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!

But I’m still a happy academic, mostly

I have many other things I need to do (in the midst of teaching in the short spring term, minutes and notes from a meeting last week need to be written up and sent out, I have some writing about assessment I want to post here soon, etc.), but I thought I’d post briefly something I started this morning about a bummer of an article in Inside Higher Ed, “In for Nasty Weather.” It’s a long piece, but what it boils down to is the “academic life” is becoming a thing of the past as tenure disappears and as universities hire more and more adjuncts.

There is a similarly downbeat article in The Chronicle, by the way, this one titled “Crisis of Confidence Threatens Colleges.”

I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I largely agree with most of the article’s claims, and while I am generally not one of those “oh, the good old days” kind of people, I can say with some personal authority that things were “better” for me when I first came to EMU in the late 1990s, mostly because the institution still had some money to work with.  Hiring of tenure-track faculty in our department does seem to be trickier, and there’s lots of “administrative creep.”  The current political environment is obviously not that friendly to higher ed (tenure being generally under attack and so forth), there are lots of predictions of things like standardized testing in college, there are fewer tenure-track jobs, the value of “knowledge” and “education” in a wired/socially networked world is up for grabs, etc., etc.  These things are all very true and it is why I have been telling most students who ask about pursuing a PhD and an academic career that they shouldn’t.

But there are many other hands. Continue reading “But I’m still a happy academic, mostly”

Krause’s Around Ann Arbor

I have other things that I want to/should be doing, but since there are a lot of folks coming to town in the next few days for the Computers and Writing Conference, I thought I’d put together a map of a few highlights of things that anyone coming to Ann Arbor ought to think about trying to do (with a heavy emphasis on food and drink).  I tried to embed it here, but it didn’t work.  Oh well.

Anyway, a couple of general sort of thoughts about Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti for the uninitiated:

  • Believe it or not, Ypsilanti (and Eastern Michigan University) is right next to Ann Arbor on the east side of Highway 23 toward Detroit.  And for folks flying in:  Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti is probably closer to Detroit Metro Airport than most of Detroit itself.  In any event, we’re kind of on the far suburban edge of Detroit-city, so Detroit stuff is in range if you are into that sort of thing.
  • The easiest way to describe Ann Arbor is it is a very large “college town” with at least three main areas:  South University, the “Diag” area/State Street & Liberty area (this is closest to the conference), and Main street.  I tagged a few things on my map outside of that area– notably some attractions in Ypsilanti for those inclined– but most of this stuff is within walking distance from the North Quad.
  • Needless to say, I didn’t include everything– just places I thought were good, and a few places I’d strongly encourage you to avoid.  That said, if you only have a little bit of time to get out and about, I’d recommend going down to Main street to eat, drink, and shop (and, if you are into comics and that sort of thing, go to the Vault of Midnight) and try to make time for lunch or dinner at what is probably Ann Arbor’s best known eatery, Zingerman’s Deli.

“I’d like to thank the academy” and other prequels to C&W 2011

The other day, I received an email informing me that I’ve won the John Lovas Memorial Weblog Award for 2o11. Go figure!  This comes after I’ve decided (or, employing the passive tense, it was decided) to shelve my research on blogs as writerly spaces, and at the conference where, on a panel I organized around the question “Are Blogs Dead,” my answer is “maybe” (see below).

But in all seriousness, I am honored and thankful for the recognition, and I am happy to once again point to the memory of a blogger that influenced many of the past winners of this award, John Lovas.  I touch on John’s blog in my presentation briefly:  his work (along with a lot of the past winners of this award) represents a very different kind of blogging then what I see going on now.  If you look at John’s blog from way back when (this link is from the Wayback Machine) just for a moment, I think you’ll see what I mean.  John’s blog (and many others from back then, including my own) have a decidedly more autobiographical, “diary-like” turn to them, more than ones nowadays, I think largely because of Facebook.  So it’s interesting for me to be getting this award about “Weblogs,” something that sure seems a lot different to me now then it was back then.

Anyway, thanks again.  And I also really want to point people to what I think is my most successful blogging project,, which receives many many more hits and comments than this site and which is devoted to local issues about Eastern Michigan University.

In other prequel for C&W news:

I’m of course looking forward to the fact that the conference is about seven or eight miles from my house and in a town that I know reasonably well.  I kind of will miss out on some of the dorm/hotel/late night “hijinks” I suspect, but it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed.

Either before, during, or after the conference (I don’t know which), check out the “unconference” space I put together with some of my former students, something I’m calling “Is There a There There? A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video.” We’ll see what happens with that.

Thursday, I’m planning on golfing– which I mention because if there are others out there who are interested in potentially joining us, let me know.  Right now we’ve got a 3-some, and I could probably get two tee-times if there’s interest.  I’ll probably get us on at either the EMU course or at a more user-friendly (read “easier” and “cheaper”) course in the area.

Friday, I’m going to conference stuff, and Saturday morning, I’m chairing a roundtable I set up called “Is Blogging Dead?  Yes, No, Maybe, Other.”  It’s at 8:30 AM, and it is going to feature Aaron Barlow, Bradley Dilger, Virgina Kuhn, Carrie Lamanna, Liz Losh, Brian McNely, Brendan Riley, and fellow local and certainly non-academic blogger Andre Peltier.  We’re going to stick to a strict three minute (or less!) opening statement format followed by lots of discussion.  I think it’ll be pretty good. Here’s my talk, all YouTubed and captioned:

By the way, adding those captions was bizarrely easy.

Saturday night I’m thinking about getting out the word to convince some folks to come over to the Ypsi side of things– Depot Town, The Corner, etc.– though that might be a hard sell since there’s plenty to do in Ann Arbor and I am sure that plenty of people will not have a car.  And then there’s bowling, too.   So we’ll see.

And Sunday?  Well, the conference goes on Sunday, though I may or may not partake.  Depends on how far behind I fall in my pesky spring term teaching.

Anyway, looking forward to seeing various C&W types soon.

A simple iPad 2 movie

I’ve been monkeying around with iMovie on my iPad 2 and this is what I put together as a sort of “proof of concept” for a simple, down ‘n dirty little movie, mostly just to see if it would work.  As I say in the movie, it does work, mostly, though iMovie for the iPad does have some significant and frustrating limitations.  The camera on the iPad itself is also pretty limited; as far as I can tell, no zoom, for example.

Still, even with the limitations, I think there’s some potential here.  It’d be interesting to put a couple of these into the hands of students to see what they do with them.

A late entry into the C&W “Unconference:” Is there a there there?

After things didn’t work out with going forward with publishing the movie I made with some former grad students, I decided to go ahead and put it into the “Collaborvention 2011,” which is more or less the unconference/online portion of things that is along side the official Computers and Writing conference, which will be in Ann Arbor in a couple of weeks.

Our piece (I say “our” because it is based on the movie I collaboratively made with Dave, Carrie, and Andrea, though I put this part of things together myself) is called “Is There a There There? A Meta-Review and Meta-Analysis of a Meta-Performance Video.” Go check it out!

Besides what I wrote about our motives and what we’re looking for on that site, I have to say that getting this up online for some commentary and review from others (hopefully) is part of one of those “all things converging” moments in scholarship and practice.  Alexandra Juhasz has a really interesting article in Inside Higher Ed titled “A Truly New Genre.” It’s about her video book project Learning from YouTube— which also looks very interesting and cool– and the many problems of getting it published and making things “fit” into the conventional publishing process.  Heidi McKee and Danielle DeVoss have a call for contributions to an edited collection on “digital writing assessment” that I’m thinking about, and my CCCCs proposal is about the problem of “amateur” video (including ours) as a part of writing scholarship.  So lots of different angles on video for the next few months at least, I suppose.

A quick post on 9/11, killing Bin Laden, and the Internets

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at home not feeling particularly well– a cold or something.  I mowed the lawn, and then came in and just happened to turn on the TV and saw a story about a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers, a crash that network news first reported as an accident.  Until the next plane hit, and then the Pentagon, and then a field in Pennsylvania. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone in the U.S. (maybe the western world) who had a television (especially with cable) spent the next 72 hours or so watching the news, with breaks to nap, go to the bathroom, and drink.

Ten years passed and many many things happened.

Then, Sunday night (which, oddly enough, was the eighth anniversary of Bush’s infamous “mission accomplished” speech) I was getting into bed with my iPad at 10 pm or so, planning to read a bit on the kindle app before getting to sleep and ready for the beginning of the spring term.  I checked Facebook first and saw someone (I can’t remember who) in my feed had posted that Obama was giving a previously unannounced speech at 10:30.  Uh-oh, I thought, and got out of bed to turn on the TV, my iPad (with Twitter and Facebook) by my side.

You know the rest, and I am sure there will be many more examples of this sort of piece that is running on The Atlantic’s web site.

Anyway, that makes me think of at least two things:

  • 9/11 was a very clear “exigency” in that it was obviously the beginning of a new situation, although arguably from the point of view of Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and related groups, 9/11 was merely the middle of a fight that began much much earlier– CIA involvement in Afghanistan,  The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Africa, etc.  On the other hand, the death of Bin Laden doesn’t seem like an “ending” or a “decay” of this situation.
  • I’m not quite sure what it means that I have heard about this (and nearly all other “breaking news” in the last year or so) first via Facebook and/or Twitter, and then I follow it up with live coverage on TV, and then still later, with writings published on the web or even on paper.  But it means something for sure, something about what “main stream media” is and is not still  capable of doing well.