Department of English
Ben McCorkle is Associate Professor of English, teaching courses in composition, rhetoric, and digital media studies. He is the author of the book Rhetorical Delivery as Technological Discourse: A Cross-Historical Study, as well as several articles in publications including Computers and Composition Online, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Composition Studies. Currently, he serves as Co-Director of the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives.
Q & A
What makes more livable futures for you?
I think it involves creating the kind of spaces, connections, and underlying ethics that lead to more responsible relationships with one another, our environment, and our technologies. To that last point, I belong to a discipline that rightly critiques the kind of wide-eyed, evangelistic rhetorics that often emerge surrounding new technologies—they’ll revolutionize democratic societies, they’ll instantly remediate climate change, they’ll become a panacea for all of our ills. I worry, though, that those critiques risk squelching any enthusiasm those of us in the arts and humanities have for technology, ultimately leading to our diminished role in helping develop the technological future. I still remember from my youth the potential of creative play that came with exploring the possibilities of the personal computer, and I think it’s essential we don’t lose sight of that. A livable future, for me, is one where as many of us as possible have a voice in how we shape the world around us; we’ll also hopefully develop the good sense to quiet down and let the world shape us when and where it is needed.
What are you reading, viewing, listening to right now?
Amber Case, Calm Technology: Designing for Billions of Devices and the Internet of Things; Jaron Lanier, You Are not a Gadget: A Manifesto; WIRED magazine
Bladerunner 2049 (again); Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
The Future of Everything; Reply All
What practices are sustaining you?
I’ve started stepping outside of my intellectual comfort zone in the past couple of years by meeting new people from other academic disciplines and actually talking with them (can you imagine?). I also try to take that crucial next step to deliberately ask myself how my own training, knowledge, and skills can help add to the conversation. Instead of being weighed down by all the sturm und drang going on around me, I’ve actually begun to pay attention to the good things that happen in the world (socially, culturally, politically, technologically, or otherwise), thinking about how we might amplify those moments for a better future.