Category Archives: Discussion

Discussion 8: Mashup Culture

Mashup Culture, Bootleg Culture, Re-Mix Culture… Whatever you call it, the tendency to collage together pieces of pop-culture into new and exciting forms is here to stay. The last decade or so of internet evolution has brought forth a whole new world of creative possibilities. Mashup Culture has, in part, emerged with the increasing availability of (and decreasing costs of) media editing tools. From iMovie to Photoshop, it’s extremely easy for any of us to slice, dice, mix, remaster, and edit our own artistic creations.

Yet legally and economically we’re having a hard time keeping up with the changes. New copyright laws, Fair Use legislation, and ethical practices are emerging daily, and there is a constant tension between our desire to control who gets paid for what and the fact that millions upon millions of digital media pieces of varying quality are going up every day.   Growing up in a culture that tolerates and promotes collage can be difficult once one enters into the academic realm, where credit must always be given where credit is due.

Read the following articles and then answer the questions below:

The Ecstasy of Influence: a Plagiarism‘ by Jonothan Lethem in Harper’s Magazine

It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing’‘ a response to Lethem by Kenneth Goldsmith in The Chronicle

Both of these writers would agree that art couldn’t survive without appropriation, but where do we draw the line? Should a 13-year-old be able to post a video of herself lip syncing to Shania Twain song without getting into copyright infringement trouble? What if Eminem does a cover? Should he have to pay royalties when a 13-year-old doesn’t? What does all of this mean for you as a student? What is the line between creative appropriation of an idea and outright plagiarism? Remember to try to demonstrate that you’ve actually read the articles above.

Now head on over to Slack.

Discussion 10: Killing Wolves


We started the semester with Sherry Simpson, and now, in our final discussion we’re spending a bit more time with Simpson and Interior Alaska. This time Simpson explores her own and Alaska’s relationship with wolves.

Please Read the following, then discuss in Slack:

*’Killing Wolves‘ by Sherry Simpson in  Creative Nonfiction

Discussion questions

Since this is your final discussion please connect Simpson’s essay to your own thoughts about culture and identity and Alaska mythos that have arisen from the texts we’ve read throughout the semester.

Got it? Head over to Slack  to discuss.

Discussion 7: Memes


Honey Badger Don’t Care

We’re taking another breather from Alaska literature for a moment in order to discuss a cultural phenomenon called…memes.

You probably know your memes, right? You probably have an LOLCat at home.   Or maybe you were the guy planking in that Tumblr blog? If you don’t know what a “meme” is, basically, a fad. Richard Dawkins originally coined the term in his book, The Selfish Gene, saying that examples of memes might be “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes, fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches” (192).   Memes spread via human culture. They are ideas. Dawkins even went so far as to say that memes “parasitize” our brains, turning them into hosts that further spread the memes to others. James Gleick, author of “What Defines a Meme?‘ thinks it’s important to separate the ideas from the person spreading the ideas: “The meme is not the dancer but the dance.”

If a meme is a real, yet abstract, thing, then one could argue that memes are spreading and mutating more quickly via the internet than they ever have in the history of human culture. Just look at the rise of what some are calling “massive-scale online collaboration,” a way that we are beginning to solve problems collectively, sometimes without even knowing it.


Read the following article and then discuss one or more of the questions below:

What Defines a Meme?‘ by James Gleick in Smithsonian Magazine

What happens when memes go bad? Could we see racism as a kind of cruel meme? Some memes are obviously beneficial for humans, but others are probably not so good for us.   Do you think there is a benefit to something like LOLCats spreading like wildfire? What about something like the Pepper Spraying Cop? Was/is that meme simply about making people laugh or is there a more political message underlying the photos?

Got it? Head on over to  slack  to discuss.

Discussion 6: Fake News and Media

It can be challenging to think critically about everything we are reading and  publishing. However,  the repercussions of lazy reading and writing  can be catastrophic.

Read the following articles and then answer the questions below:

* “Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study‘ by Sapna Maheshwari in  The New York Times

*  “Why Can’t Media Portray the Rural Alaska I Know‘ by Laureli Ivanoff in  The Alaska Dispatch News

*Fake News or Real? by Wynne Davis in  NPR

What is the value of “getting it right’? How do we do this? How do we make sure our sources are accurate? As you respond, draw from Ivanoff as well as earlier authors we’ve read. How do we evaluate and navigate stories and fact?  

Jump over to Slack to chat!

Discussion 5: Walking in Modern and Ancient Worlds

Photo: Tlingit Totem Pole and community house in Totem Bight State Park, Ketchikan, Alaska.

This week, we head to Southeast Alaska.

In “Tao of Raven,” Ernestine Hayes, the author of  Blonde Indian  and a professor at UAS and UAA, weaves the story of Raven stealing the light with her own memoirs. In the documentary “Walking Two Worlds” we follow two siblings as they trace the  affects  of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, known as ANCSA, on their communities and each other.

This week read and watch the following articles and then answer the question below:

*’Tao of Raven‘ by Ernestine Hayes in  Mud City Journal

*Walking in Two Worlds  movie directed by Bo Boudart (located in blackboard resource section)

*Glass artist Preston Singletary talks about his heritage and Tlingit Mythology. youtube.

Can native culture change? Walking in Two Worlds discusses the problems with turning tribes into corporations. Many, however, extol ANCSA  as the best Native Policy in the country. Where do you see the lines and clashes between  ancient and modern ways of seeing? What do you think  Walking in Two Worlds  was advocating for? What do you think Ernestine Hayes argues for? Do they come to any conclusions? Do they have to?

Jump over to slack to discuss.

Discussion 4: Nature’s State

This week’s topic of discussion explores the  way the rest of America views Alaska. Susan Kollins, who wrote the part environmental, part rhetorical theory book  Nature’s State, discusses ideas of “unpeopled wilderness” and the rhetoric assigned to  Alaskan. Kollins writes, “While Alaska often fascinates Americans because of its status as the Last Frontier, the region nevertheless remains largely outside the United State’s imagined community, serving as an extraneous space not fully accommodated into a national sense of self” (6). In other words, Alaska is viewed by America  as a wilderness space, both a part of the US and outside of it. Instead, Kollins continues, Alaska is thought of as a vast, unpeopled area, that has limitless natural resources  and wilderness.

In his opinion piece “Why do Reality Shows Make Alaska Look Insane?” Craig Medred discusses one of the ways Alaska is represented to the outside world. Like Kollins, Medred sees these representations as superficial and incomplete.

Read the following article and then answer the question below:

*  “Introduction‘ chapter in  Nature’s State  by Susan Kollins (located in blackboard resources section)

*’Why do Reality Shows Make Alaska Look Insane?’ by Craig Medred

Kollins and Medred both discuss representations of Alaska, and complicate how  Alaska is viewed by outsiders and Alaskans alike.  Kollins’ essay was especially dense, so I’d like you to spend most of your time thinking and discussing this essay. What is Kollins saying about American identity? What problems does Kollins see in the rhetoric we use to discuss Alaska? What is problematic about Alaska as the wilderness state? How does this tie to resource extraction? What might some of the problems be with the way reality TV shows characterize Alaska, according to Kollins?

Got it? Now  jump over to Slack to join the discussion.


Discussion 3: Consider The Lobster

We’re taking a break from Alaska . This week, read the following essay, a beautiful argument by the late David Foster Wallace. Then answer the questions below:

*“Consider the Lobster‘ by David Foster Wallace from Gourmet Magazine

What exactly does Foster Wallace want us to consider? Did he reveal in the essay something that made you think differently? What’s the point of his footnotes being so long? At the center of his argument is this question: “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?What conclusion do you think he ultimately comes to?

Find the discussion 3 here on  Slack .


Discussion 2: Rubric and Alaskan Stories

***This week, there are two discussions you need to join, labeled “Discussion 2” and “Discussion 2-5” in our Slack Team page. You should contribute two  paragraphs worth of content in both discussions combined. (In other words, approximately 3 posts and one paragraph of content per discussion).

Discussion 2

In order to understand how to write to a given audience, you need to understand what that audience is looking for. Writing to a facebook audience is going to look quite a bit different than writing to an academic audience; a reference letter is going to look different than an email asking for a raise. Its always helpful to familiarize yourself for what it is that your audience is looking for, and in this class, when I’m your primary audience, lucky for you I’ve spelled out what it is I’m looking for.

However, it’s an unusual rubric, probably different than any you’ve ever seen before. Spend a bit of time looking at it, then lets talk about what the different terms and ideas in this document. What the heck does “Writer’s Position,” or “Rhetorical Situation Awareness” even mean?

For discussion, read:

Our class rubric

Then, answer the following question:

What does the rubric emphasize? What do each of the categories mean? What do you value in quality writing, and what do you undervalue? How do you find that you look at your own work when you edit and revise?

Got it? Head to our Slack discussion board to discuss.

Discussion 2.5

Last week, we discussed Jon Krakauer’s account of Chris McCandless’ death.  Since Krakauer’s article first came out, McCandless has become a sort of folk hero and the bus where he died a pilgrimage for other dreamers. In “A Man Made Cold by the Universe,” Sherry Simpson follows this trek, but with the skeptical lens of a local Alaskan. She delves into the question not of whether or not McCandless’ death was tragic, but whether or not it is a story that deserves our attention.

For this discussion, read:

A Man Made Cold by the Universe” by Sherry Simpson

Then, answer the following question in  Slack discussion 2-5:

“This may be our oldest, truest survival skill: the ability to tell and to learn from each other’s stories…in some ways, Alaska is nothing but stories.’ What does Simpson mean by this? What does this say about your own identity, or others’? What are some of the repercussions when we aren’t willing to give up the “right’ story? How does your view of McCandless change with Simpson’s version, vs. Krakauer’s?


Discussion 1: Alaskan Identity

Alaskan Identity

First, take a moment to introduce yourself to your classmates. As you will be talking to each other all semester, maybe include an interesting detail about yourself or some way for us to remember you. Then consider the following:

Say, “I’m from Alaska,” and instantly you’ve piqued interest in your audience. Alaska inspires an array of images and notions in both those from the state and those from outside of it. These are notions of open space and wilderness, of extreme temperatures and rugged landscapes,  and of people who live in such environments. In John Haines’ chapter “Of Traps and Snares,” Haines discusses one pastime, trapping,  that has held our imaginations for generations. Even if the modern world were to collapse, Haines writes, “…with a good axe in hand, a gun, a net, a few traps — life will go on in the old, upstanding ways.” There is a romantic simplicity to the hardship of the woodsmen lifestyle Haines describes.

The lifestyle that Haines describes might be the same lifestyle that Christopher McCandless sought when he walked into the woods. The young man was looking to test himself, to get away from civilization, and to capture and understand some very Alaskan–or very American–dream. In his essay, “Death of an Innocent,” Jon Krakauer follows  the tale of this young man whose romantic ideas of Alaska lead to his tragic death. Krakauer chronicles  the circumstances that lead up to McCandless’ decision to walk into the woods, and makes the case for McCandless as simply a young man testing himself, whose luck ran out.

For discussion, read the following two essays:

“Of Traps and Snares” by John Haines (Located in our class’s blackboard site)

Death of an Innocent‘ by Jon Krakauer

Then answer the question below. Remember that your response should be unique, well written, and approximately 2 paragraphs worth of content, divided into at least 5  entries.  It should also clearly show that you have read the assigned essays by quoting or otherwise referring to them.  Reading and responding to other students’ comments is also part of the discussion.

Discussion Question: First, don’t forget to introduce  yourself, and your connection (or lack there of) to Alaska. Second, discuss the following questions: what Alaskan identities do we cherish and nurture? Do you feel connected to ideas of hardship for the sake solitary open space in the way that both Haines and McCandless connected with? Are these legitimate ideas with which to connect?

These discussion questions are a starting ground. Please take them wherever the conversation leads on our Slack discussion board. Now that you’ve read the discussion questions, time to take the leap! Head on over to  slack. Follow the email I sent you, then choose a log in name that easily identifies you (for my grading purposes), and find our team, which is “engl111ak_UX1.” You’ll find discussion #1 on the top left. See you there!