As I sit here on a deep, brown, felt-padded chair in Starbucks, surrounded by Apple products and lattes, the smell of coffee gradually working its way into my skull and then pounding its way out (like some 9-pound fly flailing itself against a clear glass window when there's an open door to the outside world just inches away), I know that I will finish no homework until I've reflected on the last several days. I can only imagine what the others stationed here are thinking of the guy on a black, unlabeled, clearly non-Apple laptop in the AC/DC cap. Probably "he's waiting on a flight," much like the others engulfing this hotspot. There's a sea of held baggage corralled on the opposite side of the wall, submerging the lush leather couches where I used to sit, now deserted islands among waves of handles and luggage tags, guarded by a uniformed navy recruits. Oh wait, there's a woman here now with a circa 2000 Dell. An electronic brick tether immediately providing life support for the machine's dying battery, surely one that already expired years ago. Discussions of "college English," "awkward humor," and some phrases about "rhetoric" are flapping lazily through the coffee-poisoned air between orders for foreign measurements and deliveries of goods. And here I wait, typing out thoughts on the events of the days before. Trying not to think about the portfolio and production I must complete, but that I know I won't develop without clearing my brain of these thoughts.
The 4Cs convention was different this year, an experience on top of experience enfleshed with experiences of others made before. I didn't make the usual conference videos, no "brief" 20-minute summaries of my daily adventures, and no pictures of my delicious meals (though mostly because I didn't bring a camera that isn't attached to a tabular device). I recorded one video and uploaded it, while the second would not go online at 23 Kbps (an incredible speed for $15, I must say). But it was then that I realized I've become a member of the community here, and that much of my experience is limited to myself and those who I experienced things with. To share bits and pieces is inevitable and desired, but there really is a secluded world of academia that most will never see. Not in the sense of an ivory tower or gated community, however. Rather, an invisible network of communications and control, power structures and politics, experiential learning, and discussion of pedagogy. Discussion of who gets included and excluded, about our limitations and affordances, about things that are simply going on. And food. Lots of food and drink, with discussion.
Things were different this year, to say the least. No full days without lunch, catching every session each day. The interesting sessions were those that I ventured to, doing homework and spending time with people otherwise. Fewer introductions, but more familiar bodies and minds who became more familiar and new again all at the same time. New stories about seemingly familiar people, and new perceptions of fleetingly familiar minds. But let me clarify "newly familiar bodies" with all the possible conclusions one could make. I met people face-to-face. There were several individuals who I had spoken with via Skype or phone, identities represented by photos on the screen, a disembodied head or voice. I even mistook one voice for another "IRL," but then their mind and body corrected me before I met the "real" individual later. Yet, a display in America's Convention Center re-digitized all bodies passing by via Kinect. "We're all temporarily abled," a reminder from Cindy Selfe. But we assume "the digital" is inherently temporal, easily editable, fluid and (re)shaping. Impermanence is what makes some things interesting, the impermanence of not recording events, of remembering from notes and pics and laughs, of reshaping. The impermanence of not having video record, of which half the fear is editability.
I suppose I should craft a scholarly reflection on the sessions I attended, the ideas to which I was introduced, the names I remember, and the work I will produce. Something for HASTAC, which I thought I might create after Cs. There was some of that. I had interesting, and sometimes heated conversations about Bogost, procedural rhetoric, the Digital Humanities (and whatever the hell that can mean), and the state of scholarship in various areas, among other things. I learned about Lafayette and Purdue, the history of departments, the fallouts and connections between people. I learned of a beverage that tastes like fruit loops, and experienced clapping without making any sounds. I was reminded of things I've heard over and over again, for better and worse. But, in keeping with this year's CCCC's opening address, I heard a lot of stories. Shared stories that will only make sense in the contexts that they were told, those that simply aren't shareable by their nature. They were not open source or lo-fi, but highly proprietary codes specific to devices and locations. And, to build upon what one speaker noted, the value of the stories are often valuable to us alone. So, in brief, I went to sessions where I heard several people speak about code, hacktivism, DIY, power, collaboration, and institutional structures. I learned a bit more about evaluation practices, fairness, and linguistic plurality in relation to systems of control... several times, actually. I saw a horrifying presentation on digital media and what some people "accomplish" with good intentions. I gave a presentation, had discussions, and learned through osmosis while taking notes on ideas. I went to sessions that reframed my teaching philosophy and how I approach my work, while others gave me perspective on how truly amazing some people are at what they do. To put it bluntly, some sessions showed me that I'm good at what I do, but that I'll always have room for improvement. That I still never want to reach a point where I feel comfortable saying, "No, I really don't want to learn about that." So, as the time to fly approaches, I'll say that I re-learned that I have an endless amount to learn, and that surrounding ourselves with people who are supportive and equally willing to say, "Huh. That sounds interesting. I wonder..." is just as important as meeting new people. I'm happy to explain technically what I gained, but overall, I have renewed energy to pursue academic adventures and a head full of ideas again. And there was good food and people. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.