2017-2018 PWR Research Grant Updates
Last year, PWR awarded six research grants to support the scholarly work and intellectual projects of its instructors. Here's an update on what the grant recipients have been working on this year.
Jenae Cohn, Norah Fahim, and John Peterson
The tile of our project is, "Understanding Student Experiences of Writing in Online Collaboration Spaces: An Investigation of Best Practices for Digital Writing Pedagogy." We are using our PWR Research Grant to conduct an IRB-approved study of individual student perspectives on composing collaborative work in platforms such as Google Docs. We have been gathering data through a mixed-methods approach to see both what the product of collaboration in Google Docs looks like and to understand individual student perspectives on composing collaborative work in a platform such as Google Docs. So far, this year we have conducted 5 focus groups with groups of 5 or more students, as well as follow up one-on-one interviews with 15 students. We are still in the process of finalizing the transcriptions and will next code and analyze our data. We may do another round of interviews next academic year.
We launched the study to go beyond looking at products of collaboration. We wanted data on insiders’ perspectives into contemporary collaborative writing practices and processes. Previous to applying for the grant, we had written a more theory-based chapter, “Tinker, Teacher, Sharer, Spy: Negotiating Surveillance in Online Collaborative Writing Spaces,” for the forthcoming collection Writing in a Digital Age: Surveillance, Privacy, & Writing Infrastructures, edited by Estee Beck and Les Hutchinson. As lecturers in PWR, Norah and John are the official applicants and recipients of this grant; we feel super fortunate that Jenae has agreed to join us as the three of us continue our work together studying the implications of using powerful online writing platforms in the teaching and learning of writing.
My grant on Vision and Social Progress has allowed me to travel to: Seattle and Victoria, Canada, to research Haida totem work, potlach performance, cosmology, and storytelling, and to U.C.L.A. and the Getty Research Center to research Harold Szeeman, curatorial mixed media, fluxus, and happenings. From that work I created a Cosmic Serpent leaf rake installation in the Indigenous Medicine Garden of Point Reyes National Seashore and twenty poems about fatherhood, labor, cars, Teotihuacan, death, and the underworld. I am planning a talk/reading, “Who/Where am I?” at Hume in June which will introduce a larger mixed media installation I have planned for Stanford Art Gallery in September 2018. That work will combine immersive sculpture, poems, music, yoga, and storytelling to allow for a full hearing of the stories of this place, past and present, as told by different voices and from different perspectives in a chthonic disruption of normalized narratives--hellbent on skyward unity.
I’m planning a creative webtext that argues for the pedagogical value of the picture book project that students do in my PWR 2 class. I want to showcase the picture book as a powerful, complex multimodal genre worthy of serious rhetorical study, and I want to provide practical advice for how other writing instructors can pull off the project themselves.
This research award will support archival work at the Cadbury Research Library in Birmingham and the British Library this summer. My book project--a development of my dissertation research titled Material Ambitions: Self-Help and the Victorian Novel--argues that reading Victorian novels and self-help texts together reveals the ambivalent value of ambitious individualism in the era of expanding and violently competitive systems, from imperialism to industrial capitalism. As I worked on this project, I became increasingly interested not only in characters' ambitions, but also in the ambitions of writers themselves. I am especially fascinated by how authors imagined the relationship between work and embodiment. The authors I included in the project--from Samuel Smiles to Harriet Martineau to Charles Dickens--wrote about how their diligent writing habits affected their physical health. For example, Smiles suffered a stroke while working and chalked it up to overtiring his brain, while Martineau wrote about her own illnesses and how they impacted her writing process. With this research award, I'm traveling to the UK to look for marks of that writing process and revision process in their manuscripts.
With the support of the PWR Research Award, I started a new chapter of Prison Renaissance at Stanford this fall; I co-direct this chapter with the activist/artist Emile DeWeaver, who is currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. We are guided by the vision that Emile and Rahsaan Thomas, a co-founder of Prison Renaissance, have conceived: “What can you do? Increase the proximity between the public and incarcerated people by choosing to engage with us… Respond to our interviews and work with your own stories, poems, visual art, critiques, and articles… In this way, we begin to build a community that supports a culture of transformation to end the cycles of incarceration.”
We have three major projects this year: a collaborative zine, an outreach effort around voting rights for incarcerated people, and a project documenting our work as the chapter grows. When we started, there were 4 members of the chapter; our mailing list now has 61 members. The zine project has paired several Stanford artists with incarcerated artists in co-creation and dialogue. Emile and I share leadership and work together on all aspects of our “emergent strategy,” in the words of Adrienne Maree Brown.
Below: The first letter that Selby and her PR@S co-director, Emile DeWeaver, sent to their new chapter
After continuing industry study and conferences, I convened Getting Played: Fourth Annual Symposium on Equity in the Entertainment Industry and Awards on March 9, 2018. For those who didn't attend, a synopsis: after welcoming guests, I introduced keynote Patricia Velásquez, a former supermodel best known for her role as Anck Su Namun in “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” but also author and founder of Wayúu Taya Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public and funding improvement to conditions of Latin American indigenous groups while respecting their cultures and beliefs. Panelists Tracy Camp, Austin Ku, Caroline Heldman, Michael Gene Sullivan, and Christine Kunewa Walker then spoke individually followed by audience Q&A, livestreamed to over 1500 viewers. The symposium concluded with the awards segment which honored Camp, Heldman, Dexter Davis, and Women’s Media Action Coalition for typically unheralded acts that are nevertheless essential for paving the way toward equity in entertainment media. The last award – to Sarah Hemings – was in honor of numerous anonymous thespians cast as slave Sarah “Sally” Hemings in Marin Theatre Company’s production of “Thomas and Sally” who on moral grounds refused the role of Hemings in the production Rescripted reviewed as a “hellish rapey nightmare.”