Monthly Archives: March 2011

teaching case studies

I like the Zoetewey & Staggers model, in “teaching the Air Midwest Case,” for a professional writing course built around a case study. I’ll admit that I’m drawn to the case study approach—or some other theme or organizing principle—as much for selfish reasons as any others. Why? For several reasons we’ve discussed over the semester, primarily the need I feel to root this kind of class in as much of a “real world” setting as I can muster in a classroom on a campus amid a culture that many students, I think, see as comfortably removed from what-comes-after-college. Perhaps I’ll feel differently after I’ve taught the course a few times. But for now, I feel like I’ll be a better teacher if I can get students working on and toward something “real,” something concrete. I do have concerns, of course, among them selecting the “right” case or topic (something rich enough to warrant a semester’s worth of attention and work); sustaining student interest; dealing with the ups and downs of intensive collaborative work; and balancing the need for up-front planning and flexibility. So, I think I’m going to take this approach for my course syllabus project—I’ll try to turn the class into a working, information and knowledge producing enterprise from which the students and I can all learn.


Richard Wolff

Richard Wolff – Capitalism Hits the Fan

Here’s some links related to the lecture/talk I mentioned in class. Because of it’s explicit use of terms such as socialism and Marx it may be tough to use at a place like this, but I really think that a) it could be a really good conversation starter as long as you don’t mind where the conversation goes (or written responses), b) the idea of a democratic entrepreneurship is a reasonable idea and important addition to the notion of social entrepreneurship.


In light of our recent readings about and discussions of usability and digital literacy, I found the New York Times’ recent explanation of it upcoming paywall—and some of the immediate reaction to it—interesting. From a usability standpoint, it seems like the Times may have skipped that step. One of the chief complaints about the plan is how clunky (and confusing) it is. Here’s a link to the full explanation, and I’ve copied the publisher’s letter to readers below:


March 17, 2011

A Letter to Our Readers About Digital Subscriptions

This week marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.

This change comes in two stages. On Thursday, we rolled out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the United States and the rest of the world.

If you are a home delivery subscriber of The New York Times, you will continue to have full and free access to our news, information, opinion and the rest of our rich offerings on your computer, smartphone and tablet. International Herald Tribune subscribers will also receive free access to

If you are not a home delivery subscriber, you will have free access up to a defined reading limit. If you exceed that limit, you will be asked to become a digital subscriber.

This is how it will work, and what it means for you:

• On, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.

• On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.

• The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at

• Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to to sign up for free access.

• Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

• The home page at and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

For more information, go to

Thank you for reading The New York Times, in all its forms.



Publisher, The New York Times


I suppose there’s some irony at work here—a business that (sometimes) makes money by communicating with readers does a poor job of explaining to those readers why it wants to charge them for something they’ve been getting for free for a decade now. Beyond the usability example—which might be the basis for an interesting classroom exercise—I wonder, if the turn to paywalls works for mainstream media outlets, how that might affect this kind of digital literacy. Will it, for example, send consumers to less traditional (and traditionally ‘written’) sources of information, thus complicating the literacy picture even further?

Genre ecology assignment

Here is my assignment for the genre ecology section:

Look at the Carolina Honor Code and the Carolinian Creed on USC’s website

and see how it applies to ethics and ethical behavior in general by comparing to either another university’s honor code (for example, Brigham Young or Notre Dame) or to a fraternity’s or sorority’s code. Interviewing a fraternity or sorority member is the best way to obtain first-hand information on the subject. Also, try to find out what kinds of sanctions are used if people break the code in a way.

For the university honor code section, get in touch with the Office of Academic Integrity and find out about their penalties and counseling that is used when people commit an offense. This can be done with other universities by e-mailing the respective office there. If there is a code, then there is an official function that deals with offenses, too.

What do all honor codes have in common? How do they differ, and why?

Spinuzzi: Networks, Chapter 3, main points

Here is my brief rundown of chapter 3. The assignment related to the material will follow on Friday this week.

Activity system: Mediational means based on subject/object relation towards an outcome, which in turn is based on rules, community, and division of labor


  • Primary: conflict between exchange value and use value
  • Secondary: conflict between the corners of the activity system
  • Tertiary: conflict between culture and object (example: a pre-school kid wants to go to school to play, but the parents and teachers expect him to learn)

Different systems:

a) Chained (mass production/modular)

b) Overlapping (knotworking, self-organization)


  • Polycontextuality (tasks and communities)
  • Boundary crossing (between tools, relationships, social languages, etc.)
  • Problematization (stakeholders problem)
  • Interessement (defining stakeholders, splicing)
  • Enrollment (definition of roles)
  • Mobilization (collective solution/representation)

Pragmatics opens the system up to other things (pragmatism not as a negative concept)

Common ground between activity theory and actor-network theory: both are monist and materialist approaches to define activity