Some Thoughts on Harry Potter… (or, Your Wand is My Smartphone)


Posted: July 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , | No Comments »


I just watched the finally installment of the Harry Potter film franchise, and I was pretty pleased with it (the two Deathly Hallows films in particular were well done–congrats to director David Yates). While I’m not necessarily a fanatic when it comes to the franchise, I have followed the tale all the way through, and I’ve long felt that the HP universe (the books as well as their cinematic counterparts) has a rather interesting take on how magic is depicted. In some ways it’s the inverse of sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famous proclamation:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In Harry’s world, though, representations of magic tend to reflect the technological reality that we already inhabit: GPS (the Marauder’s Map), digital picture frames and tablet computers (the animated portraits hanging in Hogwarts, or  the “multimedia” of the wizard-centric Daily Prophet newspaper), or the LED flashlight feature on my cellphone (yelling “lumos!” lights up the tip of the wand). It’s intriguing how Rowling chooses to shape her fictive landscape, magic-ifying the commonplace technologies of our current Muggle-based world. Not that I see this as a failure, necessarily–I do find the parallels thought-provoking and well realized–but I do wonder if this was a conscious move on her part, and what she might be saying with such representations.


10 Observations on Mexico City


Posted: March 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial, Travel | No Comments »


fountain (castillo, mexico city)

…because i just got back from a vay-kay there.

  1. The toll on my lungs, a nicely blended combo of high altitude and smog, didn’t really become noticable until around dusk every day.
  2. Public Displays of Affection are *really* common here, among old, young, straight, and gay alike. It’s pretty noticeable when you walk through parks, festivals, and museums. No one seems unnerved by it, though.
  3. Also notiecable? The policia, federali, military presence. They are *everywhere* and moreover, they all seem to have their guns at the ready. As with #2, though, no one seems too unnerved by it.
  4. The virus that is the American Branding Machine has encroached upon Mexican soil: Starbucks, McDonalds, Applebees, Wal*Mart, and pretty much most other big U.S. corporations can easily be found down there… If one were to squint, one might be forgiven for mistakenly thinking one was in NYC.
  5. Public art is *everywhere.*
  6. Holy cow–there’s an awful lot of old stuff here: churches, pyramids, castles, etc. the U.S. is a cultural baby in terms of Western Hemisphere nation-states.
  7. Despite its bloody back-story, the merging of indigenous and Spanish cultures seems to have happened to a much greater extent than the U.S.’s Anglo-Native American merger…
  8. Tacos al pastor 4-eva!
  9. I’m apparently resistant to Montezuma’s revenge (also known locally as “turistas”). Thankfully.
  10. Pics here.

From the Archives: “An Open Letter…”


Posted: January 4th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial, Hacking, Writing | No Comments »


[Ed. note: This piece was *going* to be included in an issue of a hacker magazine that has since petered out (not that one), so I include it here in order to give it some public life, however small.]

An Open Letter to the Hacker Community
From a Lowly Teacher of Writing

It was a few years ago that I found myself in the midst of the hustle and bustle of New York City as I attended the flagship conference for teachers and scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). Already, I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah? Good for you-you got some kick-ass knishes from off a Midtown lunch cart, but what’s this got to do with H4X0RS?” Well, you can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a panel presentation on the role of hacking in the teaching of writing. Entitled “Hacker Pedagogy: Writing Ethic(s), Learning Code(s),” the session was billed as follows:

Cynthia Haynes, University of Texas, Dallas, “Passionate Code: Hacker Pedagogy and Writing Theory”;
Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Brown University, “30 Years of Hacker Pedagogy”;
Jan Rune Holmevik, University of Bergen, Norway, “Teaching to Learn, Learning the Code.”

Finally, I thought, a chance to see my professional and personal interests come together like so much delicious chocolate and peanut butter. Sadly, though, the presentation didn’t happen–I sat in the room for a good fifteen minutes with my friend, several other attendees, and one disgruntled tech support guy, all of us with bated breath, but to no avail. As much as my curiosity willed it to happen, this talk on how writing instruction and hacking are related activities never came to pass; the participants simply failed to show (I suspect that the coincidence of the Iraq invasion had something to do with it…international travels and all that). Though it never came to fruition, the mere promise of a session at CCCC on hacking suggests to my mind an important connection between the counterculture of hackers and the institutional lackeys of the (under) world of composition, for both groups are interested in mining the rich field of new literacy practices in order to better comprehend how these practices affect (and are affected by) politics, power relations, and culture at large.

In the world of higher education, composition is a discipline that’s ripe for the hacking: often viewed as the “gateway curriculum” to university culture, most students encounter a writing class as soon as they set foot on campus. The top-down values of the institution get instantiated in this environment, and the protocols for how knowledge and information are transmitted in and through this system are also established. But there’s room for subversion. The folks teaching these classes are oftentimes underpaid, underprivileged teaching associates, many of whom feel as if they’re exploited labor. Occupying such a position, many in the field of composition are interested in how to rework the university’s power structure to value the bottom-up forces: to these ends, conversations about how best to empower students in our knowledge-making enterprise, give activist support to striking physical plant workers, and unionize the graduate student body constantly resound in our hallways and on our listservs. Such topics ring in sympathy with the goals of many hacker communities. Technology is not so much about manipulating machinery as it is about questioning who has access to it and how they employ it to limit or delimit certain groups’ abilities to maneuver the social landscape-hackers know this lesson better than most.

The postcolonial critical theorist Homi K. Bhabha tells us that all writing (and I would hasten to include hacking as a highly specialized, highly activist type of writing) is inherently a political act. And as we travel this road, dodging potholes and roadkill along the way in order to make our way to (hopefully) a more participatory democracy, it’s good to recognize that fellow travelers know this as well-recent hacks of government and commercial sites with tags advocating all sides of the war issue attest to this awareness (and also show that hackers occupy a diverse range of the political spectrum). What at first glance appears to be two seemingly disparate groups, compositionists and hackers alike share a common philosophical interest in the political dimensions of our respective fields: a curiosity for how information systems (broadly conceived) work; what renders communication effective; how the means by which we communicate give shape and voice to what it is that we mean to say.

I’d like to close with a call to each of these kindred camps. To the compositionists, particularly those interested in all things digitally subversive (and who are very likely reading this publication), I encourage you to investigate the ways in which hacking can be adopted into classroom practice: as ethos, as methodology, as mindset. For the hackers that find themselves in the composition classroom, don’t be so quick to write off your instructor as a stodgy, staid grammarian of the old guard. Tinker, experiment, and occasionally bring your interests into the discursive space offered by this class. Perhaps even go so far as to strike up a conversation about hacking with your instructor. Who knows? There might be the soul of a hacker lurking inside.

Ben McCorkle
11 February 2005


So I Got Married This Weekend…


Posted: October 2nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial, video, web 2.0 | No Comments »


…And thanks to everyone for their well wishes and congratulations—we had a wonderful time, and I hope those in attendance did as well.  But that is not the express point of this post, dear readers.  To take a bit of a tangent, I was amused to see the extent to which the event was digitally “lifestreamed” in various ways.  Let me count some of them:

  •  Real-time facebook photo uploads!
  •  Tweets! and more Tweets!
  •  Several iPhones present, snapping away all the while!
  •  A digital photobooth, complete with feather boa!
  •  A Flip Mini video camera, passed around the crowd!
  •  Various and sundry other digital cameras, of both the still and moving-picture varieties!

Of course, the event itself had a very old-world, low-tech aesthetic: the reception was in a rustic barn, the ceremony was held outdoors, and we hired a bluegrass band (Faces Made for Radio). The incongruity tickles me, is all.  Apparently, we and our geeked-out guests are inextricably linked to our gadgets, and in this case, I think it has really enhanced the experience.  Way to go, technology…

wedding twitter, facebook


End of an Era: So Long, O Brave Netscape


Posted: March 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | No Comments »


My first web browser (and undoubtedly the first of so many other people as well), Netscape Navigator is finally going the way of the ghost. Is it weird to feel this twinge of melancholy? Goodbye, gentle soul…

Netscape


e|Tech Ohio Follow-Up: Notes From Ray Kurzweil Keynote


Posted: February 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial, Research | No Comments »


(Quasi-liveblogged…I was using my trusty Newton, but left my wireless card at home, so I couldn’t upload.)

  • - humans transmit knowledge exponentially (unique to species)
  • - development of Chess-playing computers as example
  • - human genome decoding presents huge growth potential (reprogram Our
    software)
  • - tech will shrink, Increase in power
  • - K. Shows several models of this
  • - Demos the Kurzweil smartphone–works pretty well, actually. Uses “Fred”
    voice familiar to Apple fans
  • - AI–deeply embedded m our economic system, only we don’t recognize it
    because it’s a bunch of narrow apps.
  • - Progress is an historically recent phenomenon
  • - technology is an outgrowth of natural evolutionary processes
  • - examples: electronics, biotech, Communicatons tech.
  • - gives finger-wags to Wall Street for trying to artificially accelerate web biz
    growth

[Made and sent via modem or ethernet on a Newton MP 2100::keep the green!]


Upcoming: Cornfield Review Reading


Posted: February 4th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial, Self-Promotion, Teaching | No Comments »


Cornfield Review Reading Flyer
The editorial board of The Cornfield Review cordially invites you to an annual public reading of poetry and short fiction brought to life from the pages of our 2007 issue. The event will take place Monday, Feb. 11, from noon to one in the Guthrey room in Maynard Hall. Free pizza and beverages will be provided by Donatos. Come and enjoy this most splendid repast, which will surely satiate both your stomach and your soul.

(Photo and flyer design: Stephanie Howard)


…And We’re Back!


Posted: January 8th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | 1 Comment »


BCRM is back online, this after our usual December hiatus.  Just to keep you in the loop, your humble correspondent spent the break:

  • visiting family, eating, exchanging gifts, and other similar rigamarole
  • fighting off a 5-year-old dressed like a T-Rex
  • braving  blizzard conditions in Chicago to participate in an MLA search committee to replace a faculty vacancy in our department
  • valiantly fighting off a rare strain of bubonic plague and emerging victorious
  • getting forced from I-75 on New Year’s Day because of slick road conditions and blowing snow
  • exercising a newfound vigilance regarding my caloric intake

That’s just the highlight reel.  We now resume our usually sporadic barrage of quasi-relevant postings.


Support Creative Commons


Posted: October 30th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | No Comments »



Creative Commons is currently in the middle of its 2007 fundraising drive. Please consider donating, or if not, at least use and share some CC-licensed work and help keep the dream alive.


iPhone, Liberated


Posted: August 25th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | No Comments »


We knew it would happen sooner or later. The question now is, I wonder how Jobs, et al. will respond to this news; it could be a PR boon for them, but only if they handle it properly.

free iPhone


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