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Hello, world! Also, anyone want to collaborate on a panel at Computers & Writing 2014?

Hello, world! Also, anyone want to collaborate on a panel at Computers & Writing 2014?

Hello all, 

     I'm Lindsey Gay, and I'm excited to see what possibilities the HASTAC community has to offer. I'm a PhD student in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin. I teach in the Department of Rhetoric, in the Digital Writing and Research Lab, where the world of technology meets rhetoric and composition. I am also part of the DWRL's Machinic Invention project group, which works on integrating microcontrollers, programming, and other small electronic projects into our rhetorical and literary pegagogy. That's where this blog post is taking me, and you: physical computing.

     The Machinic Invention project group is still working on getting our website up and running (check us out at, but so far here's what we've been doing: building a PrintrBot, learning Arduino programming and prototyping, building gadgets with various electronic components, conversing about the intersections between physical computing and rhetoric pegagogy, and compiling a stock of blogs to be released when our website works.

     We've been talking about putting together a presentation--hopefully a panel--at Computers & Writing 2014, the theme of which is "evolutions, convolution, and revolutions of interfaces." The format can be a traditional paper, a group presentation, a panel or roundtable, a workshop, or really whatever. I'm hoping that our group can do a workshop or roundtable addressing the utility, or at least our experiences, of trying to connect physical computing to teaching or practicing rhetoric and composition. Essentially, I think it would be great to bring some of our little gadgets along, put them up on a doc cam or something similar, and demonstrate some fun stuff. Maybe we could also have a presentation running that shows screen-grabs of the code writer, and we could even change the programming partway through the presentation to demonstrate different effects. Having our gadgets with us would be a way of making a physical connection between all the ideas--putting theory and practice together.

      In terms of being in line with the conference theme, the actual interface in this case has multiple parts: there is a program in which one writes code, and there is a physical, tangible little microcontroller board and prototyping area. There is essentially a three-point interface: the individual, the board, the program. So, we must deal with multiple interfaces in order to get a product. The product is streaming data and/or some kind of physical action (e.g. lights blink according to sensor input; a servomotor swings in different directions based on external controls; etc.). The means of getting to this product are 1) building with components, and 2) entering code and telling the components what you want them to do.

     Now this is where you come in. Not all of my group can make it to C&W 2014, but we'd like to propose something that involves multiple people, perspectives, ideas, gadgets, etc. Do you have a little robot you're dying to show off? Have you been playing around with an Arduino, Picoboard, Raspberry Pi, or any other microcontroller/physical computing doo-dad? Do you have ideas on how these gadgets may prove interesting departures from traditional rhet/comp pedagogy? MOST OF ALL, can you work up a quick description/proposal by October 31? (we came up with this idea rather late in the game, I'm afraid!)

     If you're interested in collaborating with us, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm looking forward to hearing from you and working with the HASTAC Scholars this year!

--Lindsey Gay




1 comment

My technological prowess is much more limited than yours, it seems. In fact, calling it "prowess" at all is incredibly misleading. While I lack gadget skills, I have been working with Canvas for over a year now in my composition classroom and am curious about the differences/impact of using it for electronic peer review rather than an old fashioned pen and paper set up. How does using a digital interface change actual feedback? Dynamics of collaboration? Do we gain more than we lose? I don't have answers to these questions, but I'm certainly interested in exploring them and, in fact, am in the middle of a "compare and contrast peer review style" quarter. I'd be willing to get involved in a panel on this topic, or even just hear if other people have thoughts/experiences.