Archive for the ‘Workshops’ Category

Sophie2 Workshop

April 3, 2010

On March 26th, Dan Visel held a Sophie2 Workshop for students and faculty in the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design (RCID) doctoral program in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities at Clemson University. Dan’s presentation of Sophie2 to the students as well as to particular administrators was exceptionally informative and productive. We spent most of the 6 hours–morning and afternoon–following Dan’s explanations and engaging in questions and answers and working on assembling assets for the production of e-books.

Additionally, there were a number of discussions about how Sophie2 might work within a sever, what might we expect in the future in terms of improvements and innovations, and what is or would be possible in terms of open source, etc.

Dan was sent to us by Virginia Kuhn and Holly Willis, The Institute for Multimedia Literacy within the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, where Sophie2 is continuing to be explored and upgraded.

Participants: From the doctoral students in the program, the attendees include Stephen Holmes, Stephen Lind, Lauren Mitchell, Anthony Collamati, Nicole Snell, Josh Abboud, Alicia Hatter, Sergio Figueiredo, Wu Dan, Randy Nichols, Josephine Walwema, and Jason Helms. Additionally, two new students for Fall 2010: Patricia Fancher and Emily Wicker Ligon.

From the faculty and administration, the attendees include Jeannie Davis (the Director of Communications of the College of Architecture, Arts, and Humanities) and Andy Billings (The Director of the Pearce Center for Communication). Gail Ring (our university-wide administrator for e-portfolios). From the English Department, we had such faculty as Cynthia Haynes (Director of First-year English, which is a multimodal program), Jan Holmevik (who developed LinguaMoo, with Cynthia, and who is developing a program in Gaming in RCID and across the curriculum here at CU), and Tharon Howard (Director, MATRF, a multimedia lab on campus).

For additional information of Sophie2, visit online The Sophie Project and The Sophie Ning Site.

… Photos: Jeannie Davis. Bottom left: Nicole Snell. Bottom right: Stephen Holmes and Sergio Figueiredo

Lessons from Research/Publishing, 3

November 21, 2008

Usability as a Rhetorical Ar/ct

The open-invite Multimedia User Group (MMUG) met on Friday, November 21 in the MATRF to (re)discover Usability as an act of rhetoric and a rhetorical art. Attendees ranged from students and faculty in the RCID program, to those in MAPC as well as the University’s concentration area of Human Factors within Psychology. The hour-long event was designed to inform those present about what usability is and what it can be used for.


What is Usability?
As part of the User-Centered Design methodology, usability is a holistic, humanistic approach to evaluating interfaces and user experiences in a variety of contexts. Although usability is widely used in industry as part of the product development process, and although its appropriation in this regard has to some extent made the method increasingly quantitative, usability is fundamentally a rhetorical art. Whether the artifact is a computer interface, a piece of cinema, a video game, or a performance support delivery system, usability offers a tool set which can be adapted and applied across multiple platforms in order to ensure that artifacts are useful, usable, and pleasurable for their intended audiences.


What Research Questions can User-Centered Design Methods Address?
Importantly, UCD methods (of which usability is one) can be used to inform any number of research studies. While the industry-standard software, Morae, is mainly used to study user behavior on computer interfaces (although its latest release does allow researchers to capture user interactions with physical artifacts such as cell phones and textbooks), the talk-aloud protocol approach which generates some of the richest feedback during such an interface analysis can be applied in myriad contexts. For example, Randy Nichols, one of the MMUG attendees mentioned his interest in curiosity-driven museum visitors. He wondered, “What factors shape a curious museum-goer’s navigational choices?” Using a portable eye-tracking device and a voice recorder, it would be possible not only to record the person’s running commentary on why they chose to investigate different areas of a museum, but also to capture which exhibits the person looked longest at and which were ignored. Museology, Way-finding (a facet of Information Design), and Experience Design, then, are disciplines which could be impacted by this UCD method.


In addition, Morae and the talk-aloud technique could be amazingly helpful in illuminating otherwise tacit processes involved in synthesizing research to compose texts intended for publication. In this vein, one might build a study around the inquiry, “What digital technologies or other inventional tools do people use to articulate insights gained from disparate research sources? How, in other words, do people get what’s in their head onto (electronic) paper?” Findings from a study like this could potentially add much to composition pedagogies.

How is Usability Rhetorical?
At its core, usability concerns itself with audiences (users) and contextual contingencies. Those who understand usability in this way (there are always others on an/other side of the matter) believe that UCD is a heuristic informed by a plurality of epistemologies, and they eschew the idea of fixity in human-interface analyses. Moreover, the deliverables usability tools produce can be viewed as persuasive texts. Whether it is a highlight video, a formative written report, or an Excel spreadsheet with screenshots and tallies of completion rates, investigators argue for their analyses and advocate for users based on the design recommendations they share, and the ways in which they cast their findings.

Where Can I Learn More About Usability?
Usability Bookshelf – Sponsored by the Usability and User Experience SIG, an STC community; – A step-by-step guide to usability, beginning with definitions of the discipline, user research and interface testing methods, and data analysis pointers;

Usability Professionals’ Association – Links to resources, conferences, and research methods;

UTEST – A closed, private discussion community for usability professionals and scholars. The community admits members on an invitation-only basis, and consists of an application process. Please contact Tharon Howard for more information.


~Alicia Hatter~

Sophie2 Workshop at USCal, a Follow Up

September 22, 2008

At the beginning of May, I submitted a proposal to attend a workshop at the University of Southern California (USCal), co-sponsored by USCal’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the Institute for the Future of the Book (a group focused on e-book publishing, funded by grants from the MacArthur and Mellon Foundations, and directed by Bob Stein).  The workshop focused on the multimedia authoring and arrangement program Sophie2.  Sophie2 is an evolution from TK3, an e-book publishing program that gained much notoriety in 2006 when Virginia Kuhn used it to complete her doctorate at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee—she did her dissertation completely in the TK3 format (the Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article on Kuhn in 2006*).

Following in Kuhn’s footsteps, my proposal for the Sophie2 workshop detailed how important the form/content relationship is to the kind of scholarship I am working on here at Clemson in the RCID program.  It also detailed how I intended to do both a print-based dissertation (to satisfy the doctoral requirements of the University) and a Sophie2 version of my dissertation.  This is more than just a comparative look; it is using a different medium that allows me to “write the paradigm” (Ulmer), to more appropriately explore relationships between rhetorical invention and electronic discourse.  My proposal was accepted, and I was one of only two non-local students or faculty to attend.

The workshop was conducted by Bob Stein and Holladay Penick, of the Institute for the Future of the Book (if:book), with assistance from Virginia Kuhn and Holly Willis (both at USCal in the Institute for Multimedia Literacy [IML]) as well as the IML support/tech staff.  We not only learned how to use the program and to make suggestions on features we would like to be included or modifed, many of which Bob relayed to the programmers and had fixed within hours or on the list to be included in the next beta version (now available).  But we also engaged in discussions on the possibilities of Sophie2, and what the Sophie2 platform allowed.

For me, the first realization was that I had under-conceptualized the project I went out there thinking I was going to work on.  The program, I discovered, allowed for such greater layering and linking than I had anticipated, and as a result I spent several hours trying to rethink my approach.  I eventually revised my thoughts about and approach to my dissertation project.  One of the amazing things I realized in playing with Sophie2 is that it allows me to work from a book metaphor, a film metaphor, a comic book metaphor, a presentation metaphor, and so on.  While it is often referred to as creating a Sophie Book, hearkening back to its (and Bob Stein’s) e-book roots, the program is not limited to that elementary approach.  It really opens space for the multitude of discourses we engage here in the RCID program.  In one shared space, I can integrate text, image, video, audio, and so on–all of which can be hyperlinked to components within the work itself or to components outside the work (i.e., the Web).  This connecting, linking, and layering–this format that allows for “writing” as an architectonic productive art (McKeon)–greatly increases the potential for future scholarship.  . . . Attending the workshop and meeting all the people involved with Sophie2 was such a great experience, and I am happy my work here in the RCID program prepared me for that opportunity.

* For the complete article, visit the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website “Digital Dissertation Dust-Up” by Peter Monaghan.  April 28, 2006.  A41.  Volume 51. Issue 34. Section: Information Technology.

~ Justin Hodgson ~

The Future of the Dissertation

May 15, 2008

Justin Hodgson, Ph.D. candidate, RCID, has been invited to participate in ~the Institute for the Future of the Book workshop~ on Sophie* at USCal, Los Angeles. Specifically he will be working with a group in the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (IML) in the School of Cinematic Arts. For four days, May 27-30. (He of course has accepted.) This is Bob Stein’s project that has been funded by the Macarthur Foundation and the Mellon Foundation. This group is one segment of the Consortium that the RCID program has been developing with others. It’s beginning to payoff already. Only two people in the country are invited to this workshop. There will be a followup workshop in August that Justin will attend again so that he can make a report.

Justin will be writing/developing his dissertation both in print literacy, to be submitted to the CU GS, and in electronic literacy (in Sophie), to demonstrate the differences between paper/pdf files and a multimedia dissertation that still meets all the required scholarly conventions of a “dissertation.” As far as we know, only Virginia Kuhn (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) and one other person have developed/”written” and produced their dissertations in a multimedia format. VK did hers in TK3, which was a forerunner of Sophie. She now teaches and conducts research at USCal in the IML.

*Sophie is a stand-alone media assemblage application that allows for every mode of media communications: pix, audio, video, etc. It is free and open source.

More news forthcoming. Stay tuned. Check the RCID program Blog. Also know that we are sending two RCID students (Amanda Booher and Joshua Abboud) to the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland, where they will study with major film directors, Continental philosophers, media historians, etc. This connection, too, is part of our Consortium. We will have news from them when they return.

RCID Rocks! Bestest,
~Vj V~

A Workshop with Edward Tufte

March 29, 2008

“Most design today is impoverished. . . . If your display of information looks like a knockoff or a left over from a PowerPoint pitch, start over.”

tufte21.jpegThese words from Edward Tufte begin to capture the essence of his current seminar series, being offered across the United States. Tufte, a professor emeritus at Yale University, is serving as an ambassador for effective information design, and I was fortunate to attend his seminar, entitled “Presenting Data and Information,” in Atlanta on March 24, 2008.

Tufte addressed his claims about information design using excerpts and examples from his four self-published texts, which were included in thetufte1.jpeg registration for every participant. These texts are packed with images of information design. Often, he would simply reference a page number and allow the participants to simply look at the display. In most cases, the design of these displays made me interested in the content of the display and not its design. This, says Tufte, is the point.

Displays, he says, should escape the flatland of their 2-dimensional territory by providing excellent content. Tufte addressed each of his fundamental principles of analytical design which are also explained in his most recent text, Beautiful Evidence: (1) show comparisons, (2) show causality, (3) show multivariate data; (4) integrate modes of information; (5) document everything and tell people about it; and (6) focus on content.

To address his approach to information design, Tufte brought examples of the earliest information design that escaped flatland: first editions of both Euclid’s (1570) Elements of Geometry and Galileo’s (1613) History and Demonstrations concerning Sunspots and Opinions of Galileo. These two texts were intriguing to see for the sheer experience, but amazing to comprehend the level of information design these two promoted in their own work. Galileo’s study of sunspots interpreted the rotation of the sun to marvelous detail through detailed engravings.

In addition, Tufte addressed interface design using the iPhone, museum wayfinding, and webpage design as examples of using an interface to display content. I enjoyed meeting Professor Tufte and learning directly from one of the current leading scholars in information design. Like his texts, his presentations are full of compelling content, and his personal charisma and humor made this content come alive, in support of his main idea: “If you are presenting and people stop listening to you and start looking at your information, celebrate. You have done it.”


~ Mac McArthur

Scholars Gone Wild: Tall Tales of Medical Rhetoric at RSA

September 6, 2007

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the Medical Rhetoric workshop at the summer institute for the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) at RPI. Aside from enjoying the cool weather in the mountains of New York (particularly lovely compared to this current blasted heat wave), I spent an intensive three days exploring various conceptions and applications of, and opportunities in, medical rhetoric. Professors Ellen Barton (Wayne State University) and Sue Wells (Temple University) facilitated the workshop, and attendees included a mix of graduate students (MA and PhD) and relatively new faculty from around the country. With about fifteen participants, ours was the biggest workshop at the conference. We also proved to be the most cohesive group, continuing our conversations (academic and otherwise) through breaks, meals, and a memorable dinner cruise on the Hudson. Combine academicians, free drinks, and a DJ, and the results are, well, as I overheard the next morning, “about what you’d expect.” Though we, er, “jammed” to “Bad Case of Loving You,” sadly, no one caught the med rhetors’ sense of humor (“doctor, doctor, give me the news…”).

Back to the important details. Prior to the workshop, we received numerous and varied readings from journals such as Philosophy and Rhetoric, Medical Education, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Narrative, and Qualitative Health Research. During the first two days, Professors Barton and Wells led us in discussing the history of med rhet, means of discovering and developing relevant research questions, and specific research methods, such as discourse analysis and archival research. I was particularly drawn to Wells’ work in archival research, especially as I had just finished a fantastic seminar class on theories of archives (RCID 813, The Archive, with Professor Catherine Paul). On Sunday morning (our last meeting time), we each had the opportunity to present our own research, orally and through written proposals, and receive feedback from the group. These projects varied from the undeveloped (vague areas of interest), to works-in-progress (books, dissertations), to further development of research agendas and completed projects (i.e., where to go next?). [I presented my in-progress dissertation, tentatively titled “Composing the Prosthetic Body: Sampling and Remixing Constructions of Flesh and Technology.” Though more theoretically based than others’ work, it was well-received.] We also developed a collection of publication places–a list of journals and publishers that/who are especially interested in different aspects of research in medical rhetoric.

Though I spent nearly as much time driving to and from SC and NY as I did in the workshop (okay, a slight exaggeration), this opportunity was extremely worthwhile. Academically, this solidified and expanded my understanding of the field of medical rhetoric, and inspired several brainstorms of potential future projects. Additionally, I walked away with great resources–the aforementioned publication list as well as bibliographies for medical rhetoric, medical communication, ethics, and research methods. But perhaps most importantly, as is often the case, the personal interactions were the most substantial gain of all. This was an excellent networking opportunity, of course, but more than that, I was inspired by this group of (chronologically and/or experientially) young scholars, guided by our encouraging and notable leaders. These scholars are the next generation of the field, and I look forward to seeing where their/our research leads. I strongly recommend, should the opportunity arise, attending a conference or workshop with a specific focus of your own area of interest. If anyone would like more details on this workshop, contact me at

~ Amanda Booher