Sheltering in Place, Working in Space: Reflections on an Online Writing Center at Home

Alex Claman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Claire Seekins, Texas Tech University
Seanie Mardell, Texas Tech University


The writing center (WC) is simultaneously an educational space and a specific place co-created by the consultants and students using it. Dedicated as it is to writing, the center offers an academic location physically distinct from home and the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic drastically altered this separation of spaces and places, collapsing many (or all) of them into the virtual realm, all to be accessed from (often) one place: home. This paper considers the theoretical discussion surrounding notions of home in the WC and recontextualizes said discussion in the wake of the WC gone virtual during a pandemic. Reflections on the authors’ experiences in this new space and the resulting sense of place are included, resulting in a framework that considers the nature of online synchronous WC work being undertaken in our home and a call for WCs to not simply seek to return to a supposed normal when our institutions call us back to campus.

Keywords: space, place, virtual asynchronous tutoring, online writing centers

As writing consultants working during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have become very familiar with the feeling of brewing tea in the kitchen between appointments, shushing loud housemates, and angling our computers’ cameras to frame ourselves against the one clean(er) corner of our rooms. We have long since decamped from the physical writing center (WCs), a workspace for writing consultants, for an altogether different place: home. Space is open and undifferentiated; place is known and associated (Tuan, 1977). And WCs are themselves designed to be welcoming places, to set students at ease, to evoke that which they cannot be—home (McKinney, 2005). What, then, are the impacts of moving the WC into the home?

For all that they promise the capability for connections across vast distances, digital spaces are still inherently material. They are built on infrastructures of wires, cables, metals, and plastics; we connect to them through devices made of the same materials. The work that we do is mediated by the spaces and places in which we exist, something made all the more apparent by the pandemic. Digital spaces have allowed us to keep in contact with friends and family throughout the pandemic, valuable lifelines in deeply uncertain times. Such spaces have the capacity to foster new intimacies (Gallagher et al., 2020), but the prevalence of “Zoom fatigue” serves as a reminder that digital methods affect us differently.

We take up the question of how a WC formed through the space of digital infrastructures, server rooms, and homes (or the various places we find ourselves and our clients videoconferencing in from) alters the sense of place that WCs evoke and the consequences of this alteration. To do so, this work pulls from a theoretical framework to inform later personal reflections on our experiences as writing consultants gone online during a pandemic. We find this to be a kairotic moment for WCs to reconsider and reform our thinking on and understanding of place, a moment wherein consultants and administration alike can and should reconsider what the space of a WC can/should aspire to be.


Space and place are frequent subjects of debate—partially because of their inherent resistance to concrete definition, partially because of the terms’ prevalence in understandings of the world. Space, broadly speaking, is open, potential, abstract; place is known, (more) defined, (more) concrete (Tuan, 1977). Further, “space is unstable, uncertain because of the possibilities it contains for occupation. Space is yet-to-be written” (Dobrin, 2011, p. 41). “Home,” for example, is a place that has become so through occupation of and association with space. In Arendt’s (1958) words, “[to] live together in the world means essentially that a world of things is between those who have it in common, as a table is located between those who sit around it” (p. 52); Tuan (1977) argued that the presence of any other human beings (even just one) “has the effect of curtailing space and its threat of openness” (p. 59). Any discussion of solitude and openness is now (doubly) grimly ironic in light of the ongoing mental and physical effects of prolonged separation and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tuan (1977) invited his readers to consider “the sense of an “inside” and an “outside,” of intimacy and exposure, of private life and public space” (p. 107). The home is (generally) understood to be the place in which we live our private lives, while outside in other spaces (and places) we live our public lives, occluding—even masking—elements of ourselves. The distinction between public and private life is inherently a problematic one because there is no neat separation (Arendt, 1958, p. 72). Elements of both intrude on each other in ways both tangible and intangible, but there was previously a semblance of spatial separation that allowed for the maintenance of veneers, however fragile, unreal, occluding, and deeply problematic they could be.

Yet, home is not mere association with that space (i.e., the space we occupy for housing), but associated with various place-based ideals beyond faulty notions of privacy. These place-based ideals are essential to forming the notion of home. As bell hooks (2009) established, “A true home is the place—any place—where growth is nurtured, where there is constancy. As much as change is always happening whether we want it or not, there is still a need we have for constancy” (p. 203). The association of constancy with home that hooks established here is troubled further when considering the idea of being at home during a pandemic. Assuming an individual even has the necessary means and ability to conduct education and consulting work from where they live, the notion that they are taking appointments from the comfort of their own home ignores the way that bringing the many spheres of life into their lodgings disrupts the constancy that they wish for when occupying their home. Further, the physical and mental stressors of trying to do much of anything during a pandemic seep into and destabilize our sense of home.

Our conceptualization of constancy often hinges on the sensory experiences that come to define our perceptions of home. Jenny Odell (2020) has written about the importance of attentiveness to one’s time, space, and place, advocating for deliberate use of the five senses. She approached this through a multi-scalar lens and a deep concern for the impact(s) of social media and the attention economy, which thrive on constant intrusion, constant interaction, and superficial engagement. These methods manifest as a constant fracturing of attention and energy; equally problematic in both public and private – although it is important to note that Odell is not uniformly negative in her view of social media. In keeping with her overall argument, she argues that it can be a positive force, but should be used and engaged with deliberately. These issues of deliberate intent, attention, and focus are also very much at play in WCs.

Notion of place in the writing center

The places in which we write and consult have become increasingly of interest to WC scholars and practitioners in recent years; however, many of these discussions focus on the practical aspects of the objects that make up a space. Despite the work that has been done by WC scholars who have taken up this mantle through their research on digital studies and multiliteracy centers (e.g. Fitzgerald and Ianetta, 2015; Del Russo et al., 2019; Balester et al., 2012; Dunn and Dunn de Mers, 2002; Hamel, 2002; Hitt, 2012; Naydan, 2013; Sheridan and Inman, 2010; Trimbur, 2016), there remains a need for WC practitioners to recognize and consider WC spaces as something we both experience and create as opposed to something we simply take in visually. Hadfield et al. (2003) explained that “the environment where interaction between and among people occurs is crucial as it affects the way people feel and, therefore, the way people interact. A well-designed writing center has an identity that speaks implicitly to its patrons” (p. 175). Echoing this idea and building upon it further in her call for a more critical examination of WC spaces, McKinney (2005) specified that “In terms of the writing center, critical geographies would not merely state what objects occupy the space. In addition, the focus would include the human experience in use of space and objects” (pp. 10-11).

This need to think critically about how our WC spaces are experienced becomes all the more urgent as we pause to consider various ways that spaces shape our experiences as complex and dynamic individuals. This phenomenon is often intensified in academic spaces, especially when they are utilized for the vulnerable act of sharing one’s writing. For example, Lockett (2019) argued location “must be considered as one of the major factors that obscures the relationship between race and how students are socialized to understand graduate writing conventions.” She continued, contending that, for graduate students, learning how to write “depends on moving through clandestine places like faculty offices, selective reading groups, and brief cubicle chats among peers, as well as publicly sanctioned intimate spaces like coffee shops where graduate students may be meeting with their mentors and colleagues.” This audience awareness that Lockett spoke to extends to the question of how WCs construct a sense of place in the midst of a pandemic. Further, it points to the need to recognize that those logging into our virtual WCs may not have access to the assumed space of their living space. Factors like race, class, and residency status can greatly impact whether that is indeed possible.

These are variables that need to be structurally addressed, but what can WCs do? Boquet (1999) asked whether the WC is “primarily a space, a “laundry” where work is dropped off and picked up, where students are brushed off and cleaned up? Or is it primarily a temporality, an interaction between people over time, in which the nature of the interaction is determined not by site but by method?” (p. 464, emphasis in original). Lockett (2019) argued that it is both, following her academic ghetto metaphor; “[the] kind of place a writing center is perceived to be—by its tutors, clients, director, and administrative assistants—affects what will happen there”. We agree with this assessment, with the added valences that have arisen due to the pandemic and the move to wholly online consultations. At least one of us has been managing laundry timing around scheduled appointments, and the question of time’s “realness” continues to haunt conversations, calendars, and affects as we continue to cope with the dissolution of, and attempts to reimpose, flimsy and inflexible external structures.

As a result, these issues of space, when compounded with the additional variables of race, class, residency status, sexual orientation, and ability, culminate to become inextricably linked to issues of labor in the WC, a correlation that has become painfully real for many of us consulting and writing during the COVID-19 pandemic. That space relates to labor concerns is well established in considering how the planning of space can subconsciously reinforce the exploitation of laborers (Harvey, 2010). Although discussions of labor have been taking place for quite some time among WC practitioners and scholars, the COVID-19 pandemic has made these all the more salient and unignorable.

Labor is a complex concept in WCs as it takes many forms—emotional, mental, and even sometimes physical (moving to a new space, rearranging furniture, cleaning at the end of the day, etc.). This labor, especially the emotional and mental labor that is so often exerted by WC consultants and administrators, is often invisible and thankless, and although the labor itself is often unseen, the symptoms of an over-exertion of labor are often all too real and visible. As Giaimo (2020) pointed out, “Labor and wellness are inextricably bound. In an ideal situation, our work would be Meaningful, Engaging, Stable, Safe, Ethical, Fairly compensated.” However, even in the most ideal WC, operating with full funding and without the chaos of a pandemic, labor is never all of these at once, and this can have substantial impacts on those of us working as consultants. Giaimo (2020) clarified that labor concerns are wellness concerns, as the precariousness of one’s labor conditions can lead to physiological problems and different manifestations of human suffering. Further, Giamo was explicit in making the connection between precarious labor and “minorities and minimum wage workers.”

COVID-19’s impact(s) on our sense of place

One of the primary casualties of the pandemic has been so-called “third spaces.” These are not instances of Soja’s notion of thirdspace (e.g., 1996, 1999), but rather a division of spaces into spheres (e.g., Sloterdijk, 2011, 2014, 2016), with home as primary, work as secondary, and then third as elsewhere, such as in coffee shops or libraries. Indeed, for a not insignificant portion of the population—including many students—the pandemic effectively collapsed many (or all) of these spaces into one physical place: home.

As people distanced from each other, their senses of space and place (sometimes simultaneously) contracted, expanded, and fragmented. Digital spaces, especially virtual meeting software and social media, experienced massive surges in engagement and numbers of active users as many aspects of life shifted to be mostly online. The nature of—and divide between—social relations via digital modalities vs. physical ones is frequently presented in generational terms, with Millennials and younger generations stereotypically preferring everything digital, while older generations favor the “real” world. Regardless of the actual truthfulness of this presentation, people from all generations have had to navigate the complexities of virtual platforms, even as others have had to contend with the necessities and present dangers of being “essential” workers.

Quarantine entails a curtailing and control of movement and mobility, especially as empirical reality and embodied experience. It is a (re)definition of many spaces—particularly public or communal—as hostile/dangerous. Russell (2020) has proposed envisioning this shift as a sphere eversion, a rather complex topological concept that has interesting implications for notions of exposure. Eversion is the process of turning something inside out, in this case squishing and folding a sphere. Spheres are inherently boundaries, things capable of being seen by external observers, while observers of everted spheres must, by definition, “take up a position on it” (p. 276). Within this framework, she pondered hands and elbows as “touched touchers;” hands are more likely to touch the world than elbows, but both are part(s) of the body, covered in the same skin, exposed to the same air (p. 276). We can wash our hands diligently, but what about the rest of the body, or clothing, or the air introduced to an enclosed structure or common area through doors or windows?

The core idea of the commons is that of a shared public space which can become a public place through interaction and association. Since the commons is shared, it remains inherently open, able to be engaged with and left alone easily. In much the same way, digital places are inherently permeable due to the configuration of digital space. For the user, this is simultaneously a strength and a weakness, especially with the heavily increased use of video chat platforms by businesses, schools, friends, and families. Interaction through a screen is not the same as in-person interaction, even from a safe distance. It can feel awkward and impersonal at times as physical distance creates emotional distance, making it difficult to read and interpret body language. However, despite these limitations, screen-to-screen interaction has offered important opportunities for (re)connection. Indeed, digital means’ capacities for connection, what Gallagher et al. (2020) have called “new intimacies,” allow people to interact, link, and communicate across counties, states, and countries. These connections can also be extremely beneficial for students for whom the normalized physical classroom environment is difficult, including students with anxiety, disabilities, or off-campus jobs. Of course, as with any technology, digital spaces carry the capacity to reproduce some existing inequalities and introduce others. Users become dependent on connection speed and stability, compression algorithms, and server/software uptime (Burroughs and Rugg 2014). Digital access takes place over (fractions of) milliseconds, accelerating time and decoupling it from physical concerns (Barlow and Drew 2020; Chan 2020). Care and intent are key.

Through our dependence and constant use of these digital spaces, the issue of Zoom fatigue has become a commonplace point of discussion in day-to-day life for the authors. Our days feel full of Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, WC Online appointments, and emails. Our homeplaces become saturated not only with work concerns, but also the digital platforms that convey them. To return to hooks’ (2009) discussion of home as constancy, labor in the home breaks up that constancy that informs our homeplaces. In a sense, it breaks into the ambient sense of calm and security that we strive for our home to be, instead saturating it with workplace concerns. This discussion of saturation connects well to Sidney Dobrin’s (2011) discussion of saturation as it “suggests a sense of overwhelming (as in saturation bombing)” (p. 183). The ambience of our homeplaces has been, essentially, saturation bombed with a different place context, thereby disrupting and recontextualizing our living rooms and bedrooms into a space of workplace activity.

Discussion of our spaces

As mentioned in the introduction, we consider this to be a kairotic moment for reflecting on understandings of space and place in WCs. Particularly as many of us begin to transition back to hybrid (or wholly in-person) modalities, we should be deliberate and careful in just how we effect that return. To that end we offer these individual discussions both as reflections on our own experiences and as considerations of place and community in remote and hybrid WCs.


For the first two months of lockdown, my scheduled writing consultations were one of the primary things I relied on to keep myself going (those, and my weekly movie nights with my roommate). I joined our WC partway through the fall 2019 semester and immediately received training in using WCOnline for consultations. I primarily consulted in-person, but I was already used to a hybrid modality so the switch to fully online was, for me at least, not a huge practical shift. It was just that it felt like everything around me shifted too; I was probably in a constant state of mild shock for the first couple weeks. In the Before Times, all of my work with clients, face to face and online, took place within the physical place of the WC. Its building was (and is) not adjacent to my department, so even if I was already on campus, I had to budget a few minutes to walk there if I was already on campus, or about 30 minutes if I was walking from home. Once I retreated into my home and lost all of that interstitial time, I fully realized how much I’d been relying on it to help physically and mentally organize my day.

I was fortunate enough to live with roommates who I generally got along with, but being thrown into a situation where they were the only people I felt comfortable physically being around was a major adjustment, as was realizing the true thinness of the house’s walls and doors (accidentally dueling phone and Zoom call speaking volumes were a weekly occurrence). The time I’d spend walking was one of the primary ways I’d move myself into and out of my consulting (or more generally academic) headspace and back into a “home” mentality – one in which I was more agreeable to working with and around my roommates. I have since slowly (and, I will admit, grumpily) adjusted to this “new” situation. This has partially been a mundanely practical matter, since the pandemic is still a long way from being resolved, but it was primarily a matter of replacing old mental habits and spatial pathways with new(er), (more) specific, (intensely) local habits and pathways. I have a browser that I use almost exclusively for consultations, so that opening it signifies in some small way that I am going into “consultant mode.” I will usually make a cup of tea before my first appointment so that I have something to keep my hands occupied, which also gives me a ready-made excuse to stand up from my chair and walk to the kitchen after each appointment to make more tea and unplug for the brief window of time between consultations. And while I certainly miss the opportunity to hang out with my colleagues in the break room in between appointments, I feel that we’ve still been able to maintain a semblance of community through our weekly colloquium.

It was very difficult at the beginning; I felt like I was consoling clients as much as they consoled me. In some ways it’s still difficult, just in different ways. Realistically, I barely made it to the end of the spring semester, and still don’t know how I finished papers and tests. Somehow, I did, and I kept consulting through it all. For better and for worse this fall semester seemed like an improvement, which I’ll attribute mostly to the fact that I could prepare (to a certain extent) for a fully online modality and the mental weight of the pandemic before it even started, as opposed to having to adjust in the middle of everything. The current spring semester has been overall better for me, perhaps because I’ve adjusted to conducting classes fully online – an alarming thought – and perhaps because I’ve finally started feeling the slightest bit optimistic about vaccination rates. But I’m still exhausted, still worried, just doing my best to muddle through. My fellow consultants have been integral to my persevering, as they’ve variously offered advice, support, commiseration, and openness to frank discussion.


For me, the online space has felt simultaneously too lonely and too crowded. Thankfully, my graduate program had always been hybrid, allowing the flexibility for students to meet in-person and online in the same place by incorporating Zoom as a fundamental component of the course. However, I was someone who had never consulted synchronously online before, so when the COVID-19 pandemic halted life as we knew it, I was thrown into the (new to me) online place of WCOnline. And like many writing consultants (and people around the world in general) as quickly as I settled into a new rhythm of working and learning online from home, I became acutely aware of challenges posed by the online space.

For one, the notion of working from a “homeplace” had become a little complicated for me. My partner had been unlucky enough to finish his graduate degree the spring semester that COVID-19 rearranged the world. After struggling with unemployment, we were forced to move days before the beginning of the fall semester to a new city with a better job market to stay afloat. This move was a culture shock to me as I had always been a small-town gal. Additionally, the pandemic made it challenging for me to get out and participate in my new community. Ultimately, I was cooped up in an unfamiliar apartment in an unfamiliar city, feeling isolated as I tried to conduct writing consultations through an unfamiliar modality in a home that did not feel like home.

As I did my best to adapt to a new consulting modality, feeling a bit lonely in my new home, a feeling familiar to many these days began to creep in: Zoom fatigue. Although video conferencing had become the primary way for me to relieve my feelings of isolation by connecting with clients and colleagues, I began to feel isolated and socially overloaded at the same time. I felt I was expending much more emotional labor than I had when consulting face-to-face, checking in with students and doing my best to encourage and support them during these trying times. This became problematic for me, however, as I began expending emotional energy that I did not have. Unfortunately, at the end of the previous spring semester, the semester that everything got rearranged, life as I knew it was rocked by my mother’s death. I had finished that the spring semester and begun the subsequent fall semester in the midst of enormous grief. Consequently, I would lie down after even just one online writing consultation, emotionally exhausted.

Before COVID-19, I did not consider myself as someone who was that affected by space and place. Although I was consciously aware that our spaces and places indeed have a great influence on us, I was lacking the context to really discover how these affected me personally. The pandemic made this all too clear for me. Place has immense power to shape feelings, attitudes, and even behaviors. This is true for us as students, colleagues, and writing consultants. Knowing this, WC practitioners should take care to create space for these influences, especially as we continue to contend with a pandemic. Losing the connection with clients and colleagues that many consultants experience from face-to-face consulting, we must be mindful to acknowledge and embrace feelings of isolation and burnout. Our goal as WC practitioners must not be for things to return to normal, but to normalize the oftentimes taboo yet all too familiar feelings of emotional exhaustion that academia has become increasingly hostile to.


Right before lockdown began, my partner and I signed a lease in Lubbock, Texas. The plan was for me to move onsite for my doctoral program (Technical Communication & Rhetoric) that I’d be entering my second year of. While I had enjoyed being a distance student my first year of said program, I hoped that moving onsite would allow me to reduce my workload (I was working full-time as a lecturer and WC coordinator at Texas State University), increase my class load (I was taking two courses a semester, instead of three), and give me more time for projects. The reality of course was that, while my class load certainly increased, the Graduate Part-time Instructor (GPTI) and Graduate Writing Center (GWC) work I took on felt not all that different in time commitment when navigating teaching and consulting in a virtual environment.

In Spring 2020, the potential of a lockdown led to me and the directors of the Texas State University Writing Center building out what the WC would look like when gone virtual. We did not have WCOnline in the WC for scheduling or synchronous online appointments, though we had started piloting Zoom for our limited synchronous appointments (that were, prior to this, held with the consultant in the WC). This experience coupled with my own use of Zoom in my doctoral studies resulted in our building the center’s plans around a common Zoom link with a main area (the virtual front desk) that could check writers in before moving them to their appointments (using the breakout rooms function). That it was all under one Zoom meeting link created a sense that we were still part of the center, even though we were video conferencing in from our home offices, bedrooms, living rooms, and backyards. That I had a small part to play in forming this system made the transition to online WC administration work smooth for me. This is not to suggest that there was not a shock to the system for me, as academia’s demand for continued productivity left me feeling even more frustrated with the world around me. I would say that it took me a while to shake it off and return to a sense of normalcy, but that would suggest that I ever have fully shook it off.

Then, I started at Texas Tech University as a GWC consultant. The system was different (WC Online). There was no clicking over to someone’s breakout room when they weren’t in an appointment. We do have a weekly colloquium over Zoom which has helped get a sense of my fellow consultants, but in WC Online there is no sense of the space of the WC; there is only the sense of WC Online, the video feed of me with my mess of a kitchen behind me and the video feed of the client’s surroundings.

As for those clients, those writers seeking to bounce ideas and strategies off me? I often find myself rushing through appointments, distracted by the need to later attend to household labor demands that surround me and are even at times clearly reflected in my video feed. Likewise, writers once willing to sit through the entirety of an appointment to discuss and strategize are seemingly also distracted as they have to deal with internet concerns and cooped up children. That’s assuming they can videoconference from their home, as I have had appointments where clients have been driven to whatever open space with decent internet connection they can access; cars, bars, and cafes are now normal backgrounds I spot in appointments.

All of this is in the context of me feeling what some would call Zoom fatigue (let’s call it that, though it is a mix of videoconferencing platforms that I use daily). My partner and I moved to a new city in the middle of a pandemic. They still haven’t found work. We’re coming up on the deadline to renew our lease and we haven’t even seen the inside of our favorite local restaurants. Everything social we do is via videoconferencing. All my classes that I take are via videoconferencing. All my appointments are via videoconferencing. The conference I attended recently was via videoconferencing. Funerals are via videoconferencing. These are necessary precautions, but I am tired. And that tired is only heightened as academia pushes us to keep going on like this is all perfectly normal, to proverbially be the person jogging through a pandemic. In doing so, though, we are creating a damaging new normal where the homeplace can easily and readily be overtaken and replaced by the workplace.

Although the three authors’ experiences discussed here are deeply personal, they reflect issues dealing with labor that many writing center workers have dealt with working from “home” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pressure to continue to perform within the various academic, WC, and personal communities in which each of us participates has felt unbearable and unreasonable for many. Oftentimes this pressure stems from a societal desire to keep on working as if nothing is wrong because acknowledging that, in fact, so much is wrong can be incredibly painful. Much of the messaging in academic spaces encourages us that if we just log onto the home computer and smile, then class, work, happy hour, funerals, etc. can continue as usual. However, we must accept the reality that these are highly unusual circumstances, and that ignoring the painful reality of this situation only serves to compound and invalidate the mental and emotional labor being extended by WC workers.


Because of the collapsing of learning, working, social, and private spaces into the homeplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ideas of space and place in the WC have only become more complex. As we attempt to mediate professional and personal identities through our laptops and phones, framed against the clean(er) areas our rooms, we are reminded that “[labor] is shaped/motivated by complex and unique combinations of requirements, expectations, values, perceived strengths, interests and desires, identities, and knowledge” (Caswell et al., 2016, p. 10). COVID-19 has made it impossible to ignore the way that our spaces shape and are shaped by our experiences, and we must acknowledge and address these issues in our WCs, whether in-person, online, or somewhere in between. While WC consultants and administrators struggle with increased workloads and personal stress, oftentimes in isolation, we must take steps to create WC places that are not just safer physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. As Degner et al. (2015) found years before the COVID-19 pandemic ever began, the fact is that “mental health concerns and illnesses are indeed affecting our centers… 56% of respondents said their symptoms affected their tutoring abilities (either slightly, moderately, or significantly).”

The creation of safer places in the WC must involve resisting the urge for life and work to go back to “normal;” instead, it must involve normalizing and embracing the feelings that make our consultants, administrators, and clients human—in an echo of Illich’s (1973) conviviality. Simply trying to make our spaces feel like home will prove all the more problematic as many of us begin to transition back to our distinct physical spaces and have the residual exhaustion of our homeplaces being saturated by workplace activities. Giaimo (2020) has established solid moves we can make—lean on the larger WC community through online resources and organizational supports; be more flexible with technology alternatives and time off; share resources on wellness, mental health, and labor; and advocate for consultants. That said, this must be a learning opportunity for the WC community, one in which we can and should ensure that the different spheres that inform our lives as consultants and WC administrators are better protected from the threat of our workplaces saturating our homeplaces. There is certainly a need for further method-driven work to ascertain sustainable and equitable approaches toward this, work that needs much more room than the size of this piece allows. That said, we hope this will serve as a call for such work to find what is sustainable in writing centers of all types and sizes. As Claire speaks to above, our goal must not be to simply return to a supposed normal. We must work to transform our WCs to better value the placeness of our spaces and ensure that the various stakeholders of WCs (e.g., consultants, clients, and administrators) are valued as not just productive laborers and ready consumers, but also as whole people deserving of emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing.


Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. University of Chicago Press.

Balester, V., Grimm, N., McKinney, J.G., Lee, S., Sheridan, D., & Silver, N. (2012). The idea of a multiliteracy center: Six responses. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 9(2).

Barlow, M. & Drew, G. (2020). Slow infrastructures in times of crisis: Unworking speed and convenience. Postcolonial Studies: 1-22.

Boquet, E.H. (1999). ‘Our Little Secret’: A history of writing centers, pre- to post-open admissions. College, Composition, and Communication, 50(3): 463-482.

Burroughs, B. & Rugg, A. (2014). Extending the broadcast: Streaming culture and the problems of digital geographies. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 58(3): 365-380.

Caswell, N.I., McKinney, J.G., & Jackson, R. (2016). The working lives of new writing center directors. Utah State University Press.  

Chan, N. (2020). Pandemic temporalities: Distal futurity in the digital Capitalocene. Journal of Environmental Media, 1(2):13.1-8.

Degner, H., Wojciehowski, K., & Giroux, C. (2015). Opening closed doors: A rationale for creating a safe space for tutors struggling with mental health concerns or illnesses. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 13(1).

Del Russo, C., & Shapiro, R. (2019). Multimodal tutor education for a community in transition. WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship, 44(1-2). 

Dunn, P. A., & Dunn De Mers, K. (2002). Reversing notions of disability and accommodation: Embracing universal design in writing pedagogy and web space. Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, 7(1). 

Fitzgerald, L. & Ianetta, M. 2015. The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors: Practice and Research. Oxford University Press.

Gallagher, K., Balt, C., Cardwell, N., & Charlebois, B. (2020). Response to COVID-19 – losing and finding one another in drama: Personal geographies, digital spaces and new intimacies. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 25(4): 638–44. 

Giaimo, G.N. (2020). Laboring in a time of crisis: The entanglement of wellness and work in writing centers. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 17(3).

Hadfield, L. Kinkead, J. Peterson, T.C. Ray, S.H., & Preston, S.S. (2003). An ideal writing center: Re-imagining space and design. In M.A. Pemberton & J. Kinkead (Eds.), The center will hold: Critical perspectives on writing center scholarship (pp. 166-176). Utah State University Press.

Hamel, C. M. (2002). Learning disabilities in the writing center: Challenging our perspectives? The Writing Lab Newsletter, 26(8), 1-5. 

Harvey, D. (2010). Social justice and the city. University of Georgia Press.

Hitt, A. (2012). Access for all: The role of dis/ability in multiliteracy centers. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 9(2). 

hooks, b. (2009). Belonging: A culture of place. Routledge. 

Illich, I. (1973). Tools for conviviality. Harper & Row.

Lockett, A. (2019). Why I call it the academic ghetto: A critical examination of race, place, and writing centers. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 16(2).

McKinney, J.G. (2005). Leaving home sweet home: Towards critical readings of writing center spaces. The Writing Center Journal, 25(2): 6–20.

Naydan, L. M. (2013). Just writing center work in the digital age: De facto multiliteracy centers in dialogue with questions of social justice. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 11(1). 

Odell, J. (2020). How to do nothing: Resisting the attention economy. Melville House.

Russell, K. (2020). Turning quarantine inside out. Space and Culture, 23(3): 274–278. https://doi-org/10.1177/1206331220938631

Sheridan, D. & Inman, J.A. (2010). Multiliteracy Centers: Writing Center Work, New Media and Multimodal Rhetoric. Hampton Press.

Sloterdijk, P. (2011). Bubbles: Spheres volume I: Microspherology (W. Hoban, Trans.). Semiotext(e).

Sloterdijk, P. (2014). Globes: Spheres volume II: Macrospherology (W. Hoban, Trans.). Semiotext(e).

Sloterdijk, P. (2016). Foams: Spheres volume III: Plural spherology (W. Hoban, Trans.). Semiotext(e).

Soja, E.W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Blackwell Publishing.

Soja, E.W. (1999). Thirdspace: Expanding the scope of the geographical imagination. In D. Massey, J. Allen, & P. Sarre (Eds), Human Geography Today (pp. 260–278). Polity Press.

Trimbur, J. (2016). Translingualism and close reading. College English, 78(3), 219-227.

Tuan, Y. (1977). Space and place: The perspective of experience. University of Minnesota Press.