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CCCC, put to rest, with lots of links

Since I've seen at least one reference to my as-of-yet unfulfilled promise to report on the sessions I saw, and I did promise again last night to do this, and I need to do more with this space than whine about being depressed, and confronting the mess in my apartment is even more depressing to contemplate, I present to you my personal CCCC. For better or worse, my own account will be necessarily briefer than Mike's and others', and necessarily more oblique.

In part, this is because I only went to sessions where I knew at least one of the panelists, and in three of five cases, the entire panel. After a certain point, that's inescapable, I'm sure, but for most of us, it's intentional. It takes quite the panel and paper titles to get me to a panel where I don't know a name. And this runs up against one of my personal rules of thumb re blogging: never type anything that you wouldn't be willing to say to a body's face. I violate that rule from time to time (who doesn't?), but personally, I hate stumbling upon criticisms of myself, and I try to honor that with respect to others as a result.

My panel habits raise another issue. With one exception, I refused to attend a session whose title made reference to the conference theme. CCCC proposals are actually read by qualified reviewers, folks, and everything I've ever heard about this process supports two related conclusions: a theme-referenced title will not help a subpar proposal get accepted; the absence of such a title will not sink an otherwise-acceptable proposal. It may be that my patience is simply thinner than it was when I was a starry-eyed graduate student, but listen to me closely: none of us (myself included) is as clever as we think we are--if you can think of a way to reference the conference theme, chances are that there will be 100 other panels that do the same thing. The result is a swarm of really poorly titled panels. If you don't believe me, check out past years' programs, and see how embarrassingly bad so many of the titles seem. Takin' it to the street, anyone? Ugh.

Anyway, as I was saying, I go to panels where I know people whose work I'm interested in hearing, and for me that raises the issue of whether or not I feel comfortable being critical in public. I'm not. And part of that is that my own dread of public speaking is so great that I appreciate anyone who does it. Even an otherwise mediocre talk gets credit from me if for no other reason than that.


Okay, here's what I saw:

B.06 The ‘Edge Of Chaos’: Complexity and Emergence in Networked Composition

Michael Lasley, SU; Joddy Murray, WSU (TriCities); Joseph J. Williams, SU

You'll forgive if I don't do paper titles as well--you can always look them up. Mike talked about the role that ritual plays in the spread and emergence of cultural norms. Joddy discussed the way that working with multimedia helps students invent by situating them on the edge between order and chaos. Joe's paper I don't remember as well, in part because it was drawn from a larger project, but it seemed to me that he was talking here about redefining the notion of event in terms of complexity and networks. He can correct me if I'm off--I'm one of his readers.

The papers took on a pretty big task--referencing complexity in a field that hasn't really come to grips with it yet. On the one hand, this probably narrowed their audience--it wouldn't have surprised me to learn* that one of the questions after the session was simply "what is complexity theory?" I thought that each of them did a nice job within his particular focus, but audience members without the context that I have might have found it a little overwhelming.

C.24 Questioning Author(Ity)

Susan Adams, SU; Justin Bain, SU; Tracy Hamler Carrick, Colby College; Jonna Gilfus, SU

This panel was an iceberg tip; all four presenters were contributors (as was I) to a collection on authorship theory in composition, and their papers were condensed versions of their chapters. There was a fair amount of overlap and cohesion to the panel itself, but each of the talks was distinct. Justin talked about writing centers, Susan about gender and sexuality, Jonna about the way that our writing textbooks position students authorially, and Tracy's talk worked through a range of ideas on ownership and authorship in the classroom.

The book from which these presentations were versioned is coming out in the fall, I think, and will be well worth it. I don't say that (only) because I've got a chapter as well...The panel itself was much more intensive than the first I saw (which was very extensive)--much more overlapping, fitting together, etc.

E.26 What’s the Matter with Whiteness?: On Seeing the Interface

Laura Gurak, UMinnesota; Michelle Kendrick, WSU (Vancouver); Kris Ratcliffe, Marquette; Kathleen Ethel Welch, UOklahoma

Tough panel to summarize, because it was pretty broadly conceived. Kathleen's talk was engaging, but ranged widely and I only remember pieces. Kris talked about the challenges of getting mostly white students to acknowledge and work critically with "whiteness" in the classroom. Laura's talk revolved around the competing models of proprietary technology and open-source. Michelle focused on interface design, but I may be projecting when I say that she was drawing a connection between the "don't make me think" school of interface design and the "don't make me think" response of white students to thinking about (their own) race as a category. That's the connection I came away from her talk with, regardless.

Kathleen ran a little long, I think, and as a result, both Laura and Michelle felt rushed to me. If I hadn't already been on my feet all day, I would have been better able to draw some of the connections among their papers, and this would be more informative than it actually is. Sorry about that.

H.11 Weblogs: Exploring Contexts, Community, Collaboration, and Practice

Charlie Lowe, FSU; Clancy Ratliff, UMinnesota; Terra Williams, FSU

Lots of folks have written about this panel, either directly or obliquely, and I find that I have little else to add. It was probably the most well-attended that I attended, and it was pitched very effectively for a CCCC audience. That probably sounds like a back-handed compliment, but I don't intend it that way. My experience with technology presentations (after 10 yrs of them) at the Cs is that there's a lot of good to be found in the first couple of years' worth of papers on any phenomenon. I expect next year's blog panels to be very good, after which more advanced work will probably have to appear at C&W as the CCCC new-member-skew takes over.

Terra addressed using weblogs in the classroom, by asking students to alternate between individual and collective blogs, Charlie provided an overview of blogs as personal knowledge management, and Clancy detailed the results of a study on the gender dynamics of the "A List." I'd be less terse if their presentations weren't already linked above.

I.23 Writing Peace: Beyond the Trope of Advocacy

Diane Davis, UTexas; Cynthia Haynes, UTexas-Dallas; Victor Vitanza, UTexas-Arlington

There's no way I can give any of these three papers justice in a single sentence, so I'm not going to try. I'm sure that there were a number of audience members who had little idea what they let themselves in for by attending. Each of the papers was intricate, and carefully theoretical in different ways. The kind of presentations not for the faint of mind.


*I should note, parenthetically, that I find Q&A time nearly unbearable. Yes, I'm one of those who gets up and leaves right after the papers are finished. Yes, I'm one of those who sits in the back specifically for that purpose. My friends by now know that this is the case; anyone who is surprised and/or offended by this shouldn't be--it's a reflection not on the panel but on my own preferences...


You find the Q&A unbearable? WHY?

Such interesting, relevant points raised by people who have very insightful things to add.

Like I said, unbearable.

And it's even worse when I'm one of the presenters--if I could leave my own sessions to avoid Q&A, I would.

I actually like talking about a presentation, either my own or someone else's, but the "4th paper" questions, phatic softballs, and attention magnets typically make that impossible in the conference format...

Hey, thanks, Collin. I almost feel like I didn't miss much... and I mean that in a good way! ;-)

A conference as large as CCCC shouldn't have a theme at all.

Amen to that.

It's bad enough that we have all those damn sessions with warped titles. But if I were ever to discover that an arbitrary conference theme had anything to do with whether or not my proposal had been accepted, I'd cancel my membership and never go to the conference again.