Queering the Pitch: Hacking Can’t Mean Everything

Pretty gnarly work summing a week of this work, but you did it, Kevin. Grand job.  Everyone should take a look at dogtrax’ reflection on Week Four of #CLMOOC. I feel a need to do some ‘splainin’.  I spent a good bit of my time this week proclaiming my ignorance, #flailing was my hashtag for it.  I did not understand how the word hack could mean what our facilitators said it meant.  Particularly I could not understand how one could hack one’s own writing, an act of self-plagiarism.  I felt that the #CLMOOC  pitch was queered.

In fact, I came to several conclusions about hacking this week that have almost nothing to do with writing but everything to do with power.

Hacking is both anabolic and catabolic, black hat and white hat.  We acknowledge the one and discourage the other, yet they both derive their strength from a single source–the need for power and personal agency.  And because learning is about power I think we need to not only teach the use of hacking layers like X-Ray Goggles that Kevin writes about,  but we need to acknowledge the need that makes tools like that feel so good.  X-Ray Goggles amounts to defacing another’s site, Zeegas amount to theft without attribution, animated gifs…well what exactly are they but plagiarizing the commons.

As writers we owe it to ourselves to empower our readers and part of that is ’embracing the suck’ that we so cavalierly call the dark side of hacking.  We need to acknowledge that hacking often is quite beyond being ‘a little subversive’ and that if we do empower our learners much as we do our readers, then chaos might be the result.  And that won’t work in most of our schools even with a wink and a nod from Caesar.

This is uncomfortable.  Empowerment is double-edged.  We all know it.  I got a bit incensed this week when I felt we weren’t giving the word ‘hack’ its due. We were watering it down, dumbing down its rich connotations.  That word is an instrument of power first, last and always.  To call it something else just hacked me off.  It made me go back and reread Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” (http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit). Orwell argues against the  “staleness of imagery.”–yeah, Amen, George. I hates me a dead metaphor,too.  The other no-no in his mind is “lack of precision.” I suppose that is what I have been struggling with all week, the belief that the word can be all things to all people.

I include in “lack of precision” the stripping away of a word’s major connotations and denotations in order to use it for other purposes.  And what might those purposes be?  Glomming onto a trend, appearing to be in the educational know, mollifying our audiences by appealing to the pop culture zeitgeist…of seeking motives both negative and positive there is no end, but you’d better believe Pearson is trying to figure out a way to make a buck off the hacking the Maker Movement.  That is the corruption of language that starts with imprecision.  Or so sayeth the man.

I agree along with Kevin that “the words will follow” but will those who follow with those words be as pure of heart as we are ;)?  I know I can be hyperbolic, that is a rhetorical styling that my college composition instructor called my tendency toward the “purple and the prolix”, but I won’t hesitate to call out the Emperors of Language who wear no words.

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