In searching for some relevant articles for my final project, I came across the article, "Digital Underlife in the Networked Writing Classroom" by Derek Mueller. Given our heavily reflective and "pulling-things-together" mid-term week, I thought this would be an interesting article to blog about even if it may or may not be able to feed directly into my final project idea (you know, in the spirit of underlife and all...)
Essentially, this article details the geneaology of this concept and how it might be a more useful, sustainable and, ultimately tolerant way of being in a networked classroom. Muelller defines this in the following ways:
Digital underlife encompasses both an ulterior ﬁeld for illicit communication and the elusive, underground discursive activities proliferated therein with the aid of digital technologies; it evokes an inexact sphere for extraneous, hyper-threaded interchanges between pairs of individuals or among crowds of users, as often asynchronous as transpiring in real time. Like more traditional conceptions of underlife, new and emerging variations of digital underlife greatly push the limits of institutional rules and roles. More frequently than ever before, transgressions of institutional rules and roles manifest in writing—in the digital packets of discourse that are no longer conﬁned by the physical space of a singular institutional scene. And so it is a crucial concept for us to understand as teachers of writing, particularly when the students we work with are multiply and simultaneously engaged in the production and circulation of writing related to any number of disparate,contending subjectivities (241).
Here, Mueller seems to be stating that the digital underlife occurs when unsanctioned institutional activities (texting/IMing between students in the classroom) occur. Mueller suggests that instead of thinking of these activities as unnecessary or unproductive, we could instead think about these as somewhat generative. One of the main premisely for Mueller's argument is that demands on our attention have shifted as thus teaching in ways that make use of the recognize these varying demands on our and our students' attention will serve both us and them better.
I find Mueller's ideas intriguing because, as an instructor, I have always found it difficult to ask students to do particular kinds of things with their bodies (sit in circular arrangements, get up and stretch, sit in new seats each time). I often find it patronizing to make these kinds of requests of students (although, of course, I have learned to deal with this). Technology, then, is a logical extension. I never ask students to put phones away simply because I don't really feel like they've been a problem in my class. Similarly, when I taught in Curtin 108, I would sometimes see students on Facebook or other sites. Although I think I've found ways to "deal with" these kinds of moments productively (talking about this use of the technology with the class, asking students to email friends notes from class that day or text them regarding a conference sign-up time), I I know that I'm not seeing these spaces in the same generative ways that Mueller suggests...at least not entirely.
Further, I wonder about what the "digital underlife" might look like in a classroom that is online, such as ours. In this case, would the "digital underlife" take place in ways that transgress the expectations of the course by relying too heavily on f2f conversations or context that we've had outside of the course?