Research

Below, I’ve provided a snapshot of my dissertation research and linked to my publications as well as access copies of select conference presentations. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about any of the work linked here.

Dissertation: “Literacy, Pedagogy, and Prisons: Tracing Power in Higher Education in Prison Contexts”

As of 2020, over 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the U.S. criminal legal system, with over 1.2 million individuals locked up in U.S. prisons alone. As a result, education, both inside and outside of prisons, is positioned as a key solution to the crises of mass incarceration. More specifically, higher education in prison (HEP) programs are often billed as liberatory and transformative endeavors that not only provide university education to incarcerated people but also significantly reduce recidivism rates.

The aims of education and prisons are, to say the least, knotted and commingled in paradoxical ways—education in prison, itself, even more so. Yet to paraphrase Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, the university not only produces incarceration but also plays a vital role in the social control of individuals. These tensions between the university, the prison, and college-in-prison animate the heart of my dissertation, titled “Literacy, Pedagogy, and Prisons: Tracing Power in Higher Education in Prison Contexts.” As each of these institutions is driven by the same carceral logics of punishment, control, and obfuscation, both research and teaching in college-in-prison contexts must account for the hegemony of the university—a truth that is too often ignored in HEP and writing studies alike.

In this project, then, I use abolitionist frameworks to acknowledge the twin violences of literacy and the university and to argue for complicating the project of higher education in prison at large. I connect individual and institutional scales of both the university and the prison by exploring the literacy, teaching, and learning experiences of college-in-prison educators, and in doing so, divest from all-too-straightforward narratives about the role of education as an antidote to mass incarceration.

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Articles:

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Towards Abolitionist Unionism: Resisting Pandemics, Police, and Academic Austerity at the University of Illinois.” Birchmier, Chelsea, Austin Hoffman, Logan Middleton, A. Naomi Paik, and Angela Ting. Journal of Academic Freedom, vol. 12, 2021, pp. 1-15.

This essay argues that abolitionist struggle is necessary to preserve academic freedom and combat the increasing austerity measures and carceral logics of the neoliberal university. Drawing on our example organizing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we examine how campus labor organizations like the Graduate Employees’ Organization, UIUC’s graduate worker union, can enact abolitionist practices of mutual aid and demands for police divestment. The union’s commitment to social justice and coalitional organizing has enabled the emergence of DefundUIPD, a campus movement that stands against structures of violence like policing and for life-affirming institutions. Amid widespread academic precarity, this nationally growing movement exemplifies the radical potential of organized labor to evolve from social justice unionism to abolitionist unionism. Abolitionist unionism not only promotes a more liberatory and expansive vision of academic freedom but necessarily struggles for and against the university alongside movements for radical social change.

Screencapped front page of “Questioning Assumptions about Online Tutoring:  A Mixed-Method Study of Face-to-Face and Synchronous Online Writing Center Tutorials," a Writing Center Journal article

Questioning Assumptions about Online Tutoring:  A Mixed-Method Study of Face-to-Face and Synchronous Online Writing Center Tutorials.” Carolyn Wisniewski, María Paz Carvajal Regidor, Lisa Chason, Evin Groundwater, Allison Kranek, Dorothy Mayne, and Logan Middleton. Writing Center Journal, vol. 38, no. 1-2, 2020, pp. 261-290.

As online writing tutorials become increasingly widespread, writing center scholars continue to debate the pedagogical differences between face-to-face and online tutoring. However, empirical research has lagged behind technological advancement, with only one study (Wolfe & Griffin, 2012) comparing face-to-face and media-rich online writing center tutorials.

This article builds on such scholarship by sharing results from a comparative study of face-to-face and synchronous audio-video online tutorials that collected data from writing tutorials, writers’ post-session surveys, and interviews with writers. Using primarily linguistic analysis of the hundreds of interactions in each of the 24 transcribed writing tutorials, we determined that audio-video online and face-to-face sessions share similarities in tutoring strategies, discourse phases, tutor-writer interaction and student satisfaction. However, we found significant differences in the conversation content of online and face-to-face tutorials as well, including evidence that online sessions were more likely to focus on micro-level concerns. Ultimately, this study challenges enduring assumptions about online sessions and calls on writing center scholars to be more attentive to the pedagogical affordances and constraints of online tutoring.

Screencap of the first page of "More than Transformative: A New View of Prison Writing Narratives" by Larry Barrett, Pablo Mendoza, Logan Middleton, Mario Rubio, and Thomas Stromblad in "Reflections" vol. 19.1

“‘More than Transformative’: A New View of Prison Writing Narratives.” Larry Barrett, Pablo Mendoza, Logan Middleton, Mario Rubio, and Thomas Stromblad. Reflections, vol. 19, no. 1, 2019, pp. 13-32.

Common in higher education in prison (HEP) and writing studies research is the idea that writing and education are transformative for incarcerated populations. While we believe that both can be powerful tools for reflection and social change among people on the inside, the prevalence of such transformation narratives can contribute to stereotypical depictions or understandings of incarcerated people and their literacy practices.

Working from our experiences with the Education Justice Project (EJP), a college-in-prison program, this article argues for expanded recognition and study of literacy practices, genres, and prison education beyond those typically discussed in HEP and writing studies scholarship. We draw on the work of Martinez (2017) to present four personal scenes of writing and education as counterstories that intervene in dominant narratives about how incarcerated students are transformed by literacy. This approach not only grounds our work in methodology that values the lived and experiential knowledge of marginalized people but also enables us to push back against stock stories of prison writing that might inadvertently stereotype incarcerated students. Through telling our stories, we call on academics to join us in composing different stories about incarcerated students that honor the complexities of our multiple identities and literacy practices.

Chapters:

Book cover with green paisley background. In the center of the page is a white banner with black bold text that reads "Multimodal Composition: Faculty Development Programs and Institutional Change." In smaller text below is text that reads, "Edited by Shyam B. Pandey and Santosh Khadka." The Routledge logo, an R comprised of two silhouettes, appears in the bottom right corner.

Turnipseed, Nicole, and Logan Middleton. “Writing Across Media: Graduate Students as Multimodal Composition Instructors and Administrators.” Multimodal Composition: Faculty Development Programs and Institutional Change. Eds. Shyam B. Pandey and Santosh Khadka. Routledge, 2021, pp. 51-65.

In this chapter, we write from our experiences as graduate instructors and graduate administrators of an undergraduate multimodal composition course at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign called Writing Across Media (WAM). Over the past 10 years, the supportive and open structure of WAM has enabled forward-thinking pedagogical approaches to multimodal composition, which deliberately empowers students’ rhetorical decision-making in constructing practical solutions to complex social problems. In particular, we detail how the administrative structure of the course centers dialogic interplay between instructors and administrators, encourages theory-based exploration and play, and leads to innovative pedagogies that extend current theory and practice in the field. In narrating the situated and integrated dynamics of administering multimodal composition curricula—beyond digital composition and first-year composition contexts—we describe the professionalizing effects such work has on graduate student instructors.

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Select Conference Presentations:

Beyond Prison Pedagogies and Programming: Exploring Critical Pedagogy (or Not) in Prison Reentry Contexts.” National Conference for Higher Education in Prison 2021. Recording of talk available here.

Multimodal Listening for Social Change: Researching Sonic Experience and Uptake in the Classroom.” With Nicole Turnipseed. Online asynchronous presentation. Symposium on Sound Studies, Rhetoric, and Writing Conference 2020.

Embracing Abolitionist Futures: The University, the Prison, and Radical Horizons for College-in-Prison Programing.” Conference on Community Writing 2019.

Sounding Out in the Classroom Sonic Archives: Exploring Audio Genres and Methodologies in Student Sound Projects.” Symposium on Sound, Rhetoric, and Writing 2018.

Re/Designing the Multimodal Composition Classroom: Pedagogy, Curriculum, and Access.” Computers and Writing 2018.

“‘Earning Your Steps’: Developing an Affective Rhetorical Framework for Wearable Technologies.” Conference on College Composition and Communication 2018.