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Blog Literacy: Notes Towards Day 30 (Thurs, Mar. 30)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. (2:25-2:30) course-keeping

* By midnight Sun, Apr. 2: post a fourteenth reflection on your week's experiences,
in reading, in class discussion, @ your praxis site, or @ a related event

* For Tues, Apr. 4:
finish our big novel, Americanah
We think a productive topic might be "reading others"
(reading gender? reading nationality?) and/but we ask
each of you to select one passage you'd like us to discuss--
could be on reading others, or another topic entirely.
We've picked quotes for today; we'd like
to be selecting them for Tuesday--could be your
posting, if you want (?)

Olivia cannot join us on Tuesday, but we will be
doing her writing workshop, so come ready for that.

Our next text will be Angela Davis's short book Are Prisons Obsolete?
invite you to start reading that, which we'll begin discussing on Wednesday.

II. (2:30-2:50) Turning now to questions of
blog literacy
and the use of social media,
looking @ Americanah, Chapters 24-38, to p. 431

Early in the novel, before Ifem begins honing the blog form herself, and reveling in its rewards,
she has some very sharp critique of the role it plays in the lives of other African immigrants,
including that of Auntie Uju's boyfriend, then husband, Bartholomew (ask someone to read aloud):

Ch 11, pp. 143-144:
...she read his online posts on Nigerian Village, all of them sour-toned and strident, under the moniker "Igbo Massachusetts Accountant," and it surprised her how profusely he wrote, how actively he pursued airless arguments.

He had not been back to Nigeria in years and perhaps he needed the consolation of those online goups, where small observations flared and blazed into attacks, personal insults flung back and forth. Ifemelu imagined the writers, Nigerians in bleak houses in America, their lives deadened by work, nursing their careful savings throughout the year so that they could visit home in December for a week, when they would arrive bearing suitcases of shoes and clothes and cheap watches, and see, in the eyes of their relatives, brightly burnished images of themselves.  Afterwards they would return to America to fight on the Internet over their mythologies of home, because home was now a blurred place between here and there, and at least online they could ignore the awareness of how inconsequential they had become.

When Ifem begins blogging herself,
Ch. 20, p. 264:
Posting on the website was like giving testimony in church; the echoing roar of approval revived her.

Ch. 33, p. 375:
The blog had unveiled itself and shed its milk teeth; by turns, it surprised her, pleased her, left her behind. Its readers increased, by the thousands from all over the frightened her. And it exhilarated her....She checked her blog e-mail too often, like a child eagerly tearing open a present she is not sure she wants....

Later, once the blog is flourishing, Blaine challenges her, both about the kind of language she's using, and how seriously she's taking this project:
Ch. 34, p. 386:
At first, thrilled by his interest, graced by his intelligence, she let him read her blog posts before she put them up. She did not ask for his edtis, but slowly she began to make changes, and to add and remove, because of what he said. Then she began to reset it. Her posts sounded too academic, too much like him....He told her to include details about government policy and redistricting. She did, but after rereading it, she took down the post.
"I don't want to explain, I want to observe," she said.
"Remember people are not reading you as entertainment, they're reading you as cultural commentary. That's a real responsibility. There are kids writing college essays about your blog," he said. "I'm not saying you have to be academic or boring. Keep your style but add more depth"
"It has enough depth," she said, irritted, but with the niggling thought that he was right.
"You're being lazy, Ifem."

Ch. 38, p. 427:
"You know, it's not just about writing a blog, you have to live like you believe it. That blog is a game that you don't really take seriously; it's like choosing an interesting elective evening class to compelte your credits." She recognized, in his tone, a subtle accustaiton, not merely about her laziness, her lack of zeal and conviction, but also about her Africanness; she was not sufficiently furious because she was African, not African American.

Turn to a partner
* discuss what you're learning here about internet literacy:

in this book, why do people blog? What happens (to them, to others) when they do?
What is particular (and particularly effective? or not so?) about the language being used,
and how it is taken up?

*share your passages from Ifem's blogs--
how do these confirm/refuse/complicate what you've been saying?

Bring back to large group. 

III. (2:50-3:10) So how is blog literacy different from other forms of literacy?

For example, we could compare what Ifem sees happening in her classes as a student-->
Ch 14, p 164:
School in America was easy, assignments sent in by e-ail, classrooms air-conditioned, professors willing to give makeup tests. But she was uncomfortable with what the professors called "participation," and did not see why it should be part of the final grade: it merely made students talk and talk, class time wasted on obvious words, hollow words, sometimes meaningless words. It had to be that Aemrians were taught, from elementary school to always say something in class, no matter what.

what she does in her lectures, as a leading blogger-->
Ch. 33, pp. 377-378:
The point of diversity workshops, or multicultural talks, was not to inspire any real change but to leave people feeling good about themselves. They did not want the content of her ideas; they merely wanted the gesture of her presence. They had not read her blog but they had heard that seh was a "leading blogger" about race. And so, in the following weeks, as she gave more talks at companies and schools, she began to say what they wanted to hear, none of which she would ever write on her blog, because she knew that the people who read her blog were not the same people who attended her diversity workshops During her talks, she said: "America has made great progress for which we should be very proud." In her blog she wrote: Racism should never have happened and so you don't get a cookie for reducing it.

Pick this up again w/ your partner.
What contrast is Ifem developing between the literacies of blogging, of classes and workshops?

(3:10-3:30) A one-question barometer:
"Internet blogging is the only honest form of communication."

(3:30-3:45) For discussion: What is the role of social media in intellectual work?
To what degree does it enable/disable the exchange of ideas?
How does it work like/differently from classroom or workshop exchange?
Consider the role of Serendip here, the public/private options...?