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Blogging Students: how to pitch an idea and get it accepted

http://www.theguardian.com/education/mortarboard/2013/sep/23/blogging-students-how-to-pitch-and-blog

Editor’s blog: Make sure you have something fresh to say that will grab the attention of lots of other students. And pick the best format for getting your point across

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rhizomatic-architecture

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Writing for Blogging Students can be a pretty exciting experience. You get your own contributor page on the Guardian site. You learn how we edit a blog to maximise its impact.

And best of all, you get exposure to potentially huge amounts of traffic – our biggest blog this year has had half a million page views, more than 900 comments, and gone viral on social media. It’s a powerful way to make a name for yourself online.

Thus far, all our blogs have been written. But we’d like to broaden our range to include video or audio blogs (no music, or we run into copyright issues), cartoon strips and photojournalism – so if you’d like to experiment with a different format, please do.

Read other people’s blogs

Don’t just fire off an email to us with a half-formed idea. It’s not going to get you anywhere – we get dozens of suggestions every week and only the best are considered for publication. So begin by reading and analysing the blogs we have already published.

You could start with the chart-topper, What happened when I started a feminist society at school, to see why it was so successful.

It’s topic is feminism, which has been written about endlessly. So how has the writer, Jinan Younis, managed to make it so compelling?

Look at the intro. Specific, personal, to the point. There’s a narrative that draws you straight in – here’s what happened to me. And then, like a horror story unfolding, things begin to turn very ugly.

Younis uses a range of techniques to keep the reader glued to the page – see if you can work out what they are.

Have a look at several more blogs – you’ll soon see that there’s a wide range of styles and strategies that can work to involve and stimulate the reader.

You’ll also notice that these blogs are not like people’s personal blogs. They are each focused on a specific area of student life. Some concern themselves with academic issues – revision, plagiarism – some with health issues – drugs, depression, illness – some with political issues – student unions, tuition fees – some with lifestyle – clubbing, accommodation, music. But each has a case to make and a clear focus for discussion.

Send us a pitch

Once you’ve decided what you’re keen to blog about, pitch your idea to Blogging.Students@theguardian.com.

Try to find a subject that has not been written about over and over again – or have something really fresh and surprising to say about an old theme. The best topics tend to be small and specific rather than huge and wide-ranging. For example, don’t pitch “The state of higher education”, do pitch “Most of my course is being taught by other students”.

It’s not enough simply to have a topic, you need to have a point to make about that topic, so explain what your argument will be. Tell us who you plan to quote in your piece – it’s good to have a variety of voices with different points of view. What news reports, statistics, surveys or blogs are you going to link to to give your piece some context?

If we like your idea – and if no one else has pitched the same thing – then we’ll discuss your pitch with you, make further suggestions as to how you can develop it, and ask you to go ahead and put your piece together.

The shape and size of it

Written blogs should be 500-600 words long, cartoons no more than eight frames done in the shape of a Guardian article (long not wide). As for photojournalism, we’d probably want to discuss that on a case-by-case basis.

Videos should be no longer than two minutes. We accept .avi, .mov, .wmv, .flv and MPEG4 files. And while we’re on video, here are a few more rules: don’t include music (unless you’ve written and performed it yourself and hold all the rights ito the material); don’t include children (under 16s) unless you have permission from their parent; and credit anyone who has helped you make the film.

How to blog for Blogging Students

Most of the following instructions will apply to written blogs, but the principles apply to all formats.

• Adopt a conversational, chatty style. Avoid cliches, jargon, academic language and acronyms.

• Put some serious work into your intro – is it intriguing, engaging and different?

• Always use specific examples, perhaps based on personal experience. Don’t generalise or waffle on about challenges and passion.

• Use common nouns as much as you can: “boots” and “apples” are much more evocative words than “footwear” and “produce”.

• Try to find recent research or media coverage about your topic, and link to it in your blog.

• Check your facts. These pieces are going on the Guardian site so they need to be factually accurate. There’s no point in having a guess at say, the number of students who drop out in first year. You need to have an up-to-date statistic, and a link to show where you found it.

• You can’t break the law. You can’t make unsubstantiated libellous claims against people. You can’t change a quote to make it say what you want it to say. And if someone has said something they may later deny having said, it’s good if you have it on tape, or written down in your notebook word for word. Don’t throw your records away.

• Avoid standing on a soap-box and banging on about something. Quoting a variety of people will help to bring other voices into your piece.

• Read what you’ve written aloud when you’re finished. Is that how you talk?

• The reader should emerge clear about what you’re saying, what other people have said on the subject, and what they are being asked to comment on.

Don’t be taken aback by the fact that the final version of your piece may be quite different from what you submitted. Everything that is written for the news media is edited, sometimes quite heavily, to make the writing punchier, to cut repetition, and to accord with the style and tone of the publication.

If what you produce is suitable for publication, we will ask you for a headshot and a one-sentence bio for your contributor page. This can contain links to your own blog or twitter feed.

Who is eligible to blog for Blogging Students?

• You need to be a member of Guardian Students to be eligible to blog. To become a member, go to this sign up page and fill in the form. We’ll be happy to welcome you into the fold, and your membership will also bring you a weekly newsletter and a free ebook.

• You have to be a current student for us to consider your blog (the series is called Blogging Students, after all). You might be in sixth form, or studying at an FE college, doing an apprenticeship or attending university, either as an undergraduate or as a postgraduate student. There is no age restriction: we want Blogging Students to reflect the full range of student life in the UK and, indeed, much further afield.

We’ve uncovered some brilliant writing talent since we launched this blog in 2012. We’re keen to hear from every kind of student – from science to law, business to art, journalism to medicine – about the issues that affect their lives.

So if you’ve got something to get off your chest, write to: Blogging.Students@theguardian.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

by Steve Wheeler

Postmodernist views of society can be appropriated as lenses to analyse the personalised use of digital technology. Consumers of Web based content tend to search randomly and nomadically, due to the multi-layered, multi-directional nature of hyperlinked media and this aligns neatly with some post modern theory. The writings of Deleuze and Guattari (1980), for example, feature the nomadic thought processes that characterise contemporary perceptions, and portray the chaos of modern life. They employ the botanic metaphor of rhizomatic root systems to describe multiple, chaotic non-hierarchical interpretations of knowledge. Rhizomes resist chronology and organisational structures, thereby more accurately representing the unstructured but purposeful manner in which many people now use the Web.

Significantly, because rhizomes are open ended, the importance of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome explanation is not invested in individual components, but rather in the direction of motion the entire organism can adopt at any given time. This is reminiscent of the participatory Web, which consists not so much of the insights and offerings of individuals, but rather of what Surowiecki (2009) has termed ‘the wisdom of the crowds’ – the seemingly random folksonomic directions chosen by entire communites of users as having meaning and importance. The community decides what is important to learn, so in effect, the community becomes the curriculum (Cormier, 2008).

According to Cormier (2008) a rhizomatic interpretation of education is useful because it embraces the ever changing nature of knowledge, is open ended, and is not driven by specific curricula whilst learning is ‘constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process.’  This form of negotiated meaning more clearly represents the knowledge acquisition processes that occur within the transient discussion threads and ephemeral collaborative spaces on the World Wide Web.

The colonisation of knowledge spaces by communities is self sustaining, and in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, we see individuals assuming the roles of nomads, maintaining a constant state of becoming and transformation. Again, this is reminiscent of the random searching, scanning and jumping around content through hyperlinking that learners participate in when they traverse the digital landscape. In effect, students participate as flâneurs, acting as individual agents, investigators and explorers of their own personal digital terrains. Their seemingly aimless behaviour belies their essentially purposeful wandering, as learners interrogate their environment in attempts to make sense of it, understand it, participate in it, and ultimately portray it (Baudelaire, 1964).

[This is an excerpt from a forthcoming publication entitled: Personal Technologies in Education: Issues, Theories and Debates]

References

Baudelaire, C. (1964) The Painter of Modern Life, New York, NY: Da Capo Press. (Originally published in Le Figaro, in 1863).

Cormier, D. (2008) Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1980) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.

Surowiecki, J. (2009) The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few. London: Abacus.

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Viral Utopias

The Virality part of this free event (see below) will now be a collaboration between Tim Vogt, Francesco Tacchini, Nik Vaughn and Tony D. Sampson. We will be responding to the idea(l) of a viral utopia using academic voice, VJing, bass guitar and turntable.

Viral Utopia: What kind of Ontology is This?

20121103-181812.jpg RSVP ESSENTIAL http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4688544563 Viral Utopias launch event  Friday November 16th – 7am til 1am@ Limehouse Town Hall Panics, plagues, and politics. Countless times the death of politics, utopia and neoliberalism has been proclaimed… and just as many times the lumbering remains of our conceptual apparatuses dust themselves and trundle on again… mutating their movements in unfolding recombinatory patterns. Come join us to celebrate the release of several new publications exploring this overlap between the utopian and the viral, the networked and the not-worked: Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks by Tony Sampson; Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia by Angela Mitropoulos; Open Utopia by Thomas More & Stephen Duncombe; and the current issue of Mute Magazine, ‘Becoming Impersonal’ Vol.3 #3. DJS Agit Disco DJs http://www.metamute.org/shop/mute-books/agit-disco LIVE BANDS Traum – London-based chanson for lovers of neo-romantisch perverse pop http://snd.sc/PqsQb1 Hungry Hearts – whisky filled gruff folk punk: http://www.myspace.com/thehungryhearts VENUE Limehouse Town Hall 646 Commercial Road London E14 7HA RSVP ESSENTIAL http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4688544563 ABOUT THE PUBLICATIONS Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks – Tony D Sampson with Tim Vogt, Francesco Tacchini and Nik Vaughn http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/virality Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia – Angela Mitropoulos http://www.akpress.org/contract-contagion.html Open Utopia – Thomas More & Steve Duncombe http://theopenutopia.org/ Mute, ‘Becoming Impersonal’, Vol.3 #3 http://linkme2.net/sx Link to Mute Magazine About Virality Tony D. Sampson is a London-based academic and writer currently lecturing at the University of East London. A former musician, he studied computer technology and cultural theory before receiving a PhD in sociology from the University of Essex. His ongoing interest in contagion theory is reflected in his recent publications, including The Spam Book: On Viruses, Porn, and Other Anomalies from the Dark Side of Digital Culture (2009), which he coedited with Jussi Parikka. His new book, Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks is published by the University of Minnesota Press in August 2012 ///

Simon Patterson, ‘The Great Bear’

1992
This print replicates the iconic London Underground map in type, layout and even the steel frame as used in stations. But the station names have been replaced by the names of well known people from various spheres of activity. As the title suggests, the map has been wittily reinvented as a constellation of ‘stars’ in the galaxy of fame.

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Mindmap of Network Literacy Course

Howard Rheingold’s Teaching Notes

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