Read IndieWeb Summit 2019 Keynote: On Contractions & Expansions by Kitt Hodsden
The end of this keynote gets at exactly what I was talking about in my last post.

When we own our own data, We can look back at who we were who we thought we were. We can see who we really were, who we are, and, most importantly, the trend of our becoming who we want to become. With our own data, we can curate, we can shed who we were to become who we want to be, and we can write the end of our own story.

For this is the true power of owning our own data: to understand the cycles of contractions and expansions, to understand our hero’s journey, and to write our own story.

Read Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels by Lois BeckettLois Beckett (the Guardian)

For decades, the world of romantic fiction has been divided by a heated debate about racism and diversity. Is there any hope of a happy ending?

I found this article because I wanted to read romance novels again. I decided to check out the Romance Writers of America website. I noted several announcements in their news section that started to ping my kerfuffle-dar: they’re hiring a DEI consultant (which honestly would be a great idea for most organizations but based on my observations, organizations only do this after an incident), there have been changes in their board membership, special statements from award nominees withdrawing themselves from consideration… So I decided to hunt down the origin of it all and found this handy summary. That summary pointed me to this article, which I found especially interesting because a lot of it centers on my local RWA chapter, which I have been adjacent to in a couple of ways, though never a member.

It’s a great piece because it illuminates the way institutional racism touches an industry, how people can do antiracist work in their own area of expertise, and also serves as a list of authors to check out and books to read.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go track down some books about BIPOC & LGBTQ people that definitely have happy endings. And then I’m going to read them.


Read Connected learning ecologies as an emerging opportunity through Cosplay

Connected learning explains how people can build learning pathways that connect their interests, relationships, and formal learning to lead toward future opportunities such as careers. However, most learning systems are not set up ideally for connected learning; for instance, most schools still teach disciplines as discrete units that do not connect to students’ interests outside of school. We do not yet know enough about the structure of naturally occurring connected learning ecologies that do connect youth learning across contexts and help them follow pathways toward careers and other desired outcomes. Learning more about what works well on these pathways will allow us to design connected learning environments to help more youth access to these desired opportunities. This paper analyzes two case studies of cosplayers –hobbyists who make their costumes of media characters to wear at fan conventions–who benefited from well-developed connected learning ecologies. Cases were drawn from a larger interview studyand analyzed as compelling examples of connected learning. Important themes that emerged included relationships with and sponsorship by caring others; unique pathways that start with a difficult challenge; economic opportunities related to cosplay; and comparisons with formal school experiences. This has implications for how we can design connected learning ecologies that support all learners on unique pathways toward fulfilling futures.

Bender, S., & Peppler, K. (2019). Connected learning ecologies as an emerging opportunity through Cosplay. Comunicar, 27(58), 31–40.

Bender and Peppler analyze case studies of two cosplayers “who benefited from well-developed connected learning ecologies” to identify themes that might be useful in designing connected learning environments. They identified the following themes: “relationships with and sponsorship by caring others; unique pathways that start with a difficult challenge; economic opportunities related to cosplay; and comparisons with formal school experiences.”

Read Information Literacy in Interest-Driven Learning Communities: Navigating the Sea of Information of an Online Affinity Space – ProQuest by Crystle MartinCrystle Martin
Martin, Crystle A. “Information Literacy in Interest-Driven Learning Communities: Navigating the Sea of Information of an Online Affinity Space.” The University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012.

Martin investigates “the information literacy practices that take place in the constellation of information, which is the in-game and out-of-game information resources of the massively multiplayer (MMO) game World of Warcraft (WoW).” (p. i) She uses information horizon maps and an analysis of “community curated resources like knowledge compendiums” and “forums and chat logs” (p. i) to explore these practices. Martin developed a new coding framework for information literacy based on the literature and used this framework to code chat data.

What are the forms of information literacy practices engaged in by participants in an online affinity space?
SubRQ1. How do players situatie themselves within the constellation of information available around their affinity space?
SubRQ2. How are information literacy processes practiced in the community?
SubRQ3. Does collective intelligence happen in these affinity spaces? (p. 106)

From her data, Martin generates a new framework of information literacy. She finds that “at any level these affinity spaces encourage collaborative information literacy practices” (p. 108).

Martin’s study assumes “that people can have individualized information literacy practices that they use to help them successfully fulfill their information needs” (p. 108). This contrasts “the traditional perspective that everyone needs to be taught to utilize the same strict structure of information literacy” (p. 108).

“Information literacy is more than a set of skills or abilities. It is the practices individuals use and how these individuals situate themselves towards the information available to them. However, it is also the practices of groups of people in a community that encompasses cultural norms, discourses, and implemented practices. In short, information literacy is a way of being in the world.” (p. 109)

Martin points out that previous research on and standards for information literacy were developed for institutional settings, keeping a division between academic information literacy and everyday life information behavior.

This is only the second study to look at information literacy in an affinity space; Martin & Steinkuehler 2010 is the first.

Martin points out “limitation in scope and research methodologgy within the field of information literacy” (p. 19):
There is an overwhelming number of standards.
Most are expertise-based rather than evidence-based.
“…separation of imposed and self-determined information-seeking makes little sense” (p. 20) as the same skills and abilities can be used for both, as well as the line between work and play not always being clear.

Martin aggregated “information literacy definitions to determine overlap as well as to create a stronger definition from each contribution” (p. 62-63) and that’s how she generated her codes.

She illustrates this aggregate as a “linear and solitary process” (p. 66) but points out that “in affinity spaces with synchronous and asynchronous communication, peer-produced resources, and frequently changing content, these spaces are neither linear nor solitary” (p. 66)

The standard model “presumes dissemination as the end product” (p. 68-69).

Martin proposes a new model, based on Martin and Steinkuehler (2010):

The major differences in this model are that it shows the complexity that can occur during information seeking, it can take collective and collaborative information literacy practices into account, and it shifts the focus of the information literacy model from ending with dissemination to ending with using information for a specific purpose, that is to satisfy the person’s information need.” (p. 71-2)

The phases in the standard model can be grouped: recognizing the information need, developing a strategy for finding information, finding the information, and creating a product with the information. (p. 68) Martin’s new phases can be grouped as: recognizing the need, input, evaluation, and output (p. 74).

“The division of information literacy by the process in which the intellectual work is undertaken represents information literacy as a cognitive process instead of a skills-based system that essentially lays out a checklist.” (p. 75)

Diagram on p. 76

After using this new model to generate codes and analyze chat logs and forums, Martin proposes a refined version of the model based on her data.


It feels like there have been a thousand times Rachel Bloom has said something in an interview and I felt like shouting, “YES THIS!” but this is a new flavor of that:

I came from a very… rigid is the wrong word, but a very set technique of sketch comedy writing. When you study at UCB, if you do improv or sketch, you find the game of the scene, you heighten the game. It’s almost mathematical. And I think that for so long, some of the sketches I wrote, I wasn’t necessarily bringing my full self to them, because I was trying to fit into this like mathematical technique. I was surrounded by guys. So everything I wrote was probably subconsciously trying to, like, be acceptable to the male gaze. So when I started writing songs, because it was combining what I learned from sketch comedy with musical theater, my first love since I was 2 years old, it felt like I was bringing myself fully into my writing. I wasn’t trying to be anyone else, because I could bring in emotions, I could bring in those tropes that I’d been absorbing for my entire life, and then use my techniques to shape that.

Like Rachel, I have loved musicals from a young age. Like Rachel, I trained in improv and sketch writing at a school/theater that emphasized game: you begin a scene, find the first unusual thing, repeat it, heighten it, and break the pattern with your punchline. Not only did we learn that structure, but we also learned how to write particular flavors of sketch: fish out of water, comedic duo, commercial parody, satire, superpowers, torture game, literalization, and mapping.

I had a lot of fun and I got really good at recognizing game, if not initiating it, but there was a fundamental disconnect between how most other people in my comedy community did comedy and how I did comedy.

When I showed up at sketch class eager to show everyone Mike O’Brien and Tina Fey’s crazy car salesman, in my mind a brilliant example of a commercial parody combined with literalization, the class tore it to shreds.

My strongest sketch was one in which several adolescent girls show up at a county fare to participate in a literal melon growing contest and express their insecurities about their produce. (It’s a mapping scene, mapping their growing bodies onto the growing produce, see?) It was a deeply personal sketch, drawing on my own experiences with never feeling like I had the right body shape as an adolescent, whether that shape was too small or too big.

Eventually, I ended up on a hip-hop improv team – thanks almost entirely to developing a Hamilton obsession. (Seriously, if you want me to like something, just write a musical using/about it.) Again, I was a little sideways from the group sensibility; my favorite raps drew on my impostor syndrome and my frustrations with family holiday gatherings. My favorite scenes were often quiet little things, with comedy arising from the awkwardness of two people trying to connect, or things that used my heavily pregnant body as a punchline itself (I was pregnant for my entire tenure on that team), or preferably, things that combined both, like one scene where I had ended up on a blind date and ended the scene responding to my scene partner’s “This’ll be a funny story to tell the kids” with the line “Ohhhh… You want kids?” while I was eight months pregnant.

(We do comedy in our bodies. They are one of the tools we have, and we don’t leave them behind, even when we take on characters with different physicalities than our own.)

While everyone was very nice, I often felt out of place. And reading this quote from Rachel Bloom pinpoints a lot of the problem, I think. I imagine that, while she wasn’t writing with her whole self, Bloom was very good at writing that kind of sketch. I can even imagine some parallels between her Crazy Ex-Girlfriend character Rebecca Bunch’s success as an attorney and Bloom’s as a writer, both getting good at/pursuing the thing everybody says you’re supposed to want (in Bloom’s case, right down to auditioning for Saturday Night Live).

And I love that in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bloom has gotten to finally write more personal things and bring her full self to the table. It’s such an important piece of art for me, personally, and reading about this part of her experience has led me to rethink how I engage with comedy and what types of writing and performance I want to pursue in the future.

So Rachel, thank you.

Photograph by Greg Gayne/CW.