Posts filed under: writing

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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I’ve been sorting back through some of my old posts at cgbvb, and thinking about whether or not I’m going to port some of the oldies here to this site. I’m not decided one way or the other just yet. I will say that, given the time I spent on job market advice and scholarly communication, among other topics, it does seem a shame to let those posts languish. The prospect of sorting through 1000-odd posts to pull them out, however, suggests to me that it’s a project for another time.

One of the things that I didn’t talk about when I stopped blogging is the fact that really, I only added about 40 or so entries after my father passed away in the fall of 2007, over the course of about 3 months. That sounds like a lot of posts to me now, but most of them are short. Maybe I’m projecting, but as I read back through some of them, I can feel myself just trying to hold on to the habit despite a deep affective resistance to doing so. What I’m circling around to here is that it is indeed no mere coincidence that my dad’s passing matches up so well with my old blog’s demise.

I don’t think about it nearly as much, but I still feel that grief and pain, and given that Father’s Day is tomorrow, those feelings have surfaced. What hasn’t surfaced this year is the strong association I carried with me between …

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This summer, for what seems like the umpteenth time, I’ve been working with our veteran graduate students in our Summer Job Group. We meet every couple of weeks, peer review cover letters, dossier materials, etc. I’ve backed away from the group a bit in years past for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I think it’s important to have multiple voices guiding the process. It’s a bit like teaching the same course several times in a row–it gets increasingly difficult to remember who knows what, which stories you’ve told and which you haven’t, etc. It can be difficult to hold your own thinking about the process at the same place year after year, even though for each group of students, the advice and anecdotes are new. And in the past few years, there have been some major changes (Interfolio, Skype interviews, et al.) that can have a ripple effect on even some of the tried-and-true pearls of wisdom that I once held dear.

As is often the case, this kind of work makes me all the more conscious of my own verbal tics and habits, and this year, I found one that I emphasized quite a bit to the group, particularly in the context of cover letters. I don’t know that I’d elevate it to the level of fallacy or anything, but my name for it makes it sound like one: I call it “argument by adjective” (AA).

There is a lot of ground to …

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I’ve spent the better part of today scribbling in a notebook and mapping out possibilities for the talk that I’ll be giving at the end of the month. The struggle I sometimes run into is that I tend to start in the middle, with a handful of viable theses, which I then proceed to connect up. Then I’ll trace each of them outwards to possible sources, associations, and examples until I have a huge tangled mess of stuff.

Actually, that’s not the struggle. I’ve (always) got plenty of material. The trick is smoothing it out and paring it down until I have something that will legitimately fit into the 15 minutes or so I have. And then adding in more citations and connective tissue and paring it down again. Like everyone else, I’d imagine, I have to find the balance between having enough context and making a point clearly. Pull one string out, and I might make what’s left that much more manageable. I might also cause the whole thing to unravel.

Generally speaking, I work backwards from the first major point that I want to make for my introduction. Almost everything I write tends to work that way–to make point C, first I have to provide context A and transition B. And then I have to provide context Y and transition Z to get to A. And so on. I almost always cut the first 5-6 pages of writing to get myself to a viable first draft for …

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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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It occurs to me that, if I start trying to toss out manifestos on a daily basis, I’m going to burn myself out pretty quickly. So I thought I’d reflect today on some of the changes brewing that led me to resuscitate my weblog.

I really have no idea if the term is mine, but a long while back, I started using the word “mecology” for a couple of different purposes. It crams together the phrase “media ecology,” but also “me” and “ecology,” which put me in the mind of Ulmer’s mystory (among other puns). I’ll have you know that mycology is taken–insert “fun guy” pun here. 🙂

Anyhow, for about 7 or 8 years, I’ve been occasionally asking students in my (technology-oriented) courses to do what I call either mecology or T+1 assignments. I ask them to take stock of the various platforms, media, tools, software, et al., that they use to process information. It’s something like a literacy autobiography, I suppose, but one that is more focused on their present-day habits and usually their engagement with contemporary ICTs. It’s a nice opening assignment, one that gets them thinking about how they structure their activity, and it’s a great way for me to get a sense of what they’re ready to do in my courses and where we might focus our attention. The T+1 assignment (where T is their current distribution/structure of activities) asks them to choose one application, add it to their mecology for the semester, make …

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After attending my final panel at RSA, I had the chance to catch up for a bit with @caseyboyle. At one point, he asked me if I liked writing, a question that prompted an answer that was a little more personal than he might have expected, at least three separate instances of esprit de l’escalier on my part on the drive home, and a blog post that you’re reading now. It’s a funny question, but one I’m glad he asked, because my answer to it changes on a regular basis, but rarely moreso than it has in the past couple of weeks.

My best answer, I think, is that for the past few years, I’ve loved writing, but not been in love with writing.

Thing is, I love being in love with writing. That’s where I get things done. So it’s not to say that I haven’t written for three years. From comments on drafts to syllabi to memos to emails to the occasional chapter for an edited collection, I’ve been writing plenty. And yet I haven’t.

One of my favorite books is Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo, for the sheer pleasure I get from the chapter titles. Heck, it’s probably been close on to twenty years since I’ve read the whole book, but if I were creating a wall-sized, heart-shaped corkboard collage to writing, there’d be a space reserved for a pdf of that table of contents: “Why I am so clever,” “Why I write such good books,” “Why I …

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I’ve already posted this to Facebook, so no x-post, but I thought I would store this here as well. Here’s a wordle of my first book:

a wordle of Lingua Fracta

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