Tag Archives: conferences

CCCC 2015: A Story through Tweets

I woke up sweating in Tampa; I flew home to the Midwest; I went to bed shivering.

Using a few of my tweets as a guide, I want to share some of the things I sweated about while attending CCCC 2015; what made me fly; what made me shiver.

(I won’t try to be comprehensive–how could I?)

***

I’m thinking about the velocity of scholarly conversations, and all the agents that affect how and when our conversations get to our audiences.

Example: at CCCC 2014 I co-led a workshop on intellectual property in the classroom. The takeaway was a link to a Google Doc that we would keep up to date with resources for teachers wondering about copyright and fair use, especially when they’re teaching multimodal composition. We made a draft of the doc. We kept saying we would fix it up, make it better. And if I’m remembering correctly, we never really did get it to the level that we wanted. It sat on Google Drive, shareable but unshared. A lonely kitten named Potential.

But at the IP Caucus this year, someone mentioned that they wanted resources for teaching this stuff. Suddenly, that old draft of a document seemed pretty good–what was so lacking about it a year ago, I wondered?–so I shared it with my action table, tweeted a link to it. Suddenly, it seemed more ready than it did before.

What slowed me down? Not the technology; not the pace of scholarly publishing houses and journals–just me.

So in other contexts, how else do our ideas speed up, slow down, get stuck in alleys?–even alleys with fences so low that we could jump them easily, come on, just put your foot there, just hop a little bit, you’re even wearing the right shoes.

***

1. I’m thinking about how nice it is to be told things clearly and directly sometimes instead of having to figure them out. (Spoiler: this contradicts what I say later on in this very same post, so look out, please.)

2. I’m thinking about how different we are in this field, how many sub-groups there are.

A colleague, after returning from CCCC: “This is the first time I’ve really felt that I was missing out of something by not being on Twitter.” My thought: that’s how I felt in like 2010.

But that’s a reminder of my silo: at CCCC, I find myself in rooms with Computers and Writing people, especially sound-loving C&W people, over and over. Oh, hi, Jody/Jen/Wendi/Steven/Steven–what a surprise that we’re in the same room. It’s not a surprise, they say, and here are other fences you could step over Kyle, into all the other sub-parts of our field, if you would just reach out and learn more and more and more–they’re all here–so step into my interlaced fingers if you’re not afraid or busy, is that it are you afraid or busy?

*shivers*

***

I’m thinking about speed again.

Adam Banks’s chair’s address was the best that’s ever been. Just watch it, and be sure to shout at the right time, clap along, right there, I can see you, you don’t think I can but I can. I can fly.

And Banks can fly, too. That’s how Joyce Locke Carter introduced him: as personifying a mixture of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, flying up there in their Enterprise. So, fingers flying, I opened Photoshop (“I can do that!“) and made it happen. My most retweeted tweet ever.

But here’s what I was thinking, sweating there in my chair: “I didn’t remove the background from his head. I didn’t line the words up well enough. I could have made this more professional. Maybe I should wait a year until I get it perfect, and send it out then?”

***

My dissertation was probably influenced more than anything else by Steven B. Katz’s The Epistemic Music of Rhetoric: Toward the Temporal Dimension of Affect in Reader Response and Writing. Here’s a quote to make you shiver:

Perhaps time, and all it stands for, is the basis of the experience of language as sound, emotion a lump of time caught in the throat. Perhaps it is through time that we can know the affective experience of language as an indeterminate flux and flow. Perhaps it is in time that the essential unity, the oneness that oral cultures experienced in sound, exists. Perhaps we have not lost it. Perhaps it is still in the music of language.

So when I walked into A.31, there he was, Steve Katz himself, playing guitar and wearing a hat. I don’t have words.

And then: there was punkrock and crunchy beats and I swear this is true an entire presentation presented through rap:

Did I understand it all? I couldn’t. But did I make meanings that were both scholarly and non-scholarly (whatever that means)? I couldn’t help it.

***

This point, from early in Hammer’s D.23 presentation, is still ringing in my ears: what comes after? And after? And after?

Not just remix–what comes after knowing-what-I-know-and-telling-what-I-know-as-if-telling-was-the-same-as-teaching? (Don’t make me say post-pedagogy.)

What comes after waking up in the Florida heat, sweating? Isn’t it always flight? Isn’t it always shivers?

***

Now is when I will take one sentence to tell you (not teach you) that there are times when pre-panel marketing on Twitter is my favorite and times when it bugs me yet I can’t seem to tell when is which, but whatever here I am using sound to draw people to my very own panel (F.19), as if I were playing a flute to lure you into the room, yes you, or rattling a chain-link fence to get your attention. So there.

Here was my experience drafting my part of our 4-part, sound-filled presentation: I couldn’t make myself fall into the telling mode, the this-is-what-I-know thing. So, as a draft, as an invention device, I started writing in the voice of the twentieth century composers I was using to personify the main conflict I was exploring.

(Short version: Milton Babbitt stood in for folks who compose for specialized audiences, the few in his academic world who will understand his academic/musical moves; Elliott Carter stood in for folks who compose for a more general audience, those who keep in mind how difficult it is for non-specialists to understand complex musical moves.)

So instead of saying, “Milton Babbitt claims…” I just said, “I’m Milton Babbitt. I want you to realize that….” And I wasn’t at first going to stick with that first-person style the whole time, for the whole presentation, you have to believe me on this, but then I couldn’t get away from it, those voices were so compelling.

And when it was time to clarify, to sum up, to say to the audience, “You might not have understood everything I just threw at you, so let me make some sense out of it,” I realized 1) that I had dropped in so so many clues that they ought to have known already by then, and 2) that who was I to say what my own presentation meant?

***

Katz writes a lot about Cicero:

The central thesis of this book is that affect in reading and writing could perhaps be better (though not completely) described and understood by a phonocentric rather than a logocentric theory of response–one based on aural, temporal modes of experiencing and reasoning that we perhaps find in the theory of the ancient sophists and Cicero rather than the visual, spatial ones that currently dominate our scientific culture.

***

Copyright, IP policies, fair use–they seem so static, so certain, so arhetorical. (I mean, I don’t think so, and neither does G.44. But I hear you. I know they seem that way.)

But consider the way fair use really works: it’s fundamentally, purposefully fuzzy as a concept. Until a judge says so, no one can 100% say whether a use is fair or not. Not even you, or you. Or I.

***

In J.18, they made stuff: a dataset and its interpretation, and a visual/aural conversation with a murderer (that’s right), and a dataset and its interpretation, and a calming-yet-wild screencast which is another way of saying that it was Dan Anderson.

And why did all this making feel so, so good? I think it goes back, partly to the telling vs. showing thing. Yes, they told, but they showed. And I made meanings, and even experienced a lot of the good stuff on my own there in my own browser, what, did you think I’m always typing notes or tweeting or something no I’m also looking things up, even you, I looked up you, nice profile pic.

But eventually, I stopped typing and shut up for a bit:

***

I know you’re looking for another cue about the theme of this post so HERE IT IS, right in L.27 (where else?). Also here:

Yes, pleasure is the right word, the pleasure that makes you fly, that makes you shiver. And again, it came through making, not telling. Or, well, some of both. A brownie mix of making and telling. Which brings pleasure, ding! will you get that out of the oven for me?

You’ve guessed it by now, that I don’t follow for too long when there’s theorizing without making, and you don’t agree and that’s fine, it’s fine, and it’s my fault for not reading widely enough or understanding things I should understand, I really get that, but guys. Theory can be part of the making. The big words can help us move toward funk, and flight, and freedom. But we have to go there: we have to take the flight, make the things, work the big ideas into the creations, the art.

Jeff Rice (remember? I’m talking about L.27? Still? Still.) wove Jameson’s cognitive mapping into his narratives of fatherhood, travel, and scholarly authenticity. Jameson was a node in a network of ideas. It wasn’t, “AND NOW JAMESON JAMESON I WILL EXPLAIN TO YOU INSTEAD OF GIVING YOU TIME TO READ IT YOURSELF HERE’S MORE BIG NAMES I’VE GOT DOZENS, HA HA!” (And some presentations were like that. Not in L.27, though. Which we’re still discussing.) Instead, Jameson achieved an equality with beer flights, with pictures of children, with Stuart Hall’s coding/decoding, with William Least Heat Moon and Wendell Berry. It all spoke to each other.

As if you’ll believe me just because I told you so.

***

Two Ways to Confuse Your Audience, A Guide, by Kyle D. Stedman, PhD:

  1. Use big-theory words over and over without tying them to anything that we can see or touch.
  2. Carefully compose a pastiche of sources, meanings, and ideas, leaving it somewhat up to the audience to put the pieces together, resulting in a lot of meanings that are all in the same key, even if no one self-composed exactly the same mental song.
    • Corollary to 2: This may result in not so much confusion as pleasure.

***

My 2nd-most-popular tweet from the conference, I think. But I’m not sure it means what I think it might look like it means. (Which is ok. Which is part of my big point. You know that, right?) I’m not even sure what it means myself.

But as with all the best things, I figured out what it sort-of-means-to-me through conversation. On Saturday night, as people were rewteeting, I got into a delightful conversation with a few folks. Look: I can prove it:

(This is the conversation I was in before, during, and after I stopped at Bo’s for a peanut butter shake. Like, picture me sucking on a shake in a dark car, typing on my phone, in the midst of this conversation, trying to get it all in before I get in the car and respond at a stoplight, only at stoplights, I’m not one of those people. And a Bo’s peanut butter shake is both theory and art, let me tell you.)

You know how sometimes a tweet seems to be coyly making a statement through its rhetorical wondering? But sometimes it’s actually someone wondering, unable to land on an answer. In this 2nd-most-popular tweet, this was actually me wondering all the things that it says I’m wondering, not telling-by-pretending-to-wonder. That is: What kinds of changes do I want? When does the artfulness of making instead of explaining affect audiences in such a way that they are moved–emotionally, in time, in real, actual ways–to enact change in the world? And when is that not enough–when do our theories and terminologies and our tellings help cut through the confusedness and polyvocality of art, leading to even more and better action?

And here, dear reader, is me continuing to wo/ander. Hold my hand.

See you next year?

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What I Saw and Heard at Computers and Writing 2014

After Computers and Writing 2014, I’m thinking a lot about how composers sometimes purposefully leave it up to their audience to make meanings–something that was especially driven home when I saw Dan Anderson perform this piece live. In that spirit, I’m going to focus on the things I saw and heard at the conference and leave it at that.

Saw: new rules for the C’s the Day card game.

Heard: Oh, are you waiting for the Pullman shuttle too?

Saw the Palouse:

the Palouse. #washingtonstate #palouse #kamiakbutte #computersandwriting

A post shared by Material Lives (@materiallives) on

Heard: When we first moved here, my husband wanted to run through the grass. He thought it would be all soft.
Was it?
Oh, no. Not at all.

Saw: a room full of amazing friends in an old post office:

https://twitter.com/ride2cw/status/474386759057305600

Saw: a secret mineral museum, which at least felt like a secret to me, since I randomly walked into a tall building hoping to look out of a tall window and found dinosaurs and black lights and everything old:

Lesson: exploring is worth it. #rockmuseum #dinosaurbones #cwcon

A post shared by Kyle Stedman (@basementwall) on

Heard: a delightful collection of advice and mentoring and friendship at the annual Graduate Research Network. (Whether a student or not, I think this meeting is reason enough to attend the conference.)

Saw: a bowl made of words. The next day, it was still there:

M|seum of |rt #wordbowl #cwcon

A post shared by Kyle Stedman (@basementwall) on

Heard: Matt Gomes‘s smooth mix–smooth like whiskey, like Jodeci:

Heard: Abigal Lambke‘s strong argument in A10 for attention to monomodal composition, like sonic essays that exist only in sound and no other modality. Bonus: she’s a killer teacher; I want to use some of her assignments.

Saw: more of the C’s the Day card game:

Testing the #cstheday card game. #cwcon #d8

A post shared by Kyle Stedman (@basementwall) on

Heard: more conversations about 90s music than I’d heard for years. I still don’t know how much I was making these conversations happen, or if they just happened to circulate around me, like a sonic tornado. But surely it’s not just a coincidence that on one night, Tim Lockridge tries to remind me how amazing STP’s Purple is, and then the next day Wendi Sierra puts on her grunge station on Pandora, which manages to play like every song from the album. Sigh . . . 90s music.

Heard: some karaoke for the ages, including Iron Maiden, Lisa Loeb, Phil Collins, Bon Jovi, Kris Kross, Goo Goo Dolls, and Boyz II Men. Best backup singers ever.

Saw and Heard: the Pittsburgh power team’s presentation Archiving the Future: Three Material In(ter)ventions (F4), one of the best of the conference. Kerry Banazek discussed HDR photography, bringing up the question of to what extent material recordings replicate reality. Erin Anderson tricked us into believing we were hearing a conversation between a couple and their therapist, only to discover that neither person had ever met–Erin had digitally manipulated the conversation. (It’s the “age of the splice,” she said, quoting Stanyek and Piekut.) Trisha Campbell shared her murder archive with us, fully disclosing the possible ethical problems, “tricking” the voices into speaking in this space, and “tricking” us into listening, and thus becoming complicit in our own way. Wow.

Saw and Heard: session H1 with powerhouses Dan Anderson (video linked above in 1st paragraph), Jason Loan, and Justin Hodgson. My only notes were “Too good to take notes….” I’ll just say this: there were trains, Bon Iver, juxtaposition, lasers, Die Hard, and all kinds of things in Justin’s video:

#riskyscholar #ftw

Thought: What would it look like to have a #riskyscholar performance/presentation during each session time at future Computers and Writing conferences? Ones where the presenters are sharing/speaking/making/meaning but not necessarily in ways that are interpreted the same way by everyone in the room. Verging on art. And if we’re not making art–I at least at this moment want to say, even if I don’t know if I mean it all the time–if we’re not making art, why are we making at all?

Saw: all kinds of prep for the session I was honored to be on (I1) with pals Steven Hammer, Harley Ferris, and Jon Stone:

Setting up for #i1. #cwcon

A post shared by Kyle Stedman (@basementwall) on

Heard: so many sounds during our panel that I can barely list them, but they include: the wavery sounds of a welcoming record on an uneven turntable; the pops and clicks when a record has run out but no one has removed the stylus yet; the sounds that the Lomaxes recorded when traveling through the South and recording in prisons in the 1930s and such; a Bach organ piece paired with 80s electronic war sounds; a Bow Wow record played simultaneously with the record player’s stylus and a homemade needle/microphone apparatus; a microphone dropped into Coke; a room invited to make chaotic sounds at the same time; a room joining together to feel the feels that come when “Stand by Me” is joined by images from the Civil Rights era; conversations about what sounds we have the right to co-0pt and which we don’t; conversations about spaces that allow and disallow sonic disruptions (punctuated by a perfectly planned phone ring). (Happily, the group singing was recorded once and twice.)

I’m serious. In 75 minutes, I heard those sounds.

The last 49 minutes of those were caught here:

Heard: lots of goodbyes from new and old friends, whom I never know if I should hug or not.

Heard: this delightful 1991 performance from R.E.M. on an old tape while writing this, which must must must have affected the things I wrote but the thing is you don’t know what or how you don’t know you don’t know:

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25 Things about CCCC 2014

I attended the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Now I’m back. Here are 25 things about it. (Well, sort of.)

1. The final panel I attended was N.36, Never Mind Geoffery Sirc: A Tribute Panel. It was beautifully weird; I didn’t take many notes. But I did write this, which I think is an exact quote from Jenny Rice: “I know nothing. Absolutely nothing. But I know this: non-knowledge communicates ecstasy.” And during Jeff Rice’s presentation, I wrote this single line, which he might have said or it might be what he made me think of: “Juxtapositions are relationships.”

2. In G.28, “How I Got Open”: Africana rhetorics, literacy, and visions for Contemporary Rhetorical Education, I tweeted this:

3. Featured speakers for E session were DJ Lynnee Denise and Sommer Regan McCoy of the Mixtape Museum. At the end of the session, I grabbed one of DJ Lynnee’s mix CDs, a single long track of African rhythms mixed with funk and house music. It’s impossible to listen to it without hearing an argument: the unspoken claim that there are important similarities between these musical heritages. I can’t help but wonder if I would have heard the argument if I hadn’t heard her speak. (This was a highlight panel for me.)

4. Twice, I ate at Loughmiller’s Pub. I usually try not to do that at conferences. But you know, it was close to the conference hotel. It looks like this:

5. Twice on the first day, I found myself leading sessions related to intellectual property: a morning workshop on IP and fair use in the classroom, and an afternoon caucus meeting (open to everyone, if you’re wondering!) for everyone interested in IP as it relates to scholarship and teaching. It was the 20th anniversary, so I picked up this cake:

6. I don’t think I ate any other cake at the entire conference, except for that cake.

7. In the opening session, chair Adam Banks mentioned time travel:

8. About a month earlier, chair Adam Banks retweeted me when I mentioned time travel:

9. In a paper on Afrofuturism (the panel I mentioned above in #2, but in a talk by Earl Brooks, who was filling in for a speaker who couldn’t be there), we watched the video for Janelle Monáe’s “Tightrope.” The song was in my head just about nonstop after that moment. It’s that good. Then today, I saw her whole ArchAndroid album for $3.99 on Amazon. I bought it.

10. I’m watching Star Wars, kind of, while I type this. Luke just said, “I’m going to finish cleaning those droids,” and then there’s the suns and the music and your heart.

11. The first two times I went to C’s (2007 & 2009), I felt a little awkward, a little out of place. By my third time (2010), I realized I was making friends. This time (my 7th) was friend-tastic: I got to reconnect with a friend from undergrad, friends and professors from graduate school, lots of folks whose work I love, and even a friend who went to my graduate school the year after I left. As an introvert, I kept expecting to get sick of all the friend time and need more recharging time. And yeah, I got exhausted some. But mostly, I ate up the friend-time; it was the highlight of the trip. Like cake that’s so good you drive for five hours just to eat it.

12. Michelle Comstock (in M.21) proved herself to be a sonic boom of a teacher, with her soundscape documentary and sonic memoir projects. I want to take her classes and teach her classes and live a while in her classes.

13. Polysyndeton: “Employing many conjunctions between clauses, often slowing the tempo or rhythm” (via). (“Polly sinned a ton”?)

14. I had a good time playing C’s the Day, the augmented reality game at the conference. Since I won (in 2011, maybe?), I always tell myself I won’t play. But then I can’t help completing a few quests, getting a few stamps, collecting a few cards. There’s something satisfying about the sound of the stamp, that subtle almost-squish of a thump as the ink soaks into the booklet.

15. In D.09, Sounding New Media, Kati Fargo Ahern asked the audience to stand up, make sounds, and then change the sounds in response to her instructions. The room was packed, but we stuffed our bags under our chairs, rubbed shoulders, and played along anyway, loving every second. (It took me a sec, but I pulled up the Moon theme from the NES DuckTales game as my sound.)

16. In the same panel, Amy Riordan’s equally powerful presentation was threatened by dysfunctional speakers. Luckily, sound scholar Jon Stone had some in his backpack.

17. Oh no: Luke just found Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s burnt bodies. I never noticed the skeletons as a child, somehow.

18. Alliteration: “Repetition of the same letter or sound within nearby words. Most often, repeated initial consonants” (via).

19. In notes from CCCC in 2012, I wrote this during Geoffrey Sirc’s talk: “Our field has embraced an ethos of perfection, like music’s dual-side toward perfection or lo-fi, like Elliott Smith.”  He might have said or it might be what he made me think of.

20. I was getting over a cold that kind of lingered the whole time I was in Indianapolis. That meant that as a day went on, my voice would get froggier and froggier, to the extent that I even skipped karaoke:

21. The funny thing about Mariah Carey is that I can’t tell how much I love her because of her music and how much I love her because of my memories of loving her music.

22. Cagle and I visited the Rhythm! Discovery Center, an interactive percussion museum. It’s delightful to hit things and hear them. I kept pausing to take pictures and record sounds, but part of me is thinking that it would have been even more fun if I had left my device at the door. Sounds are time-based, something you feel in the moment; isn’t there something odd to try to pause them, to capture them?

23. But I mean really, why does Leia kind of sound British in this movie? And is it glib to say that her use of the accent here reminds me of this point from Keith Gilyard?:

24. In notes from CCCC in 2011, I wrote that Geoffrey Sirc said the only textbook he needs when teaching writing is Richard Lanham’s Handlist of Rhetorical TermsHe said it as if it were obvious, as if everyone already knew that the definition of “good writing” is writing that is powerful, dynamic, full of rhetorical figures, as delightful as cake.

25. Others have blogged about the conference too. The ones I’ve seen so far: Chelsea A. Lonsdale, Steven D. Krause, Cruz Medina, Caitlin Martin, Christina M. LaVecchia, Crystal VanKooten.

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How I Use Twitter at Conferences

Tomorrow, I’ll be visiting (via Google Hangout) a workshop at Old Dominion University hosted by the inimitable Dan Richards and Sarah Spangler. The session is called “Public and ‘Private’ Social Media: Curating Your Academic/Professional Identity(ies) on Facebook and Twitter,” and my role is to talk about using Twitter at conferences.

So I’ve been wondering: how do I use Twitter at conferences?

To find out, I thought I’d focus on how I used Twitter at the 2013 meeting of Computers and Writing. I searched Twitter for all occurrences of @kstedman and #cwcon, which should assumably give me 1) tweets I’ve made that include the #cwcon hashtag + 2) tweets others made that mention me, including a few during my presentation. (This search method is why so many awesome tweets by others are left out; I’m mostly just analyzing myself here, not how we use Twitter in general at conferences.)

(Note: Twitter’s search engine for old things like this has been notoriously unreliable in the past, which is why so many smart people archive all the tweets and later analyze them. For my purposes here, though, I’m just going with what the Twitter search results bring up–seems easier right now.)

If I start at the beginning of the conference, then, and move chronologically through the conference, here are some things I discovered about myself:

Marketing my Session:

Marketing may or may not be the right word, but the spirit is right: I wanted people to know, in advance, about the cool experience I was planning for them in my session. A conference program only goes so far, and it’s skimmed so quickly. Online, people see pictures and hear sounds they couldn’t otherwise get.

Connecting with Friends Who Weren’t There:

There’s always someone at home watching the conference hashtag. When possible, I like inviting them explicitly into the events and ideas of the conference–and it always feels good to know when you got a shout-out.

Plain Old Note-Taking:

The back-channel is fueled by folks just plain noting what they’re hearing, which benefits 1) folks in other sessions who kind of wonder what’s going on in the session you’re in, 2) the presenter, who gets to read later on exactly what people took away, and 3) other folks in the same session, who may subtly disagree with or praise/appreciate your interpretations or summaries. Live, real-time conversations = my favorite.

Of course, “note-taking” is an overly simply way to put it. My tweet above is both taking notes and applying the topic of the panel (accessibility) to my own interests (sound). Other possibilities abound. The “fun-and-games” note-taking method:

The “this presenter needs to know how much I’m being personally affected by this awesomeness” note:

The “I’m seeing a new kind of presentation and I like it” note:

And, you know, whatever else comes to mind.

Sharing Links Related to the Sessions You’re Hearing

This topic bleeds into the one above and below it, but it’s important enough that it deserves it’s own heading. I love when I realize that I can help people get a deeper understanding of a topic by doing a quick Google search and sharing the link in real time. And I love it when people do it during my own presentations, similarly enriching what I’m up to:

There are all kinds of other opportunities for real-time sharing of stuff. During a session on job-searching, I knew some people would want to read a post on the job market I had written, so I tweeted about it:

Whatever comes to mind: share it!

Alerting People to Accessibility-Related Resources

For accessibility purposes, it seems kind and ethical to provide a transcript for the hearing impaired–plus, it gives others the chance to catch what you said later on, meditate on it, and perhaps strike up a conversation (or a citation!) later on. But people might not know you went to the trouble to provide one unless they came to the session–or if you tweet about it.

Asking for Advice

As a table co-leader at the Graduate Research Network (where I met some new ODU friends!) I knew there was some degree of expectation that I, um, know things. But I don’t know all the things. So I asked for help. And people on Twitter want to answer you.

Being Fun and Clever and Real (Because You’re Fun and Clever and Real Already, But Not Everyone Knows That Yet)

Because it’s fun. And being fun is how you make friends. And, if I can add a cynical/practical angle: making friends at conferences is how you collaborate on future publications and make professional connections. You know that, though.

Following Up

When you go home, you’ll feel sad. But Twitter helps. You can continuing patting each other on the back, sharing resources, thanking each other, and being a genuinely good and nice person. Because you are. Right?

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Computers and Writing 2013: Communities

Conference wrap-up posts are getting harder for me to write. I open my notes in Evernote, I open the Twitter feed in Tweetdeck, I open the conference website, and I sit there, looking for a theme, wondering what I’ll remember about this conference in five or fifteen years.

I think I’m going to follow the style of my presentation, then: bounce from here to there as memories come, expecting my audience to fill meaning into the gaps. Because, you know, that’s what audiences do anyway.

*

The week before the conference, a few of participated in an “online conference,” a series of daily discussions on the conference site and Twitter about the issue of the day.

Wednesday, May 29’s topic was “Collaboration/Community/Pedagogy,” hosted by the inestimable Shelley Rodrigo and Christie Daniels. At first, we seemed to be talking mostly about collaboration and pedagogy, so I asked,

This led to an interesting conversation with Shelley and Merideth Garcia, giving me a lot to think about for the rest of the week:

An image of a twitter conversation

Smart people, right?

So I entered the conference itself wondering what community was and what it wasn’t, and when I “felt” like I was in community and how that applied to my teaching and scholarship.

*

At dinner on Saturday night, Merideth and I talked about Star Trek films along with the other folks at our table. It didn’t take long to realize that we had a shared vocabulary, a sort of lingering underbelly of fannish community that we could rely on. It was nice.

*

One of my favorite sessions was E2, “Resonance, Refinements, and Rip-offs.” A strangely large auditorium held 40+ people (my random guess) to hear Mary Hocks and Jody Shipka talk about sound and memory and everything in between. (Bump Halbritter couldn’t be there, but it obviously would have been even two notches cooler with him around.)

Partly, it was a favorite because of the content and delivery: Mary’s work on “sonic literacy” is in perfect harmony with my own work, and Jody’s video on “stealing sounds” was beautiful and enigmatic in just the way I like conference presentations/performances to be.

But it was also a favorite when I looked around and saw the community of people who were there–all my favorite people, gathered to hear and discuss my favorite ideas, right there in that room, our bodies connected by the noises that erupted from our mouths and resonated into the cavernous space (swirling quickly and nearly silently through the cavity of the piano in the corner as if someone had tossed a bouncy ball into it).

I mean, we’re a community, and we’re more of a community all the time. It’s fluid, in that it doesn’t have clear edges, and you can get in or out whenever you want. But we people who like sound and genre-bending presentations–we can look around and smile sly smiles, knowing that we fit together.

*

At Karaoke on Friday night, the group coalesced the most, I think, when Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” came on. The strobe lights flashed, and I was suddenly in the community of my middle school dance, letting my 13-year-old awkwardness drift away as I head-banged and jumped around with the music, and I was also there at the Wild Things bar with my Computers and Writing community.

Jason Palmeri put it best:

*

The following things happened in C8, “Performing Rhetoric: Embodying Rhetoric Through Screens and Space”:

  • Emi Bunner showed me that sound can sometimes look like this:
A photo from Emi's presentation, with a visualization of sound behind her

Sound is beautiful

  • Phil Sandick showed an evocative video of people practicing–of practicing practice, really.
  • Alex Funt showed an evocative video of images of teachers in movies.
  • Jason Loan sat behind a screen where we couldn’t see him, as we stared, spellbound, at a seizure-inducing repeating image that I swear changed or maybe I just imagined it. He kept repeating:

  • Oh, and I almost forgot, Dan Anderson also JUMPED ON A TABLE and RIPPED ALPHABETIC SCHOLARSHIP OFF OF A SCREEN and SANG “RISKY SCHOLAR” to the tune of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” and HIT ALL THE HIGH NOTES and was LOUD and it was AWESOME. You know, just your everyday happening. Right there at C&W. And we freaking loved it:

Apparently, you could even hear it in the other rooms, which makes me happy even though I know that sort of thing can feel like an infringement of community (even though sharing sounds is also a way to establish community, right?):

*

During that same session, a number of us got simultaneous spam on Twitter:

I’m not sure, but it was also around then that Quinn Warnick reported that our #cwcon hashtag was trending on Twitter, making me wonder if the trending and the spam were related, if the textual output of our community was so big that it was leaking into the outside world in a material way with such force that even the spammers couldn’t ignore us any more.

May we be so effectual in all our endeavors. Amen.

*

A photo of the outside of May's restaurant.

3 out of 4 of us got the crab cakes. We were glad we did.

Kevin Brooks offered to give me a ride from BWI to Frostburg, giving me a chance to get to know him and two other scholars at North Dakota State University better (Matt Warner and Jessica Jorgenson).

At Kevin’s suggestion, we stopped to eat in Frederick, MD, where we found a lovely hole in the wall called May’s.

The people eating there were obsessed with crab, sitting around tables together and cracking it open, making a general mess, and loving the community that the space brought them, that their shared love of messy crab brought them, that I bet even came in part from the material necessities of eating crab: the bibs and hammers and tongs, all somewhat sinister and dangerous and fun. (Maybe the bibs aren’t really “dangerous.” But you know what I mean.)

*

A different spin on community: I increasingly feel no guilt at choosing sessions that match my research and teaching interests over sessions where friends are presenting. I didn’t get to hear my good friend and collaborator from graduate school Quentin Vieregge because he was up against a panel on the rhetoric of sound, my main research area. I didn’t go hear my best conference buddy Jen Michaels because I’ve been wanting to learn more about accessibility issues and she was up against panel A9.

And yet, when the panel I presented in with Tekla Hawkins and Bill Wolff and Amanda Wall (On the Digital Rhetorics of Fans and Fan Communities) was about to begin, there at the very end of the day on Sunday, I was definitely feeling all glowy at seeing the faces of friends and admired scholars fill in the space. All my favorites, there in a room, one last time. We had a good crowd, and that changes things, right?

So community is built in spaces, both physical and digital. Except when it’s not.

*

On the first day of the conference, I rode the crazy one-person “mountain coaster” at the Wisp Resort, careening through raindrops that exploded against my glasses like bugs, or like sounds.

Each individual rides solo and is separated from the people ahead and behind by a good amount of space. That’s why, I suppose, I didn’t hear Jen yelling something at me, in the next car back, which she told me about afterward. It was probably something funny, but I missed it. I was alone, climbing the mountain, strapped into my odd little rail car. I was looking at the trees, the grass. Listening to the clanks of the coaster. It’s an inherently lonely experience, but in a good way.

But of course, it’s not a lonely experience. Upon disembarking, everyone standing in the wet line wanted to know how it was, what happened, how to speed up and slow down. We gathered together immediately, naturally.

So we gathered, making a circle of wet, smiling heads, anticipating the future and describing the past, nervously clutching our bags and smushing ourselves under too few umbrellas.

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Computers and Writing and Memory and Meaning

I’d like to write a post summarizing the Computers and Writing conference. But right now, I’d rather live in the world of memory than summary. I want to think through the threads of uncertainty, time, and music that the conference brought to mind, which are so wrapped up in my ideas about memory.

*

14th Street Bridge

Yoichi R. Okamoto, “THE TWO 14TH STREET BRIDGES, LOOKING NORTH FROM VIRGINIA TO THE DISTRICT”

I’m Washington, DC right now, even though I just left a conference in Raleigh and live in Orlando. Yesterday, a friend picked me up in Raleigh and I drove her to DC, where she’s moving.

Both of us used to live in DC, and it’s our favorite city. As the sun set, we crossed the 14th Street bridge and gawked and gaped and said things like, “Hello, crazy drivers zooming around me! Hello tourists with fanny packs! Hello unnecessary circle of flags around the Washington Monument!”

Now, I’m in the old terminal at Reagan National Airport, waiting to fly home. I’ve lived in this space before. I remember reading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce sitting in the same collection of seats, even though that was six years ago.

I’ve only been in this city for seventeen hours, yet there is a pit of sadness in my belly over leaving.

*

For my musical presentation at the conference, I played a video with my voice talking over some images (and occasional black screens), while I played records live as a musical accompaniment. My motif was the musical prank, the moment where an audience’s expectation for how music will sound is thwarted, complicating the idea that we identify with music and make meaning from it based on how our expectations are met or not met.

To mess around with expectations in the audience, I changed the speed of the records, played them backwards, and played them along with video footage that they were never meant to accompany.

But my expectations weren’t met, either. A piece of fuzz in my needle kept the records from sounding the way I expected. The weight balance of the needle arm was probably misbalanced, leading to more skips than I expected. My arm was shaking more than I expected, so I missed a couple of precise arm placements thad had worked fine when practicing at home.

And just as when an audience is surprised, and thus is led to make meaning from the surprising sounds, I was surprised by what sounded, and I made my own meanings as well.

*

I asked my friend to drive me by my old neighborhood in Washington, DC, the Columbia Heights / Petworth area. Even when I left five years ago I knew the area was gentrifying, that the pedestrians were getting whiter and the stores were getting sleeker, bigger, more national.

But I didn’t expect the difference in the feel of a space that is surrounded by new, tall condos instead of three-story townhouses. What used to be on that corner, I kept asking myself, where that tall, metal building is now? I’ve walked by that spot hundreds of times–how could I have forgotten?

*

Anne Wysocki gave a keynote address introducing her long-term project on the rhetorical canon of memory. She’s designing a beautiful interactive web space that allows users to simulate a walk through the different ways people have engaged with memory over the last 2,500 years. It was lovely and important enough that I thought, I want to be involved in this project. I want to engage with memories from now on. I don’t want to forget.

David Burrows, Time and the Warm Body

David Burrows, Time and the Warm Body

Much of Wysocki’s talk reminded me of a book by musicologist David Burrows called Time and the Warm Body. (At rhetoric/composition conferences of late, I find myself mentioning Burrows once a day, and twice on days I present.) I tweeted the book title to Wysocki as she spoke, just in case she hadn’t come across it. It’s Burrows’s consideration first of how our bodies experience time and the “now,” an experience of time that he situates as the epistemological nature of how we experience music, given our nature as embodied, time-based creatures. Language draws our minds to other spaces and other times, but music draws us to the now.

Wysocki tweeted back, later, an earnestly cheerful reply that she didn’t know the book and was excited to look it up. It made me feel good, and it made me think about all the books the people in the room had read individually and all the books we had read collectively, as a massive library of memory that could never be perfectly tapped.

*

Drinking with Trauman the next day, he mentioned that I have an earnestness about me.

On the drive to DC, I told my friend that I always think of my wife as the earnest one, but that I liked the idea being earnest myself, too.

I want to be earnest. I want to construct things, and engage with memories through my earnestness.

*

At one point during the conference, I jokingly tweeted that the theme of Computers and Writing 2014 should be The Goonies.

Scott Reed rewteeted it with an earnest “THIS –>” preeding my tweet.

I could look up these tweets to make sure I’m quoting them correctly, relying on the exactness of a computer’s memory. But my memory is just fine, in this case, even if it’s not always accurate.

*

I remember where I was when I read another David Burrows book, Sound, Speech, and Music: the waiting room of the Tire Kingdom near my house in Orlando. The coffee was bad, and the 24-hour news network on the loud TV was worse.

I don’t remember what my car was in for that day. But I remember being surprised by Burrows’s prose, his theories of music and speech that included lines about psuedopods of meaning reaching between humans engaging and identifying with each other. And in my surprise, I found meaning. And in my meaning, I created memory.

*

DC's Union Station

Gryffindor, “Main hall of Union Station in Washington D.C.”

Before taking the Metro to the airport this morning, I met an old DC friend in Union Station. At first, I felt turned around: there is construction that blocked off the path I expected to take inside the building. And maybe it shouldn’t matter, but a net a few feet above my head blocked bits of my sight as I glanced up at the pounds and pounds of air between me and the distant windows near the ceiling. Even though I wasn’t walking vertically, the net made me feel even more disoriented.

But the Corner Bakery was still there, and so was the bookstore (though it’s a Barnes and Noble now), and so was the line of people outside waiting for taxis, and so was the neverending construction outside the station.

I’m not sure how I felt so comforted and discomforted at the same time, helped along by the con/destruction around me, and my confirmed and demolished memories.

*

Jody Shipka presented on the process of archiving and remediating found texts as a way to remember and honor the people who created them. She has amassed an astounding collection of old photos, home movies, and slides from various yard sales and such.

The clips she showed were comforting and discomforting, constructing and destructing (as some of the film she showed literally burned to pieces just after she digitized it). I tried to tweet during the talk but eventually had to stop, pulled to the now that Shipka drew to my attention with a beauty I didn’t expect. It was one of those wonderful presentations with ultra-small audiences that makes me feel I witnessed something rare.

During the question and answer period, we talked about what it means when bodies encounter retro, analog media. Keith Dorwick (whose presentation just before Shipka’s was also evocative and tremendous) said, “And I hope Kyle doesn’t mind my saying this, but it was a powerful moment during the question and answer of his presentation when he told us that his hand was shaking while he cued the records. There’s an inevitable indeterminacy that comes from the interaction between any physical media and a human body.”

I responded that there was something lovely and important–and indeed, unexpected–in the physicality of the analog, the touch of a record.

I also said, “Yesterday, I apologized to a friend about how many pops and crackles there were in the records, but so many people have told me how much they loved hearing those pops.”

Shipka replied earnestly. “Why did you apologize?”

I thought for a moment, said, “I think it’s because of this: I love vinyl, but I know there are people who love vinyl with a seriousness that I don’t have. They know how to wash it, and they have all the right brushes, and they hold it right, and all that. For me, it’s a much simpler preoccupation. Like, I like to buy ninety-nine cents records from the thrift store, to listen to them, not to preserve them or be an audiophile or something. I love them, but as an enthusiast, not a collector.”

Dorwick said, “There are people who say that listening to CDs is too sterile an environment. There are people who say that when you listen to a recording that is too perfect, you’re not hearing it right. We need the pops and crackle to hear it as a lived experience, as something that’s really there.”

*

The quotations above aren’t exact. I remembered them that way.

*

While waiting in the airport terminal a few minutes ago, a demolition project began outside. I watched out the window as a small, golf-cart-ish thing rammed into the concrete exterior wall of the terminal and shook with anger as it (I assume?) drilled cracks into the area marked for destruction. It looked like a small animal who was positive that it could knock over a skyscraper, if only it rammed and shook it hard enough.

But the quality of the sound had none of the cute, unassuming nature of the vehicle’s appearance. It was like a giant with metal teeth was chewing concrete for breakfast, like a jackhammer underground was coming at a square of sidewalk from below and I happened to be standing on it, like a memory being forcibly removed from my head instead of being allowed to fade into smells and images and sounds in the gentle way they’re supposed to go.

I moved to the other side of the circular terminal, but even there, it seemed just as loud. I couldn’t escape from it, regardless of how hard I tried, unless I wanted to leave security and come back in later. I looked up at the circular, 60s-ish ceiling of the old terminal and tried to focus on what I was seeing instead of what I was hearing.

*

David Burrows, in Sound, Space, and Music, writes, “Noise is a concept rooted in the domain of sound rather than sight, because the promiscuity with which sound addresses itself to appropriate and inappropriate receptors alike means that we must so often hear things we do not want to hear, whereas we can look the other way, or close our eyes, when we see something unpleasant or superfluous. Our auditory defenselessness casts us often in the role of victim, our privacy invaded by someone else’s stereo or car horn” (24-25).

*

I’m on the plane now, finishing this post in the loud, fuel-tinged air of the next-to-last seat in the cabin, so unlike the space in Union Station I wandered through so recently.

I’m hoping for a good glimpse of the National Mall as I leave, even as I know I can hardly bear it. It’s that pain you get when you have braces and you bite down on your aching teeth, and it’s good and hard at the same time.

Leaving the conference was cleaner, if more awkward. There were so many people I wanted to properly say goodbye to, who have begun to matter to both my professional and personal lives. But instead, I waved at the people I saw, hugged a couple, and slipped out the back door of the Syme Hall basement.

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IP Stories at CCCC

This is an exciting CCCC for me: I have a solid presentation planned with solid colleagues in a solid slot (B, at 12:15 on Thursday), and I’m more excited about this year’s Intellectual Property Caucus than ever.

Here’s why: Elizabeth Woodworth and I are co-leading a table at the IP Caucus on teaching with IP. But we were worried that we might come up with all these great ideas and then not put them into practice when we return home. So we decided to focus our energies on one pedagogical approach: storytelling.

And even better: you can share too. (“Me?!” Yes, you. Teacher, student, passerby, whatever.)

Can I just have the short version? I’m busy.

  1. Share your story of learning or teaching IP.
  2. Use the DALN to record and archive your story so others can read/hear/see it.
  3. Keep an eye on #ipstory for updates and links.
  4. Spread the word at your sessions–even if you only briefly draw attention to the #ipstory hashtag.

What form will these stories take?

We’re encouraging people to share their stories with the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives, a stellar repository of stories about people’s experiences developing various literacies (including, we believe, IP literacies). We like the DALN because it already has the mechanisms in place to make adding metadata a snap and to allow story-tellers to choose how their stories may be used in the future. The stories can be composed of text, audio, or (our favorite) video.

Best of all, submitting to the DALN is easy either from home or by dropping by their booth outside of Exhibit Hall 1 in America’s Convention Center at C’s.

What kinds of stories do you want?

Surprise us! But in general, we expect two basic directions: 1) narratives about learning IP issues–perhaps stories of being accused of plagiarism or copyright violation, of boldly exercising fair use rights, or of suspecting that your own intellectual property had been wrongly used–and 2) narratives about teaching these issues to students, including informal explanations of pedagogies.

Here’s a perfect example that’s already available in the DALN (though it wasn’t recorded as part of this #ipstory initiative): http://daln.osu.edu/handle/2374.DALN/1279 The composer of the narrative tells a story about being accused of plagiarism in the 4th grade and how it affected her. It’s shortinformal, and memorable.

You can also check out IP Stories from Kyle and Elizabeth below or through other sites (Kyle’s at YouTube or DALN and Elizabeth’s at Vimeo or DALN).

How will people access all this stuff?

Throughout the C’s, we’ll be tweeting updates on the project with the hashtag #ipstory. That’s where we’ll add links to any IP stories that we’ve found, and that’s where we’ll add a link to an open Google Doc that will host the pedagogical suggestions on how to use these stories in composition classes. (We’ll post a link to the Doc to #ipstory when it’s ready, and certainly before the conference proper begins on Thursday morning.)

Exciting stuff, eh? I think so.

UPDATE
Please post suggestions on how to teach with IP Stories at this Google Doc. Thanks!

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