Blogfolios: Remediation of Ethos as Dwelling Place in the ePortfolio

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Blogfolios: Remediation of Ethos as Dwelling Place in the ePortfolio :

Blogfolios : Remediation of Ethos as Dwelling Place in the ePortfolio Cynthia Davidson, Stony Brook University

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“ E portfolios may be the most likely vehicle to help us make the transition to an academy of the future that is both relevant and authoritative.” Kathleen Yancey and Darren Cambridge, 2009 in Electronic Portfolios 2.0 There was a tripling of campus eportfolio use between 2005 and 2009 . Geoffrey Middlebrook and Jerry Chih -Yuan Sun in “Showcase Hybridity: A Case for Blogfolios ” (2013)

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Problem: Too many eportfolios resemble static web pages or campus management systems (CMS) Eportfolios lack interactivity or social networking to provide learning opportunities and potential professional connections. Middlebrook and Sun argue for BLOGFOLIOS ( eportfolios that integrate educational blogging to facilitate interactivity and dialogue). WHY BLOGFOLIOS?

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How are credible online personas crafted through blogs? Design, choice of media, are important Middlebrook /Sun cite study by Barbara Warner Warner found that credibility was highly dependent on design and usability Middlebrook /Sun cite the USB blogfolio projects use of the USB imprimatur as a “simple but elegant” interface that lends credibility to students’ work CREDIBILITY & DESIGN

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What does it mean to impress ? It means to make an impression, leave a mark, or in the more blunt jargon of business and leadership education today, engage in “personal branding.” The kind of impressiveness we wish to foster is a contested ground among the disciplines, but we all agree that we want students to have it. IMPRESSIONS

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I have a fascination with how academics and professionals create online personas on social networks, like Facebook, with colleagues they do not know personally. How do they handle mixed audiences of family, students, childhood friends, and academic professional contacts on a single page? Don’t our students need to handle complex rhetorical situations, such as mixed audiences on Facebook or Twitter, as part of their education? Is it possible to craft an eportfolio which satisfies academic, personal, and creative needs, and manages to be “impressive” on multiple levels to multiple audiences? Mixed Audiences

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While I agree with most of Middlebrook and Sun’s views, I feel some dissonance with the view that the university imprimatur adds impressiveness to the student’s eportfolio . It does; but is it enough? A t Stony Brook U., we make a similar template available to our students. But generally, the students who retain it are the ones who do the least amount of work on their eportfolios . So clearly this is a different model. It’s not that students here aren’t proud of the logo. Example: The two top-viewed eportfolios at Stony Brook U, of Emily Madsen and Eda Charmaine Gimenez , have been seen all over the world. Emily has over 1 million viewings. Both are highly customized (and very different). The portfolios, although they may be started in a course, are totally student-driven.

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Emily Eda

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Moving away from a university template can be liberating but also risky . Some eportfolios are messy and lack a unified identity, lack impressiveness. They risk becoming at best hubs for links without any defined online presence I call this the “holding bin” or “virtual paper clip” stage . So my goal over the last couple of years to discover and disseminate reasons why this is faulty thinking. RISKS OF FREEDOM

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One of the reasons that I have been intrigued by the idea of messy eportfolios is that, as a writing teacher and writer, I realize the value of messy writing at various stages of composition. Therefore , I don’t think a messy eportfolio is irredeemably problematic unless it shows no sign of reflection or development. All excellent eportfolios tend to have their awkward growing pains. A secret

Conclusion 1: EPORTFOLIOS as Rhetorical performance (BLOGFOLIOS) :

Conclusion 1: EPORTFOLIOS as Rhetorical performance (BLOGFOLIOS) Until ePortfolios are considered a rhetorical performance, an essential part of students’ “writing” and worthy of assessment, they will remain for many holding bins, virtual paper clips or envelopes. We need to see the ePortfolio as multimodal composing, a text woven of artifacts, analysis, and reflection that demonstrate multiliteracies . I associate these with blogfolios if there is interaction with the viewer/audience through blogs, comments, or the invitation to give feedback on the interface.

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Discussions about multiliteracies that occur today trace their roots back to the NEW LONDON GROUP. NLG : a multidisciplinary gathering of educators and researchers that met in 1994 to create a framework for better literacy teaching across a series of modalities, the quick and easy sharing of which is made possible by modern technologies. They authored an article that was published in the Harvard Educational Review and later a book. The group of ten included James Paul Gee, Allen Cope, Sarah Michaels, and Gunter Kress . This international, interdisciplinary group saw opportunity to focus on “design” as a cross-disciplinary manner of addressing the act of multiliteracy (demonstrated through multimodal ) productions. Creation is never divorced from making meaning. multiliteracies

New London Group::

New London Group: The elements of design: linguistic meaning (what) visual meaning (what) audio meaning (what) gestural meaning (what) spatial meaning (what) creating multimodal patterns of meaning (how) design

New London group: Pedagogy of design:

New London group: Pedagogy of design situated practice overt instruction critical framing transformed practice (in which students as meaning-makers become designers of social futures)

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While NLG was quick to indicate that vast changes were needed in literacy education to prepare students for the changing workplace, they were also quick to point out the dangers of this changing workplace and the need to resist abuses by fast capitalism / postFordism . NLG: Cultural Critique of Workplace Changes

Fast capitalism/postFordism:

Fast capitalism/ postFordism decline of assembly lineage, mindless repetitive unskilled labor flattening of workplace hierarchies identity with vision, mission, and corporate values teamwork emphasis on multi-skilled, well-rounded workers

Negative influences of fast capitalism:

Negative influences of fast capitalism Invasion of privacy (made more feasible through technology) Destruction of autonomous local lifeworlds Current examples: Facebook searches by employers Risks of online dating for teachers General “Big Brother getting in your business for your own good or theirs” scenarios

NLG: Challenges for Literacy Pedagogy (1996):

NLG: Challenges for Literacy Pedagogy (1996)

Related concerns, trends:

Related concerns, trends Boundaries begin to collapse in these community spaces as it becomes easy for people to move between them. Linkages and alliances become freer and easier to make. Concern about tokenistic diversity in these local and specific communities.

Another perspective: Rhetorical aspects of design:

Another perspective: Rhetorical aspects of design While endorsing almost all of their views, Nicholas I. Cordova felt that the NLG missed the opportunity to consider the design process as a negotiation of cultural agency by bypassing the rhetorical implications of their agenda . Source: “Invention, Ethos, and New Media in the Rhetoric Classroom” ( 2013). Published in Multimodal Literacies and Emerging Genres , ed. Tracey Bowen and Carl Whittaker.

Ethos as dwelling place:

Ethos as dwelling place 1. “The challenge that new media and technological innovation pose for notions of ethos, and suggesting that a reengagement with an understanding of ethos as dwelling place (Hyde 2004) can enhance a pedagogy of multiliteracies disposed toward the praxis of designing liberatory social futures ” (Cordova 147). 2. Cordova proposes ”a rhetorical model that gives texture to a pedagogy of multiliteracies by focusing on a set of rhetorical relationships hitherto obscured but that animate the NLG’s understanding of design as negotiation of cultural agency. These relationships are captured in the terms fragmentation, articulation, circulation, convergence, and interface .” (147)

Conclusion 2: blogfolios are architechtonic practices of lifeworlds:

Conclusion 2: blogfolios are architechtonic practices of lifeworlds Cordova’s “reaffirmation of rhetoric as architectonic practice of lifeworlds ” which “emphasizes the centrality of ethos as dwelling terrain from which a liberatory praxis of design can be launched, one ‘crucial for reading Available Designs and for designing social futures’ (NLG 1996, 81)” is an interesting assertion to weigh in on a discussion of blogfolios because, at their best, this is what they are. The blogfolio best succeeds when it is a dwelling place for the ethos of its creator, when it is more than a place where things are stuck, stored, or listed (the holding bin).

Heidegger on techne and dwelling:

Heidegger on techne and dwelling Cordova refers to philosopher Martin Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” (1977b ) 1. Techne or technology refers to both the doing and the artistic impetus or creative act of imagination, what Kiyoshi Miki referred to as the “ability to make our imagination concrete .” 2. Hedeigger reminds us of this relationship with his distinction between building , a technical endeavor, and dwelling.

How does ethos as dwelling relate to the blogfolio?:

How does ethos as dwelling relate to the blogfolio ? The eportfolio is a more or less stable structure that undergoes a series of changes as the owner changes (like a dwelling place ) but also to the blog as a place of interaction (as a dwelling place is a meeting ground for social events ). The blogfolio is an excellent descriptor of ethos as dwelling place, fulfilling the conditions of Cordova’s imagined rhetorical practice and pedagogy.

Conclusion 3: Resistance is hard, but not futile:

Conclusion 3: Resistance is hard, but not futile Resistance to the driving engine of “the consumption of technical wizardry, the spectacular, and the dispersal of the critical faculties of the subject to establish nourishing human relationships” is the cultivating of rhetorical sensibility through the “architectonic practice of lifeworlds .” ….(which , simply put , is facilitating the building of dwelling places online through which establishing nourishing human relationships can take place .)


DWELLING PLACE:MEETING PLACE MERGE this concept of ETHOS as DWELLING to that of PERSONAL BRANDING , making professional impressions of competence, potential, and expertise through interaction in addition to showcasing of artifacts that demonstrate these characteristics. Carry forth the concept of ETHOS as DWELLING as MEETING PLACE for interaction--as already understood by most students through personal blogging and social networking.

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Individuals may feel that they need to compete with the spectacular and technical wizardry they see in daily displays driven by big capital, but most can’t and shouldn’t try. What we can do is offer them the opportunity to build online dwellings that are both professional and personal, achievement-oriented and social, where they can begin to design social futures.

Outline for a theory of multiliteracies (Cordova):

Outline for a theory of multiliteracies (Cordova) focus on invention highly contextual deeply concerned with the hybridity of cultural and the intertextuality of semiotic or symbolic flows explicitly self-conscious about its own contingencies The theory moves away “from explaining interpretation in terms of isolated readers and isolated texts to discussing rhetorical exchanges among interpreters embedded in discursive and other social practices at specific historical moments ” ( Mailloux 1989, 134).

Many shapes of the blogfolio:

Many shapes of the blogfolio The blogfolio can take many different shapes. It is not designated by any single interface or even type of interface. The blogfolio does not need to explicitly contain a blog or be a blog, but it does need to invite interaction with visitors. It must, however, be “ architectonic ”( Richard McKeon). Although USC’s use of a university template offers one kind of credibility, from our perspective it resembles (highly coveted) tract housing or an exclusive dormitory--if one is to accept this definition of the blogfolio as an architectonic dwelling .

Five relations of multimodality:

Five relations of multimodality Although Cordova does not detail a theory of multiliteracies , he does offer five pedagogical relations(153-155 ): fragmentation and modularity articulation circulation and dissemination convergence interface


fragmentation Reminds us that texts are not solidly iconic but are woven together of various fragments, pieces, ideas, and other texts themselves. Texts can travel in fragments , dissected, partitioned, and mediated, only to be put together as particular cultural logics and mediations might dictate.


articulation Articulation is a process by which different discursive elements or fragments are combined to form a new element that can in turn gain social primacy . Multimodal meaning-making is inherently a process of various articulations, the “non-necessary connections of different elements that, when connected in a particular way, form a specific unity” (Slack 1989, 311).


Circulation/dissemination Circulation is related to fragmentation as it relates to the ways that texts are broken and disseminated (153). The circulation of texts is dependent on cultural meaning , but also on flows and forms through which they are networked. Circulation is also closely related to Convergence.


convergence The remediating power of convergence has facilitated the emergence of multimodal genres such as mash-ups, digital storytelling, and transmedia narratives. A potential new genre lies with opportunities to reflect on our digital lifestream , our appearances and interventions in various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace , Delicious, LinkedIn, and others. Such reflection highlights not just our presence but self-theorizes about our digital selves beyond the confines of individual multimodal activity and pushes us to understand multimodality as social practices (Cordova 154). Cordova relates this to the postcolonial concept of HYBRIDITY (“the creation of new transcultural forms within the contact zone produced by colonization” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 2003, 118).


interface The INTERFACE is a virtual site where people engage in the process of design within the distinct models of the mediated world. The key move is the transformation of the computer from tool to medium . Next step: I find out how students using interactive eportfolios / blogfolios express their position to these five relations and to the idea of dwelling in, or building a lifeworld in, their blogfolios .

Three questions: students’ take on creating an eportfolio:

Three questions : students’ take on creating an eportfolio Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: I’ve provided evidence in my overall eportfolio that my choices about format and design elements such as layout, fonts, images, and colors express my point of view and demonstrate a strong awareness of my audience’s needs and expectations. Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: My decisions about eportfolio format and design demonstrate a strong critical understanding of relationships between two or more modes (e.g., texts and images) or between two or more examples of the same mode (e.g., a series of images). Explain below how your ePortfolio fulfills this expectation: I’ve shown my strong understanding of ethical use of digital sources by following the attribution and copyright set by the creator ( ie , Creative Commons licensing).

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Although these questions were not geared specifically toward a discussion of interactivity or blogging in the eportfolio , I thought that their results might offer insight into how well their experiences lined up with Cordova’s five relations, with the concept of the eportfolio as a dwelling, and with the sense of the eportfolio as an interactive meeting place. The students were entrants in an program-run eportfolio contest and students in my Writing for New Media and Digital Rhetorics courses.

Engagement analysis:

Engagement analysis The 28 self-nominated entries for the eportfolio contest in general demonstrated a relatively high level of engagement with all of the five relations: fragmentation and modularity; articulation; circulation and dissemination; convergence; and interface I found numerous references to the eportfolio as a dwelling, and several students had clearly designed their eportfolio to have features that represented dwelling in some way. While the students were not addressing circulation directly, the willingness to share eportfolios publicly and to answer these questions publicly shows that they are taking on that aspect of the challenge. At their best, they were designing lifeworlds (if modest ones) and articulated that this is what they were doing.

Example 1:

Example 1 “I believe that the way I designed my profile demonstrates my ability to determine certain modes going together stylistically. I am very aware of font choices and color schemes in everything I do in my life. Web design is no different. The way that I kept my e-portfolio monochromatic besides the two pictures I highlighted is intentional and significant. I left the pictures full color because they show who I am: the picture of me showing who I am and what I look like, and the little cartoon that prefaces my writing portfolio showing my sense of humor and undeniable good taste in comic strips.” ( Michelle Milner ) The eportfolio is designed to look like a small world--a planet in a universe of stars, unbound and centered. She is aware of, and celebrating, her fragmented identity.

Example 2:

Example 2 “The idea behind my ePortfolio format was to create a balance between text, images, and other forms of media in a style that is user-friendly and enjoyable to the viewer. People often say, "A picture says a thousand words", however, sometimes the subject matter calls for only a few words. It is vital to guide the viewer through an ePortfolio with the format and placement of modules for them to have a greater understanding of what you want to express. For my Writing 102 course, I created a section on my ePortfolio dedicated to the literary works required for the class. I chose to place images of the books, plays, and films before introducing my audience to my analyses. The images I chose automatically invoke some cultural reference to our experiences with the time period, or our exposure to them, hence giving us a sense of familiarity before reading the essay. For those who do not understand the cultural reference they still have a brief depiction of the following text is about. “ ( Lourdes Ng )

Example 3:

Example 3 I've mastered the modules and the css coding for portfolios. I have learned how to use the techniques to make my portfolio look better than I would've even thought! ( Ammarah Zaidi ) What caught my attention here is her brevity, enthusiasm, and confidence. I had to go see it. In terms of Cordova’s relations, what strikes me is convergence and how successfully she has created new transcultural forms with style and concision. The patterned background motif, the averted face, the hajib , all combine with the rest of the content (and confidence) to create a mesmerizing and complex presence.

Example 4:

Example 4 For my About Me section, I tried wrapping text around an image to make use of the space provided. I haven't much content on the page, but I would put a picture to separate different information given in the About Me. In my WRT 102 section, I included a small image under the links to the essays to give a small insight on what the essay would be about. ( Meiling Li ) What strikes me here is how anti-spectacular the statement is, the small image and the small insight. I think that the NLG and Cordova would appreciate how precious it is that the student valued these small and delicate visual gestures in her eportfolio .

Examples 5 & 6: eportfolio as vehicle, road, window:

Examples 5 & 6: eportfolio as vehicle, road, window “All the videos I provide, while some of them are not my own, are meant to be windows into the niche that I have found myself to sit in. I am merely one of the many vehicles in which this niche can be spread with this portfolio being another open road. “— James Kho “My ePortfolio captures my personality by introducing the viewer to my header of a country scene with an old, red truck. This basically says it all; I'm a country guy. I love the outdoors, trucks (especially older ones), the freedom to be able to run around in the grass and have nothing block the sky. To compliment the header, the background is a simple shade of red, similar to the truck.”— Joseph Cogliandro Junior

Other examples:

Other examples I saw other examples in the various projects and their reflections posted in blogfolios for several courses (Writing for New Media/Digital Rhetorics ). “The final project really showcased my understanding of eportfolios and my changed perspective of them. In my digital text analysis of C---’s eportfolio , I mentioned the limitations the internet posed on crafting identities. By the time I wrote my final essay however, detailing the reasons and components of an eportfolio , my view had completely changed. I now see eportfolios as endless opportunities to craft multiple identities that are caring and professional, projecting a well-rounded and malleable teaching persona.”— Aneela Ashraf

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So, while I was creating the video I decided to literally turn the camera on myself. As stated in the video clip it scares the "bejesus" out of me and that isn't an exaggeration, unfortunately. Between coughing fits and nerves it took three tries but I got it done and loaded. I found myself cringing and laughing at the same time at the faces I made as I applied my makeup. My own mask. It actually was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be to watch it over and over again as I edited and condensed everything down into only a minute or so. I guess I finally took my own advice; don't be afraid of making a bit of a fool of yourself. – Amanda Martocello , about her final project entitled “Reflections.”

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“ Not only was I able to learn more about myself as a person, I was able to discover and utilize the powers that new media has to offer for those who have always only been consumers of media. This potential to produce content and spread it to the world, possibly passing along individual influence, is changing our world today. Digital storytelling is one of the very means to do so, as it not only impacts the listener, but also the deliverer, as he or she discovers strengths, weaknesses and other hidden aspects to his or her being. The pieces are easily spread with social media and have the capacity to inspire even the most unlikely listener. Being a part of the current new new media based generation, I would be a fool to not take advantage of the greatness of something like digital expression .”— Christy Lau , on her final project and spoken word piece in her eportfolio , providing a superb explanation of using convergence to build a local lifeworld .

Conclusion 4 (final): :

Conclusion 4 (final): What I found in the examples that I examined here is that we are seeing breakthroughs in several areas mentioned by the scholars mentioned throughout this presentation. We see students willing to make gestures across a variety of media to welcome their audiences, to articulate the value of those gestures , to prize connections and identity over spectacle when it comes to building a personal brand and to conceive of what they are building not as a gauntlet thrown before a judge but a dwelling in which credibility can develop, change, and grow with social nurturing . Recommendations: Find ways to encourage more interaction (through design, invitation, reflection, conversation, weekly blogging or shared journaling, collaborative assignments) in ePortfolios and less focus on preserving artifacts as static content. Artifacts should be invitations to viewer interaction whenever possible.

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