What We’re Reading in DTLT – September 2017

We know how busy teachers can be, so we’re introducing this new feature on the blog to help you sift through the mountain of news and other readings that come across our field of view every day. These, to us, are some of the most important things to read on the web right now, and it also reflects those things that we are most interested or invested in at the moment.

Please feel free to leave your recommended readings in the comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #DoOO.


Silicon Valley siphons our data like oil. But the deepest drilling has just begun – Ben Tarnoff

Silicon Valley is an extractive industry. Its resource isn’t oil or copper, but data. Companies harvest this data by observing as much of our online activity as they can. This activity might take the form of a Facebook like, a Google search, or even how long your mouse hovers in a particular part of your screen. Alone, these traces may not be particularly meaningful. By pairing them with those of millions of others, however, companies can discover patterns that help determine what kind of person you are – and what kind of things you might buy.

Teaching White Students Showed Me The Difference Between Power and Privilege – Kiese Laymon

I loved my job. I loved going to work and I understood the first week of school that it was impossible to teach any student you despised. A teacher’s job was to responsibly love the students in front of them. If I was doing my job, I had to find a way to love the wealthy white boys I taught with the same integrity I loved my black students, even if the constitution of that love differed. This wasn’t easy because no matter how conscientious, radically curious, or politically active I encouraged Cole to be, teaching wealthy white boys like him meant that I was being paid to really fortify, and make more responsible, Cole’s power.


Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes – Jacques Ellul

But in order for propaganda to be so far-ranging, it must correspond to a need. The State has that need: Propaganda is obviously a necessary instrument for the State and the authorities. But while this fact may dispel the concept of the propagandist simply as an evil-doer, it still leaves the idea of propaganda as an active power vs. passive masses. And we insist that this idea, too, must be dispelled: For propaganda to succeed, it must correspond to a need for propaganda on the individual’s part. One can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink; one cannot reach through propaganda those who do not need what it offers. The propagandee is by no means just an innocent victim. He provides the psychological action of propaganda, and not merely leads himself to it, but even derives satisfaction from it. Without this previous, implicit consent, without this need for propaganda experienced by practically every citizen of the technological age, propaganda could not spread. There is not just a wicked propagandist at work who sets up means to ensnare the innocent citizen. Rather, there is a citizen who craves propaganda from the bottom of his being and a propagandist who responds to this craving. Propagandists would not exist without potential propagandees to begin with. To understand that propaganda is not just a deliberate and more or less arbitrary creation by some people in power is therefore essential. It is a strictly sociological phenomenon, in the sense that it has its roots and reasons in the need of the group that will sustain it. (p. 121)

Crash Override – Zoe Quinn

It’s important to know how to proactively take steps to protect the online parts of your life and what glass to break in case of emergency, but not needing to break it is better. The networked nature of the internet makes it easy for abuse to quickly become all-consuming for those affected―so if the network is there, why not _use that for better purposes?_ We can build our own support networks to develop and implement rapid, community-based solutions to disempower abuse and restore its victims. … Hate spreads, and so can help―if we commit to making it happen.


Burning Fossil Fuels Almost Ended All Life on Earth – Peter Brannen

The cause of all this misery—a growing consensus of paleontologists and geologists believe—was burning fossil fuels. Though acid rain and a ravaged ozone layer likely played a role as well, geochemical signals in the layers of ancient rock that capture the global die-off suggest a carbon dioxide-driven global warming catastrophe—one so profound it would dwarf even the extraterrestrial disaster that cut short the dinosaurs’ reign almost 200 million years later.

After White Supremacists Marched Through Campus, UVA Grapples With Change – Andy Campbell, Mike Reingold, Alexis Gravely, Daniel Hoerauf, Anna Higgins

Students are pushing for change on campuses across the country. But it was here, across manicured lawns where nearly 17,000 undergraduate students study every year, that a group marched on Aug. 11, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The next day, and less than 2 miles away, white supremacists rallied under the statue of Robert E. Lee in Emancipation Park, which the City Council had voted to remove. Just outside the park, a woman named Heather Heyer was killed after a car ― allegedly driven by a white supremacist ― plowed into counterprotesters.


Race, Gender, Academia, and the Tactics of Digital Online Harassment – Dorothy Kim

The demographic for these attacks in academic spaces or related to academic spaces—from Leeds onto the current controversies in some Facebook groups—have been chilling because these academic forms of harassment, doxxing, and other violent online tactics have come from young men in medieval studies—graduate students and early career. They literally are mimicking the tactics and stances of their #gamergate and white supremacist online counterparts in regards to (1) the need for inclusiveness in medieval studies and (2) any discussion race, sexuality, disability, gender as central to our work as medievalists. I have written about social media in a piece for Hortulus where the editors crowd-sourced questions from graduate students. The top question sought advice about social media use, and I answered by saying graduate students are adults, they should decide what kind of academic they want to be in the world and mainly understand and research first how each platform works (its usefulness but also pitfalls) and then make decisions about their digital academic lives. I still believe in this advice, but I think I should also add that if you do decide to use social media platforms as a way to harass, doxx, violently target other academics, especially BIWOC academics, then you are, in fact, whatever your degree, education, or level, behaving exactly like the worst corners of the violent racist and misogynist interwebz. You are also, in some countries, committing hate crimes and could and will be prosecuted as such.

Lo and Behold (Film) – Warner Herzog (dir)

From the NYT review of the film: At times, Mr. Herzog’s imagination leaps beyond even the more startling speculations of his subjects. He is not so much credulous as excitable, given to interrupting the prose of researchers and analysts with flights of poetry. He tries to press some of them to predict the future, something scientists are generally reluctant to do. And he poses a question that charms and stumps many of them: “Does the internet dream of itself?”


Re-Thinking Anxiety: Using Inoculation Messages to Reduce and Reinterpret Public Speaking Fears

This article focuses on public speaking, which is a big part of my Argumentation course, but I’ve been thinking about how inoculation theory can be used to reduce anxieties related to participating in online courses (both students and faculty). Inoculation theory offers a framework for protecting individuals against challenges to an existing attitude, belief, or state. Despite the prevalence and damaging effects of public speaking anxiety, inoculation strategies have yet to be used to help individuals remain calm before and during public speaking. The study found that inoculation messages may be an effective strategy for helping participants reframe and reduce their apprehension about public speaking, and I’m particularly interested in how these findings can apply to our work here in DTLT as we work with more and more faculty working in online learning environments.

Featured Image by Glen Noble on Unsplash