Inman, James A. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Mahwah,
N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.
Inman’s monograph is structurally rugged in the sense that he is explicit
about the function and form of each section. The book begins with a
definition of computers and writing that stacks up according to real and virtual
conferences (a listing of C&W conferences, locations, and dates), professional
organizations and initiatives (ACW, Netoric Project, MOOs, OWLs, and listservs),
and publishing ventures and products (Computers and Writing (1983),
Late in chapter one, Inman introduces something like an abbreviated
bibliographic essay in an effort to account for the historical boundaries of the
"cyborg era," a period he identifies as running roughly from 1979-2000, a period
throughout which computers and writing scholarship resonated with the cyborg
writing Haraway describes, where political agency weighs heavily, taking into
consideration individuals, technologies and contexts. Cyborg era, then,
gets treated as a god-term; Inman contends that it exceeds the era designations
common in the titles of a long list of works about writing technologies, the
internet, and the surge in information economies.
The general structure of the book follows a series of cyborg designations:
cyborg era, cyborg history (1960-1979; other technologies, resistance, women,
and minorities), cyborg narratives (1979-2000; influence, textual transition,
and pedagogical evolution), cyborg literacy (workplace, school, internets, and
integration), cyborg pedagogy (shifting materialism, discomfort, design
structures, minority empowerment), and cyborg responsibility. Cyborg
responsibility is Inman’s culminating argument. With it he introduces the
following edicts: 1. Remember individuals in any technology and/or
technology-adoption decision; 2. Actively seek and promote diversity; 3.
Articulate and model resistance; and 4. Participate in the design of
technologies. Toward implementation, Inman invokes Rogers’ Diffusion of
The ending sections of each chapter introduce the computers and writing
roster, a who’s who of the computers and writing "community" with photos and
page-length answers to a set of Inman’s question about how did you become
active, what project influenced you, what’s the most important aspect of the
"community," what worries you about the C&W community, what’s the best lesson,
and why do you choose to be active in it. In an effort to define computers and
writing, Inman also introduces a definitional montage–an oddly designed spread
of voices from people who identify with the field.
^emphasis on individuals (user-centered rather than technology-centered
^degree of theorization in adopting Haraway’s version of the cyborg (276)
"We have to realize, however, that terms like field, discipline, subfield,
subdiscipline, and community are not interchangeable, as they each
bring forward distinct values and implications. Terming computers and
writing a field, for instance, suggests that it has an established unique
body of scholarship and that a number of scholars are engaged in its work,
developing new scholarship themselves that advances knowledge in the field" (2).
^Consider this alongside Lauer’s notion of a dappled discipline and especially
her division of audience into expert-keepers of the epistemic court, the general
public, and those who identify with the field but to don’t keep up with the
scholarship either as readers or writers.
- Related sources:
- Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs and
Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-181.
- Hawisher, Gail E. and Cynthia L. Selfe, Paul LeBlanc and Charles Moran.
Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A
History. New Directions in Computers and Composition Ser. Norwoord, N.J.:
- Hayles, Katherine N. How We Became Posthuman : Virtual Bodies in
Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: Chicago Press, 1999.