Recovered Writing: The Project So Far

This is the twenty-fifth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is a post written in the present about my Recovered Writing project after twenty-four posts. Normal Recovered Writing posts will resume on Wednesday.

In this first phase of my Recovered Writing project, which I began with this post and collected all of the posts on this page, I focused on writing from my years as an undergraduate and masters student. I published 24 posts, of which 16 are undergraduate writing and 8 are masters writing. I did not publish them in any particular order, because it took time to find some files and properly attribute them to specific classes and dates. I wanted to move ahead with the project without imposing an order up front. With that said, I did try to balance the interestingness of the posts instead of posting what I thought were the very best or most likely read essays all at the very beginning of the project.

As I have been finding, formatting, and posting my writing for the Recovered Writing project, I have been struck by how much of the writing seems completely foreign to me. For some of the writing, even some of the writing that I feel is very important to my personal development, I feel only the faintest recall of having written it. For other essays, I have no memory of having written those words. The writing in all cases seem familiar to me as indicative of my continuously evolving style, but the ideas, arguments, and research in many cases are forgotten in the depths of my memory. I need to do more reading about memory and the brain to determine if I should or should not be worried about this. Nevertheless, it is fascinating and somewhat alarming to me that so much writing that I would have spent a considerable amount of time writing have lost the thread of connection to my memory.

Since I began the Recovered Writing project, I have noticed that my daily readership has increased slightly with occasional spikes. However, the spikes were always regarding older writing (like my “On Deep-throat in Aliens vs. Predator: Requium post,” various tech posts such as this one about installing Linux on MacBook Pro retina, and Lego posts such as this one on the vintage Launch Command set). The Recovered Writing posts have not led any readers to engage with me directly, but it is my hope that readers are taking away something from the posts or citing my words in their own research. As Google indexes my writing, perhaps it will lead to more readers finding their way to my words.

The biggest questions that I had about the Recovered Writing project are unanswerable: What effect would publicly posting this writing on my blog or elsewhere have had on my academic and professional development had I done this in real time? Would I have received and responded to feedback by readers of my writing, and what effect might this engaged interaction have had on my thinking, research foci, and professionalization?

In today’s more open world of public or semi-public writing, I think that sharing writing is an essential and necessary part of one’s development. Instead of simply working in one’s monk’s cell and occasionally venturing out to lecture about your thinking, writing, sharing, talking (in its many forms), interacting, collaborating, remixing, transforming, and all-around escaping the cell to be a contributing part of a social world is an essential part of professional practice and development.

Of course, not everyone thinks this way, but I believe that the trend is in that direction and finding ways to make interaction fulfill your research and pedagogical interests while energizing those of others without also unnecessarily distracting us from our work should be something we all aspire to do. For many kinds of writing, research, and pedagogy, we should be lowering barriers to sharing our research, evaluating different kinds of writing on their arguments/evidence despite where they appear, and working better together online. We are the street and we should be finding our own use for these tools, words, and ideas.

In the next phase of my Recovered Writing project, I will continue posting some undergraduate writing that remains in my personal archive while transitioning to conference presentations and PhD writing. After I complete posting these things, I will begin connecting the dots chronologically and thematically. I will build these lists on the Recovered Writing project main page. I want to complete all posting before doing this.

Another element of this phase of the project will be to perform textual analysis over my writing. I am interested in the way my writing and research have changed over time, and I believe that visually exploring these things will help me reflect on my writing over the past and improve my writing for the future.

I want to encourage others to perform their own Recovered Writing projects. A Recovered Writing project can be small or large. It can focus on everything or trends. It can be whatever you want to make it, but it should recover your writing and communications from the prison of our personal digital archives. Let your writing, ideas, and arguments see the light of LCD screens and the eyes of readers who you otherwise never would have had, met, or interacted.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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2 comments on “Recovered Writing: The Project So Far
  1. What a great project! Most of what *I* wrote as an undergrad I’d never want to put online though :-)

  2. Hey James,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I wish that I could say that all of my past writing was great, but it wasn’t. Nevertheless, all of these clawing efforts at climbing the academic ladder contributed in different ways to who I am now and each exertion putting me one rung higher might help someone else with their own efforts (e.g., new leads, a quote to engage, an argument to trash). It is a scary prospect to publish these things in public, but it is a process that gets easier with each press of the “Publish” button.

    Best, Jason

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Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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