Blog Post

hello world

Hi, people of HASTAC! It's so good to be part of this group for a second year. 

I'm a PhD candidate in English with a concentration in Media Studies at UW-Milwaukee. I'm currently in my fourth year and writing my dissertation, which centers around the term “user-friendliness.” I’m currently thinking about it as a study of the role glitch plays in renewing a user’s relationship to her writing tools. The “nonworking, unproductive, inoperative, unworkable” interface (Galloway 2009, 943) asks for something other than mastery and control, and that’s why it’s important and valuable from a feminist and new-materialist perspective. The unworkable interface fails in some respects, but it succeeds at revealing the writing surface as an agential force that has effects which might not make sense within a logic of use and user-friendliness. The word “use,” as an ongoing acitivity people do, has ties to consumer culture and a Heidegerrian mode of “enframing”—or an instrumentalist and self-driven orientation towards the world (and towards writing). Glitch upends the goal of user-friendliness, which again, in my terms is a bonus because I see ethical potential in making the relationship between users and writing technologies (software, paper, possessions) less smooth and more contemplative.

To get around an obsession with use and user-friendliness, my chapters examine forms of writing that neglect or abandon values traditionally associated with individual agency in Western culture (control, coherency, tidiness, purpose). I scout around for examples of writerly agency situated in structures other than purposefulness and control, finding them in texts ranging from literature to workplace writing. For example, I'm analyzing modernist metafiction by Stein and Woolf ("An Unwritten Novel" and A Novel of Thank You), as well as internet poetry forms like image macros and screen captures. All of these, in some respects, are “glitch documents” because they enforce a degree of unusability or inoperability. As I map theoretical and practical pathways around an empowering and important writerly or makerly agency, I also argue for these pathways' necessary place in digital composition pedagogy and practice. If the ethical aim of writing and the study of writing becomes to cede rather than seize control, to distribute value rather than concentrate it on an expressive individual, what new pathways of creativity and co-operation emerge?

Those are some of the questions and concerns that are motivating me at the moment. I'm a poet and artist at heart (my undergrad is partly in studio art and I have an MFA in poetry), so I'm still trying to figure out why I find media theory is so striking to me when most of the time I'd rather be writing a poem. I think my deep appreciation for materiality--whether we're talking language, paint, or computer code--fuels my fire for knowing how things like mediation and interfaces actually work.

I’ve worked to learn programming (mostly in JavaScript) and it’s a really tough skill for me. I am still working on ways to stay at least vaguely nimble in computer code while balancing all the other knowledge areas that I need to cover as an interdisciplinary researcher in media studies and writing studies. Any other cross-discipline struggles you’re facing? I’d love to commiserate! It’s so hard to stay abreast of all the practical and theoretical areas that seem expected of me.

I know many of you expressed interest in digital pedagogy. I’m with you. My class this semester, Literature of Information Overload, is going OK, but I often reflect on ways I could use technology more proactively. We don’t meet in a computer lab, so “digital pedagogy” takes a little creativity. I’m doing a Twitter project currently, in which students assume the role of a character in DeLillo’s White Noise and then tweet from that character’s account. 

Anyway, I think that’s probably enough from me. Looking forward to the months ahead! Can’t believe November is here.

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