What I find rather interesting though, is that so many posts on these blogs are equivalent to reading responses in many ways, though at a higher level, and the authors have different motivations for posting. However, after reading the email, I wondered if in a few years students will be posting in the comment sections of academic blogs (as if they couldn't be/aren't already) instead of just posting reading responses on their own blogs? How much longer will the broadcast model apply to these academic "conversations" taking place in the classroom where students respond to relatively static publications, maybe talk amongst their peers, and possibly integrate their thoughts into an assignment? I’m not suggesting that blog comments will replace reading responses or traditional distribution channels for academic conversations, but how can they reshape how we think about distribution channels?
I’m also not in a position to teach a course that integrates blogging at the moment, but it seems like an interesting experiment for someone to try having students respond directly to an author (perhaps as a stand-alone course activity/assignment). Obviously, there isn’t much preventing me from posting a link to a response on Ian Bogost’s or Danah Boyd’s blog, independent of a course. As more courses begin experimenting with student blogs and new reading materials though (e.g. videos, games, blog posts, etc.), how can teachers promote more active contribution to ongoing conversations within the academic community as the authors become more accessible? Rather than simply talking amongst the bubble of a classroom, and perhaps the extended community of students’ peers, families, etc., why not encourage direct communication with authors as well. “We have the technology” to support such conversations; what happens when we create cultures and practices to promote them? Perhaps "are authors really any more accessible via blogs or other media?" is also a key question.
I may also be overestimating student interest in course readings or in taking an active role in related conversations, but I’d rather be actively encouraged by professors than to have them assume I’m not interested in what’s being said. Or worse yet, that I don’t have anything to add to the conversation. Fortunately, several of the professors at MTU are encouraging me to contribute inside and outside of class and providing me with great opportunities to do so (thanks Marika, Jingfang, Wendy, Karla, and anyone I've missed here. You're all awesome!).
Wendy currently implements a closely related activity in HU2642 Intro to Digital Media, titled “Adding to Collective Information” with the following instructions (hopefully she won’t mind me posting this here):
Find a wiki that contains information that you are interested in. Add something to that wiki page or a discussion board and post a link from this activity to that post and clarify in your comment here what you posted on the wiki. Also hyperlink a screenshot to the comments section of this post of the material you added.
Since the final assignment of the course also asks students (myself included) to consider issues of distribution channels, I could be beating a recently deceased horse. I’ll assume Wendy is really ahead of the curve in taking a small step toward what I'm suggesting though, and is serving as an example to build on ;) No other assignments/activities specifically related to digital media and/or blogs/academic conversations immediately come to mind from other courses. However, I will say almost all the courses I've taken through Michigan Tech's STC program have provided me with opportunities to actively contribute to various communities in different ways, be it through writing grant proposals or working with real-world clients. I don't mean to single out Wendy or discredit anyone else within the program either, as my perception is likely tied to the content of the courses, and I may be overlooking the intended purposes of different projects within the broader program curriculum given my position as a student.