More Conference Reflections, July 2008

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At the IPCC, I shared the analytical study I performed in Summer Taylor’s pedagogy course last fall. My study, conducted in one of John Dinolfo’s nursing writing courses, examined the effectiveness of the Blackboard discussion board as a heuristic genre for writing in the disciplines. Mine was one of many instructional approaches shared under the conference theme Capitalizing on the Knowledge Economy: Lessons from Our Neighbors.

Saul Carliner, associate professor of educational technology at Concordia University in Montreal (in the pic far left), and an author whose works we have reviewed in Sean William’s and Tharon Howard’s information design and technology courses, was the keynote speaker at the IEEE IPCC, July 13-16, 2008 at Concordia.

In his address, Saul spoke to the concerns of communications professionals about their unfolding roles in a knowledge-based economy. He suggested that we look for insight to fields outside of technical and professional communications such as human factors, instructional design (i.e. corporate training), software engineering, and translation services. One of the main lessons to be learned from these fields is to create opportunities for maximizing productivity and effectiveness while minimizing communications barriers. This is especially challenging, according to Saul, as we come to understand more about the wide net cast by transdisciplinary communications, and the myriad applications it affords us.

But there’s more: For I also attended, with Dev Bose, the Third International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, hosted by Common Ground on July 22-25, 2008 at Monash University in Prato, Tuscany, Italy. This was the occasion for my first trip to Europe. (Shhhhhhh–participating in the conference was a bonus; spending days in and around the Italian countryside, with a 13 hour layover in Paris on the return flight, was the main attraction–but I know I can trust you to keep that secret.)

Aside from visiting Florence, Milan, and Venice (I heart the Eurorail!), some highlights of the conference included befriending two scholars from Malaysia, Wan and Norain, and learning about their culture and some of their academic priorities. In their sessions I learned about their uses of technology–how, for example, they are incorporating email (Norain) as a method for peer review in composition courses. I was even more intrigued by Wan’s involvement as an advocate for amending the Malaysian Domestic Violence Act. In fact, several of the European presenters emphasized, as did Wan, their dependence upon NGO’s (parallels to our charitable non-profits) to effect change outside of governmental hierarchies. Sadly, but also similarly, they referred to their disappointments in the ways these agencies often emulate the very governments they are meant to challenge and critique.

My presentation was titled “Barak Obama and the Politics of Technology” and addressed the rhetorical dimensions of new media and society. I focused on Obama’s extensive use of technologies to engage typically apolitical demographics–younger and minority voters, many of whom registered for the first time in order to be able to support Obama. His campaign’s enlistment of experts in the field: David Plouffe, Jon Carson, and Chris Hughes of Facebook for example, demonstrate his commitment to interactivity as part of his vision for a more progressive government, and as a paradigm for disseminating what Debra Atwater has called his “rhetoric of hope.” At the conclusion of the panel, I teamed up with Dev Bose to dialogue with our spirited audience, and that went very well. By any measure, we got as good as we gave!


~ Michelle Dacus Carr ~

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