Friday, March 30, 2012


For more than five years (since this blog's inception in Summer 2006), regular readers have known me as "DocTurtle," a riff on my academic qualifications and my "totem animal," for lack of a better term. (Incidentally, I don't take pains to hide my real identity...most of you know that my DocTurtle's Bruce Wayne is a mild-manner happy-go-lucky Pollyanna of a mathematician known as Patrick Bahls.)

So why is it that my screen name has suddenly changed to "Pobject"?

At the recent 2012 Conference on College Composition and Communication, two of my wonderful friends and colleagues in rhetoric and composition studies, whose names I'll withhold here (I'm not sure how broadly they want them disseminated) took in a panel discussion led by Doug Hesse, Nancy Sommers, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, three of the leaders in the academic rhet-comp community. That discussion focused on a writing exercise they'd assigned themselves: for an hour a day on each of thirty days, these three scholars reflected in writing on a different everyday object each day. In their conference abstract, the scholars ask "What may be learned about the evocative power of objects from a sustained attention to them? How do objects reveal or conceal their origins? And what may we learn about the acts of composing from a sustained project over thirty days?" As they put it, the activity challenged the "traditional boundaries between personal and academic writing."

The three of us (my colleagues and I), all engaged in academic writing in some way, were energized by the idea of this activity and decided to try it out for ourselves. Therefore, on each day in April 2012 each of us will write (under the names "Kobject," "Lobject," and "Pobject," nods to our first initials) for at least 30 minutes on one of the 30 objects we've chosen in advance. We'll be chronicling our ongoing work on a new blog, 3 friends, 30 things, 90 stories. In that blog's first post (to appear later today), I'll say a bit more about the parameters of our exercise.

I hope you'll follow along...we're hoping this will offer us a powerful and consciousness-raising experience.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Re-visioning revision-ing

After dedicating several hours of my morning to reviewing teaching award files, I've turned my afternoon attention to the exciting task of coding drafts of past years' REU students' drafts, preparing for the panel on mathematical rhetoric I'll be presenting with my Charleston friends at this year's very-fast-approaching Conference on College Composition and Communication. While our panel will offer an overview of our earlier work on the rhetorical moves REU students make in crafting disciplinary writing, we'll also offer a sneak peak of the analysis we're doing on revision.

Regarding that analysis: this shit is hard, y'all. At least, it's time consuming. Back in December I spent a full day with my Charleston peeps Bella and Damian making qualitative observations on each of the seven drafts written by a single student author. We're taking this route because we found that existing revision coding strategies (like a classical one due to Faigley and Witte in their 1981 paper "Analyzing revision") don't adequately capture the richness of the students' rhetorical moves as they revise their drafts of authentic disciplinary writing: while Faigley and Witte applied their schema to somewhat tightly-constrained writing produced in an artificial setting with strongly-controlled revision protocols, my REU students were writing in order to elaborate on their ongoing original research projects. The complexity of the latter students' writing (both products and processes) defies easy microscopic analysis, and we quickly abandoned such analytical methods.

That's not to say that we're not getting some "quantitative" data: we're tracking measures like number of pages, number of paragraphs, number of citations and references, etc., with the hope that we can glean some interesting conclusion from this info, if nothing more than trends that roughly parallel our qualitative observations.

We'll see.

For now, back to coding...