Posts filed under: writing

Today marks the half-year anniversary of Rhetsy, and while half a year doesn’t sound like much to me as I write it out, it means that, for the past six months, I’ve been collecting links on a daily basis and synthesizing them weekly for general consumption. On the one hand, it’s not a lot of work, but on the other, when I multiply by six months the time I’ve spent on it, Rhetsy begins to occupy just a bit more of my scholarly identity. So congratulations to me, I guess.

The feedback I’ve received on Rhetsy has been universally positive, which makes sense, considering that a single (unsubscribable) email per week is a pretty small price to pay for its potential benefit. If there’s one question that people ask me about it, it’s about the process. When I was at the RSA Institute a few weeks ago, the question came up again in a couple of contexts, and so I thought I’d write a little bit about my process, and share it for this issue as a way of marking the milestone.

When I started up Rhetsy, I had in mind a handful of inspirational/aspirational newsletters (which I’ve written about before), and the name itself, which was a mashup of rhetoric and Etsy. With the decline in (my own) blogging, my feeling was that part of what I’d lost was the benefit of link blogs, trusted voices who would point my attention to interesting resources and essays. …

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It’s time for one of those posts where a few different ideas have coalesced into something for me. It’s been a while since I’ve written here–I’d originally intended to post an angry rejoinder to Steven Pinker’s infotisement in the Chronicle, but in the process of writing it, I managed to get him out of my system. There’s still some material there that I want to post, but it’s not what I’ve been thinking about lately.

The first thread I want to collect comes from several weeks back, an essay that I happened across, probably on Facebook. Dorothy Kim, over at Model View Culture, has a great piece about the ethics of social media research, particularly (but not exclusively) when it comes to questions of race. Kim draws provocative connections between recent research and “[t]he scientific and academic history of disregarding rights and ethics in relation to the bodies of minorities and especially women of color,” connections that cannot simply be waved away with recourse to the assumption that “Twitter is public.” I strongly recommend Kim’s essay–to be honest, I began reading it defensively, because as someone who doesn’t do a lot of qualitative or experimental research, my understanding of the public nature of Twitter was pretty uninformed. I’m not going to summarize her essay fully here, because I want to connect it to a couple of other things here, but Kim persuaded me to take another look at my assumptions.

Kim’s argument relies on what I still find …

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  • my new writing set-up

my new writing set-upI would describe myself as a deep writer, not in the sense that what I have to say is any more profound than anyone else’s thoughts, but in the “deep sleeper” sense. That is, when I write and it’s going well, I’m pretty able to shut the rest of the world out and focus on little else. For most of my life, this has included my body itself. I haven’t had to think about posture, arm angle, or things like that, unless they happen to impinge upon my ability to focus.

That changed with my back surgery last fall. I’ve discovered, to my dismay, that there are certain seats in my house that are worse for my back than others, and chief among the offenders is my desk chair, or maybe my desk more broadly, since I’ve tried multiple arrangements and chairs there. Among other things, I’ve learned that when I focus to write, I have the bad habit of wrapping my ankle around a table leg, or wedging my left arm a certain way, and when I do that for more than about 15 minutes, I pay the price in the form of hours, if not days, of subsequent pain. And woe betide me if I find myself in a position where I have no choice but to push through and do desk work despite that pain. I spent most of RSA using a cane to recover from the time I had to spend putting the online program together.…

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Last week, as part of their 10-year anniversary, Facebook released a tool that allows users to create (and later edit) movies based upon their FB usage. The “Look Back” videos offer “an experience that compiles your highlights since joining Facebook.” For a couple of days, my feed (and I suspect, most people’s) filled with “looks back” from a variety of friends, followed by the inevitable wave of parodies (Walter White, Darth Vader, et al.).

Like many of my friends, I went ahead and let FB sort through my photos and updates in an effort to set my “highlights” to music, but I didn’t end up sharing the results. This week in my DH course, we’re talking about archives, so I’ve been reading around somewhat alert to discussions of archiving, and I ended up thinking a bit about my “Look Back” and what it had to tell me about my relationship with FB as an archive of my life. I didn’t end up sharing my movie because I didn’t feel like it was particularly representative–while it did manage to hit on a couple of significant events (such as the fact that I bought a house), most of the updates and images included were pretty random. And so I’ve been thinking on why that was.

One obvious reason is that I don’t share as much of my life with FB as others do, and I say that without judgment. As FB itself notes, the content of the movie “depend[s] on how long …

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So I’ve been slowly reading S by Abrams and Dorst, and slowly expanding my Twitter horizons with respect to bots, and today, I came across a really interesting app/tool that crossed the streams, so to speak.

It’s called Telescopic Text. Not unlike Tapestry, it’s an application that lets you write and store texts. Those texts, though, are like that word game where you create a ladder of words by adding a letter at a time (a, an, pan, plan, plane, planet, etc.). You start with a tweet-length sentence, highlight particular words, which then “unfold” as they’re clicked on. It’s like drilling down into a text to find more and more details.

The TT site itself starts with an example:

The tools for building one, and saving it, are at:
(registering for an account is free, which you’ll need to do if you want to save your efforts)

I ended up finding the site from a link to Tully Hansen’s “Writing,” which is located here (you’ll need to scroll down):

It reminds me too of Jon Udell’s classic screencast about the WIkipedia entry for the heavy metal umlaut:

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll be using this, but it’s been a lot of fun to play with this afternoon…

(x-posted from Facebook)…

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So, Jim put out this call for advice this week:


It’s been a while since I last posted here, and Jim’s tweet got me to thinking, so I figured I might write a few thoughts down. They’re not necessarily complete, because I do think that discipline and venue matter quite a bit, as does the student’s progress, work habits, and readiness. While it might be nice if there were a simple 10-point listicle that provided us all we ever needed to know about publishing, the fact of the matter is that it’d be pretty horoscopic. I’m not sure my advice will be any better, but it’s generally worked for me.

There are a few essays that I hand out to graduate students on a semi-regular basis, pieces that I’ve found really useful to have and to revisit every so often for my own writing. In honor of the listicle, I present to you my Top 5 Must-Read Essays for the Aspiring Scholarly Writer:

* C. Wright Mills, “On Intellectual Craftsmanship” (PDF) — It’s dated, and it’s from the social sciences, but it’s worth every graduate student’s time to read and adapt Mills’ advice:

By keeping an adequate file and thus developing self-reflective habits, you learn how to keep your inner world awake. Whenever you feel strongly about events

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I want to wish everyone a happy Burkeday — Kenneth Burke was born on this day in 1897, making today as good a day as any to celebrate rhetoric.

KB is part of my origin story: When I returned to graduate school for my PhD, my first course wasn’t actually official. The summer before I started, I sat in on Victor Vitanza’s Kenneth Burke course. For me, it was like a homecoming, and only partly because I was glad to get back to academia. I was a fairly half-hearted rhetoric and composition person, having done a concentration in my MA program on the counsel of our graduate advisor. I’d originally gone to graduate school thinking to study Irish literature, and I was possessed of a fondness for critical theory. While I could see some connections with rhet/comp, they were weak ties at best, and it may not have been an accident that I ended up taking a couple of years after my first attempt.

Anyhow, reading Burke was a revelation for me. It wasn’t always easy reading, nor would I say that I agree with everything he wrote, but I’ve always felt a resonance with his work. I don’t doubt that it shows up in my own writing from time to time. But reading Burke was one of the things that made me feel (finally) like I’d made the right decisions to go back to graduate school and to stick with rhetoric and composition. One of Burke’s passages that …

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“[Rhetoric] seems to me then . . . to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery. . . . Well now, you have heard what I state rhetoric to be–the counterpart of cookery in the soul, acting here as that does on the body.”

Ahh, Plato, our old friend.

Yesterday was the first day of MOOCMOOC, a massive open online course devoted specifically to the topic of massive open online courses. Follow that link if you’d like to take a look–my understanding is that lurkers, observers, and hangers-on are welcome. Far as I can tell, there are a few hundred participants at the moment; other than posting an introduction and missing a Twitter social this evening, you won’t have missed much if you hop on in.

One of the values that I’ve already found is that the readings for each day provide so much more context for MOOCs than the infotisement columns that have been floating around lately, dutifully penned by those with a corporate stake in the success of a certain brand of MOOC. If you’re like me, you’ve gotten quickly tired of them. And by quickly, I mean that I now scroll to the bottom to check the identity of the author before I’ll even bother with paragraph 2. Anyhow. The readings for MOOCMOOC are refreshing in that …

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(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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