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Notes Towards Day 8: A Conversation "with" "Geeky Mom"

Anne Dalke's picture




(Laura seen from the inside, in costume, and consulting)

Welcome to a Conversation "with"
a Benevolent Dictator, Geeky Mom and
Emergent Technologies Consultant

Geeky Mom Discussion by sbg90
Class Summary by xhan 

Laura's regrets, her hope to respond to you on-line
(and an answer to spleenfiend's question
about how much she 'self-monitors' )

"I'm here to help...scholars and teachers find relevance in the web world."

"The web has the potential to level the playing field
and we have the opportunity to define the field."

"...ideas come from unexpected quarters...opening up
the conversation makes it richer and more valuable."

generally, good things accrue to those who take
a risk and share information about themselves

"...if you are using social software, nothing is private...
And maybe being more a good thing.
Maybe it makes us more accountable."

"...educators are not teaching students what it means to write for
a wider audience....being in the public eye means being responsible."

I. Coursekeeping

today's notekeepers are xhan, sgb90
(aybala, jrf missed their chance on Thurs; please sign up again....)

general guidelines for your conferences: come w/ a proposal
for a 4-pp web paper, due on-line by 5 p.m. this Sunday

topic is open: the genre that is a blog, the digital humanities more generally,
category-making in the academy (organizing your department?), "who owns the internet?" copywright questions in any media .... whatever has intrigued you that you'd like to learn more about (if you've already got a thesis, don't bother....)

format is also open: think about making this readable/interesting to
other readers on the web (for ideas, see papers for the James course
and also for last spring's Gender and Technology class)

in preparation for Paul Grobstein's visit on Thursday,
please also read 6 short pieces on Serendip:
"Getting Acquainted"
"To Blog...Or Not to Blog"
The "How" of Story-Sharing I
The "How" of Story-Sharing II
Serendip's Evolving Web Principles
On beyond a critical stance

II. A general question/some conversation on the course blog:
jrlewis flagged Author, 17, Says It's 'Mixing,' Not Plagiarism:
Ms. Hegemann ... has ... defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity ...”

what does that mean??
--> ShaynaS: Does the internet make it easier to use another's works, or does it merely illustrate what has already been going on with works? Maybe both? Why is plagiarism such an issue now?

III. Your (increasingly negative?) responses to Laura's work:

teal: Both Tim Burke's and Geeky Mom's blogs easily fell under the category 'easily distracted.'  Both encompassed topics ranging from education to food games? I personally have not had much experience with video games, especially those played online like WoW ... so it would interest me to see how people like Geeky Mom began their relationship with the cybergame world.  I have to admit I was a little surprised to see a mom blogging in detail about her game session, but I think it made the blog all the more interesting. It's nice to see something unexpected once in a while, just to remind us of the variety of people out there that we haven't even come close to meeting yet. Geeky Mom is breaking stereotypes about motherhood in a different, inconspicuous way, which brings us back to genre once again. Does blogging unintentionally (or intentionally) put its users into categories? Tim Burke and Geeky Mom have proven that in a world wide web of labels, it is possible to break from the mold and create your own, pliable "category" ....
--> Geeky Mom: I think that blogging has categories and that people put themselves into categories as readers when they approach a blog. For example, because my blog has "Mom" in the title, a lot of moms find their way there and then they don't like my gaming posts. They want "mom" posts, whatever that is ....  Most of the blogs that end up with huge readerships have a very focused topic--motherhood, politics, food. I have too many interests to stay that focused. :)

spleenfiend: Geeky Mom's blog is filled with more personal details than most of the blogs we've read.  Personally, I felt like a happy voyeur while reading it, getting a glimpse into the daily lives of Geeky Mom, Mr. Geeky, Geeky Boy, and Geeky Girl (such cute names, really).  This blog probably symbolizes everything some members of our class have said they don't like: "random" personal posts, often depicting the blogger's day.  Well, I don't mind that .... I most enjoyed reading her musings on the internet, and how she thinks it isn't perfect but isn't terrible .... I understand caution, but not paranoia .....  She's just saying to present a positive image on sites like Facebook, where your real name is attached
--> aseidman: I'm actually surprised that we're finding connections between blogging and video games. Blogging, as we've discussed in previous classes, is a very free and open ended writing process, generally unregulated and allowing of all sorts of loose ends. Gaming, particularly when it comes to video games, tends to be a very regulated, structured process, with, as mentioned by spleenfiend, specific tasks to complete in specific ways in order to reach a specific, pre-determined conclusion. Naturally I'd like to figure out why people who like one also seem to find the other appealing.
--> nk0825: I however believe that a link plausibly exists between bloggers and video-gamers. If you think about it, it makes sense that someone who is interested in interacting and competing with individuals on the web through video games would also be interested in using the internet as a form of social connection
jrlewis: An important theme in our course discussions is the relationship between authorship and identity .... there are many examples of the "outing" an online personna .... I wonder how these geeky relative feel about being portrayed in a blog .... Is this blog a high-tech cousin of the family scrapbook?  Are they concerned about their privacy?  Do they read, discuss, and suggest input to the blog?  How much is the blog a representation of Geeky family as opposed to Geeky Mom?
rmeyers: Compared with the other blogs we've read, the personal was far more prevalent. This felt like the kind of blog read by close friends or similarly situated adults, not a college student .... Can personality push away as well as pull in? Should we again question how democratic the democracy of the internet really is?
Molly: "Geeky Mom" is a blog written for an audience that isn't me, so that's why I didn't enjoy it.
sweetp: A Happy Marriage post: a great example of how the personal journaling does not translate perfectly to blogging.  I see this post as a personal monolgue; its creation is totally essential in order to work things through with yourself, but it is also an example of thoughts that no one else cares to read.
sgb90: What is the blog's meaning(s), what does Geeky Mom hope to accomplish?...does she hope to create a community, and if so, how much of a community can be established upon the basis of monologue ("benevolent dictatorship")?

mkarol: I'm just wondering what the motivation and intention was/is for her to start this blog and keep it up for almost 6 years? It seems largely a type of personal account, but is there some other reason ?

Herbie: I thought the style of writing was conversational, the way you'd call up a friend and tell him/her about your day.  Though there's less room for replying, it's appears to be based more in the blog style than in a lack of trying from Geeky Mom.  Of course, personally, I tend not to comment and to be one of those lurkers we talk about in class.

III. Some of what (Anne noticed of what) Laura's doing on-line
I. she invites comments (even direction) directly:
...throw it out to my (mostly absent) readers. 
What do you want to discuss?
What are your holiday traditions?
Anyone else out there getting this storm?
What do you think?
What do you all suggest?
Any advice, oh wise readers?
... welcome your suggestions for good short-term solutions.

what happens? how many/what sort of comments does she get?
did you read them? did any of you comment? did anyone want to?

I have never gotten a huge amount of comments, as some bloggers have .... I was hosting an intimate dinner party compared to their big tent affairs.  And that’s been okay with me, though I do like having conversations better than standing on a soapbox.  One thing Facebook and its ilk can’t capture is a conversation around someone’s idea or commentary.  A blogger writes something and people have things to add.  Other people come along and add not just to the original idea, but the new ones.  The original post is more than it was, thanks to the additions of the people who contributed.  I remember struggling to find a way to post recent comments on the sidebar because I wanted to highlight that conversation.  Sure, it was a way to say, “Hey, people actually read my blog!” but more than that, I saw as an invitation for people to contribute, to participate in the conversations that were already going on.

It’s been interesting to be a part of this phenomenon from nearly its beginning.  When we all first began, we commented a lot because there weren’t a lot of us out there.  We had no one else to talk to. commenters here and on other blogs I read had the feeling of running into old friends at the grocery store.  Oh, there’s Wendy and Janice and bj and Grace and Phantom and jo(e) and Susan and Elizabeth again!  Hello, how’ve you been?  What’s new and interesting in your world?  I think as long as it feels like that.  As long as people want it to be a kind of camaraderie, comments will linger. 
... So, my comments are gone.  Haloscan was bought out, and, unfortunately, they want to charge for their comment system.  So I exported 7,456 comments, over five years’ worth of comments.  All the old posts have no comments now.

II. Laura is skeptical of academic culture
"faculty...don't have an institutional perspective. They still think only of their little corner of the world, their own pet peeves. As an administrator, you have to think more broadly..."
"The Internet is actually making the academy even more relevant, but only as long as it doesn't shut itself inside the ivory tower."

"Am I the only one who thinks academic conferences are weird? Why do they feel a little bit like a junior high school dance?... My biggest complaint is the fact that everyone read their papers .... Note: people cannot digest such complex arguments in 20 minutes via listening .... It’s at conferences that I most feel that I’m not among the initiated, that I’m not invited to the party .... In general, I think academic conferences are a kind of twilight zone experience."
"The real work of scholarship takes place in isolation .... scholarship is valuable to me ... when its context is clear ... brought out of the footnotes ... and made visible ... this context isn't more visible for most works ... because it serves a gatekeeping function...."

III. But she also feels a bit on the outside as a techno-geek
I personally sometimes feel like a fraud for not being even more geeky than I am. Yes, I know HTML and CSS and can figure out my way around most programs and even a unix system. But I can’t program and there are definite limits to my abilities. What I’ve focused on in the last few years has been the more philosophical aspects of our use of technology. How does it change our relationships, our schools, our government? And I can’t help but feel that the true technowomen out there think this is not hard core enough. Every time I look at web sites for organizations that support women in technology fields, they’re offering programming camps or money for your technology startup. And I feel left out. The irony!

"Technology is not always the answer .... most faculty think that ed tech people are technology pushers. We have to get away from that. What often needs to change is the teaching method. "

"the truly technical folks...have no idea how the academic side of the house works...
I do sometimes feel that the online world gets stale, that it doesn’t feel tangible enough and that I need something else to occupy my time.  And sometimes, it’s too real.  There are the mean people who show up ...
Are we too disconnected from each other despite our constant connection?  Are we losing interest in a variety of things because we would prefer to be online?  Or can we create connection and create new interests through online worlds?  How much time online is too much time?
IV. "Outside" as an academic, "outside" as a technology consultant,
she is shaping her life w/out stepping into a pre-written script:
"Being a connected, contributing human being is a lot of work."
"I couldn't have gone into this with my eyes open. I had no idea where I was going, and quite frankly, I don't think I should have known"

"People who are on the fringes and not part of an inside group tend to see important new things....There are advantages to thinking on the margin .... A diverse group of people, those with a variety of backgrounds and no real common language often solve problems more quickly."

"... this productivism mentality that I have internalized.  I keep thinking not about how I 'should' be spending my time based on what’s best for me personally or my family, but thinking about how spending my time looks to the outside world...what labor and how much of it I really should be doing, not from a perspective of whether or not that labor 'looks good' to the outside world, but from a perspective of what makes me feel good–and by good I mean, relaxed yet stimulated .... I need to find something that works for me, and get over my anxiety about whether or not I’m working 'enough.'  The funny thing about this whole dilemma is that it comes from my freedom."

Notes from Our Conversation with Laura
"Emerging Genres," April 22, 2008

Laura is interested in "social software"--> 
the main point is connection to others

Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. The length of the lines are indicative of the delay between those two nodes. This graph represents less than 30% of the Class C networks reachable by the data collection program in early 2005. Lines are color-coded according to their corresponding RFC 1918 allocation as follows:

    * Dark blue: net, ca, us
    * Green: com, org
    * Red: mil, gov, edu
    * Yellow: jp, cn, tw, au, de
    * Magenta: uk, it, pl, fr
    * Gold: br, kr, nl
    * White: unknown

blogs were invented as "links with commentary";
after 9/11 and the 2004 election,
they became more personal, more reports from "on the ground"

she "became addicted": needing a place for her thoughts to go

her  blog that is all "random stuff," with no centralized topic (but w/
links to help with navigation)-- a "hybrid" of Tim and Kate's blogs

there "are no fights on Geeky Mom": folks "take issue politely"

Live Journal is about "controlling your audience"; there "are no random readers"
in contrast, Laura's blog is open; it "doesn't tell you what it is";
it may be "more welcoming because less defined" and because it
does not presume prior knowledge or a specialized vocabulary

we have an interest in the "constructed life story":
the persona here is constructed to "make connections"

Laura's blog also serves a diary function, a record of how she felt in the past
she is a "tech jockey," with "no tribe" (straddling the worlds of faculty and staff); the blog gives her company (in writing her dissertation, for instance)
Geeky Mom Discussion by sbg90
Class Summary by xhan