Military folks will recognize the thing I’m going to do here, so I’ll note that in doing so, I’m not trying to claim any privilege or inhabit any station that’s not mine. I’d like to honor a particular tradition by imitating it in a way, and in so doing honor the folks I’ve been lucky enough to serve under who’ve built and shaped that tradition. It’s a way, I hope, of calling attention to their service.
That word’s been important to me since my first hitch in the Army in the 1990s, and important again in what I’ve done in my second period of time working for the Army as a scholar and teacher. There’s a lot of stuff on my c.v. in the service category, and got recognized for some of that stuff this past Monday. But in my first hitch with the Army, I at one time had the call sign Strength Six Delta. That meant I was the Driver (phonetic-alphabet Delta) for Strength Six, the battalion commander of the 724th MSB, which had the motto, “Strength in Service.” Hence the Strength prefix. So I like thinking about that motto and my old call sign’s association with it.
The only times I used it with real frequency and regularity were when a lot of things were happening that involved a lot of people communicating really fast in the same loosely bound geographical location, which might sound to some of you folk like the way I use @preterite at events like #cwcon (the annual Computers & Writing conference). It’s not a bad parallel to draw, in its way. And in fact there was a whole lot of rapid-fire communication for me this past weekend, that started when I administered to my students the final Term-End Examination I’ll ever give here, at 0730 on Thursday morning. My four sections wrote for 3.5 hours, I did some initial preparation for the course director and worked on writing my evaluations of each student, we accounted for all final exams and final portfolios, and shortly after noon, I was off via car, train, bus, plane, and car again to this year’s Computers & Writing in Raleigh, North Carolina. As I was having dinner with four old UMass friends, I got my first call and series of texts from the course director with instructions about which exams to look at first when I got to the hotel, and from then on
it was a channel-hopping conference for me, back and forth between cell phone and text and email communications about final student outcomes back in New York; f2f interactions with old, current, and new colleagues and peers in Raleigh; having uncooperative objects like schedules and travel and time-monitoring and computers contribute to my problematic presentation-as-contribution to a panel that could have gone better; carefully evaluating exams-as-completed-arguments in the evenings and during sessions when I knew I wouldn’t attend any panels; attending and tweeting #cwcon panels and excellent keynotes like @digitaldigs Alex Reid’s, where he talked in really productive ways about the flat ontologies within which we might situate what happens in our interactions with texts, technologies, actions, capacities, objects, in (perhaps?) one of the ways I’m trying to do here; and then the resolutions and wrapping-up of the conference and the exams and the interactions even though all the people and situations associated with them continue in their ongoing and sometimes cyclical nature; and I got back on the plane to New York on Sunday in time to be farewelled by my Department Sunday evening. All that rapid-fire action and interaction among different channels and technologies and networks. I’ll make a very small slice of an argument here: while I really like Alex’s approach, I’m more interested that ongoing and cyclical nature; the way old aggregations of objects (we could them call them works, as the plural of work) come together, get recognized, and are recycled into new things. At one point on Saturday, I was delighted and grateful to be recognized for the aggregation of writing I’ve performed at this blog (for almost exactly 9 years, 917 posts, and 3085 comments) with the John Lovas Memorial Academic Weblog Award, and I’m glad you’ve thought it was worthwhile enough to have kept reading. And I’ll keep going, which is partly my point here: these things, these interactions and objects, keep on going and cycling into other things (there’s the Mr. Obvious moment — roger that — of this already far-too-long paragraph), but that’s in a way what my scholarly project has been about for a while; looking at readings read, writing written, arguments argued, connections connected, and tracing and accounting for their value.
And that’s what happened Sunday night, when one of the people I’ve been lucky to serve under said kind things about what I’ve done at West Point; about my teaching, scholarship, and, yes, service; and what happened in another more formal way on Monday morning, when I was recognized with the Department of the Army Superior Civilian Service Award. Military folks will know that such awards are sometimes given when one’s departing, and that’s what I’m doing. The first application I sent out for a new job after the Orientalist and I got married on New Year’s Eve resulted in what felt like a flurry of emails and phone conversations and interviews and texts and travels and visits and letters, including me calling the chair of the search committee during one of the intermissions of Götterdämmerung at the Met, and ultimately in me accepting a tenure-track position as a specialist in the rhetoric of technology at Washington State University at Pullman, where I start in the fall. I’ve been enormously lucky to have had all the people around me (yes, you included) pushing me forward, pushing me up, pushing me on, and while many of my strengths in recent years have been in terms of service, I’m happy to now be making the more scholarly turn and seeing this moment as a sort of drawing-together or liminal space where a lot of different things happen. One of those things means my invoking that rhetorical move characteristic of the Army and say goodbye to the Army for the second time. This doesn’t mean I’m ending the blog — by no means — or even that I’ll stop blogging about military matters when the interest strikes me, but in this space, I’ll be turning much of my attention to other things, other objects, other works.
Strength Six Delta out.