To Chicago with Databasic Questions

November 16th, 2010 |

Greetings, everyone. I am excited to be attending my first THATCamp this Saturday.  I will be traveling to Evanston from Ypsilanti, Mich., home of Eastern Michigan University, where I joined the English Language & Literature faculty last year as an Assistant Professor of Written Communication.  I’ve found it energizing to read your introductions and to learn about everyone’s exciting work. I look forward to hearing more about these ideas and projects, as well as exploring possibilities for collaboration across our institutions and organizations.

The questions that have been most persistent for me center on computational processes applied to a growing archive of scholarship linked with rhetoric and composition.  I’ve learned much (although it never feels like enough!) in the last five years about technically viable methods for this sort of work, and I am equally interested in the conceptual value of data-mining and visualization for apprehending patterns that are not obvious at the customary scales of reading (e.g., one article at a time). My motives are not far removed from Franco Moretti’s rationale for “distant reading.” I have also been thinking and writing lately about the relationship between databases and narratives, particularly for field narratives (sometimes called discipliniographies or stories of disciplinary emergence and status). What role have databases played in shaping these narratives? Further along these lines, I am also sorting through issues of metadata proprietorship (e.g., how does copyright apply to mined data?), metadata standards, and processing methods. Looking ahead to Saturday, I am also interested in finding conversations at THATCamp around writing and rhetoric, new media and undergraduate writing curricula, assessment, pedagogy, and interdisciplinary partnerships.

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