One activity for encouraging students to think about their design choices is the creation of a digital photodatabase in which they populate the database with pictures they’ve taken. For this activity, students can be given a topic (e.g. representing a place) and asked to generate categories for that place. For instance, if students were to represent NYC, they might have a category for each borough or they might have categories like “Ocean” “Bridges” “Buildings” etc. The goal is to encourage students to think critically about what visual images can/should represent a place. We have students generate categories during class discussion. We come to an agreement about what categories to use. Students then take pictures to populate the categories with whatever digital cameras they have—be it with cell-phones, point and shoot, or DSLRs. They upload their pictures to an image hosting service. We have students upload their pictures to Photobucket (example from Paul’s class) though there are other free services out there. Flickr, for instance, is another option. We create a generic Photobucket account and make folders of their categories. We provide students the password and login so they can upload their pictures.
The slideshows and affordancesConstraints slides build from the students' photodatabase. The purpose of this database is to increase students' awareness of the shifting notions of writing, connection, and collection. Johnson-Eilola (2004), in his analysis of intellectual property law and the ways digital texts re-shape what is considered writing, observes that contemporary perspectives on writing argue that "new ideas and texts do not spring from the brow of isolated writers, but are developed intertextually from bits and pieces already out there" (Johnson-Eilola, 2004, p. 200). He continues noting that "This new notion of writing as at least partly—perhaps primarily— about valuing connection will let us argue to our students that information is not neutral. Collection is a social and political act; there are not mere disembodied facts, but choices" (Johnson-Eilola, 2004, p. 212). Each picture that populates the database is a rhetorical choice and maneuver made by students. This activity is meant to make explicit how collection and selection is social and political. Additionally, the organization and selection of terms for categories is a good bridge for discussing the rhetorical implications of social tagging and folksonomy.