Saturday, July 8, 2006

Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto"

*Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-181.

Hawaray's famous essay winds, triple-helix-like, around three politically-inflected considerations: feminism, socialism and materialism. Or, perhaps more precisely, she spins together a critical, (anti)definitional account of cyborg writing: the problem of agency, that is, in late twentieth century's emerging conditions of posthumanism and globalization as such forces "change what counts as women's experience" (149).

The essay is organized into the following sections:

I. An Ironic Dream of a Common Language for Women in the Integrated Circuit (149) (primarily definitional; a lot of giveth and taketh away or additive and subtractive defining of "cyborg")
II. Fractured Identities (155) (shift away from identity in favor of "affinity" and "affinities")
III. The Informatics of Dominion (161) (gets at the new conditions related to communications technologies and biotechnologies--a "writing technology" (164))
IV. The 'Homework Economy' Outside 'The Home' (166) (deals with labor and scene)
V. Women in the Integrated Circuit (170)
VI. Cyborgs: A Myth of Political Identity (173)

Haraway introduces three boundary breakdowns: 1.) the separation between human and animal; 2.) the distinction between organism and machine; and 3.) the distinction between physical and non-physical things. Furthermore, beyond boundary breakdowns, Haraway accounts for miniaturization and ubiquity (even invisibility) as factors complicating the "new scientific revolution" (153).

"The cyborg is resolutely committed to partiality, irony, intimacy, and perversity. It is oppositional, utopian, and completely without innocence" (151).

"The boundary is permeable between tool and myth, instrument and concept, historical systems of social relations and historical anatomies of possible bodies, including objects of knowledge. Indeed, myth and tool mutually constitute each other" (164). This begins to blend with ecological psychology and related considerations of systems as arenas where materiality and mythology wash into each other.

"These sociobiological stories depend on a high-tech view of the body as a biotic component or cybernetic [feedback-controlled] communication system" (169).

"'Networking ' is both a feminist practice and a multinational corporate strategy--weaving is for oppositional cyborgs" (170). Haraway gives us so much buildup--characterizations, descriptions, explanations of new and emerging dynamics. She might also be said to domesticate the figure of the cyborg; by establishing it complexly, Haraway becomes a kind of thin referent for all subsequent cyborg references.

"Intensifications of hardship experienced world-wide in connection with the social relations of science and technology are severe" (173). How might this be a more vigorous approach to questions of access? Is access synonymous with hardship? And why wouldn't we, then, always keep language fresh for its relevance to the technology access question?

"Writing is pre-eminently the technology of cyborgs, etched surfaces of the late twentieth century. Cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication" (176). The sites for this struggle and activity are elaborated in section IV, and a statement like this one moves the cyborg figure, its logic, nearer to composition and rhetoric. Maybe?

"Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?" (178). Another ecological psychology question.

"Cyborg imagery can help express two crucial arguments in this essay: first, the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skilful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts. It is not just that science and technology are possible means of great human satisfaction, as well as a matrix of complex dominations" (181).

Related sources:
Winner, Langdon. The Whale and The Reactor: A Search For Limits In An Age of High Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1986.
Grossman, Rachael. "Women's Place in the Integrated Circuit." Radical America 14.1 (1980): 29-49.

New London Group, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies"

*New London Group. "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies." Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Future. Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, eds. New York: Routledge, 2000. 9-37.

"Designing social futures" comes not only as this first chapter's subtitle but also as the second phrase in the subtitle of the NLG's larger book: Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. The New London Group is concerned with the proliferation of information, its circulation in multiple channels, including mass media, and, as well, the ability of education to prepare students for life in the face of unprecedented waves of information. Specifically, they focus on three scenes or phases of life: working lives, public lives (citizenship), and personal lives (or lifeworlds). In accounting for each of these scenes or phases, they hint at notions of network understanding, particularly intermixed with digital encounters (Ulmer's electracy, noted in one margin).

To put it another way, one of the questions motivating the NLG's work might be: How have new and emerging information technologies reconstituted the literacies most viable for work, citizenship and personal life? How must schooling respond?

"Local diversity and global connectedness mean not only that there can be no standard; they also mean that the most important skill students need to learn is to negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects; variations in register that occur according to social context; hybrid cross-cultural discourses; the code switching often to be found within a text among different languages, dialects, or registers; different visual and iconic meanings; and variations in the gestural relationships among people, language, and material objects" (14). Consider this alongside Canagarajah's notion corrective, code meshing. This also bears on the emphasis on futures and the static quality of standards.

The second major consideration of the essay (beyond that changing contours of literacy in work, citizen-publics and personal lives) is schooling: What schools do and what we can do in schools.

"The role of pedagogy is to develop an epistemology of pluralism that provides access without people having to erase or leave behind different subjectivities. This has to be the basis of a new norm" (18). The new norm relies heavily on notions of pedagogy as "design." This, they break into three sub-sets: available design, design and the redesigned. This reminds me of the tension Urban sets up between accelerative and inertial forces in culture (Metaculture). Available Designs are precursors and antecedent forces; Design is agency, in effect, and the redesigned accounts for what comes of the dialectical relationship.

"Our view of mind, society, and learning is based on the assumption that the human mind is embodied, situated and social" (30). This stance folds together four teaching activities: situated practice (33), overt instruction (33), critical framing (34), and transforming practice (situated, reflective) (35).

Related sources:
Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.
Dewey, John. Democracy and Education. 1916. New York: The Free Press, 1967.
Halliday, M.A.K., Language as Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning, Baltimore: University Park Press, 1978; London: Edward Arnold, 1978.

Macrorie, Uptaught

*Macrorie, Ken. Uptaught. 1970. Innovators in Education Ser. Portsmouth, N.H.: Boynton/Cook, 1996.

Macrorie's Uptaught is a humorous, hard-edged critique of tendencies in formal education toward prescriptive, overdetermined, and algorithmic writing events. True to his expressivist orientations, Macrorie emphasizes freedom (an almost Elbovian "Life is long; school is short" strain), freewriting, voice and their antitheses: oppression, constraint and stale discourses of schooling. I'm most interested in Macrorie's treatment of a computer system, Percival, as a trope for all that's wrong with education. The villainous computer system is used to score essays based on textual features, and this scenario functions rather like a set of bookends holding together the middle of his critique. Algorithmic text analysis is emblematic of all that's wrong with the institutionalization of writing in college. He boldly criticizes such projects (and associated thinking), but this also comes off as a critique of technology.

"They figured the theme graded by a teacher would carry a large number of these characteristics: a variety of sentence structures, frequent long sentences (with dependent clauses and other clearly realized relationships), a title (many papers did not carry titles), frequent paragraphing, few apostrophes, few spelling errors, many connective words, many commas and parentheses marks. The computer could read the papers for these mechanical traits" (4). Here, Macrorie lists the traits the computer system could identify, and he's right: it could. But he doesn't inquire into the possible benefits or uses or computationally assisted reading because it is the enemy. The mechanistic association, to be fair, is convenient to his larger set of proclamations about the dire state of college-level writing instruction.

"It was not nice to look at Johnny's carefully prepared dead body of a theme, cleaned of all the dirt of the street and the lines of experience around the eyes, inflated with abstract, pedantic words, depersonalized with pseudo-objective phrases that rendered it like every other corpse submitted to the teacher" (7). This connects with a couple of issues: Phelps in "Domain of Composition" on natural attitude, the idea of circulation in composition as "submitting" a paper (or corpse!), and the general displeasure in it all--for everyone involved.

Notably, Uptaught is part of an "innovators" series. And this brings up questions about what's involved with being an innovator. What does it mean, in other words, to be an innovator in composition and rhetoric, and who are our innovators now? On what grounds?

"This dehydrated manner of producing writing that is never read is the contribution of the English teacher to the total university. I know. For seventeen years I talked and responded like Percival. Then something happened in my class that showed me I had been an automaton sending out subtle messages I was unaware of. The students read them well: they were to become automatons too" (8). This, another illustration of Macrorie's complaint with automaton teaching and learning.

Related sources:
Page, E. B. & Paulus, D. H. (1968). The analysis of essays by computer. Washington, D. C: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, Bureau of Research.

Inman, Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era

I nman, James A. Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.

Inman's monograph is structurally rugged in the sense that he is explicit about the function and form of each section.  The book begins with a definition of computers and writing that stacks up according to real and virtual conferences (a listing of C&W conferences, locations, and dates), professional organizations and initiatives (ACW, Netoric Project, MOOs, OWLs, and listservs), and publishing ventures and products (Computers and Writing (1983), Kairos) (3).

Late in chapter one, Inman introduces something like an abbreviated bibliographic essay in an effort to account for the historical boundaries of the "cyborg era," a period he identifies as running roughly from 1979-2000, a period throughout which computers and writing scholarship resonated with the cyborg writing Haraway describes, where political agency weighs heavily, taking into consideration individuals, technologies and contexts.  Cyborg era, then, gets treated as a god-term; Inman contends that it exceeds the era designations common in the titles of a long list of works about writing technologies, the internet, and the surge in information economies.

The general structure of the book follows a series of cyborg designations: cyborg era, cyborg history (1960-1979; other technologies, resistance, women, and minorities), cyborg narratives (1979-2000; influence, textual transition, and pedagogical evolution), cyborg literacy (workplace, school, internets, and integration), cyborg pedagogy (shifting materialism, discomfort, design structures, minority empowerment), and cyborg responsibility.  Cyborg responsibility is Inman's culminating argument.  With it he introduces the following edicts: 1. Remember individuals in any technology and/or technology-adoption decision; 2. Actively seek and promote diversity; 3. Articulate and model resistance; and 4. Participate in the design of technologies. Toward implementation, Inman invokes Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations.

The ending sections of each chapter introduce the computers and writing roster, a who's who of the computers and writing "community" with photos and page-length answers to a set of Inman's question about how did you become active, what project influenced you, what's the most important aspect of the "community," what worries you about the C&W community, what's the best lesson, and why do you choose to be active in it. In an effort to define computers and writing, Inman also introduces a definitional montage--an oddly designed spread of voices from people who identify with the field. 

^emphasis on individuals (user-centered rather than technology-centered decisions) (278)
^degree of theorization in adopting Haraway's version of the cyborg (276)

"We have to realize, however, that terms like field, discipline, subfield, subdiscipline, and community are not interchangeable, as they each bring forward distinct values and implications.  Terming computers and writing a field, for instance, suggests that it has an established unique body of scholarship and that a number of scholars are engaged in its work, developing new scholarship themselves that advances knowledge in the field" (2). ^Consider this alongside Lauer's notion of a dappled discipline and especially her division of audience into expert-keepers of the epistemic court, the general public, and those who identify with the field but to don't keep up with the scholarship either as readers or writers.

Related sources:
Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-181.
Hawisher, Gail E. and 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.
Hayles, Katherine N. How We Became Posthuman : Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: Chicago Press, 1999.