Make: Code as Digital Writing in an Analog Environment

Reading through most of the proposals so far, I know there’s a lot of interest (which I share) in how the kinds of writing and composing we do can be reimagined or enhanced by the affordances of a digital space. I want to propose something a little different, and in some ways opposite.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately writing code in the R statistical environment, generating textual analyses of research writing in Composition/Rhetoric. Much of that time has been spent “alone,” solitarily composing and debugging or reading articles and manuals and help fora online. But Comp/Rhet research suggests that this kind of isolation isn’t ideal for most composers, at least those who are working to learn their craft.

In this session, I’d like to get a bunch of similarly minded humanist coders to work together in a shared physical space. Even if we’re working in different languages — R, Javascript, html, Python, what-have-you (even English)– I want to create a kind of writing lab in which the focus and energy of those surrounding us lends each participant additional motivation and support. And as questions of algorithm and procedure arise, we could pose them and thus learn new strategies both by instruction and also by contrast. (Though Joel Spolsky┬ámakes an interesting point about losing “flow” due to interruptions, he’s writing about expert coders in professional programming settings; I don’t think any of us at this conference are likely to be that, though I could be wrong.)

Categories: Session Proposals, Session: Make | Tags: |

About benmiller314

I'm ABD towards a PhD in English at the CUNY Grad Center, where my dissertation research involves visualizing metadata from 3,000+ recent PhD theses in Composition/Rhetoric/Writing Studies, with the goal of discovering the extent to which the discipline coheres around shared methodology, terminology, or objects of study. I've worked with faculty in biology and theatre as a consultant in Writing Across the Curriculum, and taught writing at Hunter College and Columbia University. In addition to the dissertation, I'm currently developing the Writing Studies Tree (, a Drupal-7-based crowdsourced database for recording and visualizing mentorship relationships (academic genealogy) in Writing Studies, and I'm one of two lead editors on the upcoming issue of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy ( At THATcamp, I'm especially interested in learning from you all about data visualization, data sharing via APIs, and shared editorial workflow management. I'm happy to help you with Wikidot, Zotero, and all manner of writing pedagogy (since writing, too, is a technology...).