Writing Machines is the course website for English 170L at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
So now a couple of people have posted on the nature of the class this semester, but here's my two cents:
This semester has been anxiety-ridden in terms of academic performance for me. And I blame most of that on the endless information I get from the blog and the wiki. Two of my classes have blogs, which means that no matter where I go, I can't leave class. There's always a discussion going on that requires a response or extra reading to do so you don't repeat a point made on the blog in class or just an interesting link. That's my first complaint (or maybe just an example of my laziness).
I guess this post is coming a bit late as our discussions of Wikipedia have come and gone (though our blog posts are getting increasingly random). But because I'm writing a paper for another class on encyclopedias (specifically Diderot's Encyclopedia from the Enlightenment), I can't help but compare the old encyclopedias of print to their Internet counterparts.
I read one article that states that the accumulation of knowledge will always be nothing but a "tragic ideal, embedded in historical time." Basically knowledge (even if it's true or even profound) continues to change as new thought comes to light. And the old knowledge, even if essentially unchanged, becomes part of something larger and would seem dated (or perhaps even incorrect) without being in the context of this new knowledge.
More in the study break category, has anyone heard of this: inanimate alice?
It's a cool interactive fiction with sound, games (sort of, you have to check it out and read the about section), and pictures. It's won a lot of awards in Europe and seems to be getting a lot of buzz. There is a separate author and multimedia expert (too bad I didn't have one of those for my own project), so both sides are pretty well done. The whole thing seems just perfect for our class, the subject is a girl who we watch grow up (only the first two episodes are available) and become a game designer.
We haven't talked about video games in a little while, but I saw this article on MSN, and it was pretty interesting. It's about a recent study of teenager's brains before and after playing violent video games. The researchers' did find that there was a definite change, but if you read the interview with the head researcher, it's clear that he's pretty reluctant to say that these findings mean anything concrete. That's understandable because it's one tiny study.
But as the writer of the article notes, there's a serious lack of any empirical evidence about the effects of violence in games on children. Mostly there's just a lot of yelling back and forth. And this study may spur on future studies, and change that.
Yesterday, I heard murmurs about the end of the wiki project. I was wondering myself if anyone would be brave enough to end the story. I'm not sure what an appropriate end would be, outside of something like the world being destroyed and all the main characters being killed, which would be a major cop-out. Beyond that, the threads seem too distinct for someone to try to bring everything together in a single post, but maybe I'm wrong and someone will be clever and attempt to do so.
In terms of general reflection on the wiki, I thought it was kind of cool. It turned out better than I thought it would. Obviously the degree of investment one would have in such a large collaborative piece of fiction is limited. I definitely felt that way myself. But I think a lot of the entries are pretty interesting/cool/funny.
Shock and Awe's post about someone mistaking his class project for a real person's blog made me think about a blog that my friend told me about. It's from a Texas cop, and consists of his ramblings and thoughts about law enforcement, America, guns, and his own work. It's written in this tough, good ol' boy persona, and is unsurprisingly super conservative. Of course, my friend and I were having this conversation on AIM, and in the spirit of our class, here is a brief excerpt-
Friend (4:00:45 PM): i just spent three days reading this guy's blog start to finish
I know that a lot of us have posted (and spoken about) our disconnect from the video game world. I think part of that is because games have simply gotten too hard and too complicated for those who only want to dabble. When I was younger I played video games, Super Mario and Donkey Kong mostly. But as soon as the systems started giving players more freedom, I stopped. I'm not sure if anyone remembers when N64 came out, but I couldn't handle the 360 degree mobility of Mario in the N64 Mario game. It left me dizzy and bored.
So I was excited to read this article from the New York Times about the new Wii. This new game system wants to rescue "gaming from the clutches of the hard-core young male demographic that has dominated the industry's thinking for years." Evidently the Wii is supposed to be a lot more intuitive and easy to use, which is my style.
With the final project deadline looming, I'm beginning to feel very nervous about my project being online. While I have the basic ideas of Dreamweaver down, I am far from proficient, and currently my project is just text, picture, and link. Not very exciting. I am feeling far more charitable to the other hypertext authors that I criticized for their boring/unprofessional looking websites.
But my worries go a bit deeper than that. Did anyone else pick a project that incorporates personal stuff? Like your family, your own creative writing? I did, and now I'm concerned that I made a mistake because I feel intense pressure to make it perfect (which just isn't going to happen). And if it isn't perfect, I will have been disrespectful. On the other hand, something we've noted about stuff on the Internet is that it doesn't have to be static, and I can change it later.
A few nights ago, I dreamt that I was watching my friends play video games (yeah I know, pretty exciting), and the violence in the game was so intense that I was paralyzed with fear. The fear only intensified as some of my friends began killing each other, and the game I was watching suddenly jumped out of the screen, until we were all either hiding or caught up in the killing frenzy. In the midst of all this terror, I thought, "this is something I could blog about. Violence in games really does spill over to violence in real life."
Needless to say, that's an odd reaction to have in the middle of a violent nightmare. And when I woke up the next day, I was pretty sad to realize that I didn't have a blog post about violence in games.
After KF said that Technorati had graphs on blogging demographics, I went to explore the site myself. I found this graph on blog posts by language. The graph is found on this page, you have to scroll down to look at "Posts by Language 2006." English was still in the top with 39%, followed by Japanese, and Chinese, and well I'm sure everyone here understands how to read a pie graph.
If you read the caveats section (where Technorati explains why this data isn't perfect), it seems that the language of blogs isn't all that stable and the numbers seem to jump around a lot. It looks like the number of English blogs is actually increasing (at least from January 2005 to May 2006), which I find strange. I would have thought it would be the opposite. Also the site acknowledges that there are still bugs in the counting program, and that Korean and French blogs are being undercounted.