SVR2 Event

Fall 2008, University of Arizona, Spatial and Visual Rhetorics Seminar

Moving West
In 2008, I moved across the country from my home state of North Carolina to Tucson, Arizona, to begin my PhD studies at the University of Arizona. The significance of space and place became even more apparent to me as I experienced cultural and geographical shock during this period of adjustment. As my husband and I drove west, we began to more fully comprehend the meaning of “big sky,” and the tall trees that lined the roads in North Carolina slowly thinned out, giving way to an immense desert expanse dotted with saguaro cacti. My entire spatial orientation was different in Tucson. Surrounded by mountain ranges to the North, South, East, and West, I could now situate myself cardinally. Pondering the closest big cities to Tucson, my conception of distances changed. Whereas a five-hour drive from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Washington, DC had seemed so far, a similar six-hour drive from Tucson to San Diego, California, seemed somehow closer. My experience of moving west brought issues of space and place to the forefront of my awareness and interest.

Spatial and Visual Rhetorics Seminar
Enrolling in the Spatial and Visual Rhetorics seminar in my first semester at the University of Arizona, I had the chance to expand my knowledge of spatial rhetorics, building on my earlier experiences with visual rhetorics. Ultimately, the course allowed me to re-engage with the multi-genre research project I had been teaching in first-year composition at Elon University. For our culminating seminar project, the SVR2 event, I wanted to again share the multi-genre assignment I had grown so fond of and which I believed fit nicely with the rhetorical focus of the English 102 course at the University of Arizona. For the SVR2 event, I prepared a pedagogy-based presentation for teachers of the English 102 course, giving them ideas for how to incorporate visual rhetorics into their curriculum. My materials for the SVR2 event, including assignment sheets for teaching multi-genre, can be found online here. Below is an excerpt from the SVR2 event brochure that describes my presentation:

Are you looking for an innovative way to teach research and rhetoric in English 102? Look to multi-genre research (MGR) projects as a fresh alternative to the research paper or annotated bibliography. MGR projects require students to employ academic research methods, but the final product is a nontraditional combination of visually rich texts. Students become acutely aware of rhetorical situations and genre conventions, composing an argument that may result in poetry alongside an academic summary or a grocery list with an obituary. In this workshop, I will provide an overview of the assignment, share example student projects, and discuss ways you might implement this assignment for the Controversy Analysis and/or Public Argument assignments in English 102.

The SVR2 event gave me an opportunity to reflect on how the assignment might fit with new course goals and expectations in the University of Arizona's English 102 curriculum. At the event, I organized my presentation space as an informal circle of chairs welcoming participants to gather, listen, respond, and brainstorm teaching ideas. As I had experienced in past teacher presentations on multi-genre research, the participants were perplexed by the assignment until they began seeing sample student projects. Once teachers envisioned the possibilities of what students might produce, their imaginations and interests were piqued. I found the teaching sessions I led to be highly productive, as teachers collaboratively brainstormed the many ways they might employ multi-genre research methods in their own courses.

My project for the SVR2 event was still firmly grounded in visual rhetoric. However, the spatial rhetoric readings from our course initiated another moment of personal reflection on this assignment. Once again, I found myself re-engaging with the multi-genre assignment I had first written about three years ago in my seminar paper on cyborg student writers. Equipped with spatial theories I read in the seminar, I encountered the multi-genre project from a new perspective; I began to consider how to ground the work in space and place when I next taught the assignment.