What’s in a Name? Introducing the Augmented Criticism Lab

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Painting by Laura Wilson Barker (c. 1886). Source: BBC – Your Paintings

“It’s where we take all the important people who visit the university,” Adam told us with a wry smile.

Michael was visiting the University of Waterloo for the “Computers Figuring/Figuring Computers” workshop, hosted by Randy Harris and the gang from RhetFig.

It was the first time that Michael, Adam, and I had been in the same city. The three of us were sitting down to a well-deserved meal a short drive from the university. We had spent the afternoon in Hagey Hall, hammering out research questions in the department library.

We had made leaps and bounds, clarifying our stances on this and that. We agreed with one another. We disagreed. We raised our voices a bit. We shook our heads. We laughed and smiled. And eventually, realizing our stomachs were empty, we left for dinner with our hearts filled with renewed direction.

Because Michael was an important person visiting the university, Adam took us to Wildcraft Grill Bar, where we sat in a corner booth. I’d been in graduating-essay-revision mode, so it was the first square meal I’d had in a week. It was scrumptious; I had the fish.

Anyway, some time after our plates had been collected, Michael wondered aloud whether our project’s name—The Zeugmatic—really represented what we were doing: “Doesn’t it sound like something that produces zeugmas?”

Adam and I must have nodded thoughtfully, but that’s all I really remember about it. Maybe the server interrupted us, because I don’t think we discussed it beyond that. Little did we know that Michael had let slip a tiny seed of nominal doubt into the project.

The workshop came and went, Michael flew back to Calgary, and weeks passed as we carried on with our work. It wasn’t until late August that the project’s name came up again in a Google Hangout. Soon after, Michael asked the team for suggestions, we had a namestorm, and a new era for the project began.

Let it be known! We are now calling our research partnership the Augmented Criticism Lab (ACL for short), and our flagship enterprise is called the Rhetorical Schematics Project (RSP or R S Project if you want to keep going with the acronyms). We’re also working on a second major research initiative, but it’s still in the top-secret stage of development.

In other words, the Zeugmatic has grown into a virtual laboratory working on distinct research projects. It may look like just a name change, but it’s actually a momentous adjustment in the project’s scope.

I’ll leave it at that for now. We’ll post again soon about the parameters of the Rhetorical Schematics Project, and we could unveil the top-secret initiative as early as March 2015. In the meantime, don’t be alarmed if you see our web address, Twitter handle, and email addresses change. It may throw you off for a bit, but it will feel normal soon enough.

Stay tuned!