Friday, February 23, 2007

More on Wikipedia and Information Literacy

So, Middlebury College has banned Wikipedia as a cited reference source, according to the New York Times, based on its lack of authoritative status.

Interestingly, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia agrees with decision, in this quote from the NYT article:

Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia and chairman emeritus of its foundation, said of the Middlebury policy, “I don’t consider it as a negative thing at all.”

He continued: “Basically, they are recommending exactly what we suggested — students shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn’t be citing Encyclopaedia Britannica, either.

“If they had put out a statement not to read Wikipedia at all, I would be laughing. They might as well say don’t listen to rock ’n’ roll either.”

Here at Oregon State we say about the same thing: You can start by looking at Wikipedia, but then you must find more scholarly sources.

National Personifications

Last week - sorry it's taken me so long - I created a lesson for my argument students about visual rhetoric (something I like to do when they are turning in an assignment as a fun interlude). Although I have several visual rhetoric activities already, I wanted something new, so I made a brief PowerPoint about Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty, to discuss images of national personification. I showed variations through time and some of the takeoffs on Uncle Sam, as well as the historical sources of the image and pose.

Surprisingly (or maybe not) students had not really thought about how they wished to be represented to the rest of the world. Most agreed that Uncle Sam seems angry and bossy, and while they didn't think that was a nice image, they could see that to the rest of the world, this image might seem very accurate about America. Most preferred the welcoming gentleness of Lady Liberty, although they realized the conflict of the fact that we are now saying the opposite of Emma Lazarus's sonnet "The New Colossus" with its famous line "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
—Emma Lazarus, 1883

Ironically, although that poem is now posted on the Statue of Liberty, in fact now many Americans want to close borders.

Suggestions for alternatives to both Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty included Colonel Sanders (he looks jolly and provides food) and Hugh Hefner/Playboy Bunny, because of America's focus of selfsatisfaction and sex. For some reason, Uncle Sanders wants to be at the top of the page.

Colonel Sanders
Lady Liberty
Statue of Liberty. Photo. Wikipedia. 15 Feb 2007.

St. Polycarp's Day

Today is the saint day for Polycarp, an early Christian martyr from Turkey. His name intrigues me. Is it Poly=many + carp = fish (which would make sense because this is the zodiacal month for Pisces) or is it + carp=complaints? I'm going with the fish idea, because of the "fishers of men" metaphor.

Here's a icon from

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Comments Update

Wow - my post on Dr. Faust's success attracted 500 spam postings! Much too much to deal with. So, my apologies, but from now on, the commenting feature has character recognition. This means that anyone wanting to dialogue will have to type in the letters that appear. Apparently character recognition foils the robot spammers which cannot perceive the letters. Which is a good thing.

If for some reason the letters are not clear, just click back (back arrow) and then forward. This will produce a new set of characters that should be readable.

Thanks, everyone.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dr. Faust's Success

Congratulations to Drew Gilpin Faust, Professor of American History at Harvard and the new president of Harvard. She joins other distinguished women as president of Ivy League colleges.

According to Bloomberg's interesting article about Dr. Faust, "The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the first Ivy League school to select a woman as president, was led by Judith Rodin from 1994 to 2004. Rodin was succeeded by Amy Gutmann, and women now also lead Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Princeton University in New Jersey." It appears that Bloomberg does not count Bryn Mawr College in the Ivy League.

Forbes also mentions that Dr Faust got her BA at Bryn Mawr College in 1968, so I could have known her when I was there. Bryn Mawr College's current president Nancy Vickers is now retiring. I am eager to see who our new president will be.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Arguments of definition - Identity Politics?

An article in today's paper highlighted a fascinating argument of definition in the upcoming presidential race. The question is whether Barack Obama is an African American. Now, certainly, considering that his father is Kenyan and his mother American, he is quintessentially African American. But considering that heritage and his childhood, growing up in Indonesia etc, to what extent do African Americans descended from slaves consider Obama as "one of them?" Very interesting question.

This shows what I have tried to tell my students at Oregon State about the relevance of arguments of definition - definitely not a trivial exercise.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Quick post about the Scottish clan of Gunn, and here, of which I am a member, though my signet ring does not read "Aux Pax aut Bellum" (either peace or war) but "Sine Metu" (without fear). The tartan is quite pretty, and while traditionally women do not wear kilts, I do have one, made in Edinburgh. Here's one version.

Writing Mentors - part 1

My friend and colleague Vicki was describing an assignment for her advanced comp class, where she asked students to write about their writing mentors, a person, experience, etc. My first thought was the anti-mentor (the Harry Potteresque De-mentor) who taught the first year comp class at Bryn Mawr in the dark ages (1965). This was current traditional rhetoric, writing about literature - in this case, British Romantic 19th century poems and prose. The prof, whose name begins with B, proclaimed that my writing was awful and he couldn't possibly help me.

By contrast, years later (1989), I found an excellent writing mentor by reading the New York Times Book Review weekly and absorbing by osmosis the writing approach and styles in the reviews for prose. When I moved from Grants Pass to Lebanon, I just hated recycling 10 years worth of NYTBR issues! What a loss.

As for poetry, I would say that the work of Jane Kenyon is a huge (though not the only) influence. (consider her wonderful poem "Having it out with Melancholy.")

I can tell that I am going to write about this more, hence the Part 1 in the title.

Searching WITH Delicious

After posting recently about adding the online bookmarking tool Delicious, I was talking with a colleague at Linn Benton Community College about the difficulty of filing papers. We agree that it's so hard to know where to put things that we could find later. Would this be filed with poetry? or with an individual poem? or what about a poetry organization? Or in a file for graduate students? The possibilities are huge. Trapped in indecision, we leave the papers in piles around our office.

Aha - but consider if we had physical filing systems similar to Delicious. Then I could tag a piece of paper with all the options that might occur to me and store it somewhere. When I wanted it again, I could try various tags until I found it.

This would eliminate the frustration over the weekend as I could not find a poem that I am sure I wrote in about 1990. I visualized perfectly the moment when I thought of the poem - the recalcitrance of inanimate objects - but could not find either a printed or electronic copy. What would I have named this poem? I even looked through my old DOS files. No luck. Does the poem only exist in my mind? Scary thought. That's a teflon sieve for sure. (Ref: MBTI "Perceiving", aka the John Kerry's mental map. No wonder I am a Pisces.)

Using a tangible Delicious, I could (maybe) have found it.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The web is us

See this cool post on jill/txt about how we are now the 2.0 read/write web. This is the rhetorical space we are trying to share with our students.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Search for Delicious

A book that was popular at the bookstore where I worked was a children's fable called The Search for Delicious, which is actually a kind of argument of definition, since the whole plot involves a civil war about what is delicious. The young hero has been sent around the kingdom to find out what everyone thinks is delicious. I won't ruin the ending by telling you what everyone finally agreed on. Socially constructed knowledge, for sure.

I keep wanting to share this book with my argument students who have just finished their definition essays. No one has chosen the word delicious to define -- that would be fun -- but we have had some very interesting papers defining adolescence, cool, truth, family, cruelty, identity, drug (caffeine?), medicine, euthanasia, murder, design, and others.

Meanwhile, Michael has helped me with the other search for delicious - - the social bookmarking website where users can track their favorites/bookmarks online so that from whatever computer they use, they can find the sites they want. This is great because my home computer has a different set of favorites than at work and often it's a hunt to find what I want.

Furthermore, the categorizing system allows me to designate a site by more than one category, thus alleviating the search for "what did I file this under?" And, I get to see what kinds of tags other people use.

And maybe the best part is the Tag Cloud, where the categories are listed by SIZE depending on how many sites are categorized under that term. Then a user can see which ones are most popular. Also, users can share their network. Now I just have to tag all the sites in my favorites - that's a lot. Too much for a Friday afternoon, for sure.

This really does define Cool.
Thanks, Michael.

ps: Michael also helped me with Bloglines, but I haven't gotten very far with setting that up, either, but that will help me find whether Michael has anything new on his Collage of Citations without actually going to the site to check. Pretty handy, huh!

UPDATE on Feb 6 -- I am still using my sidebar vertical linear list of favorite bookmarks because it is visual and spatial - I know that OSU Blackboard is about half way down, etc. Will I maintain a (wasteful?) duplicate filing system?

Molly Ivins can say whatever she pleases

Just another tribute to Molly Ivins, whose book Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? also sparked a huge billboard in Dallas.

Molly gave me a great laugh when I was working at a bookstore, calling a customer to say her order was in, repeating the book's title Shrub, and saying to the customer, "you know, like a little bush" and then laughing uproariously.

Here are some other great links on Molly:
Michael on Collage
Clancy on Culture Cat who references another tribute on Norbizness
And this from Kelley Shannon of the AP, from my local newspaper. However, this link does not seem to have the gracious tribute to Ivins (written by someone else, no doubt). from President Bush that I saw in the actual paper, so I am going to get it out of recycling and add it here.
Also this link.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writer Laureate

I had not heard the term of Writer Laureate before, but now OSU has its own writer laureate in Kathy Dean Moore, whose wonderful collection of essays, Riverwalking, has been so well received. I really enjoyed the way she interacts with nature, a bit like the wonderful poet Mary Oliver, though in prose. I met Kathy once when the Spring Creek Project was hosting Linda Lear, biographer of Rachel Carson and Beatrix Potter, when Lear spoke at OSU in 2003.