Handwritten Notes: Ghosts from the Past

I have stacks and stacks of papers and folders and notes everywhere I look, some at home (I think I have a coffee table, but I can’t be sure these days), and some here and there around my office.

So, I actually finished something and started digging through one of the stacks to see if there was something else I should add to the “Current” stack, when I came upon some notes I had written the last time the Computers and Writing Conference was hosted in Hawai’I (2004).  Nothing like taking 6 years to get to my notes…..

At any rate, here is what I wrote on the hotel notepad:

Sitting outside the Pacific Beach Hotel sipping “coffee for royalty” to the sounds of traffic, Japanese tourists, rustling palms, and the ever-present dull roar of the waves breaking against the sea walls.  Tomorrow it’s back to the real world, where my colleagues think that what I “do” is “work on computers”—I’m not even sure what that means anymore.  I’m not sure how to talk about what I “do”—and certainly not how to translate it into terms that others outside the purview of computers-and-writing can understand.

I’m not even sure I understand what I do!  Digital culture? Yes, sort of.  But then again, not; that’s not exactly it.  Teaching “writing” (whatever THAT means) with computers?  Certainly.  But, then, no, that’s not “it” either.  Exploring what it means to “write” in a digital age?  Of course, but….

And then I’m going home to where I’m—well, they know I’ve got publications and that I’m involved in something called the Graduate Research Network and some other “stuff,” but they really don’t know me.  They’re very surprised when people they know, friends at other conferences, know me, or at least have heard of me.

C&W is always a place where I’m just me.  Like all the others there whose work first intrigued me, and continues to intrigue, entice, and stretch me there, people I admire, who are just themselves at C&W.  Here we aren’t some techie contingent (though we are that) on the lunatic fringe of composition studies (though we are that, too).  Here we know and admire each other’s work, but here we are—ourselves.  Friends.  Family.  Community.

So, now reading that 6 years later, I realize how much has changed.  First of all, my colleagues are now involved in what I thought it was that I did, some of them in ways far more “techie” than I have ever been involved in.  Many of them are “doing” intriguing things with technology in their classrooms, in their personal and professional lives, and in their scholarship.  And, of course, many of them now participate in the Computers and Writing Conference and the Graduate Research Network!

The C&W still feels like home, of course, but home has now expanded to include so many new faces, new ideas, and new ways of thinking that, well, once again I’m not sure how to talk about it all!  But now I don’t feel isolated; I don’t feel that my colleagues “really don’t know me.”  I have wonderful, talented, and sometimes brilliant colleagues, here at home AND at the various conferences, including Computers and Writing.

Now as I plan to attend the 2010 Computers and Writing Conference, it is nice to look back to where we’ve been.  It is still hard to believe that I have been attending this wonderful conference since 1996 (CCCC since 1995), and it’s even nicer to finally find a way to deal with one more thing out of one more stack.

So, how many handwritten notes will I bring back with me this year?  Or, now that we have Twitter, will my handwritten ruminations become a thing of the past?  And, most important, will we have to wait another 6 years to find out!?  Ah, such important questions.  As Scarlett once said, “I’ll think about that tomorrow!”  🙂


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