Monday, September 4, 2006

Hawisher et. al., Computers and the Teaching of Writing

Hawisher, Gail E., 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.: Ablex, 1996.

Computers and the Teaching of Writing is a layered history, pulling together selected pieces of composition studies, changes in software and hardware, narratives by people involved in early computers and composition work, considerations of policy, politics, and access, and the formation of computers and composition as a legitimate academic subfield consisting of its own specialized knowledge, its own research agenda, its own journals and book-length works, and its own conferences and related professional gatherings. CTW presents a chronology of the formation of computers and composition, organizing detail-heavy accounts of what was happening at the time into particular periods or eras rather than celebrating scenes or particular figures.

Hugh Burns and Ellen Nold are particular celebrated in this volume. Burns's 1979 dissertation, "Stimulating Invention in English Composition through Computer-Assisted Instruction" and Nold's 1975 article, "Fear and Trembling: The Humanist Approaches the Computer" figure centrally, according to the authors, in the early formation of computers and composition. Annual awards, one for a dissertation and one for an article, were later established to honor each of these landmark works (198).

The book is organized as follows, to each chapter a corresponding period:

1979-1982: The Profession's Early Experience with Modern Technology
1983-1985: Growth and Enthusiasm
1986-1988: Emerging Research, Theory, and Professionalism
1989-1991: Coming of Age--The Rise of Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives and a Consideration of Difference
1992-1994: Looking Forward

Each chapter also includes the following segments: Considering Contexts (comp scholarship focus), Observing Trends (pedagogy and technology focus), Recognizing Challenges, and Our Colleagues Remember. Collectively, the project is an assertion of legitimacy for computers and composition and also an articulation of a substantial and complex tradition dating back to the 1960's. Still, it focuses on a relatively small start-up community (just ten members at the 1983 meeting of The Fifth "C" SIG) (81), which raises all sorts of questions. It is also interesting to consider this historical account alongside cases like the one Jeff makes about the discipline's missed opportunities.

^Hmm: "invisible writing": Marcus and Blau, "writers write invisibly on darkened computer screens" (27); counts of conference sessions as evidence (on process in 1983 CCCC) (71)

"The present book is the first full-scale effort to define computers and composition within its history" (xii).

"Electronic technology is not simply a medium for the mass-delivery of a managed curriculum" (4).

"Computers entered our scene at a moment when there was a loud and public call for the improvement of writing instruction, and at the beginning of what was to be a long and difficult period of retrenchment in American public education [re 1975, "Why Johnny Can't Write," and the related "literacy crisis"] (23).

"Patricia Sullivan, working in 1982 on interface design for the library at Carnegie Mellon, had a difficult time convincing her English department that what she was working on was English" (51).

?? "HYPERCARD would popularize and extend the use of hypertext in English studies, but all the groundwork for our field's later enthusiasm for hypertext was in place by 1985" (78).

"Of the many papers presented at these conferences, only a few focused on theoretical issues associated with technology" (95).

"The kids were interacting with paper, not with each other" (129, from Hamilton-Wieler).

"In 1986, for most of us, the computer was still a stand-alone machine, one marvelous in its capability--and on used by a single writer, writing alone. Yet by 1988, many of us--not yet most of us--would see the computer as a means of connecting to a virtual space in which we might participate with others in the construction of knowledge" (135).

See 282+ for highlights in "Perspectives of the authors after reading this manuscript."

Terms: "soft technological determinists" (1), computer as agent (2), community (2), electronic territory (6), techno-evangelists (13), generation gap (13), "writing crisis" (19), magical thinking paradigm (30), military discourse (106), add-on (111), ecology (124), burst/dissipation pattern (145), white coat syndrome (164), systems (174), "research community" (216)

Related sources
Cooper, Marilyn. "The Ecology of Writing." College English 48 (1986): 364-375.
Emig, Janet. "Writing as a Mode of Learning." CCC 28 (1977): 122-127.
Nold, Ellen. "Fear and Trembling: The Humanist Approaches the Computer." CCC 26 (1975): 269-273.
Bookmark and Share Posted by at September 4, 2006 1:06 PM to Writing Technologies