CFP: Emerging Genres, Forms, and Narratives in New Media Environments

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The CRDM program at NCSU is pleased to announce the CFP for our 4th annual research symposium, organized by Carolyn R. Miller, Ashley R. Kelly, and myself.  We hope you’ll join us in Raleigh for the event this spring!

Call for Papers
Emerging Genres, Forms, Narratives—in New Media Environments
Research Symposium
19–20 April 2013
Program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM)
North Carolina State University

Submission deadline: 1 February 2013

Digital media have enabled what impresses most observers as a dizzying proliferation of new forms of communicative interaction and cultural production, provoking all manner of multimodal experimentation, artistic and entrepreneurial innovation, adaptive construction and reconstruction, and a good deal of just plain play. Hyperlinking, interactivity, and crowdsourcing change our narrative strategies and structures. Some of these new forms go viral, some persist, some adjust incrementally, others languish or are rapidly replaced by something else. Scholars in multiple fields have begun to explore these processes of emergence, innovation, and stabilization, many of them working with the concept of genre, which has become newly important in rhetoric, literature, game studies, library and information science, film and media studies, applied linguistics, and elsewhere. As social recognitions that embed histories, ideologies, contradictions—as sites of inventive potential—as recurrent social actions—genres are constitutive of culture, in Giddens’s sense. Genre systems can tell us a great deal about social values and cultural configurations; narratives tell us who we are and who we want to be; rhetorical and poetic form offers recurrence, recognition, satisfaction.

The 2013 CRDM Research Symposium will explore through both theoretical inquiry and case studies these processes of emergence, innovation, and stabilization as rhetorical energy meets the affordances and constraints of new technologies. Issues of interest include the relationship(s) between medium (or technological affordances) and the evolution and stabilization of genre conventions; historical examples of genre emergence when old media were new (print, film, phonography, radio, television, etc.); the re-mediation or adaptation of familiar forms and narratives in new media; the potentialities of new combinations of modalities, of sound and text, image and word; the processes of global distribution, uptake, and modification of historically and culturally situated forms and narratives; the emergence and assimilation of new forms and genres in education, science, religion, and politics.

Sponsored by NC State’s doctoral program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media, the annual CRDM Research Symposium brings together faculty, graduate students, invited speakers, and other participants to engage in collective inquiry and dialogue on a topic of interdisciplinary interest.

Keynote speakers for 2013 include Janet Giltrow (University of British Columbia), Lisa Gitelman (New York University), David Herman (Ohio State University), and Neil Randall (University of Waterloo Games Institute). For a full list of our keynote and featured speakers, please see the Speakers page.

We invite participation from CRDM faculty and graduate students; from other departments and programs across NC State University; from other universities and colleges, and from corporate, governmental, and academic institutions throughout the Research Triangle and at the national and international levels. We welcome two main types of submissions: (1) traditional paper presentations, and (2) digital projects or installations. To present a paper, please submit a 250 word proposal by 1 February 2013 through the submission portal on the conference website (Please note: you must have an account with the site to submit a proposal). To present a digital project, demonstration, or installation, please submit a 250 word proposal/description of the installation. Additionally, please include as much detail as possible about your space and technology requirements. Notifications will be sent on 15 February 2013.

Joint Event with Carolina Rhetoric Conference
The 2013 CRDM Research Symposium will be held jointly with the annual Carolina Rhetoric Conference (CRC), a graduate student conference organized cooperatively by students in rhetoric at Clemson University, the University of South Carolina, and NC State University, and hosted this year by CRDM students and the NC State chapter of the Rhetoric Society of America. The CRC is open to any graduate students interested in rhetorical studies. Several events will be held jointly by the CRC and the CRDM Symposium on Friday, and participants in each event will be able to attend sessions at the other.

Publications and Media Archives
We plan to publish selected papers from the Symposium as an edited volume and/or special journal issue related to the theme and to make videos of Symposium presentations available on the CRDM website. The CRC plans to create a podcast series. More details will be available later.

Journey into the land of…. high schoolers!

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This year, CRDM’s Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Student Chapter is undertaking a variety of outreach projects to increase awareness of rhetoric in our community. As a part of this project, this week, Ashley R. Kelly and I  volunteered at a local high school, Broughton, to speak to International Baccalaureate (IB) program twelfth grade students in a Theory of Knowledge class. The class was just finishing up their semester, so now was the perfect time for us to come in to introduce another way of looking at knowledge (and perhaps to encourage them to think about studying rhetoric as they set off for college in the fall!). We taught two separate classes, one each day, and let me tell you – teaching high school is exhausting! Each class had 40 students, and we were outside in a portable, a fairly small space for that number of students. For both of us, this was our first experience in a U.S. high school, though overall, it wasn’t that much different from our experience in Canada.
We covered basic concepts of rhetoric (what is it? where does it come from? how do we talk about it?) before moving on to a topic that they had covered in the semester: science. They had covered concepts of knowledge in science, so by bringing in the perspective of rhetoric of science, we connected to some ideas they had covered but also challenged them to think about science in new ways. We talked about expert and inexpert audiences, adapting arguments based on the different audiences, and the importance of science for the general public and for themselves as individuals. We based a lot of the discussion on our research into nuclear energy in both a local setting (with the Duke-Progress merger) and on a global scale (with the accident at Fukushima last March and Germany’s reaction to the disaster). The students were bright, talkative, and engaged – and sure knew way more about nuclear energy than I did in high school!
All in all, filling a 100 minute class to engage 40 adolescents the whole time was a challenging experience. But we left encouraged that the students were so engaged, and their teacher indicated that afterword, they expressed interest in the work we are doing and the CRDM program – they thought it was all pretty cool. Taking on this outreach opportunity was a really great experience, and we can’t wait to hear what other CRDMers are doing for it, too!

Live blog: Managing your online identity professional development workshop

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I’m live-blogging the second professional development workshop of the fall semester for CRDM, “Maintaining Your Online Identity.” Special thanks to CRDM faculty member David Rieder and CRDM-affiliated faculty member Brad Mehlenbacher for sharing their insights and websites with us today.
David starts by indicating he has a static website for a reason: that maintaining a dynamic site requiring constant updating can be quite time consuming. Message: use your time wisely.
Brad features a new page he created his website about online identity management for academics. He offers that the website has come to serve as his vita and/or portfolio. It’s a fairly comprehensive record of his work as an academic.
Dave shows his website and offers several ideas: 1) He maintains a simple, static site to keep it manageable; 2) He used an open-source template; 3) He codes by hand (hey, another old schooler like me!). He emphasizes that for those in the humanities, “flashy” isn’t a standard, and that sites should be usable on a variety of platforms and possibly printable. He also recommends using a hit tracker to identify your audience (he has used Reinvigorate; Brad, ClustrMap) and to better tailor your materials based on where your hits are and the heat map information that is generated.
Brad emphasizes not having a personal section on a website when you’re on the job market – and Dave heartily agrees – to avoid inviting unwanted biases about you as a candidate. Post-job market, Dave offers that the amount of personal information you include on a website depends on how comfortable you are with doing so, but that it’s certainly not necessary.
Brad also uses his site as a resource for teaching, giving talks, etc. He aggregates information as he comes across it and can easily use for his own preparation or to give to students.
Dave remarks that our websites should be a key marketing tool for us on the job market, and we should see it as an opportunity to self-market and become more visible. Search committee members may not all be on Twitter or Academia.edu, but they will certainly Google you – so control the material that appears when they find your site.
Wendi asks a question: “To what extent should your website replicate your CV?” Dave warns: the more information you put out there, the more you offer yourself to be critiqued on, so select the information you put online carefully. Put out enough to support the ethos you present for yourself in your job applications.
Dave and Brad both recommend including brief descriptions of the teaching experience you’ve had: titles of courses, semester taught, and a brief blurb (potentially the catalog description, if it’s not too clunky).
We end with a discussion of really putting yourself out there vs. displaying limited information about yourself, such as only your most recent work. Some academics have earned great recognition based on their open web presence (Cheryl Ball, for instance) and that this is something that each of us will have to negotiate individually as we decide what kinds of jobs we’ll be applying for.
Of course, the workshop was further reaching and with more of the nitty-gritty details than I’ve offered here. We had a great time with lively discussion – if you’re in CRDM, be sure to come to the next workshops in the spring to be a part of the conversation!

My Techno-Teaching Philosophy

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This week, for my CRD 704 core class, Technology and Pedagogy in Communication Arts, I created a techno-teaching philosophy to present to the class. Our guidelines were basically to create a teaching philosophy using some kind of technology. I ended up using several different software programs, online freeware, and hyperlinks in my finished product: Adobe Indesign, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Acrobat, Glogster, WordPress, and Apple’s Pages to create my techno-teaching philosophy infographic.

I’ll include a small image of the file here, with a link to my online portfolio where the infographic is actually posted. I encourage you to check out the full-size view, complete with all of the embedded links that help to explain many of the graphics. What follows is the brief written description of the infographic that I’ve included as an accompaniment to the visual representation of my teaching philosophy. I welcome any feedback that you have. Hope you enjoy!

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For a full size view, click here
Teaching is a major part of my identity as a scholar; indeed, it is a major part of the reason why I have chosen this profession. The same commitment that I have to the scholarship of rhetoric propels my teaching. This infographic represents key points of my teaching in the academy. 
Medium

I have chosen to present my techno-teaching philosophy in an infographic format to reflect some key components of my scholarly and teaching identity: to feature my interests in new media, design, and visual rhetoric; to visually represent myself as a cheerful, upbeat person; and to demonstrate that I stay informed of current trends (one of which is currently the use of an infographic to represent data and other information). Infographics feature carefully selected research and data, presented in a highly-organized but visually-pleasing format, in order for the audience to draw a larger conclusion about the featured topic. My argument with this presentation is that it echoes my teaching style: thoughtfully constructed lesson plans, presented in a way that is provoking and fun for students by relating to their interests, which allow them to draw larger conclusions about the topic as a whole that we are discussing. 

Content

My teaching philosophy infographic is divided into three main sections: who and what I teach, my scholarly grounding in teaching, and evidence of teaching excellence. This presentation shows a trajectory of planning, implementation, and results, a reflection of how I approach assessment of my teaching. 

I begin with the audience for my instruction, “digital natives,” who while they may have grown up using a computer cannot be assumed to understand technology as those in my graduate program understand it. Here I can bring to my students a level of critical thinking and technological competence that will benefit their own use in years to come. I also use technology, social media, and digital media as a konoi topoi, or common topic, to spark discussion or use as an example. 

Knowing my audience also means recognizing not only what they want to learn, but how they want to learn. I teach both face-to-face and hybrid classes, knowing the growing trend in higher education of students take at least one of their courses in blended format. I’ve also linked this statistic to my web resource, The WPA’s Guide to the Hybrid Writing Classroom, to demonstrate my work in the scholarship of teaching and learning. 

The central portion of my infographic represents my scholarly grounding for teaching. As a rhetorically-trained scholar, I build my courses around principles of rhetoric that will most benefit students both while in school and once they begin their careers. I emphasize the rhetorical canons – invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery – and the rhetorical triangle, incorporating related topics of genre and the rhetorical appeals as we explore a wide range of texts, including written, visual, oral, digital, and multi-modal. This approach demonstrates a valuing of the foundational scholarship in the field while at the same time letting students realize that these key concepts can still be applied to the work and the technology they have today. 

I end with a demonstration of my teaching excellence. While in graduate school, I have endeavored to acquire many skills and listen to many excellent teachers to improve my own instruction. I’ve completed the Certificate of Accomplishment in Teaching, and next fall, will be doing the Preparing the Professoriate program. My commitment to teaching is recognized by both my students and my department, as evidenced by my evaluations and TA of the Year award. 

Conclusion

From this infographic, it should be clear that my teaching is dynamic, disciplinarily cutting edge, and demanding, all while being grounded in scholarship and principles of effective pedagogy. This multi-modal infographic has allowed me to expand my understanding of what a teaching philosophy can be and to better represent my personal approach to teaching.

Back the grind

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And so it begins – year two of my PhD, year eight of my post-secondary career. What’s slated for this fall? Here’s what I’m up to:

I’m taking four classes this semester: one core CRDM course, Technology and Pedagogy in Communication Arts; two electives, Rhetoric of Science & Technology and Environmental Communication; and one professional development class, CRDM Colloquium.

For the first time in my graduate career, I’m not teaching this semester. Instead, I’m serving two administrative roles, with my time split between them each semester. This fall, I’m the primary Graduate Assistant Director of NCSU’s Campus Writing and Speaking Program, directed by Chris Anson and Deanna Dannels, and in the spring, I’ll be the primary Graduate Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program, directed by Susan Miller-Cochran. I’ll be assisting each program during both semesters, but taking on a larger role for one each semester (with another graduate student filling in for each).

I’ve got to tackle several important milestones toward earning my PhD, including deciding on my doctoral exam areas, beginning to form (or completely forming) a dissertation committee, starting to create reading lists for my doctoral exams, and figuring out my Plan of Work for the Graduate School. It would be great if I could finalize a dissertation topic, too.

I’ll also be presenting some research on discussions of nuclear technology post-Fukushiima at the 4S (Society for the Social Studies of Science) conference in Cleveland, November 2-5.

What are your plans for the semester? Will I be seeing you at 4S? Or missing out on your presentation at NCA? Let me know!

The difficulty in being a digital media scholar

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Like many people, I love the Internet and all things related to digital media, spend a lot of time on the internet and with technology, and as my husband would argue, am (borderline) addicted to it all. Unlike many people, however, it is my job to study/research/analyze digital media and the Internet, as a part of my research for my PhD program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media at NC State. This means, at the very least, I have a good excuse for being addicted to it (unless you are my husband, in which case, it only means that I way too frequently bring my work home with me and work wayyy too much. Which is basically the life of an academic. I guess I have some explaining to do…). But my relationship with the Internet and other technology is not so simple.

It is fun and fascinating to study this broad field, but it can also be very frustrating, difficult to make productive, and hard to keep up with. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very happy with my graduate program, and I do love what I study – but it comes with some built-in difficulties that you have to learn to manage if you’re going to make a go at it with any real consequence. Here are some of my thoughts on the field (which is probably not even the best way to put it) after my first year of PhD work:

Studying the “field” of digital media/technology/the Internet (and yes, I know these terms are not interchangeable) is frustrating because the field is so large and unwieldy, grows bigger all the time, and transcends pretty much every other field in academia. At NCSU, we study rhetoric and digital media, but that is just one angle of digital media research. It’s being done by nursing programs, who analyze use of tablet computers for improving patient care, and political science, to examine the influence of social media campaigns on elections. And those are exactly the studies that we could undertake in our program as well. So how do we distinguish ourselves in the humanities? Or should we at all? Should we market our research outside of these select fields of Communication and English?

It can also be frustrating to study rhetoric and digital media from a humanities perspective because we have no clear methodological sense for how to effectively analyze these artifacts and all of the data they can produce. To borrow a term from Steven Krause, researching the internet in particular is akin to searching in “a haystack full of needles” – there is too much information out there, and it can be challenging to sort through all of it to find some kind of meaning/finding/publishable anything. Those in the humanities have yet to articulate any meaningful considerations for methodological study of digital media thus far, though my colleague Ashley R. Kelly and I will have a paper published in this year’s ACM SIGDOC Proceedings that begins to tackle this issue.

It can also be difficult to make research into digital media/technology/the Internet productive, and by productive, I’m referring to producing work that adds to the general body of knowledge in the way that academics aim to do (generally through publishing). A key challenge here is deciding what is meaningful and what is not, and this is directly related to the dearth of methodological literature. If we cannot conceive of the important considerations for digital media study, how can we know what artifacts and data are meaningful? Or when we do know what’s meaningful, has it taken so long that the information is no longer timely and relevant to academics and the general public?

This leads me to my third frustration with studying rhetoric and digital media: it is so difficult to produce work that is relevant and timely with the way that academic publishing works. Sure, in my seminar one semester, I was right on point with my analysis of a new technology or use of social media. But by the time I can revise a draft for a journal, send it out, revise a manuscript, and have it published – it’s no longer so timely and relevant. Obviously, this issue is not unique to digital media scholars, nor is it a new one, but it’s exaggerated by the fast pace of technology and digital media advancements. But as an ongoing issue, I strongly feel that we need to address it and find ways to make our research more available in a more timely way to the public – after all, we aren’t trying to only speak to each other with our work. Or at least, we shouldn’t be. The University of South Alabama has recently established a new journal that sets out to work on this issue, The Journal of Contemporary Rhetoric. Let’s support these new ventures so that we can find ways to keep our work timely and relevant as well as rigorous.

So, to recap: studying rhetoric (or insert any academic field, really) and digital media is challenging to say the least. But it is also exciting for all of the potential that is there. We just need to find ways to study it meaningfully – not just any old website or new gadget – and rigorously, as well as to make the information available when it is most relevant and not a year and a half or two years after it made news.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of studying digital media/technology/the Internet/whatever you like to call it? How do you deal with the issues I’ve mentioned here?

Why all grad students should do collaborative research

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This spring, I undertook two collaborative research projects with a colleague of mine in the CRDM program, Ashley R. Kelly. It was the first time I had ever done a seminar paper collaboratively (other projects, certainly, but never the largest one for the course). While at first I was not quite sure how we would manage it, once we got started things really took off and I never once wondered about project management. Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the two collaborative projects that we did and would absolutely recommend doing that for at least one of your courses if you are pursuing your PhD.

First, why I loved it: it may be that my research partner was fabulously on the ball, but we were both highly motivated to do well and to both hold up our end of the deal to contribute as much as we could to the project. Having a research partner held me accountable to all of the progress (and occasionally, lack of progress) that I was making. It made me think about the projects more often; gave me frequent deadlines throughout the semester to meet, and alleviated the last-minute crunch that everyone faces at the end of the semester. We toiled diligently through February and March, making the end of April much more pleasant than normal. Of course, you’ve got to choose a collaborator wisely: don’t pick the student who consistently procrastinates! You don’t want to resent your partner for not completing tasks in a timely manner. We also had an unofficial “open-door” policy for talking about our projects: we did not hesitate to speak up, disagree, or call each other on something we didn’t like/see as valuable for the project. These conversations were professional – not personal judgments of our own ability – so they were productive and did not create any resentment between us. I think this is extremely important for teamwork!

Now, why I think all PhD students should do this at least once while in school: collaborative writing is more and more prominent in academia and better mimics some of the group tasks you’ll have to do once you are faculty member. It seems now that any time I get an alert from a journal I’m following, six out of the seven articles in a new issue are co-authored pieces. Web projects are also highly collaborative; case in point, the project I’m working as a research assistant for this summer. It’s great professional training in a lower-stakes setting that also allows you to develop connections with those whose research interests align with yours; I know many faculty who still co-write articles or books with those they wrote with in grad school, even though they are now at different institutions. It could also allow you to supplement any of your own weaknesses and learn something new from someone who has perhaps more experience with a certain methodology or theoretical background, helping fill in scholarly gaps you might have.

Overall, collaborative research was a great experience for me this spring, and Ashley and I are continuing on some projects collaboratively, some of which I hope to share with you in the coming months. Next up: how Google docs (and spreadsheets, and presentations) can make your joint research and writing project a success.

Have you ever completed a collaborative project? What advice can you add to the ideas I’ve got here?

Encouraging feedback

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This week has been quite a busy one with school and my husband being in California for work! One of my obligations this week was a meeting with one of my professors last semester to discuss the project that I completed for the course, History of Communication Theory. While early February is a quite a long ways past when I submitted the project at the beginning of December, I still felt it was important to hear what he had to say about my research and the topic’s potential.

Overall, the meeting was highly encouraging. Not because the project was so amazing that it’s ready for publication, but that he felt the topic had really great potential to become my dissertation topic (!!). I was already planning on submitting the paper to NCA to present this fall, and his enthusiasm for the topic gave me some new energy to pursue it further in a course this semester. The topic is still huge and essentially untouched in the field of rhetoric and communication, so it will take some time for me to work through some ideas to figure out how I can approach it for my dissertation. The great news is that I still have a lot of time to explore the topic (another year’s worth of classes) and I can be well on my way to designing my three concentration areas and reading lists with this topic in mind.

So, despite the somewhat discouraging nature of academia right now, I’m running on a high of having a general topic to pursue for the next 3-10 years and helping my prospects of finishing on time because I’ve got a topic figured out. Now to determine what my concentration areas will be, based on how I want to frame my research, and form a committee of faculty that can work with me on the project. Next step: a talk with my unofficial advisor to get the ball rolling. And I’ve already got that on the agenda for next week!

P.S. I love that I can tag this post “PhD” and “happy.” How often does that happen?!