Thursday, December 28, 2006

Circled Wagons

Today, I am at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, perhaps the greatest final bastion of print culture in the United States, now that even publishers are looking to transmedia narratives and cross-platform texts. Unfortunately, I missed this morning's panel on "Everquesting: Digital Learning in the Humanities" with Anne Balsamo of USC's Institute for Multimedia Literacy and Doug Thomas, the editor of Games and Culture. Based on titles, there were other offerings in the area: "Wikis, Authority, and the Public Sphere: Examining the Impact of Dynamic, Multiauthored Digital Texts," "Terrorism, Technology, and Visual Media," "Digital Shakespeares," and the perhaps unfortunately named "Digital Medievalisms and the Single Scholar." The full guide from the Association for Computers and the Humanities on "digital humanities" talks is here.

Since I'm interested in the rhetoric of the federal government (and I do write grants at my institution of higher learning) I did wangle attendance at the session on "Getting Funded in the Humanities: An NEH Workshop," which was led by Sonia Feigenbaum, Senior Program Officer.

The NEH presentation, as many government speeches now do, relied extensively on the relatively recent electronic genre of PowerPoint, which I write about in my academic work and sometimes here on this blog, as readers may know. I'll admit to being somewhat disconcerted by the many stock images (an alarm clock, a man with his head in a cannon, trademarked cartoon characters associated with Microsoft products, etc.) in her slides. Although she often emphasized the importance of the appropriate government website, which was credited to the President's Management Agenda, she also strangely did not actually show the website live during her talk. In fact, instead of providing digital materials with HTML links, much of the workshop depended on that traditional MLA standby, the thick, paper handout. Despite these criticisms, I enjoyed this informative presentation about the norms of the NEH review process and thought that the presence of mixed print and electronic genres indicated that even at the MLA this manifestation of the hybridized Virtual State was worth noting.

I hope to make it to some digital rhetoric presentations tomorrow.

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