post-c&w reflections~

Reasons I love C&W: I can come here brain-dead after qualifying exams, and everyone I talk to has advice to help me better position myself between rhetoric, especially classical rhetoric, and media studies. My presentation ran a little long, about which I was slightly irritated at myself, and it wasn’t my usual posse in the audience–rather, people who may have been less familiar with 4chan and hence less understanding of the in-jokes—but the few comments I did receive were phenomenal. Someone told me he felt that he’d witnessed his own life and experience as a 4channer narrated back to him, and if I’m able to tap into the subculture that well, explaining without apologizing, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

I also feel like I have a better sense of the questions to ask, or the responses to give, when I’m asked “why rhetoric?” This may be a question I’ll struggle with for the rest of my studies, and perhaps on the job market depending on what I apply for, but I feel better knowing that I’ve at least found a starting point for thinking about it.

calling a spade a spade.

Lately I’ve been thinking about a horizontal eyebrow piercing. It’s an idle thought. I doubt I’ll ever modify any part of my face. My reasoning has less to do with how it might affect my employment opportunities, however, and more to do with issues like my tendency to develop raised scars, or the number of times I faceplant on my laptop or my bed, which can’t be good for healing. I’ve dealt with some difficult healing processes with the tattoos and piercings I already sport, and right now I’m not willing to modify my sleeping position further.

Talking about body modification may seem like an odd entry point to a discussion of information transparency in academia, but bear with me.I recently attended a conference that, historically, I have loved passionately; it occurs at the end of the academic year and feels like a simultaneous respite and revitalizing force, nonstop intellectual stimulation that is–dare I say it–diverse, poetic, truly interdisciplinary, fun. This conference inspired me to wholeheartedly embrace open access despite what it could do for my employment possibilities. It inspired me to rethink my philosophy about information transparency such that I wouldn’t feel hypocritical about it, and to be at peace with the notion that these choices–like all the choices I’ve made preceding this moment–could potentially affect my chances at tenure-track employment. This initially seemed daunting, but in truth, I never expected to be employable in the traditional sense of the word. I’m a writer. I’ve narrowly avoided being a starving artist, but I embarked on this career path knowing it was a distinct possibility, the point being that I’ve always been willing to sacrifice certain potentials in furtherance of a large goal that I’ve always perceived as fulfilling to self and community. Deciding to post drafts and publish only in open-access journals seems minor in comparison to that first, enormous decision.

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too much coffee, too little time.

This was my overarching impression of my first year as a Ph.D. student: too much reading, too much coursework, too much busy work, for any real reflection outside of class sessions. Forget integration with preexisting or current research, or time spent with the subject of research. There was too much insistence on fast turnaround and constant production, the same old reliance on the inescapable “publish-or-perish” adage, with the added pressure to present at conferences, seek out internships and future funding opportunities, collaborate, research, endure.

This is what I found so startling, this emphasis on endurance over enjoyment, on gritting your teeth through coursework to reach the relief of quals and the dissertation process, what should ostensibly be the most depressing, isolating portion of the Ph.D. experience. But the most repeated (and dare I say soundest) piece of advice I received all semester was the vague encouragement that “it does get better.” I’m still not convinced.

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i’ve become a c&w groupie

I presented a paper titled “I think writing is a pretty cool guy. eh makes meaning and doesnt afraid of anything” at my first-ever Computers & Writing. My presentation was about the role of accidental grammatical errors in the selection of memes and evolution of 4chan’s dialect, and the purpose of memes perpetuating grammar mistakes.

I’ve had good conference experiences in the past, but Computers & Writing blew them all out of the water. Granted I’m easily starstruck, but this conference facilitated professional relationships, and everyone was so accepting, welcoming, and critiques occurred with warmth. I met Gail Hawisher. Cynthia Selfe(!) asked me about my research (and remembered it and me later on). I wasn’t brave enough to talk to Katherine Hayles but I did get into a debate with Tim Wu in a Q&A session and while I might have later psyched myself out, nothing about these “greats” was intimidating at all. I’ve made so many IRL and Twitter friends here, and exchanged research and advice with so many people with backgrounds as diverse as mine, if not more so. In short: this conference is love.

Also, Dan Anderson (@iamdan) is my new idol. Some day I’m going to create the way he does, because when I see his work, I can’t help but be moved with regards to pedagogy and my own personal way of being in the world.

All of which is to say that C&W has become my new home-base conference, and I will strive to present at it every year.