[CITASA] blogs, surveillance and stuff

Coye Cheshire coye at ischool.berkeley.edu
Thu Oct 22 02:10:36 EDT 2009

Good topic...I wanted to share a few more thoughts on the issue of public
blogging in a course.

> danah boyd:
> With all due respect, I disagree.  I think that we do a disservice to
> our students when we don't help them engage with the public world. 

If the course is specifically *about* learning to use a public voice, this
is a great idea. But, for a substantive course that is not specifically
about engaging the public, I do not see the benefit for students or
instructors if all words and thoughts are open to public critique from
anyone.  Some students-- even graduate students in new media and schools of
information-- find blogging daunting even when the audience is only other
students. I agree with you on the point that putting the public blog
requirement in the syllabus is perfectly fine. My issue is more with the
pedagogical benefits of public discourse rather than the appropriateness of
blogging publicly in a course.

> There are indeed consequences to being in public but I think that we
> need to train students to have a public voice, especially in a media
> ecology where being public is part of everyday life for many.  

I was trained in a sociology program where no one used a laptop in class
_ever_ and I never saw a single lecture on powerpoint. I also walked to
class uphill both ways and took notes on stone tablets by candlelight, so
take this with a grain of salt:  Personally, I get higher quality critiques
and thoughtful consideration of course content when I assign weekly 1-page
"reaction" papers than when I use blogging. When students aren't worried
about public perception, I get as many unique ideas as there are students in
the course.  When they blog on the topics I usually get three or four major
ideas and a lot of me-too's. They express more ideas when they have a
dialogue with the course *content* and are less worried about their public
presentation of self. 

Of course, we all get fantastic stuff with blogs in class... but in many
ways it can reward those who are more comfortable posting their ideas first
and that is a real danger in a very large class. In some ways, it can
disproportionately advantage those who are already comfortable with blogging
at the expense of those who came to the course to learn new material, not
how to engage the world on the internet. This is a good justification for
using smaller blogging groups as Liz and others suggest. 

Blogging is a great tool to use in class when it is tightly integrated into
the curriculum and it serves a clear purpose for the students. Like any
classroom tool (e.g., powerpoint or slide rules), I believe the purpose
should serve the course goals above all else. We have to be cognizant of why
we are choosing one format or medium over another and why we would want to
make it public or private. Public discourse of class content is arguably
sometimes one of these course goals, but in my view more as an exception
than a rule.


Coye Cheshire
Assistant Professor
School of Information
University of California, Berkeley
coye at ischool.berkeley.edu

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