity while reducing the strength of local and regional ties. Developments in economic structures- particularly the expansion of a market economy and the rise of the stock market- enabled the creation of other technologies. Victoria Woodhull, one of the first female stock brokers, made her fortune off the market and used it to fund her weekly journal and political endeavors. At the same time, the market inequality leads to a greater increase in economic inequalities among the population overall.

While Victoria Woodhull’s journal offers one example of the intersection of technology and feminist politics, many other aspects of her life reflect this collusion of forces. Another example includes the women’s political rally that Woodhull, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attended where Anthony did not want Woodhull to speak because of potential political liabilities. Since Stanton was unwilling to confront Woodhull and prevent her from speaking, Anthony intervened, had the lights turned off in the hall, moved the rally to another location without informing Woodhull of the change, effectively excluding her from the rally. Fascinating for various reasons, the anecdote demonstrates the powerful way in which technology may be used as a political tactic. Technopolitical tactics may also be seen in Susan B. Anthony’s campaign leading up to her trial for illegal voting, in the proliferation of journals and newspapers, in the expanding postal service.

The mediation of daily lives offers valuable insight into what constitutes the lived experience of 1873, but also how the social was constituted and challenged. The above examples do not come to a conclusion on the benefit or detriment of technology on whole and social progress, but rather problematize the ways in which it may function. The aim of the chapter is similar: to explore the ways in which technology constitutes the political and social experience of women in 1873 and to trace the divergent consequences of technology.

vost2011: having fun with education


new video for the project. it was very different working with someone else’s story rather than my own. i felt far more tied to preserving and presenting what ben said in the best light- i wanted to do justice to his ideas and our interview. when i work with my own words or images, i have far less loyalty.

i wanted to focus on different suggestions and more detailed analysis of education, rather than just passing among buzzwords. it is so difficult to create depth in a short video. there’s an art i have not mastered there…


more on this later.

[chat-speak] Whole Brain Teaching

B: So when you sent me the link to this vide0 
I was really excited at first. There was so much energy and gesturing and engagement of all sorts of learning types… but then the video kept going. It it started getting a little odd. What were your initial reactions?
S: When I first watched the video, I was alarmed at :22, when the teacher mandates that the class feign comprehension. It went downhill from there; I realized the teacher was trying to harness the natural wildness of the students. There might be something to the principle (there might not), but I was truly disturbed by the level of control going on. Clap when I clap. I give instructions, you follow them precisely. Instruction after instruction. Reward and punishment system. It wasn’t, in many ways, different than anything in standard schooling- it was just higher speed and with more energy. It might be better for teaching CONTENT (the kids might remember their Order of Operations well after this lesson), but the meta-content (unequestioning, thoughtless, immediate obedience) has enormously disturbing implications.

Questions for Blake: How would you feel if you were in this class in 6th grade? In 2nd grade? In High school? Today, in College? Does the nature of the course make a difference for this method of teaching? Is it better or worse than other methods? In what ways?

B: Oh hmm… I’m trying to remember what I was like as a 6th grader. I don’t think it would have suited me. My own classroom experience was quite different. I went to a one class per grade Catholic school and we had different teachers for different subjects. There was some class participation and projects, but not much. It would have been really difficult to get us to go along with something like that. As a 2nd grader, it probably would have been fun at first, but I can’t imagine that I would have gone along with it for any extended period of time. I didn’t see the point of just following instructions. We had this weekly art assignment where the teacher would go through the steps to make a given drawing on the overhead and we would all have to follow along one step at a time and I hated it. Sure, the pictures turned out better overall but they were also really lame. I much preferred my original attempts. High school- hell no. People would walk out. I’m inclined to say the same, if not more for college. I think the overall execution of the method is worse for students, although parts of it (embodied learning) are really neat.

S: I’m inclined to think that any classroom would have trouble accepting this method. That is one thing that does surprise me that I feel merits investigation: how did these teachers get these different students to go along with this?! It’s unnatural, awkward, and uncomfortable to boot. Is it possible to get students to get out of their comfort zone in surprising ways- and if so, can that be put to better use than synchronized spaz attacks?

B: I wonder how they got the teachers to go along with this. It’s very different from the image we normally have of a teacher- something much closer to an animal trainer or drill sergeant. It would have to be exhausting to keep up.

S: For the students or for the teachers to keep up?

B: Both, actually. Can you imagine the hungover slacker in the back of your standard gen-ed lecture class attempting to keep up with that? One word: vomit.

S: If you can get that kid to enjoy this kind of treatment, maybe he won’t go out drinking the night before a lecture.

B: I mean… there’s that. But I don’t know how much genuine enjoyment this method creates. The students look like automatons, not agents. What do they do/how do they learn when they don’t have someone orchestrating their every move?

S: YES! This was the other big concern I had- this is TERRIBLE for teaching kids the skill of “doing stuff on their own.” How are they going to live, or work, if they get taught to be treated like a dog- rolling over and sitting up on command for a Milkbone? What employer is going to clap their hands at the start of each work day or shift and boom “WORK!” with the expectation of a response of 2 claps and a solid “OK!”? Neither Orwell nor Huxley even thought to envision a society THAT messed up. Monty Python might have, though…

B: And now I’m youtubing Monty Python sketches… :)

S: That’s a black hole of time. Like Onion News Network videos.

B: Right then. Moving on. I think we’ve established the general creepiness of the teaching method. Do you think there’s anything valuable about what’s happening here? Have you read any reports or statistics about the method?

S: Science-wise, I knew at least a few things right off the bat. My school was toying with this whole “crossing the midline” thesis; the idea being that if you did physical tasks that involved crossing the lateral-middle of your body with your hand (bringing your right hand to the left side for your body to do something), it did all kinds of great stuff for your neural pathways. But all this was based on lots of research about the connection between the physical and the mental. I learned last semester about some amazingly mean things a guy named Merleau-Ponty did to cats: making them blind by not allowing them to use their legs. So, there’s a lot of literature on the body-mind connection. And it’s obvious that a kid who has to yell and move around every 30 seconds is less likely to fall asleep and tune out. As to how “successful” it is? Always depends on definition of success. The kids clearly stay awake. Do they do better on tests? I have no idea. I’m inclined to say it doesn’t matter. No amount of content mastery is going to compensate for the crippling of the individual in the previously discussed ways. Also, it’s a new enough method there might not be much research done on it yet.
To be fair, this guy’s website ALSO freaks me out. Some of his introductory remarks include these gems:
Are you so frazzled from battling your challenging kids that, horrors!, you’re thinking of going to law school?
Whole Brain Teaching videos have received over 1,000,000 views on YouTube … that puts us right up there with Beyonce!
Hmm… looks like this guy relies a lot on testimonials, of which he has many.

B: I feel like my education was seriously lacking in innovation, although as I think this video demonstrates, along with a certain Monty Python video about eduction (nsfw):

not all innovation is good. Also, wow! That rhetoric is unsettling. I don’t know why those would be good phrases to explain or promote the method.  My elementary education was characterized by splitting into small groups based on track levels- which I had no awareness of at the time- and heavily word problem/ critical thinking driven math instruction, which, although fun did not make my life easy when I switched schools and was expected to know things like multiplication tables. I don’t know. I feel like my education was pretty standard. Pretty traditional. Just with some good teachers mixed in.

S: I switched schools when I was in 5th grade (and went into 4th grade, because my birthday missed a cutoff date for my new school district). I was invited to the G/T program but declined, fearing the “nerd” label for which I was harshly persecuted at my previous school. A year later I had made friends at the school and was more or less forced into G/T. It was a good thing for me. I think my education at Littleton Academy (a K-8 school where my mother taught) was really good in most respects. The teachers were phenomenal. I thrived in that school. High school… was enormously standard. I can’t think of my education experience without thinking of individual teachers, individual courses. There isn’t really a grand narrative here- it’s just a lot of little stories gathered together, but even in one semester I have very different experiences in very different courses. I can’t talk about my “education experience” because I don’t have one. I have… about 14 years of formal schooling, with roughly 10 courses for each year. I have 140 stories of things that happened, things that went well or poorly and why. And the stories have huge variety. If I’m to speak of my “overall education experience,” I would say it was positive because I developed the skill of tuning out from the bad experiences. I just ignored a bad course or a bad teacher. That has its cost, of course. I can’t stop tuning out, sometimes- even when I wish I could calm my brain. But maybe that’s not learned. That might just be a different issue altogether.

B: Speaking of education experiences- I’m neglecting mine at the moment. Homework is calling my name (far louder and more frequent than I would like) and I am obliged to respond. I would like to see what other educational models are being promoted (particularly through youtube) and hash out some thoughts again. Interested?

S: I rarely know/remember when I have homework. I think I have to study for a quiz I have tomorrow. We’ll have to look into it. I know there are a bunch of models. I know Littleton Academy had a really specific CURRICULUM (“Core Knowledge Program” or something) but I know less about teaching styles and approaches. I’d be interested, too, in the way those two are viewed as either intertwined or interchangeable.

B: Excellent.

Media Bashing: quit yr bitching

<I realize the word “media educator” could sound nefarious. After all, isn’t advertising “media education” on how to be good consumers? Media educators teach media literacy, but I hate that term, because it implies that if we learned to understand media like books we would be smarter and better, and this is not true. I agree with Marshal McLuhan that current media is just an extension of the thought forms that were codified by the alphabet and printing press. So if people want to get pissed about the current state of media, consider how books have destroyed our communal way of thinking (because books make us silent, isolated experiencers of knowledge). I’m not anti-book, but all this media bashing is also not addressing the problem.> Antonio Lopez, Mediacology

o noes- not the big bad media!!!!!!! destroying our social relationships! destroying our children! destroying our lives! mass criticism of media/mediation would make a whole lot more sense if facebook functioned the same way as tv the same way as pr0nz. or even if each technology functioned the same way for an 80 year old emeritus professor using dial-up, a 16 year old high schooler in suburban us, and a 30 year old activist in egypt. but it doesn’t- and any criticism which fails to take these differences into account necessarily cannot account for the effects, both positive and negative, of technology and mediation.

the current rate of technological developments leave many people, understandably, confused. while discussing her experiences with education recently, a friend of mine ranted about the constant release of new gadgets that perform the same function, citing various apple products and data networks. she was unwilling to follow all the differences and felt overwhelmed by the surge of information. this is the same student that is taking intensive language courses in russian, her third language, while juggling a full schedule of courses and research work. there’s a bit of tension there- is a language really so different than an iPod? certainly they perform different functions, but both are human technologies capable of being used for communication, expression, and/or entertainment. it’s easy to grumble about technological overload- but no one really applied the same arguments or levels of skepticism towards more established technologies, such as writing or language.

i am not calling for such criticism- to the contrary, i love language and writing and a whole lot of other technologies. at the same time, i realize that no category as category has normative value. language is not all good or all bad. rather, there are parts of language which are completely lovely and other parts that are hurtful and offensive and still others that are infinitely mundane. the same goes writing, television, social networking, and porn. critical thought should account for nuances rather than rely on broad, vacuous labels. after all, what isn’t technology?