Posted in Culture, education, sociology, Uncategorized

Cyber Hybrid Culture (Part 1)

Charles Piscitello Ed.D

When reading my students’ discussion responses to “how social media brings us together and tears us apart,” I began to think about how we now must live in a cyber hybrid culture.

By cyber hybrid culture, I mean that in our culture we must live life in our face-to-face world while living on social media, email, and online courses.  I’ve noticed inconsistency in our presentation of self between the real world and our cyber world.

Similar to my teaching and instructional design experience in creating a hybrid/blended courses where online time supplements face-to-face time, we attempt to create the right balance between the face-to-face element and the online element.  Inexperienced hybrid/blended instructors simply try to squeeze their face-to-face course into a smaller amount of time with the same content online.  In this case, students feel that the online content is pointless busy work.

Instructors must learn to provide adequate content in the online portion and utilize the face-to-face time in a new and unique way to deliver a dynamic learning experience with knowledge of the content provided online.

smartphone-and-coffeeWe see this with exposure to social media, many times I see a classmate from college or high school, and the conversation is awkward and short.  We already know all about all the important news, babies, jobs, education, and other big life events.  With that, there is simply nothing new to talk about and we lose out on a key part of being a social being.

When done correctly, social media provides information which triggers discussion, talk radio hosts poke and prod their audience for topics and ministers can gain insight about their congregation.  At a quick glance of my smart watch, I learn a morsel of news and can tie it to face-to-face class discussion.

But most of the time, social media creates awkward social interaction, by removing an individual from the room as everyone is interacting with people who are not in the room.  We replace face-to-face conversation at the dinner table with people poking at their phone, for the same Facebook content that they’ve already read a number of times already.


As a society we are still in our infancy in blending our face-to-face and online worlds.  We must find ways to better utilize the online world without compromising our face-to-face real time interactions.

Literature review coming soon.



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Italian Superstition Part I – Toccare le palle


I really started thinking about Italian superstition when I was at an Italian wedding with my parents and now wife.  My mother leaned over, and whispered into my ear

 “Toccare le palle”


“touch your nuts”

I did.  I giggled.  My wife asked me “what was so funny,” so I told her

“my mom asked me to touch my man parts.”

She asked


I told her

Italians believe that if a “witch” is giving you the “evil eye,” you have to touch yourself, to ward off the powers of said “evil eye.”

When I said this in English, it sounded silly, So I had to do a little research.

The evil eye or “malocchio”  noted in Dundes (1992) who references Italian folklore scholar Giuseppe Pitre explains that

In Italian scholarship there has always been an avid interest in the “jettatura” (curse of the evil eye, whereby all that the cursed looks upon will suffer bad luck), which is cast via a spell either because they envy the wellbeing of others or because they desire that evil befall them.”

In the presence of the evil eye curse, or the fear that it might appear, there are many words trinkets, and gestures to avert or exorcise the evil eye curse. The most common is the extension of the index and little fingers on one or both hands while bending the others inward, to resemble horns.  Another is when you see an individual spit when a “lady of easy virtue” stares at him (Dundes, 1992).  The crotch grab is intended to block the evil eye curse to a man’s genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset – the future fruit of a man’s loins (Lapidos, 2008).

Some common trinkets (either in plastic or a precious metal) Italians wear or carry to protect from the bad luck generated from the maloccio are; un “corno,” which is shaped like a horn, a small hand making the horns gesture, or a “humpback” a little man with a horn as his lower half, in a tuxedo and a top hat, holding a horseshoe making a horns gesture.


If you have any more Italian superstitions, feedback, corrections, arguments or whatever, please post below.  I plan on posting more about different Italian wives’ tales along with any other random ideas about culture, society, and technology on my blog

Chuck Piscitello Ed.D

Dundes, A. (1992). The evil eye: a casebook. Madison : University of Wisconsin Press.

Lapidos, J. (2008). Retrieved from Can’t Touch This – Why Italians grab their crotches to ward off bad luck.:

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Discussion Thread Best Practices

discussion thread

An online discussion thread can provide a great opportunity for interaction that can potentially be lost in an online college setting, providing students the opportunity to voice their opinion in a comfortable and safe place.  But, sometimes instructors lose sight of the point of these assignments, depriving students the true benefit of discussion boards.  Here are some best practices that can help an online instructor design discussion threads that will improve student involvement and enthusiasm when interacting on discussion boards.  This document provides some examples and best practices from real teachers.

TIP #1

Address the need for a discussion thread:  In Hew, Cheung, and Ling Ng’s (2010) student contribution in asynchronous online discussion, they review factors leading to limited student contribution and various guidelines to improve online discussion threads.   They noted some best practices in ensuring that discussion threads are not just busy work.  Many of these ideas I discuss in greater detail below.

    1. Select discussion topics directly related to students’ main curriculum.
    2. Make online discussion activity mandatory or give incentives (e.g. grades).
    3. Provide added value in the discussion threads, like learning resources such as websites directly related to the main curriculum.
    4. Give students clear expectations of the purpose of the online discussion as well as instructor expectations.
    5. Use ground rules.
    6. Use controversial topics

TIP #2

Be specific in what you want from the student; many times new online/hybrid teachers have an idea in mind, and just post a simple question in the discussion thread.  We must always keep the student in mind; you are the subject matter expert, but your students are not.  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Kathy Hawker’s NRS402 Informatics for Clinical Judgment class.  Please note the great level of detail she provided her students, the due date and examples of what she expects in an answer and in a peer response.  This helps us hold our students to a higher standard.

Discussion Question

Discuss the benefits of using standardized terminologies within the EHR and what standardized terminology would be most beneficial in the exchange of data?

Discussion Requirements/Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Discuss the topic above in your posting.  Your post should be at least 250 words with at least one scholarly reference.  The reference should follow the end of your discussion in APA format.

2. Post your discussion by Thursday July 17th @ 11:59 PM

3. Read a selection of classmates postings and consider how their postings reflect/differ from your own perceptions, experiences, and opinions.  Respond to at least 2 classmates.  Your response post should be at least 100 words, with at least one scholarly reference supporting your response.  The reference should follow the end of your discussion in APA format

4. Post your 2 discussion responses to classmates by Saturday July 19th @ 11:59 PM

Suggested ways/ideas for response to classmates

* Suggest why you might see things differently

* Ask a probing or clarifying question

* Describe how the discussion topic would ultimately increase the quality of patient care

* Identify and explain a new practice insight gained from reading this discussion

* Offer and support an opinion

TIP #3

Tie the discussion thread directly to the material; make sure to align the discussion thread to the course objectives and unit objectives.  This should help the students understand why they are doing the assignment, and not interpret the assignment as just “busy work”.  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Charity Smith’s Human Growth and Development Class.

Discussion 3: Early Maturation and Vulnerability

In Chapter 3, we learn about the risks inherent to early maturation in young girls. Several ideas are presented, in terms of potential outcomes, including an increased risk for smoking/drinking, depression, eating disorders, and early sexual experiences/promiscuity.

What factors do you believe contribute to these potential outcomes?

Given that young girls are reaching menarche earlier than in previous generations, what types of prevention programs would you create in order to address these issues?

Remember: Initial responses must be 100 words and you must reply to at least two of your classmates’ posts (50 words each).

TIP #4

Make it interesting; choose a discussion that you want to have.  Although your textbook may have some good questions, try to spice up your discussion questions.  These are college students, make them think!  Here is an example from Aultman College instructor Mike Polnik’s Medical Ethics course.

A 33-year-old male swallows 30 antidepressants and tells his wife, “I want to die.” She takes him to the local hospital’s emergency department where he is treated and released that same evening. In the hospital parking lot he pushes a security guard and is arrested and taken into custody. In the county jail a nurse places the man on suicide watch. The following evening, while still in custody, a psychologist speaks to the man for five minutes, then releases him from suicide watch. The man is returned to his cell and two hours later he hangs himself.

Does the emergency department have liability for discharging a suicidal patient without further treatment?

Does the psychologist have liability for releasing the patient from suicide watch after a five-minute consult?

The psychologist is and “independent contractor” of the jail. Is the county liable for his actions?

TIP #5

Use multimedia!  Link or embed a YouTube video to the discussion that you would show in a face-to-face class, have the students discuss specific questions about the movie.  Here is an example from Chuck Piscitello’s Introduction to Sociology class:

The Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures was a series of social psychology experiments conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram, which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.

Why do you think the participants listened to the authority figure and continued to shock an innocent man?  In the original Milgram experiments, over 65% of participants went all the way to 450 volts, in the above 2009 version of the Milgram experiment, 75% of participants went to 450 volts.  Why do you think there was such a sizeable increase in people willing to listen to authority in the more current version of the experiment?  Do you feel that this experiment explains authority relationships in the medical field?  Why or why not?

Tip #6

Interact with your students online.  In Hew, Cheung, and Ling Ng’s (2010) student contribution in asynchronous online discussion, they review factors leading to limited student contribution and various guidelines to improve online discussion thread.   They noted that we must use instructor facilitation techniques such as:

    1. Identify areas of agreement/disagreement
    2. Seek to reach consensus/understanding
    3. Encourage, acknowledge or reinforce student contributions
    4. Focus the discussion on specific issues
    5. Confirm understanding through assessment and explanatory feedback
    6. Diagnose misconceptions to enhance knowledge constructions

Tip #7

Make the assignment worth it!  If the point value seems like the students can blow it off…they will.  I’ve seen many instructors make the discussions a percentage of their grade, but each thread in the end was only worth five points each; please avoid.

Posted in Uncategorized

Dissertation so far



So, for the most part, the most nerve raking part of the process for me is over, I wrote my first chapter, where I complained about how most academics are not willing to try new technology let alone incorporate it into their classroom, I found some literature for chapter two that provided a history to technology, education, and technology in education, and a focus on the iPad in education.  I discussed my method in chapter three.  Defended my proposal, the IRB was accepted and all of my results are in.

I am now in the process of analyzing my data and writing chapter four, I feel that my findings provide good insight on how to approach technology integration (in this case the use of iPad, but any tech integration works).  I’m excited but a little sad that it’s almost over.

That’s all I have so far, just wanted to write about something today, when I really should be writing chapter four.

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Thirty Seven


I’ve been obsessed with the number 37 for many years.  The source of my obsession stems from Kevin Smith, in the original Clerks movie, the scene where Donate and Veronica argued over the amount of people they’ve been with (up to and including each other).  In a childish, sexual way, the number 37 was part of my life.  I started to notice the number 37 popped up everywhere, at least once or twice a day.  I grew up in Maple Heights Ohio and the zip code is 44137.  My dad was born in 1937.  My birthday is January 11th, 111, three times 37 is 111, and 37 is the root of all triple numbers,  6×37 is 222, 9×37 is 333, 12×37 is 444, and so on, so any triple number also represents 37. 

In my 20s, I worked in a convenience store during college and graduate school.  I worked with another Kevin Smith fan, who at the time was my manager Josh, who since then has become my very close friend. We worked in a store that was grossly understaffed by a variety of odd people.  The convenience store was enough of a connection to Clerks and Smith’s movie where the movie was a common theme in our daily lives, as was the daily reoccurrence of the number 37.  The number 37 almost had a calming effect on us in our daily stressful work lives.  Every time we would notice the number 37, we would make a point to tell each other, followed by another quote from the movie, usually, “in a row.” 

I have been out of the retail world for almost four years, and I’ve noticed 37 pop up in new, very different ways.  I go to two churches, my Roman Catholic Church which I belonged to since I was a kid, which I attended with my mom weekly.  And a Nazarene church which my wife has been a part of since she was a teenager.  In the past year, the old pastor from her church (it’s our church, but, it’s easier to explain which one I’m talking about with stating it’s either mine or hers) was called to do something else, providing us a new, pastor.  Pastor Mike’s first sermon was based on Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God” (ESV) and has come up multiple times in many of his sermons.

“For nothing will be impossible with God,” has been integral to my life over the course of the last year (1:37) in helping me overcome many of the monkey wrenches, kitchen sinks, and fecal matter at the fan the life has thrown my way.  So, “in a row,” this year I’ve experience my good friend Josh being diagnosed with stage four cancer, I was laid off from my full-time job in July, and my mother passed away one month before her 75th birthday in September, all while teaching as an adjunct instructor at three schools and attempting to write my dissertation. 

If I did not have faith in God, and did not believe that (1:37) “For nothing will be impossible with God,” I don’t know how I would have reacted to this chain of events.  I cannot say that any of these events were easy, but I know I could have not done it alone.  So, some will say this is a stretch, that I can take a silly dirty joke from a Kevin Smith movie and translate it to God’s message which gives me comfort, which gives me faith that through Him, we’re going to be okay.  It could be a stretch, that God knew to communicate that message to me at an early age, in a way that I would pay attention, in a way that would perk my interests and transform it to something meaningful, because, 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

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Mosh Pit Culture, an Ethnography on Mosh Pits and so on…

There are many reasons I became a sociologist, I wanted to better understand people, politics, and culture, but mostly, I love people watching! While a college student, I went to many concerts, I loved mostly punk and ska bands and observed how people interacted at these shows. Here is a participant observation paper I wrote in the summer of 2001 as a sociology independent study for one of my favorite professors, James J. Chriss at Cleveland State University. Let me know what you think.

My first concert was around my 11th grade year, I was 17 years old and Korn was an up and coming metal band. They played the Agora Theater on E. 55th and Euclid in ClevelandOhio. The first time I went to a concert I was not sure what to expect: I was excited because they were one of my favorite bands at the time. I was a little bit scared; I did not want a black eye or a broken arm. My mother did not make the issue any better; she worried and wanted to know who I was going with and what time I was going to be home. Upon arriving to the venue it seemed broken down and in a bad part of town, we entered the place and I notice the audience was very much like me, young white teenagers, some of them had on band paraphernalia of not only the band they were about to see but other heavy metal and other assorted rock bands as well as shirts that read “I am a math magician”. The inside of the Agora was set up like an old theater, there was theater style seating and closer to the stage was a floor area know as the “pit.” Back then I really did not pay very much attention to the crowd; my main concern was the band I paid to see. When the music began the place came alive. People in the pit area went ballistic and went into motion with the music, people in the theater style seating “head banged” and danced but kept to them selves. After the show was all over I wanted more, I wanted to go to as many concerts as possible and experience all types of music.

It has been about six years since that first concert, since them I have seen many genre’ of music ranging from mellow jazz to the heaviest of metal each type of music has its different types of people as well as different unique types of people who go to each type of concert. In this paper I will illustrate the types of people at a certain type of concert, we are going to take a look at the punk rock culture and distinguish the types of people who go to these concerts and interpret their rolls “at the show”.

Recently I went to see the band Strung Out, a punk-metal band from Southern California. At this show I paid attention to behavior of the individuals and what roles they played, I watched how the individuals interacted with one another. With in my own group we began to name each of the punk rock social types that each of the actors in this setting played. I also paid attention to the areas of the venue where these people interacted; this also helps determine what social type they fall into. Also I will compare this concert to other concerts and point of what social punk rock types attend what specific show.


Traditional ethnographers believe in immersing themselves in a particular culture and reporting their informants’ stores as if they represent reality, phenomenologist see a need to “make sense” out of the informants’ perceptions of the world (Babbie, 2002, p. 289).

By participating in the ritual activities of the punk rock subculture I will learn to understand the dynamics of their group structure first hand as I participate and engage in the same social interactions as and perceive the world as the see it.

In Erving Goffman’s concept of the dramatic metaphor first seen in The Presentation of Self in Every Day Life used the idea of the stage and theater in relation to social interactions. In dramaturgy, an individual is distinguished as an actor playing a role that puts on a “performance.” In this performance the actors follow a script, act on a stage and used props. This metaphor to human interaction captures some of the example and topics of his approach but obscures the more fundamental process of Goffman’s theorizing (Turner, 1998, p. 393).

In this view of an American subculture I will refer to the initials as “characters,” they are indeed playing a role on a stage like in Goffman’s dramatic approach of human interaction.

In Goffman’s Interaction Ritual, the idea of presentation rituals encompass acts through which the individual makes specific attestations to recipients concerning how he regards them and how he will treat them in on- coming interaction. Demeanor is “the element of the individual’s ceremonial behavior conveyed though deportment, dress and bearing which serves to inform those in his immediate presence that he is a person of certain desirable or undesirable qualities”.

In this paper I will view the demeanor of characters at the punk rock show, through their actions as well as deportment, dress and bearing does inform the presence of the each individual.

Environment / Setting

A region may be defined as any place that is bounded to some degree by barriers to perception. Regions vary, of course in some degree to which they are bounded and according to the media of communication in which the barriers to perception occur (Goffman, 1959, p.106).

This concert took place at the Agora Ballroom, a smaller part of the Cleveland Agora. This part of the venue is split into four dominant parts: 1.) The main floor, the main floor inform of the stage can also be divided into four parts its self, first the area directly in front of the stage, this part is densely populated and smashed up against the stage also most of the crowd surfing takes place. Directly behind this area is the “mosh pit,” it is here where many diverse types interact by dancing, pushing, jumping, running around like psychos what is known as “mosh pitting.” Directly behind the pit is an area where people mostly watch the band and if any movement they “head-bang” or dance slightly. 2.) The bar, here mostly older punk rockers sit back and watch the show with a beer in hand. 3.) Table area, this area is on either side of the main floor, this is a more relaxed area were people can sit and what the show with out disruption from any hooligans from the floor area. 4.) Entrance area, here people mostly hang out between bands and before the show begins, sometimes people who don’t really want to be there hang out there while a band is playing.

Punk Rawk Types

At one extreme, one finds that the performer can be fully taken in by his own act; he can be sincerely convinced that the impression of reality which he stages is the real reality. When his audience is also convinced in this way about the show he puts on – then for the moment at least, only the sociologist or the socially disgruntled will have any doubts about the “realness” of what is presented (Goffman, 1959, p. 17).

After attending many shows through out the years many names for the types of people in these social situations came to in to play. Many of the names come from how people act in the mosh pit area.

Back of the Pit Guy,” is the character who is most likely the biggest guy in the place, this participant inhabits the back of the pit and violently pushes the other mosh pitters when their not paying attention. When given the chance and a clean shot, back of the pit guy will run through the pit and takes out an unexpecting punk rocker.

Middle of the pit guy” this character is not usually the biggest, but he is defiantly the toughest guy, he stands in the middle of the pit and is impervious to any of the people running and dancing around him. Middle of the pit guy is generally the keeper of the peace, if a fight breaks out or some one falls over he is the first person to give them a hand. Middle of the pit guy also keeps back of the pit guy in line if he is flying off the handle.

Running around the “middle of the pit guy” are the “crazy go nuts guys,” these characters usually running around and kamikaze into the sides of the pit and the people with in, crazy go nuts guy never gets tired and reacts to the ferocity of the music.

Perhaps one of the most entertaining person in the pit would be the “dance like a goober guy,” this guy always finds a way to dance even when the music is at its heaviest, when the music slows down, dance like a goober guy performs a seductive intimidation dance to lure other mosh pitters to be made a fool of when the music increases speed.

Side and back wall dwellers,” these characters stay in the outer walls of the pit and get angry when people fly into them. These characters seek protection from “back of the pit guy.” However fall pray to most of the middle pitters.

Directly in front of the stage, the crowd is more densely populated because most of the characters are trying to get to the stage to either get on stage to jump back into the crowd, or to get to the performers. Another typical behavior in this zone is the act of “crowd surfing,” this is when some one is thrown on top of the crowd and pushed around above every body. If a female is crowd surfing she is subjected to a barrage of cheap fondling and molestation. The most prominent character in this zone is the “oh my God I’m at a concert person,” he/she more then likely has never been to a show in their lives and is not socialized into the norms of the punk rock show.

The rest of the floor area is the habitat of spectators and mild dancers as well as older men who solely go the show is to get a young girl drunk or high and take her home for sexual intercourse. These men are usually marked by the “mullet,” hair that is short in the front and long in the back. Most of the other zones are mostly inhabited by the same types of characters as the main floor spectators.

The last character is the “why am I here guy,” this character is there because either his friends talked he/she into going to the show or was not sure that there was going to be loud music at a live concert. “Why am I here guy” sits in the back of the venue on a bench, steps or any other out of the way hidden place. This person experiences high levels of depression but for some odd reason dose not leave and claims that they are perfectly fine.

Obviously people do not fall perfectly into each category; any given character can hold any combination of any attribute of any character.

Concert Etiquette

Goffman says a rule of conduct may be defined as a guide for action, recommended not because it is pleasant, cheap or effective, but because it is suitable or just. Infractions characteristically lead to feelings or uneasiness and to negative social sanctions. Rules of conduct infuse all areas of activity (Goffman, 1967, p. 48).

To the inexperienced, the punk rock show may seem like chaos, with loud music and people running around pushing and shoving. After attending many of these shows one learns that there are “rules,” to the concert. If some one falls in the pit, it is the primary concern for the nearest person to pick that person up and dust them off.

When a mosh pitter is tying his shoe it is the duty of the surrounding mosh pitters to surround he/she and make sure that no body flies into them. If some one loses something (hat, glasses, tooth) every one stops and searches the pit floor for the lost merchandise. When somebody finds something like a shoe or a hat, they hold it up in the air so everybody can see. If no body claims it after about a minute, the finder throws the shoe or hat into the air.

Type of Show

Another important attribute of a show is the type of concert. One may think that there is only one type of punk rock concert with one kind of character that attends these shows. There can also be an abundance of different concert types in each of the different shows.

In a more popular punk rock concert like Blink 182 would consist of more “oh my God I’m at a concert people,” these characters have seen the band on MTV and want to see them live. Most of the crowd is very dense in population and there is very little movement.

In contrast to a heavy metal hard core based punk rock band like Strung Out would have more of the elements of the mosh pit. At this type of show the music is faster and more violent and the crowd behaves accordingly.

A ska – punk rock show will consist more “dance like a goober guy,” ska – punk bands like Mustard Plug have a horn section in the band and play an upstroke guitar stroke that makes the music more happy sounding, making the pit area more a dance floor with a style of dance called the “skank.”

The emo – punk rock concert will have more spectators because the type of music is relaxed and mellow. This most likely is a more mature audience who has grown out of the general punk rock mosh pit faze in their life.

And finally the Celtic style punk rock show has the elements of the hard core punk rock show but with bag pipes and Celtic flutes. Here the crowd engages in Celtic style dancing (Jigging), and heavy drinking.


In this ethnographic view of the punk rock subculture in its natural environment lends us a better understanding of a misunderstood group. The actions and demeanor of the characters as they interact in a social network interprets not only how they act in this environment but how the act in every day life.


Babbie, E. (2002), The Basics of Social Research. Second edition. Wadsworth/Thomas Learning

Turner, T. H. (1998). The Structure of Sociological Theory. Wadsworth Publishing Company

Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Anchor Books

Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction Ritual. Anchor Books

Punk rock social types invented by:

Thomas Stockman – Created the name “back of the pit guy,” after a Sevendust concert.

Frank Romeo Zeleznikar – Created “crazy go nuts guy,” when I told him I was writing this paper.

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I’ve tried a few things and so far, nothing

I’ve been trying to host my wordpress account through my own domain.  This morning it worked with minimal capabilities, the same capabilities if I hosted it off of wordpress.  This morning it worked off of, but did not let me utilize plug-ins, thus, not letting me do the podpress plug-in to host a podcast.

I attempted to cancel the domain mapping from wordpress to godaddy, and download on  But that made everything go to hell in a handbasket, so I enabled that again.  Now I’m in the same boat, but everything is just a little off.

Posted in Uncategorized finally up and running…

About a year ago, I bought the domain for, and for a year all you saw when you visited was the “this site is under construction” page.  I’m please to announce that is now my official blog site, and soon enough (when I figure out how to do it) the home of the alpha5marmoset podcast featuring the talented and funny Thomas Stockman and of course me, along with a slew of anyone of my interesting and funny friends and colleagues.  Stay tuned, I will update this blog daily, if I don’t manage to screw this up with my limited Web site building experience.