John R., and Linda S. Flower. "Uncovering Cognitive Processes in Writing: An
Introduction to Protocol Analysis." Research On Writing: Principles and
Methods. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean A. Walmsley, eds. New York:
Longman, 1983. 207-220.
Leading off the "Observational Approaches" section in the Mosenthal
collection, Flower and Hayes deliver a case for protocol analysis as it provides
a scope on the thought processes that "is wider than most of the other windows
available" (219). Protocol methods only interest me where they promote
debates about writing as rule-governed rather than aleatory (or something a
degree away from this, where agreements and rules are very loose–exerting the
slightest imprint on the activity). So why work with this chapter?
It includes yet another iteration of the visual model related to Flower and
Hayes’ cognitive process writing model. As in much of their work, writing is
acknowledged as a complex phenomenon, and its intrinsic complexity justifies the
protocol analysis–a method that allows a researcher to study writers "while
they are performing it" (214). Here, the visual model doesn’t get much, if
any, explicit discussion. It’s the silent transplant–a figure summoned
from 1980, where it appeared in Lee and Erwin’s edited collection, Cognitive
Processes in Writing.
Johanna Drucker writes of visual forms of knowledge that "[t]hey can work 1)
through offering a visual analogy or morphological resemblance, 2) through
providing a visual image of non-visible phenomenoa, or 3) by providing visual
conventions to structure operations and procedures" ("Graphesis" 3). Which
of these does the cognitive process model match with? A case could be made
for any of the three. It provides a visual analogy. It provides a
visual image of a non-obvious phenomena. It provides visual conventions.
Most often, it seems to be deployed for purposes matched with the third function
of visual forms of knowledge: providing visual conventions to structure
operations and procedures. This is what is meant when they write elsewhere
of the model’s organizing function. Yet this is tricky because their
references to model often do not distinguish the discursive model as a
conceptual framework from the visual forms–the visual model itself.
Much of this article follows the organizational presentation of the
visual model. Writing, they argue, consists of distinct processes which
are identified here as a task environment, the writer’s long-term memory, and
the writing process itself, which "is best described not as a sequence of stages
but as a set of distinguishable processes that the writer must orchestrate in
the act of writing" (208). [Imagine if they were indistinguishable. How would it
be possible to name what is happening, other than with the gesture of a shrug?].
Further, they explain that the processes are "highly embedded" and that writing
is "goal directed." Each of these, of course, must be asterisked with a *not
Why is this a good example of inert(ial) visual models in composition
studies? 1) The model has not evolved. It is the same diagram
that appeared in 1980 (later examples repeat and, thus, reinforce this
stability/stagnancy). 2) The model is not discussed directly as a
visual form of knowledge. It is given, self-evident (Drucker and
Latour are excellent for asking us to think through the rhetoricity of the
visual model, for Drucker as an aesthetic dramatism that performs in step with
scientism, for Latour as a figure which mobilizes). Could the chapter
proceed without it? Yes. 3) Its design is at odds with the dynamism (i.e.,
complexity, orchestration, embeddedness, etc.). It is, in this sense,
positioned as in innocent mediator between the data produced by the method and
the theory that generalizes the method to meaningful insights into the cognitive
processes of (some) writers.
Phrases: process-tracing (211), thinking-aloud protocols (217), retrospection (217), retrospective reporting (217).