Spencer Harris, visiting assistant professor, recently received a National Top Paper award from the National Communication Association for his paper entitled, “Predicting the Singularity: A Transcendent Form of Argument.”
Harris’ passion for communication began early for him. Harris spent ten years as a debater and debate coach, which intensified his passion. “I’ve always been interested in the use of language, the philosophy of language and how it works ever since I was little,” said Harris.
Once he became a graduate student at Missouri State University and started teaching, he found his niche. “I liked the idea behind language, and I wanted to help other people see what I saw in it.”
When sci-fi meets argumentation
Harris’ interest in sci-fi and pop culture fueled his drive to write his argumentative paper that won him a national award. The focus? Singularity; meaning, in the next twenty years hyper-intelligent machines could be in existence.
“I’m a big pop culture geek and the idea of singularity has always been there. I took an argumentation seminar at KU and heard more of the older and newer ideologies that govern the field,” said Harris.
As a class paper, Harris took the ideologies and ran with them. The award-winning paper took three months to write from inception to submission. Harris had originally set the paper aside to resume work on his dissertation. “I saw the next opportunity for submission, and it dawned on me that I had this paper I could submit.”
Earning recognition for his niche
Winning the award was a complete surprise for Harris. “I didn’t even know they were giving out the award. My paper had been moved to the top paper panel, and there were five of us that gave 10-15 minute presentations about our papers,” said Harris. “The reviewers kind of got up and said they voted on which paper was the best and the next thing I knew they were handing me a plaque with my name on it.”
The best part of winning the award was the recognition: “Sometimes when you do academic work, its hard to explain to people why it’s fun and interesting. Its nice when a group of people, who care about the niche stuff, care about your work and recognize it.”