This Page Does Not Exist

Fall 2005, Elon University, College Writing

I taught multi-genre research for the first time when I began a full-time lectureship at Elon University in Fall 2005. At the request of Elon's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) in Fall 2006, I reflected on this assignment and shared materials online, which used to be found at a CATL gallery site. However, the gallery I created in 2006 no longer exists; now, users are brought to the home page of CATL instead. In what seems to be a recent website redesign for the university, the gallery site, my gallery site, has been moved or taken down. This has likely resulted from the fact that I am no longer employed by Elon; CATL now showcases more up-to-date galleries of faculty teaching projects: names and faces that crossed my path and others that are unfamiliar, unknown.

When I began drafting this webtext, the gallery with my assignment was still an active page on Elon's website. During the process of drafting and revising, in the timeline of moving towards publication, the site was taken down. In fact, for a time during my drafting, the link to my gallery site produced a 404 error message, reading "this page does not exist." My first response was surprise and frustration. This gallery was part of my journey, something I wanted to document in my path. While the content and ideas are still mine, at least in Microsoft-Word-documented-plain-text, the HTML pages and control of the virtual space that used to house them are not. I had felt ownership of the virtual space that was never really mine to own. I was made to feel that a chapter (or a page) out of the book of my life had been taken away from me, erased, inaccessible. This page does not exist. Did it ever exist?

In this case, as an accelerating technology, the Web eclipsed my journey in the ways Paul Virilio (1997) argued in Open Sky, collapsing the time and space of my path, resulting in the loss of the path. And yet the journey still exists; this page does exist. From the archives of my computer, I revived the Word documents with the content of my gallery submission. Reformatted and reconstructed excerpts from the teaching reflection that used to be housed in an online gallery through Elon's website can now be found within the pages of this webtext. Though the Internet can collapse time and space, accelerate, and make the journey needless in some cases, it can also provide a forum in which to re-construct one's journey, perhaps in a new light.

As I reflect back on this moment of my journey, I believe teaching the multi-genre assignment that I first researched for my seminar paper in post-human rhetoric gave me the opportunity to test my arguments and to gather student feedback. I was able to witness students’ excitement with the process of conducting research and to help them apply their rhetorical skills to engage the assignment’s nontraditional form. In the three years I taught at Elon University, I became an avid proponent of the multi-genre assignment and of pedagogies that challenge essayist models of literacy. I began sharing the assignment and its success with colleagues, and I gave a presentation on the project at the 2007 Conference on College Composition and Communication.

When I consider how these experiences helped shape my journey toward finding place, I am reminded of the link between materiality and place and how many of my students’ projects were rooted in a strong connection to place. For example, one student conducted research on the history of her family’s winery, another student on the reactions of persons in her hometown to different preparations of North Carolina pork barbeque, and yet another on conflict-free diamonds. Each of these projects, like many other student projects, was strongly rooted in a particular place and the community, history, and culture surrounding that place. Since first teaching the multi-genre assignment, I have increasingly worked to have students root their work in a particular place.