It all happnened on a Thursday ( or CCCCs, Part II)

Thursday was my “conference day.� I didn’t manage to make it to the 8 am keynote address by Doug Hesse (a tad too early for me), and I didn’t go to every session (I gotta eat, right?) and I didn’t stay through all the presentations (sorry about that). But I did make it to a lot of sessions. Here are some thoughts:

* I went to see a panel called “Evaluating Academic Weblogs: Using Empirical data to Assess Pedagogy and Student Achievement� which featured a couple bloggers I read once in a while, Derek Mueller and Dennis Jerz, along with Bradley Bleck (who I know more from tech-rhet) and Anne Jones. Good talks. I liked what Bradley had to say about how blogs bring into a different question this idea of the idea of the audience being a “fiction� because, as a result of links, trackbacks, comments, etc., a blogger’s audience isn’t much of a fiction. Derek, if you’re reading this, you should check out Nicholas Burbles’ work on the rhetoric of the link; I think it might fit in with your project.

The rest of the presenters here were reporting on one version of research or another. All interesting, and two related themes emerged for me. First, if a teacher doesn’t blog her or himself and then attempts to use blogs in their teaching, they run into some interesting problems. Second, a lot of the success and failures of student blogging revolves around self-motivation. I suppose we could say that almost anything, but, as I wrote about in my “Blogging Goes Bad� article, I think there are some ways in which this is particularly true with blogs.

Anyway, then it was lunch and a quick visit to the SFMOMA gift shop where I bought the coolest snow globe ever.

The first afternoon panel was a quasi-roundtable format called “Why Napster Matters: File Sharing, Ownership, and New Digital Ethics,� featuring Danielle DeVoss, Carrie Heeter (who, interestingly enough, teaches for Michigan State but lives in San Francisco), John Logie, Michael Moore (no, not that one, the one who teaches at Michigan Tech), and Jim Porter. John’s presentation was the one most directly about Napster, though everyone else’s talk tied into this issue of peer-to-peer sharing and copyright in different ways.

The two things that struck me: First, I had never heard of the Star Wars kid that Danielle talked about, and while I understand why she talked about this example (and it was a fascinating one, too), I have to wonder what this poor kid thinks of having literally millions of Internet folk laughing at (and, I guess, with) him and his lightsaber performance. Second, in the audience was a woman who actually used to work for Napster. She asked a good question and I thought we were going to go down that path a bit more, but she let the whole thing drop. At least she didn’t say “you people got it all wrong.�

I caught my friend and colleague Bill Hart-Davidson’s talk “Putting a CMS to Work in a Writing Program: 3 Mission Critical Applications.� I’m kind of biased about this because Bill and I (and I think Steve B.) are working on an article about this stuff, but I thought he did a good job. Essentially, he was talking about the sorts of ways in which CMS (and by “CMS,� was talking about both “course management systems� and “content management systems�) tools can work with some of the basic goals of WPA work. That’s a quick gloss; maybe I can get him to let me make a link to his power point presentation.

Somewhere in here (I’m not sure exactly where), I ran into Jeff Rice and Jenny Edbauer. I had met Jeff in person before, but not Jenny. Always nice to put a face with a name.

Then it was off to listen to Lawrence Lessing’s talk. Not surprisingly, it was about IP issues. Lessing is obviously a brilliant guy and incredibly well-published and accomplished writer, and essentially, his talk was a presentation version of his take on copyright intellectual property and so forth. Great content, but that wasn’t really what impressed me. I had to leave a bit early (see below), but I have to say it was one of the best pieces of delivery of a presentation I’ve ever seen in any format in any venue.

About a week ago, I had a post about to read or not read a conference paper, and I think what Lessing did was what one would ideally do: he performed in that he was “reading� from a script (not a paper, really), but what he was really doing was performing in the way that a stage actor performs in a play. I don’t know, maybe it’s pretty unreasonable for most academics to perform at that level, and I’ll bet that Lessing has given one version or another of this spiel 100 times in the last year. Still, it was darn impressive. And holy cow, the powerpoint (or whatever it is he used) presentation was by far the best I’ve seen, more an act of art than the usual bullet points with an MS template.

Anyway, I confess I left the Lessing panel early to go to at least a small part of the Bedford-St. Martin’s party. I could only go to a part of it because I finished the day at the CCCCs by presenting at the MFA Special Interest Group session, but I ran into colleague, friend, and St. Martin’s guy Nick Carbone and he twisted my arm. It was speed partying: got on a shuttle buss, rode out to the party, “partied� (as it were) for about a half-hour, came back to the convention center for my presentation. Though I was only there for a bit, it was well worth it. The party was on the top floor of some old bank in San Francisco, and it featured lots of good food and drink, and a jazz trio that included an upright bass, an electric guitar, and a woman playing a long-stringed Japanese instrument called a Koto.

As for my presentation? It went fine, I suppose. The MFA folks are nice and everything, though it does sometimes remind me how “distant� in a variety of different ways I am nowadays from creative writing.

So that was that. I have a few regrets of things I missed, but overall an excellent conference. I might attend a few things tomorrow late in the day, but tomorrow, I’m a tourist.

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