C&W 2010 Part 1: Travels, Golf, Sessions, Conference

With the whole CCCOnline thing off my chest, I decided to divide this up into two parts because of my adventures with the iPad (as I mentioned before, I decided to take it instead of a laptop to the conference)– I’ll post about that one later.

Anyway, as usual, Computers and Writing was great, that one conference I go to every year where it really is “my people.”  There are a lot of conferences like C&W, actually– Rhetoric Society of America, the Council of Writing Program Administrators (and their conference is coming up in July), writing center folks, etc.  I like going to the CCCCs and participating in its “big tent,” but it’s a little more comfortable to be in the smaller tent (side show?) that is C&W.  Here’s how it went for me, more or less in this order:

Bill DiscoveredSteve B. and I began the “experience” as Bill HD’s “SAG” wagon as part of the Ride2CW fund-raiser/biking campaign.  Frankly, our job was easy compared to our west to east SAG counterpart, Joyce, because all we had to do was navigate along Bill’s route through Indiana Amish country and catch up with him, which we did, more or less in the middle of nowhere near Bourbon, IN.  It was pretty, but it made for a long LONG day.  Oh, and Bill rode his bike a lot too.

For a variety of reasons (though mostly money, to be honest), Steve B. and I decided to do the weekend only registration for the conference and play golf on Friday.  This was perhaps a mistake in at least two different ways.  First, I kind of felt a little “out of it” conference-wise, and, as I’ll get to in a moment, I didn’t have as much of a chance to see panels.  Second, the weather was, um, “problematic.”

Here’s a video of me hitting out of water in the middle of the fairway.  This was the last hole we played before the sogginess got to be too much and the siren blew, meaning lightening was sighted:

I want to point out that that is Benninghoff going “Oh, YEAH!” like the Kool-Aid Pitcher.  This will soon be my Steve B. designated ring-tone.

May Time for Sushi EducationFriday evening included dinner with Gian Pagnucci (who also golfed with me and Steve B. and also presented with us on Saturday) and my EMU colleague Nancy Allen at Kokoro, “Home of Crazy Tony.” “Crazy Tony” is the drunk crazy proprietor who likes to refer to himself as the sushi nazi and/or a crazy motherfucker.  Both, really, and he likes to do this quite loudly from behind the bar.  I thought it was “pretty good,” though when I gave this review to Steve B. and Bill HD (who spent a fair amount of this trip going down the memory lane of their past experiences here when they were going to Purdue for their PhDs), they thought I was crazy, that it’s the best evar, etc.  Anyway, “pretty” good food and good company for sure.

Then Saturday was the conference proper.  Like I said, I decided to go the “weekend only” route because the registration was  half-price.  It was a good cost saving measure obviously, but it was also (I guess as obviously) a lot less conference.  The 8:30 concurrent session was a little early for me, so I intended to go session F.  But then I ran into Kathy Yancey who had an iPad question which lead to a pleasant and interesting conversation on iPad-ness (more on that in part 2, when I get to it). It was a good thing, one of those hard to quantify “networking” opportunities that make things like conferences so useful, but it meant that I missed the session.

The lunch/featured speaker was Eric Faden, who, among many other things, made the popular “A Fair(y) Use Tale” video. I thought his talks was pretty good– not great, but not bad, like Barbara Ganley last year.  I think it’s kind of a tough gig to do a keynote at C&W.  The conference tends to bring in “outsiders” to broaden our perspectives and also because whenever an “insider” speaks in this role they inevitably are met with a “we already know that” sort of response.  The problem with the outsider is sometimes the reaction is sort of “we wouldn’t do that” and/or “what the heck are you talking about?”  So, for example, while a lot of what Faden said and showed was very interesting and useful, I think there was a sense of him setting up a bit of a false dichotomy (words/text versus images/video), and some of the videos he showed were of a sort that probably would not work in most of the audience members’ teaching (e.g., “writing” classes versus “film” classes).  But overall, I thought he walked that line pretty well.  Oh, and even though there was a sort of a “oh no he didn’t!” response when he invoked Ong, I thought it was a reasonable summary under the circumstances.

Then it was time for me and my colleagues to talk.  First there was Steve B., Gian, and me talking about using Jing, podcasts, and YouTube.  Here’s a link to my talk, more or less. I wish Steve B. would have showed more examples, but I guess it’ll be easy to ask him for those; and Gian did a good job showing and telling about some interesting videos and podcasts going on at IUP.  And to be honest, I was kind of surprised that we had as big of a crowd as we did for this session, I guess proving that this stuff isn’t “old news” yet.

Second, there was me, Ryan Trauman, Brian McNely, and Derek Mueller talking about “virtual mentorship.”  My talk for that is here.  Overall, pretty good.  I’d like to hear more about Ryan’s pottery apprenticeship and how that maps with “mentorship” (he ran out of time, more or less), I’m glad that Brian posted his piece online because he had a lot of heavy (I mean that in a good, groovy way) theory in there, and Derek and I had more or less talked about his talk before, so I knew what was coming and I thought it made good sense to me.  Though I don’t know what happened to the picture that Indian restaurant waiter took.

After that, it was the previously mentioned missed session, the “hog roast” that was good but not really a hog roast, and evening activities, which included going with some colleagues to a VERY undergraduate bar of the sort I have not been in for years and years.

Sunday, I went to a presentation by some of the folks at MSU’s WIDE Center about a system that they are developing as part of a larger project at MSU on peer review.  Basically (and I do mean “basically” since I don’t have notes here and a lot of the details are actually part of a non-disclosure agreement), these folks are working with software that helps reviewers’ reviews be rated for “helpfulness.”

Like I said, I don’t quite understand all the computer stuff associated with this, but this is another example of how a lot of what I get out of the a conference like Computers and Writing is not really about “computers” per se.  From my point of view, there were a couple of things that these folks were doing to help figure out their “helpfulness” rating.  First, reviewers scored each of the writers’ drafts based on a simple star system.  Second, the writers more or less reviewed the reviewers in terms of how many of their suggestions they incorporated, etc.  Now, it seems to me that this is the sort of thing that could be done in a much less sophisticated/technological fashion to help facilitate peer review.  I haven’t thought through all of that last sentence yet, but I am hoping to experiment with something like that this summer term.

Anyway, a good conference for me overall.  I never know what “themes” emerge from these things since I can only go and see a tiny fraction of what’s available, and this time around, because of the two day thing, I saw even less.  But if I had to pick one– maybe two– I’d say “video” and (closely related, I guess) changing/expanding the definition of what “fits” in the conference.  It isn’t all just about “writing,” for example.  Or, depending on how you define it, it’s all about writing…..

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