Call for Proposals for the Sound Studies, Rhetoric, and Writing Conference 2020 in Detroit, MI

Click here for .PDF of CFP

Conference Organizers

Kati Ahern (SUNY Cortland)
Victor Del Hierro (University of Florida)
Benjamin Lauren (Michigan State University)
Dave Sheridan (Michigan State University)
Crystal VanKooten (Oakland University)

Deadline for Submissions

February 21, 2020

Audio CFP

Music courtesy of

Audio CFP Transcript

[Fade in with light chatter and a female, high-pitched laugh] [00:04]

Victor: What up doe! This is Victor Del Hierro, Assistant Professor at University of Florida [00:07]

Crystal: This is Crystal VanKooten, Assistant Professor at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan [00:12]

Ben: Hi, I’m Ben Lauren from Michigan State University [00:15]

Kati: This is Kati Ahern at SUNY Cortland [00:17]

Dave: This is Dave Sheridan. I’m an Associate Professor at Michigan State University [00:21]

Ben: We’re bringing the Sound Studies, Rhetoric, and Writing Conference to Detroit in 2020 [00:26]

Kati [background]: Super excited! [00:27]

Victor: I’m excited to be in Detroit again. Um, Detroit has a special place in my heart. Especially connected to hip hop. Shout out to the Raiz Up [00:36]

Dave: Uh, so I’m really excited that this conference is coming to Detroit, because Detroit is my favorite city in the world [00:42]

Crystal: New voices, familiar voices, too [00:45]

Ben: There’s a real opportunity for us as a field to continue building this part of the sub-field [00:52]

Dave: When we think about sound in the city, the city has such a rich history [00:57]

Crystal: For new combinations of sound materials [1:00]

Victor: There’s a lot of great history in Detroit [1:02]

Dave: We’ve got jazz, protopunk of the MC5, Detroit techno [1:07]

Victor: Excited to bring some more hip hop to the conference. I know last year we had a little contingent [1:11]

Crystal: Sound effects, music, [pause] silence, voices [1:16]

Dave: with technologies, opened up new musical possibilities, sonic traditions [1:21]

Kati: Sonic spaces, and relocating sound, and, um, intervening in soundscapes [1:26]

Crystal: Also very excited to hear everybody’s awesome sound compositions that you are going to compose and bring with you to the conference [1:33]

Ben: Continuing this conversation [1:35]

Crystal: So, I’m excited to see you all and hear you all [1:38]

[Chatter quickly fades out and audio CFP ends] [1:40]

SSRW History

In “Composing for Sound: Sonic Rhetoric as Resonance,” Mary Hocks and Michelle Comstock (2017) offer a detailed history of the development of sonic rhetoric within the field of rhetoric and writing, as well as the intersections that exist between sound studies, multimodality, and digital media studies. As Hocks and Comstock (2017) point out, work in sonic rhetoric continues to proliferate and diversify with new scholarship such as Karrieann Soto Vega’s (2015) study highlighting the sociocultural affordances of engaging ESL students in multimodal interpretation of music and music videos, Victor Del Hierro’s (2018) case study of DJs operating as technical communicators within their communities, Janine Butler’s (2018) argument for reimagining the design of captioned videos, and Courtney S. Danforth, Kyle D. Stedman, and Michael J. Faris’s (2018) Soundwriting Pedagogies, a born-digital edited collection that explores using sound in writing studies pedagogy. At SSRW 2018 (then named the Symposium on Sound, Rhetoric, and Writing) we began a cross-industry, interdisciplinary conversation to share, listen to, and discuss our work, and in 2020 we hope to extend this conversation to even more scholars working with/in sound.

What Up Doe! Welcome 2 Detroit

We invite proposals for the Sound Studies, Rhetoric, and Writing Conference, to be held in Detroit, Michigan, on October 1-3 in 2020. Detroit is the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – the Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. The banks of surrounding waters such as Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River could tell us historical stories of intertribal coalitions, initial French colonization and the founding of Detroit in 1701, further Native displacement with the Treaty of 1836, a stop on the Underground Railroad into Canada, the rise of American industrialization, the Great Migration, various waves of European immigrants, the fleeing of American industry, and the current rebuild/gentrification of the city. Detroit’s contemporary history is home to a wealth of sound culture and music history such as Motown; the soul of Aretha Franklin; the protopunk of the MC5 and The Stooges; the contribution of queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous, and persons of color to house and techno music (see the Club Heaven sound system project); hip hop legend J Dilla; Third Man Records; blues legend John Lee Hooker; and, more. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an early version of “I Have a Dream” in Detroit, and traditions of spoken word performance continue in the work of artists like jessica Care moore.  In one way or another the D has had an impact on all our sonic lives making it an exciting place to convene those with an interest in sonic scholarship and practice.

The 2020 conference aims to provide an interdisciplinary contact zone for scholars in sound studies, rhetoric studies, and writing studies to explore and perform creative works and research made in, with, of, and from sound. While we invite a wide range of proposals that take up expansive conceptions of “sound studies,” “rhetoric,” and “writing,” we are especially interested in proposals that explore notions of sound and place. We offer the following as potential starting points:

  • Re-locating silenced or dislocated voices
  • Using sound as a way of knowing and representing places through mapping, annotating, oral histories, or field recording
  • Modes and media intersecting in understanding spatial markers (e.g. navigation or video composition)
  • Bodily, mobility, and material interfaces with sound
  • Sounding out the disciplinary relationships between places of rhetoric, writing, and sound studies
  • Making and circulating sound for the purposes of social change
  • Critical engagement and intervention with sound in spaces of power

We anticipate an interactive conference experience, and we encourage submissions that will maximize the number of participating voices—roundtables and dialogue-based sessions, for example. We also strongly encourage proposals that are “made” in sound. This work may include (but is not limited to) the following:

  • Audio, video, or material/physically instantiated sonic scholarship
  • Performances that re-present sound scholarship in different spaces, genres, media
  • Short films or documentaries that explore some aspect of sonic experience
  • Soundscapes
  • Musical or other creative-critical sonic compositions/performances
  • Sonic games that take advantage of the affordances of locative or related media
  • Gallery-style installations that blur the line between scholarship and sound art

A note on the installation option: depending on the volume of installation submissions we receive, some portion of the conference will be set aside for participants to tour a gallery of accepted installations with their creators on hand for Q&A.

While collaborative proposals are encouraged, individual proposals are welcome. The deadline for proposals is February 15, 2020. Individual proposals are limited to 500 words for a 15-20 minute presentation. Roundtable, panel, or other collaborative proposals are limited to 1,250 words for an hour and twenty minute presentation. No more than two proposals per person. Successful proposals will also include a statement on how your materials will engage a multiple sensory experience, ensuring that your sonic work is accessible to all attendees.

Submit proposals via email to Proposers will be notified of organizers’ decisions by March 15, 2020. Additional questions about the conference may also be sent to