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November 28, 2005

Your gain

Tonight was the "fall finale" of Prison Break, imho the best new show on television, where we learned, among various plot points, that there won't be new episodes until March.


Now that that's out of my system, I should observe that my pain might just be your gain. If you haven't watched this show, or if you've watched it but not regularly, my guess is that they'll run the entire fall sequence from Jan to March, to give all you come-latelies a chance to catch up.

Anyhow, PB is a mix of 24, X-Files, and even Lost to a degree. Here's the story. Michael Scofield is an architect/engineer whose brother (Lincoln Burrows) is framed for the murder of the Vice President's brother. But Michael is the person who designed the prison that Lincoln is sent to, and so he fakes a bank robbery and gets himself sent to the same prison, with the idea that he will break them both out before Lincoln can be executed. And in the meantime, Veronica Donovan, an ex of Lincoln's, is trying to figure out what happened from the outside, trying to uncover the plot. There are three main plotlines at play: Veronica's efforts, which are hindered by some mysterious gov-types; Michael's plan for the break, which he converts to mnemonics that are tattooed all over his body; and the prison network, where Michael's plan must be executed.

One of the really fascinating things to me is the interplay between the intricacy and order of Michael's plan, with the messiness of the prison population. Michael has to balance various alliances to get the equipment and assistance he needs to execute the plan, all without getting himself killed in the process. It reminds me of 24 in terms of its heavily developed plot arcs, X-Files for the shadowy gov't conspiracy elements, and Lost for its large ensemble cast and sometimes clashing characters. Trust me when I say that it's worth a look.

That is all.

November 25, 2005


Not much going on in my neck of the 'sphere here in the wake of Turkey Day. For the umpteenth year in a row, I did all I could to avoid Bleak Friday, the inevitably depressing reminder of all that is commercial and cynical about the upcoming holidays.

And so, looking to restore my faith and optimism, what should I come across (tip: Chuck) but a link to an NYT interview with Jean Baudrillard? Okay, if you don't know who JB is, then you wouldn't recognize that as irony. Trust me, though. It is.

There was a time when I was really into JB's work, when it felt like he was on the front edge of what was going on in culture and society. Of course, this was a while ago, and since then, I must admit that it's felt like the world passed him by. In part, I think it's a generational thing--had he been a fair bit younger, I think he would have embraced the Net and drifted with the flow a little more. Now, he just sounds cantankerous:

Q: Some here feel that the study of the humanities at our universities has been damaged by the incursion of deconstruction and other French theories.

A: That was the gift of the French. They gave Americans a language they did not need. It was like the Statue of Liberty. Nobody needs French theory.

That's the close of the piece. Ah, well. If he had bothered to lead with this bon mot, then perhaps Deborah Solomon's time could have been better spent with someone whose only relevance to the NYT is his status as "one of France's most celebrated philosophers." I can't help but sense the parallel between JB here and the other theory wonks who have delighted in crowing about the demise of theory, their last gasp attempt at keeping control over the industry from which they've derived a great deal of benefit but for which they're no longer as relevant. The irony of JB trying to keep it real in the NYT, after years of arguing precisely against such a strategy, is almost enough to make me laugh.

Almost. That is all.

November 21, 2005

The agony of de-feeds

There's an interesting "report" over at the Feedburner weblog, about the changing face of feeds (RSS/Atom), and specifically about the way that feeds are finally (or need to be) decoupling from blogs. Although they remain an incredibly useful way for me to keep up with the 100+ blogs I subscribe to, that's not their only use. The Venn diagram at the top of the entry illustrates this nicely:

RSS/Atom evolving

When I talk about using weblogs with someone who's new to the idea, I almost always also talk about Bloglines (and various other aggregators), because feeds have been so vital to my own ability to manage the incoming information. But as feeds take on a more autonomous role on the Web, one of the things I've been thinking about is what they mean (or could mean) for the academy.

Right now, you can subscribe to a feed for CCC Online, but as a single feed, and one that's only updated 4 times a year, it's not going to save you that much time and effort. But what if more of our journals began to put out feeds, such that we could all keep an aggregator folder that fed us new article information? Or heck, put em all together into a Feedburner, and you'd have a single feed for the field that would notify you of articles as they were published. (and don't even get me started on keyword subscription--sigh.)

This is even more important for those of us who work in fields that aren't purely disciplinary. There are so many journals dealing with technology stuff, for instance, in cognate fields, and it's a lot of work to keep track of them, and to do so at the proper intervals. You can't tell me that it wouldn't be worth our time, for example, to be feeding the tables of contents of Kairos and Computers and Composition to the majority of new media scholars who work in other fields. Crossing the boundaries of disciplines and specializations is a high threshold activity, but feeds would make it a lot more simple.

Problem is that the publishers of our journals need to get on board, and that may take some doing. The operative model, even for the corporate journal oligopolists, is protectionist. Many of them already make the information that would be in a feed freely available, but they are focused heavily on the "search" as their primary form of interaction: come to our site to look at our data. And that's also assuming a level of technical capability that is by no means uniform across the publishers in my discipline.

I still think that the primary obstacle to wider readerships for our journals is ignorance, and this is doubly true for any kind of inter or transdisciplinary work. It's so hard to keep up broadly that most of us only keep up narrowly, with a few journals, trusting ourselves to check the others every once in a while. Investing a little bit of time, distributed across publishers, in feeds would address this obstacle really well, and it would have the potential to really change the way we do things.

And honestly, putting out a feed would involve, beyond initial setup, maybe 30 minutes an issue for copying and pasting. For the most part, it's information that we already have--feeds would simply distribute that information differently, better, and more widely. That's why we're doing it with CCCO.

[tip: Richard MacManus]

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November 20, 2005

A girl after my own heart

Met up this afternoon with Douglas, Enslow, and Marlo, who were in town over the weekend for a bridal shower. First time I'd met the latter two--Douglas and I were compatriots at the Arlington School back in the day. I tried to see them last month whilst I was in NYC, but my trip coincided with Marlo's birth.

Anyhow, we met up at Starbucks, and spent a nice hour over coffee & tea, and the entire time, despite the yammering of parents and friend, despite the bustle of a campus coffeeshop, and despite the music that's always pitched just a little too loud in the Bucks, Marlo slept like an angel. D & E will look back upon these days with fondness in the months ahead, as I'm sure she won't always sleep like that, but for now, I was pretty impressed.

That's all.

5 Places I Would Rather Have Been

  1. National Communication Association, Boston

  2. National Council of Teachers of English, Pittsburgh

  3. Tinderbox Weekend, San Francisco

  4. Battle of the Books, NYC

  5. On my laurels, resting

Presentation Tips

There's an open thread over at 43 Folders, specifically on the topic of giving good presentations. A lot of it is stuff you'll be familiar with, and perhaps this is too, but in the comments, someone writes

No one will ever feel better about a presentation than the person giving it.

For whatever reason, that really resonated for me, given how little I like to speak in public. Hmm.

(Bonus linkage: Presentation Zen. Thanks, Liz!)

Bonus reflection: Would it also be fair to say that

No one will ever feel better about a course than the person teaching it.
No one will ever feel better about an article than the person writing it.
No one will ever feel worse about a meeting than the person chairing it.

I'm pretty sure that I have experience contrary to that last one. Heh. Don't we all? But it's interesting to me to think in these terms about the other things that I do on a regular basis.

November 19, 2005

At your own "risk"

The kids these days, they're blogging up a storm about the recent piece that came out in Slate, by Robert Boynton, called "Attack of the Career-Killing Blogs."

To be fair, this is a pretty balanced account of the relationship tween blogs and academia, despite the fact that it opens with the pretense of Daniel Drezner's tenure experience, failing to reveal until the very end that Drezner's story hasn't ultimately been a sad one.

Lots of people have blogged this, so I don't know as that I've got anything particularly earth-shattering to add to their thoughts. One thing that I've noticed, and which I haven't seen discussed, though, is a writing habit that typically irks the crap out of me, one which I've always tried to get my students to move away from, the "many people say" verbal tic. To wit,

While few are counting on their Web publications to improve their chances at tenure, many have begun to fear that their blogs might actually harm their prospects. (para 2)

But academics aren't just concerned about the public display of an applicant's personal eccentricities. Many perceive blogs as evidence of a scholar's lack of seriousness. (para 3)

In most disciplines at large research universities, tenure is directly related to the number of peer-reviewed books and articles one publishes. (para 5)

And most people agree that blogs would need to be evaluated through some kind of peer-review mechanism if they are to be taken into account. (para 11)

Yes, well. The problem with "many people" is that their opinions are easy to pin down and report, but exceedingly difficult to verify (or to disprove, if it comes to that). And what emerges from Boynton's essay is a pretty cookie-cutter, he-said-she-said sort of account of a debate that varies considerably from discipline to discipline, and probably from school to school.

Still, it's fair enough. The one thing that I would really take issue with is the 11th paragraph, partly quoted above. Here's the full:

The current antipathy toward blogging may have something to do with the fact that universities have no tools for judging blogs. And most people agree that blogs would need to be evaluated through some kind of peer-review mechanism if they are to be taken into account. "It is utterly absurd to propose giving someone credit for activity with no barriers to entry," Holbo says.

Okay, set aside the "current antipathy" nonsense, a dramatic flourish without any sort of evidence behind it. Normally, I find John Holbo's comments insightful, but here I was thrown a little. Partly, I suppose this is because there are plenty of examples in academia where the "barriers to entry" are neglible if not absent. We receive credit towards service for volunteering to serve on committees, a process not known for its cutthroat competition (if anything, we usually compete to avoid such assignments). There are plenty of conferences I attend where the "review" process is a matter of bothering to send in a registration fee. If you're at all assertive in an academic context, you can receive credit right and left for such activities--I see organizational memberships listed on c.v.'s, listserv subscriptions, etc etc.

The answer that Boynton proposes in light of Holbo's "absurdity," an elaborate peer-review system for academic weblogs, would almost certainly have a chilling effect on blogs, and create a barrier for entry that would sap the energy right out of them. The question shouldn't be "how might a blog be peer-reviewed?" but "how might academia begin to think outside of a peer-review system that is occasionally corrupt, leads to navel-gazingly over-specialized minutiae, and grounds itself in the contradictory values of scarcity and constant growth?" Blogs are a pretty good start at an answer to that latter question, but only if we don't waste our energy trying to figure out how to reterritorialize them on behalf of academia. The energy floating around out here is doing so specifically because academia tends towards the conservative, stolid, and glacial, and the weblogs, they don't.

No academic blogger than I know would suggest that we should start giving ourselves credit for starting blogs. But that's the only place where, recalling Holbo's remarks, there's no barrier for entry. The process of building an audience is itself a barrier--most of us have worked at it for a long time, and succeeded only gradually. The discipline required to maintain a blog is, however, a bigger barrier than almost any other than I've encountered in academia, and that's to say nothing of quality, which is its own barrier.

The idea that we should begin setting up barriers, while academic blogging is still in its infancy, is mind-boggling to me, and my guess is that this isn't what Holbo would suggest. My own suggestion? Leave us alone, stop jumping to conclusions based on anecdotal "evidence" of a single tenure case, and stop trying to turn blogging into a tabloid-style issue.

That is all.

November 17, 2005

Small consolation

winter arrives at SU

I hear tell that this is perhaps the latest we've ever gone before our first "hard" frost/snow, but really, that's small consolation when it was in the 60's two days ago, and tonight I had to sweep snow off the car before driving to the store.

Ah well. I do live in the north, and it's not like this is the last snowfall I'm likely to see this year/month/week. I can't really complain, except to note that it always takes me a few days of sub-freezing temps to get used to dressing for it properly and steeling myself sufficiently when I go outside.

No real Lost commentary this week. While I appreciated the backstory for the Tailfolk, it was a lot of time compressed into the episode, and I didn't feel like we got much. There was a different Dharma logo (an arrow instead of a swan), and a hint about the U.S. military. I'm looking forward to next week, when the two groups of castaways finally interact--I hadn't really realized how long it had been since we'd seen some of them...

November 16, 2005

Who's your uncle?

Last night, at around 8:15 I think, my nephew was born at a healthy 9.4 lbs. I won't actually meet young Patrick for another month yet, but if some pictures happen in my direction, I'll be sure to post them here...

Congratulations, Tom & Jen!

November 15, 2005

Academy 0.5

In the CCR program here at Syracuse, we encourage our students to take electives outside of the program. In fact, the program's small enough (and the graduate course offerings sufficiently limited) that it would be a challenge to complete the program coherently without recourse either to independent studies or courses from other departments. In my mind, this is good.

And so it's been nice over the last couple of courses that I myself have taught to have non-CCR students among us. Last spring, we had participants from other institutions, and in both my summer and fall courses, I've had students from other programs on campus. So far, so good. There's a danger in a small program of becoming excessively insular, and in a freestanding writing program where we train PhDs who will most likely take positions in English departments, it's even more urgent. I worry sometimes that we don't prepare our students here sufficiently to deal on a daily basis with colleagues who may or may not respect the kind of work they do. While it's by no means a given that they will struggle in this fashion, it's also by no means that unusual.

And I guess I'm getting a lesson in that myself. I've learned over the past couple of weeks that another department, a couple of whose students are taking or have taken my course, aren't receiving credit for the course towards their majors. Needless to say, I'm less than pleased. There are multiple reasons, and while I could take issue (easily) with each, one of them in particular is especially galling to me. Allegedly, the students in my class "aren't doing enough writing."

It would be more accurate to say that my students aren't doing "the right kind of writing," which appears to be the real objection. I've written in this space before about the ways that I'm currently using CMap and asking students to do visualization work rather than the end-of-the-semester, stay-up-for-48-hours, binge-and-purge model that results in a 20 page essay that may or not may ever get read and almost certainly never goes through any kind of response, feedback, or revision process. Can you smell the bitter in that sentence?

As well you should. I've been meaning to blog for a couple of days now about John Unsworth's talk on New Methods for Humanities Research (Tip: MGK), the talk he delivered upon receiving the Lyman Award for technological innovation in the humanities. Please, please, please, read his talk. It's worth it. But it was pretty ironic to me, after having read this talk, to be told (albeit indirectly) that the work that I was doing in my courses wasn't "rigorous" enough for this other department.

Setting aside all of the issues that I might have with the so-called rigor of the seminar paper, and setting aside the issues I have with what I would describe as rampant current-traditional writing pedagogy on the graduate level, what I think is going on is simply a lack of understanding. Because for me, Unsworth's talk (and by extension, a fair bit of the work that I do) is not just about generating new methods for turning out the same kinds of academic products. A big part of the nora project is visualization, developing not only new methods and finding out new things, but learning to express them in new ways, and developing the tools to do so. It's easy for those of us who are really interested and excited by all of this possibility to simply assume that, once we do these things, their value will be self-evident to our colleagues.

What are my students doing in these projects? (or rather, what have they done, since the map was only one of two separate projects, and they've already turned the maps in.) Each of them had to assemble a collection of 25 sources for a particular area of inquiry. They had to familiarize themselves sufficiently with these sources to be able to see the patterns and relationships among them. In most cases, they had to learn a new piece of software. They had to articulate those relationships visually, write an executive summary of what their map reveals about the area, and present their work to the class.

In my mind, all of the various activities that resulted in their maps are activities that I myself have performed (and am still performing) in order to write scholarly articles. But there are two major differences. First, obviously, their articulation didn't take the form of a seminar paper, and so they weren't required to make claims that--let's face it--most graduate students are underprepared to be able to make. In other words, what I'm trying to do is to separate out, just a little, the related processes of "knowing" a field of inquiry and asserting your place within it. Seminar papers, in my opinion, tend to conflate the two, even though most of us (I think) realize that it's almost impossible to succeed at the 2nd without spending much more time than a few months working on the 1st. In fact, I would argue that it's precisely the repeated conflation of the two that helps to ill-equip students for writing their dissertations and to do research/scholarship once they leave graduate school. I think that this is one of the things that we have to unlearn to be successful academics.

The second major difference is that the projects my students are doing may prove to be useful to them for more than just having their professor submit the grade. Even if they don't keep up their maps or add to them, the value of spatially and visually articulating relationships among a healthy set of texts will persist. As they go on to do work in their areas (I encouraged them to think about potential exam areas as topics), they'll have a much better start for doing so than if they had synthesized a fraction of those texts in order to make a 20-page argument.

But hey, that's me. I like a good 20-page essay from time to time, but it's certainly not the only genre (nor medium, for that matter) that I think in/with/through, and often, it's not the best to say what I want to say. More to the point, I simply don't believe that the only way to learn how to write a good article is to just write simulated articles over and over and over and over until you either sink or swim. The scholarship process is made up of lots of and various micro-processes, and learning how to handle some of the earlier stages of the broader process can make the later ones more manageable. But of course, this requires us to actually think about that process, which is not especially encouraged by old school writing pedagogy, where good writing is the expression of inherent genius rather than the result of any kind of work. And where rigor is defined, by and large, simply as "what we do," despite plenty of evidence to the contrary (or at least, to the complicating).

In my little corner of the universe, there's actually something a little more rigorous (and a good bit less Pavlovian) in what I'm trying to do in consciously eschewing the seminar paper.

That is all. And see, I made it through this entire entry without having to refer to the insult of receiving an email asking me, out of the blue, to defend the rigor of what I was doing in my course. Well, almost, anyway.

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November 11, 2005


There's only one occasional reader of this site (that I know of) who will be as excited about this piece of news as I was: I visited B&N last night, and bought the last copy of this off the shelves:

Feast of Crows

It's been 5 years since the last installment of Martin's series, and if you're a fan of the epic fantasy like me, your patience has just about run thin. Word on the street was that this installment grew so huge that they ended up having to split it into two books (the fact that this one is 700+ pages should give you an idea of why that might have been necessary), necessitating another delay and another layer of editing onto what has been a grueling wait by industry standards.

Martin's one of only a couple of writers in the genre, though, who's probably worth it. Unlike some epic writers who've lost juice as they've gotten successful (e.g. Jordan, Goodkind, Brooks), Martin has been consistently excellent. Over at Amazon, there are already 49 reviews of the book, and the buzz seems to be that this one introduces a lot of new without orienting the reader enough. Having read volumes 1-3 this summer, though, I'm not too worried. And it's hard to imagine Martin not introducing new characters--one of the things that really distinguishes his work from almost anyone else's in fantasy is that he's willing to knock off any character at any time. There's probably only 4 or 5 characters that are "indispensable," and (a) they're not always who you think, and (b) that doesn't mean that they make it through the plot unscathed.

Of course, all of this means that I'm going to have to hold this book at bay while I try and get other things done--rewarding myself with a chapter or two once I've done what I'm supposed to do (instead of what I want to do, which is to hop myself up on caffeine and read Feast of Crows until I pass out, then wake up and finish it. Don't think I can't still do that.)

Sigh. That is all.

November 9, 2005

But now are found?

Thank goodness, Lost is back. And not a week too soon. Although one of these days, I need to talk about this season's telefetish, Prison Break. Still, Lost returned tonight, and we hung out mostly with the folks from the tail and some of the secondary characters. Not a lot of breaking plot news, except for Shannon taking a bullet. And I'd already caught that news on the spoiler boards (bad bad bad).

We also got another sighting of Walt, speaking backwards. What does he say? Someone recorded it and reversed it (thank you internets!): "They're coming and they're close."

In terms of the overall story, I was a little surprised that they dropped Shannon, but then, I'm not sure that she was going to contribute much beyond what she had. Now, there's instant friction between Ana Lucia and Sayid, which is hinted at at the very end of the episode. Flashing back for a character about to leave us, though, felt a little unnecessary, I guess. Shannon's character never really acquired the depth for me that others did. I felt bad for her, sure, but really, she didn't seem to grow much between being cut off by the wicked stepmom and landing on the island. Unlike some of our other flashbacks, instead of complicating Shannon, hers seemed more like rationalizations. Maybe there'll be more to her--she's not technically dead yet, and the "one of them will be lost forever" tease could refer to the Tail woman (Cindy) who disappeared. Actually, that makes more sense to me, given how incomplete Shannon feels.

All in all, pretty solid episode, moving us along in a few different ways.

One other quick note: Wendy's has been running these commercials where kids use some new Wendy's burger to hypnotize--the first one I saw was one where a kid Wendies his dad into letting him have the car and come home late. But they ran another one tonight where a kid first uses a burger to convince his friend to let him date his sister, and then he goes to the kitchen and uses a burger to get her to go out with him. Is there anyone else who finds the parallel here with date rape drugs a little creepy, tasteless, disquieting, etc.?

I probably shouldn't say anything--every time I complain about a commercial, I get the grammatically challenged blogtrolls a visiting, but oh well. I can always close comments.

That is all.

I smell Recount!

November 8 will go down in history as one of the days prompting me to change my 100 things (apparently its obsolete design hasn't been enough to light a fire under my ass): as of November 8, my father is no longer the Mayor of Davenport, IA. Technically, I think his term lasts until the turn of the year when the new mayor is sworn in, but that's mostly a guess on my part.

The new mayor, duly elected and all, is Ed Winborn, one of whose sons I used to play softball with, and one of whose daughters I used to have a crush on. I also used to live a block or two up the hill from him, back in the day. It'd be a more exciting "Brush with Fame" story if he weren't taking over for a direct relative...

But that's not the whole story. Rather than seeking a 3rd term as mayor, my dad ran for City Council out of the 6th Ward in Davenport, and won by four votes, 1483 to 1479. Yes, that's right: four votes. And that was one of four races each of which was decided by less than 50 votes, I think.

So yes, there will be counting, recounting, and rerecounting, I'm sure. All the same, congratulations, Dad!

November 8, 2005

The opposite of silver lining

I've come to the conclusion that there is only one thing worse than having your dental work take longer because you are bleeding, and that's having your dentist tell you this in an accusatory tone, as though you were bleeding intentionally.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that there are things that I can do over the long term to cut down on gum sensitivity (i.e., abuse them gradually to inure them to the abuse that they might take in the dentist's office), but there's not a whole lot I can do when I'm under the drill.

I'm just sayin.

November 6, 2005

While I was symposing...

My normal strategy is to have a mental category of "bloggables," a place where I store all of the things I might write here. It's a pretty Darwinian spot, and when I have the time to do a little sharing, the item from that place that feels most pressing is the one that shows up here. A fair number of bloggables fade and vanish, a few stick around for what feels like ages, and the rest eventually pop up here.

Anyhow, I've been holding onto this one for a few days now. One of our field's listservs has been particularly active as of late, and my reaction to it, most likely, is a rough approximation of the reaction that prompted Donna's recent post, esp the part comparing listservs to telemarketing. My own gut reaction to the discussion there is that there are a couple of trolls stirring things up intentionally, but that's really besides the point. A couple of questions/comments were raised that provoked me a little more than than they perhaps should have, and so...

The basic argument is this: future employers and associates could be on the list, and if you offend them, you are damaging future employment attempts.

Still others encourage me to post what i will and let the chips fall where they man [sic].

As an open question to the list, I ask:

As a potential employer or person in a position to influence a job decision, which opinion would you endorse and why?

This question comes up every once in a while on various listservs. Since I've achieved more than enough distance from the events in question, let me say this: Any public, professional statement is fair game for consideration, period. The problem here is that, when several people email you or talk to you off-list about your future employers, what they're really saying is that you're making an ass of yourself. But they're doing it indirectly, by suggesting that you tone it down as a matter of self-interest. There's something a little insincere about doing it this way, but I've done it myself on plenty of occasions, so there you are.

Now, I'd fight for your right to make an ass of yourself on a listserv, just as hard as I would for those who do it on their weblogs. That's your right. But it's no less of a right on the part of prospective employers to weigh the relevant evidence in their deliberations, and a statement made on a clearly identified professional listserv, in my opinion, qualifies.

Case in point. A long time ago, I was on a different listserv where one of the members engaged in a fairly protracted discussion about how a particular area of the field just wasn't that relevant or useful. I was a little miffed, given that I was on a search committee for a position that included said area. Imagine my surprise when this person's application appeared on my desk for that position. Actually, don't imagine my surprise. Imagine instead my laughter. The application didn't make it particularly far, as you might additionally imagine. I'm being purposefully vague here, to protect both the applicant and the process in general, but the fact is that applicants' behavior in professional contexts, even when it's not the pages of a journal, has an effect on how I view their applications. And anyone who believes that listservs don't have that effect is hopelessly naive.

(You won't be surprised to learn that no one, however, offered the suggestion in this conversation that graduate students shouldn't participate in/on disciplinary listservs.)

Of course, there's a lot of grey, particularly in contexts that mix personal and professional, and those contexts are far more the norm than the exception. Should a drunken comment in a hotel bar at a conference submarine your job prospects? Probably not, but it's probably happened to someone. Does a garish homepage design have anything to do with someone's ability to teach a course in whatever? Probably not, but the two have undoubtedly been linked together in some search committee member's mind. Is it fair for committees to try and imagine, on the basis of selected and incomplete information, what a body is likely to be like as a colleague? Nope, but it happens all the time.

Fact is, not everyone will want you. But to imagine that you don't have some measure of control (not to mention some measure of responsibility) over how you are perceived is absurd. The message quoted above ends with the following paragraph:

If one is not being true to oneself, does it benefit one to act in such a way that moderates or diminishes argument to a level that is more socially acceptable within the list, or should one instead be "loud and proud"?

Setting aside the really poor writing, what irked me the most about this question was the false dichotomy. Either one is "true" or one is acting. And of course, buried in this question-that-isn't-really-a-question is an indictment of anyone who is "socially acceptable" because of course, to be "true" is to just let it all out and damn the consequences. This is bunk. But it led to the second of the things that really pissed me off, and that was the series of snide comments about the academic "game."

Maybe I'm just particularly attuned to what I take to be a cynical, dismissive attitude lately because I'm in a position to have an influence on some of the "rules." My experience, though, has been there's very little outside the "game"--no profession that doesn't have rules that seem unnecessary, arbitrary, and capricious from the outside. But the rhetorical strategy here is to treat academia as a game, as though there's some other mythical place where we can all be "true" to ourselves, where we don't have to play well with others, and where there's perfect transparency.

The people who speak knowledgably about the "game" of academia, though, are the ones who understand that it's a game like any other (profession), one with often real consequences, and one that differs from other professions not in essence but in practice. It's "performative" not in opposition to the real, but performative at the root of what we take to be real. And the fact of the matter is that your "real" identity is often going to be based on a limited set of "performances." The job application is onesuch, but by no means the only way that the discipline gathers information about you.

So, yes, by all means, make an ass of yourself. Just don't complain when you apply for a position, and someone on the committee thinks of you as an ass.

That is all.

Slowly resurfacing

Thanks to a day spent almost entirely in a state of hibernation.

Anne Squared

From Wednesday to Saturday, my attention was taken up almost entirely by the aforementioned Fall Symposium on Digital/Visual Rhetorics, and my energy largely consumed by the various responsibilities involved with event planning and execution. I flatter myself sometimes with the belief that I'm pretty good at that stuff, although I could probably be a little better. I was good enough this week that the event went pretty smoothly on the surface, and really, only a few bumps, most of which were invisible to most.

One of the things that we did that I was pretty proud of was that we didn't just do talks. The talks were good in and of themselves, but we also scheduled some hands-on workshops as well. It's not the kind of thing that we normally do for visiting speakers (not even during job visits), but I think it worked out pretty well, even though we probably didn't allot quite enough time for them.

All in all, I was pretty pleased. And I'm pretty pleased that it's over, lovely as it was to see and spend time with Jenny, Jeff, and Anne. There are three of us or so with some pix from the event, and I'll add the links to this entry as they emerge:

November 3, 2005


Minimal action here, as I've been preparing for, and as of today excuting, a Fall Symposium on Digital/Visual Rhetorics (flyer), wherein we host Jenny Edbauer, Jeff Rice, and Anne Wysocki for a series of teaching workshops today and talks tomorrow. I'm trying to be good about photos, and I'll get some stuff up here in the next day or two as I'm able.

That's all.