Anti-Anti-Whaling Actions

Some of the footage coming out documenting efforts to stop anti-whaling actions. The sound you hear in the video is a Long Range Acoustic Device being used against the Steve Irwin.


Web as Trash Dump

I'm looking through email and come across a Google Alert for "Spencer Schaffner." Two or three links come in a day via this net, usually amounting to nothing, but I use the alert (and others like it) to keep track of the basic parameters of my web footprint.

Today's link is to coursehero.com, a site based (in part) on mining syllabi and reposting them in altered, stripped-down form. Soooo, since I post course materials and a syllabus every time I teach, and I have been doing this for the past nine years, you can imagine my astonishment at the volume of mined and reposted material over at coursehero.

In a little iFrame, my materials in their unformatted new form look like this:

I used to get bothered when I learned that someone had taken something I'd put online and presented it as their own (without attribution). And syndication can be equally frustrating online; in this case, it's happened without consent and via mechanisms of automation. Via such tools, the web becomes a garbage dump of duplicates and copies. As I've mentioned a couple of times before, originals seem to exist online only momentarily before being copied and republished for further purposes of copying.

In the case of syllabi being ripped off, I'm not too bothered: course materials are meant to be shared, tweaked, and repurposed. If someone can find something useful in course materials, and students benefit, then that's cool. At the same time, by stripping my course materials of all features of design and context, they now look kind of sad online.

I'm tempted to turn all text I post online into images in some desperate attempt to limit the extent to which my words are mined and spread around. But why bother?


HASTAC 2010 is still accepting applications. It should be another great conference, so get yer dang application in!


Rhetorical Pollution

As someone interested in rhetoric about pollution, I got a bit of a giggle out of this headline: Rhetoric polluting debate surrounding global warming. The punchline of the piece, as you might imagine, goes like this: "Bring on the facts because the rhetoric is polluting the debate."

Rhetoric as toxic cloud, as irritating pollution, as a vile contribution to debate, as if a debate were a kind of pure, unpolluted, arhetorical space that rhetoric enters into and (gasp!) messes up.


Google Chrome

I've been annoyed by all the Google videos lately: Google this, Google that. And then this one comes around, hyping Google Chrome, which took like way to long to make it to the Mac, and I can't help but say it: it's the best video of all time. Or at least of the second half of the week:

The vid puts the low in low.tech, simulating the webscape over and over again using various creative gimmicks. There have been so many terrific low-tech vids lately, and this one is just part of that scree, but the pacing is just too much, and it's too funny that the Mr. and Mrs. Goog would hype their browser with things like knitted simulations and dioramas. Oh yeah.


Street Soccer

Hybrid futbol breakdance capoeira parkour. Flying dirt multilayered videography. Multinational circulation of embodied action. Sport integrated with dance. The introduction of a soccer ball as limiting/enabling mediating artifact.

What began as this:

Became an ad for Nike here:


Feel Good Video of the Week

The Feel Good Video of the Week (F-G.Vid) is the story of Rob. Sure it was a prank, but it's nice to see people come together around a common cause.


Bodies Missing

In a recent exploration of cartoon-bots, you know: websites that promise to cartoonify a simply jpeg of your head, I find missing bodies.


Michaele Sahali

The NYT has this article about how the Sahalis got into a dinner with Obama and other mega.pols.

Michaele Sahali promoting her sneakiness on Facebook:


Social Software for Academics

Ever felt funny posting about your research to Facebook? Well, now there are several social sites and apps just for academics. Mom and your buddies from the chess club in high school can see one thing; the people you work with can see something else. More importantly, academic social software affords new ways of doing and sharing research.

SciVee has been around for a while, and is still cool: it's the YouTube of academic research. How it works is simple: you upload your presentations and research videos to the site so others can see and comment on your work. This site is not only a great place to learn about research in a range of scientific disciplines, but amounts to a kind of 24/7 virtual conference.

academia.edu is a bit like FaceBook, allowing academics to create networks of like-minded (you guessed it) academics. But whereas FaceBook links people by keyword common interests, Academia.edu links you by fields of specialization—so everyone tagged as interested in "rhetoric" is virtually linked. Another feature of the site is that it creates visual hierarchies of departments, so images like this can be filled out by members online:

Mendeley is one I came across this week, and it's different from the others in that it involves a local application that you download to your desktop. The local app allows you to store, sort, annotate, and organize PDFs and other research files; the app also interfaces with the website (www.mendeley.com) to allow you to introduce your materials into the social network. Oh, and did I mention that it generates the things all academics love, bibliographies? A recent review of Mendeley can be found here.

A few others include:

citeulike.org: social bibliographic site
delicious.com: social bookmarking site
connotea: reference management app
bibsonomy: social bookmarking


Job Search Season

Tis the season for job searching in academia, and I see that traffic over at 9interviews.com has picked up a bit. I had to re-host the video files recently, and the site seems to be working a bit better.

In updating links and things, I also see that the academic job search wiki is alive and well. In fact, it looks more organized than ever. As we're hiring in Writing Studies this year at UIUC, I was glad to see that info is (if slowly) getting out about our search via the wiki.

I've heard mixed things from faculty about the wiki, as some of the info that gets posted can be misleading. But overall I dig the wiki, as it creates a version of transparency in a process where there can be none.


Leopard Seal Feeds Dude

One of the problems with this blog, I guess, is that I don't usually post any-old-thing to the blog. Instead, it's writing.related.stuff or art.related.stuff or new.media.stuff. Things like that.

Well, today it's a viral leopard seal video. And I have this to ask: can't we leave the other animals alone just a bit more?


Jessica Watson: Fave Blog

Have you seen it? Jessica Watson's blog is an account of her sailing voyage around the world. She's young. She's funny. She out in the freaking ocean all alone.

For me, it's a kind of sequel to Bird Year, an account of the Boothroyd family cycling for a year in search of birds.


Fly Pentop

This compu-pen from LeapFrog used to look a whole lot cheesier; now the company is hyping it as a much more serious learning tool. It's also gotten leashed to the PC, as you'll see in the second video. Haven't been able to find out much about the "Writing" software package; just this blurb (link):

Get over the stress and learn to succeed at writing with the FLYWARE Fly Through Writing cartridge. From brainstorming to making final edits, you'll be given step-by-step tools that will help you transform your ideas into killer essays, creative stories and fresh lyrics. This software works with the FLY Pentop Computer (sold separately). FLYWARE takes learning to a whole new level of fun! This software works only with the FLY 1.0 Pentop Computer, and is not compatible with the FLY Fusion Pentop Computer.


Sport and Poverty

This is an odd concoction of contrasts: a downhill mountain bike race, sponsored by Red Bull, and staged in what is described as a "Brazilian slum." At one point in the vid, cheerleaders line the course. Filed alongside the EcoChallenge.


Blog Action Day: Climate Change

I learned a little late that today is "blog action day" where bloggers are asked to take a singular focus: climate change. This vid hypes the event:

I'm not a climate change specialist, but I have been paying attention to the various arguments used to promote environmental awareness around this issue. Yesterday on this blog, for instance, I was chatting a bit about this video about the effect of climate change on the oceans. In the documentary, titled "Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification," you see a range of arguments for saving the planet. Earth should be saved because it's beautiful. Animals should be saved because they're like works of art. We need to save the planet to save ourselves. Climate change matters because it's hurting industry. Things like that.

What really bothers me about the film, though, is the ending, where the claim is made (cue optimistic music) that only our energy sources need to change. We can still drive cars. Cities can remain illuminated. We simply need to rely on wind and solar power. This is an appealing fantasy, I think, and one that is pro-science, pro-industry, and pro-consumer society. I don't buy it, though, thinking that reducing green-house-gas emissions is just one of many environmental agendas, and it's not going to happen fast enough (or at all) if all we do is gradually shift to windmills.


Acidic Oceans

After spending the day writing letters of recommendation, I took a few minutes to watch the now YouTubed film Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification.

It's another startling call for change making a non-anthropcentric argument for saving, in this case, the oceans. Well, I guess not entirely non-anthropocentric, as one argument is that "we need to save oceans to save our fishing industries." But that's only part of the video, much of which relies on a kind of earth-for-earth's sake logic, which I like.


What's a Blog?

Dennis Baron has a thoughtful post about the new FCC guidelines regarding blogging and product endorsements. Basically, the new ruling speaks to blogs like Gizmodo—places you go to read about things you may buy.

You can read about the new rules at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm. The rules themselves are at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005endorsementguidesfnnotice.pdf.

Specifically, the ruling addresses messages "conveyed by bloggers or other 'word-of-mouth' marketers." What strikes me about this is the assumed stability around the terms blog and blogger. Instead of referring to "websites" that hype junk, the ruling speaks to blogs.

We know blogs to be websites typified by routine posting; newer posts generally appear at the top and older posts scroll down to the bottom. Blogs have such elements as blogrolls and comments and dated entries. We know blogging to mean the creation of content on such a site.

Note that static websites are either outside or on the margins of this ruling. Even static-looking websites; so if I create a new .html page each day to hype junk, am I blogging? I'd say not, which produces quite a nice loophole in the ruling.


Michael Atkinson's "Parkour, Anarcho- Environmentalism, and Poiesis"

A few years ago I got into parkour; not so much doing it, but watching cinematic representations of it and writing about it some in this blog.

Give it time, and an outstanding academic article will come out on just about any topic. Today I got the chance to read Michael Atkinson's "Parkour, Anarcho- Environmentalism, and Poiesis" in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues.

Atkinson's piece is outstanding, involving a study of traceurs in Toronto (he ran with the dudes) and developing an argument about the practice as anti-capitalist, environmentalist, and just downright in touch with urban spaces. A terrific piece.



As you may know by now, our small town in the midwest has been systematically and completely overrun by little small bugs that get in your hair, stick to your clothes, and generally annoy. The bugs are Soy Aphids according to bug bloggers like this one.

Up close, the bugs that have filled our town look like this:

And we've all had plenty of chances to view them up close, since whenever you go outside you get covered in them.

This week has been a bad bug week in another way for me in that I was stung not once, not twice, but three times by the yellow jackets. They're living in my siding, and as it turns out, I swell up pretty bad when yellow jackets sting me.

Pretty much everything I do these days involves following advice I find online, so I ended up shop-vac-ing up the stinging buggers. This made me feel bad, as a bug lover, but the stings were just too much to handle.

Here's what a yellow jacket looks like up close:

That's it for bugs. Tomorrow is Friday.


Recent Review

It took me a while to notice it, but I see that there is a nice review online of my 2009 CCCC video prezzy. The presentation is on YouTube in two parts that pop up if you Google "desktop mcing."

From the review, written by Missy Nieveen-Phegley:

Schaffner’s work, and the work of emerging scholars employing new media as a vehicle for their scholarship, challenges our perception of academic scholarship and requires us to redefine it, both in how we recognize what constitutes “valid” scholarship and in how we reward it through tenure and promotion review processes.

Here at UIUC, this kind of presentation seems to exist on the periphery of institutional evaluation. I mean, it counts, but not any more than a regular conference paper. "It's just a conference presentation," in a sense. One cool thing about experimenting with new media at conferences, I think, is that there is a lot of free space to do something new; a downside is that there is little recognition for it. A conference prez is a conference prez.

Anyway, I'm using the Desktop MCing approach in two more conference presentations this year: one at SLSA in Atlanta, and another at CCCC in Louisville. I've pretty much eliminated the talking head from the mashup of media elements, and I'm ramping up the pacing in terms of how quickly things come atcha. We'll have to see how it goes.


Pickle Juice: The Taste of Power

Two recent publications by Pete Gayed, typist and scholastic wonder. The work can be found online (where all good things are) at ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

My fave of the two pieces is titled "Why Some People Prefer Pickle Juice" and pithily begins "Richard Lifton has seen patients who crave nothing more than pickle juice."


Facebook Lexicon

A bit ago I put up a few posts about how word clouders (like this'un) can be fun ways to visualize revision.

As a technology, clouders have their limitations given their reliance on lexical prevalence. If I wrote "I like blogs more than frogs," blogs and frogs would be tied. If I wrote "I like blogs. Frogs jump around too much. And plus, frogs are green." Frogs would come out on top via a clouder.

Anyway, Facebook is hyping their lexical clouder as a marketing tool. Step 1: Cloud lexical items on Facebook. Step 2: Sell stuff relating to what makes big clouds.

Facebook's hype copy reads "Lexicon graphs are a powerful way to understand the trends in what people are talking about. We've introduced a number of new ways to play with the data. Use the tabs at the top to explore different trends in a given topic."

Understand what people are talking about? Um, kinda. Only if you understand "what people are talking about" as defined by the prevalence with which they use identical words. "Facebook is like, like, like soooo 2006."


Typewriter Commercial

Revising a piece on multi-app composition, I came across this ad:

A few others featuring transitional office machines include:

This one is funny:


Birding the Trash Dumps

Our local news bureau at UIUC does a pretty good job of getting the word out about our work.

Melissa Mitchell put this article out, which made its way around the web some. It was then picked up by the Daily Telegraph and transformed into this piece.

Anyway, a few bloggers have been chatting about the original journal article, noting that it's hard to get a copy of the dang thing. So here is my piece on birding and environmental sporting in pdf form. The citation reads:

Schaffner, Spencer. 2009. "Environmental Sporting: Birding at Superfund Sites, Landfills, and Sewage Ponds." Journal of Sport and Social Issues. 33: 3, pp. 206-229.

This image, from over at Eva Casey's homepage, captures a bit of what the piece is about:



Things are all a-twitter here on campus. Students are roaming around campus looking at maps, orientations have orientations, 500 things need to be done NOW, and I got photographed for an article for the campus paper. As it turns out, I get nervous in such situations, though I'm usually a camera hog. Reading on antiquated diagnostic methods (mental illness) this afternoon.

Oh, and I should say that it is still the case that the closed system that is FaceBook ruined this blog.


Template Composition

For poster presentations, my institution has just released a new template. Fill-in-the-blank composition; where "identity standards" mean all texts look identical.

Here's what it looks like:


Dorm Bloggers

Dunno if you follow m/any dorm bloggers, but they can be kinda fun, providing a journalistic angle on campus life, classes, and living in the dorms.

This one is a nice end-of-year post from one of the more popular dorm bloggers: