As May rolls around, most people get psyched about plans for the beach. I get psyched about planning my summer schedule. I know, it’s strange. But summer always seems to be an enlightening time for me.
- Summer 2005 I moved to Atlanta and enrolled in an IT program at a small state university, fully intending on transferring into Ga Tech’s Computer Science program after I had gotten my core classes out of the way.
- Summer 2006 I declared a double major in IT and English.
- Summer 2009 I came to Georgia State and realized in an Electronic Writing and Editing May-mester course that “digital rhetoric” was that thing I was trying to patch together for myself during undergrad. I didn’t realize it actually had a name.
- Summer 2010 I took classes in the Nutrition Dept rather than classes in the English Dept. And I flirted with the idea of getting a certificate in Nutrition. (We all take detours on the road to discovery, I suppose.)
- Summer 2011, while I was still recovering from thesis trauma, I took a Writing Program Administration class and realized I was much better suited for the Tech/Comm side of the English Dept. I also became keenly aware of the how interdisciplinary the successful rhetoric/english programs were becoming.
This timeline is a little odd, I know. The reaction I get from most people when I tell them this is pretty standard: “Wait… What? You moved from IT to English? Well…. that’s um… interesting.” I get it. It’s strange. But I’ve never really done things the “traditional” way.
I started off my undergrad in IT and after a few semesters, I realized I wasn’t entirely happy what I was doing. It was too technical, too impersonal… So I doubled as an English major. The English department director looked at me like I had sprouted antlers when I told him my plans. “I think you’re the first person in the university to ever ask to do that,” he chuckled.
Long story short, I ended up dropping IT and stuck with English. And now, 6 years later, I know why…I love communication. I love the user experience. And although there are many, many computer science and IT programs that focus on user-centered design, I didn’t get that from those initial IT courses.
They were about creating products and I was interested in created experiences.
So I’m now the crazy Usability/HCI person sitting in a Rhetoric/Composition PhD program. I’m interested in how we use interfaces to communicate, how we use them to teach and learn.
Donald Norman’s foundational book on interaction design and usability, The Design of Everyday Things (1988) focuses on everyday objects–doors, light switches, handles, and buttons. Almost 25 years later, “everyday things” aren’t quite so straight forward or simple. We carry them around with us in our pockets, purses, and backpacks. They’re our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and Mp3 players. And if you’re like… if you’re awake, you’re using one of them. All. The. Time.
So, my point: After 6 years, I’m picking up programming again. Except this time, instead of C# (and arguably the most painful experience of my life, other than the time I rode a 4-wheeler off the side of a mountain and totaled it) I’m tackling Ruby. Ruby on Rails, to be more specific.
I’ll go more into the “what” and the “why” in a later post, but end goal (or milestone for the end of the summer, rather) is to build a simple peer review web application for a writing classroom. I’ll go into a little more detail about that later, too, but my idea is that app will be based on a merit system that allows students to rate and rank each other’s posts.
I’m actually more than just a little geeked out about this. I’m looking forward to adding “Learned to develop using Ruby on Rails” to that annual Summer time line.