Memories, dear Watson (conference)

I got nowhere but home to go/I got Ben Folds on my radio/right now…

-Counting Crows 

Recent events have me thinking back to the last Watson Conference at Louisville. There was a large panel consisting of three of my favorite scholars in one room (or at least three of the people I frequently cite—Dr. Gee might take issue with me claiming to be a fan of his given the ways I’ve addressed his work, though I respect him to no end): Cindy Selfe, James Paul Gee and Gunter Kress. Dr. Selfe presented her most recent research on audio-composition (which is fascinating; I hope a book is forthcoming). Dr. Gee presented on World of Warcraft and Okami (his WoW presentation prompted one of my papers this semester and a presentation I hope to give at the next Watson conference). Dr. Kress gave a fascinating lecture on time, sequence and duration in visual images vs. time, sequence and duration in a textual sentence. When the presentations ended, I was very much looking forward to the question and answer session.


It seems the Q&A could have been subtitled “High School Teachers Claim Responsibility for the Movement and Traditionalists Hate Cindy and the Gs.” There were a few questions in the mix that were about the content (including one rather insistent man who claimed that things aren’t claimed to have happened in the order the words are presented in a sentence), but most of the “questions” were veiled attacks on the idea of composing with sound or image in a college classroom.

I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about this other than to share that I was shocked then, and that having spent almost two more years in the field I’m not as shocked now but I still think it’s a shame. The field IS going toward technology. It doesn’t mean we’re abandoning writing (just as the move from oratory didn’t invalidate the Greeks and Romans), it simply means that the types of writing we do in this society are different.

Why fear it? It’s still composing.


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