Standing on the Shoulders of Networks Poster
Standing on the Shoulders of Networks Poster

Immersed in prepping this talk for much of the morning, noticing as closing in the constraints of time and purpose and what I’d supposed possible before really squaring with the script. Deck is drafted, talk is drafted, and still there isn’t quite enough explicit about this business of standing on shoulders–so much more I’d like to do with footing for newcomers, hospitality for initiates.

Pi Chart #4c14

I’d planned for this to be an entry about next Thursday’s roundtable, E.17, “Polymorphic Frames of Pre-Tenure WPAs: Eight Accounts of Hybridity and Pronoia,” 4:45-6 p.m. in the Indiana Marriott Downtown, Indiana Ballroom E, First Floor (that’s right: both hotel and room are named after the state…enough-iana alreadiana). But I’m short on time, looking at a to-do list the length of my arm, and due to be at a reading group at the Corner Brewery in a few minutes on Doug Brent’s “The Research Paper and Why We Should Still Care.” About the roundtable: eight of us put it together with the promise that we would present live versions in Indianapolis and at the same time deliver bundled and closed-captioned versions via scheduled Tweet-drops set for the same time as our panel. It’s an experiment with openness and circulation, in this sense, and since we’re one of the few E sessions scheduled in the Indiana Marriott (not the JW Marriott…though I’m still not sure I grasp what this even means), our double-up of live and YouTube versions is just as well.

My portion of the roundtable is called “Mad Handles”–a double-teaming of basketball handles and data visualization handles, but there I’ve gone and already said too much. For at least ten days in early February, I had this and only this as my main slide–even considered using it as the only slide for the entire talk, an animated GIFmash on an interminable “forever” loop.

This and more next Thursday evening.


And yet this gesture should also be carefully documented! Have you ever noticed, at sociological conferences, political meetings, and bar palavers, the hand gestures people make when they invoke the ‘Big Picture’ into which they offer to replace what you have just said so that it ‘fits’ into such easy-to-grasp entities as ‘Late Capitalism’, ‘the ascent of civilization’, ‘the West’, ‘modernity’, ‘human history’, ‘Postcolonialism’, or ‘globalization’? Their hand gesture is never bigger than if they were stroking a pumpkin! I am at last going to show you the real size of the ‘social’ in all its grandeur: well, it is not that big. It is only made so by the grand gesture and by the professorial tone in which the ‘Big Picture’ is alluded to. If there is one thing that is not common sense, it would be to take even a reasonably sized pumpkin for the ‘whole of society’. (Latour, Reassembling the Social, 186)

The quotation, the animated GIF (from the highly entertaining Latournimata GIF Tumblr, of course)–these didn’t make it into my #nhuk presentation. Neither did the Stengersian gesture GIF below (would have been an odd fit, anyway) or any discussion of felicity and infelicity conditions extending from Austin’s pragmatics much like Latour does here to modes of existence, only in this case to ontographs and the disciplinary encounters they describe (by mapping). Cut. But what’s left will do: tiny gestures, crowned ontologies, an extrusion of ontographic methods with which to do alien discipliniography.

Context Hacking

Here’s a talk from Monochrom’s Johannes on “context hacking” from TedX Vienna (via). Mostly anecdotes. Not a lot here on method, i.e., on how to sub-subversion-vert. Yet I find it interesting in part because of the ascendant status of contextualism in rhetoric and writing (as a point of pedagogical, intellectual, and methodological insistence), and in part because of how constantly and arbitrarily contexts must be fenced in, demarcated. Watching this I wanted to know, is context hacking generalizable? Maybe not. Another problem is that the leftist/postmodernist/melancholic identifications risk functioning as a ticket to an ethics-free zone. Leftist-postmodernist-melancholics might not sweat this detail, but the presentation leads us up to the other side of the coin, even if it does not reckon with still another reversal of subversion: What is the function of context hacking on the right?

No, really, I’m asking.

If for none of these reasons, it’s worth watching/contemplating for a peak at the mundane self-portrait, Material Study with Scanned Photo of Self in a Beer Mood and Photoshop Crystallization Filter (2001).

Ignite Ann Arbor 3

You might have read this is Global Ignite Week (or #giw, pronounced goo?). Speakers in 40 cities worldwide have (or will) gather for Ignite-style presentations: short-form talks, 20 slides set to rotate automatically after 15 seconds. Last night I attended Ignite Ann Arbor 3 in Blau Auditorium, U of M. Sixteen speakers presented to an audience of more than 400.

Here are a few impressions:

The program was eclectic, offering a mix of topics and viewpoints. They used double-projection: the rotating slide deck projected onto one screen, while a static title/presenter slide showed on the other. Double-projection offers flexibility for a program like this. Before the program and during intermission, organizers used both screens to display different Twitter streams (based on hashtags) associated with the event. Beyond the Ignite presentations, the evening included a rock-paper-scissors tournament (my scissors were obliterated by a rock in the first round; no two out of three?) and a funky laser light show the served as a segue between Mike Gould’s “Running with Lasers” and the 15-minute halftime break.

Presentations ran a wide gamut: niche procedural (e.g., how to kill a mastadon, Bolognese, lasers), local flavor (e.g., lunch gathering, Ann Arbor’s pitch for Google super-high-speed), activism (e.g., Washtenaw County foods, water council), progressive business infomercial (e.g., electronic vehicles, home funerals), and researched specialization or curiosity (e.g., early television, dyes, British slang, molecular communication).

I expected most speakers to deliver from memory and impulse, but several did not. Had I to guess, I would say that two-thirds used some sort of note cards or more. The slide deck functions as a way-finder of sorts–certainly slides prompted the more extemporaneous speakers when they lost track of what they wanted to say. The most conspicuously scripted talk of the bunch–Gould’s bit on lasers–also struck me as more rigorously done because the script, I suppose, allowed him to synchronize his delivery with the slideshow. It also seemed fine-tuned because the script allows a speaker to get words and phrases exactly right.

Knowing How vs. Knowing What
I had a more favorable impression of talks that shared procedural knowledge or that expressed some niche understanding of how to do something. That is, some talks were informative and also more clearly situated in the realm of personal knowledge, whereas others acknowledged working with outside sources to develop the talk. Ignites don’t afford speakers much opportunity to incorporate elaborate evidence or to disclose much about working with sources. In at least two talks, speakers mentioned that they’d done research online, but in both cases they seemed to downplay those choices.

To put it another way, as I drove home, I felt more resolved in preferring talks about something I don’t already know how to do or that I can’t find out about by searching online.

Too Short to Establish Exigency?
I was chatting with a couple of people in the Blau atrium after the session let out, and a student from ENGL328 said she was surprised at how infrequently speakers set up the exigency for what they were going to talk about. The short-form presentation models (Ignite, Pecha Kucha, etc.) don’t leave much time for an opening setup, yet, absent a brief setup (e.g., what is parkour, anyway?) a rapid delivery talk can be jarring or temporarily disorienting. This could be resolved in a few ways. The program could include a once-sentence abstract for each presentation. Or, the MC could read a one- or two-line intro to set up the talk. Would this reduce the impact of the presentations? I don’t know. But a bit more Why this? Why now? would have helped in a couple of cases last night.

Which Leads Which?, Slideshow vs. Speaker
Yet another impression was that these talks touch off an intriguing tension between the slide deck’s automatic rotation and the speaker’s command of a deliberate message. In some cases, the message trumps the slideshow; other times, the slideshow is in the driver’s seat. The tension is more clearly resolved in some talks than in others, and while I don’t think I have finally a preference for one or the other, this speaker-slideshow tension to my surprise has become a point of noticing, even a point of fascination: Which leads which?

If my schedule allows it, I am pretty sure I will attend Ignite Ann Arbor 4. I haven’t decided yet whether I will try to participate. To be sure, the evening left me with a richer sense of what is possible in this evolving genre of short-form presentations, and I now have many terrific examples recommend as students begin preparing their own Ignites as one of the final pieces in ENGL328.

For other impressions of last night’s event, check out #ignitea2 on Twitter.

Works Delicioused, Works Slided

An email message this morning asked about Flickr Creative Commons and citation: “How do you handle it?” I’d planned to address this in the class I am teaching on Tuesday morning, so it was more or less on my mind already. I responded that I prefer one of two methods for presenting the citations indexing the images used in a slide show: 1.) bookmark all of the images and any other web-based content using a unique Delicious tag and then present that one URL on a slide at the end of the presentation or 2.) provide a series of slides (as many as necessary) at the end with full citations for all of the sources used in the slideshow and in the talk. I used the first approach at Watson last month. In hindsight, I’d say that talk ranks fairly high (top five? top three?) among the talks I’ve given over the last few years, both in terms of quality and in terms of presentational style. Those 217 slides were, oh, 200 more than I’d ever worked with before, and the rapid-fire slide-changing got to be a little bit dicey (even after several practice runs, I lost my place once). But my point is that the single URL for my “Works Delicioused” worked fine. Anyone interested in the stuff I referenced could have followed up.

I’ll prefer the second option, “Works Slided,” when on Tuesday morning I take on some of the Presentation Zen stuff that frames our fourth and final unit in WRT195. This approach isn’t all that visually stimulating; these aren’t slides a presenter would necessarily show as part of the presentation, I mean. But they do make the citations ready-to-hand in case anyone should ask about a source–visual or otherwise. I’ve used this approach for presentations that include a lot of textual sources. And I’ve also blended the two: providing a conventional works cited along with a collection in delicious of all of the online materials. I’m sure there are other variations, but these are two are the ones I’ve been weighing today.

This teacherly weekend has also included commenting several drafts from 195ers–penciling comments in the margins and typing focused “looking ahead” notes in response to half-drafts of their unit three projects, researched arguments. There were sixteen drafts total. I commented six on Friday, five yesterday, and the last five today, reading and penciling up the margins first and then going back over each of the drafts to come up with a more focused end note. In the end note, I tried to focus as much as possible on 1.) the greatest strength of the draft (this was my opening gambit on all of them: “The greatest strength of the draft is…”) and 2.) the most pressing concerns given what they have been asked to undertake over the last 5-6 weeks. Spent roughly 90 minutes (two hours tops) commenting each of the last three days, but it will lighten the workload when they turn in finished drafts in another ten days or so.

The fourth unit of this course asks the students to translate the research argument into a 6 minute, 40 second Pecha Kucha presentation. So that’s where the PZ materials and slide show questions come from. I’m also reading around in Hume’s Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt (a book I’ll have more to say about in another entry one day soon perhaps), and it occurred to me, where Hume lists all of the various sorts of job talks one must be prepared to give that the Pecha Kucha format is conspicuously absent. In fairness, Pecha Kucha has only been around since 2003, and although Hume’s book was published in 2005, I don’t have any reason to think that anyone has ever been asked to give an academic job talk as a Pecha Kucha. But this does lead to yet another puzzler: why not? I mean, what is it about the 30-40 minute job talk that works out so well for academic audiences? I really don’t mean to balk at the convention. Not at all. But I do think there are questions worth asking about the performance conditions of a 30-40 minute talk relative to any of the alternatives, Pecha Kucha or whatever. Sort of an evocative thought experiment: maybe in thirty years we will see the top 3-5 candidates for a given position come to a campus where they all deliver Pecha Kucha presentations in common session. Then discuss. Wildly out there, I suppose, but interesting to me–especially so given that I have been thinking lately about the job talk genre, how best to prepare for such a thing, and so on.

For The Third or Fourth Time

From today’s IHE,
a piece on
double-dipping conference presentations
. This is a practice that has been on
my mind somewhat during this, the most conference-intensive stretch of my
current program of study. Of course, the very idea of "double-dipping"
resonates with the bucket (or well) model of invention that, at its best, smacks
of individualism and zero-sum economics and, at its worst, echoes of such
horrifying social
(and professional) improprieties as standing over a vegetable tray at a faculty
gathering and using, re-using, and re-re-using the same celery stalk as a salivated
dipping stick for that zesty ("Maybe dill?") salad dressing. The views included
in the short article range from the cynical to the more generous-spirited.
From the cynical camp, a shot about dumbfounded graduate students who are
oblivious to the ethics of reperforming (revising, retooling, redelivering,
etc.) one’s work:

As Nelson C. Dometrius, a professor of political science at Texas Tech
University, writes in his introduction to [the debate featured in PS:
Political Science and Politics
], when he raised the question with senior
faculty members, he received mixed reactions, with people quickly outlining
special cases where they viewed such "double dipping" as justified. When he
posed the same question to graduate students, Dometrius relates, "the modal
reply was a blank stare — a lack of comprehension that presenting the same
paper as many times as you wished would be viewed by anyone as an unusual or
questionable practice."

I don’t know whether this says more about Dometrius, about the graduate
students at Texas Tech (less likely), or about advanced graduate study in
political science (even less likely), but it’s a take that doesn’t carry all
that well over into my own experience developing and giving conference talks in
recent years. If we are not to be flavor-of-the-week-ademics, isn’t some
return inevitable? What’s implied here is that carry-over is suspicious, an
indication that someone is slacking off or falsifying a work record.

On a more nuanced note, the exec. director of MLA–who was quoted in the
article–suggests that re-use is smart and appropriate, especially when you take
audience into account. If the audience is not the same from conference to
conference, the matter of "double-dipping" becomes less a question of
conferencing ethics and more a question of growing one’s vita by dubious means
(i.e., double-dipping as the HGH of higher ed). I would guess this works
very differently when, for a dissertating graduate student, the list of life’s
work is fairly short and centered on a small number of projects than it would
around year six or seven of an assistant professorship, after the chance to give
the dissertation a rest, pour your heart into a couple of different projects,
and perhaps even land a book contract. Artificial vita cultivation and re-tread
scholarship: who really believes there will not come a day of reckoning for
these practices?

One of the messages I return to from early in coursework: you can write
insightfully and meaningfully about your work from any point in it, whether you are just beginning
to find a research question, whether you have written full articles on the
matter, or whether you have dedicated twenty years to this or that interest.
Could this be construed as a kind of one-trick-ponyism? Perhaps. But
it is not easy to decide without knowing better the work in question. Of
course it’s possible to re-use one’s own stuff lazily, but all re-use, all
"self-plagiarism," need not fall into that category of suspicion.

I am tempted to leap to personal anecdotes as a way to wander through this
question a bit more. Those (i.e., the three of you) who have heard more
than one of my conference papers in recent years will recognize overlaps,
recurring interests, and ideas that re-appear because they click. But I am not
giving the same paper in any two cases. Not exactly. Neither am I
writing what I think of as purely original conference papers, since they all
rise from an accumulating slosh of ideas and clusters of interests (providing
copies of them is one measure of verification, but what about those
extemporaneous talks?). The conferencing record is like a listing of
cousins, not strangers, not siblings (most certainly not twins, which seem to be
the concern of the article). But then again,
perhaps I am merely invoking (to the point of abusing?) that graduate student
exemption that grants greater leniency to experimentation, to trying ideas and
presentational styles on for size, while trudging through all of those
pre-professional uncertainties.

I have to stop here, but there are a couple of other matters of interest
touched off by the piece:

  • Self-plagiarism as a concept (closely related: self-citation).
    Also as a hypocritical practice (i.e., teachers forbid undergraduates from
    re-using papers across the curriculum, but themselves–allegedly–do it).
    The article does not provide examples, and the only ones I can think of
    (aside from the obvious sharing of curricular materials, syllabi, etc.) are
    where an article evolves into a book chapter, but this practice is, as far
    as I know, widely accepted.
  • Whether publishing formalities apply to the conferencing circuits.
    If published articles have much greater purchase for tenure, wouldn’t
    self-duplication in formal publications reflect the lackadaisical attitudes
    toward re-used conference materials? Some of this goes back to acceptance
    systems, double-blind peer review, etc.
  • What of the practice of re-using conference proposals? Some lore
    about this circulates–the conference-goer who got in [to XYZ national
    conference] using the exact same proposal. Ethically objectionable? Change
    the title, re-submit the proposal. Does it matter whether the
    conference presentation was "original" if the proposal was a duplicate?
  • Do political scientists study Bakhtin?
  • The table, "Duplicate Presentations, by Year Doctorate Received," is
    fascinating in the trend it projects: by the year 3,000–for better or
    worse–all conference
    presentations will be double-dipped.