Five Weeks In

This is how bad I feel about my non-blogging self. (Some rights reserved by marcandrelariviere on Flickr)

I am ashamed to admit this, but I am five weeks into di202, and I haven’t blogged about it. At all. This is particularly horrid since I’ve started to really push the di202ers to blog more about more stuff. I know better than to preach and not practice. 

For the most part, the class is going pretty swimmingly. With enrollment at six students, we have lots of room to breathe in the schedule. I was able to give them the gift, as a result, of not having them take over class discussions until next week. At that point, I kind of turn the reigns over to them. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they step up to the plate.

The first five weeks have been pretty foundational. Tuesdays we usually spend talking about a topic (for which everyone has looked at various readings/videos/etc.). The topics so far have been personal cyberinfrastructure (with big hat tips and acknowledgements to Gardner), who owns you online (one of my personal favorites), and what I call “Circa 1995.” This is a week in which we explicitly looked at stuff about the Web from the mid-90s. It’s always fascinating to me to look back at that moment before the Web became everything. Reading the commentary, watching early AOL commercials, and hearing people tell stories in which they explore the question “can you really do things on the Web that you can’t do in real life” is a little like trying to explore Flatland from Sphereland. It’s easy to look back and laugh at our naievete and short-sightedness about what this all WAS, but, really back then we didn’t have a CLUE what it was.

The other thing that’s started is the students’ digital identity projects. I ended up having about 12-13 people volunteer to be subjects for this project. Two weeks ago, my students randomly chose names. They’re finally starting to blog about what they’ve found. Last night in class, I found myself reminding them that the project isn’t REALLY about all the creepy stuff that they can dig up about these people. All that stuff is just fodder for exploring how people live and are represented online and how this research makes them feel and think about these issues. I’m finding the project even more fascinating than I thought it would be as I hear the students talk about their surprise at what they’re finding and, in some cases, they’re reluctance to dig more deeply and share more openly. I’m actually wishing that I had asked someone to find a subject for ME to research. I’d like to be doing this project with them side-by-side.

This week we’ve taken a bit of a buy — we spent Tuesday night on a more open workshop class about the digital identity project. In particular, I want them to start thinking about what kind of digital story they are going to tell about their subject and themselves. This raises some interesting questions about using digital stories in a class that isn’t ds106. I have even less time in this class to give students opportunities to explore and learn how to use the tools that we explore for creative expression in ds106. But I still want them to create digital stories. I’m realizing that I need to pull together a whole bunch of online resources for them to look at and use as they work on this project. In addition, I’m requiring them to have at a least an idea of what they want to do for that story by tomorrow. That way, I can intervene and help them if they need additional assistance with using the media.

On Thursday nights we’ve been doing sessions that are investigations of particular technologies or tools. So far, we’ve talked about WordPress (as they’ve been setting up their sites), RSS (& Google Reader),  the technology of search, and the Internet Archive. Tomorrow we turn our attention to Creative Commons (which isn’t a technology or tool, but I think is crucial to our discussion).

And then next week, we begin several weeks of topic and technology investigations led by the students. I assigned the topics based on a survey of their favorites from a list. The technologies I picked and randomly assigned. The run down of topics:

  • Living & Lying Online
  • Race & Ethnicity (still looking for some more good resources for this)
  • Virtual Crime
  • Subcultures
  • Fan Culture
  • Politics of Participation

Also, next week, I introduce them to the other big project of the semester in which they’ll need to embed themselves in some virtual community which they’ve never been a member of before. They’ll spend several weeks in this space answering a number of questions about how the community is constructed and enacted. They’ll also do another digital story about this.

So, how is it going? So far, I think it’s going pretty well. There’s so much to discuss and think deeply about when it comes to these topics. And I think my students appreciate how accessible and relevant to their lives the discussions are. I still think that I won’t really understand what I was doing with the class until it’s over. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, right?

If you want to comment on any of their posts or lurk around and see what they’re doing, feel free.

As a commitment to the class and myself, I’m going to try and blog a little about the class and some other stuff I’ve been working on every day for a while. Who thinks I can do it?