Over the course of the next few months the CRDM blog will periodically feature a Q + A with one of our outstanding faculty members. We take classes with them and work with them on scholarly projects, but now we’d like to learn more about what else they’re doing. We’ve talked with David Rieder, Jessica Jameson, Chris Anson, Matt May, David Berube, Susan Katz, Maria Pramaggiore, Susan Miller-Cochran, Robert Schrag, Carolyn R. Miller, Brad Mehlenbacher, R. Michael Young, Adriana de Souza e Silva, Elizabeth Craig, Andrew Binder, and Victoria Gallagher, and we recently caught up with Dr. Jason Swarts, Associate Professor of English and Director of CRDM:
What are you reading?
The responsible answer is that most of my reading is work related, meaning that when I am not reading for class, I am trying to keep up with publications in my field. This means I’m looking at content published in Technical Communication Quarterly, Technical Communication, and the Journal of Business and Technical Communication (among others). But I also need to unwind with lighter reading and I usually keep a couple of books going. Right now, I’m reading Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I recently finished Mishka Shubaly’s The Long Run and Rudy Rucker’s Software. I also read a lot of food blogs, mostly because I like looking at pictures of food and because I enjoy cooking. A couple of my favorites are: (never home)maker and Iowa Girl Eats.
What classes are you teaching?
I am currently teaching CRD 703, Communication in Networked Society, and having a terrific time with it. The readings are good and the discussion is always lively and engaging. The class that I am most looking forward to teaching is ENG 515, Rhetoric of Science and Technology, which I will be offering in Fall 2012. In that course, I aim to indulge my interest in the philosophy of technology. I also regularly offer ENG 519, Online Information Design and Evaluation (a course in information architecture), and ENG 506, Analysis of Verbal Data.
What are you writing about?
I have a couple of ongoing research projects, but the two that I am most engaged with at the moment are a study of online help forums and a study of the mobile mediation of information across a variety of professional settings. In the help forum study, I am trying to understand why people go to these sites for assistance and (willfully) overlook printed documentation that might be available. What I’m arguing is that our concept of “help” is changing. It is moving away from static representations of “tasks” (which assume that user problems derive from what is unknown but knowable) toward dynamic performances (which assume that user problems derive from what is uncertain and unknowable). Help forums are places where people enact help rather than simply receive it. The study of mobile mediation is just getting underway, but I am looking at how professionals in a variety of fields utilize mobile devices to capture, reconfigure, and share information across networks to facilitate distributed and federated work practices.
What are you listening to?
I love music and often have some playing when I’m not trying to concentrate on work. My interests vary but the genres that I find myself coming back to, again and again, are punk from the 70’s and 80’s (think: Iggy and the Stooges, Stiff Little Fingers, Nomeansno, The Misfits, and other bands with names too offensive to list here), noise rock, trip hop, and electronica. Lately, I have been listening to LCD Soundsystem (especially Sound of Silver and This is Happening), Gauntlet Hair (Gauntlet Hair), Vivian Girls (Vivian Girls), and Dead Weather (Sea of Cowards). When the mood strikes me, I secretly enjoy listening to The Dead Milkmen, King Missile, and Tom Lehrer.
What are you watching?
I don’t always have a lot of time left over in the day for watching television. But if I were to tell you what I watch the most of, in terms of actual minutes in front of the television, the answer would probably be The Backyardigans, Fresh Beat Band, and Dora the Explorer. I’m not indulging some weird interests … it’s just that having a 5 year-old and a 2 year-old daughter will do that to your television habits. When I watch television for myself, it’s usually things like Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Psych, and the NBA (Go Bulls!).