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The Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association


Writing centers as sites for play


Proposals must be submitted by: Friday, January 20, 2017

Decision Notification: Late February, 2017


Click Here to Submit MAWCA 2017 Conference Proposal
A Day at the Carnival
Writing Centers as Sites for Play

Long before companies like Google reinvented the workplace, melding the professionalism of an office and the playfulness of a college game room, writing centers were challenging the work/play binary. As long as thirty years ago, Daniel Lochman used the words “play” and “games” as metaphors for writing center pedagogies, likening writers to players in the academic game and encouraging tutors to play with language in unstructured ways, finding opportunities for exploration. Writing center scholars have continued to use play and games, both literally and figuratively, as a way to conceptualize writing center work. For example, Beth Boquet (Noise from the Writing Center 2002) uses improvisation as a central metaphor for tutoring, and Lisa Zimmerelli (“A Play about Play” 2008) advocates for learning games in tutor training courses.

As games like Pokemon Go and Minecraft become part of our collective consciousness, we have a kairotic moment in which to examine games in our own work.  As noted above, writing center professionals have long used games and play as a way of mentoring, motivating, and appealing to various stakeholders. In business discourse, gamification, the process of applying game terminology or logic to other contexts, seems to echo this move. Play becomes work and work becomes play. In this moment, writing center professionals might consider gamification as a lens to appreciate and interrogate play for its potential as metaphor and practice. At the same time, we might consider the material outcomes for the stakeholders involved in this play; we might wonder whom gamification benefits. Are we in the realm of Bakhtinian carnival in which gaming makes space for subversion? Or are the material realities of inequity simply elided or hidden by the discourse of gaming? After all, we are a field plagued by significant underpay and underemployment. Perhaps, then, there are reasons to resist gamification. Whether we choose to embrace or resist it, this is a time in which the concepts of games, gaming, play, and carnival are rich with controversy and possibility.

Then what do games, play, and creativity offer to research in writing center studies?

The MAWCA 2017 planning committee invites you to submit a proposal to present on April Fool’s Day 2017 in response to the following questions:

  • How do tutors and writers use and/or resist play in their centers?

  • How can playing games (physical or online) be used to enhance writing center work? What games are you using in your center? How can they be used to tackle challenging subjects? How can they be used to work with different constituencies such as basic writers, graduate writers, international student writers, ESL/multi-lingual writers? 

  • How does the language of gaming obscure/hide material or cultural workplace inequities?

  • In what ways has technology changed the academic game and how has that affected our work in writing centers?

  • What rules govern your center and how do those (in)visible restrictions manifest themselves in tutoring or administration? How do the rules for tutoring or administration constrain (positively or negatively) writing center work?

  • What about the physical characteristics of the writing center: How should we construct writing center spaces? Should they function like makerspaces? Be full of humor and playfulness? Strike a balance between working hard and playing hard? What does this look like?

  • What productive ways can professionals adopt a “trickster” mindset to infuse playfulness into academic/writing center labor issues?

Note: While the conference keynote and workshops will center on the theme, all submissions need not be narrowly tied to the conference theme. We do not expect to see the word “play” in the title of every proposal. Any scholarship on writing centers is welcome for review. However, we are interested in playfulness in the way you present and urge you to try out one of the alternatives to the standard panel presentation in the list below.

Session Formats

Sessions can be proposed in the following formats:

    • Ye Olde Panel: 3 or more individuals present original work on a common theme.

    • Individual Scholarly Presentation: Presenters share original work for 15 minutes each and will be grouped with 1-2 additional presenters.

    • Roundtable: Facilitators lead discussion of a specific issue related to writing center research; this format might include short remarks from between 2–4 presenters followed by active and substantive engagement/collaboration with attendees prompted by guiding questions.

    • Round Robin Discussion: Facilitators introduce a topic or theme and organize participants into smaller breakout groups to continue the conversation. In the spirit of “round robin” tournaments, participants will change groups after 10-15 minutes to extend and expand their conversations. After at least two rounds of conversation, facilitators will reconvene the full group for a concluding discussion.

    • Data Dash Presentations: Presenters share their work in a 20x10 format: twenty slides, ten minutes! This innovative alternative to the poster session provides a venue suited for brief, general-audience talks accompanied by visual props.

    • Works-in-Progress Workshop: Works-in-Progress (WiP) sessions will be composed of roundtable discussions where presenters briefly (10 minutes max) discuss their current research projects and then receive feedback from other researchers including discussion leaders, other WiP presenters, and other conference-goers who may join us. Note: WIP proposals should be submitted here.

    • Lab Time: Presenters can take advantage of having so many writing center professionals and tutors in one place, and draw on these human resources to help with data collection or analysis. Presenters could use lab time to refine an instrument, by piloting and receiving feedback on survey or interview questions on the type of writing center population you intend to study. You could use lab time for data collection–to distribute a survey or run a short focus group. You could use lab time for data analysis, by asking writing center colleagues to test the appropriateness or reliability of your coding. In your proposal, please describe what you want to do, how many and what kind of participants you need (Undergraduate tutors? Writing Center Administrators? etc.), and estimate how much time you would need to complete your task.  If seeking participants among MAWCA attendees for projects resulting in publication or public dissemination, you will need to have institutional IRB approval as well as Informed Consent documentation for them.

    • Carnival: Like a carnival, this session brings together the conference attendees for an hour of fun and games, literally! Presenters who engage this format will either A) showcase games they have used in their centers or B) create a game to share their writing center research. Presenters can choose to demonstrate the game or, hopefully, have participants play their games. Games can be physical or online. Presenters should create an artifact (e.g. a handout with the game rules, a tiny card with a QR code for a website, or a mini-game board that can be replicated) for participants to take back to their centers.

    • Special Interest Groups: Presenters should propose a meeting to facilitate dialogue for marginalized groups and/or issues related to writing centers (e.g. two year colleges, LGBTQIA, social justice).
    • Proposals must be submitted by: Friday, January 20, 2017
    • Decision Notification: Late February, 2017

MAWCA is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity. 
Mid-Atlantic Writing Centers Association

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