Posts filed under: academia

(This is a riff off of Kathleen’s post on seriality and may make more sense if you read that first.)

One of the years that I was in graduate school, the Computers and Writing conference was held in Hawaii, a fact that drove me bananas. Bad enough that it happened every year at the end of the fiscal year (guaranteeing the absence of travel funding), and bad enough that I could barely afford any conferences, but to hold it in a place that was extra expensive to get to? So, one evening, I went on this prodigious rant in front of a couple of friends, enumerating all of these points and more–apparently, at some point I convinced myself that I’d made two points and needed to gear up for a third. I said, “And C…Hawaii?!?!” (imagine this in my best whatever voice) whereupon we all collapsed in laughter. After that point, regardless of how many items were on the list, “C. Hawaii?!?!” became our way of poking holes in each others’ will-to-rant. (It works best, I find, if I number my points, and then break out the C.) And I still think about it from time to time, if I get particularly wound up about something, and need a way to defuse. So clearly, it’s a charter member of my Inside Joke Hall of Fame.

Inside jokes are interesting to me, in that we talk about them primarily as a strategy for patrolling the boundaries of a given social …

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Gah. I’m taking a break from putting the (semi) final touches on my contribution to the updated edition of A Guide to Composition Pedagogies. My chapter is about “New Media Pedagogy,” and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve had to write in recent memory. I’m really hoping that it doesn’t turn out to be one of the worst things I’ve had to write in recent memory. So, fingers crossed.

One of the things that they don’t tell you as a graduate student is that there’s a special genre of writing that you get to do later on where failure is all but guaranteed. You get a little taste of it during the job search, I think, but because you’re competing against other candidates who are all faced with the same impossible task, there’s something mildly comforting about that. The best example of this is probably the teaching philosophy statement (the acronym for which should sound familiar). That statement needs to be general enough to fit into a couple of pages, and yet, the values/perspectives that operate at that level of generality are largely shared in a given community. If you asked most people in a given discipline to list 5 terms/phrases characteristic of their approach to teaching, my guess is that the overlap would run in the neighborhood of about 95%, and much of the underlap would have to do with only a few factors (early v late tech adoption, e.g.). There are strategies that we …

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I’ll begin by thanking Kathleen, Avi, and the rest of the Mellonaires for posting Open Review, and providing a nice hub for this conversation. Honestly, I have other things I should be doing, but upon reading Alex’s thoughts on the matter, and waiting for the aftermath of today’s root canal to come and go, I hunkered down and did a little reading. Now that I have enough focus to write, my thought is that if I don’t post something now about it, I probably won’t ever. So…open peer review.

I’m not opposed to it in any way, so like Alex, I may not quite be the audience for the piece. That being said, my own rhetorical disconnect differs a bit from his. Alex asks, “What is the problem with existing scholarly review procedures that the open review process seeks to solve?” and his answer is that “The humanities publish work of little interest.” There’s a lot more to his comments, so they’re worth reading in their entirety, but I want to pull out one thread and take it in a different direction. Among other things he notes:

For most humanities scholars (and when I say most, I mean 99%+), review feedback is the most substantive (and often only) conversation they encounter regarding their work. We know something like 95% of humanities articles go uncited. Even when an article is cited, there’s no assurance that the citation represents a substantive engagement with one’s text. So there is rarely much

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Like many, I was surprised and a little pleased to hear about the announcement from MLA that they’ll be updating the author agreements for their publications, allowing copies of articles to be placed in personal and institutional repositories. It’s a nice first step, albeit one that won’t have a huge effect on my own field (very little space is devoted to writing studies in MLA publications). As a symbolic gesture, however, it may prove to ripple throughout related journals and organizations over the next year or two, and it could have very positive implications. We’ll see. I think it will depend a lot on the financial models of those journals. I don’t think the repository step is one that will trouble too many, but whether it’s a “first step” or a stopgap will depend on a lot of factors.

Anyhow, I was interested to read some of the context provided by Inside Higher Ed’s account of the announcement. Therein, Rosemary Feal comments on the move:

“We believe the value of PMLA is not just the individual article, but the curation of the issue,” she said. PMLA regularly includes thematic issues or issues where articles relate to one another. While there will be value in reading individual articles, she said, that does not replace the journal. Further, she said, the individual articles posted elsewhere could attract interest to the journal.

For me, Feal’s comments should have more far-reaching consequences than the actual policy change. Two of those comments struck me as …

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There’s been some buzz on Twitter today, coming out of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), about the increasing centrality of the digital humanities. William Pannapacker, who blogs for the Chronicle, notes:

This is a development guaranteed to scare the bejeezus out of any number of job applicants, I would suspect, not just those who self-identify with English. Like a lot of technology-oriented discussions, though, what will undoubtedly happen is that differences among fields will be elided, panic will ensue, and the fear generated will far outweigh any sort of perspective. A few thoughts:

I honestly believe that changing your department through the hiring process is a horrible strategy, with two exceptions. I have been in a department where there were a huge number of hires over the course of about 2 years, because of an early retirement outlay on the part of the school. Faced with turning over a significant portion of the department, departmental hiring priorities could actually be a good strategy. The only other exception I can imagine is if you’re looking to change what the department will look like 10 or 15 years down the road. But expecting a new hire to perform like a magic wand–ding! our department is now digital!–is a little insane.

A “no DH, no interview” kind of strategy places the burden for departmental change on those people least able to negotiate (much less question or resist) it, the as-of-yet-unhired colleagues. I don’t doubt that there are folks out there who would …

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It occurs to me that another nice feature of mecology is that it lends itself to pluralization as wecology, and that actually, my discussion of Twitter earlier this week is a perfect example of what I mean by that particular neologism. Whether or not a body chooses to adopt or engage Twitter doesn’t mean that they have the option of abstaining without effect. Along similar lines, it’s why I always request presentation technologies at conferences whether or not I plan to use them–the more people who file such requests, the more likely it is that everyone will have access to them. The intensity of the conference setting (and I’d include the couple of weeks leading in and following it) is a nice place to observe and consider how an organization and/or community trace out their interactions with various media.

I was thinking of this in particular today as I finally caught up to @bmcnely’s RSA talk: Graduate Assistant Professionalization: Reframing Identifications via Networked Writing Practices ( Although he describes this as a genre ecology, the following slide is a nice example of what I think of when I muse on wecologies:

Brian McNely, genre ecologies

The one thing that a Venn diagram doesn’t necessarily communicate is how a change in one place ripples off to affect other components (to be fair to Brian, he talks about this too, so I’m not critiquing here). To borrow my example from earlier, investing energy in a peer-reiewed conference proceedings has an effect on the modalities …

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wherein I consider the hows, whats, whys of Twitter at academic conferences

I am decidedly pro-Twitter, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time apologizing for it or even necessarily advocating for its use. Though if you push me, I will. I think that Twitter in particular (and FB to a lesser extent) provides an extra social layer of activity for conference goers, much better access for folks who aren’t there, and a crowdsourced guide to the area (making the academic conf less of a non-place a la Augé). And honestly, for those who aren’t interested in using it, there’s no real loss in either direction. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it doesn’t need to be.

RSA is kind of an odd bird in our field, conference-wise, which is part of what’s got me thinking about this:


RSA, for those of us on the comp side of things, is the one conference that steadily and selectively publishes conference proceedings. As a result, I think that many people write the “publishable” version of their talks (and subsequently read them aloud), rather than versioning them out. I have to admit, the last thing I have time to do when I’m prepping for a conference is to write a whole separate version. I’m at a place where I simply do the presentation version, without worrying about the published volume. I still have my slides from 2010, for example.

All of this is by way of explaining why I …

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So, the past 3 days were my trip down to Philadelphia to drop in on the biennial Rhetoric Society of America conference. I hadn’t really realized that this was my first conference since the last time I was at RSA (2 yrs ago in Minneapolis), but there you go. I’d really been keeping my health issues a secret for the most part, and there were lots of people at RSA this go-round who hadn’t heard about my surgery last summer. I got my fair share of “you look great!” comments, to which I replied, mostly, “Thanks, but I wouldn’t recommend my weight loss plan.” For those of you who might not have heard (I haven’t been especially public about this), I had my gall bladder removed last August, followed by several procedures to remove some rogue gallstones that were taking up residence in the nooks and crannies of my digestive system. Besides a generally healthier lifestyle, one side effect was that I lost close to 60 pounds, a bit of which has filled back in, but most of which is gone now. Honestly, this is the probably the first conference I’ve felt like I could handle physically, and I only really committed to 1.5 days of it. So far, so good. June will mark another test of my energy levels (along with the added stress of presentation).

So there was all that. I have to be pretty vigilant about my intake, and so I really didn’t avail myself of meal …

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