After attending a number of panels and the “birds-of-a-feather” meeting for people interested in Internet and Digital Culture, I was puzzled to see what difference there was between either category, apart from merely organizational. For this year’s PCA/ACA conference, the call for the Digital Culture Area was focused on the “mainstreams/undercurrents”, and so on, while the Internet Culture Area was open to anything. And both areas were plagued by incoherence in panels, though the Digital Culture Area seemed to have better luck on this. During the B0F meeting we talked about how more coherence might be achieved, but people seemed reluctant to ask authors to choose keywords, but some were willing to support panel calls. Privately I heard many people (not just in this area) agree that the real trouble was that paper quality is often so spotty at the PCA/ACA. I’m afraid I have to agree; it’s a fun conference, but it does feel like almost anyone can get in.
I say this in part because I’ve heard so many presenters reveal it’s their first conference ever, and the presentations lean heavily toward “hey, I found this, isn’t it cool?” Theory is rarely mentioned, nor is most work contextualized in terms of other scholarship. I noticed this especially when I went to a panel in the Composition/Rhetoric Area that was all about New Media in the classroom. (Or so the panel title claimed). What I found was a number of papers rehashing concern about computers in the writing classroom, but without taking up specifics or referencing recent work about blogs or wikis, or about the easy ways to bring media in–cell-phone cameras, for example, or using del.icio.us to help students learn about researching online.
So seeing all this led me to submit an abstract to next year’s MLA convention for a roundtable organized by Henry Turner called “What in the World is New Media.” I feel scholarship on this continues to be ridiculously fragmented and this is caused in part by the continued segregation of New Media studies to specialized departments and curricula. So I’ll post my abstract in a few days.