I’ve been home from DMAC for less than two days. All I can say is this: I want to go back. Yeah, here I am back in Louisville, feeling like a little kid whose toys got taken away. There are really four factors going on here: one about the past, one about the present, and two about the future. I’ll start at the end of the list (the future) and work backward.
The longer I was at DMAC, the more I was compelled to keep reading for my exams this fall. Lots of pressure (as it is for all Ph.D students, right?), but I also wanted to go back to my room and explore the ideas we had been talking about that day. Learning Sophie, building a WordPress blog, using the FlipVideo, etc. So there was too much that I wanted to do. As always, I ended up feeling guilty about not doing one while pursuing the other. And my impulse to be social only complicated that conflict further. I’m such a little ball of anxiety, right? Yeah, well, in a healthier turn of rhetoric, I can say that I tried to be honest with myself about my conflicted goals as much as about my own limitations of time and energy. So I kinda spread myself out between those pursuits. Balance, balance.
Also, I miss the sense of community I left behind. (Or, hopefully, until next summer?). So many people interested in talking about, exploring, researching, and producing the work of “digital composition.” Not to say that my professors and fellow students aren’t quite so taken with these concerns… but they’re not. Leaving if for someone else. Debra, then. Joanna Wolfe, too. And they’re great. But they are not a community in which I can immerse myself. That, friends, is what I miss.
The other compulsion I had about the future (which, I guess, makes it “now”) is that I’m going to need to keep thinking about what I mean, and what other different populations mean, when we/they say “digital compostion.” I’m less concerned about the conflation of multimodality with digital composition, or rhetoric with argument. Instead, I’m thinking about the expansion of “digital composition” to encompass entirely different kinds of texts. In particular, I’m thinking about “myself” as a text. Let me explain.
Before I came to DMAC, for quite some time, actually, I was interested in the rhetoric and vocabulary of digital media as an extension of the self (read: N. Katherine Hayles’s work on the post-human, for instance). But my paradigm for how that digital-self-construction might happen was really outdated. I started learning about HTML back in 1999 when I wanted to put together a website to share my poems as a graduate student in Boulder. I read about all sorts of “techie” stuff (html, ftp, xml, etc) as well as content management, visual layout, user interaction, and portfolio design for artists, writers, and other professionals. Later, I became less interested in sharing my poems, and more interested in digital stories. But still, everything I did was filtered through my own personal website (www.ryantrauman.com).
But now with the advent of what some people call Web 2.0, I was really ignoring the new ways people were constructing themselves online. MySpace; Facebook; YouTube; Digg; De.licio.ous.; Blogger; WordPress; etc. At DMAC, there were a few days that I was sitting beside Jamie Bono, and I watched him as he navigated various sites and technologies that appeared to be well-integrated into his note-taking/composing/participating process. I have to say I was fascinated. He got me thinking about some of these sites and how they were useful for sharing information and keeping in touch in productive ways.
So I decided to try some of them out for myself. I’m just getting started with some (Del.icio.us, WordPress) rethinking others (Blogger, Facebook, YouTube, RyanTrauman.com) and looking forward to starting from scratch with more (Digg, Bliptv).
So for the next few days or weeks, I’ll be giving some of these things a test drive. I won’t do much in the way of product comparisons, but I might try to put together some Rhet/Comp-inflected user testing, some thoughtful reflection, and maybe even some cool video-screen-capture to illustrate how the sites function.
Along the way, I’m also going to be experimenting with some open-source or freeware alternatives to a few standard software packages: Picasa (Photoshop), Thunderbird (Outlook), OpenOffice (MSOffice), Freemind (MindManager), Audacity (Audition).