Wikipedia and the “Content Gap”

As a teacher who decided to use Wikipedia mid-semester in one of my courses going through the training and looking at the existing courses that use it has been mind opening. I am teaching a course right now to English majors working to become high school English teachers at Queens College and this course is somewhat of an intro to Common Core as it is to the framework of one of their state certification exams. I will spare you all the gory CC details, but something we’ve been working on all semester is “writing for audiences” in addition to wrapping our heads around the ways the CC has essentially made up new genres. One of these genres is “Writing Informative and Explanatory Texts.” I used Wikipedia as a way to help my students contextualize this kind of supposedly neutral information giving writing.

Some aspects of using Wikipedia in the classroom that seem really useful:

  • Time dedicated to analyzing and using sources
  • Asking students to analyze more closely a database they use often (Wikipedia)
  • Addressing and analyzing “content gaps”
  • Asking students to write something that is not just for the teacher, but is for a real-world context and a wide audience.

In searching the courses that are using Wikipedia, there were many different subjects represented from science to history to writing-focused classes. I also noticed classes from a variety of public and private institutions (Princeton, New York U, Michigan, Cal State Fullerton, etc.) A few courses caught my attention in part because a part of their curricular interventions are to address the “content gap” issue (a compelling way to think about the canon, representation, the archive, etc). These courses ask students to locate particular content gaps and then address them by writing articles. There is a “Radical African Thought and Revolutionary Youth Culture” class from Princeton that explicitly addresses the content gap problem. Similarly, there is a “Critical Pedagogy in the Arts” class at Cal State Fullerton and a “Haitian Creole in Context” class at NYU that do the same.

| | | Next → |

Platforms for Pedagogy: Transformational or Instrumental

I see both Brier and Waltzer’s respective articles responding, in part, to the larger question: Can DH help transform the university or will the university transform DH? One way both Brier and Waltzer insist on the DH to University trajectory is through highlighting the importance of teaching and learning practices and bringing to the fore DH projects that model particular kinds of collaborative ones.

Whereas we’ve learned from our previous readings on the history of the American University system, how it has become increasingly designed and driven from an administrative/management perspective, a focus on the importance of teaching and learning has the potential to shift the frame towards more “liberatory” and student-centered pedagogical practices (Freire, Shaughnessy and Elbow).

Many of the DH projects that both Brier and Waltzer highlight in their respective articles, from Matthew Gold’s “Looking for Whitman” to NYC College of Technology’s “A Living Laboratory” present new models of collaboration between faculty and students. DH projects like these seem to flourish when the larger institution has already embraced aspects of radical pedagogy as both a philosophy and practice.

| | | Next → |

Haraway: My Cyborg, Myself?

With the cyborg, this binary busting network, Haraway attempts to articulate a new ontological category (or perhaps mode is a better word to use here), one that, unlike the human, does not rely on Judeo-Christian narratives of redemption and salvation. She uses the cyborg, in part, to pull the curtains on this Enlightenment era liberal fiction which continues to police and proliferate the self/other organizing structure and boundary. For Haraway and her cyborg, there is no origin story, no fantasy of wholeness, there are only “partial explanations” (299). In this way, her cyborg’s apparent science-fiction, perhaps like all science fiction, tries to help us better see the real. While Haraway’s argument, in trying to desacralize the human, attempts to move away from the disciplinary terrain of the Humanities, as my heavy-handed title suggests, she does not do that. Haraway’s narrative around the cyborg seems to have something to do with the literacy or education narrative; encouraging those in the humanities to become scientifically literate, encouraging “cyborgs” to write and not be written.

I understand her call to critically engage with communication sciences and biology as having at least two motivations. On the one hand, Haraway understands these two disciplines to offer a different kind of ontological story, one that is decidedly un-ontological. She writes that they offer “constructions of natural-technical objects of knowledge in which the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body and tool are on very intimate terms” (303). She uses the “network” language to complicate the cellular self idea (although Enlightenment era ideas of the self were, I recently learned, informed by scientists’ discovery of the cell). On the other hand, Haraway’s argument around the cyborg is a feminist one, and she spends some time thinking through the ramification of Gordon’s “Homework Economy” on specifically women of color. If this “New Industrial Revolution” is capable of “producing a new worldwide working class as well as new sexualities and ethnicities” (304), Haraway wants women, in particular, to become critical producers, or authors, of these identities instead of those being continuously produced. At stake here is the labor of the political imagination; who does it imagine and who gets to do the imaging? To this effect, Haraway posits a question which I think drives her essay and one that still seems relevant today: “What kind of constitutive role in the production of knowledge, imagination and practice can new groups doing science have?” (307).

Although her question names groups “doing science” in particular, instead of imagining what this might look like, she turns toward the acts of reading and writing, to scenes of literacy. At end of her essay, she thinks back to the realm of the Humanities, and she names some of the science fiction and feminist writers important to her project. Here, she makes a point about how they have helped us understand “how fundamental body imagery is to worldview, and so to political language” (310). (What kind of body does Haraway’s cyborg have btw?) Haraway then moves into claims about the importance of writing to “all colonized groups” (311). Writing, or “the access to the power to signify,” takes on radical potential. While she cautions us against writing stories “about the Fall” (311), ones that play into the Salvationist narrative underpinning the human, Haraway connects writing to survival and to the cyborg (she says in another part of her essay, “the task is to survive in the diaspora” (308). It is at this moment where the cyborg seems clearly linked to women, particularly women of color. (The cyborg still seems to be a subject, perhaps just not the liberal human kind?) What can we understand Haraway’s “cyborg writing” to be exactly? Is cyborg writing autobiographical writing, and does this in any way counter her earlier claims against the idea of the unified subject? Is it literally “writing,” as we commonly understand it, or is it code, image-based, and so forth? What does her reliance on the literary at this moment reveal about her larger argument?

| | | Next → |