What is RenCI?

The Renaissance Computing Institute at the UNC Chapel Hill facility is designed to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration and the use of cutting-edge computing, networking and visualization tools for research and education. Their website can be accessed here.

What is the SCR?

Twelve projectors configured to ‘wrap’ one Windows desktop 360 degrees around a room. This, combined if necessary with the application Collage, allows teachers, students, and researchers to manipulate multiple images or to create a panoramic digital environment. More information, from RenCI, may be found here.

[vimeo width=”650″ height=”366″]http://vimeo.com/31200097[/vimeo]

Welcome to the Veldt?

The Veldt, adapted by "The Ray Bradbury Theater" (1987)

The SCR conceivably allows students to inhabit, to some degree, normally inaccessible situations and contexts. Science-fiction examples of visualization technology that allows people to inhabit synthetic situations and contexts might include the immersive  technologies in Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Veldt” and Michael Crichton’s novel Westworld and its film adaptation.

Of course, unlike Westworld, the SCR only provides the illusion of 3D spaces beyond the walls, and unlike both, it’s safe and easy to leave — if you can pull yourself away from the images!

Why Teach Visualization?
Doesn’t “Composition” = “Words, Words, Words?”

People don’t only think in text. In many rhetorical scenarios, data, concepts, and other forms of information may be best articulate visually or via audio-visual, time-based media. One famous demonstration of this principle is the physicist Richard Feynmann’s shockingly clear visualization, during a televised government hearing, of the failure of the space shuttle Challenger‘s O-rings at low temperatures.


Feynmann demonstrated more than the resilience of chilled O-Rings: he showed that creative visualization can even save lives. Isn’t that worth learning and teaching?

What is the Writing at Renci Pedagogy Interest Group (PIG)?

Since Fall 2011, some Writing Program courses in Composition and research skills have facilitated active learning and self-expression by using the SCR for presentation projects, especially to introduce a few basic visualization methods. We proposed this PIG to have a space to share, expand, critique and improve our use of the SCR, this  semester and in the future. In February 2012, our PIG was approved and funded by the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC.We will hold at least 3 meetings in February-April 2012.

Our aim, to quote Susan Hilligloss and Sean Williams (2007), is to support students to become “citizen designers” in our increasingly “digital visual world,” and to use that world to access other areas of human experience, including literature.

We invite any fellow instructors and graduate students to join us.

Our members are:

Rebecca Nesvet (co-ordinator)
Doreen Thierauf
Adam J. Engel
Laurel Foote-Hudson
Robert Erle Barham

PIG Meetings

Meeting #1:February 15, 2012.
Minutes may be accessed

Synopsis of Activity:

Present: Rebecca Nesvet, Doreen Thierauf, Laurel Foote-Hudson, Adam J. Engel, Robert Erle Barham.

  • We clarified the features of the SCR, in part by showing a video created by Adam of Rebecca’s students giving presentations in it.
  • We shared our individual goals for participating in this PIG and learning about or using the SCR in our teaching of composition and/or literature.
  • We proposed to create a web-based deliverable.
  • We brainstormed ways to use the SCR to enhance learning in English 105 and other English and Comparative Literature courses. These included projects on endangered species and their habitats, for 105 (Adam), social movements (Laurel), interactive science/conference posters (Rebecca), and a re-envisioning of the 3 discipline-based units of 105 so that the projects are less group-oriented  than previously (Doreen), and dramatizing early modern culture, especially necromantic manuscripts/photos, to demonstrate the sense of countercultural “danger” (Robert).
  • To these ends, we resolved to set up this website and to share reading from Anderson and McKee and DeVoss, which Rebecca will provide next week.
  • Doreen volunteered to set up this website. It was set up over the following weekend by Doreen and Rebecca.
  • Meeting minutes, taken by Laurel, may be accessed

Meeting #2:
Time: TBD.
Location: RenCI-UNC SCR, ITS Manning Building.

Meeting #3: Time & Location TBD.


We want to acknowledge the support of the UNC Department of English and Comparative Literature, including the Writing Program, for sponsoring the PIG series and this PIG in particular. We are also grateful for the vital assistance with RenCI given by three of their employees: Jason Coposky, Ray Idaszak, and Jeff Heard. Finally, we wish to thank Carrboro-based 3D animator Eric Knisley for introducing RenCI to Writing Program staff.

(c) Rebecca Nesvet 2012

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