Category: My Teaching Life

My Teaching Life: S. Scott Graham

GrahamMember of ATTW since 2006

Occupation: Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Director of the Scientific and Medical Communications Laboratory

Institution: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


On my desk is a pile of books recently ordered from Amazon (Cult of the Modern Factish Gods, Cartographies of Time, Solving Problems in Technical Communication), a code book for a directed content analysis project (hot pink so no one steals it from the lab), and a pack of small screwdrivers (part of a failed attempt to repair my office Ethernet connection without waiting for Building Services).

Most dog-eared print reference

I dog-eared a textbook once in third grade. By the time my teacher was done with me, I was psychologically incapable of ever dog-earing again. Yet, somehow I’m still entirely willing to underline, highlight and scribble illegible notes all over margins and dust jackets. In any event, I’ve got a fairly large number of color tabs and bookmarks (including a fare card from a city I no longer live in) protruding from my copy of Haraway’s Modest Witness.

Most frequently referenced website

Besides Twitter and Reddit, my most reference website is probably either GoogleScholar or FDA.GOV.

Currently reading for pleasure

I’m currently reading Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood. Although, to be completely honest, that’s half work and half play.

Currently reading for scholarship or teaching

CultureoftheDiagramI just finished John Bender and Michael Marrinan’s The Culture of the Diagram. It’s a beautiful fusion of rhetorical theory, cultural studies, and art history for the study of technical visuals from 18th Century print media to contemporary 3D modeling. Super cool.

Favorite writing instrument/hardware

A desktop computer with ergonomic keyboard and widescreen or multiple monitor setup—I like being able to have enough real estate to draft at 120%+ magnification while having a slew of informative PDFs and websites open and visible at the same time. Before I went all digital with journal articles, I used to write with piles of sources arrayed in a semi-circle around my desk. Piles have become an essential part of the drafting process for me, even though now those piles are virtual piles on my computer desktop.

Most influential book of your teacher training

WritingNewMediaWysocki, Johnson-Eilola, Self, and Sirc’s Writing New Media and Sean Williams’ “Thinking Out of the Pro-Verbal Box” were pretty much my go-to-texts during my TA practicum. And they are still a major influence on my pedagogy today, primarily in my commitment to a comprehensive multi-modal communication education.

Favorite technical communication class to teach

I just finished teaching a new combined graduate/undergraduate course in social, political, and ethical issues in scientific and technical communication. It was a fantastic mix of visual rhetorics, science and technology policy, critical/cultural tech comm and alt-academic/ alt-industry job possibilities. My favorite class to date and I can’t wait to teach it again.

Best reason for teaching technical communication

My favorite part about my job is helping graduate students turn themselves into independent scholars. My dissertation advisor (Carl Herndl) was committed to providing opportunities for graduate students to participate in collaborative research projects with faculty, and I’m committed to paying that forward with my own students. That’s one of the reasons I started the Scientific and Medical Communications Laboratory at UWM. Sure it’s a great place for my own research, but it’s also part of an infrastructure for ongoing research assistantship funding designed to help as many graduate students as possible get firsthand experience with mixed-methods research and collaborative publication.

The next big thing…

Big data. Of course, I’m in no way the first person to suggest this. We’re already starting to see scholarly and pedagogical attention devoted to the effective and ethical use and representation of large datasets. Whether it’s climate modeling, GIS-integrated mobile apps, or the latest in NSA surveillance programs, big data is increasingly becoming an integral part of our communications landscape. My personal challenge is to start work on tech comm-native big data. We have an emerging opportunity to learn exciting new things about technical communication genres, for example—things that can only be learned from a systematic investigation of a million exemplars.