The UW-L English Department's first colloquium presentation of the Spring 2017 Semester is from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Friday, February 24. Dr. Chris McCracken will present "Tinkering Things Together: Rhetoric and Mess Management in Community Ecology":
The discipline of community ecology offers an interesting case study for scholars in rhetoric of science because, as some prominent community ecologists have readily admitted, their field can seem like a mess. They seek integrated approaches to large problems, but find their efforts impeded at various turns. They seek systematic approaches to their objects of inquiry only to have their objects quickly expand beyond a reasonable scope. What keeps getting in their way? How do they work around obstructions? How can they rein in their objects? How, in other words, do they manage their mess? Annemarie Mol and other philosophers of science have argued that this kind of mess management involves a great deal of “tinkering”—with definitions, numbers, images, and materials—spurred by moments of uncertainty. Dr. McCracken presentation relates Mol’s work and recent rhetoric of science scholarship to community ecology that we read about in the literature and community ecology that we see in the lab and the field. He examines how community ecologists have tinkered through uncertainty in the past, and he demonstrates how such tinkering continues to drive community ecology in the present. Ultimately, he asks what the case of community ecology might teach us in rhetoric and writing studies about managing our own disciplinary messes.