Month: March 2007

CCCC07 I14: Our Uses of

The full title of this panel was “Our Uses of Student Writing: Thinking Critically About Composition Scholarship.” Mariolina Salvatori presented first, giving a general overview of the panel as a whole — she would focus on scholarship, Jennifer Whatley would focus on research, and Richard Parent would focus on student writing in the context of the internet. Salvatori then moved into her portion on scholarship, offering as an introductory condition the assertion that a student text is to composition scholars as a literary text is to literature scholars. The difficulty, however, lies in that literature as a discipline has developed clear (albeit evolving: note the widely ranging reactions to Moretti’s work) rules of engagement for literary texts, whereas composition’s rules for engagement with student texts are still emerging, ad hoc, in process, to be determined. Furthermore, some of our conventions of engaging student texts are not in line with our theory, and this may indicate our ambivalence about the status writing about students may not grant us.

Read more

CCCC07 C.26: Textual Transgressions

Collin Brooke acknowledged at the outset of this panel that there were technological difficulties coordinating this panel’s presentations, and the start of the presentations was delayed by six minutes as Collin (the chair) and others worked to overcome those difficulties. The panel’s full title was “Textual Transgressions Online: Plagiarism and Fraud in Weblogs and Wikis,” and the presenters offered a useful body of insight into the various ways that textual appropriation functions online, and how those various functions of appropriation serve to illuminate our practices and preconceptions surrounding the teaching of writing.

Clancy Ratliff’s presentation, “Negotiating and Regulating Plagiarism in Everyday Blogging Practices,” began from a personal example: her weblog, CultureCat, has been repeatedly plagiarized, in various and interesting ways. Ratliff has posted a brief recap with slides of her presentation, but I think she’s being too modest in the account she gives: as is typical of her work, her presentation was insightful, witty, and focused. The first example of weblog plagiarism she offered came to her via an email that read: “You hv posted a very kewl blog. I have stolen a few things from It just to start with my own blog.”

Read more

CCCC07 E: The Global Economy and Class Identity

Note: I’ve made some corrections in what follows in response to requests by presenters.

I struggled somewhat to follow the highly abstract train of reasoning in Min-Zhan Lu’s presentation. Lu’s talk was more densely theoretical than the following talks by Tom Fox and Joseph Harris, which isn’t a criticism on my part, but an acknowledgment that I had to work harder to follow the complexity of her argument, and in fact failed to follow quickly enough at times — so any instances of incoherence in the following account should be taken as failures on my part, and not Lu’s. Lu began her talk on “Rethinking How We Talk About Class in the Global Free Market” by pointing to higher education’s increasingly prevalent invocation of the language of job security, career advancement, and marketable job skills. These terms, Lu noted, are not self-evident. They are, however, associated with a class of students increasingly subjected to the demands of global capital. If we’re going to develop a pedagogy that takes seriously our students’ economic concerns, we need to address their career goals as well as the increasingly volatility of global flows of capital and people, and in this sense, we would do well to keep in mind the additional meaning of career as unrestrained headlong rush. Lu expressed reservations about the limitations of the conventional stratifying markers of class, and proposed that we look instead to the extraterritorial mobility of the global elite as marker of class distinction. The conditions of the global free market today push the economy towards production of the volatile, the ephemeral, and the precarious, and the extraterritorial careering of the global elite constrains the middle class.

Read more

CCCC07 B.30: My Presentation

I think I’m beginning to learn how to give a good conference presentation.

Or maybe at least the kind of conference presentation from which I tend to learn the most. I know I don’t learn well when people read papers, no matter how eloquently they’re written: written prose, when performed, has a fundamentally different quality. We see things in drama that the page does not show, and vice versa. But the model of the talk guided by slides doesn’t work well for me either: it feels too paratactic, too off-the-cuff, a series of impressions. Lawrence Lessig’s CCCC presentation seemed to me an ideal middle ground, and I’ve lately seen Collin and Clancy taking similar approaches, and so I tried this year to do something similar. I think the resulting presentation was the best I’ve so far done.

I first wrote a long paper, maybe 20 pages double-spaced, that worked through my argument. It’s something that I’m going to be trying to expand into a journal article over the next few months. I then went through and cut, cut, cut it down to somewhere near conference length: nine pages, double-spaced. After that, I put together a slide show to go with key terms and phrases and concepts in the paper, in imitation of Lessig, and also following the excellent format that I’ve seen Clancy and Collin start to turn toward. After some coaching and feedback from friends and colleagues, I cut it down further, and turned my writerly prose into bullet points from which to read, so as to avoid the deep hypotaxis that becomes so difficult to follow when listening to someone read a written paper: basically, I index-carded it.

I was happy with the result. I got out from behind the speakers’ table, walked around, used my wireless clicker to advance the slides, and talked it. I’d be curious to hear what the audience thought, because for me, it was the most energetic and engaged presentation I’ve done: it was fun, impassioned, and — to me — far more lucid and to-the-point than other presentations I’ve given.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the technology to record as I presented, so what I’ve got to share here is the presentation’s static counterpart: my written talk; the extended prose that I cooked down to bullet points.

If you’re interested, though, you’re also welcome to take a look at the slide show and the bullet point script that I used to talk through that slide show.

slide show (1.1 MB, .ppt file)

bullet point script (55 KB, .doc file)

I’m especially grateful to my colleague Karen Peirce for her feedback and suggestions for revision.

Presentation prose follows.

Read more

CCCC07 A01: Institutional Forces

(Note: I’ve made some changes at the request of presenters.)

Joanna Castner started this session by offering an initial overarching framework of techné, based on Janet Atwill’s conception of an always changing, never static, transformative “productive knowledge” that works to disrupt lines of power. Techné, Joanna suggested, can be used as an operating procedure and a way of looking at overdetermined (q.v. Althusser, Freud) situations as spaces of possibility. In this sense, techné is not knowledge but the production of knowledge, deeply associated with the kairotic moment and the importance of local factors. Castner then used John Alberti’s hierarchy of differently classed institutions of higher education to assert that so-called working-class institutions — second-tier open-admissios regional institutions where many students hold jobs and other material concerns that lie beyond the scope of the classroom — are now to be considered the norm or the typical case in higher education. (Castner here also cited Johnathan Mauk’s scholarship on working class students.) In such a way, Castner asserted, Mauk’s physical and human material geography of the institution (or, perhaps more properly, the material context of the institution) constructs student identities and the way those identities intersect and interact with the classroom context.

Read more

In the Clickstream, Part 6

(This is the sixth and final episode of a piece of serial speculative fiction attempting to explore what future database composition might look like. For context, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.)

The Cadet system of communication is secure and monitored, but otherwise not much different from the way civilians use the net. Their browsers are larger, perhaps twice the size of the latest model civilian information appliance, but still small enough to slip into a cargo pocket, with the bulk coming from the weatherproof hardened frame and soldiers’ need to thumb the screen in gloves in field environments. The distributed public database that stores their compositions is the same network used by civilian universities, albeit with a firewalled secure area for Cadets’ projects for their Department of Military Instruction classes and other secure-classified topics. It’s browsable by those outside higher education, but even for those who haven’t used it, the concept is likely familiar: projects incorporating a variety of forms of information — writing, visuals, tabular data, video, spreadsheets, music and audio, interactive — are sorted and cross-indexed into various categories and tagged with keywords by authors and users. Users can add comments in a similar variety of formats and rate and rank the projects, and the database automatically creates maps — clickstreams — of the the associational trains of links between projects and tracks the traffic on those clickstreams. In a remarkable hybrid of the song remix and the debates that range across academic journals, users create their own projects building on or responding to other projects, quoting and paraphrasing and parodying and mashing-up, and tag the associated clickstreams, so that one can map over time the emerging parameters of a discussion or argument in the informational topography of the database. When used as a tool for managing information, it’s immensely complex and powerful, and Cadets have an entire plebe course dedicated to teaching them the various methods for navigating it, as well as a cow course — mine, Database Composition — teaching them the most productive ways of manipulating and adding to it.

What the military didn’t count on — what nobody counted on — was that somebody would do the same with the swarms.

Read more

CCCC07: IP Caucus

I’m in New York, where the 2007 meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication got underway today. I’d meant to finish up Cadet Casey’s story before the conference started, but time got away from me, so I’ll see if I can make the time to do so tomorrow before serious conference-blogging gets underway.

The Intellectual Property caucus was engaging and productive. From what I understand, a lot of what went on will be summarized at the CCCCIP site in days to come, and it’s late with an early day for me tomorrow, so I’ll be brief in my notes here. Karen Lunsford started the meeting, and while she made a number of important points and exhortations, what I found most interesting was her description of the University of Kansas’s March 10, 2005 University Council resolution, which declared the importance of access to scholarly information and called on all faculty members to ask publishers for permission “to permit the deposition of a digital copy of every article accepted by a peer-reviewed journal into [an open access] repository.” According to other people at the meeting, the University of California system is working toward a similar initiative. Such a move would have profound implications for scholars and the circulation of knowledge, and one can only hope more institutions follow suit. Charlie Lowe followed Karen, talking some about Creative Commons and the IP Caucus Open Source Software resolution, encouraging schools and faculty to explore the possibilities offered by OSS in their work and their students’ work. John Logie then spoke for a while about the relationship between the CCCC IP Committee and the CCCC IP Caucus: the caucus is essentially a task force, he said, while the committee has “administrative teeth.” While the Committee is the formal arm, he suggested, the Caucus is more of a grassroots space where radical, powerful ideas take shape. He talked about the annual “Top IP Stories” he’s working on, where people discuss the most important news stories involving intellectual property in the past year, such as the 2006 US Appeals Court decision in Bill Graham Archives v. Dorling Kindersley wherein the Court ruled that the remixed re-publication of Grateful Dead concert posters qualified as fair use under Section 107 of U.S. copyright law.

After Logie spoke, the caucus broke into work groups. I was in a group dedicated to unpacking IP issues in the classroom: as Carol Havilland put it, we as composition scholars have a habit of engaging intellectual property concerns in complex conceptual ways, but then turn around and teach our students simple rules without helping them explore the rationales behind them. We wound up talking about what it would look like to teach an “ethics of citation” and what such an ethics would do and how it would work. Brian Ballentine was the one taking notes, and I’m sure he’ll recap the session with more grace and facility than mine at Our small group session closed with Havilland offering an interesting proposal: it might be useful, she suggested, to look for cases to share with our colleagues where the rules we express to our students come into conflict with other rules, with institutional principles, or with what we see as ethical behavior.

Enough for tonight. Tomorrow, I present, and I’ll be attending more than a few sessions and meetings — I’ll see how well my note-taking holds up.

Update: Bradley’s blogged it, as well.