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August 1, 2006

Colbert and Composition

Summer "vacation" is quickly coming to an end, and with classes soon to begin, it's time to start thinking and writing about teaching in higher education again. With that in mind, George has announced this year's schedule of teaching carnivals where he explains the whole concept of the teaching carnival and how you can participate.

If you're not sure what to write, George suggests a number of possible questions you might address, including a question about whether you'll be doing anything differently in the classroom in the approaching academic year, a topic I plan to address as I make a transition between two very different student populations, although I'm hoping that my experiences teaching media studies this past year will inform my approach to freshman composition. I flaked out on a number of the carnivals last year, but I'm planning to contribute more consistently this time around.

Speaking of media studies, I continue to be amazed by The Colbert Report. The commentary about language and media is incredibly sharp. Last night's "Word" sequence, in which Colbert coined the word "Wikiality" to describe the ways in which "anyone" can edit an entry to change the facts based on their whims (and, yes, I know that Wikipedia is more complicated than that). I happened to have my laptop nearby while watching Colbert, and within seconds (I believe before the end of the "wikiality" segment), the Colbert Report entry had been changed to reflect Colbert's mention. Colbert's "truthiness" won last year's American Dialect Society Word of the Year. Wikiality might make it two years in a row. BTW, if anyone has the video on that segment, I'd love to have a link to it for my composition classes. It seems like a humorous way to remind students about the credibility of internet research.

Update: At least for now, it's available on YouTube.

Update 2: While skimming some of the blog buzz on "wikiality," I came across the news about Lewis Black's planned series for Comedy Central called Red State Diaries, which also looks like a lot of fun.

Update 3: There's an interesting overview of the controversy over "wikiality" at the No Fact Zone, a Colbert Report fan blog.

Posted by chuck at August 1, 2006 12:54 PM

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Thanks for the plug! Here's the funny part - after all the hubbub, the Wikimoderators STILL won't allow Wikiality onto the main site for "The Colbert Report"!

I do respect their vigilance greatly, but I also disagree with their conservatism on the issue. I guess we'll just sit back and see.

Posted by: DB Ferguson at August 2, 2006 3:03 PM

I think it's an interesting question, and I understand their defensiveness when it comes to having a separate entry on "wikiality."

Lost in this discussion was Colbert's larger point about how historical facts are actively being rewritten based on popular consent (his examples of WMDs in Iraq and environmental degradation are pretty pointed).

Posted by: Chuck at August 2, 2006 3:20 PM

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