Keeping Track of DMAC

Visualizing Influence Across Space and Time

Trey Conatser


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On the DMAC website we read that its goal is to suggest and encourage innovative rhetorically-based approaches to composing that students and faculty can use as they employ digital media in support of their own educational and professional goals, in light of the specific context at their home institutions and within their varied personal experiences (2014). But how do we understand those goals, contexts, and experiences? As is the case with many professional development workshops, seminars, and institutes in the humanities, our sense of who attends DMAC, why they attend DMAC, and what they do as a result of attending DMAC remains mostly anecdotal and fragmentary. In many ways this merely reflects the constraints of DMAC's operation. The directors, scholars, instructors, and other staff members take on DMAC as a labor of love on top of already heavy workloads. Moreover, the staff frequently rotates to ensure a consistently energetic and dynamic approach (new blood, as they say). Turnovers and time constraints, however, mean that record keeping and data collection typically follow ad hoc methods. They seek primarily to ensure the successful execution of that year's Institute with the resources at hand. Put simply, we don't know with much precision how or how far DMAC influences its participants and their home institutions.

an aerial view of small fields that looks like a patchwork quilt Nevertheless, those familiar with DMAC often describe its influence as capacious. In The Writing Instructor, for example, Christine Denecker and Christine Tulley (2014) remark that they are well aware of the far-reaching impact of DMAC and its predecessor CWIC not only on the field of composition studies but also, in particular, in the framing of professional development models which further multimodal composition efforts. At the risk of stating the obvious, these special issues of Computers and Composition also speak to DMAC's conscipucousness as a model for professional development. Looking at DMAC from as high an altitude as possible, I intervene at this point where perception champs at the bit of perspective. As Derek Mueller (2012) explains, distant reading models assume [that] different insights are available at non-standard (e.g., aerial) magnitudes of engagement, like looking at a field first from the ground and then from above. I present the following data and analysis with two goals. First, in the spirit of DMAC, I hope to do digital media composition in ways that self-consciously argue for the rigor and efficacy of multimodal approaches. Second, I want to use those approaches to propose a refined understanding of influence based on registration data and qualitative feedback.

I've chosen to focus on DMAC's participants from 2006 to 2014 (the first Institute held at Ohio State to the most recent at the time of this study) to work towards a clearer understanding of influence: especially in the context of DMAC, and generally in the context of technology-driven professional development in the humanities. In the following pages, I model data on DMAC participants in several ways, based on professional information collected annually in the process of DMAC registration and a 2014 survey sent to all DMAC participants regarding their reasons for attending and what they've done as a result of attending. As I show, professional development institutes like DMAC rely on a diverse ecosystem of individuals and institutions, each looking to use the institute not only as a resource for individual literacies but also as a model for technology-driven professional development and networking in participants' local contexts.

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