Archive for category Important Stuff

The 21st Century Canon: Iconic Texts and the Internet

Perhaps the best way to describe my session idea is to provide some detail information on my current project.  This project is an article that concerns lucidity in communication and derives from my advanced composition class.  It concerns the comparison of the internet as an iconic text with canonical (or iconic) literature from the twentieth century.  The article focuses on using the internet along with literary material to teach composition and rhetoric, particularly to help college students identify how icons are formed in contemporary western culture and how that formation imbues objects with meaning.  It begins with a discussion with students over iconography and ideas of physical space on the internet.  For example, how one displays his or her facebook or myspace page identifies images or styles that can actually be numerated as icons.  With myspace, one can enumerate what font (Helvetica, Times New Roman, etc…) is predominantly used and why.  Also, with the rise of twitter, subject matter creates new communities of people communicating together.  The internet basically establishes a democratization of icons at a certain level that previous media did not.  Finally, the utilitarian aspect of the internet as a form of individual communication drives western iconography away from a postmodern concept of detachment, freeing the student of the disengagement demanded of icons of postmodernism.  Keeping up with the technological advances in communication allows for a more cohesive community, especially when that community is marginalized.  Therefore, I would like to have a discussion session concerning how icons and memes over the internet can not only strengthen marginalized communities, but also propel those communities into popular culture.

Engaging the public.

Recently I attended the OAH conference in Houston. One of the sessions, “Texas Textbook Controversy” (which I live-tweeted:!/search/txtxtbk) continually returned to the topic of engaging the public in what historians do.

For Example, here are three of the tweets I made that quoted @historianess:
.@historianess We need to engage the public in what we do, that the way we think about the past is constantly changing.#OAH2011 #TXTXTBK

.@historianess We don’t do a terribly good job of engaging the public. #OAH2011 #TXTXTBK

.@historianess We as a profession…need to be a lot more open about what we do. #OAH2011 #TXTXTBK

My idea for a session proposal would be to have an open dialogue about how we can use public-friendly digital technology – ie, twitter, tumblr, etc. to engage the public in what we do professionally. This could involve lots of different methods. Something that would coincide with the OAH session’s emphasis on interaction between higher education (historians specifically) and the elementary and secondary teachers might involve integrating lesson plans (and educational standards) into a department’s current research projects and vice versa. Several museums and websites do a great job of this by presenting information for teachers to use in creating lessons, however, there is very little interaction taking place – and therefore – very little exchange of ideas or engagement with the public.
I admit that I only have a few ideas about implementing this. And, even fewer specific goals that would be considered measurable objectives. However, I think this is a worthwhile discussion to have, and that I, and others, could learn from the exchange.
A final thought: considering the challenges facing many departments with funding, I think we miss a great opportunity to gain public support for our profession (including missing an opportunity to encourage future scholars into our fields) by failing to engage the public. Considering the ease of many sites online, and considering that many of these sites are free, it appears a real waste for departments (and professionals) to not take advantage of them. While this may seem obvious to those of us that applied to THAT Camp (we are likely to be biased towards using digital means already), perhaps we can gain further insight from one another about how to engage the public and which methods are most advantageous.
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