Monthly Archives: March 2010

CCCC 2010

Vibrant. Aesthetically Pleasing. Equine Approved.

As a first-timer at The Conference on College Composition and Communication (Cs for short), I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people wearing thick, black glasses? Monkeys? What I got was a plethora of free food, plenty of free drinks, and a banquet of delectable conference presentations, including one with a monkey! More on that later.


About the presentations: For me, when attending any conference, I am always afraid of getting stuck in that one presentation with the sad, rambling instructor. And prior to attending Cs, I was warned about the infamous “teacher lore” sessions, where someone says: “Look what I did in my classroom; those kids loved it!” However, I am happy to report that there were very few boring or lore-ish presentations at Cs! In fact, I saw many awesome presentations discussing important questions in rhetoric and composition: Should “composition” be reconfigured more generally as “writing studies?” How can we re-think the physical space of the composition classroom? Should (and how can) social media platforms be used in the classroom? How might attention to different lived experiences of time help us re-think rhetorical criticism? What role does visual rhetoric play in the writing classroom? Fascinating conversations. Good discussions.

Of course, this excellent range of conference presentations was likely a product of the wealth of presentations available. There were, no kidding, 30-40 concurrent sessions every hour or two. The choices were endless! And it is important to note that there were many, many excellent NC State presentations! As a group, the CRDM program certainly made a good impression. What I noticed was how our presentations really tried to bring together writing-as-composing, rhetoric, and new media. I was very proud to be a part of such an awesome group!

But outside of NC State, here’s a list of some of the more memorable presentations that I saw:

Pierre Cyr, Oklahoma City University, OK, “How to Remake the Composition Classroom into a Greek Symposium—And Why You Would Want To”

Megan Trexler, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, “Rhetorical Reflection: Reconceptualizing Reflective Narratives through Sophistic Verbal Techne”

Suzanne Rumsey, Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, “The Rhetoric of Weight Loss and Food Porn: Conflicting Messages of Responsibility”

Joshua Prenosil, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, “An Actor-Network Theory of the Enthymeme”

Scott Campbell, University of Connecticut, West Hartford, “Writing Evidence: Quotation as Object”

Laurie Gries, Syracuse University, NY, “Resuscitating the Temporal in Rhetorical Theory and History: What’s Time Got to Do with It?”

Gage Scott, Florida State University, Tallahassee, “A Method of Non-Linear Dynamics: Tracking Discursive and Material Flows in Post-Katrina Baton Rouge”

Now about that monkey: So, I went to see Peter Elbow discussing “writing and intonation.” His idea was that speaking-out loud (or thinking about how the intonation of the voice can mark clausal segments) might lead students to write in a “natural” voice and then produce a “clear” writing. Some pedagogical problems, from my point of view, overshadowed the presentation; however, to be fair, his idea is still in its infancy, and I’m sure he’ll develop this work more fully over time. But amusingly, Elbow had William Greaves, a linguist working on ape-human discourse, open the show with a discussion of ape intonation as communication. Greaves showed a video of ape (Bonobo) vocalizations. I’m still not sure how the ape video applied to thinking about practices of writing. But you have to love ape videos! Hey, I was excited.

All in all, I learned that going to Cs is great way to be inspired, both as a teacher and a researcher. Even Elbow, in his desire to do something new and incorporate research from other fields, was an inspiration. Being back home now, I’m reviewing my notes. I’ve decided to apply at least one lesson from the conference. I don’t want this information/experience to go to waste.

P.S. The parties at Cs were good too! Here’s the breakdown: Pearson had the party with the best food, Bedford had the most impressive location (Churchill Downs!), and McGraw had the best dance party (although the DJ was questionable). Next year, I hope that Pearson’s party will incorporate live music, Bedford’s party will have better food, and McGraw’s party will not charge for drinks.

~David Gruber,  Class of 2008

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CRDM Students at CCCC

Twelve CRDM Students will be presenting their work at CCCC in Louisville this week. Thanks to Robin Oswald for aggregating this information!

PARTICIPANT

PRESENTATION/PANEL/WORKSHOP

Kevin Brock Facilitator, Is there space in this class? Designing effective and efficient learning environments with new technologies
Session Chair, Revisiting the First-Year Curriculum: Genres, Visuals, and Arguments
Lauren Clark Presenter, Virtual Embodiment and Construction of Identity in Online Social Networks
Kati Fargo Presenter, ‘I Hear Ya!’ Teaching Listening Practices and Auditory Rhetoric in a Musical Ethnography
Dana Gierdowski Works-in-Progress Presenter, Research Network Forum
David Gruber Presenter, Exploding the word: Using Data Visualizations and Etymology Databases to (Re)interrogate ‘the trace’ in the Composition Classroom
Wendi Jewell Roundtable Chair and Participant, Writing Lessons from Gamespace: Playing with Rhetoric and Rhetoricizing with Play
Jason Kalin Presenter, Synthesizing Experience: Public Memory and the Rhetorical Circulation of Digital Images
Karla Lyles Presenter with Susan Miller-Cochran, Supporting Best Practices in Online Writing Instruction: Results from the CCCC Committee’s National Survey
Matt Morain Presenter and Panel Chair, ‘Body Movin’: Kinesthetic Literacy and Student Bodies in Space as Information Architecture
Robin Oswald Works-in-Progress Presenter, Research Network Forum
Zach Rash Presenter, An Identity Emporium: Texts, Nostalgia, and Community at Trader Joe’s
Dawn Shepherd Facilitator, Is there a space in this class? Designing effective and efficient learning environments with new technologies
Presenter, Teaching Writing in Blended Learning/Space(s)”
Heidi von Ludewig Presenter, Wikis and Knowledge Formation in the Corporate Workplace

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Pair of Awards for a Pair of Second-Years

Two second-year CRDM students, David Gruber and Jason Kalin, won recognition at NC State’s university-wide Graduate Student Research Symposium on Friday, March 11th. David won first place in the Social Sciences and Management category and Jason won second place in the Humanities and Design category. Their titles and abstracts follow below. Congrats to the both of you for doing our program proud across multiple disciplinary categories!

David Gruber @ NCSU Graduate SymposiumDavid Gruber
Advisor: Dr. Jason Swarts
Title: Decoding the Language of Brain Decoding

Abstract: Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has enabled neuroscience researchers to visualize patterns in the brain that can help them predict, with surprising accuracy, what a person is thinking (Hansen, et al., 2006; Haynes, et al., 2007). This fMRI research, known popularly as “brain-prediction” or “mind-reading,” initiated a flurry of news articles between February of 2007 and March of 2008. Often embedded with pictures from the science fiction film “Minority Report” and framed by fear-laced titles such as “German Scientists Reading Minds Using Brain-Scan Machines” (Fox News, 2007), these news articles demonstrated that not all fMRI advancements would receive the same amount or the same type of coverage in the media. Thus, this project examines how brain-prediction, as a particularly controversial fMRI research agenda, has been presented to the general public. Using verbal data analysis in conjunction with a critical rhetorical analysis, this project locates recurring grammatical features from a collection of popular news articles and then explores the rhetorical implications of those features in this context. Ultimately, this project concludes that the articles under examination display a pattern of distancing researchers from the negative future implications of the research and, through an over-reliance on non-human actors, promote a narrative of technological determinism.

Jason KalinJason Kalin @ The Graduate Symposium
Advisor: Dr. Jason Swarts
Title: Genetic Information and the Constitution of Medical Subjects: Critical Junctures in Genome Sequencing

Abstract: Increasingly sophisticated and economically feasible genome sequencing will likely help usher in an era of personal genetic medicine. Stephanie S. Turner (2005) argues that certain discourses surrounding genetic medicine exemplify what she terms critical junctures, which are “technological and cultural shifts that transform the idea of information” (p. 332). Turner identifies two critical junctures in genetic medicine, wherein the individual medical subject is neglected in favor of genetic information. However, given the advancement of genome sequencing, this study argues for a third critical juncture, wherein medical subjects are being reconstituted through genetic information as embodiments of their genes, and more importantly, as potentially in control of their genes. What becomes important is what individuals can do with their own genetic information. This study analyzes how the third critical juncture is being communicated in popular news sources to better understand how genome sequencing may be received by the public. Using discourse analytic techniques and rhetorical analysis, this study explores the technological, medical, and social consequences of genome sequencing, including its potential to constitute medical subjects thereby changing what it means to have a healthy body and to lead a healthy life. Indeed, the discourse of the news articles suggests that genome sequencing can be deeply unsettling because genetic information seems out of the individual’s control—which contradicts the claims made by genome-sequencing companies. Consequently, genome sequencing, because its results are still inconclusive, should be approached cautiously.

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Putting the “Arduino” in “CRDM”

A number of students and several faculty in the CRDM program have formed a group, led by Dr. David Rieder, to learn about and experiment with the Arduino microprocessor board (http://www.arduino.cc). The goal is to explore what electrical and physical computing can offer to expand our understanding of the humanities through various projects undertaken by group members.

1st Year Seth Mulliken makes the pretty lights go on. Hooray physical computing!

While the concept of physical computing may seem daunting to many parties who may be interested but lack programming or electrical engineering expertise, the Arduino is extremely accessible for non-programmers and newcomers to computing, and the Processing language used by the Arduino is very easy to learn. No prior expertise is required to participate!

The group will be meeting in Tompkins 112 every other Saturday, with our next meeting on March 13. For more information, email David Rieder (david_rieder@ncsu.edu).

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Shayne Pepper, ABD

On Friday, March 5th, Shayne Pepper (2011) became the latest in a slew of 3rd year students to successfully pass the preliminary exams. From Dr. Jeremy Packer, Shayne’s chair and CRDM program director:

I want to extend a congratulatory note to everyone regarding Shayne’s successful completion of his comprehensive examination and defense of his dissertation proposal.  We held his oral examination last Friday and hopefully he had a successful weekend of celebration and recovery.  Shayne now begins in earnest the work of writing his dissertation which is tentatively titled “Negotiating Profit and Public Service: Post-Network Television, HBO, and the AIDS Epidemic.”

I also want to thank the rest of Shayne’s committee for all the work they have put into this process.  They are: Steve Wiley, Maria Pramaggiore, Sarah Sharma (at UNC), and James Hay (at the University of Illinois).

To Dr. Packer’s accolades we’d like to add our own and wish Shayne the best of luck as he turns the final corner toward becoming Dr. Pepper. Congrats, Shayne!

Check out Shayne’s online portfolio to see what else he’s been up to in his time here in the CRDM program.

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Social Media Roundtable

Each year, NC State’s Department of Communication organizes CommWeek, a five-day blitz of communication-related events, panels, discussions, and guest speakers. CRDM was asked to participate by hosting a roundtable discussion on social media, given our program’s focus and the interesting research that many of are engaged in in which many of us are engaged (sorry; as Winston Churchill more or less quipped, ending a sentence with a preposition is the sort of nonsense up with which I shall not put).

So, on the last Friday afternoon in February we gathered in the conference room in Caldwell M8 to discuss some of the key issues we’ve been seeing in our own usage and research in social media. Ten of us from the CRDM program came to participate, and we were joined by three M.A. Comm students as well. We also opened up the roundtable to interested faculty members, and I appreciate Drs. Steve Wiley, David Berube, Richard Waters and Ken Zagacki for coming to offer their two cents.

At the CRDM social media roundtable

CRDM PhD students, Communication MA students and faculty gather for the social media roundtable, held at a decidedly rectangular one.

We kicked things off with a video from CollegeHumor, “Twitter in Real Life.” I played this to get us talking about the content and quality of a lot of social media artifacts. I think we tend to get wrapped up in our obsession with the next shiny metal thing in social media–Foursquare, Buzz–and we forget that what we do and what we study is incomprehensible to large swaths of people, both on and offline.

From here we segued into how social media changes the relationship between individuals and corporate power. Dr. Waters, whose research focuses on strategic public relations and fundraising, brought up the recent snafu with director and writer Kevin Smith (of Silent Bob semi-fame) and Southwest Airlines. In brief, Smith was kicked off his flight after being told he was “too fat to fly.” He took to Twitter  to blast Southwest for its service to his more than 1.6 million followers and news of the event began appearing all around the web. Southwest immediately tried to put out the PR fire, and Dr. Waters used this as an example of how social media forces traditional PR communications to blur the line with customer service.

We agreed that social media services and platforms are empowering individuals in a more profound way than traditional methods of raising awareness typically could, like a letter to the editor or a write-your-congressman campaign. However, Dr. Berube pointed out that corporations are playing catch-up in the social media game to try and appear responsive and open to their customer experiences. This sparked an interesting conversation thread about the ways in which social media can actually serve to reinforce existing power structures. In short, the digital media provides a voice to the voiceless, but specific social networks can hit a critical cacophony  that drown out what made them unique in the first place.

Steve Wiley at the social media roundtable

Dr. Steve Wiley joined us to share his interests in social media and studies of space (the non-NASA kind).

More topics were covered in the space of an hour than I can do justice to here, but I found it refreshing to hear about a unique blend of research interests and issues within the context of face-to-face interaction. As social media researchers, our objects of focus necessitate that we be constantly tethered to screens, @-ing each other in truncated conversations. The roundtable gave us a chance to collectively mull over our work; issues like the surveillance implications of location-aware applications like Foursquare collided with the speculation that Facebook and Google seem to be emulating each other–Google added Buzz for status updates and social connections through GMaps, while Facebook moved into real-time search and targeted ads. (On this last point, I’m convinced that Facebook : Arthur Slugworth :: Google : Willy Wonka, but that’s another conversation entirely.) We didn’t come up with the solution to any issues of power, gender, or race within social media, and we didn’t find the magical solution for writing the next brilliant book. But that’s not the point, and maybe it shouldn’t be. Shayne made a quip during our conversation about social media’s limited ability to level out social inequalities that may seem to apply to our first roundtable:

It may be useless, but at least it’s a start.

I hope to see more of these informal discussions and roundtables like this. They offer a unique opportunity to get together with students from multiple cohorts, throw out a bunch of ideas and questions and see what comes out of it. Kind of like an Irish stew. Yup. CRDM roundtables are Irish stews. And they’re delicious.

~Matt Morain (@morainium)

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