Tagged: conference

The Rhetoric Society of America just released the CFP for their 2014 conference. For those who don’t already know, RSA holds conferences in alternate years, and holds a summer institute during off years. Right now the cycle is for the conference to take place in even years and the summer institute to take place in odd years.

I have mixed feelings about how large RSA, and its conference in particular, has become, and I’ll probably post on those at a later time. Regardless of my feelings though, it is an important conference, and I would argue the vanguard conference in the field. It is the highest quality, and largest, conference where folks from the English side of rhetorical studies and the Communications side of rhetorical studies converge on the same spot. It’s probably worth attending for that quality alone.

I’ll also say this for the CFP: it’s short, sweet, and not nearly as contrived/cutesy as many conference themes are. Thank you for that, RSA.

What appears below is the official RSA 2014 CFP:

Rhetoric Society of America Conference

“Border Rhetorics”


May 22-26, 2014

Marriot River Center – San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is an ideal city for thinking about borders.  Not only has the city been positioned along different national borders, but it also exists at the interesting intersection of diverse cultures and histories.  “Border Rhetorics” not only invites consideration of these kinds of geographic, political and cultural borders but also invites consideration of a wider range of borders: the borders between identities, between roles, between disciplines, between concepts, etc.  The 2014 conference theme seeks to spur a broad conversation about the borders that unite and divide us, the ways in which these borders are constructed and deconstructed, confirmed and contested.

The theme of “Border Rhetorics” opens a space for numerous inquiries and conversations about the things that constitute our borders – politically, culturally, academically, etc. – as well as the ways in which those borders are constructed, crossed, challenged, circumvented, diminished and redrawn.  The theme also encourages us not only to think about our borders but also to think across them in the hopes of opening spaces for dialogue and disagreement that may in turn alter our sense of these borders. 

Interested parties are invited to submit abstracts for individual papers, proposals for panels, and ideas for special format events (roundtables, debates, etc.).  Panels representing only one institution are strongly discouraged and a slight preference will be shown for panels representing not only different institutions but also different disciplinary fields (e.g., Composition and Communication Studies). Submissions that take advantage of off-site venues are also encouraged. 

Proposals Due July 1, 2013; Notifications September 1, 2013

For more details and to submit your proposal, visit:  http://rhetoricsociety.org/aws/RSA/pt/sp/conferences

Join the official RSA 14 conference Facebook group for networking, news and updates:  http://www.facebook.com/groups/551900858153994/553997331277680/?notif_t=group_activity


Old Tractor, RSA '08

This is the the first in three four posts about “hacking” conventional academic conferences.  The next two three will be about how to get in, and how to present, and networking, respectively.

I’ve recently become a big fan of THATCamp‘s “unconference” conference model, in which nobody presents (ahem, nobody grandstands), and the content of the unconference is determined collegially by the participants on-site.  It’s a great thing, and yet, conventional academic conferences aren’t going away, but nor should they go away.

I love conventional conferences (there, my THATCamp friends, I said it), but I didn’t used to.  I think I love them now because I’ve learned a system, an admittedly idiosyncratic system, for enjoying them, and for gleaning as much useful intellectual content from them as possible.  I realize that some people have grown weary of conventional conferences, and I’ve grown weary of particular ones, but certainly not of conferences as an intellectual and social “genre.”

Upon realizing recently that I have been refining how I view and attend conferences, I thought I’d type up some of the ways that I feel I’ve made attendance of conventional academic conferences more productive for myself.  I’ll start with an anecdote.  At the 4Cs in New York in 2007, my first major academic conference as a graduate student, I made myself somewhat notorious within my grad program by, while in the audience at a presentation, leaning over to my friend (who shall remain unimplicated), muttering “This is why our field is a fucking joke,” leaving mid-presentation, and walking 30 blocks to a Manhattan fly fishing shop.  (A “joke” to the disciplines that don’t respect rhetoric and composition, is what I was referring to.) The presentation was terrible, but part of the problem was that I hadn’t yet learned how to attend a conference.  It’s this notion, that there are particular skills that we must learn to attend a conference productively, that prompts me to write this post.

What I should have done was save my comment for later (in my defense, I was very quiet, and nobody overheard me), and quietly slipped out to try another session that, ideally, I would already have scouted in the program and marked for quick reference.  So long as you are quiet and discreet, there’s nothing rude about leaving a presentation.  I left, but I blew off the whole conference for the whole day instead of finding another session.  It is less rude to leave a session in between speakers.  But, particularly at large conferences and in a large audience, one shouldn’t be shy about politely leaving.  This is somewhat more awkward at small, intimate conferences, and so I’d use more discretion at those.  Similarly, I’ve often not attended brilliant sessions because they were too packed.  Particularly if someone I know is presenting, it’s not worth it to me to wander into a room, realize it’s full, and spend the next hour and a half standing and sweating.  I can can catch them later.  (Incidentally, people I know are very split on whether to attend all your friends’ sessions, to support them, to to venture into the unknown.  I try to do both.)  I’ll slip out to a less crowded session. So, be willing to leave, politely and quietly and dsiscreetly.

I have come to feel that small but elite conferences are the best ones to attend.  Every field has its major conferences, and at least early in one’s career, it’s probably necessary to attend the majors, if only for networking purposes (which I’ll return to in a bit).  Small conferences are more intimate because of their smallness, and I feel that this intimacy leads many presenters to think more thoughtfully about their contributions, and their interactions.  The smallness also makes meeting and socializing with new people more possible, less awkward, and less intimidating. I recommend hitting a few small, focused conferences, even if they aren’t necessarily in your major field of study.  Part of the fun of conferences is learning that you’re interested in something that you didn’t know you were interested in.

On a related note, it is simply important for graduate students to attend both small and large conferences within their field.  Conference attendance is an important part of acculturation into the field, and one of the best ways to learn what people at other programs are doing and thinking about, one of the best ways to get out of the insular bubble that is your own program.  I never was, and am still not, a fan of conferences specifically for graduate students.  About the only thing they are really useful for is getting the experience of presenting, but even then, you can get that experience at a real conference, one that will count for something on your CV.

Similarly, many new faculty place too much emphasis on conferences.  If you’re on the tenure track, publishing is far more important than conference attendance, both within your own institution and when you go back out on the job market (if you do).  I’ve heard of several people hitting the conference circuit hard, not publishing in the mean time, and find themselves in bad tenure review situations.  Bad deal–don’t privilege conferences above your publishing.  But do use conferences to test new ideas, as a springboard into your publishing.

One of the most obnoxious conference attendees is the one who asks a question at the end of a panel, usually eagerly, and uses the moment as an opportunity to: a) recite their own esoteric and usually irrelevant knowledge; b) mask some sort of comment in the guise of a question; c) baldly self-promote; d) disparage the presenter; e) all of the above.  In short, don’t be that guy.  It’s OK to ask a tough question, so long as it is relevant, asked politely, and doesn’t involve any grandstanding.  As a presenter, I prefer a tough, even combative, question to having to deftly parry some mope who’s done nothing more than spend two minutes reciting everything they’ve read in order to make a comment on my paper that I can’t quite determine the relevance of.

One reason I enjoy conferences more now than I used to is because of my note taking.  I take notes on speakers and presentations in conference programs (god help me if one of these annotated programs ever falls into someone else’s hands).  Basically, I scribble “BAD” or “GOOD” over the entries for the individual speakers I see.  Along with a quick reason for what made them a good or bad speaker.  Now that speakers have developed “reputations” in my own mind, I refer to these past programs before attending a conference and make a point of avoiding speakers I’ve previously categorized as “bad” and seeking out those I’ve identified as “good.”  Basically, I’m saying that it is better to go see a good, smart speaker on a topic of only tangential interest than a bad speaker who is talking about exactly the thing you’re most interested in (in most cases). Making use of such a system of course also means that you check out the conference program ahead of time.  I love the routine of going through a program very thoroughly as I fly in to a conference, if I can get an advance copy.

Quick Tips:

  • Socialize with people from within and without your own program, no matter how daunting it may seem.  Introduce yourself to people, or ask friends in-common for introductions.
  • Take notes on presentations and presenters, preferably within the conference program (whether analog or digital).
  • Don’t try to attend every session, but . . .
  • . . . attend a meaningful number of sessions.
  • Get to popular sessions early.
  • Don’t be a sycophant, with anybody.
  • Follow a lark–attend a session that doesn’t on the surface appeal to you on the recommendation of a friend, or simply on your own whim.  If it’s absolutely awful, politely slip out and to a session you’ve designated as a backup.
  • Ask questions at panels, but refrain from comments.  And keep your question CONCISE.
  • Attend a combination of panels within and outside of what you think your areas of expertise/interest are.
  • Enjoy a nice or local or exotic meal if you can, preferably with others.
  • See some of the city/area (see photo).

This post has gotten too long already.

Canoeing under an interstate at RSA 2008.

In just under a month I’ll be at SXSW Interactive delivering a presentation with the three other panelists on the panel “Folkways These Days: Crafty Knowledge in Digital Networks.”

We had a very tough time getting the panel put together.  At various points we were recruiting two separate print makers.  Julia Farrill (wife of panel participant Collin), who runs Red Bird Ink and sells her gorgeous works on Etsy as well, was unable to participate.  We were also recruiting Lana Lambert, the artist behind Pistoles Press, who also sells her work on Etsy.  Neither artist was able to make the trip to Austin, but do check out their works–both produce beautiful works (see graphics below).

The Full Lineup:

Will Burdette, University of Texas at Austin — “Audible Folkways”  (exact title to follow)

All over the Web technical amateurs are using new media to create, arrange, redesign, archive, and distribute their crafts. As they do, new techno-folkways are being passed down not only via new tools and networks, but also–as William Graham Sumner writes in his seminal book, Folkways–by “tradition, imitation, authority.” Folkways–the paths worn by mild social pressure–are being trod online. Generally speaking, we’ll ponder the question “what are folkways in the digital age?” and “What does craft have to do with it?”

My specific emphasis will be on audible folkways. In America since 1948 “folkways” has been synonymous with the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, which is “dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among peoples through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.” The mission of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is to “strengthen people’s engagement with their own cultural heritage and to enhance their awareness and appreciation of the cultural heritage of others.” They do this “through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials.” The mission is still laudable, but the audio recording industry has changed a lot since 1948. Now that everyone with a computer is a potential record label, what new trends are emerging in the recording, collecting, and disseminating of audio recordings involving cultural heritage?

Collin Farrill, Co-founder of Object Truth

How do digital networks facilitate object design and production in new ways?  I’ll present three case studies of contemporary product design as they relate to the new garde: people, companies, and industry that are exploiting increased access to knowledge, funding, technology, and distribution.

Ryan McKerley, Potter

I was once advised to view selling as an art form. An art form that is just as important as the things I make. I have tried to take this to heart. I view online sales as just another tool that helps keep me in business.

In the US of the recent past, handmade pots have traditionally been purchased in galleries, artist studios and art fairs. The seasoned collector would spend time holding many pots before purchasing the one that felt right. Online sales
have taken away this part of the process. Visual appeal, the reputation of the artist and shipping now play a larger part in the act of buying pots. The ability to present and sell my work online is overwhelming and beautiful for me.

Nate Kreuter, Western Carolina University — “Networks in Place: When Fiber Optics Hit the Gravel Road”

This presentation explores how rural geographies are altered when they suddenly become digitally accessible through virtual networks.  In rural areas, the virtual and the actual meet in very visible ways.  I explore the questions: What does digital accessibility mean for rural areas?  Does digital accessibility dilute rich regionalisms that have been protected by their geographic isolation?  How does digital accessibility morph traditional, geographically isolated craft traditions?  What about lack of digital access–does it further damn rural artisans to toil in obscurity?  I travel through examples from the rural cockfighting tradition, instrument making, and gun-smithing in my exploration of these virtual issues and their implications for the real people and places that constitute rural communities.

The Work Horse, by Lana Lambert, Pistoles Press

The Work Horse, by Lana Lambert, Pistoles Press

You can buy this print, and others from the series, at Pistoles Press on Etsy.

Glasses Notecards, by Julia Farrill, Red Bird Ink

Glasses Notecards, by Julia Farrill, Red Bird Ink

Julia’s works are available from her website and through Etsy.

Just a public service announcement here:

Penn State recently issued their call for proposals for their 2011 Summer Conference on Rhetoric and Composition, which will occur in July, 2011.  Proposals are due in February.  I have not attended this conference yet, but I hear great things about it.  I have attended other events at Penn State, and they tend to throw a pretty good scholarly shindig, if you can trust my word for it.  The theme of the conference is “Rhetoric and Writing Across Language Boundaries,” which kind of has my brain salivating.

Similarly, in June of 2011, the Rhetoric Society of America will be hosting their Summer Institute.  I attended the 2009 Summer Institute at Penn State (see above) and it was one of the highlights of my graduate career.  I highly, highly recommend it, particularly for grad students.  I won’t be attending this year (thanks to a funded research trip!), but I can’t speak highly enough of it.  Though, this summer’s program looks about twice as large as in years past, and it will be interesting to hear how that goes.  The 2009 event was wonderful in large part because of its intimacy.  My sense is that the competitive application to attend might be getting more competitive too, so get your application in early.  Professors can attend too, not just grad students.  It’s super fun.  So apply. This year’s conference will be at the University of Colorado, Boulder, in case I haven’t yet convinced you to attend . . .

Sand Dune NP

I still have a lot of posts to catch up on–posts about RSA,  as well as about the experience of starting a tenure track job.  The whole new job thing is even more overwhelming than I imagined, but going well.  For the time being though, I have a more instrumental post.

A UT Austin colleague and I have proposed a panel for Austin’s (in)famous South-by-Southwest Interactive conference, titled Folkways These Days: Crafty Knowledge in Digital Networks.  Please vote for the panel!  Only your votes will get us into the Interactive conference.  So, PLEASE VOTE EARLY AND OFTEN!

You will need to register on the SXSW Panel Picker site in order to vote, but it only takes a quick second to register.  And, as they used to say in the Bartles and Jaymes ads, “thanks for your support.” We’re pretty confident that our panel will be better than a wine cooler though.

I’ll begin posting more frequently and more thoroughly soon. Right now I have a new institution to orient myself to and some syllabi to write.