Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Wednesday at the C's

Yesterday was a good day at the 4C's. I learned a lot.

After breakfast with a friend, I wandered over to Moscone North. The walk is pleasant, especially given the nearly perfect weather for walking -- high 60's, slight breeze that occasionally gusts, sunny -- and enjoyable city to walk in.

Upon arrival, ATTW, pre-conference workshops, the Research Network Forum, the welcome booth for first time attenders, and the registration area were abuzz with colleagues greeting and meeting.

Paul Puccio, a friend from graduate school days at UMass, Amherst, organizes the welcome booth for first time conference attendees. It don't know how many people who stopped by the booth were first-timers, but given the hugs and animated discussions and smiles, it was welcoming. It says something about the nature of the C's that Cindy Selfe, a past Chair of the Convention, was sitting at the welcome table, handing out tips on making the most of the conference and welcoming people to it.

This is an important conference for composition instructors, not so much necessarily for the content of the sessions -- like any conference some are better than others and which ones those are will depend upon what expectations and knowledge you bring into the room with you when you attend -- but rather for the fact that you're in place with lots and lots of other people who are doing what you do. It's a great conference for graduate students to get started in the profession.

And that's part of what the Research Network Forum provides, a place for graduate students and adjuncts and full-time tenured or tenure tracked scholars to discuss their research projects and ideas. I was able to visit for a short while in the morning, and got a glimpse of future and important research projects:
  • John Walter -- outlined possibilities for publishing articles about and work from the Walter J. Ong archives, where John is currently working.
  • Risa Gorelick -- has an idea for writing about the history of the Research Network Forum, tracing back its origins, looking at past programs, speakers, and interviewing organizers and participants.
  • Janice Walker and Risa -- reviewed and discussed their plans and how to pull them off of a publishing a series based on research projects nurtured at the forum or on the scholarship of using networks of support to keep research projects going.
  • Donna Qualley -- described a research project that investigates how long-time teachers keep engaged in teaching, keep it alive and interesting and vital.
  • Bill (last name I couldn't read on his badge, I'll track him down and correct this omission) -- described a dissertation that looks back at student writing from the 60's and 70's.
Each person at this table -- and there were about 15 or so other tables doing similar work -- received feedback, questions, suggestions on their research ideas and projects. The value of those discussions works for the researcher, but also for those contributing ideas and thoughts.

The RNF is a wonderful event, and worth the trip to the conference. As Risa and Janice lead the way to helping get the research published, RNF will become even more important. If I had graduate students, this is one of the events I'd vigorously encourage them to attend.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

A 4C's Session Preview: Ratliff on Blogging

Clancy Ratliff offers a preview of her 4C's presentation, and along the way, she writes maybe one of the most useful things --for me at least-- that I've read on blogs and how they differ from other forms of computer-mediated communication:
A weblog is a personal publishing platform in a way that discussion boards, MOOs, and the like are not, and bloggers gain readership and recognition in a way participants on discussion boards, listservs, and MOOs do not.
This makes sense to me. Here's what the sentence is making me think now:

The nature of how a blogger gains recognition, which is tied to the technology and the ways it makes certain kinds of writing and linking to other writers easy, draws a different kind of attention to ones online persona. For many bloggers, as Clancy points out, recognition might be based on the pursuit (and attainment) media attention. Although news media attention by definition only casts its light on a few. And then for the most part the same few, since media types then begin to use the same stories and the same sources.

Linking to news stories and commenting on them helps build an audience as well. Technorati has a feature that shows blog entries linked to topics in the news; it's a way of seeing what citizen-pundits think.

For others, attention comes from building readership, often through a combination of serendipity, including a blog URL in email, passing the word on to friends, colleagues, family, and other bloggers.

Technologically, the blog privileges the most recent post. It's top center, in the most prominent position. What the blog owner writes assumes central position and comments are attenuated to that posting. In email, discussion boards, and other forms of communication, post and contributions are part of larger threads, mixed in among many others. When I visit Clancy's blog, I have a different experience of her as a writer and thinker than I do when I see an email from her on a discussion list. The blog presents a history of Clancy as a blogger. Her posts are there, and she's tagged and organized them in different ways.

What a blog technology offers in content management, then is really also tools for self-management, for creating and managing a self that one presents to readers.

The implications of this for the writing classroom are immense.