Josh (the blog)

Hey there. I’m Josh, a SydneyCanberra-based maker of Internets. I don’t update this very often.


Abuse of language; or, what is a lecture?

I have a clash in my uni timetable. That’s okay. But it would aid my decision making process in what subject I am planning to avoid immensely if bloody academics understood the meanings of words they encounter and use daily.

According to the OED:

lecture, n.

  1. a. A discourse given before an audience upon a given subject, usually for the purpose of instruction.

How then, I ask, is it acceptable to label a given teaching time an “interactive lecture” wherein the principal activity constitutes what would, in common parlance, be termed “group work”? Call if a symposium or something else equally wanky and pretentious if you can’t bring yourselves to call a spade a spade and perhaps simply call it a seminar, but for goodness sake — avoid bastardising terms where the nature of their delivery and method is clearly understood to be something else entirely!

This is not the fault of the English department, by the way. The subject in question is run by the fartily named “Digital Cultures” school. I do not esteem them very highly thus far… the subject seems like a bit of a waste of time, but hopefully it’ll be good for networking with a handful of other people in the course who also feel they’re having their time wasted, and then we can subvert the department from within by allowing actual web practice to influence these (probably self-proclaimed futurist) lecturers in courses they don’t really understand.

I paid $17 for a photocopied course reader full of articles from before Bubble 1.0 burst. Recommended reading for “Web 2.0″ (yes, they dared use that word) consists of Wikipedia and articles in Time magazine. Yes, I feel as violated as you do. This seems like an area of tertiary education that is particularly lost in its own muddled up language and self-congratulatory conferences and publications that it has not the foggiest idea what real people are doing with the web. Or, alternatively, if that’s not the case, there seems to be an awful lot of catch-up work required on the pedagogy front: the reader facilitates some kind of pseudo-sociological exploration of ‘the web’ as an entity, but somehow manages to seem completely irrelevant to actual practice.

What on earth is a Digital Cultures major equipping people for? Not engagement with online media! An ability to discern a quality Wikipedia article, and a cultivated taste for articles in Time, and, perhaps, at best, an ability to read particularly head-up-ass style journals addressing issues that are so bound up in recent anachronism that it can’t even be deemed an historically valuable specialisation?

Okay I’m [nearly] done. I’m going to stick around in the course because students were having some really interesting discussions fairly independently of the lecturer’s [sic] direction today, and because there are some people that sound like they have some idea what they’re talking about. Of course, there’s always one mature age male trying to convince people to join him in developing some web 2.0 social networking business case, but one in a course of sixty isn’t too bad. Grumble grumble. He’s probably back at uni after having sent some poor business bankrupt.

I can see this having the potential to be like a real-world overly-opinionated discussion forum, but that’ll probably be fun for a semester. My opinions reserve the right to change dramatically over the coming weeks — I write this from only two hours of reading and an hour of “lecture”.

Really, I feel better now :)