Scalar Journal-Interface

Today, another aspect of my project surfaced that I had not previously considered. In reading student reflections and looking more at the Scalar projects and comments, I’m noticing how much they seemed to appreciate and take part in the feed backing opportunities the project afforded. I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that they may be more comfortable interacting in the interface in which they are composing and operating for the project. In many ways, face to face peer review falls short. It wasn’t a complete success when on the screen,  but students did seem to prefer it. Perhaps there is more potential for future editing and engagement if students can use the same interface to comment and feedback that they use to compose in. At the same time, I am reminded of how important it is for projects in DH to have face to face and non-digital/technologically mediated interaction… So, I’m sure in future classes I’ll attempt more of the screen feed backing but not let it replace what happens in the classroom. . . more could be said on this, I’m sure.

Final Scalar Reflection… Looking Forward

“Looking back, Project Two was not only the hardest piece I had to write, but also the most beneficial…Empowering is the word that comes to mind when thinking of the type of impact a paper like this could really have on the world. Maybe, it hurt to write the first time around, but it got easier as I moved past that initial burn, and as the feedback kept rolling in, the smoother it became.”

Reflection from the author of “8 Stages of Coping with Sexual Assault”


This quote exemplified one huge success from the project design. I attempted to  decenter the role of the teacher in how I designed my Scalar project. My class dealt with issues around gender and sexuality many times, and I thought I could offer my students something from the feminist theories I have studied. While many students created powerful projects that invigorated their peers, the comments on this project and the reflection of this student tells me that my attempts to decenter the teacher and reframe the learning environment succeeded in some ways. During the second section of the class, when students composed the first iteration of their project, this author was absent a lot, and didn’t come to peer review. She told me it was too sensitive. I’m so pleased that my reframing mentality created the space not only for her to share her work, but for the validation it gave her and the opportunity for other commenters to interact with each other about the difficult issues that my best efforts and the most informed theory could not adequately address. In many ways, this upended my previously held notions towards teaching and how technology could be leveraged.

I’m pleasantly surprised with several aspects of my Scalar project, though I think, in many ways, it didn’t accomplish what it set out to… at least, not yet. Beginning the building/doing section of the course was seriously uncomfortable for me, since I think I am more yack than hack. The binary thinking, though, is probably what I’ve tried to change the most over the course of this semester. This course and the theories and theorists we engaged pushed that, hard. The first instance was Jones’ discussion of the network “everting,” and the class discussions that followed. McPherson picked up where Jones left off by emphasizing humanity ahead of a supposedly separate, other technological or immaterial. I understood the digital as apart from material, as binary as can be. Further, I saw the digital and technology as antithetical to humanity, as I mentioned over and over at the beginning of the course: people so often use technology as markers of progress or panaceas to all the world’s problems. I suggested this fetishization obscures that technology is perhaps part of those problems to begin with. It’s a bit more clear to me, now, that part of this technophobia was a result of seeing technology and the digital as separate from humanity. Building on this, I can see why I have been so against letting students use technology in the classroom.

In addressing this technophobia and the false hack/yack binary I mentioned before, I created the Scalar project to dive head first into a project I did not feel equipped or comfortable with. I’m afraid of tools and prefer face to face interaction in almost every case. At the beginning of teaching 101 writing courses, I made it clear I had a zero technology policy—no laptops in class! My course was themed around social issues in society, particular related to race, gender, and class. So, for my Scalar project, I decided to practice breaking my binary thinking and challenge my technophobia by moving a major assignment onto Scalar. I hoped to decenter the teacher’s power and, basically, observe how students networked and interacted with one another when dealing with controversial and challenging topics that they are seldom encouraged to consider, let alone speak to. Many DH theories motivated this project: the absence of failure, the importance of iterative practices and production, interest in ideas of interface and digital literacies, collaborative methods, and the importance for DH to break with the lenticular logics and epistemological certainties that lead towards most of the social issues around race, gender, and class about which my course was already themed. In this way, my project was informed by Risam’s charge for a Black Feminist approach to DH in which technologies and universalities were challenged and exposed. Also, McPherson’s methods of breaking with modularity was central as the project design took students’ writing processes away from a one-on-one conversation with a knowing-grading-expert and put them side by side with perspectives of their classmates from multiple sections. My method was to create a more complete environment where perspectives, rhetorical strategies, genres of writing, and subject matter were seen in conversation with one another rather than a solitary assignment written for a grade, detached from everything outside the classroom.

In these and other ways, the network theory and method I tried most to emulate in my project comes from Duarte’s reframing methodology in Network Sovereignty. Duarte reframes commonly held views of American Indian communities as essentially anti or un-technological to provide a “whole picture” that shows just the opposite. She reframes ideas and ways of knowing that Western science accepts as natural, neutral, and objective to show that there are many epistemologies with their own ways of knowing, being, and operating in the world. At the end, she shows how American Indians are more technologically adept than many of the colonizing Westerners who continue to deny the sovereignty of American Indians. In my Scalar project, I attempted reframing many aspects of my epistemology as well as the role of students and the classroom space. By combining my courses and extending the project to primarily a “digital” space, students and I were able to experience a learning environment that was more effective while in the classroom but existed after we left. The logics of power in the classroom were reframed as students worked primarily off of comments and feedback that came from their peers. The new space allowed students to both share their work and to collaborate on improving their own and each other’s projects. In Duarte, indigenous epistemologies are not in competition with Western epistemologies, but they carefully fight for their sovereignty using the very tools used against them. In my project, reframing the power relations and the space for the project created the need for students to have anonymity. In many ways, this runs against DH in that the students did not receive credit for their work, at least not to the public. This method proved to be philosophically challenging and interesting to me in how it impacted people’s networking practices on the project. Some students, often racially and economically privileged students,  took advantage of the anonymity by being harsh and critical of people’s arguments if they represented an identity they perceived as threatening to their own. However, the anonymity allowed the recipients of those comments to use them productively, and even expressed appreciation for the honest feedback. In this way, underprivileged people used the tools of their oppressor to improve their arguments, which were ultimately for more social justice and equity in much the same way as American Indian communities leverage technologies that Westerners use against American Indian sovereignty.

I am perplexed that this resulted from anonymity. I can’t quite wrap my mind around what this suggests, to be honest. It seems so different from many concepts from the first section in the course. I am eager to investigate the dynamics between anonymity, neutrality, objectivity, and technology. Another aspect that surprised me was how often people mentioned that despite being anonymous, they were very motivated to adjust their work because others would see it. To me, these observations need to be hashed out more and analyzed further. I can’t say eloquently where this is heading, but I think in most ways, the project was a complete success in how it has impacted my thinking and conceptualizing of binaries and the epistemology that I’m engrained in that espouses them. Even though my project design could have been far better, my use of Scalar was amateur at best, and I can’t say with certainty where this project will go, I am thrilled with how much more active and engaged my mind is in questioning the role of structures, power, and authority on people’s activity and identity.


Scalar Journal Pre Showcase

I was fairly certain I’d get booted off the island after everyone previewed their projects on Tuesday. Everyone’s project is so much more developed visually and I think intellectually, too. That said, I’m enjoying my project and the questions it has raised for me. I knew going into it that Scalar is not usually used the way I was using it, and it does lend itself more to the types of work my classmates did. I think the adventure and risk was worth it.

Still, I did want to present my work and ideas a lot better than I did in the preview. I’ve spent a lot of time the last two days getting something more readable and clear put together. I still don’t have the project nearly as visually appealing as my peers, but I think it is so interesting. It is interesting looking at the students’ work and comments, seeing how they’re adjusting their pieces, and comparing all of it to their perceptions of how they engaged which I collected from the survey. One challenge with this project is that students really have, for the most part, procrastinated the editing/revision. They’ve done well with commenting, but I can’t tell, yet, how many of them changed their projects significantly based off their peers’ comments. So, after the 27th when the projects are due and their reflections on the Scalar project are turned in, I’m looking forward to getting more data and to be able to see what has changed.

One thing that remains a challenge or issue for me is that while I feel I am engaging well with DH theories and methods, how I’m presenting or articulating the project doesn’t necessarily reflect the engagement as well. Part of this difficulty comes from my discomfort and dislike for Scalar, which comes, in part, from being exhausted this semester. I’m not particularly strong with most technologies, so portraying my research in an innovating, non-linear but more appropriate way would have been a challenge for me no matter what. But also, part of this challenge is because I have so much data with the student projects. Between comparing their first drafts with my feedback to the drafts they first put on Scalar to the final drafts that came after student comments is already a vast amount of data to understand and synthesize. Then, I need to compare those changes and observations with how other projects were edited and revised- the ones that weren’t networked with their peers. Students indicate they are doing more work on Scalar, but I am not sure they are, and I’ll have to compare their final Scalar projects to the other final projects to be sure.

The aspect of anonymity has become more interesting to me as well. I’ve been thinking about how it helps and hinders involvement, interaction, and authority. In many ways, the anonymous design is helpful and necessary to make this project possible, however I think the idea of anonymity is problematic. We can’t really separate people’s content from the bodies and experiences behind them. By being anonymous, does this project maintain or even strengthen power relations that I’m interested in challenging? While anonymity favors those already in positions of power, overall, I also wonder how much it allows others to speak and others to hear. For example, the piece “8 Stages of Coping with Sexual Assault” that I’ve referenced previously wouldn’t have been seen by anyone if anonymity weren’t the route we took. And in some ways, while I don’t love the comments from white dudes asking for more ethos or sources and support from authors writing about issues of racism or sexism, I also could see how some engagement would simply be impossible in face-to-face settings. So, I suppose, it’s both/and yet again? I’m curious what discussions DH had about the internet and network abilities to be an equalizer… In a class setting where it is largely controlled, could it be more leveling or equitable than networks are on a global scale? Another interesting question I’ll look to investigate next week is how much students actually revise the project. I wonder if there is some sense that they are working more on their projects because they are commenting on others and thinking about their revisions, but I really am not seeing a ton of revisions yet. I wonder if the digital and networked nature of the piece makes students less inclined to change it than the other projects that are only seen between them and me. Are they beholden to the comments and to the iteration of the project they published initially, for some reason? I’ll see what the final projects look like, and if they say they edited their P2 on Scalar more than others but it’s clear that most didn’t, I’ll be curious about why.

One other observation: some students are concerned because they aren’t getting comments. Since the tagging didn’t work to create networks, most of them have happened via comments. However, what of when students don’t get comments? Strictly speaking, for this project, it doesn’t matter. It is an indicator of the tags or title the author used, probably, and doesn’t suggest anything about how networks are created, does it? Perhaps it does. Because the students are required to comment, some feel that they need to revise based on those comments as well, and if they don’t have comments, they can’t revise. I have emphasized that isn’t the case, but it has been interesting to observe students go and change their title or add tags because they are, essentially, outside the network. It has no impact on their final grade for the class, but it still seems to be a significant source of stress for many students.

Scalar Journal Entry

Tonight I was looking at my Scalar project and observing what authors were choosing to comment on. I found some very interesting comments and relationships emerging. I suppose interesting may not be the right word.

One author, a female, wrote on her experience being sexually assaulted. Her piece is, in my view, one of the strongest and she is my best writer by a long shot. What I’m troubled, surprised by, or… something, is that she has only had women comment on her work. She’s got 7 comments, which is more than most (and no duplicate comments…), and no men. I thought some men would comment, if only to address the mechanics of her writing, her use of genre, her formatting since her piece is more aesthetically appealing than any other. But only women. And the comments range from complimenting her writing to thanking her and joining with her in their own experiences.

It is interesting seeing pieces like hers come before or after a while male counterpart’s piece, which was on society being too sensitive. It was more troubling when I noticed that he commented on two other projects about racism by asking the authors to provide more evidence. I sound very judgmental. But it’s not of the student. I only wish there was a way to let all of the class see more of what I’m seeing. The anonymity opens up some doors while closing others. I see it enabling people in different ways- some becoming vulnerable in the safety of anonymity and others becoming emboldened.

It is a challenge to look at the data objectively. I suppose I already know that that can’t be done. I think in my analysis, I will draw on Duarte in this respect. I am a bit nervous of piecing together the project and having it take a final form, especially since the Scalar book is one thing to my students and another to me. I wonder if I should make another Scalar book particularly for the final project for the class and leave the one for the class as is. I wonder if they’ll care if I add my analysis and change the format or shape of the book. What happens to the meanings as the shape changes.

Dear Scalar Journal,

Yesterday, my classes met in the CDSC and attempted putting their projects into Scalar. Many of the projects have taken shape already, taking advantage of the affordances of public-facing and multimodal publishing with hyperlinks, images, tags, and more. Others, not as much. But, it is a work in progress. I’m curious how to encourage and help people who have created their page 4 times, edited the Index page (that happened more than a few times) or forgotten to remove identifying material etc. One thing I’m realizing is how much I could have used genre pedagogies in my approaches to teaching, since one of the main issues remains students’ ability to adjust the grammar and rhetoric according to the genre they’re composing in. Included in the genre ecology is the platform or medium of writing. In other words, I don’t love seeing bibliographies where hypertext is available. . . But, again, this is on me more than them.

Another aspect I have been thinking about is how I can make the navigation process on the page more meaningful. It is interesting striking a balance between taking control and deciding readers/authors’ paths based on how I see them, especially as the instructor in the class and author of this project, and allowing the authors of the pages to construct the connections and be involved in the structuring process themselves. Also, the networking question remains… I’m realizing that providing “subject” and “genre” tags is one way of making connections, but in many ways, it limits students’ agency. What could be more interesting, though, would be if I were to allow them to tag other people’s pages by themselves, free of subject or genre tags all together. However, without tagging pieces initially, finding them is more difficult, and the technological demands on students are already high, and I don’t want to add more and more work. Further, they would likely need to read far more of their peers work and that risks them not really doing it or just tagging things willy nilly. With this in mind, the network question is evolving. Instead of wondering what networks the students will create with tagging, I think it will be more interesting to note what students choose to interact with. That was among my original research questions, but I had in mind networks based on tagging as well. I was tempted, for a moment, to add some tags that were controversial or contentious, like “Politically conservative” or “Progressive” or something… That could have been interesting.

For this week, I’m trying to get all the students work on the platform and have them begin to read their peers’ projects. As they do so, I’ll look at setting up the book differently so that it speaks more to the project requirements, acknowledges the work and help of others, and lays out the questions I’m investigating throughout this process. Good times ahead!

The Neutral, Objective, Factual Algorithm Myth

Yesterday morning, on the second day of spring, I opened Google and typed in a few words based on recent events. In her book “Algorithms of Oppression,” Nobel shows how search engines and algorithms are not neutral, factual, or object, despite popular opinions that they are. In the end of her text, she acknowledges that there have been improvements in the algorithms Google uses since she began the book, so I was interested in seeing what my few words would bring up. Here are a few on the recent bombings in Austin (perpetrated by a young white Christian male, his first several victims were black):

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I find it troubling that the “tragedy” search yielded more results on the perpetrator and it took scrolling to find any victims. Further, the language used in the results reflects ideology and profit interests more than accuracy, objectivity, or truth.

Here are a few from the Sacramento tragedy, in which a young unarmed black man was shot 20 times in his backyard by police.

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In these examples, it’s clear that protecting the status quo, the society’s confidence in law enforcement, and obscuring the lines between criminality, terrorism, violence, and more. The lack of objectivity, truth, accuracy and neutrality is especially clear when compared with what comes from the following search on, simply, “terror”:

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Networking Student Writing with Scalar

How does the classroom, authority, meaning-making, and the writing process change in a FYC project by networking students and their work?


My English 101 students will revisit and extend a project which was (broadly conceived as) “clickbait-style, pop-culture audience arguments about a social issue,” something one might find on HuffPost or Buzzfeed. My interest was to invite students to compose in a new but familiar genre which required more rhetorical awareness and provided more creative/modal affordances than many FYC prompts. Using Scalar, they’ll make their work more genre-appropriate by placing it in public, hyperlinking outside sources, and adding other content and media. Additionally, they will add paths and tags to topics that they see their pieces relating to, such as the popular genre(s) in which they composed, the issues they addressed, and more. During the last month of class, the students will interact with one another’s projects and edit their own until its completed and included in the final portfolio. Finally, they will reflect on how their composing processes and products changed, how their rhetorical situation and thinking towards the issues they engaged with evolved, and other significant changes resulting from working on Scalar and with their peers. My primary interests are to observe how students’ processes and positions evolve with their audience, how text and context impact each other, and how students approach this section of their portfolio compared to the others that only I will see (which are more standard compositions: a literacy narrative and argumentative research paper).

Research Questions, Concerns, and Data:

By changing the environments in which students and their work interact, what happens to traditional power/authority dynamics in the FYC classroom? How will students behave when their work is put in conversation with each other? Will students network and interact with things they agree with, disagree with, or avoid their own topics entirely? How will these networks and interactions impact their final products? How will this project compare to the other two projects in their portfolios that are only seen by the instructor? How does the classroom environment change?

My first concern with this project is the lack of experience with Scalar by my students and me. I don’t want the tool’s “affordances” to become stumbling blocks and prevent students from networking and adjusting their work in response. Scalar’s visualization tools, tagging, and paths allow students to network with others in interesting ways that would enhance dialogue, rhetorical awareness, and critical thinking, but only if students feel comfortable with the platform enough to use it.

One other concern was ownership of content. After a discussion of the project with both sections, the students opted to have their work anonymous to each other but not to me (not one student expressed interest in ownership being public, though the option remains should anyone feel differently). Both classes agree that it will be more interesting to make one book between them, so networks will emerge between the content, rhetorical strategies, and genre choices in a larger group of students. In this way, the spatial and temporal limitations of a classroom are expanded by using Scalar.

Significantly, this allows the power relations that do exist in the class between teacher and students to remain while still providing a decentering of that authority since students’ work will be in conversation with their peers. In the final month, they will be required to interact with at least three other pages in the book. I’ll pay attention to how these comments and interactions impact how students adjust their work. I’ll note how students adjust the work on this project compared to the others in the portfolio that only I will see. The final step will be looking at the content in the student reflections on how the Scalar project impacted their work. While being explicit about my goals and intentions for the project, I also don’t want to prompt or encourage certain responses from students, so maintaining a careful balance will be important and perhaps challenging.

The dynamics in the teacher-student and student-student networks should have direct impacts on the position and authority of each actor in this environment. I’m interested in observing how my role as the teacher will be decentered as students look more at each other’s work than my feedback, how they adjust, and what happens in the process.

The data for my project will be the content in the student projects, their comments on each other’s work, and their reflection. I’m interested in comparing the first iteration of their project to the final result, particularly in the differences that take place once their work is on Scalar and conversing with the work of others, and how the final version of this project compares to the other projects in the portfolio.

Timeline and Rough Sketch of Works Cited:

April 2: AML workshop to prep content for input into Scalar

April 4: Scalar workshop with students to input work into Scalar, add images, hyperlinks, and tags.

April 5-29: Students will interact (comment, question, etc) with a minimum of three other student pages, in addition to editing their own projects.

April 30: Final iteration completed. Reflection about the process due.

First week of May: Compare Scalar projects to earlier iterations, explore the reflections, and analyze the differences between the final version of the Scalar project to the final version of the other projects the students turn in to only the instructor.

In creating this project, I feel in many ways that I am drawing from most of the scholars we encountered this semester, as well as many from before. From a pedagogical standpoint, I’m drawing from Bawarshi and Reiff’s work in rhetorical genre studies and its interaction with expressivism via Elbow and social constructionism via Bartholomae. Regarding the spatial, temporal, and social changes that emerge as students network with each other and adjust their work, I’m drawing from McPhersen, Duarte, and Chan. In setting up the project, I’m pulling from Owens, Nowviskie, and Drucker.

I’ve got a gnar cold, but here’s some thoughts on McPherson…

McPherson’s work and the “Feminist in a Software Lab” text really helped me see the relationality and “whole vision,” from Deloria in last week’s discussions, of not just materials and theories, but of theoretical frameworks. I know that it’s pretty obvious that various theoretical frameworks respond to each other, but McPherson’s review of many theoretical frameworks with her theoretical methodology of feminism connected the theories in a way I hadn’t considered and would have a hard time articulating now, in my cold/cough-medicine-induced fog. If Duarte reframed relationalities between human/other-than-human, material/immaterial, and notions of progress and time, McPherson’s methodology extended further on the relationality of theories and practices. Duarte’s reframing method challenged western theories and epistemologies by juxtaposing them with indigenous epistemologies, though her reframing would likely not use the word juxtapose. Instead, she showed expanded ways of thinking and being that leave room for others. In my view, it seemed that McPherson challenged/extended many western theories in a similar way, though she didn’t rely on indigenous epistemology. She weaved theories together while simultaneously removing any doubt that practice and theory can be separate.

As I think about Duarte and how she connected epistemic dots I saw as diametrically opposed, I consider McPherson’s work and feel both excited and intimidated… I have basically always wanted to be a teacher, but I also love the “theory-head” stuff, to use Kim’s words from Tuesday. I’ve vacillated between trying to focus on teaching and research and often viewed them as an either-or. Today and yesterday I’ve been thinking about the ways I can teach and the structures of the classroom in very different ways. My Scalar project for this term is inchoate, but I’m thinking about how I could use approach future classes with a framework much like my project- rather than just teaching to the outcomes, setting up a class with similar questions and structures as my project would have the same potential to meet the outcomes, but it would also provide ways to add meaning to those outcomes in ways I hadn’t considered. I know people have been using wikispaces and other digital spaces to do class work and have students publish and comment on work—this isn’t new. But, if nothing else, I’m a little more curious about ways to do it, potentially with Scalar, and actively put some theories into practice. Time will tell, I suppose… Although that doesn’t seem the thing to say. Again, I’m loaded up on Dayquil.

One last thing- I also have been trying to find a collaboration project with someone outside of the department. All the talk of collaboration was convincing enough and I was lucky- I’m meeting with someone next week to discuss collaborating on a research project about sense of place and place attachment in open world multi player video games. My friend has much of it set up, but needs help on some of the rhetoric/theory stuff for the lit review. I’m excited about it, and also more motivated to read Latour et al.

Final Project Draft

Overview: My English 101 students will revisit and extend their 2nd projects, which were (broadly conceived as) “clickbait-title, popular genre arguments about a social issue.” Using Scalar, they’ll add media, link outside sources and other content to their own pieces, as well as adding paths and tags to “topics” that they see their pieces relating to. The topics will be issues they are writing about as well as the genres they are composing in, and ultimately, should link many of their pieces to one another. Additionally, they will comment on one another’s projects.

Research questions and reasoning:

By putting their pieces in conversation with one another, what happens to traditional power/authority dynamics in the FYC classroom? How will students behave when their work is put in conversation with each other? Will their content change, will they link to things they agree with, disagree with, or choose not to relate to others? What stories will be found in the comments?

  • I’m interested in observing how my role as the teacher will be decentered as students look more at each others’ work than my feedback, how they adjust, and what happens in the “process.” Composition theories of meaning-making including expressivism, social constructionism, and genre theory and how they relate to authority (from readers, genre, writer, society etc) will be central to the project.

How will students view ownership/credit of their ideas and will they want their names attached to their work, and what role do I play as teacher in that discussion, as well as the Scalar book in its final form?

  • Ideas of ownership represent an issue and potential. By making work anonymous (to each other, at least), students can perhaps be more open, though some subjects and content will be somewhat easy to identify. On the other hand, some students may want credit or recognition for their piece. I wonder how to balance this dilemma, especially with Nowviskie and others in mind, who highlight the importance of fairly distributing credit for work. Many in the class agree on major social issues, so safety is somewhat less of a concern than I thought, but still. .. How to make this a true collaboration and give credit?

In what ways will the additional affordances of Scalar impact their work, thought, creativity?

  • Owens research design model reflects my approach in that the tools, questions, content, actors all converge and take different priorities at different times. As I try to learn the tool and  set up at least some skeleton structure for students to use to connect their work to others, I wonder how much that structure limits what insights I’m making possible/impossible. I’m seeing that some structure is needed, but how much is too much, and my research questions are still forming.


Possible words in the title: Authorship, Authority, Power, Meaning-making, Multimodal, Genre, Ownership…. Questioning ownership and authority in FYC. Something like that.