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Status Update

See that break in activity between December 2015 and June 2018? That represents my transition from one-course-per-semester coursework to candidacy exam, prospectus writing and defense, and dissertation work. I’m not a consistent blogger. Most of the posts to this blog came from requirements or expectations of graduate coursework.

Why the burst of activity? It’s about the job market. I’m building a professional site that reflects who I am as an academic researcher, scholar, and teacher. I want to put my best persona forward, but I’ll admit, consistent blogging is hard for me. Doesn’t make it less important, just a reflection on the challenge it presents.

It’s not that I don’t write. Doctoral candidates don’t “not write.” We write emails, we write feedback on papers, we write grant applications, we write dissertations, we write positions, and we write publications. I’m writing all those things. I’ve posted drafts of my nascent teaching philosophy and research statement to represent that writing work, but so much writing is done behind the scenes, out of the public’s sight.

I’m struggling through the labor of writing my dissertation, and it turns out that a blog post is a useful distraction from that labor. But it’s also true that I’m working on finishing touches on the initial draft of my first chapter, that I’m about halfway through my review of literature, that I’ve written up one set of methods and results my pilot study, that I have completed most of my data analysis for my final results. I’ll be writing six total chapters, one more than a “standard” dissertation (whatever that means), that includes two result chapters: one addressing the results of my methods, and one addressing the issues with my methods.

We’ll see if “I’m back” to the blogging thing, if I ever was really “there” in the first place. I’ll keep writing, and I’ll try to do more of that writing that’s visible to the public here.


New Text Report Peer Comments

Just like the post before this one, I am using this space to list the peers whose reports I have commented on and my reactions to each report. It’s not as fun as shifting through reading notes, so excuse the virtual paper trail.

Look at all these responses. Image hosted on

Look at all these responses. Image hosted on tumblr by user gracefuldreamer.

Steady on, friend

1) I commented on was Sherie’s report on Ben McCorkle’s Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross Historical Study.

I found Sherie’s report to be really interesting as she discussed McCorkle’s “redefinition of remediation” and a re-conceptualization of the rhetorical canon of delivery as performance. I was really interested in seeing the connection Sherie makes between Brooke’s text, Ligua Fracta, though I am curious to know if McCorkle’s ideas about delivery also focus on ethos as Brooke’s does or if it focuses on a different aspect of delivery as performance. One of the most interesting things about McCorkle’s text is his understanding of how there is a circle of influence between culture and technology, as they are both shaping and reshaping one another. This idea of circular influence is something that video games studies deals with as we have to acknowledge the influence of the military on the evolution of computers, but then we have to also understand how computer designers took the military’s funding and technology and repurposed computers for entertainment, which then lead to the military repurposing video games for recruitment and training. There is always this circle of influence rather than a linear progression of one section of society.

2) Next, was Shantal and Sarah Carter’s report on Vilem Flusser’s Does Writing Have a Future? (had trouble submitting my response to their blog as I received a “DNS server error” message, whatever that means).

I think Shantal and Sarah Carter do a nice job presenting the materials of their report, but I find Flusser’s text to be frustrating. Flusser’s theories seem hard to take seriously when he privileges print culture above all else, as Shantal and Sarah point out that he believed that “without writing on physical paper, there is no history, no democracy, and no freedom.” How does Flusser take into account that epic poems like The Illiad and The Odyssey were, in essence, narratives that encompassed histories, legends, and customs that were told and retold for who knows how long as a way to preserve cultural memory? Does cultural memory not count as history? Are cultures that use print as a means of communication the only ones who can have “history”? And how does Flusser define freedom if it is only through writing where freedom can be obtained? How does writing pave the way and maintain “freedom”? Ah, I have some many questions starting out that I was already resistant to any ideas that Flusser would have regarding the takeover of digital upon traditional print media. It seems that Flusser’s definition of writing is too narrow to be of use in a globalized world where we can not only write with our alphanumeric characters, but we can also create and integrate other kinds of media to get across our meanings and document our daily lives, our work, and what will become our “histories.”

3) The final report was Camille’s report on Quentin D. Vieregge, Kyle D. Stedman, Taylor Joy Mitchell, and Joseph M. Moxley’s Agency in the Age of Peer Production.

Vieregge et al.’s text is highly refreshing after reading about Flusser’s fussiness over anything that isn’t traditional print, especially as Camille points out that their text “address[es] their goal to understand the ways in which technology has changed writing education, especially within the framework of peer production.” The phrase “peer production” seems highly useful as students, professors, and schools in general (some more willingly than others, and with varying degrees of successful and failure) start to turn more and more towards integrating computers and other technological devices into the learning process. We can no longer afford to be completely technologically ignorant and we cannot be constant alarmists over what computers and the digital era are erasing from our lives. Yes, we are losing something and we need to acknowledge that, but we also need to be open to what new media forms are doing to change how we work, how we communicate, and our relationships to information both as creators and consumers. I am really excited to see that Vieregge et al. seem to be exploring ways in which peer production grants a level of agency to those in a college/university setting, something that instructors and students need when being dropped into a world that increasingly relies on the interwebs, Cloud storage, and portable devices (tablets, cell phones, laptops) alongside desktop computers to get work done and expand communications.

sleepy hollow_farewell Yolanda

Last set of report responses. Image hosted on

With every tale we tell

Mind Map: Week 11


In my mind map this week, I added a primary node of Ecology with smaller nodes linking out to Spellman and Syverston (since my book didn’t come until Tuesday, I only read summaries and, thus, I need to read him before I try to add him). As a result of our discussions in class this week, I created a connecting contrast node between Spellman and Latour. I actually had a date with a biologist on Saturday who studies freshwater streams and lakes, so this was a topic of our conversation. It was interesting for me to try to explain my perception (based on our readings and discussions) that ecology focuses on groups and classification. He didn’t see it until I explained how Latour’s theory of tracing all of the messy connections to an individual helps to define that individual’s network–the result of which would not be generalizable to other individuals. For instance, a species of fish serves a role in an ecosystem–its niche–and the role could be filled by any other of the fish in that species. However, while human individuals also serve a role in their network, all of an individual’s roles within his or her own specialized network cannot be fulfilled by another individual, because we have such a high level of agency and the importance we place on social systems.

I also added a primary node for Syverston and connected her concept of emergence to Bazerman, as I see a direct connection with the concept of speech acts and genres. This is a connection I plan to explore more as part of my own research.

Revisiting the Proposal: March 30

Donna Haraway has been credited as one of the first to use the term “cyborg” to describe our relationship with the Digital, as we become “hybrids of machine and organism” (151). The field of English Studies, and in particular Composition … Continue reading

Genre Readings & Applications: Miller, Bazerman, Popham, & Digital Assessment

The readings this week on Genre Theory (listed below in the Works Cited section) represented a bit of a paradigm shift from the more intense theoretical frameworks of Foucault and Biesecker. And yet… I found myself making both of them … Continue reading

Thoughts on Ethos

I’m in the process of reading and annotating the text I’ve selected for my spring class, and I came across what I consider a great paragraph with a great message that I want my students to grasp and understand.

The text is Everything’s an Argument with Readings, 6th edition, by Andrea Lunsford, John R. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. The passage appears in chapter 3, “Arguments Based on Character: Ethos.”

In fact, whenever you writing a paper or present an idea, you are sending signals about your character and reliability, whether you intend to or not. If your ideas are reasonable, your sources are reliable, and your language is appropriate to the project, you will suggest to academic readers that you’re someone whose ideas might deserve attention. You can appreciate why even details like correct spelling, grammar, and mechanics will weigh in your favor. And though you might not think about it now, at some point you may need letters of recommendation from instructors or supervisors. How will they remember you? Often chiefly from the ethos you have established in your work. Think about it. (45, emphasis original)

To me, this paragraph powerfully evokes the importance of ethos in all writing. As a web manager, I find I’ve developed an “institutional” voice that I use when writing brochure, flyer, catalog, and web copy. Each of these “genres” has slightly difference conventions, but all require the use of a trustworthy and authoritative voice. I work to develop the ethos of a school of the University of Richmond, and as both a graduate and an employee of the University, that ethos is considerable and respectable. I want to reflect my own pride in the institution through the voice I choose as a professional writer.

When I teach research writing, and when I teach Critical Writing and Research I in the spring, I want to be sure that I convey the vital importance of ethos to the long-term viability and acceptance of written work. To be honest, faculty talk to one another (gasps of horror ensue), and when we do we often consider  the “ethos” of specific students—would they be likely to succeed, for example, even if they have to miss a few more classes than usual for personal reasons? Their ethos, as conveyed both in their writing and in their classroom interactions, informs our conversations and assessments. As the text notes, it is students’ ethos, established in their writing, that I am most likely to remember and refer to when writing a letter of recommendation.

At any rate, this paragraph spoke to me in useful and practical ways, and I want to be sure I emphasize the importance of ethos in all writing and rhetorical situations.

Work Cited

Lunsford, A., Ruszkiewicz, J., & Walters, K. (2013). Everything’s an argument with readings, 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user ArchiveACT]