Tag Archives: collaboration

Blogging: Is it Practical/Possible in Intro-Level Courses?

Identifying myself as one of those graduate instructors that fails to effectively use technology within the classroom (beyond my inconsistent, in-class computer-projection set-up), I’ve been trying to determine the appropriate tools and methods in which I can engage 170 students at 8am two days a week. This week’s readings mostly outlined how blogs can be used to increase student engagement both in and out of class, a skill that many of us (definitely including myself) will need to more fully develop if we hope to continue teaching.

In the Halavais article, he highlights how online spaces can effectively use students’ fear of embarrassment as motivators for “better work” via blogs. This is genius! By opening the blogging space to the public, students may also improve the quality of the work they post. I loved the idea behind this, but also wondered whether students might simply fail to post in fear of critique. Perhaps if students were allowed to use pseudonyms (as suggested in the article) they may feel more liberated to post their controversial opinions in a public space.

Mushon Zer-Aviv describes the blog as a central/core feature of the course. I wanted to ask the author, what this class structure would actually look like in a syllabus. I’m not sure whether the Psych Department at Hunter even be okay with an open-access blog, but this reading inspired me to explore this possibility. I also kept thinking, in regards to my mostly freshman students, how do I scaffold the blogging process? Blogging is by all means a skill, but how do you teach it and how much time does it take to teach?

While I generally enjoyed the accessibility of the readings this week, I still felt as though they didn’t thoroughly describe practical approaches to the assessment of blogs. Halavais discusses his technique for assessing blog posts via Google Reader as a way to quickly skim the posts. This sounds doable for a smaller course, but for those of us teaching 100+ students, it seems that this process of skimming could take days. This is especially true if our students have never blogged, since they’ll tend to write more. For those of you that have used blogs, how do you efficiently assess students’ posts? Have any of you used a peer grading system, and if so, was it effective in saving you time?

Collaboration/Corroboration: Questions of Power in the Collaborative Future

When I started reading Collaborative Futures I wanted to agree with their notion that greater collaboration is better for society. However, the further I read the more uneasy I began to feel. The authors of this collaboratively written work provide a nuanced examination of the benefits and potential pitfalls of collaboration. I fully support the notion that groups working collaboratively are better at problem solving and innovating more creative solutions to problems. This seems to work best in small scale collaborations where trust can be established, direct communication is possible, and the goals and organization of the project are clearly understood. My uneasiness comes in when the discussion shifts to large scale open collaborations. While such collaborations could be beneficial to society, they seem to be based on an altruistic notion of humanity that, from my perspective, does not exist.

Collaborative Futures tries to separate social and cultural production from the economic market economy. Yet, the authors also elicit a Bourdieuian analysis of their project when they invoke the term “cultural capital.” The invocation of Bourdieu negates the notion of altruism since, according to Bourdieu, all human action is interested action. Individuals will always act, consciously or not, in what they believe to be their best interests. This goes beyond the notion of economic incentive however to include the accrual of other types of capital. In this sense, the Free Culture movement establishes its own economy based on social and symbolic capital rather than monetary capital.

If we see large scale collaborations as establishing their own economies, then we have to acknowledge that they are also sites of power struggle. Does the open structure of large scale open collaboration open the possibility that a small well organized group could infiltrate and wield the power of the larger collective towards their own ends? Does the very nature of collaboration drive towards a state of “group think” in which dissension is silenced by the tyranny of the majority?

The authors begin to problemitize this situation in their discussion of Stephen Colbert’s actions on Wikipedia. Noticing the potential for a “group think” mentality on Wikipedia, Stephen Colbert coined the term “Wikiality” to describe to describe a phenomenon where a group of people can alter perception of truth through collaboration and corroboration on Wikipedia. He and his views adjusted the wiki page on elephants “claiming that the elephant population in Africa had tripled in the past 6 months (Collaborative Futures 53). Wikipedia responded by locking the article and deleting Colbert’s account.

I see two potentially disturbing power dynamics in this situation that raise questions:

  1. Who has the power to determine the ethics of the collaboration? Wikipedia removed Colbert’s claims, and his viewers’ corroboration of those claims, claiming site vandalism. While Colbert’s claims were blatantly false (it is satire after all), and were easily detected and removed as false claims. But what happens in murkier territory? The talk page for the Oberammergau Passion Play records a debate among wikipedia editors about whether or not to include the claims of anti-semitism in the play. Ultimately a version of the anti-semetic argument remain in the article (at least as of 3/2/2014), but is it possible that this significant element in the history of the play could be erased in service of an editor’s, or group of editors’, personal/political opinion that this aspect is no longer important? Who makes these decisions? On what basis?
  2. The issue of “Wikiality” itself raises interesting questions in terms of collaboration and corroboration. “Wikiality” as Colbert uses it is a form of group think in which a group of people can will facts into existence through repetition. In editing the wikipage for The Lost Colony play, I ran into trouble when i tried to check and add citations for existing information on the page. It was impossible to tell what information on the internet served as sources for the wiki and which were merely citing the wiki as the authority. In this instance the collaboration becomes the corroboration making claims appear to be facts. How do we avoid the dangers of this self-feedback loop?

Collaboration: Friend or Foe… Well it depends

A detailed and nuanced argument presented by Collaborative Futures illuminates the complex nature of collaboration as a process. And while I do, at heart, share these, and other, authors’ utopian idea of collaboration as an answer, or at least a step toward, a salvation of many social issues, I remain unsure about what do we really mean by collaboration and whether its positive effects are sustainable and always beneficial. Collaboration can take many forms and shapes, but it always requires a group of people. Any group of people, in turn, is susceptible to group processes such as group-think, othering, and diffusion of responsibility, to name a few. These can lead to dismissal of alternative opinions, uncritical evaluation of one’s own work, and privileging one’s point of view, particularly when collaborative groups form on the basis of “shared political perspective rather than interdependence through need,” which CAE conversely argues to be preferred. Two collaborative groups, regardless of how democratizing their respective infrastructures are, might be at conflict.

In fact, I wonder whether we would be as excited about collaborations if they did not have “our” best interests at heart. Would a collaboration among a group of corporate executives geared toward limiting  a supply of a particular resource to rise up the prices be considered a collaboration? Would a group of young professionals working under the collaboration criteria provided by Collaborative Futures but on a for-profit project be considered a collaboration? Or would we call it business? Is collaboration a business? Can or should it be?

To use an archaic definition of business as meaningful activity, any collaboration, I hope, is a business . But in today’s discourse it appears that word collaboration is being used as a juxtaposition to words like business, neoliberalism, and capitalism, to name a few. But is it really? Or is it all just rhetoric?


Wikipedia Article – Group Assignment

The early mid-term assignment will be to collaboratively write articles for Wikipedia for texts you read last semester, being careful to cite each sentence of summary to the page in the original text. You should make use of the blog posts and discussions from last semester. You can see a list of the potential articles on the Wikipedia course page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_Program:CUNY,_CUNY_Graduate_Center/ITP_Core_2_(Spring_2014)#Week_4:_2014_Feb._26_-_Wikipedia_Workshop_3_.26_Wikipedia_assignment_1_DUE

You will work collaboratively in three teams. We will sort out these groups in class. You will be encouraged to keep their conversation on Wikipedia talk pages and not in meatspace. The fact that you will be working off of a blog post that you did not author yourself, adds an additional dimension to the collaborative authorship.

The blog posts are summaries of the readings along with interpretations and discussion questions. You will have to separate out the opinion from the summary. (e.g. maintain NPOV and No Original Research).

These are the pages that we’re created two years ago:

Use book articles like these as models for your work:

Check in points:

  • March 5th: Write work plan on the article talk page; if no page currently exists, write it on the sandbox of one team member.
  • March 12th: Begin initial contributions on sandbox. Contributions should be cited.
  • March 19th: Article finished as a draft, and moved into article space. Peer review takes place. Final citations put in place.
  • March 26th: Article Due
  • April 2: Article Due