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.

Writing a dissertation prospectus

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Now that I’ve moved through the written exam portion of my doctoral candidacy exams, I’m working on the second step of the process: writing my prospectus to present at my oral exams. In CRDM, oral exams generally have two main parts. The first is the oral defense of the answers to the written exams, where the student has an opportunity to elaborate on statements made in the written exams, and where the advisory committee has a chance to ask follow-up questions and make the student really think about what s/he wrote. The second portion is dedicated to the presentation of the dissertation prospectus, where the committee has a chance to come together and vet the project the student is proposing before s/he is sent off to write it over the next year or so.

I’m currently wrapping up my dissertation prospectus. I’ve got to get it in to my committee by this Monday, which would give them one week to review it before my oral exam on November 12. This has been a difficult genre for me to write: it’s not a document I’ve ever written before, nor was I exposed to it at all as a graduate student. I wanted to offer a few thoughts on the process that might help others in the future. They’re not necessarily organized, but — since I’m in the middle of this crazy other document, a bulleted list will have to do:

  • It’s OK to ask your chair/advisor to supply a couple of samples from previous students they have advised. I’ll emphasize the “previous students they have advised” because that will give you a sense of what’s acceptable as a prospectus to your particular chair, which can vary greatly depending on the faculty member. I got a couple of examples, and they were very helpful in showing me the kinds of moves I would have to make to write an acceptable prospectus.
  • Make your dissertation project speak to the field at large. This is so crucial: often in our seminar papers, we are speaking to a more local audience that’s situated in the particular seminar we’re taking. But just like articles we submit for publication, it’s critical to show how your dissertation will contribute something new/original or will further develop an important idea in the field at large. This is “bigger picture thinking” that is sometimes hard to do in the prospectus. The way that I got here in my own document was to …
  • Identify the case study you are interested in doing and consider what contribution you can legitimately make with such a study. Often a dissertation idea starts with a particular object/phenomenon people want to study (in my case, open access). I focused so intently on my particular case study in the first version of my prospectus — justifying it, proving why it was a timely topic, etc. — that I didn’t realize what conducting such a case study would actually allow me to say to the field at large (in my case, rhetorical genre studies and rhetoric of science). Once I realized the ways in which my case study could speak to the fields I was writing into, my prospectus turned the corner from a local document (one written in my program) to one that spoke to an international community of researchers.
  • Be very specific about the methods that you will use to do your research. The idea here isn’t to have laid out your specific process from start to finish and to have your codes developed (or whatever your method might be), but to demonstrate to the committee that you have a clear plan for accomplishing the work and that they can be confident you have the tools you need to go out and get the job done.
  • Ask your committee about your methods (in advance). Each committee member has a purpose on your committee, and for me, I specifically have one individual whose strength is empirical study design. We had a great meeting a couple of weeks ago, tossing around possibly study designs and discussing the merits and demerits of each. I might have thought I knew the best way to study the topic at hand — after all, I’m the one focusing on it! — but through my discussions with this committee member and my chair, I quickly realized that their experience in directing these projects meant they had important contributions to my methodological approach.
  • Read some dissertations in your field (or at the very least, parts of some). This will give you an idea of the end goal as well as a practical sense of how the larger project should be conceived. One of the most difficult things for me to figure out in writing my prospectus was the larger organization of the dissertation and exactly what constituted a “chapter.” This is also something to discuss with your chair/advisor, but a lot can be learned from an initial browsing of other dissertations from your program. Do faculty prefer to see a methods chapter that stands on its own? Or do dissertators incorporate those into a chapter reviewing the literature? Or up front in the introduction? In the humanities, the chapters and orders aren’t a given, and it can be difficult to see the best way to organize and work through the project that you’re doing.
  • If possible, do peer review with other students working on their prospectus. I am a part of a small writing group with other students at a similar point in the program as myself, and we have traded prospectus outlines and drafts for the last few weeks. Seeing how others envision their project and write into their fields has been incredibly helpful for articulating the contributions of my own project. It’s also ensured that I continued to work on my prospectus — I wouldn’t dare show up to writing meeting without any new materials for peer review!

So, this obviously isn’t a comprehensive guide, but these ideas have helped me get through the process of writing into such an occluded (out of sight) genre. I think the main takeaway here is that this is a document that absolutely needs the contributions of others: committee members, previous examples of the genre, examples of the ultimate genre, and feedback from peers. A dissertation certainly isn’t written alone, and the dissertation prospectus is the start to a writing process of incorporating the assistance of others to getting done successfully.

For those who have been through this process, or maybe faculty who advise doctoral students — what advice do you have about writing a prospectus?

Introducing Genre Across Borders (GXB)

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Two weeks ago at the Genre 2012 Conference at Carleton University, our research team officially launched a website that has been under development for over two years: Genre Across Borders [link opens in a new tab]. The goal of our site is to help the wide range of scholars whose work falls under the umbrella of “genre studies” to have an ongoing conversation about work in genre, to maintain connections across disciplinary and international borders. Genre studies does not have an official conference, nor a journal venue, so work tends to be scattered across disciplines and presented at various conferences, but we don’t often get a chance to talk to other genre scholars about our work. Thus, Genre Across Borders (also known as GXB) was born.

The site features a variety of research resources, including overviews of research on genre in variety of disciplines, a bibliography, and a glossary. We’re also collecting web resources on genre and developing a pedagogical section that folks can come to for teaching materials related to genre. The site is open to any and all genre scholars across the world. All content is Creative Commons licensed.

Do you do work in genre studies? Sign up now! 
If you’d like to be a part of the GXB community, it’s pretty easy. Head over to our website, create a user account, and start using the site!  While the development team has initially populated the site with content, and continues to be responsible for handling technical issues, the growth of the website and community moving forward will be user-based. We think the content should be driven by what the user base is looking for, rather than what our development team thinks up.

What can you do on the site?
There are a few parts of the site that you can begin to contribute to immediately.  Check out our Bibliography, with over 450 current items, and add citations that we don’t currently have. If you’re a published author, and we already have your work listed there, you can make our database even better by linking to a pre-print version (if your text is copyrighted, you might host a pre-print version on your own site) or a link to the published version (if it’s open access, perhaps to the journal’s website) for users to go to if they’d like to be able to read your work immediately.

We’re also developing a glossary of genre-related terms, but we need your help to make it a more robust glossary. Don’t see a term there that you think belongs there? Add it! To create a new glossary term, just click on “Add Term” (you must be registered and sign in to do so), and then include the definition, a citation for that definition, and an example of the term’s use. That’s it! And be sure to give yourself credit for doing so in the “Contributed by” field. You can also edit a current term, for example, if you know the original use of a term that’s already been defined.

You can also use the forums to network with other users on the site. Hosting an upcoming conference that genre folks should know about? Post the CFP! Have a general question for any and all genre scholars? Post it!

Our newest feature is site-wide tagging! These will be completely crowdsourced, so as you’re using the site, be sure to tag entries that you’re familiar with to help us develop a base and to help others as they come to the site better use the resources that we’ve got there. You could start by tagging your own publications, or perhaps works you’ve read for your comprehensive exams, or the glossary term that you’ve added.

Forthcoming features
GXB is so much more than these few features here, and we’re working on getting everything going for users. We’re currently testing a submission system that will allow users to upload sample teaching materials and browse through what other users have uploaded — just in time for class prep for the fall semester! Watch our twitter feed (@gxbproject) for announcements about when features go live and other general news about the site.

Get the word out! 
We are excited about the possibilities that GXB has for the genre research community. Please feel free to share the site with others doing work in genre, encourage them to sign up, and feel free to provide the development team feedback on the site so that we can better serve our research community.  To keep the conversation going on Twitter, follow us (@gxbproject) and use the hashtagh #gxb for any and all genre-related discussions (not just about the website). We look forward to connecting with you!

Professional development as a PhD student

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This week I applied for a position in my department as the Graduate Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program. It’s a great opportunity to pursue my interests in higher education administration, to get some practical experience on the job, and to work with one of the most respected directors in the country. I was so excited when I got the call for applications in my email and started working on it right away.

The call asked for a “letter of interest.” Sitting down to write it, I realized – I’ve never heard of a “letter of interest” before. I’ve certainly never written one. I’ve never attended a workshop on writing them or heard a word about them in any professional development work I’ve done. I’ve heard and seen a lot of information on writing a cover letter and a CV, reading a job call, etc. Because it was an internal call – only PhD students who teach in the program are eligible to apply for the position – I’m assuming that’s why only a letter of interest, and not a complete job application, was necessary. However, if this is a common practice for applying for internal jobs, as a graduate student, I’d certainly welcome some guidance in writing for those.

I worked on some ideas, drafted what I thought I would include to demonstrate my interest in the position, and did what any smart student does – sent it out for peer review! With the help of someone in my cohort, I think I’ve produced a strong letter that demonstrates exactly why I’m not only interested in the job but also highly qualified to take the position.

However, it leaves me wondering if my letter of interest fits the genre. What goes into an internal letter of interest? How common of a practice is that in higher education? For instance, if you’re an associate professor applying to be the director of graduate programs, do you write a letter of interest? Do you complete an application? Or is this the only time in my life I’ll see a job opening that will require (and only require) a letter of interest?

I’m also helping facilitate a series of professional development workshops for PhD students in our program. This reminds me that I need to “think outside of the box” for workshops and ask around for important information that’s not necessarily the standard PD workshop material. Inevitably, there’s always something you haven’t heard of before that you have to work on for your job application that I want to see if we can cover if at all possible. Which reminds me – I’d better start on the first workshop! January has nearly passed us by.


Genres & digital media

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Genres are an ever-moving target; “dynamic [and] evolutionary in nature” (Miller & Shepherd, 2004), they are subject of an immense body of research into which I barely dipped a toe this week when reading for my course “Rhetoric & Digital Media.” The readings demonstrate the close relationship of form, genre, and narrative. I’ll attempt here to explore briefly some of the major issues discussed in our readings and take a stance on what genres are, what emerging issues for genre accompany the developments in digital media, and how we, as budding digital media scholars, can examine them.

To begin, Burke’s Counter-Statement (1968) takes form as a central tenet, and the selections we read reflect his initial exploration of form (“Psychology and Form”) and the subsequent addenda to and corrections of his ideas (“Lexicon Rhetoricae”) In the former, Burke demonstrates Perelman’s (1982) “dissociation of ideas” to distinguish between form and psychology. To Burke, rhetorical form is the creation and fulfilling of desires of the audience, their psychology. It is dynamic: the reader anticipates, the writer delivers, and the text satisfies, creating a profoundly social and rhetorical view of form, as opposed to the traditional aesthetic view used within literature at that time.

Burke’s early ideas of form and human action lead us directly to Miller’s (1984) discussion of genre as social action. She explains that form, combined with the substance of discourse, permits “that symbolic structures take on pragmatic force and become interpretable actions” (p. 160). She makes clear, however, that form does not mean genre, instead suggesting a definition of genre that has become the discipline-standard for scholars: “typified rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations” (p. 159). Thus, genre is not a property of a text, but a function. Genre organizes constraints on textual production and meaning-making. In outlining this new way of understanding genre, Miller responds to the exigence that hardly any scholars discussed genre similarly at that time, seeing a need for a more stable way to define and analyze genre within the field. In developing what she calls a “rhetorically sound definition of genre” (p. 151), Miller places emphasis on the pragmatic component of texts (as opposed to syntactic or semantic) and gives rhetorical critics a new standard for evaluating genre.

Miller & Shepherd (2004), in “Blogging as Social Action,” use methods that we can consider for genre analysis. Using the semiotic terms from Miller’s (1984) “Genre as Social Action,” they examine at the generic semantic content, the formal features of the genre, and the pragmatic value of blogs as social action, deducing that the blog as genre “addresses a timeless rhetorical exigence in ways that are specific to its time.” This study demonstrates the work that we may do for this course or for our dissertations. We see through the blog example that digital media engender new genres. The Internet was able to accommodate the cultural exigence, and thus the genre emerged.  So, as digital media scholars, how can we explore emerging or evolving genres? It seems that many of the rhetorical concepts we are covering this semester are useful for this type of study: determining the kairotic moment for genre emergence, looking at the form (formal features) of text, and the exigence out of which the genre develops, just to name a few. Miller & Shepherd identify a key problem that we may encounter in our studies: they identify blogs as “a rapidly moving target,” reflecting on the constant evolution and adaptation of digital media and genres. How can we identify generic features if they are constantly changing?

Upon re-evaluation a few years after their original study, however, Miller & Shepherd (2009), conclude that blogs are not genres, but a medium, hypothesizing, “when they were new, the medium was the genre; but adoption and experimentation led to differentiation and the multiplication of genres anchored in the same medium” (283-4). Now, the blog medium, with all of the tools that a person needs to create and maintain their own blog, carries blog genres: political blogs, photography blogs, academic blogs, family blogs, and many more, each of which can serve as a subject for genre analysis in their own right.  Miller & Shepherd show that while media can carry genres, they are not genres in and of themselves. Genre and medium seem to have a symbiotic relationship, but it is important to distinguish between the two concepts to determine where a medium simply provides affordances for a genre, and where the true social action through discourse takes place. Placing a genre in a new medium – for example, taking a novel and making it available online – would not necessarily create a new genre, as the exigence and social action of the genre has not changed. Are there instances where this does happen? How does the Internet create new kairotic moments or alter social action? Can a person create or “design” a genre? This last question would assume, perhaps, that a person can also create a rhetorical exigence for a new genre.

It may seem that genre criticism is a difficult or futile exercise if genres consistently change and adapt, but as Frow (2006) argues, genre is important to the reading of every text. Genres are real classifications that we use to organize our culture. We rely on genres to establish constraints on how we produce and interpret meaning in texts. Shifting and emerging genres raise important questions of social, technological, and economic change that we as rhetorical critics have the privilege to address. So, if we are going to analyze digital genres, we must think critically about how we can effectively do so. Can we ask the same questions for digital genres as we have about print genres? I don’t think we can. Certainly, print genres may be the antecedents for some digital genres and some similarities may exist between them, but we also have new issues to consider with digital texts. As we’ve established in previous class discussions, we have new exigences to respond to, new ways of constituting audiences, and an overall highly complex rhetorical situation.


Burke, K. (1968). Lexicon rhetoricae. Counter-statement. Berkley, CA: U of CA. Original edition, 1931. 123-183.
Burke, K. (1968). On psychology and form. Counter-statement. Berkley, CA: U of CA. Original edition, 1931. 29-44.
Frow, J. (2006). Genre. The new critical idiom series. Ed. J. Drakakis. London: Routledge.
Jasinski, J. (2001). Narrative. Sourcebook on rhetoric. Rhetoric and society, ed. H. Simons. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 389-404.
Miller, C.R. (1984). “Genre as social action” Quarterly journal of speech 70, 151-76. Accessed Jan. 24, 2010, via Communication & mass media complete.
Miller, C.R. & Shepherd, D. (2004). Blogging as social action: A genre analysis of weblogs. Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. In L.J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, & J. Reyman (Eds.), Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Retrieved Jan. 21, 2010, via
Miller, C.R. & Shepherd, D. (2009). Questions for genre theory from the blogosphere. Theories for genre and their application to Internet communication. Eds. J. Giltrow and D. Stein. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Perelman, C. (1982). The realm of rhetoric. Trans. W. Kluback. Notre Dame, IN: U of ND. Original edition, 1977.