Tuesday, September 21, 2004

What is Propaganda?

In an email discussion on TechRhet about propaganda, the issue of defining the term came up. One participant, CJ, offered her definition:
I simply operate from this (very broad) definition: "The promotion of specific ideas or views, often political in nature."
I asked:
That means any act of persuasion, any advocacy, is propaganda?

If the working definition is *that* broad, then doesn't that lead
toward an easy cyncism where any idea you don't like you can dismiss
as propaganda?
CJ gave a helpful reply:
Exactly. And we do. One group's "promotion" is always somebody's
"propaganda campaign." Propaganda comes from "propagate" -- it's not
just an argument, it's a battery of arguments: organized, systematized,
strategized into our lives. One operative saying "It looks like the
Iraqi's might have nuclear warfare capabilities" is an argument. The
president, vice president, secretary of state, press secretary, and
pentagon telling us in print, internet, radio, and television news media
that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we must go to
war, that's propaganda. And just because a message is propaganda,
doesn't mean it's either bad or good. It's just being thrown at us
repeatedly. Like those United Way envelopes they keep putting in my box
at work....I keep trying to remind them that working for such low wages
IS my way of "donating" to the community...."

And how they keep making people walk for cancer, muscular dystrophy,
cystic fibrosis, the american lung association....why do they have to
walk? Why not just collect money from people, and save the time & energy
of walking? (Answer: propaganda has established that we must do
something visible/tangible like walking to "earn" the money people are
giving to the cause).

It's all about the propagation. One argument is just one claim.
Repeated, organized, bombardment of The Message....that's propaganda.
All of which got me to thinking -- in this political campaign season, propaganda is a natural and useful lense for looking at how each campaign tries to frame the choice citizins will face when they vote. I think the key to CJ's response is in this sentence: "Propaganda comes from "propagate" -- it's not just an argument, it's a battery of arguments: organized, systematized, strategized into our lives."

What can one learn from the organized messages coming from each campaign? What in their propaganda is true, what exaggerated, what false?

To get started, here are some resources students can consult:

Defining Propaganda:

The Center for the Study of Political Graphics:



Monday, September 06, 2004

OpenOffice: For Compatibility's Sake

Michelle Jackson, writing in today's (9/6/04) Boston Globe, opens her recommendation of OpenOffice, a free, open source suite of office tools, including a robust word processor, with this story:
Hoping to get some work done on a recent train trip to New York, I kicked back, opened my laptop, and clicked on Microsoft Excel. Up popped a prompt asking for the original program disk. Same thing with Word and PowerPoint. Nothing would run. Who the heck travels with their original program disks? I was dead in the water, left with nothing to do but play solitaire. That evening, I went online from my hotel room and did a quick search for ''alternatives to Microsoft Office" that turned up an interesting option: OpenOffice. And it was free.
Jackson goes on to describe how well OpenOffice worked. For those who aren't power users of Microsoft's Office Suite, who don't use its advanced features, Open Office is a fine substitute. For most writing teachers and most students in most writing courses, power using isn't necessary.

Open Office is something you can point your students to when everyone is using MS Word, but you have one or two students who have other word processors (AppleWorks on their iMac, for example). Yes, you can teach students how to save in Rich Text Format (and they should learn how to do this), but having Open Office is a good back up for when students forget. It's also useful for the student who doesn't have Word because even if every one in your class always remembers to save as RTF before sending a file to a classmate, those students will receive lots of Word documents from other sources.

Jackson also talks about Easy Office, which can also be had for free. It's a bit more robust, but it comes with a "nag screen," a screen that asks you to upgrade to for sale version with more features and abilities. Of the two options, I'd go with Open Office. It will cover what students need to do in most writing courses. With either Open or Easy, you can order a CDROM instead of trying to download the software over the Net. There's a small fee for pressing and shipping the CDR, but if you have a dial up connection, it's still a very inexpensive option.

Here's how to find these resources:

OpenOffice http://www.openoffice.org/

EasyOffice http://www.e-press.com/

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Electronic Scholarly Publishing

Sony's new "eink" reader
It's light, portable, the battery lasts, and most importantly, the resolution is the same as print.

Eventually, devices like this will set a new standard for reading that will combine the advantages of digital reading -- hypertext, multimedia, lightness, among others -- with some of (not all) the pleasures of reading print that are so far lacking in reading on or from a laptop or current handheld computer for example.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

CCCC Position Statement on Teaching, Learning, and Assessing Writing in Digital Environments
http://www.ncte.org/groups/cccc/featuredinfo/115775.htm Very useful statement of principles and responsibilities that can help departments and colleges plan and improve online teaching.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Practical Tips on Teaching w/ Technology

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Students vs. Turnitin.com

Student Battles Mandatory Use of Turnitin.com

This article from CNN covers the story of a McGill University (up in Canada) student who refused to submit his paper to Turnitin.com. His professor decided to give him an F for not submitting his papers; however, the student appealed the grades and their rationale, and the university ordered the professor to accept the papers and grade them.

Tune Up Turnitin


This essay by Anna Edens in the Technician, the student newspaper at North Carolina State, applauds the actions of the student at McGill and congratulates the NC State English Department for ending their use of Turnitin.com.