Before I started graduate school in 1992 I was writing professionally about the contemporary visual arts and photography in particular. My undergraduate major was in English and I was a poet. When I started my graduate work, I was a single parent with two children who were just entering elementary school, and, frankly, I chose my graduate program at SUNY Albany, as much for affordability, fellowships, health insurance, and the low cost of living, as I did for anything about the program itself. I had some undeveloped idea about writing a dissertation that had some focus on photography and literature. By chance, really, I happened to land in a place where some of the faculty members in the English department were savvy about the emerging importance of digital technologies and they encouraged our cohort to investigate the possibilities. This turned out to have a tremendous impact on my academic and creative paths.
We started out by creating little poetry zines, formatted in ASCII and circulating them throughout the world via the Internet. In 1995, we transformed the graduate student literary magazine, into a multi-media journal. The Little Magazine Volume 21 was the one of the first literary magazines published on CD-ROM. While we were working on that project, which took nearly a year, the graphical web suddenly became widely available and we followed Volume 21 with with a web-based iteration, called Visual Behaviors/Digital Productions.
As I became more involved with digital technologies, and concerned, as a writer and an editor, with what their significance might be, I realized that I wanted to look at moments of inception, when writers first interacted with, thought about and wrote about new media. This curiosity became my dissertation, After Image: Writing in the Age of Photography, Film and Digital Media.
While I was still a graduate student I was hired full time as an instructional designer in the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETL) at Albany and later was hired as the Assistant Director there. When my youngest graduated from high school and went off to Boston to be an AmeriCorps volunteer, and then on to college, I decided, impulsively, to move to NYC and accepted a position as the Director of the Faculty Technology Resource Center at Long Island University. From there, I became the Director of the CETL at Queensborough CC, CUNY and a faculty member in the English department. After my youngest graduated from college, I felt the increasing urge and urgency, given my age (!) to have the kind of adventure that I couldn’t have in my twenties when I was raising two young children alone. This led me to leave New York to take a position as Assistant Professor in the department of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University in Cairo. There, I helped develop a relatively new department of rhetoric and composition and taught writing and rhetoric courses in which my students researched and wrote about contemporary issues in their surroundings, such as “Public Space” and “Cairo in Flux.” I also brought my interest in digital media to the writing classroom where students investigated and debated about digital culture in my course on writing arguments and, in an advanced project-based course on digital rhetoric we analyzed and enacted the rhetorical situation in digital environments. By chance, I also got to witness firsthand the uprising that derailed (some of the top rungs of) the 30-year authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak.
In my on-going work as a poet I write poems for traditional print media and also experiment with performative and stand alone pieces that included video and flash animations. In these works, I don’t want words to narrate images, or images to illustrate the text. Rather, I’m going for a third text that demonstrates dialogue or tensions between ideas and concepts in language and pictures. One of the pieces I made while in Cairo was part of a multi-channel video installation called Windows, coordinated by artist, Aras Ozgun, and installed in an open-air rooftop gallery with the city of Cairo as its backdrop. That piece can be viewed here. My last book of poems Building Codes, published by Stockport Flats Press (2009), is organized in four sections: Plans, Structures, Dwellers and Occupation, each of which investigates some aspects of the relationship between information and space.
My creative and professional life has been oddly tangled with and informed by the digital revolution over the last 20 years—but not because I ever have had any particular interest in technology, for it’s own sake. It has always just seemed to me that the nature of my work, as a teacher, a writer and faculty development professional, is to attend to and respond to the changing world in which I live.