Digital Writing

Four days until I have to turn in a course description for the WRT302 course
I’m teaching in the fall. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, keeping as much
as possible with the official
course description

WRT302: Advanced Writing Studio: Digital Writing
With the shift from writing the page to writing the screen we encounter both
expanded possibilities and new responsibilities for assembling images, text, audio and
video.  In WRT302, we will compose new media texts while engaging issues at
the crossroads of writing activity and specific digital technologies.  The
course will balance experimentation and application with conceptual
approaches; in addition to reading about and exploring online tools, students
will propose and develop a series of projects that extend from our
investigations of specific sites and applications, including simple web pages, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, video, and tag-based systems such as Flickr and  Opening lines of inquiry involve the following questions:  What
is gained and lost in the transition from the page to the screen? What are the
practices and techniques we might associate with digital writing? How do
digital texts circulate? How are they read and by whom? How are acts of
digital writing implicated with choices about navigation, links, and code?
This course will also foreground invention, design, usability and
accessibility.  All students are encouraged to enroll. No previous
experience with computers is required; however, some familiarity with basic
uses of technology will be helpful. Email dmueller -at- for more information.

I welcome all critique and insight. I’m hesitant to include the phrase "new
responsibilities" in the first sentence.  The final point about previous
experience is messy, too.  Is it common to be explicit about experience with
technologies going into a course like this one? I haven’t committed to any readings
yet, but I have a few highly-probables, and I’ve ordered a desk copy of

this techxbook
, fresh off the press.  The projects, too, will have to be only
provisionally defined/outlined because I won’t know the ease-with-tech felt by
the students until I meet them.

In Search Of

We capped our discussions of Smit’s The End of Composition Studies
(2004) and
Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s In Search of Eloquence (2004) in 712 this afternoon.
Smit opens for us with six chapters leading down the skeptic’s
infinite regress into complandia’s hopeless abyss before turning to his
recommendations for reform. His plans for a refurbished curriculum aren’t
as despairing as his account of the impossibility of teaching writing. No
screeching demons, no ravenous hellhounds. In fact, the curriculum pretty well matches with
Writing Across the Curriculum efforts. Smit turns out to be a proponent
of a first-year course called "Introduction to Writing as a Social Practice"
(185). Upper division instructors would share responsibility for teaching the
course; "They must," Smit contends, "be part of a broad university-wide program
that introduces all novice writers ‘slowly but steadily and systematically’ to
new genres and social contexts, a program that encourages students to develop
their ‘structural, rhetorical, stylistic facility’ over time (Rose 112)" (188).
The second tier of Smit’s curriculum involves discipline-specific courses
emphasizing writing, and the third tier involves "writing outside the classroom"
(190). I’m sure I’ll sound glib in characterizing it so flatly, but much
of it sounds, well, familiar enough. A more radical turn, however, comes
in Smit’s proposal for graduate training:

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The End of Composition Studies; The Start of…

In some ways, it’s like the Blockbuster video ad campaign from a year
ago–The End of Late Fees; The Start of More. The title of David Smit’s The
End of Composition Studies
invokes an endism that one might take to suggest
to the demise of the discipline of writing studies. In Advanced Philosophy
and Theory of Composition, we’re looking at the first half of Smit’s book for
tomorrow afternoon (also looking at two chapters from Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s
In Search of Eloquence, which, fingers crossed, will arrive in the mail
later this afternoon). Smit’s forthright early on about playing double
entendre with "end," both as a variation of "teleology" or "aim" and also as
"termination" or "cessation." I’ve been reading with a stronger sense of
the first connotation (teleology/aim) because 1.) people still write and 2.)
writing is sufficiently complex to warrant the continuation of its study,
define it however you will
. And actually, that’s one of Smit’s chief
complaints. He finds that those who would self-identify with the field of
rhetcomp have yet to agree on what writing even is, much less how to best to
teach it given the institutional constraints of fifteen weeks (more or less in
some places, but the bugbear of layering writing rhythms with institutional
timeframes is what I’m thinking about) and wildly divergent positions on what
ought to constitute writing practices and curriculum in the first place.

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A Typewriter?

In "Technology & Ethos" (1971), Amiri Baraka writes

A typewriter?–why shd it only make use of the tips of the fingers as
contact points of flowing multidirectional creativity. If I invented a
word placing machine, an ‘"expression-scriber," if you will, then I
would have a kind of instrument into which I could step & sit or sprawl or
hand & use not only my fingers to make words express feelings but elbows,
feet, head, behind and all the sounds I wanted, screams, grunts, taps, itches,
I’d have magnetically recorded, at the same time, & translated into word–or
perhaps even the final xpressed though/feeling wd now be merely word or sheet,
but itself, the xpression, three dimensional–able to be touched, or
tasted or felt, or entered, or heard or carried like a speaking singing
constantly communicating charm. A typewriter is corny!!

The passage streamed into our first meeting of Afrofuturism last night,
framed some of our early thinking about innovation and technological promise.
We’re leading things off with the special issue of Social Text on
Afrofuturism (Summer ’02); and I’m volunteer no. 1 for leading the discussion, so I’ve got to
wrap up Thomas Masters’ Practicing Writing for 712 and get moving with
how to frame this thing. I don’t know when I’ll return to this xcerpt from
Baraka, but I wanted to set it aside, share it. The "entered" bit reminds me of
Lanham’s at/through, although Baraka is pushing toward something more bodily
than the perceptual oscillations Lanham gives us. And I can think of ways this
could connect with Hansen, particularly on point with the "body’s framing
function," even if the machine proper is "a kind of instrument."

Why blog?

Earlier this afternoon, I stepped up front for a brief talk about why I blog
(framed as "Blogging as a Graduate Student").  The session was part of SU’s
featured Gateway Focus on Teaching Luncheon
; the broader theme for the event: "Technology to Support Student
Motivation." I decided that it makes sense to share a few small details about
the talk, including my list of five motives/motifs on grad student blogging. 
It’s testimonial for the most part, and perhaps it’s well-worn terrain for you
who have been keeping a weblog, but it’s also useful for me to flesh out my
talking notes and to write through some of the fuzz, the un- or under-answered
questions, and the relative merits–from my perspective–of keeping a weblog
throughout a graduate program of study.  I should also be clear that these
are conversation starters and supple categories for organizing such
conversations rather than some rigid and deterministic boxes.

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Mapping Contenders: A More Writable Space

Over at The Map
, Jonathan Crowe posted a


notes about MSN
Virtual Earth
that tipped me on to a few ideas and the
Virtual Earth weblog
where MSN is inviting input.  In light of the clamor raised over two
notable features at Virtual Earth–the
absence of Apple headquarters and the
presence of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, Crowe verifies (if there was
any doubt) that VE uses "very old imagery."  As I see it, the age
of the satellite images concerns me less than their superior resolution. 
Right, already
been over this

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A Comp-landia Itinerary

Encouraged by

C.’s comment at cgbvb
and entries by
Jeff and

, I’m in on the carnival; flipped through Fulkerson’s essay in the
latest CCC (56.4) this afternoon.  My general impression is that it’s an
interesting overview of the discipline–engaging for the divisions he suggests
and for the grim note that caps the essay.  Good carnival entries
(jus’ sharpening the axiology), I think, keep it to a few points, raise
questions or pull on knots, puzzles and so on. Right?  So, on:

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Genre Sirc-umvention

We have evolved a very limited notion of academic writing (or any genre,
really).  Our texts are conventional in every sense of the word; they write
themselves. They are almost wholly determined by the texts that have gone
before; a radical break from the conventions of a form or genre (and I’m not
speaking here about the academic convention of the smug, sanctioned
transgression, e.g. Jane Tompkins) would perplex–how is that history writing? 
what community group would need that for its newsletter?  how is that going
to help you get a job? A Happenings spirit would begin at the point of Elbow’s
"life is long and college is short" queasiness with academic writing
("Reflections on Academic Discourse" 136). (10)

A-la Geoff Sirc’s English Composition as a Happening.

One Blog, Two Blog

[Thinking about the trackback feature.]

Got the second blog working. It was, as the interface told me, a permissions error. Once I reset the permissions to the second blog’s folder, it all came together swimmingly. The other blog will be used this spring for a freshman course on technology and writing centered on Neil Postman’s Technopoly. His doomsday-ish tome will send us on our ever-digitized way.

The course is described as a research writing course. I’ve taught it a time or two; even developed an online format for accelerated delivery in just eight weeks. So I’m comfortable with the pace and workload. Just eleven students have enrolled so far, and the new semester starts happening Monday.

I’m having lunch today with my friend and colleague Andy who does a fine job keeping in masterful form. He promised (well, er, suggested) a brief MT tutorial. Maybe he knows how I can craft a new CSS for this blog. After all, this design is dreadful. We’re jetting along on content, kid.

Oh, and about content. I still don’t have a deliberate schema. The category feature imposes a kind of coherence to this space, and I already feel a deep, quiet wariness that I’m chasing abstraction and glossing conceptual at the expense of attracting any passing readers.

I’m still working out the features, scratching my head about how to do this and that. The time stamp on yesterday’s post was off, for example. Like this witchy-cold weather we’re having in the heartland, it’ll get better.