Games and Gawkers: The Day that an Outsider Paid Attention to C's the Day

The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) is arguably the flagship conference in the field of rhetoric and composition. While other major conferences and meetings such as Feminisms and Rhetorics, the Writing Program Administrators conference, the biennial Rhetoric Society of America conference, and Computers & Writing (among others) draw members interested in various subfields of our discipline, the CCCC is the largest conference to annually bring together thousands of members of our field. Occasionally news media outlets wonder what exactly goes on at a large meeting of writing teachers and zeroes in on the CCCC. Unfortunately, some of these articles, such as Mary Grabar’s 2011 “Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years” published on the conservative website Minding the Campus: Reforming Our Universities, cherry-pick session titles to prove a point. Later in 2014, Grabar followed up with another note about CCCC on her website Dissident Prof, dedicated to “offering intellectual ammunition for dissidents of the anti-Western, anti-American academic regime” and a place where readers can “get informed about how ‘educators’ distort history and promote a skewed world view” (“About”). She sarcastically noted that “No doubt composition teachers had to relieve the stress of enlightening students. Perhaps that’s why they needed a ‘Sparklepony’ quest at the recent annual meeting of the Conference on College and Communication [sic]. This was reported in all seriousness at the Chronicle of Higher Education [sic].” She continued by noting that many readers of Dissident Prof would prefer CCCC’s members to play C’s the Day “rather than listen to the keynote address by [counterculture activist] Angela Davis, or panel discussions on ‘The Politics of Pedagogy in Composition and Rhetoric: Perspectives on Space, Race, and Embedded Hierarchies’ or ‘Barack Obama's Signficance [sic] for Composition and Communication’” (“No April Fool's”).

Attacks on the activities at the CCCC continued in 2014 with Adam Weinstein’s (2014) Gawker article “‘Sparkleponies’ Will Totally Make Humanities Professors Relevant Again.” Weinstein, a PhD candidate at Florida State University in creative nonfiction, is perhaps most famous for posting a photo of Trayvon Martin’s corpse to Gawker in 2013. That article—with over 1.2 million viewers—has drawn far more readers than his post about the CCCC, but they are equally sensationalist. “All participants [in C’s the Day] walk away with the option of tenureless adjuncting at three campuses within a 150-mile radius of their apartments from now until the welcome embrace of soul-oblivion, or the shuttering of their departments,” Weinstein (2014) cynically noted. He reframed the many positive elements of the game—the networking, the ability to break the ice with newcomers, and so on—in ways that showcase his ignorance of the field (and he doesn’t even attempt to mask his sarcasm):

But the C’s are changing to be warmer, funner. Everybody’s a scholar of communications here, so let’s learn to break the ice and communicate, mingle even, with some brilliant parlor stunts . . . So what does one win for, you know, attempting to communicate normally with fellow humans at a communications-research conference?

What gets ignored in this is that games are an intellectual area for interrogation and creation. If, indeed, those who teach writing write, then those who study games make and play games. The very praxis-oriented nature of our discipline is effaced in these comments—that C’s the Day is simply something fun for distraction, not grounded practice, not intellectual labor, and not rhetorical in any way is completely wrong.