ENG 112 schedule, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr

Course Schedule
(All due dates are tentative.) 


Week 1
4 September
Expectations and introductions (name, location, major/profession, expectations)
Course overview
Exercise: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/college-writing-class-assignments-with-real-world-applications (#1 & #4)

6 September
Due: email confirmation & questions, syllabuses for other courses
Read: CONTRACTSYLLABUS
Introduction of ASSIGNMENT: NTERVIEW


Week 2 
11 September
Read: IN DEFENSE OF TWITTER http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-other-half-writes-in-defense-of.html 
Introduction of ASSIGNMENT: TWITTER

13 September
Due: interviewee announcement
Read: A CASE FOR WRITING THINGS OUT http://www.fastcompany.com/1798782/when-pen-beats-phone-a-case-for-writing-things-out 


Week 3
18 September
Read: WRITING IN THE AGE OF DISTRACTION http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2009/01/cory-doctorow-writing-in-age-of.html 
Introduction of ASSIGNMENT: DISTRACTION-FREE WRITING

20 September
Due: Interview reflection & transcription


Week 4
25 September
Due: Distraction-free #1: Experience

27 September
Due: Distraction-free #2: Application

 

Week 5
2 October
Due: Twitter reflection #1

4 October
Group facilitation: 06 - Eileen, Jennifer, Mary | 07 - Keith, Matthew, Ra'Shonda, Forrest on comic books and writing

 

Week 6
9 October
Introduction of ASSIGNMENT: POP UP WRITING

11 October
Group facilitation: 06 - Chris, Jack, Josh, Hannah | 07 - Jaime, John, Mark, Rori, Yong on writer's block

 

Week 7
16 October
Due: Pop Up & reflection

18 October
NO CLASS


Week 8
23 October
Due: Twitter reflection #2
Group facilitation: 06 - CLASS CANCELED | 07 - Bobby, Ben, David, Ryan on technical writing 

25 October
Group facilitation: 06 - Elysa, Keysa, Matt, Rachel | 07 - Alexiss, Jackie, Kristi, Whitney on writing tips


Week 9
30 October
Read: DEFINING AND AVOIDING PLAGIARISM http://wpacouncil.org/node/9, THE ECSTASY OF INFLUENCE: A PLAGIARISM http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/0081387, WHAT PLAGIARISM LOOKS LIKE http://mleddy.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-plagiarism-looks-like.html
Introduction of ASSIGNMENT: MASHUP WRITING

1 November
Group facilitation: 06 - Carlos, Evan, Simone, Terrence | 07 - Ann, Erica, Kalyn, Samantha, Tanika on languages and writing


Week 10 - Discipline-Specific Scholarship
6 November
Due: Mashup & reflection
Introduction to DISCIPLINE-SPECIFIC WRITING
Group facilitation: 06 - Ian, Linda, Lucy 

8 November
Group facilitation: 06 - Andrew, Aubrey, David, Maria


Week 11 - Discipline-Specific Scholarship
13 November
Due: DSS PK proposals

15 November
Due: DSS PK proposals

Week 12 - Discipline-Specific Scholarship
20 November
Due: DSS PK proposals


Week 13 - Discipline-Specific Scholarship
27 November
Due: DSS drafts

29 November
Due: DSS drafts

 

Week 14 - Discipline-Specific Scholarship
4 December  
Due: DSS drafts

6 December
Due: DSS drafts

 

Week 15 - Exam Week
Due: Self-evaluative essay

Assignment: Interview, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr #111cr

The kinds of writing you will perform in this class depend in part on the kinds of writing required in other classes, by your intended major/profession, and even your current job. Sharing information about these kinds of writing with me and your classmates will help shape what we do this semester. The following assignment is a step toward that shaping.

 

The assignment
Interview someone in your area of interest (read: current employment, college major, future profession). This interview should focus on the kinds of writing performed daily, weekly, monthly and/or yearly as part of being employed in a current job (e.g., a McDonald’s manager), as majoring in a particular field of study (e.g., BS in Health Sciences), or as becoming a future professional in that field (e.g., MDCH consultant).  

We will generate potential interview questions as a class. While the base list of interview questions are important, don’t hesitate to go “off script” and ask follow-up questions. For instance, if your interviewee admits to writing so many email messages a day, consider asking them about the average length of those messages and/or about total time spent performing that kind of writing.

A face-to-face interview is strongly recommended, but an interview via email is also acceptable. 

Please contact me if you have any difficulties in landing an interviewee. 

 

13 September - Interviewee announcement
A half-page, handwritten explanation of who you will be interviewing and why. This is to be completed in class.

 

20 September - Interview reflection & transcription
At least 500 words reflecting on the interview, including what you learned (or didn’t) and what surprised you (or didn’t). Also, a full transcription of the interview. Both are to be completed prior to class.

Assignment: Twitter, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr #111cr

[amended from Brian Croxall]

 

Twitter is a blogging platform, but simpler. It's similar to a Facebook status update, except you're only allowed to post entries that are 140 characters long. This is because Twitter was designed to work via cellphone text messaging. You can update Twitter from your phone as well as "follow" people on Twitter (and they can follow you back). Updates come to your phone (or online) instantly. You get real-time updates from peers and others you are interested in knowing what they are doing. 

To create and sustain further conversation this semester, all students are required to maintain active presence on Twitter for a minimum of six weeks. Two posts (or tweets) per weekday are required, but there is freedom regarding content. Students are welcome to post original thoughts, "retweet" classmates' updates, @ (reply to) classmates' updates, and share course-relevant links. Posts unrelated to course content are okay, but these will not count toward the requirement. I am very active on Twitter, so I encourage all students to check MY PROFILE (as well as those I follow) for potential models of engagement.

Why are we doing this? As we'll read and discuss, there are a great number of ways of writing and Twitter is a new one (kind of). Perhaps Twitter can help us learn better clarity and concision in our writing. Furthermore, employers in a variety of fields and industries are interested in hiring employees who are social-media savvy. Knowing how to use Twitter could very well help you get a job someday. I'm also curious to see if using Twitter changes the culture or society of the class in any appreciable way. 

 

The assignment

  1. If you haven't yet joined Twitter, join Twitter.
     
  2. Create a profile. In your username or bio (or both), use your real name (e.g., my username is "betajames," but I have my real name in the bio section). 
  3. Make your profile public. If you already have a Twitter account that is private and would prefer to keep it that way, create a new account for this class. (If your profile is private, classmates cannot search for you and your course-related tweets won't appear in the archive I set up.)
  4. Find and follow all members of our class (students and professor). (I'll try to make this easier by sharing a full list of users.)
  5. Search for and follow some other interesting people, such as Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rachel Maddow, Oprah Winfrey, Miguel CabreraNdamukong Suh, and/or Rainn Wilson (Dwight Schrute from The Office). Consider following different services that provide updates, too, like CNN or Fox News. You could even follow countries like Australia, Irelandthe Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden.  
  6. Post at least twice per weekday from 13 September to 23 October.
  7. When posting about our class, please use the course hashtag: #112cwr OR #111cr. This will allow us to better track one another's tweets. 
  8. Consider connecting your cellphone or smartphone to Twitter to get real-time updates. Having phone updates is not required for this assignment, but it could be helpful. Regular text messaging fees do apply. 
  9. Please get into the habit of checking Twitter at least once a day. (Don't worry about keeping up, though. Just see what's happening when you check in. Think of Twitter as a river of information. Dive in and you might get swept away; stick in a toe, or even a whole foot, and you should be fine.)
  10. Halfway through and at the end of this assignment, you will share evaluations of Twitter (and how we used it). As a class, we will decide whether or not to keep using Twitter for the rest of the semester. This assignment and the subsequent evaluation will be assessed on the same basis as everything else in this class, i.e., if you make an honest effort to play along, you will be in accordance with the grading contract. Your evaluations are due 2 October and 23 October.

 

Other interesting ways to use Twitter:

  1. There are a number of desktop and smartphone applications for using Twitter. They’re very easy to find and most are free!
  2. You can sync your Twitter updates to your Facebook status. Just install the TWITTER APPLICATION on Facebook.
  3. Use your cellphone camera in conjunction with TWITPIC, YFROG, INSTAGRAM, or other such services.

Distraction-Free Writing, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr

Given the relative wealth of “distraction-free” writing programs available online, each purports to be unique in promising to deliver the same, basic thing: increased focus on the task at hand. Both the programs themselves and their descriptive pitches enable and frame the act, purpose, and value of writing in different ways. Some are very process-oriented; others are more expressive. Many exhibit stark, monochromatic styles, harkening back to simpler times.

In other words, certain programs invite certain kinds of writers. For instance, Writer for iPad implies concern about "destroying the voice and the organic structure of our original thought." Meanwhile, Ommwriter "believes in making writing a pleasure once again, vindicating the close relationship between writer and paper." Furthermore, WriteRoom "gets your computer out of the way so that you can focus on your work." These programs are pitched and presented more as environments than tools. They are more spaces for us to write from/within and less instruments facilitating the writing process, if it is a process at all.

So, let’s see if any of these programs fulfill their promises. Many are available for free or at minimal cost, so I encourage you to download a couple of the following:

 

For the more adventurous among us:

 

To better focus our discussion of and thoughts on distraction-free writing, I'd like for us to complete the following:

Part 1: Experience. Describe what it's like to write from/within the space of a distraction-free writing tool. Boot up one of the distraction-free writing tools listed above and write from and of the experience. Is this familiar? Is it foreign? Is it nostalgic? Even romantic? Furthermore, what kind(s) of writing or writer(s) does this tool invite and/or discourage? How does writing via this tool compare to your standard word processor? Think stream-of-consciousness. Whatever form this experiential writing exercise takes is fine, but it should be substantial. Be sure to share it with me by 25 September 2012.

Part 2: Application. Write something else, something more specific within the space of a distraction-free writing tool. Boot up one of the distraction-free writing tools listed above and write about a course-related issue or topic. This can be a creative or a critical piece of writing, but do begin and complete it using one of the distraction-free writing tools listed above. Be sure to share it with me by 27 September 2012.

Pop Up Writing, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr #111cr

The inspiration for this assignment comes from VH1’S POP UP VIDEO, a show which presented music videos of different genres and offered little pop up windows with all kinds of information, ranging from the band/artist and lyrical interpretation to sociopolitical commentary and little known facts.  VH1’s Pop Up Video is a kind of writer/text collaboration as it not only involves more than one kind of text but also more than one kind of author; furthermore, the show itself is rather light-hearted and all about linguistic play.

 

The assignment - due 16 October

Part 1. To develop a better working knowledge of discursive practices in academic writing, choose a recent article from a journal or magazine related to your intended major/profession. Either after printing out a copy of the article, converting it from .pdf to .doc, or simply cutting and pasting it into Microsoft Word, go through the entire document as you would in peer review. In other words, make observations on format/style, pose discipline-specific questions, delete unnecessary sentences, insert new sentences. Be sure to justify all changes. Track/insert at least 3-5 changes/comments per page and insert a brief end comment after the conclusion paragraph. Keep the idea of Pop Up Video in mind, though. Don't hesitate to get playful and/or experimental with the text.

Part 2. Use Part 1 as the basis for a reflective essay about the particular discursive practices within your major field of study. How you construct this reflective piece is up to you. Make sure to have some conclusions about the nature of writing within your area of interest, if you see any problems, or if you think all writing in your area of interest should be like this and why.

Mashup Writing, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr #111cr

In "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism," Jonathan Lethem pulls from an incredible variety of sources to make an argument about the nature of originality. Part of what makes his argument so compelling has to do with how he makes it, drawing from the work of others and relying very little on his own words. Lethem does, of course, acknowledge his source material, but in a way contrary to established academic forms. Instead of proper citation format, Lethem offers a "key," combining partial quotes and authors' names in red along with the occasional anecdote about a particular source. Like VH1’s Pop Up Video, Lethem's mashup essay is another kind of writer/text collaboration that involves more than one kind of text and more than one kind of author. Mashup is a further invitation to make and see connections between texts, to make something cohesive out of things not our own.

 

The assignment - due 6 November

Craft an essay of at least 1000 words using 5 strong academic sources. Potential reference points for this assignment include Jonathan Lethem's "The ecstasy of influence," Danger Mouse's the Grey Album (and fan videos on Youtube) and Wikipedia. Look at how these works are derivative of their source material. Note the revisions made to establish transitions between hooks and lyrics, sentences and paragraphs. Take inspiration from these previous mashups; allow them to influence the construction of your own work. You have the opportunity to flex your APA/MLA citation muscles with this assignment, but consider designing a "key" as Lethem does or some other method of giving credit where credit's due.

Part 1. Select 5 strong academic sources from journals and magazines related to your area of interest and mash 'em up. Don't just throw the sources together; make a cohesive argument out of them. Don't pull 5 paragraphs at random and simply list them; integrate at the sentence level. Keep your own words to a minimum. 

Part 2. Use Part 1 as the basis for a 500-word reflective piece. I encourage you to provide a simple walkthrough of your mashup process, a conventional collection of bulleted/numbered points of interest, or a scan/upload of the mashup itself accompanied by your own further commentary. No matter your choice, be sure to be reflective and draw some conclusions about the following:

  • mashup in general (or specific to academic writing, e.g., should it be allowed?)
  • plagiarism in general (or specific to academic writing, e.g., how should it be addressed?)
  • what your mashup (or those by your peers) reveals about academic discourse

Discipline-Specific Writing, updated Fall 2012 #112cwr

Having read, researched, compiled, annotated, commented, and reflected on academic sources related to your major/intended profession, we should have a better foundational knowledge of what constitutes quality and/or expertise within a specific field of study. Part of this greater understanding concerns expectations of quality and/or expertise in writing for future courses. Now is the time to apply that knowledge toward a specific end.

Using sources from previous assignments as models (and/or as references), compose a piece adhering to the conventions, arguments, and styles of writing associated with your major/intended profession. This can be any kind of a piece appearing in one of the major journals in your field of study. It could be a substantial book review, a research essay, or a critique of a past article. 

The piece composed should showcase an argument similar to those appearing in discipline-specific journals. The piece composed should also showcase positive format and style characteristics similar to those highlighted during previous assignments. So, while you should adhere to the default 2400-word requirement, the main requirements for this assignment are those specified by dominant journals in your field of study. If you have any trouble getting started, don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

PK proposals - due 13 November, 15 November, 20 November

6 minutes, 40 seconds on discipline-specific writing

First drafts - due 27 November, 29 November

Peer & instructor review

Revised drafts - due 4 December, 6 December

Notes on GameLoop 2012 #gl12

A description of GameLoop as well as notes on last year's unconference are available from co-runner Darius Kazemi here

"Art Games from a Fine Arts Perspective," Alex Myers presiding

The purpose of this session was to think about art games from an artist's perspective rather than that of a designer or developer. In Myers' opinion, using contemporary game design as a medium for expression is all fine and good, but that the placement of games in galleries is problematic in approach. 

First, there is the myth of the gallery. There is also the movement and removal of games themselves from arcades to homes and now to galleries. Art continues to move in comparable directions and Myers and session attendees rattled off many examples. Some were also quick to stress the need to challenge and question what we consider to be art games, to be mindful of using subversiveness as a crutch because we engage in passive participation in oppression every day. 

Furthermore, there are questions of accessibility and legitimacy and the importance of exploring alternative as well as traditional spaces for art and for games, of pursuing "art games for art games' sake." It was around this point that the overall discussion separated art and games, acknowledging how context comes through interaction (sort of) with both. This separation was not an issue as it appeared easier for some to understand how art and games might learn from each other, what it means to make art the focus of a game and if that's even really possible. 

In the midst of this part of the session, someone mentioned "MOMA retcons," how certain art movements rebelled and responded to the establishment only to be included and/or canonized later so that the general public might "step back and respect" them. Myers also took issue with dressing art up in videogame culture, expressing uncertainty with what such action accomplishes. 

To continue the separation and similarity aspect, this session made note of the player-predictability in games and the viewer-unpredictability of art. "What consequences can there be in the digital?" is an additional question that arose, however briefly, in the Philosophy and Videogames (development) session described below. 

As the session came to a close, there was a look to the future toward locative art games and emergent objectives, of using the "raw means of abstraction" as the essence of interaction to produce less obvious metaphors that might still be reminiscent of life experiences. In a final address of how to pass the time, a session attendee stated, "We had five minutes left two minutes ago." 

Among the artists and events mentioned: Duchamp, Cactus Squid, Brody Condon, the Machine Project, Deep Sea

 

"Why All Videogame Conferences Suck," Courtney Stanton presiding

Short answer: exclusionary practices. This is a continuing problem at conferences, so there was a stated concern of how to address it. Courtney shared her experiences with and knowledge of unconferences and workshops like No Show. Alex and Darius framed their K-12 and college-level classes as forms of outreach.

Part of the intent is to have more conversations in more places, to have more welcoming spaces as well as perhaps more separatist spaces, all so that the big conferences aren't the only spaces anymore and more people interested in videogames can say, "There's someone/something here for me."

It was around this point that Johnny(?) brought up issues of accessibility, stressing the potential complications of distance and physical spaces for those with special needs. Conferences tend to ignore, overlook, or assume too much when it comes to policies that ensure safe, welcoming spaces, but much the same also happens with regards to special-needs considerations.

So, how to community-organize for everyone? Attend to privilege, acknowledge the popularity of past panels, get away from predatory logic and what conferences tend to sell attendees on, realize that what happens at conferences is often someone's first impression of the industry.  

 

"Philosophy and Videogames (Development)," Darius Kazemi presiding

In true unconference spirit, this was sort of an impromptu session jammed in during the lunch hour. Darius started off by noting how architecting a game engine addresses philosophical questions and what it's like being forced to write those ontological rules, thereby revealing the purpose of the session overall. Attendees then shared their own reasons for being present, including ethics, the nonhuman turn, "old thinkers," games as reflections of humanity (or not), game tendencies, natural human states, absurdism, existentialism, inherent systems of meaning, theology, life and death in games, less definite spaces, what philosophy can provide, systems construction.

Of course, it proved impossible to address all these interests. One of the first questions raised was that of combat being the dominant/lone interaction of a game and how player perception can be influenced as a result, how we can come to see the "real" space on which a game space is based as "where people are supposed to get shot." This can be most pronounced in FPS games set in New York, Los Angeles, etc. 

So, how to get away from this possibility? Decenter player privilege, embrace the core ambiguity and flexibility of game design. This somehow led into thinking of the computer/system as adjudicator, a computer's sense of justice, and what it means to follow laws and rules vs. understanding them. Kirk can probably speak more and better about this, but there was another question raised: "When is a rule going to make something stupid happen?" One answer was the A.I. Director from the Left 4 Dead series. 

No one mentioned Bioshock during the session, which was nice. 

 

"Games That Hate You," Cameron Kunzleman presiding

Things got started with a focus on games that provide active punishment for playing them as well as the appeal of playing these kinds of games. There's a nostalgic aspect to them, to their punishing difficulty, but Cameron also wanted the discussion to move beyond this. Rather than just an address of difficulty and punishment, the discussion moved into the realm of clear disrespect for players and what we perceive as unfair. 

Hateful or not (perhaps), there needs to be respect and trust on the part of both the designer and the player of the game. Wrapped up in all this, too, are understandings of content value and experience and how games reward certain player behaviors or don't. There was mention of a game in which the player can realize that "you're fucked 5 minutes into a match." This led some to ask how can we as players tell when a game respects our time. During a sub-discussion concerning sadomasochistic aspects of games, one attendee admitted, "Alt+F4 is my safe word." 

I'm not sure this session stayed on topic as much as it could have. This is more of an observation than a complaint, though, given bits and pieces about motivational environments and the absence of them, the idea of "hard simplicity," how and why players react when a game denies, exhausts, or robs their agency, and how some violations of player expectations can be fun. 

 

"Women in Games," Courtney Stanton presiding

Unfortunately, I missed a good chunk of this session. It was clear upon entering the room, though, that this wasn't a session about portrayals of women in videogames but an industry/workplace talk. 

One woman shared her experience of being mistaken for a marketer instead of a programmer because she "dressed nice." A few others observed how sexism in the videogames monoculture can be just as bad in indie as AAA, if not worse. This is because the legal liability that exists in AAA doesn't have an equivalent in indie. 

There was also discussion of what it takes to be heard, the sacrifices and personality changes some women made to fit in with the guys. A later shift to education focused on priming the next generation, looking at the importance of support for those experiencing sexism as well as the worth in correction and even embarrassment for those causing it. We need to not only let people know that they're wrong but also show them how and why.

Similar to the earlier session about why videogame conferences suck, I felt exhausted at the end. 

 

"Roguelike-likes," ??? presiding

I spent too much time in my own head during this session, which began with some discussion of roguelike characteristics. These included procedural generation, discovery, capacity for surprise, permanent risk, adversity with interesting/intersecting consequences, and systems awareness. Regarding the roguelike aspects of accumulation and loss, one attendee commented, "The better you do, the more it hurts." In other words, the greater a player's progression through a roguelike, the worse a player's potential 'death' becomes. At the same time, starting over may not be so terrible, given acceptance of failure beforehand. A roguelike, then, forces us to admit that we have nothing to lose. Well, except maybe time. 

Having somewhat defined characteristics of roguelikes, discussion moved into the application of roguelike aspects to other kinds of games. After naming titles like Dark Souls and Fallout, the latter of which diverged into a discussion of sub-optimal builds, there was some brainstorming about FPS roguelikes, social roguelikes, and even how a movie like Groundhog Day could be seen as roguelike-like. 

Among roguelikes named: Nethack, Facade, Brogue, Spelunky, Epic Dungeon, Realm of the Mad God. 

candidate statement for 4-year review

Annual Evaluations  
Candidate's Statement for 2-Year Review 

 

 

CANDIDATE STATEMENT OF JAMES SCHIRMER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-FLINT
30 MARCH 2012 

 

(.pdf available upon request.)

 

Teaching
My approach to teaching acknowledges writing as a form of action, as a communicative, critical, political, recursive, and social practice. As such, I believe the possibility of change to be a constant. My pedagogy must account for this possibility and I do so in part by way of the proper implementation of technology across all courses I teach. Online communicative technologies offer myriad methods of interaction and have a collective capacity for greater consistency, accountability, and connectedness among and between students and teachers. My courses at the University of Michigan-Flint are emblematic of these ideas.

In my first four years at UM-Flint, I guided students through the following:

  • ENG 111 College Rhetoric (4 sections)
  • ENG 112 Critical Writing and Reading (5 sections)
  • ENG 252 Advanced Composition (3 sections)
  • ENG 298 Analysis and Criticism of Videogames (became ENG 342 in Winter 2012)
  • ENG 342 Videogame Studies
  • ENG 345 Technical Writing (5 sections)
  • ENG 513 Digital Rhetoric (2 sections) 
  • ENG 560 Topics in Rhetoric & Writing Booksprint
  • ENG 567 Composition Theory
  • UNV 100 Media Mix (2 sections)

Six of the above courses were newly developed at the time of their offering. UNV 100 Media Mix was a First Year Experience course I developed in collaboration with Dr. Michael Lewis of the Journalism Program. ENG 298 Analysis and Criticism of Videogames was a successful pilot course that became ENG 342 Videogame Studies. The origins of ENG 513, 560, and 567 lay within my respective research interests of digital rhetoric, collaborative writing, and composition pedagogy/theory. 

Of  the above more common and standard courses, ENG 111 and ENG 112 continue to be my pedagogical foundation. These courses keep me attuned to the needs and wants of the next generation of college students, who in turn provide me with an excellent sounding board for new and revised approaches to teaching college-level writing. Many of the assignments appearing in various iterations of my 200- and 300-level courses were first tried and tested in my 100-level courses. The similar aspects of certain assignments across my undergraduate offerings should be seen as evidence of sustained success. In other words, I stick with what works, with what challenges and engages students.

Among the course aspects that remain challenging and/or engaging for students are requirements for online writing, namely the use of blogs and Twitter. Requiring such tools came from a desire to see more various and sundry forms of writing from students. The amount of reading and writing opportunities we encounter on a daily basis is staggering and I think that the more reading and writing practice students can get in my courses, they better off they will be. So, among my teaching responsibilities are modeling thoughtful, engaged reading and writing, motivating students to push themselves as not only readers and writers but also as thinkers and citizens. Material proof lies in the wide variety of compositions students create in the courses I guide, again including blogs and Twitter as well as PowerPoint presentations and more traditional academic essays. 

My course evaluations contain evidence of certain students’ persistent resistance, though. I ask students to begin writing in various ways in Week 1 and explain that my course might not be for them if they have significant reservations about doing such work. I do realize that some students' schedule may not allow them to drop a particular course, so I'm working toward being more explicit about the different things students will need to do. More and more, this includes not just content mastery but technology mastery as well as understanding the relationships of both within an unfamiliar grading structure. I emphasize to students the importance of keeping me in the loop, making myself available to them in a variety of online formats (email, betajames.net, Twitter) in addition to face-to-face conference opportunities. I also provide contextual understanding throughout the semester for how and why the use of a blog and/or Twitter can be beneficial to more standard, academic work. However, also present in my course evaluations is evidence of students coming around and seeing the value of writing in online formats. This may be most pronounced in ENG 111, ENG 112, and ENG 345, undergraduate courses asking students to write about their majors and intended professions.  

Framing students’ work within the context of a major and/or intended profession tends to make for a more consistent and beneficial learning experience for students and for me. We get to learn together about the kinds of writing they will be doing in the field. Students also have the opportunity to experiment with writing in an academic setting that might be more comfortable than a workplace environment. From first-year to graduate-level, students continue to appreciate such opportunities to read and write about what they want to learn. 

Given the courses I teach, students with similar interests continue to seek me out as an adviser for independent study projects. In the last year alone, I oversaw independent studies on the place and purpose of the author in the digital realm, the development of children’s games for mobile devices, and the sociological characteristics of World of Warcraft. I remain indebted to the students who undertook these projects as they challenged and helped me to think further about authority, identity, writing, and videogames. Future iterations of the courses listed above will continue to reflect their influence.  

Again, I view writing as a form of public action. I see the teaching of writing as much the same. Online communicative technologies illuminate and support these ideas. The implementation of particular forms of action through services like Posterous and Twitter can facilitate and coordinate greater attention, encourage meaningful interaction and participation, promote better collaboration, and help students develop narratives of their own learning as well as hone the critical consumption and crafting of academic (and nonacademic) work. Involved throughout is a challenge to students’ notions of what qualifies as writing, an interrogation of their prior knowledge and experience but also an encouragement toward new kinds of writing in first-year and upper-level courses. I therefore see each course I guide as a digital rhetoric, making an inherent case for not only the informed, responsible use of technology in college-level courses but also working as an example of what is possible when this happens. In the next section, I explain how online communicative technologies play as much a part in my research as they do in my teaching.

 

Research
I aspire to produce scholarship of cultural and pedagogical importance that acknowledges and encourages further connections between society and technology. Such aspiration remains important because greater understanding of how technology manifests in society can lead to more successful classroom integration. It is through sustained investigation of past and present practices and theories of writing that I am better able to reflect on and revise my pedagogy. My recent scholarship is indicative of this reciprocal relationship.

Under review by editors Christine Denecker and Christine Tulley for the book collection Preparing Writing Teachers for the Multimodal Age: Professional Development Models is “Ride Out The Avalanche: On Teaching My First Graduate-Level Course,” a chapter in which I interrogate the failures and successes of ENG 513. I do so through sharing and reflecting on texts created by and for students, including anonymous feedback, blog posts, and course materials, many of which I provide in the chapter itself. With the book collection to be published by Computers and Composition Digital Press, an imprint of Utah State University Press, my chapter will be one among many providing a dynamic online space through which to understand what works and what doesn’t when teaching a graduate-level course for the first time.

Under review by publisher Palgrave for the book collection Rhetoric/Composition/Play, edited by Matthew S.S. Johnson, Richard Colby, and Rebekah Shultz Colby, is “Techne As/Is Play: Three Interstices,” a chapter in which I argue for understanding techne (the word-root of technology) as play. I do so through an acknowledgement of videogames as comprising important instances of how techne, play, and techne as play can be understood and offer an exploratory analysis of three distinct interstices of gaming. I thereby show techne/play as a series of layered, ubiquitous moments, with each new gaming encounter giving further shape to present and future performance. I conclude the chapter with an assignment indicative of techne-as-play aspects. 

Furthermore, two chapters that were under review for edited collections at the time of my 2-year review have since been published. “Fostering Meaning and Community in Writing Courses via Social Media,” which drew as much from my teaching as research in the field, can be found in Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media, a book collection edited by Charles Wankel and published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited in 2011. “‘We All Stray From Our Paths Sometimes’: Morality and Survival in Fallout 3,” which focuses on the ethical considerations in a post-apocalyptic videogame, can be found in Network Apocalypse: Visions of the End in an Age of Internet Media, a book collection edited by Robert G. Howard and published by Sheffield Phoenix Press in 2011.

An additional example of my professional development and creative work lies within the May 2009 issue of UM-Flint’s The Scholarship of Teaching, which reprinted my chapter, "The Personal As Public," from The Computer Culture Reader, a book-length collection of essays edited by Joseph Chaney, Judd Ruggill and Ken McAllister and published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in January 2009. A consideration of how identity becomes manifest online through the act of blogging, this chapter was direct inspiration for the construction of ENG 513, thereby further revealing the connections between my research and my teaching.

Each of these chapters underwent a thorough, double-blind peer-review process established by the respective editors. The amount of correspondence between me, my reviewers, and the editors for each of the above publications is voluminous as I had at least two sets of reviewer feedback in addition to editors' comments to better guide my revision process. Having to account for and address such feedback was both a welcome challenge and reward as I think my contributions to these edited collections turned out as well as chapters written by others. 

I also think such work as rather representative of the interdisciplinary possibilities afforded by working in the digital humanities. While perceived as a young area of study, there is an intellectual rigor within this field comparable to cultural, literary, and rhetorical studies. Much the same can be observed of videogame studies, another pervasive field of academic inquiry. There are not only discipline-specific, peer-reviewed journals like Game Studies, Eludamos, and Games and Culture, but evidence of videogame studies and social media analysis can also be found in the rhetoric and composition journals CCC and Computers & Composition as well as at the Conference on College Composition and Communication and the Modern Language Association conference.

Also informing and influencing these publishing successes are online interactions. In keeping active accounts on Pinboard, Posterous, and Twitter, I not only make scholarly activities accessible and public, but I also follow those with similar interests and keep abreast of new developments and opportunities. Through these tools, I perform scholarly work on a daily basis, providing a model of public intellectualism as well as sound, academic research. Pinboard allows me to maintain a reverse-chronological record of my research interests. Posterous functions as a vehicle for working through ideas in a public format and recording the directions my research interests take. It is also in this space that I provide my 4-year review materials. Twitter provides a way to announce as well as brainstorm new work. There's an implicit encouragement to Twitter in finding community with others; it also functions as a launching pad to the online spaces already mentioned. Conversations via Twitter continue to have a direct influence on my research.

Because of my diverse academic interests, it is essential that I maintain memberships to MLA and NCTE and read their respective publications as well as subscribe to pertinent mailing lists, including WPA-L and TechRhet, while also attending the Conference on College Composition and Communication and the Computers and Writing conference when able. However, my greatest research alignment and enlightenment often occurs through the online spaces mentioned earlier. It is also because of my research and my presence online that local media outlets looking to cover social media issues have sought my perspective. In early 2011, I gave on-camera and phone interviews to NBC 25 and the Flint Journal about the influences of social media. I also accepted the invitation of Alaina Wiens, UM-Flint’s own new media communication specialist, to debate Dr. Marcus Paroske of Communication about the use and value of social media in the classroom. 

It is vital to remain informed of the latest research on topics of importance and interest; online communicative technologies help me do that. However, online activities are also important academic work because, like my chapters in Preparing Writing Teachers for the Multimodal Age: Professional Development Models, Rhetoric/Composition/Play, Teaching Arts and Science with the New Social Media, and Network Apocalypse, how I present myself and engage with others also reveals something about my employer. I'm an online representative of the English department at the University of Michigan-Flint. I remain mindful of this in every online action I take. 

Now, with the total number of my contributions to edited collections at five and with significant elements of my dissertation revised and updated for the Rhetoric/Composition/Play collection, I am also rethinking my research agenda. I aim to produce scholarship where current, important conversations are happening, i.e., in journals and online. In addition to a more regular answering of calls for proposals from journals like CCC, Computers & Composition, and TCQ, I intend betajames.net to be another space for academic inquiry. Indications of my approach in this regard are available here, here (which received attention from Paste Magazine), and here (which received attention on the Chronicle of Higher Education's ProfHacker blog). In other words, I endeavor to make future scholarship that is both influential to the field and available to the public. I plan to continue examining the myriad rhetorical situations that videogames provide, reviewing relevant articles and books via online spaces, and performing public work that others in rhetoric and composition might take as examples. I trust that having my 4-year review materials in an online, public format like this will be seen as one such example.

 

Service
As mentioned above, I maintain a persistent presence online and this has significant connections to professional service. In keeping active accounts on Pinboard, Posterous, and Twitter, I not only make new contacts in my fields of interest but also have additional venues for sharing ideas and information. By posting online ideas and items about composition, literacy, pedagogy, rhetoric, technology, writing, and videogames, I support and encourage the work of others. I also remain engaged in learning on a level that is similar to yet different from conversing with colleagues in the halls UM-Flint. Again, such online engagement is a kind of worthwhile public intellectualism and it continues to have a direct impact on my pedagogical and publishing interests. My service to UM-Flint and the broader community and profession has so far had similar influence.

At the department level, I once again represented the English department at UM-Flint’s Academic Showcase in 2011. I also maintain regular attendance at department meetings and have taken a more active, participatory role in determining the future of its programs.

At the college level, I am on the CAS Academic Standards Committee, serving the first of my three years there. While scheduling conflicts have led to my frequent absence at CAS meetings, my regular ASC attendance continues to afford me an enlightening perspective on the inner workings of UM-Flint.  

At the university level, I remain a faculty representative on the Bookstore Advisory Board, a position I’ve held since Winter 2010. I was also instrumental in reinstating Qua, UM-Flint’s student literary publication, having served in an advisory role for two years before passing duties to Dr. Stephanie Carpenter in 2011. In addition, I served on the Office of Extended Learning Advisory Board from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. Furthermore, I was among the faculty contributing to the First Year Experience assessment measures as well as the General Education reforms, beginning in Summer 2010. 

At the professional level, I am on the editorial review boards for Enculturation and Computers and Composition Online, two important, open-access journals that publish research in rhetoric and writing. I was also on the proposal review boards for the Games+Learning+Society and Computers & Writing conferences in 2011. I also led a technology workshop for the Greater Flint Educational K-16 Writing Committee in 2011.

Course Syllabuses & Selected Materials

ENG 111 College Rhetoric

ENG 112 Critical Writing and Reading

ENG 252 Advanced Composition

ENG 298/342 Videogame Studies

ENG 345 Technical Writing

ENG 513 Topics in English Education: Digital Rhetoric

ENG 560 Topics in Rhetoric and Writing: A Booksprint

  • Syllabus, Spring 2011
  • Selected Materials: Students created all other course materials and retain the rights to those materials. 

ENG 567 Topics in Composition and Rhetorical Theory

 

UNV 100