Well, we did it again: Bill, Derek, and I organized and hosted WIDE-EMU 13, the third in a row for the free unconference (sort of) we thought up in a long car drive as much as a dare as it was an effort to test the concept of what would it be like to hold a free conference. Do a search on twitter for #wideemu to get a taste of the tweets, or take a look at this Storify put together by Laura Gonzales.
This year was a little different from the previous two. It was a little smaller than it had been the previous two years, maybe around more like 30 or 40 folks rather than 50 to 70. I think there was a bit of “I’ve done that already” by previous participants and a few schedule conflicts for a few other folks, though it also seems like there has been an uptick in similar small and local conferences within about 100 miles from here. It was also different this time in that we didn’t have a keynote speaker and decided to go with a longer lunch.
But you know what? Totally solid presentations and I think the 90 minute lunch really helped facilitate some nice discussion over a nice meal with new and old friends in the field, and for me, that’s the main point of the WIDE-EMU in the first place. And the longer lunch also gave me an excuse to have the Mr. Peanut burger at The Wurst Bar.
Some highlights for me:
- I bounced around a bit during the first session just to make sure that everyone was situated and the like, but I checked in on Phill Cameron’s work with the game “Tales of the Arabian Nights” as a collaborative way to develop narratives and mostly sat in on the session featuring EMU MA program alum (and now faculty at Saginaw Valley) Scott Kowalewski and current EMU folk Elisabeth Däumer, Doug Baker, and Andre Peltier.
- For Session B, I sat in a talk about pedagogy and multimedia, again Doug Baker and two of our recent MA grads, Theresa Dark and Vicki McNiff, and what I thought was a really provoking and interestingly timed presentation from James Schrimer. Speaking if multimedia: one of the best things I learned yesterday was about an online video editing platform called wevideo that is likely to play a big role in my multimedia writing class in the winter– looks very cool.
- After a hardy Mr. Peanut burger, I was torn between a panel that I think would have been a lot of fun– “The Best Thing I Ever Taught”– and the one I attended where Meredith Garcia from U of M talked about the fan culture around the podcast Night Vale (and why is it that artists make art like this available for free in the first place) and MA alum and PhD student at U of Louisville Jessica Winck talking about the ownership problems (well, and just the ethical problems too) of teachers posting stuff at the kind of icky site Shit My Students Write.
- After a last session (I attended one where the all three speakers– Don Unger, Steven Engel, and Kim Lacey– all had interestingly different and related things to say about “peers”), it was time for a stop at The Corner Brewery, and again more sitting down and talking with each other about scholarship, about the field, about brewing beer, about just about anything. All great stuff.
So, what happens next? Hard to say. Since we’ve done this three times now, it’s not a huge amount of work for us to put this thing on. I mean, between the three of us, I suspect we spent around 30 or so hours on logistics– so it’s not like it’s nothing, but it was a lot easier to do the third time than it was the first.
Still, we’re going to have to do a little re-evaluating about the fourth one of these things. I think the most likely scenario is that we’ll go to every other year or maybe every year and a half to mix up the seasons a bit. I’d like to see us get some other people involved as the leaders/organizers of all this and to see what they’d do with it. So we’ll see.