Selfe and Selfe, “Intellectual Work of Computers and Composition”

Selfe, Cynthia J.
and Richard J. Selfe, Jr. "The Intellectual Work of Computers and
Composition Studies." Olson 203-220.

According to Selfe and Selfe, four characteristics characterize intellectual
work in computers and composition: grounding in language studies and social
theory; a belief in social justice (204); commitment to school settings as sites
where social change is produced (204); and "an understanding of technology and
technological systems" as enacting change and resisting hegemony (204). Selfe
and Selfe go on to describe computers and composition as infused with a
pragmatic orientation; this piece has a tendency to frame computers and
composition’s intellectual work as a critical project or, that is, as a project
anchored in critique (analysis, examination, etc.).

Though they admit it to be partial, the central portion of the essay focuses
on three elements in computers and composition: educational issues (205),
social/cultural issues (207), and representation and identity (210). Each
section reads like a densely packed bibliographic essay with paragraph-long
listings of books and articles that resonate with each focal area.

To conclude, they point out the cultural mythologies of technologies as
monsters (211) and turn their emphasis to human beings; the final push is for
humanities computing or technology studies cognizant of human agency in the
proliferation of technologies. They end citing Giddens on the sociality of
technology and the often "unanticipated consequences" and also with a
reaffirmation of "continuing to pay attention to technology" (212).

"Technology is not fully constituted by machines. It is, instead, a set of
articulated social formations–ideological, economic, political, cultural. And
given this fact, the study of technologies must, at its heart, involve the study
of the humans who design, make, and use these machines" (212).

^What’s odd about this piece is that it is just nine pages of heavily
referential prose (a dense bibliographic essay) followed by eight pages of
citations–appr. 170 in all and many of which are never used in the piece. Does
everything listed fit with the label of "intellectual work" (rel. to the
distinctions in the early section of the book–Neel, Swearingen, Olson)?

Related sources:
Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of
. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an
Age of High Technology
. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.
Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Johndan Johnson-Eilola. "Blinded by the Letter:
Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?" Hawisher and
Selfe, Passions 349-68.