Saturday, May 24, 2008

By the Book

Gail Hawisher and Cynthia Selfe are well-known as pioneers and frequent collaborators in the Computers and Writing community and have now launched a new initiative, The Computers and Composition Digital Press, to which a panel at the conference was devoted. To dramatize some of the issues involved in the project, the team has created a number of Mac vs. PC parodies, "Print and Digital," including "lost under the bed," "dvd drama," and "the more things change." Another short film shown at the panel depicted Hawisher and Selfe in dialogue, while fencers were engaged in swordplay in the background. They explained how the fencing metaphor could be seen as relevant to their endeavor because they were soliciting material that was "nimble," "agile," and "pointed." Since I blog over at Sivacracy, which also represents a partnership with the Institute for the Future of the Book, it was interesting to hear that the institute was involved, given their good track record at getting buy-in from academic publishers who are important as providers of the additional imprimatur that can be needed in the university's reputation economy.

There were a number of other interesting speakers in the line-up. Heidi McKee discussed the importance of facilitating the most international possible reach in the editorial and distribution policies of online publication efforts. To critique the "geopolitics of academic writing." I liked the fact that she cited one of my favorite compositionists, Suresh Canagarajah, on the dynamic between center and periphery at work to question the excessively US-centric contents of Kairos, Computers and Composition Online, The WAC Clearinghouse, and The Alliance of Digital Humanities. Dickie Selfe distributed a list of questions for "author/creatives" and for "editors" that got at many of the critical issues about life expectancy and sustainability that are too often ignored by web publishers. Patrick Berry discussed the "stance that they adopt as learners" working with software and the importance of adopting an attitude of humility, particularly when wrestling with Drupal, a type of abasement with which I have sympathized here. Finally, Melanie Yergeau presented about the challenge of balancing "accessibility" with "usability" and shared an interesting statistic that 98.8% of computers are currently equipped with Flash (as opposed to 55.6% for Shockwave).

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