Reflections on Cs 2013

Post-Vegas, my brain is a little fuzzy.  I’m now 3 hours off, and I didn’t sleep much last night because I took the red eye into Detroit.  Before I am swallowed whole by the coming week, which will involve continuing to draft my dissertation, driving to campus for class, and showing around the new class of recruits, I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect over my favorite moments from this year’s Cs conference.

Awesome moment 1: making myself compose with objects in the half day workshop “Evocative Objects.”  We brought objects into the workshop, we traded with other participants, and we picked one object out of a bag.  Then we had an hour to “compose” with the objects in front of us.  I found myself sitting there with an organic paper stationary set, 2 notepads, chalk, and a cloth doll, rolling the paper and unrolling it, situating and re-situating the doll with the other objects before me.  I kept thinking to myself what’s my purpose?  What am I trying to say with this composition?  I tried new combinations and new juxtapositions; I cut up letters and started to spell.  Check out my composition here.  But the the coolest part of the workshop was having others “read” our compositions to us once they were finished.  Being able to see where my own piece was unclear or not as directive as I’d hoped was fascinating.  And I also was a little shocked at my own ability to analyze and pick out the messages in the work of others.  The entire experience left me with much to ponder about how composing with objects is different from and the same as composing with words.

Awesome moment 2:  Yancey’s talk on Wednesday at the end of the QRN: “Navigating the Currents of Research Activity on Transfer of Knowledge and Practice in Writing.”  It was the end of the day and I was exhausted, but Yancey’s concise summary of the transfer research in the field was so useful.  She pointed me to several recently published texts, and made me think deeply about concepts such as the role of metalanguage in our courses.

Awesome moment 3:  Kevin Roozen talked about transfer of writing knowledge across media in his Thursday morning session with Wardle and Nowacek.  He called it “remediation,” drawing from Bolter and Grusin.  I was just excited that someone else was actually going there.

Awesome moment 4:  Saying hi, ever so briefly, to my wonderful mentor Lisa Ede after her feminist rhetorical practices panel on Thursday.  She is so wonderful!

Awesome moment 5:  My favorite panel of the conference was “Compositional Expansion: De- and Re-Composing Materialities” with Jody Shipka, Erin Anderson, and Trisha Campbell.  Dr. Shipka showed her latest video, which was layered and complex in exciting ways.  She layered together found home-video footage and sound material, along with a ghostly image of herself on the side – reminding me that there she was, underneath it all, mixing and remixing the materials.  Some of the sound she used came from her classroom and some from interviews with others, and she layered multiple sound tracks at various points in the movie.  The video we watched isn’t up on her website yet, but she has posted many of her other projects there.  Erin Anderson then showed us her “Coerced Confessions” remix videos– she uses digital video editing to remix the words of actors into confessional statements.  The videos are jarring and bizarre, but suggest much about what can (or should) be done with digital voice as a compositional medium.  Finally, Trisha Campbell finished the panel by showing her “Composing Murder” project, where she maps and composes a network for the murders that take place in Pittsburgh each year.  She also collects evidence of the victims’ digital imprint, archiving Facebook pages and images.  I was emotionally moved by Campbell’s project and think it could have an important impact as a tool for the community, but it also challenges my notions of composing new media.  Is her archive a composed text?

Awesome moment 6: Presenting with Chris Dickman and Ben Gunsberg during the last session to a much larger audience than expected!  People hung in there for us, and we had a great showing.  I talked about my dissertation research, and Ben and Chris showed really interesting work relating to making video resources for students and having students compose screencasts.

And there were other awesome moments, too – hanging out with others in my program, seeing graduates and catching up on their lives, seeing the fountain show at the Bellagio, and realizing that writing teachers, well, we just rock!  But I already knew that before.

Thanks, Cs 2013 and everyone involved, for a great conference!

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11 thoughts on “Reflections on Cs 2013

  1. Would love to hear more about the “transfer of writing knowledge about media” if you have more notes! Sounds like you had a pretty ‘awesome’ conference (and it’s a great read to organize experience around positive moments). I loved your composition of objects!

  2. Love the new blog theme! Also, it sounds like you had a wonderfully generative time at 4Cs.
    Regarding moment #3: I thought of you while in the book exhibit / expo this weekend. U of Pittsburgh Press has a new book on multimodal literacies and emerging genres — one of which is a book chapter (by Cheryl Ball and co-authors, I think?) on transfer. (It was an expensive book, though, so I opted for the free books at the HarperCollins booth instead)
    Do you have a link to your presentation / paper? Would love to see it.

  3. That activity of reading and analyzing one another’s compositions (In awesome moment 1) sounds, well, awesome! There was so much talk of production of multimodal compositions at the conference that I kind of forgot that consumption is also important and probably needs some attention as a part of comp courses.

  4. The “Composing Murder” project sounds fascinating. I think the way we curate information online is a form of storytelling (maybe it’s related to the making and reading of object compositions that you did in the workshop?) Interesting. Thanks for sharing (and tweeting!).

  5. Your composition is cool! I like how you said that the best part was listening to other people read and interpret it. It reminds me of the Wampum belt article — about needing a community to make and sustain meaning. Also seems like a really smart teaching move when it comes to multimodal compositions. When I ask my students to read other student’s writing, the first question they always have to address is ‘What do you think this writer is trying to say?’ so they can show the writer where things are vague / unclear — but also so the writer can see the potential for other meanings in his / her work.

  6. I’m only going to comment on your awesome moment #1 because it reminds me of the panel at NCTE that you, Danielle and Johanna gave in November 2010, two months after I first stumbled into JPEE. Remember? We (the audience) were offered a number of art supplies in which to construct–was it a metaphor? A self-portrait? I don’t remember the directions now, but I will never forget the artifact I made: a green, androgynous figure–somewhat Gumby-like–standing on its head. As soon as I made the figure, I got a handle on exactly how I was feeling–overwhelmed, heartbroken, disoriented. I still have a photograph of it in my phone, and for a long time I also displayed it on my bookcase. This “composition” did for me what writing is meant to do–help me understand what I am thinking. It sounds like your many Cs experience was also an avenue in which an unusual assignment requires you to look in different places–or in different ways–for answers. What a valuable addition such exercises could serve in writing classes–or perhaps any class!

  7. This is such a great way to make sense of the conference. The “Top 6” list is a great way to communicate what went on (in your experience) to those of us who couldn’t be there – it presents the conference in a personal and manageable format. I will definitely be returning to follow some (all?) of the links to the projects you included in your post. I appreciate the fact that the links were provided, but the format of the blog is largely text based and minimally formatted. As a reader this helps me to get to the message that you are communicating without the visual distractions that pictures, logos and videos can create..

    Your “awesome moment #1” seems to have some correlation to the Angela Haas piece that we read for today’s class. The activity you describe seems to be an example of translating a multimodal, communicative work created by others, within a shared space and community. The interactive/transactional aspect of telling and re-telling various constructed messages seems to be enacted here in the space of a conference. I’d be interested to know explicitly what message you were communicating with your composition, and how it was interpreted/misinterpreted by your fellow participants.

  8. True or false: You found a way to attach your composition to the fridge? It’s really interesting to hear you describe the workshop experience. They came highly recommended, but, in the end, a combination of inertia and uncertainty kept me away. The ideas of interaction, production, and going into depth on one area do stand in at least some contrast to most of the presentations I went to. Sheridan Blau did have people at the session write and discuss, but he also said during the Q & A that as a person established in the field, he could do a lot of things that some people couldn’t. Maybe next year.

    Speaking of what a conference presentation can be, I’m a little bummed to have missed one where the three presenters showed videos. Thinking about scholarship that needs to be constantly explained and questions vs. scholarship that stands more as an art object is a really intriguing difference. Even in the Losh article for today, it was interesting to read about faculty member in digital humanities who are using digital art pieces to make critiques instead of articles. This sounds lame, but I feel so far from feeling the license to pull something like that off. I would need a lot of support.

    P.S. Sorry about the length of the pilgrimage to secret pizza.

  9. Hey now! That number one feels super familiar! It definitely reminds me of the composition task I set-up during the class that Kenzie, Becca and I ran. I just love putting random objects together with the added challenge of having them be weighted in meaning is great. It’s an interesting observation about your “ability to analyze and pick out the messages”…in my own experience, there are times when the meaning found by an outside party had not been initially intended by the maker. We all look through a lens that is specific to only ourselves.

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