Sunday, March 25, 2007

CCCC07: Outtake One

My lovely traveling partner for this year's conference, Megan, was, very unfortunately, too sick to go. This is really much more unfortunate for her, having to deal with a long-lasting and hard-hitting cold/sinus infection, than it was for me, though having her there would have been wonderful.

My first night there, I checked into my hotel, got settled into "my pod," and checked out the little French restaurant/wine bar next door. I dined alone -- a glass of wine, some tomatoes and basil on French bread, and a salad. I was the only person in the crowded (people were waiting for tables) place who was alone. Next to me was a group of four women. They were having a great time, their volume rising with each glass of wine. They clapped and cheered loudly for themselves when at one point they decided to order yet another bottle. Toward the end of my meal, a couple of them leaned over to me and said, "We are *so* impressed with you." I wasn't sure what they meant exactly, but they explained to me that only one of the group of four ever had the "guts" to dine alone, and she had been encouraging the other women to try it. I mentioned that my traveling partner had gotten sick, and we struck up conversation. They inquired into the reasons for my NYC trip, and I tried to explain the conference. "Is that like writing?" they inquired. Somehow we got on the topic of the Food Network, a shared TV addiction. Eventually the conversation returned to dining alone. I mentioned reading many articles about the possibilities involved in dining (and doing other public ventures) alone, as people are more likely to approach you, etc. They agreed, and said, "Yeah, like we approached you." Then they made some sort of joke about a lot of good that does you...unless you're a lesbian, and they broke into hysterical laughter. For any reader who doesn't already know, I am indeed, a lesbian. But, did I have the courage to speak up and say something? Did I respond with, "actually, I am a lesbian." No. Did I mention, that it has never really been a dream of mine to be approached by four straight women in a pretentious little French wine bar in NYC? No. Did I happen to express to them that most lesbians would be a bit unfazed by four straight women? That in fact, what I noticed most were the few topics of conversation we could share -- TV, food, work, etc.--not the fact that they were women and I am a lesbian. No. No, instead I laughed lightly and shifted the conversation. And went back to my "pod" and slept on the fact that while I had the "guts" to dine alone, I didn't have the courage to speak up for myself.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

CCCC07: Day One

Disclaimer: What follows is primarily aimed at summary of the presentations that I attended at this year’s Cs. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons: 1) is to keep the arguments and insights fresh in my mind—an archive for myself and 2) is to allow those who did not attend (including those not in the field) to get a glimpse of what went on. The italicized portions that follow the summaries are my reflective thoughts and/or questions regarding what I heard. If I’ve misrepresented anyone, please “speak”-up and let me know; it was certainly not intentional. Of course many of the presenters have their own blogs with more nuanced descriptions of what they presented (if the not the presentation itself), and I’ve tried to note that as well.

The first session I attended (Thursday morning) was “3Cs: Capitalism, Commodification, and Consumerism”:

Mike Edwards presented his paper, which covered an alternative discourse of the economic – one that doesn’t always assume scarcity, that doesn’t necessarily doesn’t look at the working class (student) as some kind of victim of capitalism, one that doesn’t assume all transactions are inherently capitalist transactions. He argued that working class (student) identities tend to be constituted by lack with the pedagogical adjustment generally being access (either to technology or even manners), but he presented the idea that the remedy is not just the handing out of resources; students need skills to utilize these resources. He turned to Resnick and Wolff’s conception of class as an economic process of appropriating value and looked at the ways that “use” and “appropriation” can be seen differently than in a strictly capitalist sense (for example, “use” of reading text could be for getting things done, learning, or appropriation and remix into new texts). He pointed out that digital technologies can facilitate these processes. In the third part of his presentation he presented the way that information goods take on more value as they circulate and that the networked writings of our students can do just that. Finally, he showed (literally, via a nice little powerpoint chart) the way that capitalism is: transaction always = market; labor always = wage; and enterprise always = capitalist (okay, his chart makes this much more clear); he turned to Gibson-Graham for an alternative: market as fair trade, for example; labor/wage as self employed, for example; and capitalist enterprise as state. In other words, nonmarket, unpaid, noncapitalist, but all economic activities.

Next up was Sean Murray who presented on the infiltration of capitalism/commercial culture into our lives and classrooms, and in particular on his concern with the ways in which the commercial world has commodified our identities. Sean is interested in a pedagogy that has students read the way in which their identities are influenced by corporate power. He then wants to link those readings of the point at which self and culture meet to social injustice on a large scale. He situates composition as being in a unique position of both plugging into that corporate culture but also being a site of resistance. He ended by expressing his reservations about such a pedagogy, which included his concern over implementing a simplistic, na├»ve (his words, not mine) narrative of unveiling “truths” with the goal of an alleged freedom (“the truth will set you free”); his awareness of pushing an (blatant anti-consumerism) agenda on students; and his fear that he is interfering with what Bill Readings calls Thought (with a capital T), which views T/thought as a question not an answer.

Finally, Dr. Lonni Pearce did a Marxist influenced reading of Working Assets as an example of a “socially responsible” company. She pointed out the conflict and tension between politics and consumption evident from the company’s website and marketing materials – a tension between the motives of capitalism (you can shop, talk, etc. and…) and the company’s representation as a political action group (…and save the world!).

At the start of his presentation, Mike situated himself as “a big fat Marxist.” I am wondering how his use of Gibson-Graham, Resnick, and Wolff can reconcile with that positioning or label. I think many Marxists might disagree.

Sean named many common reservations that get expressed concerning critical/radical/liberatory pedagogies. They’re certainly similar to reservations I sometimes have regarding my own pedagogies and my own “agenda” (and subsequent fears of “pushing it”). Sean’s presentation left me with a number of questions – the biggest one being, how specifically he makes the leap from these personal readings of self as influenced by corporate capitalism to issues of social injustice. To make this move seems to me to require a kind of pushing of the agenda on students. And, what issues is he specifically looking at on a more global scale? I’m also curious to know what experiences he’s had in terms of students who are well aware of their construction by media and commercialism--the students who are aware of the implications of their graphic tees and choose to make those purchases, construct themselves in these commercialized ways. Many students seem to be okay with this role. Sean did point to all of this in his conclusion, but I’m just wondering then how he deals with these reservations.

The next session was on plagiarism:

Clancy Ratliff gave a very engaging and entertaining presentation of plagiarism in the blogosphere. She presented anecdotes on bloggers having been plagiarized – the most hilarious ones having been her own (that is, her writing/blog being plagiarized, not her as plagiarist!). Her interest ultimately turned to copyscape an online service that helps authors detect whether or not their material has been copied (or quoted) elsewhere on the web. Clancy argued that ethically Copyscape is different than turnitin because with copyscape the author is actually paying the service to “defend” (copyscape’s word choice) his or her written material, intellectual labor, etc; whereas with turnitin there is often (arguably) coercion of students involved, turnitin makes money on these student texts, the students don’t see any of that money etc. Clancy would like to do a larger and more careful analysis of copyscape. She also pointed out that institutional views of plagiarism extend into the blogosphere (she had rather clear examples illustrating this, which can be found in her posting on her presentation).

Next was Rebecca Moore Howard who continued her work in looking at the rhetoric used to describe plagiarism and plagiarists. For this presentation she focused specifically on the rhetoric (specifically tropes/metaphors) used to describe plagiarism as it happens in the blogosphere (and compared it, at times, to the metaphors used for print plagiarism). She wondered, in approaching the project, whether or not people online are thinking differently about plagiarism. Apparently the answer is not really. Howard showed examples of blogs discussing the topic of plagiarism in terms of policing, crime, “assumed guilt,” cases, vampirism (yes, one site actually describes plagiarists as textual vampires, sucking blood and life), hunting (in which case the teacher/reader was the “hunter”, thereby making the student “prey”…and what happens in this scenario, Howard, asked…), and the metaphor of wearing ones dirty/used underwear. A couple of the sites she described treated plagiarism as crime that needs a team of investigators to investigate it (here she gave credit to a research assistant who made the connection to CSI culture). She pointed out the way that this discourse creates on online environment of vigilante culture.

One of the sessions I most looked forward to was on the global economy and class identity. The presenters were Min Zhan Lu, Tom Fox, and Joseph Harris with Bruce Horner as respondent.

Lu made the argument that given the globalizing of the free market we need to rethink class, and in doing so we need to rethink the way(s) in which we respond to our students’ careerist desires. In redefining class, Lu focused on class as bodily interaction and class as a matter of space. She noted that for those holding power territorial markers matter less and less; that class division has become the unequal distribution of extraterritorial mobility. She suggested approaching matters of class from simultaneously a local and global perspective and designing a pedagogy that enables students to acquire the specialized skills of the “new” global perspective. One route she described was a writing project that focuses on the tension between the socially constructed desire to chase supra-mobility and the more localized work sites of those who are bound by family and other factors. This writing project could detail the role of the globe trotter as depicted by mass media and ask questions of our (students) own globe trotting (or not) desires and tendencies.

Tom Fox gave a lively and impassioned presentation on the evils of textbook companies and subsequently textbook adoption (as made by committees, districts, policy makers etc). He informed us with alarm, “Companies huger than my imagination own education.” He drew the lines between arms fairs, textbook companies, education (including professional development). His suggestions: work in organized groups to empower teachers; continue to engage in a Rhetorical War of Positions on textbook adoption. He ended, “Corporate reform of education is coming to your campus soon.” (If it hasn’t already).

Joseph Harris presented on his own institution, Duke, and its recent controversy over the lacrosse team. He focused on one aspect of the situation and that was a signing of “Listening Statement” by 88 Duke faculty members who came to be both known and attacked as the Group of 88. At the heart of the criticism was the idea that faculty should not dare to criticize the culture of their own institution, that a faculty’s place is in the classroom (and only there), the assumption that faculty shouldn’t comment on the lives of students that don’t affect them. His suggestion: do study campus culture and invite ways of improving it.

I've run out of steam here in terms or recording some of my reactions, thoughts, questions, and I still have to get down day two, plus some "outtakes" from my adventure in NYC. More on all of that later....

update: Mike has blogged on his presentation, as well as on some of the same sessions I've summarized above.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Survived: Part II

I made it through the second written exam and finished up with my oral exam on Friday. I emerged into the St. Patrick's day weekend snowstorm with some sense of relief and a big headache that lasted and lasted and lasted.

The next day I rolled out of bed and immediately started shoveling. I shoveled for an hour and a half--until it was time for my tennis match. The bubble was 101 degrees, and I ran around, with my headache, getting beat badly, while I mostly concentrated on trying to breath in the oppressive heat.

That evening D and I went out for what was supposed to be a lovely dinner at McGuire's, where we were treated terribly--or barely treated at all (maybe a better way of describing it). The food was good, but definitely did not warrant the $100.00 tab and shitty service. After that we met up with some of my wonderful friends for drinks.

Yesterday I attended the anti-war rally. Today my headache is finally gone.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

survived: Part I

I (barely) made it through exam one. Here is a rundown:

What suprised me most: How *physically* grueling a process it was (though I had a friend mention this aspect to me, I had no idea how much it would affect me). Most of the three days I felt like I'd been through a tremendous workout (only worse--if that makes any sense)--my hip hurt, my legs ached, knots in my upper back into my neck, my fingers and hands ached and had pins and needles. This is NOT a body that is accustomed to sitting around for long periods of time.

The questions I answered: I answered one question on Althusser's theory of ideology and subsequent debates within cultural studies around historical materialism and ideology; and whether or not I thought anything could be garnered from Althusser for the future of cultural studies. The other question was about the role of the writing classroom within capitalism--whether or not it complicates any straightforward sense of economic determinism; in what ways it might mirror capitalist relations of production; whether there is a distinction between the space of the writing classroom and that of the university.

What I ate and drank: as much coffee and sugar as I wanted (I'm sure that really helped with the body aches and pains).

Breaks: one walk, one half hour of jeopardy, breakfast/lunch/dinner, some dishes, some laundry after cheyanne got sick on D's favorite blanket, a bit of crocheting, helping D with her puzzle (that was her exam weekend project)--I think I added a total of about six pieces (out of 1,000); one hour of L Word

What I did as soon as I clicked "send": went to the gym; came home and tried to go for a walk, but the snow squalls and wind made it really tricky; went and bought a new stove (only ours is in white, and we didn't buy it at home depot, and we didn't pay that price for it)!

The worst part: knowing I have to do it again this weekend.