WIDE-EMU 12 (or 2?): (post)post-(un)conference

Last Saturday (October 20) was the second happening of WIDE-EMU – an (un)conference on writing in digital environments. I attended and presented last year when it took place at EMU, and presented again this year at MSU. The framing question for the talk, make, do sessions was What is composing today? How do people learn (and teach) it?

My presentations:

Do with Derek Mueller and Joe Torok: “Clocking Composition: Exploring Chronography with Timeline JS”

We explored/experimented with Timeline JS in a workshop like session and had an idea exchange of (pedagogical) use of such a tool. We were coming up with cool ideas, including playing with the units of time and leaving time signifiers, which makes more available/possible/potential. I’m not sure what that is yet, but i know I want to use this way of composing/(re)presenting a text.

Do with Joe Torok: “Composition’s Objects: Taking Stock Through Tiny Ontology”

We had a smaller session that was more of a conversation, which fit well with what we planned. We didn’t necessarily want to pinpoint ontology, especially in relation to OOO, but to explore what it makes available when brought into composition (more akin to OOR). We each came with an idea/activity we had worked with in our classes that we designed to help students think about things. Joe’s was creating a list with what is used to compose/what makes up the composing space for this attention to small things we neglect to see within the larger and assembled process of composition. Mine was more of tracing of materials/things associated with the (un)conference:

conference (de)compositions: creating lists/tracings for how far we can (de)compose the things of this conference.

  • Into what can some thing be broken apart?
  • To what connections/relations can some thing be traced?

There are plenty of things around us here (and our paths to here). Select a thing to appreciate in its thingness – the things of which it is composed.

  • words from the session titles/program
  • landmarks/things you passed coming to Bessey Hall
  • the highway/road you traveled here by
  • what you are going to eat for lunch
  • what you consumed/used already today
  • things in this room
  • things in your pocket or bag
  • the history of WIDE-EMU
  • people/schools presenting today


Plenary Session by Bump Halbritter: “Teaching/Learning/Knowing Writing as Symbolic Action”

I find Bump’s work with video a motivation to make more with video and to implement its process/potential into the classroom. It works really well not only for a metaphor for composing, but for working through composing – planning/story boarding, filming mass amounts of footage, reviewing and selecting small portions from the footage, assembling/arranging the footage, adding transitions and effects and sound/music, publishing. I have/continue to think that visual composition, from video or imagetexts, makes more space for awareness of/attention to rhetoric and design than alphanumeric text; so, a note for myself to read more about composing with video/sound.


Talk with Becky Morrison and Chelsea Lonsdale: “Student Writing Made Visible: Questions About Publication” and we were joined by Cheryl Ball “Editorial Pedagogies: Who’s bringing publications into the classroom?”

Becky, Chelsea, and I made zines (need to scan one and post as a PDF) that were filled with our questions; our talk session was more of a forum. We were/are really proud of our zines, our DIY publication of scholarship, that interactors (audience) could add to and take away with them. More questions were raised, which is exactly what we hoped for, and Geoffrey Carter and Cheryl Ball, and our/EMU’s Steve Benninghoff made contributions to our work that we are all still discussing/working with/through/from. Our session transitioned into Cheryl’s session of her creation/implementation of editorial pedagogy, which sounds incredible/exactly like a class I would like to teach. Her vibrant attitude/personality and knowledge of the field and the publication/circulation of its scholarship was incredibly illuminating. Now, to make sense of my scribbled notes and make this type of approach/methodology in my own way.


I presented in three of the four sessions, and actually spent the fourth session talking with my comrades Becky and Chelsea with Cheryl Ball as an: extension of our session, a trail of breadcrumbs to return to, a perspective on what’s going on in the field in digital spaces, a confidence and morale boost, rallying cry/cheer to try things on our own terms. The three of us left that conversation with her on the verge of skipping/fighting the urge to dismantle (politely, of course) some of the constraints we work within. I didn’t realize it until talking with her that I have lost connection to some of the ideas and scholarship that got me excited to make/do this work in the first place. She was an (un)expected catalyst, a happening I did not anticipate happening. spark. take/make a happening.

The (un)conference was followed by #beerrhetorics at Beggar’s Banquet, which was a delightful opportunity to talk over beer (or through beer?). Aside from enjoying the company of my EMU comrades, I had the pleasure of talking with Alex Myers, an Assistant Professor of Game Studies at Bellevue University. He had my attention at his casual mention of Bruno Latour, and while I don’t have much of a connection to game studies beyond reading Ian Bogost’s piece on procedural rhetoric, what he is doing/creating is captivating (as can be seen on his site). Cheryl was kind enough to let us continue picking her brain/ask her an assault of questions because she is a wonderful human being, and I had a chance to somewhat re-connect with Geoffrey Carter, who presented in the same session as I did at the (un)conference last year, who is doing/making scholarship with YouTube that I want to know/experience more about. Among others! The (un)structure of the (un)conference makes these opportunities for engaging in conversation/exchange available, something I value tremendously as a doe-eyed novice to the field of rhetoric and composition.

Things I’m taking/carrying/absorbing/connecting with(in or to) me:

  • I need to get subscriptions to Computers and Composition and the Rhetoric Society Quarterly
  • I am lucky to have such supportive faculty at EMU that are happy to/make a point to let us grad students try/explore. My work wouldn’t be possible/visible without them; which makes me think about how important connections within scholarship are – to whom, from where, to where, from whom. This is where I am situated.
  • Check out in greater depth the work of Cheryl Ball and Geoffrey V. Carter (both of which I graciously thank for their attention and conversation).
  • Read more. And then more: Jeff Rice, Jenny Rice, Victor Vitanza, Thomas Rickert, Cynthia Selfe, Anne Wysocki, William Burroughs, Gregory Ulmer (and then…)
  • I want to make more (of) myself. Let this be a part of my scholarship. craft/connect/compose myself into an identity I want to circulate/connect.
  • Sound. Make noise within composition. soundtext to accompany my library of imagetext.
  • Perhaps a PhD is possible.
  • Find time. Use time. Make time. Create time.
  • Shake the static. I have become docile.

I left feeling like a conductor of energy. Now, where am I going to transfer this energy? For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. Push/Pull.

This second (un)conference was made possible by: Derek Mueller, Steve Krause, and Bill Hart-Davidson. Thanks!

expertise is futile

Happening: the GRE this weekend, packing to move, squeezing in a whirlwind trip to Buffalo, the start of classes, my graduate assistantship, conference proposals, and planning for the first college course I will teach. Well, the last one, not so much. Time is a factor, as always, and distractions abound, but what it comes down to is expertise, or lackthereof: I haven’t done this before. I don’t know how to.

While drinking my coffee this morning, I wanted to catch up on my Reader feed – a move toward a productive day. Putting my anxiety into perspective, Jeff Rice wrote a post called Rough Cuts: Creativity:

I enjoy writing about and speaking about the creativity process, though not from the position of being a “creative writer.” I’m not. I’m also not an artist. And I’m also not interested in art or creative writing. Instead, I think of my academic writing as creative. At home the other day, I compared my work on a new book project about social media and craft beer as being like a musician getting back into the studio. I have a project in mind. I have a concept. I want to create it. I need to get into the studio. I don’t think this is a romantic view of academic writing, but rather, a desire to create. That is, I don’t claim the process to be inspired from above, artistic, or generated by some muse or locale. Instead, I enjoy the labor and work of creating. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

After some humbling talk about difficulty doing and publishing his own academic work and interesting remarks on Roland Barthes that serve as yet another reminder that I need to read Barthes, he goes on to talk about the new TA reception his wife, Jenny Rice, was hosting as composition director:

The TAs will largely be responsible for exposing first year students to the creative process of academic writing, and they do so as they, as well, work to understand such struggles (dissertation writing, trying to publish, etc.). They are on dual tracks of expertise searches: as students and as teachers. My only observation on this experience comes as one who has directed composition programs, taught the TA practicum many times, and, of course, been a TA many years ago. It’s a pity we fret so much over expertise. Expertise is ethos, but it also can shut down invention entirely. A typical composition program devotes endless energy in trying to be expert. It can’t, of course.  TAs and young student writers can only explore their creativity.

I keep approaching planning this course with feelings of inadequacy at my lacking expertise in the setting, demands of the role, and the subject matter. Since I am co-teaching the class with my professor-mentor, there are also fears of him realizing I’m not expert enough, that my ideas are half-baked, lacking in connections and knowledge of the proper authors, key words, and titles. But I can only explore my creativity. This is where I acknowledge that of course I am not an expert, but that’s not the point. I’m in graduate school because I’m curious and like to explore. I’m interested in teaching for the same reasons. Boiled down as such, these seem flimsy, but they are far from it. These are cautious undertakings wrought with pauses, the seeking of guidance, missteps, and entirely wrong directions, no doubt. But that’s just it.