Monday, August 20, 2012

Why "Shakespeare Unbound"?

Shakespeare characters from James Christensen's
"All the World's a Stage"
Over time Shakespeare’s characters and plays have achieved a life of their own. They don't depend much upon a knowledge of Shakespeare's life and times, nor do they thrive only within theatrical performance or literary study. 

At large in the public domain, Shakespeare’s creations simultaneously invoke and transcend tradition. Independent of their creator, their time period, or the educational gate keepers of culture, they live on in various forms and animate new modes of expression.

Hamlet-themed cake
Hilary Rose Cupcakes
Today, networked communication and new media provide conditions for another renaissance -- perhaps one to rival the European Renaissance which Shakespeare typified. Like that earlier period, this is a period fraught with novelty and uncertainty, excitement and chaos. 

Shakespeare’s creations, unbound, alive, and responsive to the present moment, provide continuity with artistic and cultural patterns of the past while serving as both platform and license for experimentation and discovery.
Henry VIII and Gloriana
Second Life Shakespeare Company
(CC license - Flickr - Inacentaurdump)

We can productively explore our brave new digital world and Shakespeare’s works simultaneously, using the one to understand the other.

As we do so, we find that the traditional ways of studying Shakespeare have a hard time sitting still within the limits of print and the parameters of analytical prose. Shakespeare invites not just analysis, but response, creation, and engagement with others who continue to draw inspiration from his legacy.

That's the theme of this blog, and the approach that I take with my students.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transcending the Traditional Research Paper

To start with my conclusion:
We have to be willing to let go of familiar and comfortable formats for our best thinking if we want it to do its best work. We have to allow a different shape, a different approach, and not expect the world to beat a path to our doorstep, begging to read our thousands of words of linear prose. We have to allow for and accommodate collaboration as part of the transformation of our traditional kinds of research and writing.
Rather than having my students in one of my Shakespeare courses finish their semester with a research paper project, they have completed these at mid-term, and will now be transforming what they have created into something more. Now, how are we going to go about that?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Experiment in Open Peer Critique

In an effort to bridge traditional and online writing modes, I am inviting (not requiring) my students who are completing a research paper assignment to perform a critique of one another's papers by using the Google form embedded below. This is all part of my effort to make the composition process more transparent and to help students be more responsible for their writing both as authors and as critics.

All of the responses to this form will be viewable to the public through this link. In order to respect privacy, students will not be required to perform or receive their critique in this manner, but I hope many will take advantage of this method.  The peer critique form can be filled out here or by clicking on the image above.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From Thesis Statement to "Tweethis" Statement

Perhaps nothing is more central to good writing than the thesis statement. This is the core of one's argument, the central point, the claim that focuses the writing and engages the audience. For a long time I have advocated using better thesis statements, those that will divide an educated audience and do the heavy lifting of persuasive writing (see also this Prezi on thesis statements by former student Erin Hamson).

Online writing has only sharpened the need for thesis statements. However, since mid-2011, I have been promoting an adaptation of the thesis statement to the digital realm. I call this the "tweethis" statement. As one might guess, this combines the Twitter micro-post with the thesis micro-argument. In short, what if one's argument could be condensed to something only 140 characters long? But also: what if one shared this "tweethis" through social networks -- not just publishing a summary of one's completed work, but circulating one's working argument in order to refine this and to gain social proof?

Tweethis statements incorporated into a book.
They also circulate on social networks while writing is in progress.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Social Proof Successes by Students

I'm on fire about the concepts of social discovery and especially social proof, about which I've recently blogged. As I said in that post, social proof can make your content legit.

I wanted to give an interim report of the successes that students are having as they are attempting one of the four types of social proof that I outlined before (finding, contacting, interacting, and having one's work used by others). Most students are in the first two levels, working their way up.

Here, then, are case studies of how students have been getting social proof through various sources. I have also noted how students are altering their research projects in response to the social proof they are getting. Proof that social proof works!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy: A Playlist of 11 Versions

Beginning with a clip from a silent version of Hamlet, I've assembled a playlist of nearly a dozen different versions of Hamlet's famous "To be or not to be?" soliloquy. This would be useful for evaluating different performance styles or production history. Most of the films from which these clips come are available either on Netflix or via YouTube. (In the first clip, go to 5:05-6:30 for the right scene).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Make your content legit: Four phases of "social proof"

I want to tell you about an extremely powerful principle for the production of quality content online, especially of the academic sort, but not limited to that. I call this principle "social proof."

 I see social proof as integral to producing the most legitimate content of whatever medium today. We now have the ability to obtain social proof at every stage of the creative and publishing processes; we must therefore integrate social proof into those stages (and be more critical of any content that ignores it).

This has come about in part due to my experiments in teaching online writing (see my recent post, "Competing Literacies and the 21st Century Research Paper" and the links provided by a former student, Jeff Swift, regarding recent national discussions about blogs vs. research papers).

I felt it was high time to try some hybrid pedagogy. This is why I've given an enhanced research paper assignment to one of my current Shakespeare courses. Those students will end up having created a traditional research paper of 8-10 pages. However, their process will be deeply mediated socially. During a three week period, I am requiring different stages of this "social proof." This is going to be the hardest, and the most rewarding, component of their research.

What is this "social proof" and how is it brought into the research and composition process? Simply put, my students must demonstrate at each stage of their research and writing that what they are doing is relevant to real audiences by finding and interacting with interested parties. So, below I explain four phases of social proof:
  1. finding people
  2. contacting people
  3. interacting and collaborating
  4. others' use of one's published content