My first CCCC was in Atlanta, 1999. I was an MA student at the time, and UMKC provided a generous, competitive stipend to two students who would attend the conference and return to lead a colloquium of sorts on the experience. Thus, traveling to Atlanta for the first time in over a decade lent to this go-round a strongly felt personal call for reflection, blinks of memory, and quite a bit of thought about the living I’ve done during that interval (from adoption, marriage, and parenting to a PhD, cross-country moves, and settling into EMU). Last week’s conference, while all Atlanta, was mostly 2011, but it was also a little bit 1999. (This would be a fine place for a complaint about the hotel wifi, no?)
- the Master’s Degree Consortium of Writing Studies Specialists
- enough of Opening General Session to hear Gwen Pough’s address
- my own share of the A/B poster session
- a Marriott lunch with several friends and colleagues
- D.38 The Future Anterior of Rhetoric: Potentials For Rhetorics Built on Material Relations
- a Syracuse faculty/alumni/student event
- I.04 Texas Topoi and the other Common-Places: The Importance of Writing Geographies
- J.37 Contesting Methodological Boundaries in Rhetoric and Writing Research
- as an information technologies area facilitator, L.21 Think-Tank for Newcomers Developing Papers and Sessions for CCCC 2012
- M.34 Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of College Students
- and the roundtable I was a part of: N.30 A Department in Exile: The Challenges of Contested Spaces and Roles
I was present at something for eight of the fourteen alphabetized session slots, and I was involved with presenting or taking a leaderly role in half of those (as poster presenter, roundtabler, and think tank facilitator). This means I was a member of the audience in just four out of the approximately 450 sessions, or 1% of them. A tiny slice, as samples go.
I have no idea whether this snapshot is typical, or even whether it is useful to think of the CCCC experience as potentially typical. In 1999 I was in the audience for twice as many sessions and I enjoyed far fewer unplanned conversations than I had last week. In 1999 I ate alone a few times; I ate alone just twice this time (both breakfasts, waxed bags of some Starbucks pastry on the go). I didn’t experience the conference as cliquish in 1999, exactly, but neither did I grasp what I was missing out on or feel all that deeply concerned for whether I was missing out on something. That was true this time, as well. I missed a handful of sessions I would have liked to attend. I missed connecting with several friends and former colleagues I would have liked to visit with for a few minutes. Maybe next year.
On the drive home from Atlanta to Ypsilanti, I read Alex’s “#cccc11 Conference Thoughts,” and I share some of his concerns related to sustainability, especially along the lines of what’s worth keeping (or attending to yet again), what’s worth shedding, and how can a conference with a singular (if too heavily played) theme each year achieve a balance suited to such a vast range of attendee interests and motives. In other words, for the conference to have something for everyone, the program must anticipate demographic segments that are not-me (by institution type, history at the conference, teaching-research balance, research agenda, etc.). That is, most of the CCCC–true, too, of any comprehensive national conference–will not on paper appear to be a fit with any individual’s interests. Add to this the banding together that operates both in paneling up and in audience migration according to schools of thought, favorite theorists, and other varieties of kinship (e.g., friendship, graduate cohorts, home institution), and the result is an unavoidably segmented conference experience. I’m not sure whether there is an easy solution for this, but neither have I ever followed through on the thought I’ve had a time or two to randomly generate a personal conference itinerary. Maybe next year.
What can I say about the panels I attended? I heard some papers I found thoughtful and incisive and others that left me deeply dissatisfied (that said, I count myself productively dissatisfied in such cases). The N.30 roundtable was the only session I attended in which everyone involved used some sort of projectable (i.e., a movie or slidedeck). A couple of panels stretched time’s seams to the limit, but that is not altogether uncommon. Of the entire conference experience, the poster session is the one that left me reeling the most: I probably had 30 conversations with all variety of faculty and graduate students from a great range of programs. Even more: many of these were with people I was meeting for the first time; people I might not have encountered otherwise. I’ve never experienced this degree of engagement in any other conference venue ever, and it leaves me thinking seriously about preparing and carrying in a poster in future years.
A couple of questions I am thinking about now? From D.38, What does new materialism allow us to do (differently)? From I.04, To what extent does school of thought rostering produce territorialization? And, What else implicates (or doesn’t) a city’s rhetoricity? And, What was the name of the play with Shit, the dog? From J.37, What makes surfacing decidable for a researcher? And, How much context is enough (when enlarging contexts)? And, To what extent is correctable black-boxing turning to verbal references for relief from self-evidentiary or natural-appearing visuals? And more.
In anticipation of next year, I don’t have a clear direction yet for a panel. I am considering developing a solo proposal related to an article I am working on. I’ve also taken on certain responsibilities with the Master’s Degree Consortium, and then another poster makes sense considering how this year’s went.