Jus’ Talkin’ bout da Bava

I have been really busy with classes at ICLP, but I came across a blog by Jim Groom that just really needs some talking about. The question being dealt with here is how open should umwblogs be. Since my attending UMW’s faculty academy, I have been thinking about this issue of opening of online spaces to further connect and encourage students to knowledge creation. As a student, I want to touch on my own perspective and side of the argument. While at the Inter Chinese Language Program in Taipei, I have been keeping blogs to talk about Chinese language learning and my classes. It got me thinking that it would be awesome to have other students that are here participate in my own work as co-authors, but the problem is I can’t do that on umwblogs. It’s unfortunate, but this space isn’t open up to outsiders who could potentially be brought into the conversation beyond just comments, any one can do that. I want to be able to talk about Chinese language with a multitude of other students and be writing a blog that informs other people. Here’s the thing, at Mary Washington there are very few people who are as interested in studying China or the language as I am, how awesome would it be to get other scholars from different institutions writing on the same space? It would be sweet and could connect schools in totally different ways. I would love to have the capability of adding authors to my blog who are in similar veins of study. If we are all about having a “conversation” which was the buzz word at faculty academy, shouldn’t we be talking to more people than ourselves? If that answer to that question is yes, then what do we do?

Jim Groom makes a very strong statement in his post: “What is UMW Blogs if not simply a step towards something else? Why are we so jealous about protecting it, let’s burn it down and build it anew.” I feel that what we are seeing is a return to a very old problem concerning how academic works, it is madly sheltered away from the eyes of the public. It’s also something that should be vigorously controlled and locked down to just people at the institution, but really come on, is that how learning works for those of us interested in umwblogs? No, because it comes with the assumption that you can only learn from your institution and nowhere else. I have wondered if this idea about umwblogs and its bringing up of a network of problems also points to how academics have to publish through peer-review journals and have little control of their own work. Who really holds the reins in terms of umwblogs? The students aren’t the ones calling the shots, its the university. I remember at the end of the spring semester this year Jim Groom posted about a “umwblogs escape plan” for those students who were graduating and wanted to continue on the work they began at UMW. This sounds great, it sounds like a flexible system, but if you have an escape plan, you are getting out of situation that is stuck, trapped. In my own opinion that isn’t what umwblogs is supposed to be, but if you go to the mainpage it says “a publishing platform for the UMW community”. It doesn’t say “a publishing platform for the academic community” or even “…for the learning community.” It’s ultimately limited by a simple tagline to the university. I agree with Groom’s answer of saying bah to it, start over and open the sucker up, but that isn’t going to happen, just because as long as it is attached to the University, they are going to want to keep a handle on it. It’s how a school works, it needs to protect and secure its own intellectual property for its own prestige (which brings to question who owns the blog posts : P).

The eventual compromise looks towards a way of doing a plug-in to allow people from here to grab people in. I can settle for that. Groom said it right, ” This is a plugin/feature that we should develop, for we need to start thinking of this as network that both relfects UMW, but also all the various individuals and their networks and relationships that move beyond it.” Where does the UMW community end, really? If it is actually about the individuals then let’s allow the individuals a little more control, but how do we simultaneously call this the University’s space but say it moves beyond it as well? I think here at Mary Wash we do have a body of students that are very rigorous in their learning and want to try it out by letting the world see it. Frankly, it’s great practice. It doesn’t come with the fears of receiving bad grades, but allows you to still be susceptible to mistakes and grow from the process. I’m down for a new approach to the umwblogs and really am super stoked to see where it goes from here. We have seen this platform do exceedingly well, but just because this is having success doesn’t mean we should stop here and call it a day. Does it?

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2 Responses to “Jus’ Talkin’ bout da Bava”

  1. Reverend says:

    Joe boy, Joe boy,

    Did I ever tell you I love you? Well, if not here it goes: I LOVE YOU!

    OK, now that’s done, one of the things that you having a blog on UMW Blogs provides you with is an open platform, so anyone can read your work, and you can take it with you. But it is kinda of an escape plan because students and faculty alike are so used to not being able to take their email, courses, etc. with them easily, it is a radically different paradigm, That said, you don;t have full control over the system, you can activate plugins and themes, but only those we make available, and you can;t add users as authors outside the UMW Blogs community. That does raise the issue of how much control you have over your space, Serena ultimately took all her work into her own domain and now is the full master of her domain, that is the ideal—what we are providing is an interim step, or at least that is how I see it. I don;t want to lock you into UMW Blogs, nor would I want to lockin your fellow students in Taiwan, they could just as easily get a blog on wordpress.com or edublogs.org and have the same fucntionality as they would here—well a little bit less but that is because UMW Blogs rocks!

    That said, the real point we need to get across with this logic is that Joe Halpin will do his work here, ideally under a domain of his own, and then decide at some point that he wants to control his own data and frame his own space online. He wants to make the administrative decisions and decide who authors or doesn’t author in his space. That is something you can control for less than 8 bucks a month, and I think that is where this conversation needs to go. And it does dovetail nicely with the idea of academic publishing because if you can control the publication of your own work, then what is missing is some means of granting you some authority in your field. In this would happen by means of who is linking to you or talking about your work. What you do is meaningful only in as much as it it framed in a conversation by and for others. A relationship of trust and authority, your insistence on sharing the process of learning Chinese in Taiwan immediately frames you as someone who shares and experience that is valuable, and you will become a resource for others who travel down this road, just you wait and see how many folks come here as they are thinking about doing the same thing. Have you googled your program? Where does the Panda Musings show up in the rankings? It would be interesting to see that your thoughts and reflections are in many ways a resource on the way to researching the very program you are going through. With your own publishing framework comes great power and responsibility, Joe. Are you up for it? πŸ™‚

  2. Reverend says:

    Also, when are you going to get a new blog header up there? I can help you know πŸ™‚