Nodes from Class

Here’s a Cmap
of the development of modern composition studies, roughly
reproduced from notes on the board during Tuesday’s
712. I went
back and snapped a digital photo of the
chalkboard yesterday
(preserved from the day before with a "Please do not erase"). Then, to
develop the Cmap, I inserted the
photograph as a temporary background to approximate the spatial arrangement of
links and nodes. After that, I quick-shopped a
to emphasize the past few decades as phases of disciplinary
development (fluctuation, upheaval, etc.). And finally, I shifted around a
few of the nodes, repositioned other stuff, tinkered with color schemes and sent
off a draft for future–ongoing–revisions. The map of complandia?
Certainly not; not in any perfected, exhaustive or territory-analog kind of way. But one map of complandia. Next I need to
figure out how to set up Cmaps on a server for collaborative map-making.
I’ll argue that this model holds promise for 1.) mapping complex histories; 2.)
exploring incongruous accounts of disciplinary formation, extradisciplinary developments
running through those formations, and sub-disciplinary peaks and valleys (rising
and falling, trends, etc.); and 3.) charting disciplinary mythologies and
imaginaries through the idiosyncrasies of individual and group
percept-cartography (granted, I don’t know that there is such a thing as
"percept-cartography"; I’m making that part up on the fly). Although this
map came together during a single class session, it could be updated, for pretty much any course, let’s say, over several weeks, possibly accounting for emerging ties and
emerging locative criteria/rationale as the course unfolds.


  1. Great idea, Derek. Is it available at CMaps? I ask because the version you have here is hard to read.

  2. It should come clearer if you resize the image to view at 100 percent. If the browser is set for fit-to-screen, it probably appears squished.

  3. The whole idea of 1963 and the beginning of composition is the subject of my book mss. And it was the focal point of the critique I had in Composition Studies. My argument dealt with the “lost moment” regarding media and technology and the rise of an ideology of print, but also of control.

  4. Great stuff; I’ve saved a copy, and it gives an interesting context to many of the “here’s how the discipline has worked in relation to X” CCCC presentations I’ve seen. (Mariolina Salvatori would agree with you on that downward arrow from reader-response theory.) One question: what’s the difference for you between “map” and “graph”? Because while the clusterings and the horizontal-ish arrows seem to indicate relations of theoretical/ideological contiguity, the vertical arrows — both up and down — seem to indicate relations of popularity or relevance or importance, to the point where importance could be your map/graph’s Y axis to the chronological X axis.

    In fact, I wonder if that might be an intriguing project for CCCO: to set up a graph with the dates of CCC issues as the X axis and numbers of occurrences of keywords as the Y axis and then chart the historical ebb and flow of those keywords.

  5. Thanks for reminding me of your article, Jeff. It gets at one of the difficult moments in our class the other day–the question of technology’s omission, especially early on. Louise agreed to add it but noted that it’s difficult to represent and position nodes that would have been on the minds of only a few people who identified as compositionists. Always a problem of what’s displayed and what’s not. When I rendered the chalkboard version into CMap, I went ahead and featured technology more prominently.

    This is a good suggestion, Mike, and one that Collin and I have talked about recently, especially now that we have a deeper data-set to work with. The options for visualizing the data seem richer all the time, too.

    You caught me being a bit loose with terms in regard to the map/graph distinction. Maps, as I understand the term, tend to be more spatially oriented (motivated by analogs to space), and graphs tend to be more temporally oriented (motivated by analogs to time). In Moretti’s _Graphs, Maps, Trees_, his chapter on graphs presents historiographic work and his chapter on maps involves places, geography. The course from which the composition “map” came is subtitled “Mapping the Future of Disciplinarity,” and because I was using CMap tools and Louise referred to her board-notes as a map, I had “map” on my mind. Given the axes you point out, however, it probably would be a better fit to call it a graph or even a chart (in its navigational connotation, the map that guides with data and perception, suggests an outline, etc.). When we bring in notions of memory and concepts (or visual placeholders for the conceptual), the space/time distinctions melt together, I suppose, which might also suggest a blurring of the graph/map split.

  6. “but noted that it’s difficult to represent and position nodes that would have been on the minds of only a few people who identified as compositionists”

    Pity you all returned to that moment with that point in mind. It’s true/not true. Braddock et al and Kitzhaber (and others in the pages of CCC and elsewhere) did address technology. But they often dismissed it (and media in general) as not worthwhile or didn’t themselves pay attention to other work going on at the same time (Braddock’s lack of awareness regarding research on TV and education is a notable moment or the refusal to see the typewriter’s role in writing practices as already taking place). That such work (like McLuhan or Engelbart) was not deemed “composition” seems precisely the point; it is a valuable lesson for current missed opportunities that result from fixed categories of identity.
    Might also be a lesson for a compositional interest in maps…no?

  7. Greater pity, probably, that I’m not doing enough to provide the context of the mapping event in class. It was impulsive–a fast-map constrained only by the space of the chalkboard, the forty-five minutes taken to draw it, and the problems of what to include given some of the stuff we’ve read this term. The lesson you suggest is exactly what left me unsettled about a map of the field that would omit technology (rather than including it, even with a broken line). We were similarly stalled on the location and trajectory of feminism as something to include (include how?). I think this gets at the limitations of this particular attempt to put the field into a single frame with only loosely defined organizing principles. Treating this as a living map/graph–an unsettled, ongoing project–relaxes the presumption of fixity; it also makes explicit the strain between the singularity of one’s identification of trends in the field set against more widely held–even if partial–mythologies.

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