Recent honors

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The annual Canadian Association for Studies of Discourse and Writing conference was held this past weekend, May 24-26, and I’m very honored to say that some of my work has been recognized by the CASDW Association.

The article that I co-authored with Ashley Kelly and Bill Kinsella, “Risk, Regulation, and Rhetorical Boundaries: Claims and Challenges Surrounding a Purported Nuclear Renaissance,” was named Best Research Article for 2013. This piece, publishing in Communication Monographs, is from my larger research program on nuclear energy discourse in the Carolinas.

From their blog post by CASDW President, Doug Brent:

“I am pleased to announce the recipients of the CASDW Award for Best Article or Book Chapter in Rhetoric, Writing Studies, or Discourse Studies in 2013.

Kinsella, W. J., Kelly, A. R., & Autry, M. K. (2013). Risk, regulation, and rhetorical boundaries: claims and challenges surrounding a purported nuclear renaissance. Communication monographs, 80.3, 278-301.” 

Secondly, my dissertation was nominated for the Best Dissertation Award, and was awarded the Honorable Mention. Again, from a blog post by Dr. Brent:

“For the Best Dissertation in Rhetoric, Writing Studies or Discourse Studies in 2013, the winner is Ghada Chehade. Honourable mention goes to Meagan Kittle Autry and Daniel Richards. The committee had this to say:

“As a committee, we reviewed five dissertations that together projected a very bright future for the the field of writing and rhetorical studies. The dissertations differed widely in subject matter and methodology but were uniformly strong. It was a difficult decision—the words “dead heat” were used several times— but in the end we have awarded the CASDW 2014 Dissertation Award to Dr. Ghada Chehade for her thesis, “Anti-Terrorism Discourse and the War on Dissent: A Critical Analysis.”

Dr. Chehade analyzed official documents surrounding terrorism in Canada using Critical Discourse Analysis, and ultimately argues that these anti-terrorism texts discursively criminalize dissent. Her challenging and important topic, sweeping scope, rigorous use of CDA and contemporary critical theory, and her sophisticated but very cogent prose, won the day.

We would also like to award honorable mentions to Dr. Daniel Richards and Dr. Meagan Kittle Autry, in recognition of their excellent work.

Dr. Richards’ thesis, “Dead Man’s Switch: Disaster Rhetorics in a Posthuman Age,” brought a complex rhetorical philosophical frame to the rhetoric of risk and disaster around the Gulf Oil Spill, suggesting new paradigms for critically engaging with technical social discourses of environmental risk and disaster.

Dr. Kittle Autry’s thesis, “Genre Change Online: Open Access and the Scientific Research Article Genre” offered a synthesis of past frameworks, as well as an extensive analysis of the historical development of the genre of the scientific research article, building toward its current iterations within a dynamic genre eco system in Open Access venues. The thesis develops a qualitative framework that includes survey questionnaires of the authors and editors of 50 top published OA articles. This work, just like that of Chehade and Richards, is an excellent model for future studies.

In these three dissertations we saw three very unique and very different approaches to our shared field: In Chehades’ work we saw critical discourse analysis meeting critical theory, imbricated within the social mediation of texts. In Richards’ thesis we saw an applied conceptual rhetorical study of social texts. In Kittle Autry’s dissertation we saw very solid rhetorical genre studies theory used to reveal the disciplinary writing of a scientific genre, and we saw an empirical test of a traditional canonical frame in a new media situation. Together, these works bear evidence of the richness of writing and rhetorical studies, Canada’s future role in the discipline, and the strength and inter animation of diverse schools and strands of Writing Studies in North America.”

Thank you, CASDW, for the honors and the kind words about my work! And congratulations to the other winners!

A neophyte navigates the publishing process

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With my first journal article out with Ashley R. Kelly in Environmental Communication, I wanted to write about the experience of navigating the publishing process as a young scholar. Perhaps sharing my experience might help other young scholars as they work through the process.

Our path to publishing this particular article began last January, 2011, with the announcement of the Duke Energy and Progress Energy merger in the Carolinas and our decision to pursue a joint project on the merger. We conducted research on the online public reaction to the merger for a CRDM seminar class during the spring semester and concluded the semester by presenting part of the paper at a local conference, Environments, Risks, and Digital Media symposium, at NC State. At ERDM, we were on a panel with four other scholars who were also discussing issues related to nuclear energy. At that point in mid-April, the disaster at Fukushima Dai-ichi in Japan was a timely topic, and the other presenters (as well as we) discussed issues related to the Japanese nuclear accident.

The faculty member taking the lead for our panel, Bill Kinsella, at NCSU, thought that our panel was very cohesive and that it addressed an issue of relevance to the scholarly community. So, he contacted the journal’s editor to pitch a themed section of the journal for an upcoming issue featuring each of our talks in a manuscript form. The editor was interested and suggested we submit – great! At that point it was late April, and collectively, we aimed for a mid-summer submission, hoping to have the issue published in time for the one year anniversary of the accident.

Ashley and I spent many hours furiously revising our project to better reflect the discussion of the panel as a whole and to refine the arguments that we were making. At that point, we had received feedback from our seminar instructor, audience members at the conference, and Bill, as he was overseeing the submission of the whole package to EC. We primarily worked in Google docs, though as we got into later stages of writing and a couple sets of feedback from Bill, we switched over to Word documents with track changes. (I will still always prefer Google docs for collaborative writing.) We polished up our essay, and Bill put the entire package together, submitting it sometime mid summer. And then we waited.

And waited. That’s the toughest part! The first reviewer responded, generally in favor of the themed section, but with concerns for one of the papers that was ultimately cut and for revisions of the others – both of which we anticipated in advance. Unfortunately, the second reviewer never responded to our essays, ultimately delaying the process until the end of the year with still no answer at our end. Finally, the editor took it upon himself to make a decision, consulted with Bill on the revisions needed to make the submission a successful one, and returned the package to each of the authors for revisions on our respective manuscripts. This time – we had to cut the manuscript by nearly 2,000 words – no small feat for any author, when you generally want the information to be in there if you put it there in the first place! We turned to another colleague, who gave insightful and critical comments on our manuscript to help us see that we indeed had more to say than we were letting come out and helped us to be more assertive in our scholarship. While our collective group missed the deadline for submitting the final package in time for a March 2012 Fukushima anniversary issue, the package was ultimately submitted and accepted for publication, in the June 2012 issue.

Our path to getting our project in print was by no means a linear trajectory, and at times the wait was difficult. In the end, we were about 12 months from submission of manuscript to publication date – not unusual by publishing standards, and certainly faster than might happen with other journals. I learned a few important lessons about publishing as I move forward:

  1. When you think your manuscript is done, it is not. There are always more revisions to do, more words to ruthlessly edit for concision, or another piece of literature that would make sense to include. At some point, you have to say you’ve done enough to get it out for review and concede that you can still make key changes at the revision stage. Our essay is nearly unrecognizable from initial submission to the version we turned in for final publishing proofs. 
  2. Waiting sucks, but use the time wisely. It is especially hard to wait when the project is under review. But we took that time to work on other manuscripts, but also to get the word out as much as possible about the project that we had submitted (just not saying we had submitted it). We presented other data sets from the project at various conferences, gave poster presentations, and even visited Progress Energy. We got a lot of mileage out of the one project and learned a lot about being efficiently productive as a scholar from this research. 
  3. Asking others to review your manuscript is crucial. Our manuscript would not have been publishable without the assistance of at least four other people beyond Ashley and I. Each person who gave us feedback brought a different perspective and impacted our manuscript in various ways, but ultimately, they all made our drafts better and getting published possible. Seek out people beyond your close circle and take a chance on sending your manuscript to someone in your field outside of your institution or graduate program. You might be surprised at how generous a lot of people are with their time and ideas. 

Of course, I have by no means conquered this system, but this is my one idiosyncratic experience with scholarly publishing. While I would have absolutely preferred to publish in an open access journal, as just one person on a panel I was not able to make that choice for my work. However, I am very pleased with the fit of our article and entire section with the journal Environmental Communication. Our article is the first one that discusses Twitter and environmental comm issues at length and thus, I think, makes a significant contribution to the field.

Now, what’s next?!

Giving a talk at Progress Energy

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Today my colleague Ashley R. Kelly and I were invited to Progress Energy headquarters in downtown Raleigh to talk with their corporate communication employees about our ongoing research into their merger with Duke Energy. We’ve been studying this merger ever since they announced it last January, and thus far have published a conference proceedings paper and a forthcoming journal article, with another one in the works. We’ve also presented various aspects of the project – the merger’s connection to the nuclear disaster in Japan, the public hearings, Twitter data and online newspaper reporting – in several academic venues, but this is our first foray into bringing our research to a group within the public sphere. It shows that our work – as with the work that many other academics do – has real world implications that are important and should be heard beyond the walls (or paywalls) of academic venues.

We had a great time today talking with the communication folks at Progress Energy. We spoke with employees in Raleigh (in person) but also had employees from their Florida locations calling in to LiveMeeting to hear us and see our presentation. We really enjoyed having a large chunk of time to talk about our work – no 12-15 minute conference limitations there! – and easily filled the time with our talk and their questions. They were an engaged and inquisitive group; they do their own research and had some of their own hypotheses about their social media use and public conceptions about the merger, but they learned a few things from our research and gained an alternate perspective hearing about public discourse from a pair of objective academic researchers. Their merger with Duke Energy is a messy, complicated, and enormous undertaking – and our research reflects that and speaks to the range of issues that the public is concerned with and the ways in which they have brought their ideas and concerns to the table (or have attempted to).

As a young academic, I feel the need to see the connection that my work has to the world around me and to find ways that I can better connect with the groups that we have worked so hard to study over the last year and a half with respect to this merger. Today we gave a group of people a glimpse into the work that academic researchers do, which I think is important to do such that more people might better understand what we do (and not make wild claims about only working 9 hours a week, like this crazy guy did).

Today was a great way to connect the work that we do to the broader community in which we live and to see the value of our work for others. I look forward to having more opportunities like this in the future. Our invitation today also shows that a little self-promotion (such as tweeting about events we are at or what we are studying) can help us to make important connections to the community. We were invited based on tweeting about our work for the better part of a year and the head of communications one day replying to a tweet to say, “Would you come and talk to us?” So we also very encouraged about reaching out to broader communities through social media. Overall, it was a great day!

Graduate Research Symposium accolodes

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This March, just before CCCC, Ashley R. Kelly and I presented our research on the proposed Duke Energy and Progress Energy Merger at the 7th annual NCSU Graduate Research Symposium. Our poster focused on our analysis of the public response to the merger on social media sites – particularly Twitter – and the change in public response over time. To read more about our project, you can check out the full abstract in the symposium poster here.

Our poster was awarded third place honors in the Humanities and Design division! We are excited that this project has been fruitful thus far, and we have more events upcoming from this project – stay tuned for more updates from me as they happen.

Here is a photo of Ashley and me with our poster at the conclusion of the awards presentation:

Me (l) and Ashley (r) with our award winning poster. Photo courtesy of NCSU.

A highly productive week

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This week is “Spring Break” at NCSU. Being in my mid-twenties, I’m not so keen anymore on announcing to people, “I’m on Spring Break!!” Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for a week-long hiatus from class. It’s just that the concept of Spring Break is misleading for people when you’re a PhD student. So, from now on, I’m calling it my “highly productive week.” Because contrary to popular belief, I’m not spending the week laying on the beach – I’m whipping up some work and spending just as much time, if not more, doing all the things that just don’t get done when I’m in class, teaching, and generally prepping for my weekly deadlines.

The first task I tackled this week was data collection for a joint project that I’m doing with a colleague of mine, Ashley R. Kelly. We are examining rhetorical markers of controversy in public discourse surrounding the Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger that’s happening here in North Carolina. The new mega-power company will be the largest energy provider in the United States (in terms of customers). Complicating matters is the company’s desire to change North Carolina law in order to bypass public hearings about the proposed construction of nuclear reactors. We’ve just completed the data collection stage, so I’ll post more information once we’re further into the project.

I’ve also had the opportunity this week to develop my submissions for NCA 2011. I’ve submitted a revised seminar paper that I wrote last semester and am also finalizing a paper session proposal that Ashley and I will do together along with a PhD student from UGA who is also looking at rhetoric of science and nuclear energy issues. Hopefully, I’ll have to slots in the program for NCA 2011 and will be able to enjoy four great days in New Orleans this November!

Also on the agenda this week is reading Sherry Turkle’s newest book, Alone Together. I haven’t finished it yet, so I won’t post a full review until later, but in the meantime, I have a few ideas as I’ve been reading. It’s a little unsettling to read about how technology impacts our human relationships while at the same time, I’m taking notes on my Macbook, texting my husband, and checking Twitter. So automatically, I see the need for her research to better understand how this impacts our interactions with each other and our increased use of and reliance upon technology for everyday activities, including socializing.

Finally, I’m also working on my latest web project – a final project for my course in Writing Program Administration. It is a labor of love that I am really enjoying working on, but it will be a little while before it will go live and I will be able to share it with you. My goal right now is just to meet the deadline for the last day of class!

I realize I’ve falling a bit off of the blogging bandwagon and will hopefully get back on track now to my regular one post per week – so long as I have something important to say!