This is kind of scattered because I started it over a cup of coffee Monday morning and finished it Wednesday morning before meeting meeting meeting/grading grading grading. I’m super DUPER busy with wrapping up the winter term. The last day of classes was yesterday, and I’ve got at least four stacks of things I need to/want to assign grades to by the end of the day a week ago. I know.
But before I get to more detail than you want to know, I thought I’d make four general comments:
- Partly in response to Derek and Alex and Kyle and I am sure others: I’m not particularly grumpy about the quality (or not) of the panels or anything else at this year’s conference. Yeah, the hotel was too expensive, but that’s why I didn’t stay at the conference hotel. Yeah, there was no decent wifi and I think that should indeed be addressed, but most major conference hotels have the same problem and I always plan ahead and assume I won’t have decent wifi anyway. Yeah, I kept running into the same people, but I kind of like that and I always have the odd experience of running into the same people at a particular year of the CCCC and not others– for example, last year I ran into Brian McNely everywhere, but this year, I didn’t see him once. Etc., etc. I think I preferred the Louisville location to Atlanta for a variety of reasons (though I had a lot of fun in Georgia), but Atlanta was a lot more reasonably priced than New York or San Francisco. And I don’t want to be too critical because….
- … I don’t want to get involved. While I do have some complaints about how the CCCC and the NCTE do business in all sorts of ways (its conferences and a lack of willingness to offer alternative formatted presentations like poster sessions, its publications and its confusion about the paperless publishing world, its view of what an organization is and how it ought to fund itself, its dumb as a bag of rocks view of anything resembling the internets, etc., etc.), I feel like I more or less give up my right to complain too loudly when I am unwilling to do anything about it by getting involved in the organizations’ governance. I’m not willing to run for the Executive Committee of the CCCC or anything else involving the NCTE. I thought about it at one point, but it just isn’t the sort of administrative/service work that interests me– at least not now. So if I’m not willing to pitch and and “make a difference,” so to speak, then I can’t complain too much about the people who are willing to do that.
- I don’t know if the conference has changed that much or not, but I know I’ve changed. The first CCCC I went to was (I think?) in 1995, and I attended and presented at the conference pretty consistently through about 2005 or so. When I was a graduate student and first starting my career down the tenure-track, listening to what people had to say at the CCCC was part of my education and presenting at the conference was real scholarship. But this year wasn’t my first rodeo, and I’m all tenured/promoted -out. I still learn some things from panels; but mostly, it’s variations on things I’ve heard before, simply by virtue of the fact that I’ve been around long enough to have heard a lot of stuff before. I still propose to the CCCC so I can get on the program (and thus some funding for the trip), but I need another CCCC presentation on my CV like another hole in the head. So sure, the conference isn’t as “new” and as “exciting” as it once was; but neither am I.
- Having said that, I do think there’s more that the CCCC could do to reorganize itself (more like– dare I say it?– MLA by having subject areas organize panels instead of assuming that we’re all there to talk about freshman comp in some variety; have a wider variety of presentation-types; have published proceedings; etc.); and, in an era in which I can communicate with like-minded scholars all over the world via email and the blogosphere and I can publish a media-rich version of my presentation for free, I think the fundamental purpose of the “academic conference” has to be questioned. Why do we spend the time and resources to do this anymore? The answer to me is not panels; it’s being in meet/meat -space with other scholars in the field.
The biggest thing I get out of the CCCC at this point is the incidental contact. So, along with the actual and direct activities, here’s more or less the order of things as I remember it:
- Roomie #1 and long time traveling companion Bill HD and I drove down on Monday. Yes, drove, and yes, on Monday. Bill had to be there for something beginning on Tuesday and I had to be there on Wednesday and Saturday, so we figured that if we were going to be there for “the duration,” we might as well have a car. It’s not a bad drive, actually– just under 12 hours on the way down.
- Tuesday’s events included a lovely field-trip to Athens, GA with Bill and Nick Carbone to talk with some people at UGA about their long-standing project <emma>. I was really the third wheel here– most of this was Bill (who was busy talking up the WIDE project Eli) and Nick talking about how these softwares might intersect with software projects like the one Nick was talking about that Bedford is working on, I believe called “Project X.” But I learned a bunch, thought about my own home-made gradeinator, and we had a nice meal at a farm-friendly restaurant.
- Met up Wednesday morning with former EMU colleague and all-around good person Linda AK for breakfast to catch-up and to gossip, and then it was on to the IP caucus meeting in the afternoon. That was pretty good– I got a lot of good ideas for things that I will probably be incorporating into a yet to be designed graduate class on multimedia writing– and I had the chance to present with Emily Wierszewski, who was an MA student in our program way back when, and who went on to earn her PhD and who is now in her first teaching gig at Seton Hill University. Full circle, I suppose you’d say.
- Met up after that with Roomie #2 and EMU colleague Derek, who was initially not allowed into said room (a few terse phone calls were made). That was my only complaint about the Ellis; otherwise, a great place to stay. Met up also that evening with EMU colleague John Dunn at a brew-pub where we ate and discussed the problems of eating meat. I had the short-rib pizza, which was far too rich for me, and I ended up giving half of it to Trauman, who later posted on twitter regarding its leftover tastiness.
- Thursday (and actually, much of Tuesday and Friday and even some of Saturday) started with grading grading grading. Never ever again will I go to the CCCCs or any other conference this close to the end of the semester. I never got fully into the swing of the whole conference experience because I still had so much end of the term work to wrap up. Bad idea.
- Anyway, I eventually went to the actual conference and went to at least one real session, specifically one featuring Samantha Blackmon, Alex Reid, and Ian Bogost about gaming. Really good stuff, though I was trying to go to a different session featuring Liz Losh and colleagues talking about multimedia various things– at least that’s what I think it was about– but the room was too small. The Reid et al session was still quite good though, even though I am not exactly a “gamer.”
- After that (before that? I can’t remember) I went to the poster session to see Derek’s poster in action, and again, really really cool stuff. Got some more good ideas about how I might incorporate some multimedia activities into this grad course I intend to put together this summer, and the concept of a “poster session” was pretty cool. I hope that the CCCC thinks about it more seriously as a proposal option.
- Lots and lots and lots of hanging about and chatting with folks, including Dan Anderson and lots of people from Syracuse (aka, Derek’s former crew) for lunch, lots and lots of other people I’m forgetting for beverages and general chatting. Somewhere in this mix, I checked out the book area, totally skipping the textbook sections and moving right on to the academic press areas. Spent a fair amount of time at the Parlor Press booth where I chatted with folks while David Blakesley was running an errand of some sort. I could have gotten a free book had I made a sale; oh well.
- Thursday night was the Bedford party at Turner Field, where I hung around with Alex Reid and Liz Losh and many others. I had never met Liz before, and she will be on a panel I am slapping together for the computers and writing conference in May. Lots of fun and much more educational than almost anything I went to see on purpose. Oh, and with some of the usual MSU suspects, I happily walked past the throng waiting on line for the busses to take them back to the hotel and drove away. It almost made it worth it to have driven down. Oh, also: Liz and Alex were both the people that I saw everywhere this year, often in completely inexplicable circumstances.
- After more grading grading grading, I went to catch Bill’s, Jim’s and Mike’s presentation on “archive 2.0” about the scrolls that were found under the MSU football stadium. A great talk, and one that was surprisingly under attended, I suppose because so many people at the CCCC take such a literal approach to what might be “useful” for “teaching” “writing.” I thought it was really interesting stuff; then again, I’m kind of nerdy for stuff like old documents, too. Also caught part of Ann Wysocki’s and Johndan Johnson-Eilola’s talk, but I have to say that the mix-up with the slides for Johndan was, well, distracting.
- Friday night, Derek and I (after one of those long plan-making talks that goes “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” in the bar area) went to the Woodfire Grill restaurant in the buckhead neighborhood. This is Kevin “he really should have won Top Chef that season” Gillespie’s place, and it was good. Really good. REAAAALLLLLLYYYYY good, and pricey, though worth it. Though I will say this: if you have to ask what an amuse-bouche is, then you probably are not into fancy food enough to make it worth it to you. Derek and I sat at the bar and had the tasting menu, which was a lot of fun because we went back and forth between talking academic shop and talking about food and booze with the bartenders. And we got some good tips from them for our trip to Decatur. Again though, a good example of the importance of the incidental contact: I learned a lot at that dinner and had a lot more fun than sitting through another session.
- And then Saturday, I went to a pretty interesting session about a WIDE project/large study on what sorts of writing students value and what sorts of tools they use at different kinds of tools (it was more interesting then that sentence suggests), and then it was time for our show, the one I made this video for. Just to set the scene a bit: we were in the last session (Saturday), in one of the last spots on the last session (I think N 30 or something), we were down and out of the way at the end of a hall, and the “headliner” for that session was Peter Elbow. So given that, it was actually something of a miracle that 4 people showed up. And I have to say I thought the discussion went really well. Sooner than later, I’m going to put this all up on a web site someplace for one and all to enjoy, and who knows? Maybe we’ll reprise our talks at some department function before we move back into Pray-Harrold.
- With the conference behind us, Derek, Bill HD, and I made our way out to Decatur, GA, which is more or less a hip/gentrified suburb easily accessible via MARTA. A lovely time– food and beer at Leon’s Full Service, wondering about, beers again at the very cool Brick Store Pub, more wondering about, and then back to downtown for more conference hijinks. The only bad thing was that we ended up being out way too late, given that….
- … we got up Sunday morning and were on the road by about 5:30, a long drive broken up by a lovely stop in Lexington with Jim and Janice, and then home. Finally. And then the mad dash to the end of the term.