Computers & Writing wrap up

Terrence, Michelle, Shelley, and Bradley had an excellent week at Computers & Writing 2016 in Rochester. We got to explore the interdisciplinary nature of the Crow project through the workshop we attended, our presentation, and several other interesting panels. Lots of good thinking about the relationship between corpus linguistics, pedagogy, mentoring, and building a sustainable archive.

Our conference began with the Ride2CW celebration at the Tap and Mallet — great food, good beer, and smart conversations already starting. The next morning, Bradley and Bill Hart-Davidson rode along the Erie Canal, which was just two miles from host St. John Fisher College. Yay, Ride2CW!

The four of us attended Ryan Omizo and Hart-Davidson’s workshop on computational rhetoric, where we could start imagining what data representations might look like for Crow. We developed some great questions about our data structure and the multiple users for whom we are designing.

We attended a variety of sessions which were interesting and relevant to our project. In A5, we heard Naomi Silver and others from the Sweetland Center for Writing talk about their collaborative processes. We liked seeing what Erin Trauth, Joe Moxley, and Norbert Elliot were doing with MyReviewers data on an NSF-funded project, and we’ll definitely be following up with them. We’re hoping to make it to Writing Analytics, Data Mining and Student Success in January 2017.

Session G3, which featured Ben Miller, Jason Palmeri, and Ben McCorkle, offered in an-depth look at two projects: Palmeri and McCorkle’s ongoing investigation of English Journal, which goes back 100 years, and Miller’s work with rhetcomp dissertations. Excellent as presented and in Twitter backchannel.

Our talk was session D2. We were pleased by the attendance and the conversation which followed. Michelle built a Storify which features Nick Carbone’s live-tweeting (thanks, Nick!) and some of the questions, too:

  • Hart-Davidson asked what our minimum value proposition will be: what will provide short term results as we build Crow from the ground up? We agreed it’s PSLW, which is already helping us publish results in journals and at conferences.
  • Elliot suggested working with N-grams, or strings of words that may perform certain rhetorical functions (e.g., according to the; the first article).
  • Cheryl Ball asked to hear more about our “deidentification parties” and our methods for digital collaboration. Yay, Basecamp!

From the repeated names here, we realized there aren’t too many people working in the computational rhetorics, nerd data crunching, whatever you want to call the corner of the field we’re working in.  That’s probably the reason we heard, in the panels we attended, at least as many references to scholars in digital humanities but outside rhetoric and composition. Just not enough voices inside the field. We’re particularly happy to note that Crow will add a few more women to the mix.

Driving back, we debriefed and finalized our summer plans. Shelley, Terrence, and Michelle worked in Basecamp and Google Docs while Bradley drove, and it took almost seven hours for the four of us to talk through our conference experiences. With that work done, and about two hours of driving left, we started getting a little chirpy. Then we saw on Twitter that some conference-goers were still in the airport. And we realized there were strong positives to driving!

Next year, the conference will be June 1–4 at the University of Findlay in Ohio, less than four hours away. So we’ll probably have a Crow team there again. If Bradley trains enough, it’s only a two day bike ride…


The Corpus & Repository of Writing, an inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary research project building a corpus of student writing articulated with a repository of pedagogical artifacts.

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