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Computers and Writing 2012

I had a forty minute commute to the Computers and Writing conference this year. Here are some reflections begun while tooling down the road:

My Performance

I struggled with the presentation. The new piece for the session wouldn't gel. I almost just went with older material. The Slow Combers tweet poem, in fact, became the opening piece through a somewhat frantic search for something to perform. A few months ago, the music video in Slow Combers was taken down, ending the ability to (live) compose the poem. Then the video was reposted by someone else, the flv file suggesting all kinds of open-Web and counter-cultural trails. The live tweeting in the poem speaks to prosumer concerns, from composing in public to interacting in commercial spaces to distributed creativity.  In performance, the piece tries to enact these participatory questions through the live composing and use of materials.

The version I performed in Raleigh had a bit of remixing in the script for the twitter postings but the piece itself is well represented in this version of the tweet poem.

The piece itself is really nostalgic, about memory. If you didn't know that I grew up in a beach town starting in the late '60s, you'd miss out on much of the personal meaning evoked by the archival/home video aesthetic. And even though my beach childhood is a bit later than the era depicted in the materials, the cultural suggestion of an alternative, spontaneous engagement with the world resonates hard for me and, no doubt, informs the project.

Casting Learning

Casting Learning into Flowing StreamsHere are some thoughts on a piece of digital scholarship, "Casting Learning into Flowing Streams." The project pushes a lot of boundaries for publishing research. The project is all videos, all screencasts, really. And much of it is student-authored. There is no written text, only images of written text. And it's full of digital projects from the literature classroom. The piece appears in the journal CCCOnline, edited by Bump Halbritter and (performance issue editor Jenn Fishman). I think it's anything but typical scholarship and I'm grateful that they took the risk and published our work.

The project began typically with a CFP. Over the last few years, most of my presentations have been delivered performances accompanied by screencasts. I've discovered some amazing currents mixing between performance and screencasting. I also wanted to experiment with extending portfolio assessment through screencasts. I spelled out these thoughts and intentions in the proposal

Toward a Rhetoric of Layers

As a way to think about shifts in writing and rhetoric, I want to respond to Lev Manovich's recent discussion of layers in Photoshop and Ryan Trauman's reflections on digital media.

Some of the shifting is material: "previously, physical and mechanical media tools were used to create content which was directly accessible to human senses." But with digital materials, "rather than operating on sounds, images, film, or text directly, electronic and digital devices operate on the continuous electronic signals or discrete numerical data" (Manovich). Trauman suggests that the shift to binary modes creates a layer of abstraction in digital texts. Digital spaces are more fluid and open to invention in large part because of their many material and representational layers.

Manovich suggests that these layers are a key part of software. However, when we look at digital materials, we often see a composite, an elision of layers. The digital bent toward combination belies the layers and operations that perform and create the composite.

But what if layering becomes a deliberate part of the composing process? How might we pursue a rhetoric of layers? We might start with some questions: When does complexity become cacophony? When does combination become harmony? How does layering relate to shifts in compositional states (paper sketch, text draft, video capture, blog posting, etc.)? How is layering related to composing iterations (draft, response, revision)? How does time intersect with layers, especially when layers contain moving materials like sound or video?

Three Drafts

The last eleven months have brought forth three media projects.

I'm a MapIn March, I performed a reading over a screencast at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). I was on a panel (The Rhetoric of Technoscience: A Remix Approach to Reading Technologies, Texts, and Ideas) with  Sarah Hallenbeck and Chelsea Redeker. I started putting together my presentation about two weeks before the conference. I was looking at the ways that the Get a Mac characters—Mac and PC—can be read as embodied metaphors. So I was composing a screencast, using the recording process as a means of arranging and discussing materials (the ads, quotations from texts, Web pages). I ‘ve presented videos several times at the conference, and have thought, along with others, about the irony of fueling thousands of miles of travel to walk into a room and push play. I had the script ready from laying down the audio track. The link formed easily: perform the reading live at the conference. The performance went well. The crowd was small, but gave me excellent feedback.