My Teaching Life: Meredith Zoetewey Johnson


By Kelli Cargile Cook


Member of ATTW since 1999   

Occupation: Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Rhetoric and Composition

Institution: University of South Florida, Tampa, FL

What’s on your desk right now?

HomeOfficeIf you mean that literally, my desk detritus includes blank thank you cards, two computers and an iPad, three partially drained water bottles, five ChapSticks (I have a problem), a receipt from Goodwill, dinosaur facts flash cards, and almost every commercial product you could conceivably use to clean eyeglasses. The room itself is akin to a child’s closet in spirit if not size; I shove stuff in there when I’m cleaning up the rest of the house. If you are refdeskcloseuperring to open projects–Pat Sullivan and W. Michele Simmons and I are working on a book project, Lean Technical Communication. “Lean technical communication” refers to a set of disruptive technologies and processes that comprise an efficient and visible model of technical communication program work. Our model is rooted both in sustainability broadly construed and also in flexibility to support rapid innovation without compromising long term resilience.

What does your work office look like?

My work office at work is retro Spartan. I inherited a chartreuse sixties tanker desk and a navy carpet from the University of South Florida and a 30 year old wingback. I’ve embraced the color scheme since there wasn’t much of an alternative.usfoffice2

What’s your most frequently referenced wlifehackerebsite? They have excellent job search and career management advice, and they also have tips for just about everything else. Want to know how to make your resume more scanable, MacGyver voice control for home electronics on the cheap with a Raspberry Pi, AND lower your grocery bill? That’s Lifehacker.

What’s the one tool or technology you couldn’t teach without?

Instant Messaging but not because I use it to communicate with my students. IM keeps me in daily contact with several of the best scholars/teachers I know. When I’m stuck, I can ping them to get unstuck. They have also kept me from re-inventing the wheel hundreds of times; invariably at least one of them has already developed a lesson that I’d otherwise have to develop from scratch.

GreenChairWhat is your favorite class?

I spent the summer working on a new graduate course with Carl Herndl and Lauren Cagle for USF’s Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS). PCGS fosters sustainability through interdisciplinary, international research, major priorities here at USF (Princeton Review recently named us to their “Green Rating Honor Roll.”) Our class, Communicating the Value of Sustainability, is a core course for PCGS’ newMaster of Arts in Global Sustainability. This course draws on research in rhetoric, environmental communication, and policy studies to provide 1) an understanding of the challenges and opportunities for communicating about sustainability; 2) a theoretical framework for analyzing communication challenges; and 3) practice at applying that knowledge to the production of written documents and digital artifacts. Carl and Cagle taught it for first time in Spring 2014, and they are doing a bang up job.

What book or article are you currently reading for your scholarship or teaching?latour

I’ve joked that it’s Bruno Latour Week here at USF because we’ve all got fresh copies of An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns, and the translation of Rejoicing: Or the Torments of Religious Speech just came out. But to be honest, it’s kind of always Latour Week around here.

Where is your favorite place to read or study?

chairMy favorite real place to “read” is in the car. I listen to audio books constantly. I used to hate driving, but now it’s a pleasure. My favorite imaginary place to read is in this Eames lounge chair I’ll probably never buy.

What’s the next big thing that technical communication teachers should know/be able to do?

“Big Data.” Developing the right analytical tools and lenses to extract meaningful information from extremely large, diverse datasets is just the beginning. There are also important questions about how to access it, who gets to access it, and how to preserve it sustainably. Technical Communication can help answer these questions. My co-chair Julie Staggers and I chose Shaping Data in Technical Communication: How do we shape data, and how does data shape us? as the theme for the 17th annual ATTW conference in March 2013.

If you weren’t a technical communicator, what would you be?

Probably a graphic designer. I’m drawn to design (as my imaginary chair suggests).

recycletechnologyIf we asked your students to describe you, what would they say?

I would hope my students tell others I approach class as an opportunity 1) to gain technological self-sufficiency—we’ll all be learning new technologies for the rest of our lives—and 2) to make the extremely negative impacts of technological waste, obsolescence, and overconsumption visible. No matter what they do at work over the course of the next 30 years (and really, who could know?), my students will be buying, using and discarding technology over and over again. (Recycling Technology image courtesy of Feelart /