Everything is going to be okay

It is, right? Right?

Information on works for hire appreciated

One of the projects I'm working on for CCCC-IP is a basic guide for teachers who want to create online teaching materials, especially online courses, and whose institutions' intellectual property policies are vague. For those unfamiliar with what I'm talking about, teachers who create online courses are interested in whether they or the universities own the copyright to works they create. In other words, could they take their online courses with them if they took a job at another university? TyAnna Herrington was good enough to send me some citations of case law and articles written on the topic. I also noticed the definition of work for hire in this document and the definition on Form TX found on the site where you register for copyright:

What is a “Work Made for Hire”? A“work made for hire” is defined as (1) “a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment”; or (2) “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the works shall be considered a work made for hire.” If you have checked “Yes” to indicate that the work was “made for hire,” you must give the full legal name of the employer (or other person for whom the work was prepared). You may also include the name of the employee along with the name of the employer (for example: “Elster Publishing Co., employer for hire of John Ferguson”).

This definition would seem to favor strongly the university's ownership if the ownership ever came into question, even if the material is hosted on the instructor's own web space, given #1. If this is the definition of works for hire, it makes me wonder why the question is ever raised. I guess the argument would be that the teacher didn't understand the terms of work for hire. But then it could be argued that research universities are paying faculty to do research, too, but faculty members retain the copyright to their articles (or, as is more often the case, they sign it over to Elsevier, Sage, etc.). At any rate, I'm told that case law tends to favor teachers' ownership, so I'm curious to know how that would work.

Of course this gets more complicated when we throw Creative Commons in there. If faculty members negotiate in the beginning that the online courses will be licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike license or an Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license, even if the university owns them, you get that "viral" effect of derivative works shared alike, so faculty members could teach the courses at other universities anyway. As if most universities would agree to that, though...

I'd love to hear your reactions, especially if you have firsthand experience with the problem.

MOO: I finally get it

Last night I participated in a MOO for the first time as part of Lennie Irvin's presentation for the Computers and Writing Online conference. Actually, it wasn't an old-school text-based MOO, but a web-based MOO running on enCore. I ended up learning a lot about MOO from talking to the experienced MOOers in there. For a long time, I was one of those people who had only a vague sense of MOO as synchronous chat. I thought, what makes these any different from, say, AOL Instant Messenger? Those I talked to before said something to the effect of, "Well, you have these rooms in the MOO, and the rooms are saved -- always there when you go back." I didn't at the time understand the meaning of that; it didn't seem like a good enough reason to continue to study MOO or to use them in writing courses. So I continued with my view of "The MOO is dead. Long live the blog!" (Kairosnews inside joke.)

But I now see that MOO still has much to offer rhetorically and pedagogically if people continue to use it. What struck me the most were the connections I saw to a post from a while back on Collin's blog in which he linked to Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In it, Pink argues that in the emerging "conceptual age," the following five skills are becoming very important: "design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning." From what I learned about MOO last night, I'd go as far as to say that MOO is an ideal technology that could be used for bringing out these skills. Of course, writers must learn visual design and how to tell stories with images and sound, which means learning not just how to use tools like PhotoShop and iMovie, but fundamental design principles like line, color, texture, and form. But with MOO, users are forced to provide rich descriptions of rooms, objects, and ways of interacting with the objects. It's design on a different level, and I would argue very creative.

Consider Alex Reid's list of what should be in a writing program (I don't list them all here):

  • some creative writing courses, which offer opportunity for experimentation, for practicing poetic language, for thinking about character (psychology/affect) and narrative, for crossing genres, and for addressing audience in a unique way;
  • courses in poetics and rhetoric as the underlying theories/philosophies of writing, which is something often absent from creative writing courses that tend to naturalize the writing process (and here I'm NOT thinking about the conventional rhetorics of a FYC handbook, not a pragmatics/how-to of process and audience-awareness, but an encounter with the aporias of symbolic behavior--again, the point is to develop the creative, conceptual "right-brain");
  • courses in other professional genres--technical writing, business writing, and so on--that are not taught in the traditional positivistic manner, but rather in the context of creative writing and rhetoric/poetics;
  • and, of course, coursework in new media, the practical but also its aesthetics, poetics, and rhetorics, which is not to say that technology isn't infused throughout this curriculum, but that you actually have to have a place where students experiment with the media.

It's not that I don't think weblogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc. aren't great technologies, but MOO makes a lot of sense to me in meeting these objectives, and I'm ready to get behind efforts to keep them in use.

A Metaphor for Academia

Suddenly a curtain rises, and you figure out that you're on a large stage in front of a packed house. A spotlight shines on you. You're front and center, directly facing the audience, surrounded by smiling dancers in identical costumes, like The Rockettes. They've practiced and are ready, and they begin the number. You don't know the dance, so you try to fake it, awkwardly kicking your legs and gesticulating, staring at the dancers next to you. The audience roars. Turns out you're on Saturday Night Live, and this is a bit. You're alarmed and humiliated.

But then, cat ball shaver is a good one too.

Deadlines! Formatting! And other dissertation-related minutiae

Lately I've been freaking out about time. Am I going to be able to finish this thing? Will I have enough done to apply for jobs this fall? (A professor last fall told me to allow at least a month for writing job letters, assembling a dossier, and other attendant job-search tasks.) A couple of people I talk to daily are readying their defense copies, and they're finding the editing and formatting to their Graduate Schools' specifications far more time-consuming than they thought. I've already been advised by both parties to find out about and adhere to the formatting requirements and write even early drafts of chapters in compliance with them.

Okay, will do. I'm also researching all required forms and deadlines leading up to graduation. So let's say I want to defend on Tuesday, 2 May 2006. That means I have to submit my Final Oral Exam Scheduling Form and my Reviewers' Report Form by 25 April 2006. The Reviewers' Report Form is something all committee members have to sign; they rate the thesis "Acceptable for Defense," "Acceptable for Defense with Minor Revisions," or "Not Acceptable for Defense," and the candidate isn't allowed to defend if one or more readers check "Not Acceptable for Defense." Then the Graduate School specifies that the readers must be given at least two weeks to read the thesis.

That means I have to be, in effect, finished by 4 April 2006! And the anxiety rises again.

As an aside, I noticed a funny thing on the graduation checklist. One of the requirements is "The microfilm fee of $75 (check or money order only, payable to the University of Minnesota). If you wish to copyright the thesis, there is an additional fee of $45 (use one combined check for $120)." I wonder how many people don't know you don't have to register with the Copyright Office to have copyright? I bet there are a few. I remember when I chose to submit my master's thesis electronically. The electronic theses and dissertations are stored in a publicly-available collection, and several people advised me against submitting electronically because of this, suggesting that the copyright implications were dubious in some way. Some of these people might have wondered if the university would try to say they had copyright, but I'm pretty sure the old assumption that everything on the internet is public domain was in play too. My point is, a lot of people don't understand that as soon as you put content into a fixed medium (save a file, for example), it's copyright You for the rest of your life plus 70 years, unless you explicitly sign it over to some other party, or you do it as work for hire (hence a lot of confusion about professors' creating teaching materials for online courses. Is it work for hire? Or does it belong to the author?).

Anyway, part of me thinks it would be fun to pay the $30 (I guess UMN tacks the extra $15 on as...what: a finder's fee? Labor?), but try to get my dissertation licensed with the U.S. Copyright Office under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. Has anyone you know tried to do it before?

"I want to be a stay-at-home parent when I grow up."

For young adults: What would happen if you said that to your parents? For parents with children: What would you say if your child said that to you? I'd be especially interested in hearing from stay-at-home parents; how did your family react when you told them you'd be working as a stay-at-home parent?

Feminists have been making the case for decades that motherhood is undervalued, despite its being ostensibly revered as "the most important job in the world." Recent analyses include The Mommy Myth, as well as monetary quantifications like this one and this story that got a lot of press about a month ago.

So even though stay-at-home parenting is worth $130,000+ per year, how much is it valued at home? A lot, one would hope, but this has been on my mind lately, and I'm afraid that based on my own experience and those of my friends and family members close to me in age, it doesn't seem to be worth that much. I'm not necessarily saying I want to be a stay-at-home mother, but if I did, I believe my family's reaction would be a mixture of disappointment, anxiety, and maybe even touches of disgust, betrayal, and anger. In a practical sense, they'd have good reasons: I'd be financially dependent on a spouse, and if I had to re-enter the workforce due to widowhood or divorce, I'd be at a major disadvantage if I'd spent years at home. I don't think that's all there is to it, though, not in a culture obsessed with upward mobility, manifested in bragging rights, vicarious living, etc. My intention is not to pick on my family here, not at all, but I think part of them would believe I was squandering my talents. They want to be able to tell people their daughter (or granddaughter, or whatever) is a college professor with a title of Dr.

The whole thing is sad, and I imagine quite widespread (and far, far worse for men who want to be stay-at-home fathers). I post this because I really want to hear about others' experiences. To what extent is the phenomenon I'm referring to class-related? I'd appreciate any comments you have.

Edited to add: I forgot to include this earlier, but the viciously misogynistic stereotypes I encountered in college also informed this post. I'm talking specifically about the stereotype of sorority women as "breedstock." They major in early childhood education, and they're only in college to find a husband (or, as the joke goes, to get their MRS. degrees). It's all part of the same thing.

And, for context: Right before I came back here, I spent the day with a good friend of mine from college who is a stay-at-home mother with three children, ages 5, 3, and 3 (twins). I had a wonderful time, so I guess I'm experiencing a "grass is greener" effect, and feeling as though if I ever decided I wanted to do that, my family, and many of my friends, too, wouldn't be supportive.

Tired (More Links and Half-Thoughts)

I got back into town last night and haven't quite recovered from the month-long trip. I'm trying to get my apartment cleaned up, groceries bought, laundry done, etc. Oh, and tons of academic work, too. I'm just sluggish. Ah well. Maybe blogging some quotidian thoughts and occurrences will help.

A good friend of mine at home was ranting about these ribbons on people's cars that are arranged so that the text, "Support Our Troops," is horizontal. "Yeah, I sure am glad they made it so we can see the text horizontally. I wouldn't have been able to read it otherwise. Seriously! People can read all kinds of ways: Diagonally, vertically, backwards even!" Indeed it is ubiquitious. Here in Minnesota too, I've noticed. Is there some special reason to stick it to the car that way that I'm not aware of?

The Blogora might switch to Drupal. How hard is it going to be to import the MT archives? Anyone have firsthand experience with that?

When I went to the office to check my mailbox, I found the 2005 reprinting of the 6th edition of the MLA style guide. I guess as it's a reprinting, they didn't make any changes or addenda, but I looked for any mention of citing weblog entries and comments anyway, but didn't find any. I know there are improvised ways to do it, but I'd like to see weblogs mentioned in the actual guide.

Computers & Writing Online is in full swing! Be sure to comment!

I just finished reading Franny and Zooey for the first time. That's got me a little drained, too. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking that it would have made a great movie, maybe still would. What do you think? Thora Birch as Franny, or possibly Christina Ricci? Tobey Maguire, or maybe Joaquin Phoenix as Zooey? Speaking of books, I never did take that trip, so I didn't listen to those books -- actually, I listened to exactly half of The Picture of Dorian Gray just driving around town (my Oxford World's Classics edition has 224 pages. I looked, and I'd listened up to page 112), and now I have to read the rest. So far, my literature consumption since the beginning of May includes:

  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • Passing, Nella Larsen
  • Jazz, Toni Morrison
  • Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • and half of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde

Not bad, huh? I should get back to research-related non-fiction though.

Jumble of links and thoughts

I'm in Alabama until Saturday, and while I've been working at the library here, I've also been watching too much vapid TV and too many movies (we're talking stuff like Bubble Boy, Eulogy, and Wet Hot American Summer). So I have to hit the books, course preparation, dissertation, everything when I get back. But for now, a fluff post with no interparagraphic transitions whatsoever.

Proposals are being sought for a special issue of Technical Communication Quarterly on Technical Communication in the Age of Distributed Work. It's going to be great once it comes out, very forward-thinking.

Note to self: I want to use the famous Margaret Mead quotation: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has" in my syllabus for the class I'm teaching this summer. [Edited to add: Does anyone know what the original source for that is? I hate not having a specific page number or date/place, if it's a speech.] It's called "Group Process, Team Building, and Leadership," and it centers on work done in small groups. It's also one of the courses that fulfills the Citizenship and Public Ethics theme requirement, and usually teachers require students to do group projects on local issues, which I'm very excited about, as this will let me try out a modified version of that city writing/finds research process that Jenny and Jeff talk about. I have lots of ideas already, and a while back I used the new-for-OSX-Tiger built-in news aggregator in Safari to set up a folder of feeds from all the local publications I could think of, so that's helped a lot.

At Jonathan's insistence, I watched the original Star Wars trilogy for the first time. People are shocked that I'm such a science fiction geek but I've never seen those movies. I'm already seeing Star Wars' influence on other movies and series. For example, Data on Star Trek: TNG reminds me a lot of C3PO (telling the captain the odds that some act of derring-do won't work, social ineptitude, etc.) and Moya's pilot on Farscape even reminds me a little of C3PO as well. I must see episodes 1, 2, and 3 now.

I finally created a Flickr account, and I'm wondering why I didn't do it months ago.

Check out this cool Drupal ad for the Free Software Magazine!

For anyone who was scratching his or her head about the relevance and import of the work that's being done on silence (see also Cheryl Glenn's Unspoken), this op-ed piece should clear it up for you.

Am I, like, the only person alive who had never heard of The Red Hat Society until the other day? All the stores around here have Red Hat lady merchandise -- red hats, of course, purple clothing, ceramic figurines of red hats, purple socks with little red hats embroidered on them, etc. Cookie jars, even. I saw the cover of one of the books from far away and thought, hey, that looks like an interesting Linux user/developer group! Seriously though, I told the manager of my local yarn store that they should offer special knitting classes for Red Hat Society women and classes for friends and family of Red Hat women in which they could knit red hats and other red and purple stuff as gifts for them. She thought it was a great idea. I hope they do it; I want to do anything I can to support locally-owned businesses.

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