New Ammunition for the Canon of Invention

Surfing around the blogs on Sunday morning has replaced my previous ritual of watching BBC News (and a bit of the local news) before switching over to CBS Sunday Morning. Now I realize I can get access to the best bits of CBS Sunday Morning News online anyway, so why subject myself to all the commercials and uninteresting stories?

Found a great entry on Reuters Editor's Blog (a great blog! If you don't read it, you should!) about a conference on new media from the perspective of news people. The conclusion at most of the presentations was that Internet media technologies, such as you tube and the like, provide what big corporate media used to provide to everyone. There are also a couple of good examples of initiatives using Web 2.0 and new media tech to provide innovative presentation of old struggles, such as international human rights and the like.

In my basic courses, public speaking here, I have students more and more frequently using things like you tube during speeches as visual aids. I wonder if it would be productive to reconfigure the role of you tube and other sites as invention more than aid.

I think there is a huge difference between showing a video clip as a visual aid, and using the video clip as a site of speech content, or invention. I think the closest a student has come has been the use over 3 speeches examining "Justice" last semester. For each speech (which covered a different aspect of a larger question) he linked to Jimmy Justice, a New York City anti-hero and muckraker of sorts whose target is primarily the NYPD traffic unit.

These clips were used as proof rather than visual re-statement of what was already delivered to the audience. I understand that it is spurious to try to distinguish with a hard line the difference between proof and visual aid. For pedagogical convenience we make this distinction (because who could market a public speaking textbook without a Visual Aids chapter?) but perhaps it can also serve a larger point -- distinguishing 20th century public speaking from the 21st.

Ways of incorporation - Haven't been able to think just yet about it, but perhaps a simple start would be a speech that forbids any research other than Web 2.0 sources - blogs, youtube, facebook polls, and the like.

Yes empiricists, I hear you gnashing your teeth. But I'm interested in teaching right thinking not right. Requiring library research in that comfortable style - use 2 books and 3 articles, one of which must be from an academic journal, etc. - might become obsolete (if it isn't already) for those interested in training students for the job market or for the life of a public intellectual (I prefer the latter).

Variety in assignments is not only through the form of the assignment, i.e. essay vs. quiz vs. group project, but limiting the resources available for its completion, i.e. essay, but only in this box, quiz - but only using this article as the framework, group project - but only these websites can be consulted.

Web 2.0, especially if one is skeptical and wants to teach students a la Postman's "crap detection" or Sagan's "Baloney detection" mode of critical thought, must be taught from the perspective that our human condition is one of limited knowledge in a recalcitrant world.

The Internet doesn't save us from the failings of other modes of evidence, it just re-contextualizes those failings. And students must be exposed to those limits if they are to use these resources effectively and well.