Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's Time

Daly-Goggin, Authoring A Discipline.

D aly-Goggin, Maureen. Authoring A Discipline: Scholarly Journals and the Post-World War II Emergence of Rhetoric and Composition. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000.

Searchable text available in Google Book Search.

Daly-Goggin presents a study of nine major journals in rhetoric an composition over 40 years as evidence of the discipline's emergence: College English, CCC, Research in the Teaching of English, Rhetoric Society Newsletter/Quarterly, Freshman English News, Journal of Advanced Composition (later only JAC), Pre/Text, Rhetoric Review, and Written Communication. The preface very clearly positions the project as a history; the opening traces rhetoric as an institutional interest, from its lowly status in the early twentieth century to its resurgence in the late twentieth century. Daly-Goggin draws heavily on a gardening metaphor--an organic framework related to gardening, budding, fruits, transplanting, and harvesting.

The book is organized by periods. The second chapter covers 1950-1965; the third chapter, 1965-1980; and the fourth chapter, 1980-1990. The fourth chapter/era is the time when disciplinarity was best established, relative to the earlier periods, and, as such, Daly-Goggin suggests that the ways journals defined themselves shifted toward theory, methods, and history and away from practice and pedagogy. Put another way, the discipliniographers (i.e., editors and contributors who literally write the discipline (xvii)) continued to move in their thinking to a point where rhetoric and composition was thought a Wissenschaft (14, 122a) or legitimate knowledge-making conglomerate.

Daly-Goggin's analysis of each journal focuses on transitions between editors; she characterizes the journals according to each editor's predilections for what the journal would do and how decisions would be made about what sorts of content would be featured. This is especially significant when it comes to features such as tables of contents (added to RSQ in 1981) and double-blind peer review (introduced to CCC relatively late compared to other journals, during Richard Gebhardt's editorship, starting in 1987).

To account for the early years (1950-1965), Daly-Goggin draws on Laurence Veysey's idea of patterned isolation where "knowledge production and consumption was dispersed, localized, and personal" (48, 65). Collin has written about this, as well, and it is tremendously useful for getting at questions of just how much journals did to alter the pattern or relieve the experience of isolation. Daly-Goggin also suggests that, for this era, many in English studies might not have been paying attention to the journal--might not have been reading it at all. In 1964, Macrorie published ten accounts by graduate students criticizing their graduate training in English. Daly-Goggin writes, "Yet English professors were silent for reasons that are not entirely clear; some may have agreed and thus saw no reason to speak out; others may have chosen to ignore the publication, and still others--most likely many others--probably simply had not read the journal" (61d). Simply had not read the journal.

Also:

  • Rel. to Crowley's notion of mechanical literacy, how are models positioned (12b)?
  • Blind peer review for CCC arrives in 1987, during Gebhardt's term as the ninth ed. (63)
  • Graphs: 2 in chapter two, 0 in three, 0 in four, 6 in five, and 0 in six.
  • Subhead: "Defining Disciplinary Practices: Developing Lines of Inquiry and Building Social Networks" (79) (rel. ns)
  • Lauer and Berthoff exchange (96b); see Lauer's "Heuristics"
  • Early articulation of process model by Flower and Hayes in 1977 "Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process" (100c)
  • 1984 Christopher Burnham on cataloguing articles by type: "as monumental as Sisyphus's task and equally absurd" (115d)
  • Joseph Harris on algorithms and heuristics from A Teaching Subject (117)
  • Journal of Advanced Composition to JAC in effort to distinguish from Journal of Basic Writing (122b).
  • RSQ adds table of contents in 1981--to look more professional (136a).
  • On citation frequency, density of publications, and critical mass (177)
  • Social fabric metaphor (in addition to the organic/garden metaphor) (178)
  • Trimbur on specialization as threat (205a)

Terms: discipliniographers (xviii, 148), density of publications (xviii, 176, rel. to graphs), research ideal (5), grammatocentrism (8c), Crowley's mechanical literacy (12b) (rel. models as merely or more than), Wissenschaft (14b), patterned isolation (48, 65), interdisciplinarity (87), poesis/noesis (91), generations (149b; rel. to Latour SIA), critical mass (176), marketing myopia (199d).

"However, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that journals alone construct the disciplinary work of a field; the phenomenon is much more complicated than that" (xviii).

"The point is disciplines have never been unified or coherent; rather by the mid-20th century academicians began to confront the illusions of coherence" (xx).

Technique: "Given the enormous new demands for work and recreational literacy, the question is why rhetoric did not expand to fill those needs instead of contracting so sharply. The answer is too complex to deal with in one chapter, but the following three sections address some of the major forces that worked to eclipse rhetoric within departments of English" (10d).

Lloyd-Jones compares research agenda to chemistry/alchemy: "Although some in the field of rhetoric and composition have criticized the natural sciences analogy, it was fitting. As I already pointed out, those in the field were isolated in home institutions and thus, largely in the dark about what others were doing, making coherent research agendas virtually impossible" (77b).

"One point must then be highlighted: The contributors and the journals in rhetoric and composition became dispersed across the entire United States, and they further began to represent fairly well the geographical distribution of postsecondary educational institutions" (160).

"In each case, the analysis suggests just how strong and how tightly woven the social fabric for the field had become by the 1980s" (178a).

"Narrow specialization threatens rhetoric--an observation made by Cicero over two millennia ago that appears in the epigraph that opens chapter 1 of this history" (205).

Related sources:
Burnham, Christopher. "Research Methods in Composition." Research in Composition and Rhetoric: A Bibliographic Sourcebook. Eds. Michael G. Moran and Ronald F. Lunsford. Westport: Greenwood, 1984: 191-201.
Crowley, Sharon. "The Perilous Life and Times of Freshman English." Freshman English News 14 (1986): 11-16.
Flower, Linda S., and John R. Hayes. "Problem-Solving Strategies and the Writing Process." CCC 39 (1977): 449-61.
Lauer, Janice. "Heuristics and Composition." CCC 21 (1976): 396-404.
Trimbur, John. "The Problem of Freshman English (Only): Toward Programs of Study in Writing." Writing Program Administration 22 (1999): 9-30.
Veysey, Laurence R. The Emergence of the American University. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1965.
Veysey, Laurence R. "The Plural Organized Worlds of the Humanities." The Organization of Knowledge in Modern America, 1860-1920. Eds. Kenneth Oliver and John Voss. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1979. 51-106.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Heeling Arts

I stepped onto the front stoop first thing this morning to get a feel for the weather. Figured we'd walk the neighborhood and needed to factor the temperature into our preparations. I wasn't wearing shoes.

Opened the screen door and went to step back inside (with Is. in my arms). And then I let the screen door shut. Just the other day I switched out the glass storm door for its spring weather counterpart, the screen. Gone with the heavier version of the door was its maximum use of the pressure tube that regulates the door's rate of closure. The lighter door closes more quickly, I mean. In an effort to keep it from slamming into my back and, perhaps, messing up the screen material, I kicked back my right foot, thinking my heel would stall the impact of the door long enough for the two of us to pass inside before the door closed. This is a dance step I've executed a thousand times.

Only today the corner of the door's aluminum frame featured a sharp barb--sharp like the sword of Zorro! Here is a picture of it:

Barb

We didn't get to go on the walk. The barb did what it looks like it was designed to do, slicing superficially along a couple of inches of my lower leg before jamming all the way into my heel. A puncture wound. I was stabbed in the foot by an aluminum screen door (still angry because I broke one of the cheap clamps that holds the screen in place when I changed it the other day?). We rode to the ER where, after two-and-a-half hours, they put me back together again. This time it was Mike, not Cliff, who did the stitching. And fortunately, in this summery weather, it's pleasant enough to prop up the foot and let the Neosporin and Cephalexin do their work on the wound, which, I've been promised, will be better than new in one week.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Swatch

S hould I change the coloration of the blog? If I do, I'll start by trimming this collection of fourteen--most of which I lifted from colourlovers--down to three or four.

Honey (i.e., gold, third from the left) and ham gravy (i.e., tan, seventh from the left) are front runners, although only one or the other would be part of the new scheme, not both. I probably should add that I don't officially have time for tinkering with the blog, but there's a certain purging and restorative balance (CSS Zen Garden?) that comes with washing the style sheets every now and then.

Posted by at 7:45 PM | to Design

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fan Mail: A Softer Dough

F rom the EWM mail bag, a reader writes:

My friend,

I tried the pizza crust you gushed about last month in your entry titled, "The Dough Is Now Ready." How can I put this? It was absolute crapola! Too hard! I nearly broke my tooth (although I was good humored enough to enjoy a chuckle at the thought that you put up a hoax crust recipe on your blog and I fell for it). Seriously, I thought I was eating the pizza stone--munching away on ham-n-mushroom smothered rocks. You should have said "The Dough Is Now Ready to Repave a Chuckhole" or something.

Never again,

Gullible in San Diego, Calif.

Wow. I feel terrible. So I have responded (most EWM mail goes directly to recycling or goes the way of DEL).

Dear G.,

Another month of experimenting with the dough has, in fact, revealed to me that I was cooking it for too long. Nearly 10 minutes too long! The amended recipe is below (a variation on this). And I have enclosed a pack of Trident to relieve your ailing mouth parts.

2 tsp. sugar
2 packets of yeast
1 1/2 cups water (warm to touch; appr. 100-110 F)

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 c. olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Add spices, if you want to: garlic powder or whatever.

Pour half of the water into a glass or bowl with the sugar and yeast. Stir. Allow the yeast five minutes to activate. The yeast-sugar mixture should be foamy when you combine it with all of the other ingredients in a food processor. Mix all ingredients for a couple of minutes in the food processor. Everything should gather together in this process, forming a mass. Remove the mass (i.e. dough ball) from the processor and knead it by hand 20-30 times. Put it into a bowl, coat the ball with olive oil, cover the bowl with a towel. After one hour, punch it down. After a second hour (or 45 mins), it's ready to roll out. Makes two pizzas.

Heat the oven to 450F. Split the dough ball into equal parts and roll flat (always rolling from the center, unless your skilled with the toss). Dust the sheet or stone with corn flour to prevent sticking, then place the rolled/tossed dough. Cover with toppings. Cook for 17 minutes (split this time evenly if you are reversing the rack positions of the two pizzas).

This will give you a softer dough.

Posted by at 7:40 PM | to Gobstuff

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Miscellaneous Notes

D avid Weinberger's Everything Is Miscellaneous (Amazon | blog) accounts for the overhaul of classificatory efforts brought about through various digital platforms--del.icio.us, Wikipedia, Flickr, and so on--as each affords nearly limitless reorganization. This third order, the digital, amplifies miscellany, and with it characteristics of mayhem, disorderliness, and pandemonium that distinguishes the digital from contending orders. Weinberger tabs this condition the "new order of order," and he ends the book's prologue with a gesture that brings information to life, infuses it with desire: "[information] wants to be miscellaneous" (7).

Much of what Weinberger does depends on his own taxonomy--an unshakeable bedrock of three orders, each distinct from the other. The first order is material (silverware drawers, shelved books); the second order is paper-bound (card catalogues, etc.). Each earlier order has its problems, Weinberger argues, and only a few of those problems are shared with the third order, the digital. His examples are persuasive, from the arbitrariness (and implicit cultural rootedness) of alphabetization to dogmatic assertions about the universe (or all of the fauna and flora in it) to the design rational of the periodic table of elements--with each anecdote, Weinberger shows the constraints of monolithic categorization schemes. In the digital order, the singular scheme is loosened; "everything has its place" shifts plural, as "everything has its places" (45).

To illuminate this sea change, Weinberger goes at the strained hierarchies of the Dewey Decimal System and contrasts it with the "planned serendipity" (59) in a system like Amazon's, where multiuser metadata and intelligent agents merge into a robust system for circulating interests, influence, and recommendations. He also writes about lists, about laundry, Linnaeus, and the inadequacy of trees (70) (See today's Wired: excerpt from EIM and this). On paper, a classification scheme like Linnaeus's gets bogged down. But the digital order supports layers of tags as well as "faceted classification" (76); now coated in metadata, the sorted object is readily traced along multiple arrays.

The book has much to offer; there's more here than I'm able to recapture right now. On the whole, Everything Is Miscellaneous accomplishes something we can use very much: it works through the ways classification schemes, if ever they were presumed to be rigid and reductive, are giving way to digital circulation and with it a certain buoyant impermanence better matched with the nature of epistemology, especially when we come at it with certain things in mind: rhetoric, production, circulation, and performance. That said, the entire project is circumscribed by its promising counterstatement: It's A Damn Good Thing Everything Isn't Miscellaneous (Weinberger says something similar near the end). I mean, where Weinberger is upbeat about the digital order, his focal premise forces more thoughtful reconsiderations of just how much shared ordering is necessary and practical. I would call this a symptom of all-isms or everything-ness, where the title's "everything" is bait rather than a blanket assertion.

EIM bears out a few confusing moments, as Weinberger himself has acknowledged. For instance, where he discusses meaning (169), I thought his approach risked moving too far in the direction of interpretation and away from production (i.e., knowledge wrought by reading, not writing, though I'm treating this split too simply). I also wondered how it might work to compound the order/mess pairing in chapter nine with something like stagnation and circulation (176); the activity Weinberger stresses with tagging is as much, to my mind, about scraping raw again that which has settled, grown inertial--commonplaces, givens, God terms, doxa. Again, I'm back to circulation.

I also like the section where Weinberger discusses echo chambers, "Shard Knowledge." But there's a point at which he distinguishes conversation from writing: "The noise this [conversation] makes is very different from the scratch of a philosopher's ink on paper. Paper drives thoughts into our heads" (203). Sure, there's something doctrinaire and trusted in paper's longevity, but I worry that anyone would accept as intrinsically more grounded (i.e., sensible, thought-out, careful) anything simply because it appeared on paper. Plus, conversation and dialogue don't belong to the third order digital apparatus any more than the second order of paper--just differently.

As I said three paragraphs ago when I sensed that I was nearing the end of this entry, there's much I'm glossing. I'll come back to some of these ideas later on, I suspect; they're good enough to hold with a favorable lastingness (esp. "joints of nature" (32), metadata defn (104), faceted classification (78), and family resemblances (185). I'll also formally, officially add miscellanize to the belt of verbs one day soon. And, as if that's not enough of an indication of praise, I'm also going to continue to think through how I might use Everything for the WRT205 course I teach next spring.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Amtrak Flashbak

M ore about the events I mentioned yesterday:

When pulled up to the Toledo Amtrak Station--third largest train terminal in the U.S. (said an announcement justifying departure/arrival delays)--I had no idea it was only open from 9 p.m. until 12:30 p.m., seven days a week. When we arrived at the station straightaway from Tony Packo's, it was 7:40 p.m., so there would be a fair amount of waiting around given that my train was scheduled to pass through between 3:30 a.m .and 4 a.m. Waiting, reading. I finished Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous and glanced Rice and Reynolds' Portfolio Teaching pamphlet, which I grabbed from the Bedford table at C&W because Old U. aims to add Portfolio Keeping to their online FYC sequence by September.

Other than the ticketing agent, I was the only person in the station from 9 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. The worst thing about the Toledo station is that the benches are deliberately uncomfortable. High, rounded cushion backs and narrow, slanted bench seats made it impossible to sleep. The second worst thing about the Toledo station is that the channel cannot be changed on any of the three televisions broadcasting CNN Headline News (which, on Sunday night, included at least three full airings of Larry King featuring the whole gang from Dancing with the Stars). The third worst thing: only Pepsi products. Even so, I did enjoy one Dr. Pepper. And the fourth worst thing?

The 2:00 a.m. train to Pittsburgh was delayed for a full hour, to those who would have boarded it at 2:00 a.m. were mulling around. I talked for a while with a retired elementary school teacher from Saginaw who had many concerns about No Child Left Behind and who, for other reasons altogether, waited with her NYC-bound artist-daughter to make sure she wasn't left behind. The late train arrived. Those departing on it went out to the platform; those arriving made way into the station.

Next--ten feet in front of me--a woman in her fifties was walking into the station, wheeling her luggage into the terminal when the floor mat folded under the short wheels of her suitcase, instantaneously creating a tripping hazard of the worst sort: one that could hardly be anticipated. And she fell with alarming force to the floor. We helped her up and over to the nearest bench--the same one I had been sitting on. She would be fine, although she insisted on having the ticketing agent call 9-1-1 and mentioned that her daughter was a lawyer at Toledo U. I won't go into all of the details of our conversation, but because I was already sitting there and had all of my luggage parked by the bench, I was the only one who remained within earshot, near enough to listen to her rail against Amtrak (It's not even raining! and I just want my medical bills paid for! and Did you see what happened?). Living it--perhaps because I've done a poor job of capturing the mood--was somehow more surreal.

Compared to the trip and fall, most of the other incidents were minor. In Buffalo, a mass of passengers crowded onto the train and there was a tussle between a couple of folks in front of me over who would have the window seat. Nothing major. I will take the train again, but I can't say that I have any immediate plans to do so. For the $57 bucks I spent, I might not have been able to drive a car from Toledo to Syracuse. And all of the flights, besides costing several times more and piling on one or more layovers, would've taken the same amount of time as Monday's eight-hour train ride.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Recharging

I returned to Syracuse earlier today after a long weekend in Detroit for Computers and Writing. Getting to Motown on Thursday was a cinch, but getting home again was eventful (also it was, in the end, safe)--for reasons that have nothing to do with loading up on Tony Packo's hot dogs, deep fried pickles, and chicken chili before heading to the Toledo Amtrak station. I'll have more to say about the eventfulness tomorrow, once I've had the chance to unpack and watch the Heroes finale (while flipping back to the Pistons-Cavs).

This hippo from yesterday's visit to the Toledo Zoo does pretty well to depict the way I'm feeling after a looong night-into-day's travel on the Lake Shore Limited.

Hippo

Posted by at 8:10 PM | to Travelog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Michshapen

I received an email earlier this evening announcing a hot new version of Google Analytics. Since I'm putting off packing for C&W, I clicked around in it for a couple of minutes. Most of what I found was impressive, highly detailed, analytical, and so on. But when I zoomed in on the U.S., something was off. Michigan, the state where I was born and raised, the land of Vernors and Koegels (milk and honey, bah!), appeared malformed.

I zoomed in once again and found the same funky shape, only larger.

This can only mean one of the following:

  1. The designer at Google Analytics had one too many Old Milwaukees for lunch.
  2. The U.P. has, in fact, always been the shape of the stock of a shotgun.
  3. Four of the Great Lakes have been bulldozed after all of that precious fresh water was leeched by a Las Vegas irrigation swindle.
  4. Google Analytics is consulting with a cartographer from Monroe who mistakenly used his whole arm for a quick-map.

Lyon, "Rhetoric and Hermeneutics"

L yon, Arabella. "Rhetoric and Hermeneutics." Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention. Eds. Janet Atwill and Janice Lauer. Knoxville, Tenn.: Univ. of Tennessee P, 2002. 36-52.

Lyon works at the intersection of rhetoric and hermeneutics in an effort to make sense of the relationship between the two concepts. To weigh the terms and explore their interrelationship, she uses invention as a fulcrum. Rhetoric and hermeneutics, Lyon explains, both can be thought inventive, but they are not equal terms with respect to invention. Lyon is concerned that "[b]y turning toward interpretation and away from production and making, rhetoricians have diminished the place of rhetoric as an action in the world" (36). With this, Lyon makes a strong argument for the inventive orientation of rhetoric the must not be lost with turns to rhetorical criticism, hermeneutic invention, or rhetorical reading. Hermeneutics and rhetoric are "not the same project" (37).

Lyon attributes one explanation of the interpretive renewal in traditional rhetoric to Dilip Gaonkar and Michael Leff who "draw attention to the relationship between interprettion and agency" (39), keeping them separate rather than working to harmonize them. Next, Lyon sets out to examine two treatments of the relationship between hermeneutics and rhetoric: one she regards favorably by Hans-Georg Gadamer and one she regards skeptically by Steven Mailloux. Gadamer reserves some distinctions between hermeneutics and rhetoric; toward a "philosophical hermeneutics" he says they are "interdependent" and they "work synergistically" (40). Lyon explains Gadamer's stance: "Hermeneutics is a re-vision of an earlier production, an earlier invention. Hence, hermeneutics is dependent on what is said or written. There is a crucial rhetorical event (invention) priotr to interpretation" (41).

Mailloux, on the other hand, defines rhetoric in such a way that "emphasizes the cultural effects of and response to a text and ignores the rhetor's activity of purposeful production" (42). Lyon takes exception with Mailloux's discussion of how interpretation works, particularly for his mention of "translation" and "transformation" (42c). She contends that by collapsing rhetoric and hermeneutics, Mailloux's approach glosses significant distinctions between the two concepts as it relies on a logic that slides from hermeneutics to rhetoric: "hermeneutics is argument is rhetoric." This risks reducing rhetorical theory to "linguistic situations" alone (45c).

Continuing, Lyon discloses a preference for keeping hermeneutics and rhetoric distinct. She examines three interpretive-productive modes to attenuate the distinctions: rhetorical invention, hermeneutical invention, and rhetorical reading. Rhetorical invention applies to a certain contextual novelty (not wholly made up because of the accruals of language), whereas hermeneutical invention is much more closely aligned with paraphrasing. Hermeneutical invention, like rhetorical reading, is "a mediation" (48d, 49a).

Finally, Lyon reasserts what is useful from Gadamer's nuanced stance on the subtle distinctions between hermeneutics and rhetoric. Gadamer's fusing of horizons allows for prejudice, for bias, for the ways texts act on us and infiltrate us, as "the text becomes part of our being" (50). Lyon calls for caution over allowing interpretive modes to detract from rhetorical invention: "Rhetoric's increasing affiliation with textual reception, specifically Gadamer's hermeneutics, while increasing concern with discourse and text, potentially diminishes many aspects of textual production and rhetoric" (50).

  • Consider the ways hermeneutics, particularly philosophical hermeneutics, might tie in with "wonder" as a shared dimension of invention (from conference).
  • Lyon's critique of Mailloux's use of "translation" considers translation as discursive/discursive or linguistic/linguistic, but never discursive/extra- or non-discursive, never linguistic/visual. I don't mean that this is the sort of translation Mailloux considers, either, but it does seem to be one limitation of the critique. How would the hermeneutics/rhetorics discussion shift if production, translation/mediation, and interpretation were opened to encompass non-discursive forms as would be necessary to carry this over to the digital order?

"I believe the concept of invention allows us to begin to separate hermeneutics from rhetoric; moreover, this process of differentiation shows both where rhetorical invention lies and how inventive rhetorical invention can be" (39).

"My point here, that rhetoric and hermeneutics both engage processes of production and reception, is not controversial. The controversies turn on the extent to which each is characterized by production and reception and the degree to which any type of production or reception is similar in the context of rhetor and audience purposes." (43).

"Hermeneutics is a theory not about the effect on an audience, but about the truth-seeking approach of an educated interpreter" (44).

"Hermeneutics may require an argument; interpretation does not" (45).

"Furthermore, I suspect one can make too easy an argument for rhetorical situation as encompassing more than linguistic situations, starting with the example of the Titanic and working up to armed robberies and bad dates" (45).

"It is my belief that we learn more about the concepts and our practices from the difficult task of differentiating hermeneutics and rhetoric than from that of collapsing them" (46).

"In Gadamerian hermeneutics, the interpreter stops interrogating and manipulating the text and allows the text to interrogate our prejudices and intentions and finally to be applied in our present situation" (49).

"The point of hermeneutical invention is to produce a new position for the interpreter" (50).

Terms: rhetoric, invention, hermeneutics, Gadamer, Mailloux, interpretation, reading, theory, discourse, mediation, language, audience, production, reception, translation, transformation, understanding, horizon, wonder

Related sources:
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. "Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and the Critique of Ideology: Metacritical Comments on Truth and Method." The Hermeneutics Reader. Ed. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer. New York: Continuum, 1992. 274-92.
Mailloux, Steven. "Articulation and Understanding: The Pragmatic Intimacy Between Rhetoric and Hermeneutics." Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Our Time: A Reader. Ed. Walter Jost and Michael Hyde. Princeton: Yale UP, 1997. 378-94.
Mailloux, Steven. Rhetorical Power. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1989.
Posted by at 12:04 PM | to

For $477 Million

D id you hear about Pearson's acquisition of online courseware giant eCollege? Yeah, $477 mil.

I've taught a few courses with eCollege for old U. over the past four years. I find their platform to be only mildly (.01 micro-measures, to be exact) better than Blackboard. I did, for what it's worth, decide this semester that I will never ever again involve Blackboard as a platform for an online course unless my employment contract requires it. With eCollege, what's different is that everyone I know (who uses it) seems to be gushing about the features. Within eCollege I know how to change things around, add modules, rearrange parts of the course, and so on, but I continue to find it excruciatingly cumbersome to navigate: two and three extra clicks to complete an operation, HTML pastes commonly (if randomly) introduce extra line breaks with nothing in the code to explain it, the style sheets cascade in highly unpredictable ways, and--this is the one that gets me the most--the discussion threads don't allow for stylistic emphasis. In other words, the threaded discussions don't tolerate italics, boldface, underlining, highlighting, blockquotes, or much of anything. For eCollege's discussion threads, it's plain text with! automatically recognized URLs. Altogether, this feels like trying to fashion a fine set of dishes out of molding clay with a scoop of coarse gravel thrown in. That said, their system for uploading Micro$oft documents is fairly robust. I suppose this works for plenty of people, but to me it feels like an exhausting, high stakes labyrinth of propriety encumberanceware.

$477 mil?

I know this sounds highly critical, even ranty. I continue to cling to a couple of old ties as course developer of three courses whose curricula rely (as contractually stipulated) on the eCollege platform. And so I must continue to work with it and tolerate its shortcomings. When I saw the news of the acquisition, I was just thinking that for $477 million dollars somebody at Pearson might stumble across this entry and consider that even eCollege could be sharply improved. It would be a shame to allow its platform to rest on the sole accolade of being better, even by the thinnest margin, than Blackboard.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ends and Begins

I turned in grades a few minutes ago, so my semester has officially ended. I taught an online seniors-only section of WRT205 this semester. As far as I know, it's the first time the Writing Program offered the course in exactly this way (online and for seniors). At this stage, there's not a whole lot I can say for the course. It tends to enroll students who didn't complete this sophomore-level writing course (emphasizing textual research) when they were sophomores. Or juniors. Certainly there is an inherent obstacle in their putting off this course for any number of reasons, ranging from bad experiences (withdrawing) to more enticing course offerings to presumptions about the tortures of academic writing. On this, the last last day of the semester, I'd be hesitant to describe what took shape over the past sixteen weeks as an unqualified success. Good at times, and less good at other times. The general attitude toward online courses at SU seems to me--given admittedly limited experience teaching online for SU--to be one of avoidance or disengagement. The online course isn't the scene students flock toward for more lively, engaging, and rigorous experiences.

Shoot, all of that sounds fairly grim, doesn't it? Let me say this, then. While this isn't the ideal way for students to take a required sophomore-level writing course (online, I mean, and in their final semesters of undergraduate studies), there were impressive projects and bright moments. One student worked at the knot where systems for juvenile punishment tie messily in with effective rehabilitation efforts (looking, that is, at how such institutions risk reinscribing criminality). Another project sorted through the uses of Latour and SNA for understanding the complexity of the United Nations. And then there was this project, a sequence on interactivity influenced by McCloud.

As much for my successful prospectus hearing as for capping WRT205, I'm relieved the semester is over. Next, I'm headed to Detroit for Computers and Writing. Aside from trips to Arizona and Michigan in June and teaching an online course for old U. and moving, what's left will be filled up with the diss.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Few Things I Heard on 5-14

F irst thing in the morning: Is. let loose with a squeal-shout of "Day-ad!" (or something sounding very close to this) loudly enough to stir me from the depths of sleep.

Sometime in the afternoon I heard, "You may now write your dissertation."1

Madeline's prospectus was approved by her committee today, too. And Susan successfully defended her dissertation.

Added: The Collin vs. Tenure showdown ended with a favorable result.

I have a hunch there will be more to add...

~

1. I have a heap of really useful notes from the prospectus hearing. Tomorrow I need to pour over them, translate them into a more coherent and usable form. And then *deep breath* all that's left is to write the thing. To begin the hearing, I offered a brief recap of the conversations and email exchanges with each member of the committee. Not wanting to go too long with the preamble, I kept myself to just four points (questions, suggestions, recommended readings, concerns) per person. From there it was every bit the collegial conversation I hoped for, and I walked away feeling tremendously relieved, challenged, and overstimulated with the ideas we shared about the work just ahead.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Long Jump

W e took in Ph.'s track meet in Oswego this afternoon, cruising up there with my dad and S. who are in Syracuse visiting us for a couple of days.

Ph. has been competing this spring in the long jump, the triple jump, and the 110 high hurdles. He placed third today in the long jump and triple jump. Here, in a photo snapped by S., he's gliding to his longest long jump of the meet: 18-2.

Eighteen-Two

Saturday, May 5, 2007

#0033BD

I have no idea where this will rank in self indulgence among my birthday entries of all time. Inspired by Colourlovers, I've cobbled together a few of the latest hues and tints:

#0033BD

Not exactly the color scheme you'd want to use for sprucing up the CSS on your site, unless you want that site to look something like me.

Happy birthday to other notable Fifthers: Donna, KB, Marx, Soren K., and Ann B. Davis.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Skein of Photos

F rom the first week of May:

HP Memory Upgrade

Earlier today I doubled the memory in D.'s HP Pavilion Slimline by dropping in a 512MB module. The installation was static-free and fairly simple. It makes me quietly wish for more memory in my laptop.

Steamboat Willie Pancake

Tonight we had the breakfast foods for dinner. It's my week for meals, and we've already had pizza twice during the week. This one's a Steamboat Willie cake, best eaten with Creative Commons syrup on top. Passing the syrup bottle around the table went something like this: "Share?" "Share alike!"

Pancakecake

On this the eve of my 33rd birthday (or is it Larry Birdthay?), I took a few minutes to try out some batter art, batter art even more impressive than the mouse above: a pancake cake.

Flower

And I also made a flower, inspired by the moment when the "breakfast hero" entry from MAKE flashed through my aggregator earlier this week.

Tuesday's Pizzas

Tuesday's pizzas. Left: veggie; Right: pepperoni.

Is. and the Yard

Is. played in the grass yesterday.

Is. and the Yard

And was worn out. Speaking of worn out, all day long I've been fighting my eyelids after staying up to watch Golden State up-end the Mavs last night. Still, I managed somehow to mow the grass, follow along on Is.'s 9 mos. pediatric appointment, submit a CCCC panel proposal, and split an evening soccer-tennis match versus Ph. (I'm sure he let me win the second game...very kind of him, I thought).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pemberton, "Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models."

P emberton, Michael A. "Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models." CCC 44.1 (1993): 40-58.

Pemberton examines models in composition studies by taking into account Flower and Hayes' cognitive process model of writing and its mixed reception. In one sense, then, this essay is an account of uptake. But there're more. Pemberton opens up many generative, provocative questions about the status of modeling in rhetoric and composition. He works through a stasis of definition (what are models?) and explains some of the givens (models simplify) and assumptions (models are mechanistic and positivistic; they are "partial isomorphs" of any complex phenomena) that have inhibited the production and circulation of models in the field.

To demonstrate the range of possible critiques of models, Pemberton cites Duhem, who argued against models because they weren't positivistic enough; on the other end of a spectrum, he refers to critics of Flower and Hayes' models who disclaimed them because they were too positivistic. This would indicate a full range of critical and evaluative treatments that is not explicitly tied to the activity of inventing models. Such critiques, perhaps, are more common when models are scarce or when their persuasive viability is undermined by their hybridity (as they often mix the discursive and non-discursive, the visual and the abstract, bridge the theoretical and its basis in data).

The essay is divided into seven sections: Opening, Models as Conceptual Frameworks (42), What Constitutes a Model? (44), Models as Simplifications (47), Models as Misleading Representations (48), Implications for Theory and Composition Discourse (52), Conclusions (54). Even though this is a follow-up to Flower and Hayes' model (addressing, very generally: what has come of the modeling of writing behaviors in the wake of Flower and Hayes?), it expands well beyond that moment by adding a layer (turning to the meta of modeling practices, modeling theory). Where models are treated as critical frameworks, Pemberton provides the following illustration:

Local<---------------------------------------------->Global
Data - - - Models - - - Theories - - - Paradigms

His point with this is that each of the elements are "hierarchical," "interdependent," and "contiguous." Of course, even as they potentially bridge data and theories, models (when they are scarce and monumental, as with Flower and Hayes') are easy targets for critique. Simplification and misrepresentation are hazards (and exceedingly common bases for critique), as Pemberton rightly points out, but these should not prevent us from learning to make models, from using models to persuade and to mobilize (as Latour mentions).

Returns: terminological confusion related to "models" (44b), subject and source for a model as relates to Kuhn's 'preferred analogy' (45b), the principle of selection (research is always reductive and limiting (48)) (46b), Emig's inquiry paradigm (model as... or method as...) (54c).

Also work through Berthoff's critique of reductionism. How can visual models be abstract? General vs. abstract // study vs. sting (Barthes)...power of expansion and third meaning? (47b)

Pemberton ends the essay with a series of questions that, should we take up the work of modeling, we ought to sort through, address, etc.

Phrases: positivism (40), composing processes (41), paradigms (41), empirical scholarship (41), theory-building (41), modeling theory (42), conceptual frameworks (42), distillation of data (44), 'possibility' proofs (45), Kuhn's 'preferred analogy' (45), partial isomorphs (45), mechanistic (46), simplifications (47), incompleteness (53).

"To Duhem, meaningful understanding was intimately linked to scientific rigor, mathematical exactitude, and representational precision; since models were simplifications, their descriptions were unreliable and their utility questionable at best. In an age when positivism had not yet been supplanted as the dominant ideology guiding scientific inquiry, Duhem criticized models for their failure to be positivistic enough" (40)."

"Comparatively little attention has been paid, however, to the issue of modeling in composition studies, despite its central role in the interpretation of research data and the sheer number of models which exist to describe writing behaviors" (42).

"Before we can accurately interpret, evaluate, or employ any model of composing processes--or fully understand how several such models can coexist--we must be thoroughly informed with the knowledge of exactly what a model is, how it can be used effectively, and what its limitations are" (42). Significant here is Pemberton's mention of thresholds for coexisting models. How many can we have? Why not x+1? How many are too many? When they are dynamic and abundant rather than static and scarce, how is their intervention (or bridging between data and theory) different?

"The interdependence of these conceptual frameworks is reciprocal, operating in both a 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' fashion" (42).

"The terms 'subject' and 'source' can therefore be used to characterize the nature of the modeling relationship. We can assert, for instance, that any subject we wish to model--be it a tangible artifact or an intangible process--has a finite set of properties whose precise number is bounded, in part, by our ability to perceive and identify them" (45). Finitude?

"In addition, the model itself--or more properly speaking, the preferred analogy which is used to shape the model--will embody a number of intrinsic properties that do not properly belong to the subject being modeled" (45). See Wood, The Power of Maps, c. 5 and Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, on generalization (rel. to abstraction).

"We must be careful, therefore, to guard against the urge to dismiss, preemptively, the value of a model merely because it contains imperfections" (46).

"The moment we decide what we want to investigate and how we want to conduct our research, we automatically delimit our field of inquiry and define its boundaries" (48).

"As I have already discussed the nature of such critiques, I will not belabor the issue further than to reiterate the point that incompleteness is an unavoidable epistemological weakness common to all models and all methods of data collection" (53).

"Researchers need to address questions such as: What are my methodological assumptions? What factors are likely to be included or excluded by my mode of inquiry? What assumptions shape the way I make my observations and interpret data? How are my representations likely to simplify writing processes, and how are they likely to misinterpret them? How to the epistemic tenets which ground my model compare with or connect to the tenets that ground the models of others?" (55).

Related reading:
Black, Max. Models and Metaphors. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1962.
Emig, Janet. "Inquiry Paradigms and Writing." CCC 33 (Feb. 1982): 64-75.
Lauer, Janice. "Heuristics and Composition." CCC 23 (Dec. 1970): 396-404.

Posted by at 10:38 PM | to Models

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

McComiskey, "Introduction" to English Studies

M cComiskey, Bruce. "Introduction." English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). Ed. Bruce McComiskey. Refiguring English Studies Ser. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2006. 1-66.

McComiskey's introduction includes a section called "The Problem of Specialization," in which he explains Stephen North's three responses to specialization before proposing his own solution: integration. North divided the responses into secession (breaking apart), corporate compromise (one subfield takes on a managerial imperative), and fusion (periods of study are stabilized, but various perspectives and methods apply from across the subfields).

Reintegration--restoring wholeness where secession has occurred--is extremely challenging, McComiskey notes, perhaps to the point of not being possible (46). He cites the implicit valuing of literature in Ohmann's English in America (1976) and points out that subtle arguments for English studies' return to the glories literary study persist.

"No single methodology from linguistics or discourse analysis or creative writing or rhetoric or composition or literature or literary criticism or critical theory or cultural studies or English Education--no single methodology (or set of specialized methodologies) can solve a complex social problem" (32). This acknowledgement of methodological pluralism echoes North's premise in The Making of Knowledge.

"A truly democratic English department (one that exercises the power of each of its composite disciplines equally in the service of a larger goal) can, quite simply, never evolve out of a discipline that defines its scope and function purely in terms of literature" (34b).

"Secession, in other words, may alleviate some immediate problems relating to curriculum and budget, but it does not solve these problems in the long run; given time, they will recur, along with the divisiveness that comes with constant specialization" (36).

Is generalization still possible? Or is specialization a given? Constant specialization is, no doubt, a formidable force (or set of ongoing pressures and prescripts), but what can be done to revalue the generalist? And is a generalist's wide-angle forays of interest and engagement crucial to an integrationist approach to the super-discipline. In other words, to what degree must we not only understand each other but even forge collegial alliances (cooperatives) across specializations?

"Corporate compromise usually involves one discipline in English studies taking managerial responsibility for the others, ideally (but certainly not always) in a democratic fashion" (37b).

"I propose that the goal of this integrated English studies should be the analysis, critique, and production of discourse in social context" (43a).

"Social context" is a sticking phrase in McComiskey's basic proposal. He explains the choice with Ogden and Richards, Malinowski, and Dewey, but Latour's Reassembling lifts the lid on this phrase. I also want to question the emphasis on discourse relative to the non-discursive (i.e., visual), and also think about the terms included in the list: analysis, critique, and production. The first two tip toward a critical or interpretive rhetoric (hermeneutics), while only the third term is oriented toward production (heuretics) (look at Arabella Lyon for this).

Terms: English Studies, disciplinarity, integration, specialization, Burke, identification, consubstantiation, history, definition, raft, secession, corporate compromise, fusion, literacy

Related Sources

Easton, David. "The Division, Integration, and Transfer of Knowledge." Divided Knowledge: Across Disciplines, across Cultures. Ed. David Easton and Corinne S. Schelling. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1991. 7-36.

North, Stephen M., et al. Refiguring the Ph.D. in English Studies: Writing, Doctoral Education, and the Fusion-Based Curriculum. Refiguring English Studies. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2000.

Web Bearings

T he "Map of Online Communities" posted to XKCD (one of the few web comics I follow) is traveling through the internets this morning. Don't miss it. XKCD MapIt offers an impressive lot: playful place-names, the loose association of geographic area with online activity, and a directional orientation based on abstract magnetisms (practical/intellectual and focuses on real life or the web). Very much the sort of imaginary map you might expect to find in Harmon's You Are Here. Even though the map includes a note discouraging navigational use, I tend to think of it as appropriate for that purpose, especially for wanderers who sit in their cozy homes in the Icy North, gazing sullenly at/through Windows Live and Yahoo and wondering what's on the other side of the mountain range.

Note the TITLE text available on mouse-over of the map: I'm waiting for the day when, if you tell someone 'I'm from the internet', instead of laughing they just ask 'oh, what part?'

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Shar-Pei of May

I hadn't planned on blogging tonight about the swelling in Y.'s face, almost certainly the side-effect (i.e., allergic reaction) from his annual vaccinations at the veterinarian early this morning. I hadn't planned on mentioning it because, until 9 p.m. when Ph. took Y. outside for a routine moonlight relief tour, Y. was fine--his usual yippy self. But then poof! My oh my, how his face filled out, his lips and cheeks all rounded and puffy, his eyes sunken. Still, he's spry, lively, acting okay besides his new look, which we are obviously quite concerned about. His normal breathing, energy, and appetite are reassuring.

I called the emergency vet. And then I called a friend who knows all (practical, sensible, and affordable) things veterinary to help us decide just how critical Y.'s condition is. I fed him a Benadryl (25mg of dyphenhydramine) and will watch throughout much of the night for signs of worsening, for any right-sliding readout on the Y.A.R.I. If he passes the Shar-Pei, I'll load him into the car and pony up for emergency medical treatment at the all-night clinic. If not, I'll settle still more comfortably into my expectation that he's going to be a-okay.

Addendum (8:30 a.m.): A new day for the dog: he's fine. When I checked on him at 4:30 a.m., I was tempted to remind him that Snoopy never got all puffy and sickly from his vaccinations.

Posted by at 11:35 PM | to Perrito