Sunday, August 19, 2007

Close Modeling

Flower and Hayes refer to their studies of talk-aloud protocols as "close modeling" (53) ("Designing Protocol Studies...", Hayes, Flower, Swarts, 1984). Close modeling suggests models that are slotted at a certain scale. For protocol studies, the scale is the solitary writer who is given a specific (if dull) writing task, who then executes the writing task, and who reports on the writing process according to a pre-determined processual scheme.

The famous visual model (from the CCC article in 1981) plays only a minor role in this discussion of close modeling. The visual model is presented once more in "Designing," reiterated with so little explicit treatment that its structuring function is more or less obvious and settled. I mean that it has not changed in the three intervening years. The visual model is static, inert, a monument.

How did we get from close reading to close modeling, and are they stationed in the same New Critical wheelhouse? Maybe a better question is whether the relationship between reading and modeling can be further pulled apart, broken down. I don't want to conflate reading with modeling, but I find it strange (and due for consideration, if nothing more) that reading touches on a receptive stance while modeling is comparably assertive or productive.

I'm not directly interested in protocol studies or the methods explained by Flower and Hayes to undertake such studies. The visual model from 1981 interests me, instead, for the way it haunts so much subsequent scholarship, for the way it makes unexamined (even un-seen, ghostly) appearances for many years after it was first presented. Why doesn't this visual model change, even when it turns up again and again in very different examinations of cognitive activity, revision, the writing process, and so on? How does its persistence infiltrate (perhaps even skew) the mythos of models (model-making, model-building, etc.) related to composition and rhetoric? The un-changing reappearance of the Flower and Hayes cognitive process model over so many years might suggest complacency toward the visual (why give it an update?). It's longevity begins to seem zombie-like--an undead model has chased off all others who would dare. Composition and rhetoric are cleared of models by this one.

But this isn't entirely true. Kinneavy's triangle hearkens to a classical rhetorical tradition. And there are many such triangles. Bitzer's is a model, even if it isn't drawn (models need not be visual, but the visual ones interest me more than the discursive ones). I mean that Kinneavy's model invoked associations with nobler company--a tradition in rhetoric that engulfed the new composition studies in the early 60's. Flower and Hayes' undead model, on the other hand, came from cognitive psychology, a field that enjoyed a coincident resurgence to that of disciplinary emergence and stabilization of composition studies. Still, there are other models. Porter and Sullivan share a visual model for institutional change and theorize the model's dynamism and portability (translatability?) drawing on postmodern geography. Tim Peeples, modeling the WPA as a highly connected node in a network, asserts the two-dimensional static (i.e., paper-bound) model as hyper, adaptive, and mobile (use your imagination!). Flower and Hayes' model, however, is the one that returns, re-occurs, inert and dressed in the same clothes it wore in 1981. I am tempted to argue that this haunts us--even haunts the visual in composition studies.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at August 19, 2007 2:58 PM to Models