Perhaps too many conferences? But external deadlines are nice

I submitted proposals, either jointly or on my own, to present at five conferences next spring and summer. So far, four of the five have been accepted, and I have not yet heard on the fifth, but I’m almost dreading it will be accepted, too. I posted about RSA 2016 and CCCC 2016 before. The new acceptances are from the Legal Writing Institute conference in Portland in July and the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in Seattle in March–the abstracts for those presentations appear below.

There are pros and cons of having so many conferences on the horizon. One the one hand, it’s a lot of time prepping for conference presentations that I could use prepping items for publication. On the other hand, having external deadlines on presentations related to publication topics forces me to get that writing done so I can be prepared to speak. On the one hand, it’s a lot of time out of the office and traveling to more or less expensive places. On the other hand, the meetings are scheduled so that I generally won’t miss teaching classes, and I’m fortunate to have some start-up and foundation funding to cover travel costs. On that first hand again, the presentations I proposed related to three different research projects, which creates some risk that I’ll be running around trying to do everything but doing nothing well. On that other hand again, with the high expectations for publication at Georgia Tech, having those external deadlines is probably the only way I’ll get all three projects advancing to publication, and the conferences are at least reasonably spread out to permit me to focus.

All in all, I guess I should just be grateful that I’ve figured out how to write the conference proposal genre well and that I get a chance to talk about my projects with other scholars as I prepare them for publication!

Here are the two recently accepted abstracts:

Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference

Seattle, March 2016

“Star-Spangled: The Flag as Tool of Protest and Nationalism”
(with Dr. Genelle Belmas at University of Kansas)

The American flag is an important rhetorical resource for U.S. citizens performing civic identity and is at the center of legal battles to protect it from debasement. The debate is frequently renewed, most recently by protesters standing on the flag to protest police violence against African Americans. The flag-protection policy most commonly proposed is a constitutional amendment that would stand as a unique exception to the First Amendment’s protection of free expression. Explorations of the flag in the humanities and social sciences have focused on big theory: the flag as an excuse for moral panic or as totemic emblem of a civic religion. Little attention has been given to the construction of the flag in the daily lives of citizens, how it is changing, and its implications for flag-protection policy.

This project focuses on the linguistic and visual construction of the flag as a symbol and a rhetorical resource and the implications of that construction for the public debate about protecting the flag. It demonstrates rich interplay between fields within the humanities as diverse as rhetoric, law, and corpus linguistics. It adapts theory and systematic methods from corpus linguistics to rhetorical analysis and then applies corpus theory to analysis of visual rhetoric, an entirely novel approach. Finally, it combines the findings of the foregoing with legal analysis to assess present and future policy landscapes. If the flag-protection amendment proves to be neither necessary nor sufficient to protect the flag from debasement, perhaps its self-appointed protectors can pursue less coercive measures.

Legal Writing Institute biennial national conference

Portland, OR, July 2016

“Qualitative empirical research in legal writing: The example of exemplary reasoning”
(this is a 75-minute interactive program, about which I’m very excited)

The “everyday” writing of lawyers deserves empirical study, the results of which can inform legal theory and writing pedagogy. But most legal writing professors are not trained to perform empirical research. The goal of this interactive presentation is to show an example of a qualitative empirical study design, with attention to the challenges of formulating a research question, creating a coding guide, attending to concerns of inter-rater (or inter-coder) reliability, and addressing matters of statistical significance. The theoretical ground for this study is exemplary reasoning (also called reasoning by analogy and case-based reasoning), a central and deeply rhetorical function in legal theory. The empirical investigation explores how a lawyer in practice may analogize a case she cites to the case at bar—or fail to do so—by examining a random sample of hundreds of filed persuasive memoranda. Working in small groups, audience members will “track” the study design, building their own research questions, discussing how to code actual text excerpts qualitatively, and attempting to use a previously designed coding guide. The presenter will also outline the findings of the study and provide a bibliography and other tools for participants to use in their own research.

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