The conference that was #cwcon 2011

Technically, the conference is still going on:  in fact, as I (at least start to) write this, some of my colleagues from EMU (and others, of course) are presenting at the ever-popular first thing Sunday morning time-slot, which of course comes after Saturday night’s conference-sponsored bowling and Karaoke night.  But for me, things have wrapped up at C&W, and after this (or perhaps at different times of the day while writing this), I need to get back to spring term teaching, stuff around the yard, etc.

A few thoughts in no particular order:

  • In the end, I thought the folks at the University of Michigan Sweetland Writing Center pulled off an excellent conference.  I know there were some hiccups early on in the process and I’m still not a big fan of the conference web site, but these criticisms are trivial at best.  The facilities (mostly the North Quad, but also the UM art museum and the UM union) were fantastic, the food was great, things were well-scheduled and timely, the keynotes were provocative/interesting/sentimental (in a good way)/engaging (more on that below), and it is of course great that it was in Ann Arbor.  I’m hard-pressed to recall a better Computers and Writing conference experience– maybe when it was at UC-Davis, but that also was because of the side-trip to Napa.
  • Going to a conference that is this close to home has advantages and disadvantages.  It’s nice to sleep in my own bed and to save a little money on lodging, and it’s also really nice to know the town and the campus.  I enjoyed my quasi-tour guide role.  But it was also kind of a pain in the butt to have split roles in my life– doing things at the conference, while being expected/needed to do things around the house.  If I had been staying at the conference, either at one of the nearby hotels or the dorms, rolling out of bed for those morning sessions (including my own) would have been a little easier.  And I might have also been tempted to stay out later, though that perhaps would have been a bad idea.
  • I saw some great sessions, and as an aside, I think it turned out to be pretty smart for the Michigan folks to limit submissions to one per person and to have a space for folks to post materials online. I hope that web site hangs around for a while.  I learned a lot at the B02 session on “participatory publics,” especially some theoretical writers I don’t know at all (note to self– email Brown to get a copy of that essay).  I was going to go to Derek’s presentation, but the room was too crowded, so I went to the Dan Anderson and other UNC folks’ presentation about “peersourcing.” Cool stuff, and one of the things I took away from the conference overall was the growing interest in software aided peer review.   And I was really happy to see a presentation by some of my colleagues and students from EMU about ePortfolios:  they did good stuff, and I know that for a couple of them, it was their first conference presentation.  C&W was my first conference presentation back in 1994– ah, memories…. Anyway, congratulations to them!
  • As far as the keynotes go:  I’d say 2 out of 3 were good.  Tim Wu was generally a “miss” for me, not because he was wrong about what he was saying, but because he was being a little simplistic about it.  He concluded his talk by suggesting (basically– I didn’t take any notes or anything) we can either have a future internet where everything is open or everything is closed, and that’s it, and he pulled out the clichéd and incorrect argument about the “closed” system of the Apple store, the “lack of production” iPad device, etc.  Well, as Joyce Walker put it to me when we were chatting about this, had Wu made this kind of point at the beginning of his speech and then gone on to problematize that claim a bit, it would have been much better.  And Wu basically didn’t answer any questions.
  • As much as anything, Hawisher’s presentation was a trip down memory lane, but you know what?  She deserves that for everything she’s done for this community.  Congrats to her on all she’s done!
  • And I thought Kate Hayles’ talk was great.  I’m not sure I agree with all this cognitive science stuff as an explanation for how or why people read things like books, but I do find it quite fascinating.  She probably sold me a book, assuming it’s available on a kindle or other eReader.
  • I collected my plaque certificate for the John Lovas Memorial Weblog Award, which was very nice, albeit a little embarrassing.  Getting awards/recognition always makes me simultaneously egotistical and self-deprecating, and as lots of people (many who I don’t really know even in the “folks I see at conferences” category of things) said nice things to me about my blog and such, that just went on.  Anyway, thanks again.
  • And then there was our 3 minute per person roundtable, “Is Blogging Dead? Yes, No, Other.”  I’m obviously quite biased, but I thought that was great.  Honestly, I think this lots of people/three minute per person opener/lots of time and motivation for discussion is the way more of these things ought to go.  I liked how the conversation circled around the various terms and definitions, even to the point of trying to define what it is we mean by “dead,” and I learned a number of cool things– about storify, for example.  Denniz Jerz (among others, I suspect) put together all the backchannel tweets from that session in a storify space. I might figure out a way to lift this (and/or do something similar myself) and to then set up a space/place for presenters to share their thoughts on those tweets.  Stay tuned.
  • Oh, and last but not least, the unconference goes on (I hope).  The piece I submitted, “Is There a There There,” comes out of a “suspended” video project that will hopefully find a new home in the next few months.  I haven’t received a lot of feedback on it yet, but what I have heard has been pretty positive.  So if more people take a look at it, that’d be cool.
  • Funniest moment for me:  “Dude, a laptop is a computer.” Had to be there, I guess.

Anyway, that’s a wrap for me.  Now it’s on to (and/or to continue with) the home front and thinking about possibilities for next year.  Thanks again, #cwcon!

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