Friday, March 20, 2015

Keywords in Threshold Concepts, #4c15 Poster Presentation

I'm in Tampa this week for the 2015 Conference on College Composition and Communication--an event I've been attending every year (except one) since 1999. This year I proposed (and was accepted to present) a poster, and after several hours of finessing for more white space, shifting elements around, and tinkering in Illustrator, here's what I'll be standing next to for 75 minutes this afternoon.

Keywords in Threshold Concepts: Time-Binding and Methodologizing Disciplinary Lexicon by DerekMueller

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Porter, et al., "Institutional Critique"

Porter, James E., Patricia Sullivan, Stuart Blythe, Jeffrey Grabill, and Libby Miles. "Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change." CCC 51.4 (2000): 610-642.

To the extent that institutions are rhetorical constructs, rhetoric can be deployed to enact change across a range of institutional scales, from the micro to the macro. Boiled down: "Though institutions are certainly powerful, they are not monoliths: they are rhetorically constructed human designs (whose power is reinforced by buildings, laws, traditions, and knowledge-making practices) and so are changeable" (611). Porter et al. see the institution as a unit of analysis; as an alternative to despairing about institutional conditions, the institution can be changed through deliberate, strategic forms of action.

Porter et. al. invoke postmodern geography--particularly David Harvey, David Sibley, Gillian Rose, and Edward Soja (para. on influences, 613c)--to renew a methodology for institutional change that is fluid, flexible, and scalable across the various orders of the institution, from the classroom to the extra-institutional forces from the discipline-at-large. They position their "spin [as] more locally situated, more spatial, and more empirical than most theoretical discussions of institutions" (613). This new methodology is presented "to enable certain forms of research action to emerge and take shape" (612). Changeability is crucial here; the methodology insists on the pliability of institutions rather than seeing them as monoliths--the result of dealing with institutions in the abstract or of the opposite problem in regarding the material as immovable.

Porter et al. recap the efforts of James Sosnoski and Michael Berube to argue for disciplinary change through "the reform of disciplinary practice," but they add that institutional critique (a different scale) is also crucial to changing disciplinarity (here identified somewhat inclusively as "English Studies" (618)) (619).

Important contributions include their effort to pluralize their mapping efforts:
"Because there is not one, holy map that captures the relationships inherent to the understanding of an institution, all of these relationships exist simultaneously in the lives--actual, material--space of an institution" (623). Neither the production of space nor the production of maps is singular; accepting any space as singular or any map as comprehensive introduces fairly obvious problems. Still, there remains a problem of the limits of pluralizing maps (for them to be effective they must not be infinite) and of deciding how to present selections of the relationships that exist simultaneously.


"Talking about institutions at this macro level is extremely important (as we argued earlier in respect to WPAs) because it is one way to discuss how our public lives are organized and conducted (both for us and by us). But limiting our analytic gaze to macro institutions also encourages a level of abstraction that can be unhelpful if it leads to a view of institutions as static, glacial, or even unchangeable (i.e., if it urges us to see changes a resulting large-scale action that few people rarely have the power to enforce)" (620). They prefer a micro-level view of institutions because it makes change via rhetorical acts seem more plausible (more agency at the micro-level).

"We use some of the ways that [cultural geography scholars] deploy visual analysis to question and destabilize institutions, to provide an alternative route to interrogating how power circulates in particular institutions, and to complicate our construction of institutions" (620).

"We don't like forms of cultural or institutional critique that stay at a macro level of high-theory discussion, which makes the institution a monolith--easy to criticize but impossible to change. Of course, as we have said, in rhetoric/composition there is a long-standing and vigorous tradition of disciplinary critique. Yet we have been frustrated by how disciplinary critique and institutional action have typically operated in the field. For one thing, such critique usually focuses on a limited set of organizational spaces: the composition classroom, the first-year composition curriculum, the English department. Well, okay, that's where most of us live--but we are frustrated by the nearly exclusive focus on these organizational unites to the neglect of others" (625). This passage goes on to call for attention to spaces outside the institution.

To sum up:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Flower, Scriver, Stratman, Carey, and Hayes, "Cognitive Process in Revision"

Flower, Linda S., Karen A. Scriver, James F. Stratman, Linda Carey, and John R. Hayes. "Cognitive Processes in Revision." Advances in Applied Psycholinguistics. Sheldon Rosenberg ed. New York: Cambridge, 1987. 176-240.

This team-authored article advances the cognitive process work done by Flower and Hayes in the early 1980's by modeling the sub-processes of (generic) revision. The models were derived from protocol studies where expert and novice participants talked through the work of revision. This chapter comes less than a year after the same group's 1987 Braddock Award winning essay, "Detection, Diagnosis, and Strategies of Revision," which bears a high degree of similarity to this piece.

The point of their study is to "present a new model of the revision process in written composition--a model based on the results of thinking-aloud protocol studies" (176). If the 1981 cognitive process model can be said to have evolved--to have moved, that is, in any way at all--it is through this work on revision, through this presentation of a new (sub-)model. Importantly, here they name the model as a "theoretical model." What makes it theoretical? "Theoretical" seems to suggest that is extrapolated (i.e., removed) from the protocols. Maybe they are presented so as to achieve a degree of generality (in scale) adequate to stand in for the gist of the protocols. The theoretical model lends granularity to the complex data; it carries a substitutive property.

This model has a visual corollary--an outcropping of the cognitive process model from 1981. Boxes and arrows--like the 1981 specter--the processes of revision are slotted into a taxonomy and linearized.

Revision Model, p 185

The relation of these two models (the new and the old) in this article follow newness--child before parent. This is the opposite of the sequence of presentation in CCC, in "Detection, Diagnosis, and Strategies of Revision," where they are brought on stage the only other way possible: first parent, then child. Does this matter?

Included here are other interesting dimensions of their study: discussions of task definitions and problem representations (how can I fix this mess?). These are the particulars of the study--a checklist of tasks, considerations of the ways experts and novices are distinct from one another. I won't, for now, dwell too much on the details of the terminology, the study itself, or the suggested results (a continuum model to account for a spectrum of activity for revising and rewriting). The visual models and the discursive explanations of the models and the schemes they reify shifts--it evolves--in a moment like this one. The singular, blocky cognitive model, a monument since 1981, bears out something new in 1987--a model of revision.

Cognitive Process Model, p 186 (from 1981)

Phrases: Cooper and Holzman critique (180), models (180), theory-building (185), task definitions (190), task environment (191), problem-presentation process (192), scope (217)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Flower, Swarts, and Hayes, "Designing Protocol Studies of the Writing Process: An Introduction"

Flower, Linda S., Heidi Swarts, and John R. Hayes. "Designing Protocol Studies of the Writing Process: An Introduction." New Directions In Composition Research. Richard Beach and Lillian S. Bridwell, eds. New York: Guilford, 1984. 53-71.

The team of authors present this essay as a practical variation of protocol analysis much different from the theoretical treatment they published in 1983. Protocol studies, they explain, focus on "individual processes" and they operate in the interest of what they call "close modeling" (53). "Close modeling" designates that the model is an intermediary between the minutiae of acts carried out by the individual writer and larger tendencies that can be traced across most writers when they write (given a regular, stated task or assignment).

The protocol produces a sequential record of the individual processes, and, because it is extraordinarily detailed, it produces too much information (56). How do researchers respond when there is too much data? Computational methods. Limited scope. More deliberate selections. Samples, etc. From the collection regimen, protocol analysts proceed with the classification of activity according to a regularized process for writing--the cognitive process model Flower and Hayes introduced in 1981. Analysts, called "judges," study the protocols for "episodes" or moments when there is a shift in focus or attention. Also, protocol studies are compatible with four methods: 1.) exploratory (what if); 2.) comparative (similarity and differentiation); 3.) hypothesis and testing; and 4.) modeling of the writing process. This fourth and final point gets the lightest treatment. Why? Also, there is very little discussion of what models do, or how they are presented, set into motion, circulated, and so on.

What discussion there is of what a model does is limited to this:

"Our own efforts have been to model the cognitive processes in writing, that is, to describe the key mental processes and their organization. Modeling not only creates a theoretical framework for studying writing, but tries to account for how people actually carry out the complex process of composing" (68).

Models "describe"; they "create a theoretical framework," and they aid in accounting for complex processes. A tall order! Can models do all of this? Later, the group states that "[w]hether it is fully articulated or barely conscious, we all bring a 'model' or set of assumptions to research, which to a large degree guides our questioning" (69). Models are, then, "set[s] of assumptions," too. I can't hurry through each of these ways of pinning "models" to a particular function. But it does begin to seem like the notion of "modeling" itself becomes a free agent--a Katamari ball ricocheting off of too many matters for it to make any sense at all. Are models descriptive? Is this true of both discursive and presentational (i.e., visual) models? Do models create a "theoretical framework" or a "conceptual framework," and what is the difference (see Pemberton)? Models come to our rescue where complexity is concerned, but they might also move us toward complexity rather than always away from it. I mean that while many models simplify, they can also complicate--unsettle commonplaces, and so on.

My general sense is that "models" and "model-making" becomes a catch-all--a safety net for switching scales. Move from minutia (specificity and precision) to broader orders: turn to a model. Move from broader magnitudes back to the atomistic: a model. Still, the visual model from Flower and Hayes' 1981 essay shows up here, unchanged (an ancestor in an aging photograph):


"While this profusion of unselective data may seem overwhelming, it is actually this method's hidden strength: the very completeness of the picture of the writing process provides a check on the researcher's hypotheses" (53). The points about selectivity and hidden strength are interesting, but the "completeness of the picture of the writing process" seems like an impossible pursuit. Still, even in light of post-process departures from routine, we have to wonder whether there is something lasting in the challenge of too much data, the decisions of what to do when faced with too much data, and even the use of less formal measures to get at what writers are thinking about when they compose.

"Thinking-aloud protocols, which provide some of the content of the writer's thoughts, give us many more data from which to draw inferences" (55). Hmm.

"A protocol is a versatile research tool: it captures information from a writer while the writer is engaged in a whole range of composing subprocesses and behaviors" (65). Reminds me of Twitter. And although much of this work has slid into technical communications--studies of tasks and activity among designers, for instance--it causes me to wonder about the capturing of information--field-wide metadata--tied to other scales of production, like what is called a "discipline."

Phrases: judges (68), float-dive in Atlantic Ocean (56) (method is not for the un-prepared); planning, translating, reviewing (60); model (69), episodes (58)

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ulmer, Teletheory

Ulmer, Gregory. Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Teletheory, both as book and as pedagogy, is jam-packed with provocative bits on mystory, experimentation, videocy, learning, and teaching--a "program of renewal" intervening into a "new discursive and conceptual ecology" (vii). I will resort to just a couple of ideas, even though there are several to sample from: relay as an alternative to (monumental) models and patterning, where patterning is the frame from which analytico-referential emerged. Writes Ulmer, "Once it emerged, analytico-referential discourse opposed that which it could not accommodate [viz., patterning]" (24). In step with Timothy Reiss, he goes on to note that "Patterning became distanced as 'pre-scientific,' but persisted on the margins, and constitutes 'a kind of permanent ghost in the machine, posing a latent question to the signifying, denoting intentions of that discourse,' contradicting 'the logic of dominant discourse in which it lies more or less hidden' (378). 'That is not to say,' Reiss adds, 'that a discourse of patterning could ever function again as such for us.' The 'as such' is the crucial qualification, however, for I want to argue that patterning has come around again, as the ghost whose secret is buried in the crypt, as the pleasure of orality. The crucial new element in the mix is electronic technology" (25). Yes, electronic technology. With this, what Ulmer addresses, citing Eric Leed, as the "explanatory myth" of orality v. literacy is put under a spotlight--exposed.

William Safire's 9/20/1987 column "Hermen Eutic's Original Intent" is credited here with putting Ulmer onto (h)euretics/invention. Safire places euretics and invention on one side opposite hermeneutics and interpretation, but Ulmer mends this break, "There is no need to be against hermeneutics in order to be for euretics, only that euretics provides an alternative to interpretation that has been lacking in most of the discussions of the problem" (15-16).

As indexed:
relay 166-175
models, 104, 119, 141; cognitive, 24; disciplinary, 39; explanatory, 33, 39; folk, 39; and places, 157; and relay, 170; and signature, 165.

On models:

"In the case of [A Lover's Discourse] Fragments we are not offered any particular lover's story, but all such stories with one instance embedded within it as a model, in a way that reorganizes the traditional opposition between the particular and the general" (119). Again, the model as intermediary, as Pemberton's "partial isomorph", and as relay in its conduciveness to tweening the particular and the general, data and theories across different orders of magnitude--albeit discursive and textual rather than visual, presentational/nondiscursive, and electrate.

"What the tree diagram was to the book, the rhizome map is to electronics--a model for a new order of memory, whose principles include 'connection' ('any point on a rhizome can be connected with any other, and must be'); 'Heterogeneity' ('the semiotic chain is like a tuber gather up very diverse acts--linguistic, but also perceptual, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive'); 'multiplicity' (it has neither subject nor object: 'there are no points or positions in a rhizome, as one finds in a structure, tree or root. There are only lines'); 'a-signifying rupture' ('A rhizome can be cracked and broken at any point; it starts off again following one or another of its lines...There is neither imitation nor resemblance, but an explosion of two heterogeneous series in a line of flight consisting of a common rhizome that can no longer be attributed nor made subject to any signifier at all') (11,20)" (141). Deluze and Guattarian emphasis here; model as conceptual framework--an altered conceptual framework from book to electronics.

"The task of Teletheory in particular is to outline a direction for this project--for the invention of a new cognitive model" (24).

"The problem is that nomadic texts such as those authored by Artaud or Kleist themselves end up becoming monuments, "inspiring a model to be copied." This alternative--the relay, organized by speed, rather than the gravity of a monument--will be one of the most difficult and important issues for teletheory: how to bring the particular or singular into relation with the general or global [or the abstract] in the manner of the relay rather than the model.... Mystory itself is more a relay than a model, produced not for its own sake but for the trace of convergence of living and artificial memories" (170).

~ ~

"Hasn't pedagogy always positioned itself in this 'postmodern' way in relation to the past as information? Haven't teachers always ransacked the past in order to perform the simulacrum of history, in period courses for which there is no original, whose authorship we deny? Haven't we always lived by quotation in our scholarship and lectures? Postmodernism no longer produces monumental works, Jameson notes, 'but ceaselessly reshuffles the fragments of preexistent texts , the building blocks of older cultural and social production, in some new and heightened bricolage: metabooks which cannibalise other books, metatexts which collate bits of other texts' (223)." (13).

"A mystory is always specific to its composer, constituting a kind of personal periodic table of cognitive elements, representing one individual's intensive reserve" (vii).

"Now the cosmology of depth ["'essence' and 'meaning' and the unified ego"] is giving way to another one which it is part of our project to imagine" (27). A cosmology of light, of distance, or of surfaces (epitomes)? Ulmer mentions a fourth-dimension cognitive style combining "Einsteinian physics, vanguard collage, and the decentered subject" (28b).

"The ideology of method, that is, differs fundamentally from the practice of invention. Science, like cinema, is an apparatus, a machine, in which ideology plays an integral part. The same may be said for the university as an education machine" (29).

Phrases: patterning (25), counterinductive (30), bliss-sense (vii), Sekula on photo-archive (14), sampling (13)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Langer, Philosophical Sketches

Langer, Susanne K. Philosophical Sketches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1962.

Quotations and crumbs:

"On a New Definition of 'Symbol'" , pp. 54-65
On the different kinds of symbol use:
"The definition [of symbol] establishes but also restricts it; and it may happen that the most adequate and economical definition we can make in a fairly precise context, such as the context of logical discourse in which 'symbol' has been defined, is incapable of yielding any derivative concepts that might serve other interests. It allows of no generalization, no wider sense. Therefore it cannot be extended to any very different frames of reference" (58). Langer prods at the epistemology that would have symbolic logic accord with a stabilizing mathesis (viz. strict reference) that prohibits connotation--"derivative concepts" and a "wider sense"...wider sense like the "momentary configurations" and open spaces constructed out of connections (i.e., conceptual neighbors) Rice discusses as a network phenomenon, although Langer comes before the technological apparatuses and digital logics we are immersed in today (she, like Berthoff, is wary of technology...they promote something more like a naturalist's abstraction because the positivistic epistemology of symbolic logic is on the side of science, is on the side, therefore, of technology, problematic though this is).

Symbol: "any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstraction" (63).

"This formulative function is common to all symbols, though in some it is very elementary. Any sign--for instance, the little noise that a word physically is--by being conventionally assigned to any object, event, quality, relation, or what not that it is to signify, bestows a conceptual identity on that designated item. Symbolization gives it form" (62). There is quite an expanse to cross in correlating this to stance on symbolization as forming to the production of distant readings in the form of abstract visual models. Here Langer is not talking about models but symbols and their relations, where links approximate meanings (and where there are limitless linkages in the realm of connotation). This redefinition of symbol, symbolic logic, and, as a consequence, symbol systems, echoes Richards on anchorage and relay; it repositions symbols in the sphere of rhetoric, performance, and imagination (as conceptual associations and relationships) as "discursive thought" and casts aside many of the wrongheaded presumptions about "scientific symbolization" (65). This is an extension and a reiteration of Philosophy in a New Key (1951) and Feeling and Form (1953).

"Emotion and Abstraction", pp. 66-82
Langer presents a reunion of the emotive and the abstractive, sorting out the intrinsic tie between thought, feeling, perception and explicit abstraction, where the "play of felt processes" and the "play of impressions" blend as "associational activity" (80).

On explosives, imagination, and the naturalness of abstraction: "We have various devices, accidentally discovered or deliberately designed for making very rarefied and strained abstractions, which empower us to construct our admirable mathematics and rather terrifying science" (69).

"In the case of abstract conception, the role of sensory specialization organs has long been recognized , since it resembles that of the selection or 'taking out' of features from the welter of experience, which abstraction is supposed to be" (71). What follows anticipates post-humanism--the computational organ that performs the "taking out." Next (73), Langer goes into the brain science research of the early 60's.

"The Growing Center of Knowledge", 143-182
This sketch begins with the growth and proliferation of knowledge--its accumulation and divergence. Ref. the central nervous system, which does not grow, but stretches as a body grows.

"Imagination is probably the greatest force acting on our feelings--greater and steadier than outside influences like fear-inspiring noises and sights (lightning and thunder, an oncoming truck, a raging tiger) or direct sense pleasure, even including the intense pleasures of sexual excitement. Only a small part of reality, for a human being, is what is actually going on; the greater part is what he imagines in connection with sights and sounds of the moment" (146). More on imagination, 146-147.

"What we do see, however, is that the most various things repeat a few fundamental forms, by virtue of which we can use familiar events as models to understand new ones and tangible objects as symbols of intangible realities. This helps a person in two ways to cope with his world: in the first place, by making great and remote parts or aspects of it conceivable, and secondly, by giving its homely, trivial contents a symbolic value. When ordinary acts like eating and sleeping, and common things like fire and trees and water, become symbols for the round of nature, human passion, and what not, they cease to be silly and separate items of experience, and take on significance as integral factors to the human scene" (155). Read this as the "homely, trivial contents" of disciplinarity become significant when modeled. More on 155.

"The power of seeing one thing in another, which begets our metaphors and conceptual models (the oldest of which are myths of nature and human life), leads also to a characteristically human thought process known as abstraction. By logical intuition we see not only what is 'the same' in two widely different things, as for instance a burning candle consumed by its flame and a living body consumed by its life, but also what makes them different" (157). The flame-body example seems hokey, but the function of models as abstractions supporting correlation or touching off correspondences and resemblances matches well with Pemberton's discussion of models as "partial isomorphs."

"This is the constructive work of philosophy. It is by far the greater part of that discipline; analysis shapes the problem and serves as a constant check, but logical construction is its real life. It requires imagination, skill in manipulating formal definitions, and above all a certain boldness and freedom of mind to depart from traditional ways of thinking and talking, dispense with the old and misleading models, and even dismiss the promptings of common sense with lordly unconcern in the interest of abstract conceivability" (164-165).

Phrases: key words (152), image (153), metaphorical meanings (153), models (155)

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Flower and Hayes, "Uncovering Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Introduction to Protocol Analysis"

Hayes, John R., and Linda S. Flower. "Uncovering Cognitive Processes in Writing: An Introduction to Protocol Analysis." Research On Writing: Principles and Methods. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean A. Walmsley, eds. New York: Longman, 1983. 207-220.

Leading off the "Observational Approaches" section in the Mosenthal collection, Flower and Hayes deliver a case for protocol analysis as it provides a scope on the thought processes that "is wider than most of the other windows available" (219). Protocol methods only interest me where they promote debates about writing as rule-governed rather than aleatory (or something a degree away from this, where agreements and rules are very loose--exerting the slightest imprint on the activity). So why work with this chapter? It includes yet another iteration of the visual model related to Flower and Hayes' cognitive process writing model. As in much of their work, writing is acknowledged as a complex phenomenon, and its intrinsic complexity justifies the protocol analysis--a method that allows a researcher to study writers "while they are performing it" (214). Here, the visual model doesn't get much, if any, explicit discussion. It's the silent transplant--a figure summoned from 1980, where it appeared in Lee and Erwin's edited collection, Cognitive Processes in Writing.

Johanna Drucker writes of visual forms of knowledge that "[t]hey can work 1) through offering a visual analogy or morphological resemblance, 2) through providing a visual image of non-visible phenomenoa, or 3) by providing visual conventions to structure operations and procedures" ("Graphesis" 3). Which of these does the cognitive process model match with? A case could be made for any of the three. It provides a visual analogy. It provides a visual image of a non-obvious phenomena. It provides visual conventions. Most often, it seems to be deployed for purposes matched with the third function of visual forms of knowledge: providing visual conventions to structure operations and procedures. This is what is meant when they write elsewhere of the model's organizing function. Yet this is tricky because their references to model often do not distinguish the discursive model as a conceptual framework from the visual forms--the visual model itself.

Much of this article follows the organizational presentation of the visual model. Writing, they argue, consists of distinct processes which are identified here as a task environment, the writer's long-term memory, and the writing process itself, which "is best described not as a sequence of stages but as a set of distinguishable processes that the writer must orchestrate in the act of writing" (208). [Imagine if they were indistinguishable. How would it be possible to name what is happening, other than with the gesture of a shrug?]. Further, they explain that the processes are "highly embedded" and that writing is "goal directed." Each of these, of course, must be asterisked with a *not always.

Why is this a good example of inert(ial) visual models in composition studies? 1) The model has not evolved. It is the same diagram that appeared in 1980 (later examples repeat and, thus, reinforce this stability/stagnancy). 2) The model is not discussed directly as a visual form of knowledge. It is given, self-evident (Drucker and Latour are excellent for asking us to think through the rhetoricity of the visual model, for Drucker as an aesthetic dramatism that performs in step with scientism, for Latour as a figure which mobilizes). Could the chapter proceed without it? Yes. 3) Its design is at odds with the dynamism (i.e., complexity, orchestration, embeddedness, etc.). It is, in this sense, positioned as in innocent mediator between the data produced by the method and the theory that generalizes the method to meaningful insights into the cognitive processes of (some) writers.

Cognitive Process Model, p. 208 (from 1981)

Phrases: process-tracing (211), thinking-aloud protocols (217), retrospection (217), retrospective reporting (217).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scardamalia and Bereiter, "Levels of Inquiry in Writing Research"

Bereiter, Carl, and Marlene Scardamalia. "Levels of Inquiry in Writing Research." Research On Writing: Principles and Methods. Peter Mosenthal, Lynne Tamor, and Sean A. Walmsley, eds. New York: Longman, 1983. 3-25.

Motivated by an acute opposition to "the miscellaneous character of much writing research, with its orientation toward topics and methods rather than toward goals, and with its general lack of cumulative force" (3), Scardamalia and Bereiter propose six levels of inquiry, calling it "a framework for the kind of interaction that should lead to a paradigm" (22). Their typology tends to favor a hierarchical scheme in some places, while in other places, they emphasize interaction, incorporation, a "weak sequentiality," supplemental relations (rather than replacements from one level to the other (7)), and a cyclical, spiral course (3). In explicit terms, they say "higher levels of inquiry are not seen to be any way better than lower levels" (4), but their accounts of the higher levels are approached more generously and with a fair amount of self-reference (particularly for Levels 2, 4, and 5). Yet another example of re-hierarchizing the typology according to certain methodologies and their respective level-associations can be found near the end: "At present [1983], holistic methods [i.e., the "phenomenological, ethnographic, hermeneutic, and qualitative"] appear to be used only at Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4. However, there are developments afoot in cognitive science that may provide the necessary theoretical tools for more phenomenological and contextualized inquiry at Levels 5 and 6" (21). Cognitive science bears out the "theoretical tools" that will bring "holistic methods" along to the highest two levels, according to Scardamalia and Bereiter.

Elsewhere, too, they assert a stance ("in this era of competing methodologies there is a special need to promote tolerance and a free spirit of inquiry" (4)) and then then re-draw it (theory-wary, "we do not like to see this stifling orthodoxy [a Level 5 edict "never to leave home without a theory"] carried over into the modern era in the form of insistence that every researcher have a theory, whether there is any basis for a theory or not" (20). Although the two statements are not entirely at odds, Scardamalia and Bereiter are clearly critical of certain approaches to Level 5, the level where theory turns up, critical in such a way that might be at odds with their commitment to "tolerance and a free spirit of inquiry."

The article includes one table, which presents the six levels, characteristic questions, and typical methods. Here are the levels and methods.

  1. Level 1: Reflective inquiry | Methods: Information observation, introspection, literature review, discussion, argument, private reflection.
  2. Level 2: Empirical variable testing | Factorial analysis or variance, Correlation analysis, Surveys, Coding of compositions.
  3. Level 3: Text analysis | Error analysis, Story grammar analysis, Thematic analysis.
  4. Level 4: Process description | Thinking aloud protocols, Clinical-experimental interviews, Retrospective reports, Videotape recordings.
  5. Level 5: Theory-embedded experimentation | Experimental procedures tailored to questions, Chronometry, Interference.
  6. Level 6: Simulation | Computer simulation, Simulation by intervention.

Level 1 is primary, and, while it "draws on knowledge and hunches of all sorts," it is not especially theoretical, at least not in the way Scardamalia and Bereiter discuss theory. "Level 2 findings are a supplement to, not a replacement for, Level 1 intuitions" (8). Level 2 is impeded by what S&B call "combinatorial explosion," (9) or the impossibility of controlling variables (a feature that also inhibits Level 2's generalizability). Level 3 works toward story grammars, toward the "lawfulness" of a text as it adheres to certain rules.

Scardamalia and Bereiter pursue a "systematic way of viewing the varied forms of inquiry into the process of written composition" (3), and they do so with a repeated commitment to teleology (i.e., goals, product, purpose as the driving forces for research). In the end, they suggest that the collapse of empiricism has made new movements possible (20), and thus there is a pressing need for their scheme, which, they contend, "may serve as an intellectually sound replacement for the now largely discredited notion of the basic-to-applied continuum" (23). Despite their announcements to the contrary, the leveled-scheme comes across as hierarchical, ordered in such a way that the higher-numbered levels match with forms of inquiry that are more cherished (perhaps because they are rarified, even preserving theory's scarcity (21a)) than are the lower levels (Level 1, with its intuition needs Level 2's observations to bolster it). Scardamalia and Bereiter end with a few "practical points on which the ideas behind the Levels of Inquiry scheme might be helpful" (22). How will they be helpful? 1.) For resolving controversies over the comparison of methods, 2.) for encouraging cross-level communication, 3.) for planning research, but avoiding "pigeonholing" when doing so, 4.) for encouraging interdisciplinary involvement, and 5.) for demonstrating the contributions of research to improvement in teaching writing.

Terms: weak sequentiality (4), hysterical empiricists (6), quasi-self-evident character (of Level 1) (8), combinatorial explosion (9), collapse of empiricism (20), holistic methods (21), child rhetoric (23).

"A descriptive model of the composing process, such as that produced by Hayes and Flower (1980), is an intellectual construction based on inferred invariances and protocol data" (13).

"The layer [Level 4] describes is the layer of conscious thought. It describes the flow of attention during composing, but it does not reveal why attention shifts when it does and where it does" (13). What of unconscious? Level 1? Level 0?

"A point we keep repeating throughout this chapter is that methods cannot be judged except in relation to purposes" (15). Teleology.

Theory def.: "Nevertheless [role-playing] has the properties of a theory: it can be limited in scope or applicable to a variety of situations, it can yield confirmed or unconfirmed predictions, and it can be refined in the light of results" (17).

"Nonetheless, Level 7 inquiry does offer the most promise of yielding knowledge that can be put to direct use in instructional design" (20).

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Pemberton, "Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models."

Pemberton, 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:

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.