Jan 20, 2011

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It’s a Digital World…

I didn’t understand what the title of Gardner Campbell’s “No More Digital Facelifts” video and the reference he made in his “Personal Cyberinfrastructure” essay (of also a “digital facelift”) meant until I saw the example he gave in his presentation from the movie he once saw.  Not only was it very grotesque in how they were shaping her face (with those clips!  And that skin that was just pulled and pulled!), but it also looked painful.  And as most of us know, especially when looking at the post-op faces and reading the “tell-alls” of many unfortunate celebrities, facelifts only hold for so long before you begin to need daily botox injections or go back for some even more drastic surgery.  At worst, they become so addicted to this “plastic,” or what in this case could be thought of  as rather “digital,” surgery that they keep doing it and making the problem worse until they become unrecognizable and not even human looking.

After reading this article, watching the video, and later talking to a friend of mine who recently graduated from here (who is majorly jealous for never having the chance to take this class), I realized how fortunate I am to be taking a class where I get to learn/play with/secretly master these skills (and just learn general info about the web) right now and not just being kept in the dark old dungeon-y days of Blackboard and the former ideas of the old web/Web 1.0.  Although at times, I really hate having to log onto the Internet and into WordPress to do homework, in some ways, it can be kind of awesome because I can add music to whatever I’m working on and if people come and read my awesome slightly cool blog entries, they might also see that we are possibly musical soul mates, which is always a good thing to build or deepen a friendship with.

Moving along, I agree with the statements that everyone, including Dr. Campbell, have made about how Blackboard is horrible.  I will always remember the early days back when I was in fifth or sixth grade when we switched over from the teacher-leaving-your-homework-on-the-voicemail system to Blackboard.  The administrators-that-be made it out to be like it was this wonderful thing.  “All of your classes would be online!  You could find notes and take quizzes-even drop off your homework assignments!  You better learn how to use it because by the time you’ll get to high school, you’ll be using it aaaaaalllllllllll the time!”

blackboardcursive

Yeah, right.  That happened just like how they had this nasty rumor/conspiracy theory that by the time you got to high school, you would only be allowed be required-or else you would get severely punished-to write in cursive.  Well, silly me, I got to the ninth grade all scared out of my wits at the thought of writing in cursive when the last time I had truly practiced was back in fifth grade on a random drill because we had nothing better to do, and look what I found out!  In high school no one did (write in cursive, I mean) because they were required.  Most, if not 97.987352% wrote in print.  And some people’s handwriting in print were so awful that they needed to have been taught how to write better.  Well, hopefully this time around, with a move away from the traditional existence of Blackboard, instead of me being out on the joke, and having to deal with a technology full of half promises, we’ll improve it so it becomes Web 2.0-worthy.  Perhaps it could be a mix of the easy blogging technology of a setup like UMW Blogs with the file sharing/sending and testing capabilities of Blackboard.  Or maybe each student should have their own blog where they subscribe to other sites because if you have to have a blog for each different class on a different site, not only could it get complicated and time consuming, but also confusing.

In a few of my classes, instead of journals that we turn in on paper, we had to post them on a website-either on UMW Blogs or our own separate class site.  I agree with Dr. Campbell that having the ability to have an avatar and set up their own environment or signature on the Internet makes the conversation(s) more interesting.  I had him for English 295 in the spring semester of 2008 where we had our own digital forum for the class.  I didn’t like it at first, partly because I had never actually been a member of a forum before.  Of course, Blackboard has one, but no one actually reads or responds to those posts.  At this time, I also think that Blackboard didn’t allow for embedded video (I’m unsure if they do now or not, since I never use it), but I always thought it was cool when the other students added pictures and video clips.  I also liked having my own avatar and user name, which wasn’t my name.  Of course, you could recognize your fellow classmates after awhile, but it wasn’t that sort of tacky embarrassment you, or at least I, had when posting on Blackboard with my whole name.  Instead of “Colleen,” I was “SMNTHA.”  For all my initial lack of enthusiasm and dread for posting, in the end, and at this point now in my “college career” I have respect for them.  I also had the same professor twice for two parts of a class (Early & Later Shakespeare).  I took one semester back in 2009 and the other this past semester.  It made a huge difference in what you could do with posting online and also in the presentation of where you were posting and what programs you were using.  I’m always afraid Blackboard will mess up and delete all my work I just worked so hard on (Hey, it has happened before).  I like how we are moving past the whole concept of just keeping discussions like that closeted in the realms of the paid-for programs and moving them as well as other written media online in more creative ways than just by copying and pasting them on a website and claiming that it’s “online.”

I think that with the emergence of Web 2.0, it allows for an infinite increase in creativity and it requires a way to open students up to that experience.  And guess what?  You actually learn more by doing it on your own than following the way people have done it just because that was the way they’ve always done it and thought about it.  It reminded me of what my group and I had to decide when we were in English 314: The Literary Journal last semester.  It was an extremely experimental class.  Not only did we have to organize and manage getting submissions, but we also had to figure out how to set up our site.  We all knew we did not want to just copy and paste our submissions as that would be disrespectful to the work they had done.  So instead, we used Photoshop to make individual JPEG pages of their works.  Sure, it was time consuming.  I even spent one night all by my self in the Combs 3rd floor computer lab without taking a break and it got to the point where I kept thinking I saw people sitting in the front row.  (Thankfully that was towards the end and I left and went to sleep soon after.)  I think our site looks quite fantastic.

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