Rhetoricity Roundtable Discussion: An Introduction and Reflection

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During the 2016 Computers & Writing Conference, the DRC participated in a roundtable discussion with Eric Detweiler for his podcast, Rhetoricity. Some of Eric’s motivation for this podcast, titled “Collaborating on Digital Rhetoric: A Roundtable,” included exploring the ways “digital rhetoric” is defined in the DRC and also the way collaboration informs and shapes the work the DRC does, especially given that DRC Fellows come from institutions across the country  Those who participated were Dr. Naomi Silver, co-director of the DRC; DRC Fellows for the 2015-16 year Jenae Cohn, Brandy Dieterle, Paula Miller; and DRC Graduate Associate Adrienne Raw. What follows are short reflections from the DRC Fellows who participated in the roundtable discussions.

Sitting down with Eric and my DRC colleagues to record this podcast was a particularly poignant moment for me, as it was one of my last collaborations with the DRC and one of my last experiences as a graduate student. During Computers and Writing 2016, I was just one week away from my PhD graduation ceremony and only three weeks away from settling down and starting a new job in a new city, so chatting with a group I had come to know so fondly about concepts fundamental to our field provided this perfect, reflective capstone experience to my years as a graduate student. Hearing my colleagues speak as I listened to the podcast reminded me of just how much talent there is in our field and across institutions. I felt a renewed sense of hope – one year later – for the ways in which our field can continue to grow, so long as we continue to value scholarly collaboration and what it produces. While I felt a little embarrassed hearing all of the times I laughed during the conversation (Jenae, not everything was that funny!), it was also a reminder of, truly, how much fun we all had working and thinking together.

Photo of Brandy DieterleAs a fellow, I was nervous answering questions about how I understand the term rhetoric and digital rhetoric largely because I was (and still am) struggling with imposter syndrome. I wondered what I, a doctoral candidate, could say that would be meaningful for the field given how much research there is that touches on these subjects, much of which I haven’t been exposed to myself. However, as I listen to the podcast now and reflect on the definitions I provided, I’m really proud of what I said. While listening, I had this moment like “that was a smart response!” Additionally, now that I am ending my second year as a fellow, I feel more confident in my experiences as a fellow being really formative for understanding what collaboration is like across institutions and how beneficial those experiences are. This collaboration became especially apparent to me while recording with Eric, and again listening to the finished product one year later, because in the moment I had this fear when asked how we would define these terms that I would simply be repeating what Naomi had already said (since I was speaking directly after her). As Jenae pointed out during the recording, going last can be intimidating, but what I believe (and I think others would agree) ended up happening was we were seeing collaboration in action as we extended and built off of each others responses. Due to the nature of recording for a podcast, this collaboration, to me, felt quite different from what I’ve felt co-authoring publications, for example. Collaboration became a more embodied experience than I had ever experienced or considered possible. The last point I would like to make is that I’ve often heard prominent scholars say imposter syndrome never goes away, and I certainly still feel it myself, but having that moment of believing I made a smart contribution to the discuss has really reaffirmed for me that even when we feel like we couldn’t possibly make a valuable contribution, we can and we do.

Photo of Paula MillerRecording this podcast was an absolute blast. We were all crashed out on worn-in dorm common room furniture early in the morning on the last day of Computers and Writing, and for me, it really felt like hanging out with friends, musing on definitions to the kind of work that we do every day. Eric created a comfortable atmosphere for conversation and explained everything he planned to do with the audio for those of us who were podcast newbies. As a group, I loved the way we built on one another’s evolving definitions of rhetoric and digital rhetoric – it was exciting to talk to one another real-time without the limitations of email or bandwidth. As a digitally-bound collaborative who really only meet in “meatspace” once a year or so, this podcast gave us the opportunity to collaborate real-time, and the synergy was electric. I hope people enjoy listening to this podcast as much as I/we enjoyed recording it.

Photo of Adrienne RawParticipating in this podcast was a particularly nerve-wracking and exciting moment for me. It was my first real collaboration with the DRC and came during my early, tentative steps as a doctoral student. The nerves were very real, especially in the company of such wonderful people who were so intimately knowledgeable about the topic, but it turned out to be an especially inspiring experience and, looking back a year later, a reflective one. During those moments where we began to share our definitions of “rhetoric” and “digital rhetoric,” I remember feeling two very specific fears: (1) that I would have nothing to contribute and (2) that anything I did contribute would be vastly different than what everyone else said (i.e., wrong) — neither of which ended up being true. It’s easy to feel intimidated talking about things as big and complicated as digital rhetoric and collaboration, but taking the opportunity to articulate these big ideas is a good chance to realize that your voice is valuable and that you actually do know a lot. Listening to this podcast a year later, I am reminded anew of the value of each of our perspectives. We all understood our field a little differently, and each of those differences gave us a unique and valuable perspective to share that then helped us collectively evolve our understanding. I remember thinking, as the others’ definitions, that they were highlighting things I hadn’t thought of and things I intended to borrow in the future. So participating in this sharing certainly influenced how I thought about these questions. The roundtable was also a great way to see discussion evolve in real-time as we collaborated with each other! We hope you find this podcast as inspiring to listen to as we found recording it!

About Author(s)

Brandy Dieterle is a doctoral student in the Texts & Technology program at the University of Central Florida (UCF). At UCF, Brandy has been a graduate student tutor in the University Writing Center and has taught first-year composition courses. As a teacher, Brandy encourages students to think of writing and literacy as both self representation and identity forming. Her research is focused on identity and self representation, gender identity and representation, multimodality and new media, and digital rhetoric.

Paula is a PhD graduate fellow at The Ohio State University studying rhetoric, composition, and literacy. Her research interests lie at the intersection of writing centers and multiliteracies. You can visit her online at paula-miller.com

Adrienne E. Raw is a PhD student in the Joint Program in English and Education at the University of Michigan. Her interests include fan studies, digital rhetoric, and composition pedagogy.

Jenae Cohn is a PhD candidate in English and Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition Studies at UC Davis. Her research explores how materialities of reading and writing technologies affect established and emerging writers' perceptions of reading and writing experiences. She works in her university's WAC program as a graduate writing fellow and also serves as a HASTAC Scholar. She blogs irregularly at www.jenaecohn.net and to get herself writing, she lights candles and dons the fuzziest of socks.

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