July 13, 2005

Please to blog, yes?

Why, yes. Yes I will. I have all sorts of notes, and at least a few initial photos to offer from the past three days of conferencing, but you'll have to wait probably until tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, though, content yourself with the following thumbnail sketch:

At the conference, no wireless (hence the delay in posting).
Away from the conference, very little sobriety (hence the delay in correctly spelled posting).
A little bit of drama involving sleeping arrangements.
A little bit of drama involving the quality of my presentation, and temporary lack thereof.
All in all, though, it was great fun, and tomorrow I'll try and sort through how much of that fun I'm actually allowed to relate.

Until then...

Update: I'm going to start posting (and pre-dating) conference rundowns, and then I'll post reflections. I'll try and get a few photos up on Flickr as well.

November 20, 2005

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.

December 27, 2005

MLA! Hooray!

Okay, so maybe not.

Since I drove out to IA for the holidays, I had to drive back, detouring in DC for MLA. Yes, that means that, rather than a full-fledged Christmas dinner, I got to sate myself Sunday night with 200-odd miles on I-74.

But I'm here now, for whatever that's worth. And unlike Clancy, I promise no blogging. Or rather, I'm not going to promise any blogging. Our interview schedule is mercifully light, and I hope to catch up with a friend or two, and I hope that's all I have to report.

One nifty surprise was seeing Byron in the lobby of my hotel and catching up with him for a spell. In conversation with him, I realized that this is the first MLA I've attended since 1999. That's a streak I wouldn't have minded continuing, but alas.

Good luck to those who are interviewing for positions...

December 29, 2005

what does it say?

What does it say that Debbie is blogging my MLA experience in more detail than I am?

We completed our interviews today, and in the interests of ethics, I'll keep my damn blog shut in that regard. Except to say that my conference hotel has not been extremely conducive to the interview process. One poor soul endured multiple interruptions ranging from housekeeping to someone knocking on our door by mistake, etc. etc. It's been a solid 6-7 years since I both attended MLA and participated in an interview marathon, and I must say that my goals in the interim have diminished. Nowadays, I just look to get through them without becoming an "MLA Interview Story," both personally and collectively.

Personally was a close thing. Last night, after meeting up with Debbie, I got good and properly Mucklebauered, which may become my permanent term for the (often poor) decision to drink too much, stay out too late, and suffer for it the following morning. I didn't get home until 2:30, whereupon I lied down, rolled over once, and found that 4+ hours had passed. Copious amounts of water, coffee, and Aleve managed to resuscitate me sufficiently for the 9 AM interview, but only just. Only just.


  • I can state with certainty that I feel no more at home at MLA than I did as a noob and an applicant.

  • I haven't yet managed to scan the tag of the One Woman I Inexplicably See All the Time, so I can't send her a thank you note yet, although Clancy and I had a funny conversation about this.

  • I'm more and more convinced that all it would take is for several of our leading programs to decide to interview at NCTE, and within 4-5 years, we could dispense with MLA altogether. I don't think that this is likely to happen.

  • I've still never been to a panel at MLA, although I dropped by to say hi to Clancy, Dave Blakesley, and Kris Blair following theirs.

  • As I listened at the door, I was reminded of why I don't really care to attend MLA panels--I've mentioned a time or two before my aversion to Q&A, and MLA may be the worst for this: questions that are really 3-4 minute presentations...

  • Back to Syracuse tomorrow...but I've got a mixer to drop in on, a friend to dine with tonight, and a couple more friends to break fast with in the morning.

That is all.

March 14, 2006

The lesser of three travels

So I'm getting myself together to leave in the near future for my annual trip to the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Rather than regale you with tales of catching up on my bills or my laundry (both of which have commanded my attention today), I thought I might express my annual regret that I must go to CCCC instead of, say, ETech or SXSW, both of which command the attention of the blogerati this time of year. Not that there's anything wrong per se with CCCC--I always learn a little something, and I see a lot of people with whom I would otherwise fall out of touch. It's a visceral reminder for me of the academic community that I've chosen to join.

And yet. I can't help but feel that my interests and my inspirations would be better served at one of these other conferences. I envy Laura, who is/was down in Austin for SXSW. And I share her sense that "that education needs to catch up a little bit to this world." But I'm also struck by the outsider-ness of her post, because I've experienced that myself on more than a few occasions. I want to feel like there's a middle space, between the mercenary collisions of acronym people and the (at times) oblivious pokiness of the academy when it comes to these things. I think that there are conversations out there that are just waiting to be held, conversations that take the potential of these ideas as their jumping off point rather than the painstaking objective of endless wheel-reinventing presentations.

This is how you can tell that it's late, and I'm a little frustrated. I start stacking words and phrases as high as I can until they start wobbling.

At any rate, some of my frustration has its source in the fact that, unless I somehow move to CA or TX, I won't ever be a regular attendee at either of those conferences. As a humanities scholar, I'm basically priced out of those venues before I even start. The humanities don't get grants, they don't get corporate sponsors, and they don't include lavish travel budgets among the necessities. I can afford to go to Chicago for 4 days, but only because I applied to my college to cover the difference between cost and my normal travel funding allotment. They do so only because I'm giving a presentation--there is no argument I could make for putting a trip to SXSW on the university dime.

It's frustrating to me because I know where Laura's coming from when she despairs of "fighting the fight" of getting our colleagues to see technology and getting the technologists to see us as something other than a cottage industry ripe for takeover.

No grand conclusions or solutions to be found here. I know that there are those among us who would really welcome rich and complicated conversations, but I don't think it's simply a matter of academics being willing. It's also a matter of patience on the part of industry, some faith on their part that there's some long-term good to be had in engaging with us. Maybe there are already those kinds of spaces that I just don't know about. It's frustrating to me, though, not being able to afford to visit the ones I do know about, even as I suspect that I can't afford not to be there.

If that makes sense.

March 27, 2006

CCCC 06 Roundup

I would have posted this a little sooner, but I've spent the last day or so figuring out how I can cast aspersions on a field that I'm only peripherally involved with, reaching the conclusion that the best way to argue that the field is going in the wrong direction is to "cherry-pick" 5 panel titles, out of hundreds, from their annual conference, and then not going to the conference so as not to complicate my thinnnnnest-slice impression (which I'll describe, of course, as a "fair portion" which provides the double-entendre of both representativity and fairness) of what it is that they're doing.

That's all I have to say on that bit of nitwittery.

It was a good conference this year, although I definitely feel older and less able to keep up than I used to. This year's CCCC had the strange distinction of embodying two strange trends: each night, I got to bed later, and each morning I had to get up earlier. If I had stayed one more day, these trends might have passed each other in the wrong direction--I might have had to wake up before I went to bed. Eek.

As far as sessions went, I only hit a few of them, and they were pretty much superstar caliber. I didn't go to anything before Derek's and my performance at the Computer Connection on Thursday, but afterwards, I saw Jim Porter, Catherine Latterell, Dànielle Devoss, and Stuart Selber (E.28 Why Plagiarism Makes Sense in the Digital Age: Copying, Remixing, and Composing). It was a solid panel, doing some of the work necessary to bridge our disciplinary (and pretty traditionalist) notions of authorship with the implications of new media. Shockingly enough, after a 7 am breakfast meeting, I caught David Blakesley, Thomas Rickert, and Diane Davis all give really intriguing papers revisiting KB's notion of identification (F.15 The Rhetorics of Identification; Or, Me and You and You and Me, So Happy Together?). All three were strong papers, but I was especially interested in Diane's--the idea that mirror neurons suggest an originary, pre-linguistic "togetherness" which is first broken and then imperfectly healed through identification was (a) a really smart take on neurobiology's implications for rhetoric and (b) a very original challenge to some of our cherished disciplinary assumptions. After a brief pause to fill my body with sugar and caffeine, I went to see Becky Howard, David Russell, and Sandra Jamieson (H.15 Authentic Arguments: Information Literacy and Case Studies in FYC). Becky and I chat IL all the time, but I hadn't seen before the work that Russell was doing to track how students use sources in building arguments. Interesting stuff. Having been up at 6-ish, by the end of their session, I was pretty much wiped, so I skipped on the next 2 sessions plus the other general (the awards one).

(I didn't get to see the morning general session on Thursday, either, although I heard vaguely unflattering things about it, or rather that the Address itself had less than flattering things to say about some of the things that I do. Rather than offer a 4th hand response, I'll wait to see/read a version of it...)

Saturday morning, with my sleep and energy quotients approaching zero, I attended my final session of the conference, K.23 From Panel to Gallery: Twelve Digital Writings, One Installation, and no, I won't list the 12, although several are friends. Being able to walk around the room and futz was perfect for me, though, and there were some really sharp pieces. If I can find the URL, I'll post a link to Tim Richardson's thingamajig, which was a Flash interface that positively hypnotized me. It reminded me of the stories I've heard, and pics I've seen, of SIGGRAPH interface galleries. Cool Cool Cool.

Anyhow, that was my formal CCCC. Counting my own, I went to 5 sessions, which is about right, and I met lots and lots of people and strengthened ties with others. Can't ask for much more.

May 21, 2006

Memphis v. Lubbock

I'm not going to Computers and Writing this year, having opted instead to attend the Rhetoric Society of America conference that's going on in Memphis next week (and that I would be able to link to, were they running a slightly friendlier system for internal links--go to the RSA page and select Conferences.). If I remember, I'll bring a mic along so I can record my talk--I'll be doing a riff on the "database and/or narrative" thingamajig, read across disciplinary self-knowledge. I've been rereading my abstract, and reacting with mild surprise at how much I promised to talk about in 15 minutes, so I've been working on figuring out what 2 or 3 main points I want to make.

Anyhow, I mention all this, because Dan's got a "trailer" up for his C&W presentation, which is really quite clever. Similarly clever, imho, is the format that he created it for: C&W this year is holding an opening session called @get info, where literally dozens of presenters will have 1 minute each to preview their presentations. The idea being, of course, that people will have a better idea of what presentations and sessions are more likely to suit their interests and needs. Makes eminent sense, and even sounds fun.

Maybe if it works well, they'll do it again next year in Detroit (which will be my next visit to C&W)...

(hint, hint)

That's all.

May 30, 2006

Collin vs. RSA

From all accounts, this year's Rhetoric Society of America conference was quite good. Alas. I was not.

First, a stunning blow was dealt to my internal sense of geography, as I learned, quite the hard way, that Memphis was a good deal further away from Syracuse than I had thought. How could I tell, you ask? Every time I mentioned having driven: "You drove?!?!" Yes, yes I did.

And as a result, I spent the first half of the conference on the road, arriving not until Saturday night. And for various reasons, I had not prepared my presentation. So, that night, and much of the next day, I ended up writing my talk. I went to a single session on Saturday morning, and spent most of Sunday writing. I did finish in time to be able to go out Sunday night. Sunday night turned into Monday morning, and didn't "end" until roughly 3:30.

Did I mention that my talk was scheduled for 8:00 am Monday morning? Oh yes.

I should also mention that I wasn't in the conference hotel, having made my reservation too late. I got up at 6 am Monday morning, and hoofed it to my hotel, showered, caffeinated, etc., and managed to wobble my way through a presentation that was assisted greatly by the smart papers that followed it.

I had a nice time, but the long drive, the dislocation, and the lack of responsible preparation on my part all left me feeling like my conference could have been a lot better. Ah well. Nobody's fault but mine.

That is all.

September 15, 2006

The off-4Cson

My title only works when you understand that 4Cs is pronounced "four seas." I'm just saying.

Unless you happen to be involved with the behind-the-scenes work of the conference, there are basically 2 times during the year when the dreams of rhetcompers turn to their annual conference. The first, and most elaborate, is March, when the conference itself happens. The second, though, is right now, the week when notifications are made for the following March. Word on the street is that the conference acceptance rate is now hovering somewhere around 33%--that there were maybe 600 accepted out of about 1800 submissions. Hard to know exactly how those numbers play out--some proposals are for 3-5 person panels and some individual--but still, it's a pretty big deal.

So it was a little aggravating this week, as everyone was receiving their notifications, to not receive my own. I did hear about a panel that I'm chairing, but that only served to confirm that my email was indeed working. As I noted a couple of years ago,

Notification is always something of an odd season around grad programs--on the one hand, CCCC is selective enough that you expect a little bit of congratulations; on the other, no one really asks anyone else, for fear that they didn't get accepted.

So I pretty much just kept my mouth shut, and vowed to give it a few days, figuring that if I hadn't heard by this weekend, I'd fire off a Monday email to see. Well, my patience was rewarded with the news today that Deb Holdstein, Derek, and I will be doing a Featured Session at the 2007 CCCC, one where we talk about the relationship between the journal, both print and online, and the discipline. Rock. Roll.

I think the plan to is to do some revising to the text of our abstract, and perhaps even the title, so once that's done, I'll be sure to post it here. In the meantime, I'm just going to sit back and bask in the glow of the fact that our work on CCCO is going to be featured in disciplinary primetime. CCCC was really the last piece of a speaking puzzle for the year that includes four (four!) different conferences and perhaps a job talk or two. Hence the whole lot of talking that I referred to a couple of days back. And hence the recent addition to my speakerly arsenal. I can't guarantee that I'll be good, but I'll almost certainly be better.

That's the plan, anyway.

October 24, 2006

MLA 2007

Well, if the presence of my name in my recently arrived program is any indication, I am now official:

Rhetoricizing Technology, Technologizing Rhetoric
Wednesday, December 27, 5:15-6:30, Philadelphia Marriott 411-412
1. The Rhetorical Canons as an Ecology of (New Media) Practice, Collin Gifford Brooke, Syracuse University
2. The Typesetter as the Scapegoat of Industrial Literature, Cary Hollinshead-Strick, University of Pennsylvania
3. Molecular Vision: Analogies of Technology in the Bio-Nano Age, Michelle A. Sidler, Auburn University

I've been referring to this as my first and last talk at MLA--after a couple of unsuccessful attempts in graduate school, I stopped trying to get on the program, and this year, it was kind of a whim. It happened that I was working on the chapter that the talk will come from at the time and, combined with the fact that I had planned on attending MLA anyhow, led me to give it a shot.

One of the things that took me too long to realize, I think, was that it's sure a lot easier to write abstracts for conferences or collections when the abstract is describing work that I've done rather than predicting work that I'll do. Not that I still don't future-tense my work that way sometimes. But MLA is a pretty tough get for comp-rhet folk, and it's probably no coincidence that my abstract was a good one this time around.

I did a light skim of the program tonight, circled a few panels, maybe 10 or 12 out of the 700+. It appears that the magic time (other than the time of my panel, of course) during the conference is the noon panel on Thursday. I have to choose from among a panel on textual materialities with Matt Kirschenbaum, Kari Kraus, and Peter Stallybrass, a panel on the public sphere which includes Michael Bérubé and Amardeep Singh, and another on Wikis. Nice of them to put them all in the same time slot.

Turns out too that the UberBlogger panel (featuring Bérubé, Bitch PhD, Scott Kaufman, John Holbo, and Scott McLemee) is Saturday morning at 8:30 am. Ugh. Although I suppose it's possible that I'll be worn out enough on Friday to turn in early and get up for it. We'll see.

That's all.

October 26, 2006

I will bet you money

In addition to doing a quick skim of the MLA Program in order to circle the panels that might be of interest, it's kind of a fun exercise to go through and see if you can locate the cherries, the papers that will make the cut for the Annual MLA Title Snipe™.

This year's leading candidate, as best as I can tell, comes from panel 81, titled "Academic Fashions." Nothing objectionable in that, particularly, but the fourth presentation in that session carries the relatively simple title, "Is the Rectum a Text?"

The speaker has authored a book on sexual subjectivity, but even so, it's pretty tough to imagine that his title--I'm assuming here that the Snipe™ will not require actual attendance at or to the presentation--will be left alone by those commentators committed to the diagnosis and rectification of the moral decadence amongst us humanities folks.

That is all.

November 13, 2006

Reading v Talking

I wonder if it wouldn't be possible to pull up all of the blog entries about the horrors of reading one's conference presentations, aggregate them, and thereby arrive at a pretty solid map of the major conferences in the humanities. Seems like there are pretty predictable times when such complaints make their way across the blogosphere. With NCTE, NCA, and MLA on the immediate horizon here in Rhetopia, perhaps I'm just more sensitive to these kinds of posts.

You see, I'm a reader, even though I've experimented in the past couple of years with actually talking in lieu of reading. But I'm also a writer who understands the difference between writing something to be heard and writing something to be read. Rather than the regular calls from converted science types (who express their utter astonishment at the dearth of presentational skills among their humanities colleagues) to be more like them and less like ourselves, it'd be refreshing to see more posts that plumbed the depths of that middle space between speed reading an essay intended for eye-not-ear on the one hand and stand-up scholarship on the other.

As snoozy as it can be to hear 3 20-minute reads from folk unprepared for listeners, it can be no less frustrating to hear a breezy talk that never dips below the level of PP slides, generalities, and sound bytes. There's a lot that is in between, and I think that we'd be better served in general by finding some happy medium.

I'm a big believer in trying to create opportunities for practice, particularly in our graduate program where some students may be attending conferences for the first time. It's not enough to just tell them to practice, practice, practice. Every year, we invite several of our current students to practice their presentations during a session that's part of annual recruiting weekend. That means that at least part of their audience is made up of strangers, that they have a deadline prior to the week of the conference, and that they have a head start on visualizing their presentations. I think of this as a program responsibility.

Sharing the best practices that we (who have been around the presentation block more than a few times) have discovered wouldn't be a bad thing either. I try really hard to restrict myself to 1 major claim support by 2-3 points in my talks. I generally don't spend time delivering evidence in presentations (saving it for followups). And I find real value in narrating the presentation as part of the presentation (aka signposting). In recent years, I've turned more towards visual aids (either Keynote or handouts), but that's partly because my interests have turned more towards visualizable work. In some cases, I use Keynote to compose, which helps me think in terms of pacing.

But I think the biggest cause of bad presentations has nothing to do with rhetorical skill or inexperience, and isn't addressed by advice like this. I think that there's very little space in our academic priorities for presentation zen, and so we tend to prepare at the last minute, and underprepare. Then, when we're mediocre (and believe me, that's more often than not for me), we engage in the kinds of distancing practices that our students do (like waiting until the last minute, so that we can "excuse" our mediocrity). It's a cycle, and I think it stems in large part from the disposability of conference presentation scholarship, from the way that "getting on" the program is more important than what one does once one is there, etc.

I have to admit that a turning point for me was when I attended CCCC in Denver. I wasn't on the program, and thus had to spend my own money to get there and hang out. Without someone else footing the bill, all of a sudden I was hyperconscious of the fact that I'd spent more than a thousand bucks to be there. When I went to a panel, I was paying for the experience. And when I saw a bad presentation, and I saw a few, I felt no guilt whatsoever about standing up and leaving. I'm not always perfect about this, but I try and write for the person who's spent hir own money to attend my session--that's what I try to live up to when I prepare a presentation. It's not a bad goal, all things considered.

If that ethic were instilled in us as part of our graduate training, to treat our audience as though they'd paid to see us, I bet conference presentations, read or spoken, would be less of a problem.

That's all.

December 13, 2006

Not so much with the blogging for a while

I'm too busy. But I can say that I made it through 2 relatively pain-free days of driving to get to Iowa (relatively only because of the rain yesterday in S. Ohio and Indiana).

But I've got work to do right now, not the least of which is preparing my presentation for MLA later this month, so blogging will be intermittent.

That's all for a spell. Check ya later.

December 27, 2006


So I left Iowa on Christmas night, and put in about 5 hours of driving so that I could stay overnight in Lafayette, IN, whereupon I woke at 6 am, picked up a wingman, and proceeded to drive some 700+ miles to Philadelphia. We made surprisingly good time, despite some weather and traffic delays, and arrived in Philly at around 8 pm. Little question, though, that this drive would not have been possible had I been on my own. We had dinner, at a reasonable hour no less, at Monk's Cafe, where the food and beer was as good as promised.

Socializing today will be at a minimum, as I prepare for my presentation tonight, but otherwise, it's a pretty wide open conference schedule for me. I have a few panels marked as potentially interesting but otherwise, I expect to be able to relax a bit after tonight. Track me down if you're here, too.

That is all. Welcome back to the mostly daily blogging. And a big thanks to the wingman.


As the regular reader will remember, this year's MLA kicked off with a stirring rendition of the second chapter of my book manuscript, with the unusually expository (for me, at least) title "The Rhetorical Canons as an Ecology of (New Media) Practice." Gee, I wonder what the talk was about?

Hee. Today was also the 3rd step in the epic self-transformation that will see me turn from a reader of conference papers to a speaker of conference presentations. I worked from an outline and from the slides, but otherwise, did not script the specifics. I think it went okay, but I do have to confess that the fellow in the 3rd row who used his cameraphone to take snapshots of each of my slides, and whose phone rang not once but twice during our session, was a bit of a distraction.

And yet, it was he who inspired me to go ahead and try out SlideShare, which is basically a YouTube-like service for PP presentations. Keynote exports to pdf, which I can then upload and turn into a shareable Flash doodad.

(Update: The doodad was taking serious download time, so I'm replacing it with a link to the SlideShare page instead. Those readers uninterested in unnarrated PP slides may now breath an appropriately grateful sigh of relief.)

The pdf option, far as I can tell, preserves original layout and font better, and has the virtue of being about 1/10 the size of a PP export. So even though there's no support for a Keynote native presentation, it works out just fine.

The slides themselves are probably a little oblique without commentary, so I'll use ProfCast when I get back to Syracuse and offer a full-service version. In the meantime, suffer in silence. I'm done with my talk, and have a much more leisurely conference ahead of me.

That is all.

December 28, 2006


This may not be of much use to anyone not already here in Philadelphia, but Jill points to a list assembled by ACH of all the "digital humanities" panels here at MLA this year. It's an encouraging list...

I really wanted to get to a panel or two today, but I have a thing about needing huge swaths of time in order to prepare for formal stuff. So no sessions today, it looks like, although I'm hoping to run into a couple of folk at the Rhet/Comp cash bar at 5:15 and the Bloggadoodle at 8:45.

In the meantime, carry on.


This may not be of much use to anyone not already here in Philadelphia, but Jill points to a list assembled by ACH of all the "digital humanities" panels here at MLA this year. It's an encouraging list...

I really wanted to get to a panel or two today, but I have a thing about needing huge swaths of time in order to prepare for formal stuff. So no sessions today, it looks like, although I'm hoping to run into a couple of folk at the Rhet/Comp cash bar at 5:15 and the Bloggadoodle at 8:45.

In the meantime, carry on.

December 30, 2006

Let's. Meet. The Bloggers

How early must a body wake up to beat the Starbucks line? I had to wait behind 5 people at 6:50 am, which is when I got up in an attempt to beat the crowd. And from about 6:50 to about 8:30, when the session started, I had the title of this entry bouncing around my skull, to the tune of "Roll out the barrel." And yes, we had a blogload of fun.

I'm going to jot some notes re the panel, but probably not until I'm back in Syr, since I have to check out of my room soon. I had vague memories of reserving an extra night, specifically so I wouldn't have to drive after waking up early for that session, but the fine folk at the Philly Marriott think not. So I'm going to caff up, and hit the road shortly.


Liz Losh has a rundown of the session over at Sivacracy, including links and whatnot, so I won't repeat that. One thing I will say is that each of the speakers in the panel took a particular angle on what Scott explicitly called "academic blogging" (as opposed to blogging by academics), but that there wasn't really the time to put all of these takes together.

It's hard to know what to expect from supersessions, and this one was no exception. It felt like each of the speakers just got started with an idea, and ran afoul of time. It's tough to put 4 substantial talks into a 75-min panel, honestly. The one quote that I jotted down came from Michael's talk, about how "intensity comes to function as a value of its own" in blogspats--seemed to me an entire panel could be put together on whether the intensity that powers blogspace is genuinely compatible with the kinds of knowledge we associate with research and scholarship.

If nothing else, though, it was interesting to see some of the ubers in person--kind of like seeing radio personalities after hearing their voices for a long time. Michael has pix of himself at his blog, but I could feel myself wondering if the other 3 "looked" like their blogs.

That is all.

January 1, 2007

From the land of MLA Statistics

Happy new year, everyone.

I've got one or two more MLA posts to unload, and then we'll move on to matters more properly 2007. This entry is inspired by the fact that I ran into three different friends this year, each of whom had double-digit interviews. My own feeling is that there's a law of diminishing interview returns once you get to that point, but I also understand how difficult it is (in a very weak market) to turn anything away that might be an opportunity. Upon hearing about each of these ambitious schedules, I started doing a little figuring of my own where I came up with the following numbers. Counting this year, here's what I've done in the job market, as an applicant, in the 10 years I've been out:

3 MLA interviews
4 campus visits (none of which resulted from MLA interviews, and only one of which didn't result in a job offer)
3 phone interviews (two that resulted in campus visits)
5 MLAs attended (2 where I interviewed, 1 where I didn't interview and 2 where I was on a search committee)

Compared to these friends of mine, my entire career has involved less interviewing than their past week. Two things suggest themselves to me. First, I've been exceptionally lucky. In the case of my position at Syracuse, for example, a campus visit and offer came by the first week of December, allowing me both to cancel several interviews and skip MLA that year. And this year was the first that I'd done any interviewing since I took my SU gig.

My second point is that each of has different stories and paths to our careers, such that there is no real norm. It hadn't occurred to me until this year that I'd interviewed as little as I have, or that I've yet to have a "successful" MLA interview as we define them. As someone involved with preparing our students for the market, I tend to communicate a stable narrative of the "normal" path to the tenure track, but very little of that norm is true of my own career. And as someone involved with searches at a few different places, I can say that the idea of a "normal search" is anything but.

I don't really have any grand conclusions here. If nothing else, thinking about this underscores for me the dangers of generalizing from my experience, or from anyone's experience, about the whole MLA/job market scene.

That's all. Time for bowl games.

January 8, 2007


Came into the office today to find a promotional flier for this year's CCCC:

front page of CCCC flier
back page of CCCC flier

Wait a second. Scroll down the right hand column there for me on the back. What's that?

who's a featured speaker?

That's right. For one brief, shining moment, I'm a rockstar. We're far enough in advance of the event that I don't feel any nervousness at all. And I can't have messed up or anything. Our featured session exists in a state of pure, perfect potentiality and as long as it stays that way, who's to say I'm not a star?

Well, okay. Lots of people. But I'd appreciate it if you didn't ask them, at least until after March.

That's all.

March 13, 2007

If Tuesday began with the letters CSH...

Then I could tell you that those letters stand for "crushing seasonal headache." The news round these parts is that the temperature reached into the low 60s today, which has been good for The Melt, but bad for My Head. When seasons change, the corresponding shift in pressure typically renders me unable to focus for 2-3 days at a time, bringing with it dull, throbbing headaches of the sort that quite literally make my eyeballs sore. Needless to say, sleep becomes something of a chore, rivaled only by the effort that goes into being awake. Not the happiest of times.

I've been giving some thought to the presentation I'll be giving at CCCC this year. Inspired in part by last week's snarky little entry, which itself prompted me to add "snark alert" to my categories, I've been dialing back my expectations for what I'll accomplish in this presentation. It's hard, having been working on CCCOA for two-plus years now, to imagine that there aren't folks in our field who remain unfamiliar with it, and yet, my guess is that this is actually a fair description of most folks in our field. The speed of change in the 'sphere--and on the net more generally--outpaces that of the run-of-the-mill discipline, perhaps exponentially. And so, what I think I need to do in my talk is to actually introduce the site and what it contributes.

Right now, I'm thinking of an unofficial subtitle for my talk that would be something like "13 Ways of Looking at a Journal." Mostly it would be an introduction to the site, running from the most basic and obvious features to some of the trickier stuff we've built into it, and finally to a couple of disciplinary questions that a site like this can provide us the evidence to work on.

I've been thinking about this a little harder after seeing Tim Burke's post about what he describes as "search as alchemy." To wit,

But there are other times where I want search to be alchemy, to turn the lead of an inquiry into unexpected gold. I’m hoping that the rush to simplify, speed up, demystify and digitize search doesn’t leave that alchemy behind.

It seems like such an obvious point to me, that academic search functions in much different ways than "regular" search, but what's come clear to us over the past couple of years is that we need to figure out better ways of getting the word out, to make the case that CCCOA is a site for search, yes, but also a site of invention. I think that message is both clear and obvious to many of you, my fair readers, but to the field-at-large, it still needs saying.

So I think that's part of what I'll be saying next week.

March 26, 2007

4 Cs, 4 days, 16 panels

Inspired in part by Donna's theme review of CCCC:

CCCC 07 summed up in 16 panels

There was more to it than that, to be sure, but as far as my presentation went, at the risk of sounding like I'm fishing for sympathy, having a featured presentation on Saturday afternoon was a lot like being called up to the big leagues the day after one's team is knocked out of competing for the playoffs. Hard to know when or if I'll be back.

I continue to be grateful to Cheryl Glenn for the opportunity, grateful to those good people who did come, and grateful to Derek and Deb, whose presentations were excellent. And I'll go ahead and screencast my talk this week, for all of those who couldn't make it.

I may post a little more about the conference over the next couple of days as well. What won't I post about? The squawking that Alex references that's going on right now over whether or not it's better to read or speak.

That's all, except to note that I did this with Stripgenerator 1.0.1)

Update: You can find both my slides and Derek's at We'll both have screencasts soon as well.

May 13, 2007


Being incessantly short of time (or you imagine yourself to be), caught up in deadlines and delays, you persist in supposing that you are going to get out of it by putting what you have to do in order. You make programs, draw up plans, calendars, new deadlines. On your desk and in your files, how many lists of articles, books, seminars, courses to teach, telephone calls to make. As a matter of fact, you never consult these little slips of paper, given the fact that an anguished conscience has provided you with an excellent memory of all your obligations. But it is irrepressible: you extend the time you lack by the very registration of that lack. Let us call this program compulsion (whose hypomaniacal character one readily divines); states and collectivities, apparently, are not exempt from it: how much time wasted in drawing up programs? And since I anticipate writing an article on it, the very notion of program itself becomes a part of my program compulsion.

Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes