loncharich graphic essay cover image

CIWIC Through the Pines: Workshop Memories and Long-Term Professional Development

Les Loncharich

Introduction Video

[Les:] Hi, my name is Les Loncharich. I’m an assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, where I teach professional and technical writing. I’m also the author of a piece titled “CIWIC Through the Pines: Workshop Memories and Professional Development,” uh, that will be published on the DMAC site, I believe, very soon. What I want to do in this short video is just talk a little bit about the piece and say thanks to Cindy Selfe for a wonderful workshop experience.

The piece, um, started off as an infographic. Uh, it was inspired by my colleague and fellow participant’s experience with encountering bears in the dumpster. For some reason, I hang on to that memory. Uh, and in the piece I suggest that memories are useful in much the same ways that artifacts and tools are useful to us. Memories are malleable, and, uh, can be adjusted, uh, for occasion and over time to contribute to, in this instance, my advancement and growth in a profession.

Um, I created the piece, um, pretty much entirely in Illustrator, uh, with a little bit of Photoshop, and um, many of the images I drew from memory. Um, I prefer to do that than to rely on borrowed images. Um, I think the piece is modestly successful at not being entirely illustrative, and, were I do it again, do it differently, um, I think I could produce it much more expeditiously, being more successful in the visual realm.

The sort of theoretical musings came about, uh, after the infographic, if you will, and that may account for some of the disconnect between them. Um, it also accounts a little bit for why that is such a wordy section. Um, it’s something that’s just kind of difficult to accommodate in theory. Theory, or really, some theories or abstractions seem to exist almost entirely alphabetically.

Um, but, um, again, I was very happy to do this work, uh, both for this publication and for this occasion. Uh, CIWIC, uh, launched me on my path in academia, uh, had a profound impact on me. Um, and Dr. Cynthia Selfe is, remains one of the nicest, smartest people I’ve ever met. So, thank you Cindy, for paying attention, and thanks for this opportunity to publish and create this piece.

Title Page

The tops of pine trees foreground a bright blue sky on which the title appears in white lettering: “CIWIC Through the Pines: Workshop Memories and Long Term Professional Development.” In the bottom-right corner reads the authorial attribution: “Les Loncharich, PhD, Georgia Southern University.”

Page One

A solid yellow header with brown lettering reads “Introduction.” A vertical text panel on the left side of the page reads:

In 2005, I attended the Computers in Writing Intensive Classrooms workshop (CIWIC) in Houghton, Michigan.

During that two-week workshop I took early and important steps towards a professional life in academia. CIWIC therefore is part of my growth in the profession.

I met many wonderful people at CIWIC whom I recall fondly, but recollections of artifacts that were part of my CIWIC experience seem to be particularly useful as I develop professionally.

In this reflection on CIWIC, I theorize a little bit about memory and internal change. I wonder about the connection between the memory transformative nature of learning events such as CIWIC, the Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC), and the Writing New Media (WMN) workshop that I attended with Anne Wysocki.

I show, in this reflection, some instances of artifacts informing my professional development, and I conclude with a guide, derived from an object-based memory, about dealing with obstacles to growth in the profession.

A panel on the right side of the panel shows a cartoon representation of the author, with four thought bubbles in which appear the pines, a railroad spike, a Hawaiian shirt, and a dumpster. Below this image appears a text box with a circular detail of the pines from the title page:

The title for this piece originates in the location of CIWIC—Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

As I discuss later, I arrived at CIWIC by driving through the pines. Similarly, I access memories of CIWIC, and the value they hold for professional development, by going through the pines. Remembrances of CIWIC have become for me a place in memory, in which I can find useful ways of looking at professional problems.

Page Two

A banner at the top of the page shows a detail of a pencil with the text “How I Learn With Stuff.” A vertical panel on the left side contains three instances of a silhouetted figure representing the author next to a circle representing the world. In the first instance, an arrow points from the author to the world and text reads “I make marks upon the external world.” In the second instance, a miniature copy of the world appears inside the figure’s head, an arrow pointing from the world back to the figure has been added, and text reads “Recursively, the world changes me internally.” In the third instance, a pencil (labelled “tool”) appears between the arrows and text reads “I act in the world to accomplish goals, and actions are often mediated by tools (artifacts).” On the right side, a text panel reads:

Since my memories of CIWIC are about things that I associate with that workshop I am, in a sense, developing and learning in the profession by engaging with artifacts. Activity Theory is much concerned with how people transform internally by engaging with the material, external world.

What people do in life, the acts performed to meet goals and objectives, and to transform internally through learning, requires interaction with the external world. A basic tenet of Activity Theory is the idea “that humans can control their own behavior—not ‘from the inside,’ on the basis of biological urges, but ‘from the outside,’ using and creating artifacts” (Engstrom 29).

Artifacts—tools—mediate our actions in the external world. It seems to my memories of artifacts related to CIWIC mediate internal transformation, similar to the way that artifacts in the material world and in physical life mediate learning in an Action Sequence.

Below the text panel appears a triangular diagram in which each point is a figure from the panel to the left: the silhouette of the author with the world in his head, the world, and the pencil. Arrows pointing in both directions appear on each side of the triangle, and text reads:

An Action Sequence depicts a dynamic process in which the Subject (me), Object (world), and Mediating Artifact are reciprocally affective.

Tools as well as Subjects and Objects are altered in this sequence.

Page Three

A banner at the top of the page shows a detail of a pencil with the text “How I Learn With Stuff.” The top third of the page is a text panel that reads:

One reason I find the notion that memories of artifacts can mediate as artifacts in an Action Sequence interesting is because it suggests that memories are usefully malleable. Each time that a memory is recalled in a sequence where internal transformation occurs, the memory is affected and modified.

A subsequent recollection would bring up an altered memory, and each time a memory is used as a tool, in a chain of numerous useful alterations, a memory may become useful to learning in a different way.

Tools, and our relationship with them change through familiarity. Why would memories not change through useful mediation?

The middle third of the page contains two panels side-by-side. In the first panel, we see the author from above, writing “Hello World” with a pencil onto the circle that represents the world. The circle, in turn, has extended a limb with its own pencil reaching into the figure’s mind. This panel reads: “While the world and I are busy making marks on each other…” and the text continues in the next panel, which shows the pines landscape from the title page and completes the sentence: “…I remember, and that too affects learning and development. As Michel de Certeau describes it, “Memory comes from somewhere else, it is outside of itself, it moves things about” (87).” A transparent limb emerges from the pines and reaches over into the panel to the left, pointing directly at the point of contact between the world writing and the figure’s mind. A text panel occupies the bottom third of the page:

There is an obstacle to inserting a Memory into an Action Sequence and expecting it to perform exactly as a Tool. Memories are not material and they do not occupy an external space. Memories may originate in interaction with material artifacts, but memories, as far as I know, cannot be explicitly and overtly created and altered, as can tool that exist external to us.

Memories lack the external materiality that Activity Theory posits as essential to interior transformation, and recollections of making and using artifacts are anemic replacements for actual acts of material manipulation.

Nevertheless, my memories of CIWIC play a meditative role in my professional development. I learn from memories, and as I grow professionally, the learned lessons are more complex, and useful in new ways.

Page Four

A banner at the top of the page contains a blue arm pointing to the text “How I Learn With Memories.” The top of the page contains a text panel:

At this point, memories are useful in professional development but mutable, they seem to mediate learning, but they lack the materiality of tools and artifacts. De Certeau provides an apt summary that applies to my CIWIC memories: “the mobility of this memory in which details are never what they are; they are not objects, for they are elusive as such; not fragments, for they yield the ensemble they forget; not totalities, since they are not self-sufficient; not stable, since each recall alters them” (88).

The middle of page contains to panels side-by-side. The left panel contains a detail from the pine landscape of the title page with the text “Through the Pines.” The top of the panel contains the text:

As topos memories of the CIWIC experience provide contextual perspectives that, in a sense, mediate learning.

Following the workshop CIWIC became a place in memory that continues to provide perspectives and influence my growth as a professional.

The next panel contains the text:

If memories of CIWIC are not tools, as that terms applies to Activity Theory, how does the remembrance of CIWIC artifacts contribute to long-term progress in the profession?

An answer might be found in Carolyn Miller’s take on topoi: “The topos is a conceptual space without fully specified or specifiable contents; it is a region of productive uncertainty. It is a problem space but rather than circumscribing or delimiting the problem, rather than being a closed space of container within which one searches, it is a space, or a located perspective, from which one searches” (141).

The bottom panel contains the text: “In the following pages I look at memories of (3) artifacts from CIWIC, and their impact on my professional development.” The panel contains three images: the Hawaiian shirt, the railroad spike, and the dumpster, at which three transparent arms point from the panel above containing the detail from the title page.

Page Five

A banner at the top of the page reads “Artifacts and Development.” The page is divided into four panels, one for each quadrant. The top-left panel shows a blue background with a chalk board on which “PAY ATTENTION” has been written. In front of the chalk board is an orange, floral-print Hawaiian shirt. Text at the top of the panel reads:

Dr. Cynthia Selfe wore Hawaiian shorts almost every day at CIWIC, and did so with an unconcerned flair.

The top-right panel shows a red background with a full gray suit standing as if it were being worn. Text in this panel reads:

Style in academia is one part of the problem of identity in professional development. Style for me is an ongoing negotiation. Before academia I wore a suit to work. I probably looked like all of the sins of the Western world.

The bottom-left panel contains the text:

I look to Cindy Selfe’s bold, visual statement and I wonder, what is my Hawaiian short?

What is the action or artifact that distinguishes me, in concert with my research and my service, as a professional and as a person? My CIWIC memory of Hawaiian shorts provides a perspective from which to consider my style as a component of professional development.

Style is rhetorical and associative, and necessary beyond the obvious maxim about being oneself. Personal style is also a leadership function. My remembrances of leaders in the field, like Cindy, and those I look to as guides in the profession, such as Danielle Devoss and Bill Hart-Davidson, are bound up with lessons learned, the things those people do in work and life, and the unique visual persona that each person projects. My style might simply develop organically, and not require direction, but it deserves reflection.

The bottom-right panel is divided into three smaller panels, each of which contains one object. The first is an orange cat, with the text: “Am I distinguished by…devoted pets?” The second is a cigar, with the text: “occasional cigar?” The third is a pencil, with the text: “”drawing in a digital world?”

Page Six

The page contains four panels, each corresponding to one quadrant. The top-left panel is an image of a giant, gold railroad spike set in a snowy landscape in which a small line of trees recedes to a cabin in the distance. The top-right panel contains the text:

The railroad spike was my introduction to the value of understanding the position from which I write, broadly defined. Perhaps because of the railroad spike and associated narratives of the UP [Michigan’s Upper Peninsula], while I was at CIWIC I thought often about where I was raised and about my people, and those thoughts also contributed to my workshop projects. The railroad spike is now part of my CIWIC topos.

To reflect honestly on what shapes my work, and what I bring to the practices of composition requires identifying the “railroad spikes” that inform me about my people and my places. The payoff for that reflection is a stronger, more clear base from which to articulate, and a creative process more rich in possibility.

I feel that my long term development in the profession, especially as a scholar, requires a similar reflection, and an awareness of the internal and historical forces that inform my choices and actions.

The bottom-left panel contains the text:

At CIWIC I was given a railroad spike, which for some reason was painted gold. Basically a big nail that secures rails to railroad ties, railroad spikes are common around the railroad tracks in Houghton. Cindy Selfe talked about the spikes and their relevance to place and people.

The railroad system in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was used to haul lumber, iron, copper, and coal. Mining has a long history in the UP, and especially in Houghton. Cindy situated mining as an activity of native people in the Upper Peninsula long before the arrival of Europeans. She described the hazardous life of the people who worked the mines, and some of the consequences or mining: accidents and death, labor strife and pollution.

The railroad spike pinned me to a local history, and made me a bit more than a visitor to Houghton.

The bottom-right panel shows an image of the same gold railroad spike emerging from the pine tree line from the cover image, and on top of the spike is the silhouette of a person sitting at a desk.

Page Seven

The top half of the page shows an image of the outline of a person standing with hands raised as if telling a story dramatically, to several people sitting down in the background. The text in this image reads: “One day at CIWIC, a participant shared a harrowing tale. The bottom half of the page is divided into two panels. The bottom-left panel shows the outline of a person carrying a bag to a dumpster as the sun rises. Text reads: “That morning, before the workshop, the CIWICer walked to a dumpster to dispose of some trash.” The bottom-right panel shows the dumpster from a closer view, and a bear emerges from inside. Text reads: “She lifted the lid, tossed in the bag, and disturbed a bear !!!

Page Eight

The page is divided into two panels. The top panel shows three bears at various distances and contains the text:

There were several bears, actually, hanging out and doing their bear things. The CIWIC participant handled the situation with aplomb and escaped without harm.

I live in a rural area of southern Georgia, and I carry my trash to a dumpster. Each time I raise the lid, I have a moment of anticipation.

The bottom panel shows the dumpster against a black background with yellow stripes radiating outwards from behind the dumpster as if part of a circle with alternating black and yellow slices. Text reads:

I am further informed by the bear story. From my recollection of the adventure with bears, I have come to regard all things strange and disturbing in my professional life as Academic Bears.

Page Nine

The page contains two columns. The right column contains a single panel showing a jack-in-the-box, out of which pops a bear. Text reads:

Academic Bears pop up…

and because they are surprising, and sometimes negative twists on the ordinary, Academic Bears can affect health, work, and careers.

The left column contains three panels. The top-left panel contains text:

Academic Bears are persons, or situations that far exceed the expected, and that can impair professional development.

Graduate school cannot prepare us entirely for what can be encountered in the profession. That is why supplemental experiences, like CIWIC, are important to shaping a professional career, and helping attendees thrive in it.

The mid-left panel shows a UFO beaming up the small silhouette of a person, along with the text:

If you can’t believe what just happened, if you feel threatened, and you are at a loss for words and action, you may have encountered an Academic Bear.

The bottom-left panel shows the dumpster with the bear in it, in front of which stands a person whose body language suggests confidence and calmness. Text reads:

What to do in an encounter with a Bear of Academia? I can look to my memories of CIWIC, and to the successful encounter at the dumpster for A Guide To Academic Bear Encounters.

Page Ten

A banner at the top of the page contains part of a growling bear’s face along with the text “Academic Bear Encounters: A Guide.” The page is divided into four panels corresponding to the page’s quadrants. Each panel shows the same basic image: The silhouette of a trunk and branch of a tree against an orange background. The images are numbered from one to four in the top-left corner, and they all contain large capitalized lettering in the center. The top-left panel reads “BE SAFE” and shows a person hanging from the branch, under which a bear sits. Text reads:

An Academic Bear it a crisis, and it is easy to forget in such moments that being well is the first priority.

The top-right panel reads “ALERT OTHERS” and shows the person sitting atop the branch with a megaphone as the bear still sits underneath the branch. Text reads:

It helps to talk about unusual events; it may help others to hear about professional crises.

The bottom-left panel reads “FINISH” and shows the person sitting atop the branch throwing a bag of trash into a dumpster, which stands where the bear had been in the previous panels. Text reads:

Once panel one is satisfied finish the work at hand. Complete the thought, finish the sentence. Toss the trash. When moving past a bear, keep moving.

The bottom-right panel reads “PRESS ON” and shows both person sitting and bear standing on chairs under the branch. Text reads:

After her bear encounter, the participant went to the CIWIC workshop, and shared her adventure with the group. Continued professional growth seems to require pressing on, regardless.

Page Eleven

A banner at the top of the page reads “Works Cited.” The list is as follows:

De Certeau, Michael. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. Print.

Engeström, Yrjö. “Activity Theory and Individual and Social Transformation.” Perspectives on Activity Theory. Eds. Yrjö Engeström, Reijo Miettinen, and Raija-Leena Punamäk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. 19-38. Print.

Miller, Carolyn R. “The Aristotelian Topos: Hunting for Novelty.” Rereading Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Eds. Alan Gross and Arthur Walzer. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. 130-146. Print.

At the bottom of the page we see the author waving goodbye as he rides atop a bear.


les loncharich head shotLes Loncharich is an Assistant Professor at Georgia Southern University where he teaches professional and technical writing. His research involves visual composition, professional identity and development, and the arrangement of everyday artifacts as writing. Les draws, takes photographs, and walks around looking at things. An alumn of the final CIWIC workshop in 2005, Les considers the two-week learning experience much like a sojourn in paradise, if paradise has black flies.

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