Saturday, February 16, 2008

Regan, "Type Normal Like the Rest of Us"

Regan, Alison. "'Type Normal Like the Rest of Us': Writing, Power, and Homophobia in the Networked Composition Classroom." Computers and Composition 9.4 (Nov 1993): 11-23. <>

Regan accounts for her own move away from traditional interaction toward networked classrooms in the late 1980s and early 1990s, noting that she looked forward to using LANs for discussion. She also acknowledges apprehensions she felt and she call into question the promise of social equality online.

What are the types of exclusion manifesting in these presumably inviting, inclusive, and egalitarian spaces? Regan explores this question, particularly where homophobic views are expressed by students in one online interchange when, while, she explains, they were "on-task."

The article touches on points about silencing (how silencing works differently between conventional classroom discussions and LAN-based chats), and how the synchronous discussion platform lengthens the life of the utterances relative to ordinary in-class discussion. Regan acknowledges the work done by others, such as Kremers, on "wilding" and the perils of off-task conversations, but she is more concerned with on-task discussion and the ways exclusionary discourse is a part of it.

Accounting for a scenario involving homophobic language and another situation in which she left the room only to have a student use her terminal and screen name to tell the class to "type normal like the rest of us," Regan concludes that vestiges of authority will linger do matter how much we attempt to divest ourselves of it in the "liberatory" medium of the LAN interchange.

"I am not suggesting that we should shut down discussions of lesbian and gay issues because they might make us or our students uncomfortable. It is important, however, that we be aware of the possible consequences of those discussions, and it may be important that we take an active role in framing those discussions. The very way that homosexuality is introduced into the rhetoric and composition curriculum is problematic. Because I am particularly interested in computer-mediated classroom discussion, I have focused on these instances of student expressions of homophobia, rather than examining instances of institutional homophobia."

"This exhortation serves as a reminder of two important points: first, even the instructor who shares authority remains identified with institutional power, and second, any person who is "different" disturbs the classroom environment. The command to "type normal" is nothing less than a command to be normal; John's remarks were never unreadable, they simply did not conform to the standards maintained by his classmates and instructor.

Thus, even within a space where expression appears most free, institutional and social forms of authority remain."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

George, "Taking Women Professors Seriously"

George, E. Laurie. "Taking Women Professors Seriously: Female Authority in the Computerized Classroom." Computers and Composition 7 (April 1990; Special issue): 45-52. <>

George attempts to reconcile the principles of feminist pedagogy promoted by Adrienne Rich in her 1979 article, "Taking Women Students Seriously," with the tensions she experiences when teaching composition at the New York Institute of Technology. George acknowledges that the working conditions for women professors have improved since Rich presented her work; yet, it is not always so simple to relinquish all power and authority to students who tend to let loose with unfiltered crudity when they are asked to discuss topics using a LAN chat room. She refers specifically to a case where one student jokes about getting beers for class and then inquires about the teacher's sex life. George also includes a transcript of an interchange from a class taught by Kremers, a colleague of hers at NYIT. When several students begin to engage in an explicit sequence of the dozens, the teacher intervenes with, "Someone comment on how the dialogue is going." Next, a student remarks, "I think this is a sick bunch of students." This is a fairly complicated interchange. From it, George works toward claims about the challenge of balancing her principled feminist pedagogy with measure of control and authority: "My overall point here is that, as numerous theorists of collaborative and feminist pedagogy concur, students who have been culturally programmed and disempowered for so long have a great deal of trouble knowing what to do with power once it is given to them" (para. 17).

At the end of this short article, George asserts that it is a matter of responsibility to "tak[e] seriously my authority to control those reins" (para. 19) where students are "wilding" or acting up, particularly in those environs where authority is shared or where conventional authority structures are loosened. This argument runs parallel to Kremers' article in the sense that the giving over to underlife is never wholesale; some aspect of authority is withheld. And it would stand to reason that this could be made explicit--that everyone involved could be forewarned. Of course, these early networked conversations were relatively contained. The disruptive/contained dyad pertains here because the network does not span beyond the classroom scene.


The democratic principles of feminist pedagogy are also fostered by student work spaces, for they are much more ample than those in the traditional classrooms, indicating a professional respect for the students' authority. (para. 7)

This practice of privately consulting each student as others write independently reinforces to the entire class that a communal activity need not be equated with rigid repetition of boring drills, just as it proves that there is room for individuality and even privacy within group work. (para. 8)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hesse, "Who Owns Writing?"

Hesse, Doug. "Who Owns Writing?" CCC 57.2 (2005): 335-357.

Hesse's address offers a meditation on the domain of writing and who ultimately is suited to act as steward over the domain. The idea of ownership indicated in the talk's title, Hesse clarifies early on, is not so much of intellectual property as of "the conditions under which writing is taught" (337). With an emphasis on practitioners, the address articulates the role of compositionists as those who, because they are knowledgeable about "the whole of" writing, are responsible for writing and writers (355).

Early in the address, Hesse refers to an essay generator and an automated essay-grading system. The computer-generated essay on aphasia scores high in the grading system, suggesting (with a chuckle from everyone in the audience) how absurd machine scoring is. He uses this scenario to bring up problems with school writing that will be graded with algorithms.

Hesse presents five spheres of writing: academic, vocational, civic, personal, and belletristic (349). Academic and vocational writing match with what he calls "obliged discourse", and he acknowledges that the profession must continue to live up to the expectation on students to perform obliged writing. The other three spheres are what he calls "self-sponsored discourse." Hesse is most concerned with the civic sphere as it has shifted from mass media to "self-sponsored" niches, thus moving the civic nearer to the personal and belletristic. He mentions Wikipedia as yet another example of an expansion in the domain of writing that compositionists should take into account, rather than continuing "to teach as if the civic sphere were still institutionally sponsored, as if there were extractable principles, guidelines, and rules" (353).

Key terms: "conflicted terms" (336), ownership society (337), digital grader (338), Turing test (341), objectivity (341), National Commission on Writing for America's Families (343), national press (343), Lakoff's conceptual frames (345), college catalog (346), obliged discourse (349), self-sponsored discourse (349), wikipedia (352),

"Our work ought to feel more important than it has in quite some time. And yet, even with all this attention--in fact, even because of it--the stars threaten to fall on our familiar worlds" (336).

"To ask who owns writing is to ask most obviously about property rights, the buying, selling, and leasing of textual acreages. But I'm rather asking who owns the conditions under which writing is taught?" (337).

"What I will do is suggest that those who teach writing must affirm that we, in fact, own it. The question is what we should aspire to own--and how" (338).

"I cut out the graph because I wasn't sure if the site would know what to do" (340). ^Brief though this is, the removal of the image is interesting in that it points to the difference between symbolic and iconic processing.

"In the machine dream, writing would become a sort of dull game, an interaction with software to produce a score" (341).

"I'm wondering if the word 'writing' may frame our work in ways that aren't always desirable. The term seems neutral enough, but it may well carry the sense of inscribing words on paper; that is, it may focus attention on the physical act of graphemic production, separate from thinking, with all the focus on correctness" (345).

"Our borders aren't fixed" (346). ^In fact, they aren't even our borders? Or borders at all?

"For various reasons, I think that as a profession we must continue to own up to the demands of obliged writing on our students. But we must also attend to self-sponsored writing, not only as target discourses but also as increasingly important forms of action in the world" (350).

"Make no mistake. We in 4Cs refract and frame no less than others. But we have something else--or if we don't have it, we have no particular right to be in this place, on this March morning. We have the lens of research and reflective practice, polished carefully and long, intentionally scratched at times, even melted. Ours is the knowledge of what writing is and what it can be, the whole of it, in every sphere" (355).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sirc, English Composition as a Happening

Sirc, Geoffrey. English Composition as a Happening. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2002.

How do we make the classroom a happening space, a space "no one wants to leave"? In English Composition as a Happening, Sirc winds through a series of statements--a gallery crawl--contrasting, allegorically, Modern Composition studies and the materially and processually radical avante-garde arts. In the figures of Marcel Duchamp and Jackson Pollock (among others) who have gone under-examined as compositionists, Sirc leads a full-on assault of the Modernist fortress of disciplinarity- and professionalism-minded Composition studies. The curatorial or juridical spirit of Modern Composition studies as well as its most notable proponent, David Bartholomae, the "Sherman Lee of comp", have reduced writing to an enterprise of the stuffy, unreadable, and tame: "We purged ourselves of any trace of kookiness, growing first suspicious, then disdainful, of the kind of homemade comp-class-as-Happening that people like [William] Lutz tried to put together" (7). Absent the imaginative, mystical, and passionate, comp's de-intensification leads to the commonplaces about despair and despondency. One glance at the narrowed range of "bread-alone" possibilities (conventions, "rarified materials" (11)) corresponding to Modernist Composition, and there's no surprise in seeing the glum faces: boredom predominates in this spiritless domain.

Sirc calls his project a "historical review"; he works from figure to figure, both from composition in the late twentieth century and also from the avante-garde arts to give a "re-reading of the field" (13). Marcel Duchamp, for instance, forces us to rethink the narrowness of material possibilities; post-process is only possible if we never consider Jackson Pollock's ongoing, intensely precise enactments of process and variation. Venturi's studies of "nonstraightforward architecture" might help us introduce a "new urbanism" to composition studies. Change the scene: make it more like the Vegas strip or like the "bold communication" of the A&P parking lot's "megatexture" (191): feature drift as method.


Sirc's tongue-in-cheek, rapid-fire style is, in itself, intense--a demonstration of exciting (sweat-inducing) prose emblematic of the through-going propositions in the monograph. As summarily as is possible, this project advocates for radical practice, for rejuvinating the happenings influences in the late 60's and 70's that have dwindled from the scene as the field has become a legitimate (self-defined) discipline with expanded channels for professionalization: an Modernist outpost perpetuating essayistic rationalism to the neglect of everything disallowed. Sirc challenges the processual and material orthodoxies of the field, and, in so-doing, presents a lively, kicky set of quandaries for keeping with us on the gallery crawl ahead.

Key terms: Venturi and basic architecture (1), museums (2), self-definition and Post-Happenings Composition (8, 35), turns and re-turns (14), gallery crawl (20, 286), hacienda (26), juried scene (38), mathematics of accordance (42), restricted teleintertext (56), travel narrative (65), derive (89), choosing (113), alert waiting (113), material gesture (113), prose web (114), basic writers (118), post-process (119), new urbanism (187, 222), "nonstraightforward architecture" (189), A&P parking lot (191), psychogeography (195), bread-alone composition (201), pleasure zones (223), successful writing (228), architectonics of Composition (232), Sherman Lee (266), academic gatekeeper (266), residual objects (272).

"Because designing spaces, I think, is what it's all about. It's a matter of basic architecture: Robert Venturi has shown that simplified compositional programs, programs that ignore the complexity and contradiction of everyday life, result in bland architecture; and I think the reverse is true as well, and perhaps more relevant for Composition: bland architecture (unless substantially detourned, as Lutz's) evokes simplistic programs" (1).

On Composition's Canon and citation: "As article after article appeared, once could trace the waxing and waning of theoretical trends: Langer, Polanyi, Vygotsky, Odell, Emig, Berthoff, Bruffee, Bartholomae, Berlin, Anzaldua, Foucault, and Freire. This narrow-banding is curious for a discipline that trumpets the value of linguistic richness" (7).

"Post-Happenings Composition never asks (as Comp '68 did so often) 'What's Going On?' To remove any doubt about precisely what was going on, Composition undertook the classical modernist project of self-definition" (8).

"Strict boundaries have become maintained in Composition, a separation of (profession-oriented) academy and life, one discipline from another, the specific discourse from a broader lived reality. This is not Freshman English as a Happening, this is Freshman English as a Corporate Seminar" (9).

"The reason the teaching of writing is permeated by dissatisfaction (every CCCC presentation seems, at some level, a complaint) is that we--bad enough--don't really know what teaching is, but also--far worse, fatal, in fact--we haven't really evolved an idea of writing that fully reflects the splendor of the medium" (9).

"Rarefying materials, as Composition does (the middle-brow preciosity or academic aloofness that drives the reading selections we anthologize), only makes the possibilities for Happening Composition more remote, particularly for students" (11).

"I'd like, then, to retrace the road not taken in Composition Studies, to re-read the elision, in order to remember what was missed and to salvage what can still be recovered. This, then, is a negative-space history, one that reverses the conventional figure-ground relations to find the most fruitful avenues of inquiry to be those untouched or abandoned by the disciplinary mainstream. The disruptive/restorative dynamic of my project means both rediscovering the usefulness of some materials of Composition that have faded from our conscious screen, and forcing a comparison of our field with the avante-garde tradition in post-WWII American art, running that story through our own traditional, disciplined history--or better, showing our history as already-ruptured, permanently destabilized by our attitude toward (really, ignorance of) the compositional avante-garde" (13).

"The cause of our current stasis? Doubtless the major influence has been Composition's professionalization, its self-tormented quest for disciplinary stature" (24).

"Just because the rest of the curriculum has banned enchantment in favor of a narrow conception of life-as-careerism that doesn't mean we have to go along, does it?" (28).

"The Happenings lesson to take from Jackson's art is (life-) process-oriented: his process fascinates not in order to discover how to paint like Jackson (reproducing forms, reinstituting rhetorics) but to empathize with him, to re-enter the compositional scene as Kaprow could, to consider how he solved problems (what he even saw as problems), how he met limits, considered materials, tried to make a direct statement in an interesting way--to think about what Jackson felt in the moments of composition" (82).

"But Modernist Composition never admits it doesn't know what's going on" (88).

"A prose web, then, is writing as doing things to a range of materials. Composition as material gesture. It means changing the axis of the image, supplying the (missing, now active) horizontal vector to disable the predictability of composition's strict verticality" (114).

"You know what our problem is? It's a failure of nerve in our myth-making; revealing that about the field might be Jackson's most useful function for CCCC" (115).

"The way students actually inhabit the writing classroom's cityscape is very much in keeping with the situationist notion of the derive, the method used to chart a city's psychogeography" (195).

"I bring in Bono because the writing classroom under the bread-alone program resembles nothing so much as a lame parody of MTV, as seen by the TV show designed, in effect, to be a lame parody of MTV, 'Puttin on the Hits': writing in the bread-alone composition class becomes lip-syncing the standards, and teaching becomes a question of judging the authenticity of the imitation" (202).

"All writing courses, regardless of their ideological advocacy, become Modernist when they close on received notions of form and function" (206).

"All a curriculum designed to reproduce uniformity in writing empowers is the system academic writing serves (no matter how counter-hegemonic its ideology, there remain those 'reformist-progressive social and industrial aims that it could seldom achieve in reality'). Why conceal it?" (219).

"Compared with the way post-Happenings Composition defines the classroom enterprise of college writing instruction, as a professional commitment to do a certain kind of work with a certain set of materials, Composition as a Happening is far less mediated, looser. It silences that tedious, already-wrote drone of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing. It is a pedagogy designed to un-build our field's spaces, a standard-stoppage, a composition theory (like Schoenberg's) that values the eraser end of the pencil (or the delete key)" (278).

!!: 1962 (20), rel. Fulkerson's axiology (155), trying on academic language (230).

Related sources:
Bartholomae, David. "What is Composition and (if you know what that is) Why Do We Teach It?" Composition in the Twenty-First Century: Crisis and Change. Ed. Lynn Z. Bloom, Donald A. Daiker, and Edward M. White. Carbondale: SIU Press, 1996. 11-28.
Deemer, Charles. "English Composition as a Happening." College English 29 (Nov. 1967): 121-126.
Rodrigues, Raymond J. "Moving Away from Writing-Process Worship." English Journal Sept. 1985: 24-27.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fulkerson, "Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century"

Fulkerson, Richard. "Summary and Critique: Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century." CCC 56.4 (2005): 654-687.

Fulkerson's ten-year follow-up to earlier reports on the condition of composition studies concludes with premonitions about the field's disunity and the "new theory wars" (681). As a "map [of] a large and complicated region" (679), "Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century" advances speculative claims (probabilities?) based on what Fulkerson calls "indirect evidence." Given that he ends up mentioning North's 1987 concerns in The Making of Knowledge about the sustainability of composition studies given methodological pluralism, it's worth raising questions about just how different "indirect evidence" is from "lore"--the tacit knowledge circulated informally by practitioners who represented the largest segment of the field (rel. to researchers and scholars). Fulkerson suggests that the divergence in the field at the turn of the twenty-first century goes well beyond methodologies, extending to matters "axiological, pedagogical, and processual" (681).

Fulkerson admits "frustration" as his motivation for trying to make sense of the field every ten years. He compares two teaching sourcebooks, one from 1980 and another from 2001, and based on a comparison of their tables of contents, concludes that the new chapters (ch. 5-8, pp. 656) represent "variations of the major new area of scholarly interest in composition as we begin the twenty-first century, critical/cultural studies (CCS)" (657). Of course, both teaching guides do very little to address writing technologies and new media; the more recent guide includes one essay by Charlie Moran.

To explain the disunity of the field that now applies to perspectives beyond methodologies, Fulkerson presents a grid, which he says the work of his essay will fill in.

Fulkerson Grid - Composition's Pedagogical Quandary

Fulkerson spends most of the pieces, however, on expressivism, critical/cultural studies, and procedural rhetoric, as these are the perspectives best represented in the journals. Current-traditional rhetoric, on the other hand, lingers as a given. Fulkerson's presents a hard critique of critical/cultural studies, noting that it suffers from "content envy," finds itself more concerned with "'liberation' from dominant discourse" than with "improved writing" (660), involves indoctrination, and displaces attention to writing with too much emphasis on reading (665). He also addresses the current state of expressivism and procedural rhetoric (which he identifies as "the dominant tradition of composition in the 1970s and 1980s" (671). Accordingly, it's fairly clear that composition studies has grown more complex, and this Balkanization presents problems for the field and especially for teacher training. Fulkerson concludes with seven implications (complexity; disagreement about what is good writing?; smorgasbord confusion; public responsibility to articulate what we do; no ultimate answer; must be resolved at program level; and mess this creates for coherent graduate training).

Four general perspectives (rows):

  1. Current-Traditional
  2. Expressivism
  3. Critical/Cultural Studies
  4. Procedural Rhetoric (subdivisions: "composition as argumentation, genre-based composition, and composition as an introduction to an academic discourse community" (671))

Four questions (columns):

  1. The axiological question: in general, what makes writing "good"?
  2. The process question: in general, how do written texts come into existence?
  3. The pedagogical question: in general, how does one teach college students effectively, especially where procedural rather than propositional knowledge is the goal? And
  4. The epistemological question: "How do you know that?" which underlies answers to all the others. (657-658)

Conclusions and implications (679)
See responses in CCC 57.4 (2006) and also in the carnival.

Key terms: frustration (654), comp-landia (655), composition landscape (655), axiological consensus (655), pedagogical diversity (655), Kuhn's "paradigm shift" (656), content envy (665), indoctrination (665), process and post-process (669), indirect evidence (669), argument (671), genre (674), Bartholomae and discourse community (677), stasis theory (677).

"My central claim is that we have diverged again. Within the scholarship, we currently have three alternative axiologies (theories of value): the newest one, "the social" or "social-construction" view, which values critical cultural analysis; an expressive one; and a multifaceted rhetorical one" (655).

"These four chapters [5-8 in Tate's A Guide to Composition Pedagogies] represent variations of the major new area of scholarly interest in composition as we begin the twenty-first century, critical/cultural studies (CCS), showing the impact of postmodernism, feminism, and British cultural studies" (657).

"Just as no one actually knows how widespread CCS composition courses are, the same is true for expressive courses grounded in the views and experiences of the student authors. We have lots of indirect evidence for both" (669).

"In contemporary composition practice, I see rhetorical philosophies taking three different emphases: composition as argumentation, genre-based composition, and composition as introduction to an academic discourse community" (671).

"Genre-based courses and CCS courses thus share an extensive focus on close reading of texts and on culturally determined patterns, but the goals of the reading differ. In the CCS course, the students are to read critically and cite the texts read in their own papers on related topics. In the genre course, the readings serve as discourse models from which students can generalize. Both approaches presume that texts are socially constructed and intertextual" (675).

Related sources:
Berlin, James. "Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories." College English 44 (Dec. 1982): 765--77.
Hairston, Maxine. "Diversity, Ideology, and Teaching Writing." CCC 43 (May 1992): 179--93.
North, Stephen M. The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field. Upper Montclair, NJ: Boynton, 1987.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fulkerson, "Four Philosophies of Composition"

Fulkerson, Richard. "Four Philosophies of Composition." Composition in Four Keys: Inquiring into the Field. Barbara Gleason, Louise Wetherbee Phelps, and Mark Wiley, eds. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 1996. 551-555.

In this brief piece, originally published in CCC 30 (1979), Fulkerson adapts a philosophical framework from M.H. Abrams's The Mirror and the Lamp (1953). Abrams devised a four-term analytical scheme applied to "artistic transactions" (551), consisting of pragmatic, mimetic, expressive, and objective perspectives. Fulkerson revises these terms, replacing the pragmatic and objective with rhetorical and formalist designations, in an effort to apply them to composition studies. The mid-section of the essay accounts briefly for each of the positions and names key figures associated with each:

Fulkerson goes on to explain the challenge in classifying Elbow, an "Aristotle in modern dress," who, though invested in "free writing, collaborative criticism, and audience adaptation," still presses for students to consider audience. Because his teaching methods are interested in audience and because they jibe with his evaluative emphases, Elbow fits with the rhetorical philosophy. Fulkerson explains his concern with the pedagogy of "mindlessness" that confuses the motivating philosophy of the course with the evaluative emphases. "Value-mode confusion" is Fulkerson's underlying concern in presenting the four philosophies, which he hopes will "reduce such mindlessness in the future" (555). Consider that he reiterated a set of related concerns in CCC 56.4 (2005) with "Summary and Critique: Composition at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century." Also, this piece was reprinted in the Composition in Four Keys section on "Alternative Maps," along with Berlin's "Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories," and excerpts from North's Making of Knowledge.

Key terms: value-mode confusion (in the "bald" assignment) (554), modal confusion (555).

"Since the elements in an artistic transaction are the same as those in any communication, it seemed that Abrams's four theories might also be relevant to composition" (551).

"My thesis is that this four-part perspective helps give us a coherent view of what goes on in composition classes. All four philosophies exist in practice" (551).

"My research has convinced me that in many cases composition teachers either fail to have a consistent value theory or fail to let that philosophy shape pedagogy" (554).

"There is nothing wrong with an expressive philosophy, but there is something seriously wrong with classroom methodology which implies one variety of value judgment when another will actually be employed. That is model confusion, mindlessness" (555).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

North, The Making of Knowledge in Composition

North, Stephen M. The Making of Knowledge in Composition. Upper Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1987.

North's 1987 "portrait"--importantly the first theoretical monograph in the field--sets out with a few central questions: What counts as knowledge in Composition? How will lore and practitioner-knowledge be valued as the field pursues professionalization and methodological legitimacy? What is the future of Composition given its methodological pluralism and related charges about dissolution or disunity? North describes his own method as anthropological. He begins with a brief history of the events that figure into the present climate for composition studies: the large number of practitioners relative to scholars and researchers, the devaluation of practice-as-inquiry and resultant devaluation of practitioners, and the primacy of lore (unregulated, informal, and tacit knowledge about writing and how best to teach it) in the field.

This is a deceptively simple portrait--both a history of modern composition studies and a speculative (skeptical?) opening up of questions about the deep problems facing the field with its methodological pluralism. North presents a typology for methodological communities or clusters. Each of the eight types is assigned a full chapter that includes a brief bibliographic gloss (key publications, read primarily through names and titles), a characterization of the community and a comparison of it to its nearest neighbors, and an explanation (including a list) of the typical procedures involved with the method. According to North, pure (method-free) practice (and practitioners) begins to count differently--as somewhat less than--with the 1963 CCCC and Kitzhaber's call for leadership and professionalization--exerting, in North's language, "authority over knowledge about composition" (15). The resulting methodological communities or modes of inquiry are distinguished by (aside from method), size in number (Practitioners are the most), relation to other modes, and the duality of identification (many would also refer to themselves as Rhetoricians, although North says this is not methodologically helpful) (61-63).

The eight modes of inquiry (which reflect some, not all clusters (137, 140)) are:

  1. Practitioners (the founding mode; practice as inquiry) (21)
  2. Scholars - Historians (rules include new events or new connections among events; two stages: empirical and interpretive; first-generation historians focused on pedagogy; second-generation on institutions and programs) (66)
  3. Scholars - Philosophers (most difficult to account for (91); challenge to impose coherence) (91);
  4. Scholars - Critics or Hermeneuts (a central mode of literary studies (116); favored by North; intermediary between historians and philosophers (116);
  5. Researchers - Experimentalists (replicable results to dis/confirm and certify (150)) (141);
  6. Researchers - Clinicians ("cases"; subject-oriented and fitting with psychological studies, cognition, etc.) (197);
  7. Researchers - Formalists (models or simulations; focused on formal properties of process or activity) (238);
  8. Researchers - Ethnographers (inscribers; Geertz-influences "thick description"-ists; few of them in 1987 according to North) (272).

As each group becomes more formidable (in number, publication venues, conferences, etc.), there comes an increased expectation that practitioners will fall in. Consequently, methodological pluralism can be framed as a contest--a "methodological struggle for power" (321)--that begins to recruit practitioners into particular methodological communities (^Grad programs as yet another arm of this?)

Lore (22): "the accumulated body of traditions, practices, and beliefs in terms of which Practitioners understand how writing is done, learned, and taught." Healthy lore depends upon longevity and breadth (35).

Three functional properties of lore:

  1. "once somebody says that it has worked or is working or might work, it is part of lore" (24)
  2. "While anything can become part of lore, nothing can ever be dropped from it, either" (24)
  3. "once a particular nomination is made the contributor gives up control over it" (25). Share share alike: "Such tinkering with the contributions made by other Practitioners seldom seems terribly disturbing" (25).

Key terms: modes of inquiry (1, 15), methodological communities (1), methodological land-rush (2), practical knowledge (16), emerging science (21), practitioners (21), lore (22), practice as inquiry (23, 33), lore and pragmatic logic (23), lore's experiential structure (24), expressive, poetic, transactional writing (26), The House of Lore (27), practitioners' tolerance and latitude (28), textbook's catechetical function (30), rubber triangle (53), first- and second-order inquiry (60), rhetoric (63), praxis (65), narrative (69), thick description (277), paradigm (318), tacit knowledge (319), methodological pluralism (320), topoi to organize the field (338), inter-methodological coherence (370).

"Federal interest in English per se on this scale [crisis; 1958 NDEA; 1967 NCTE NITE] was relatively short-lived, but the momentum generated by the intense interest of these few years launched modern Composition. The broadest effects were on English teachers' self-perception as professionals" (12).

"Kitzhaber's [1963] challenge calls, in other words, for the exertion of authority over knowledge about composition: what it is, how it is made, who gets to say so and why" (15).

"It takes time to identify new modes of inquiry, to acquire expertise in them, and then to find or create outlets in which to publish their results. They have emerged very slowly" (21).

"These three modes [historian, philosopher, and critic] belong in the same methodological cluster primarily because they share the humanist tradition's reliance on what can be broadly defined as dialectic--that is, the seeking of knowledge via the deliberate confrontation of opposing points of view" (60).

"Even more to the point, [rhetoric] is not much help methodologically. Rhetoric can be defined as an art to be mastered; or, as for these Scholars, the various manifestations of that art as practiced can be conceived as an object or field of study. But there is not, in this latter sense, any inherently Rhetorical mode of inquiry" (64).

"The resulting demographic pattern [among philosophers] is rather like that of a marina: a small core of full-time residents; a larger group of long-term types, who may stay as long as two or three years, or move in and out with some regularity; and lots of one-time, seasonal visitors who nevertheless--by sheet [?] weight of numbers--leave their mark on the community" (92).

"I will admit to a certain bias in favor of this kind [hermeneutic-critical] of investigation; of all my work in various modes of inquiry, I was most interested in these case studies" (119).

"The first three of these [Experimentalists, Clinicians, and Formalists] constitute a methodological cluster quite as neat as the three Scholarly modes, sharing as they do the positivist tradition's fundamental faith in the describable orderliness of the universe: that is, the belief that things-in-the-world, including in this case people, operate according to determinable or 'lawful' patterns, general tendencies, which exist apart from our experience of them, and which are, in addition, accessible to the right kinds of inquiry" (137).

"After all, it [experimentation] has been the dominant mode of formal educational research in this country over the past 75 years or so. And while it has always had its share of vehement critics--who delight in pointing out, for example, the origins of many of its techniques in agricultural research, in formulations designed to deal with corn yield per acre--it is not a dominance that will surrender easily" (141).

"The natural urge is to move toward system, toward a vision of students not as discrete individuals, but as in some ways comparable units acting according to articulable general principles. Experimental knowledge responds to this urge very, very well. In it, the institutions and guesses of lore are assumed to have been transformed into a more powerful kind of truth, one by which the uncertainty, and so the stress, of what otherwise seems such a chaotic world might be better brought under control" (153).

"In terms of this study, it ["the paradigm-shift explanation for the revolution in Composition"] might be described as a power play, an attempt by one methodological community or cluster of communities to assert its dominance over the others. And this is the sort of movements that has in fact been most characteristic of the emergent field of Composition" (321).

"Versions of the conservative model may acknowledge that teaching writing is to some extent an art, but they are more likely to treat it more as a kind of technology, an applied science, as well, and to be far more attracted by the cumulative (and perhaps, by implication, Practitioner-proof) possibilities of that scientific dimension" (331).

"Nonetheless, my original question stands: By what sort of logic are these studies being strung together? Witte seems to handle the results of these methodologically diverse investigations as if they were so many Lego blocks: standardized bits and pieces of 'knowledge' which, whatever their origins, sizes, or shapes, can be coupled together to form a paradigmatic frame within which his own exploratory Experimental study will fit" (346).

"For both sides, it is a 'field,' a 'profession,' and a 'discipline,' terms that seem to be treated interchangeably, as if in obedience to an unspoken rule: Characterize Composition as paradigmatic or dialogical, coherent or chaotic as you like, but it is to everyone's advantage to treat it as a legitimate academic discipline" (364).

"It might not be too much to claim, in fact, that for all the rhetoric about unity in pursuit of one or another goal, Composition as a knowledge-making society is gradually pulling itself apart" (364).

"Is there any chance, then, for an academically full-fledged, autonomous, multi-methodological, knowledge-making Composition? Not, it would seem, without radical change. Composition faces a peculiar methodological paradox: its communities cannot get along well enough to live with one another, and yet they seem unlikely to survive, as any sort of integral whole called Composition, without one another" (369).

"Instead, I end up predicting that either (a) Composition as we know it will essentially disappear, reverting to something much like its pre-1963 form; or that (b) it might survive, but probably only by breaking its institutional ties with literary studies and, hence, English departments" (373).

"So, sad as it may be, I would rather take my chances on a fully vital Composition that fails than to settle for one that is never quite free to try" (374).

Related sources:
Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic, 1973.
Kitzhaber, Albert R. "4C, Freshman English, and the Future." CCC 14 (1963): 129-38.
Winterowd, W. Ross. Rhetoric: A Synthesis. New York: Holt, 1986.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Aarseth, Cybertext

Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

Aarseth's discussion of cybertexts or, that is, ergodic literature (ergodic from Gr., ergon - work and hodos - path), is carried on the shoulders of an ambitious and insightful set of terms and a seven-mode textonomy for describing ergodic literature across the typical (and unsuitable) poles of digital and print for typifying texts. Cybertext, then, works with examples from (literary) hypertext, video games, text adventure games, and MUDs in an effort to compel us toward a "more viable terminology" (74), while rendering productively murky many of the thought-to-be-clean distinctions between texts experienced in the phosphor of the screen and those experienced on paper. The digital-paper dichotomy, he says, suffers from limited analytical power (54). Aarseth's project is striking for his discussion of kinds of paths, his differentiation in terms among linear, multilinear, and nonlinear (3; multilinear dissolves the linear/nonlinear commonplace (44)); unicursoral and multicursoral (5-6); and interactivity (48). The linearity/nonlinearity dichotomy and discussions dependant on engulfing notions of interactivity (48) are unsuitable, he argues, to the more viable terminology he seeks. He also builds on Barthes' discussion in The Pleasure of the Text of tmesis or skipping in reading. Cybertext, ultimately, is more a perspective than a category (24); writing as a cyborg activity increasingly reminds of the inadequacies of the Shannon-Weaver communication model for describing the complex, emerging dynamics involved with cybertexts.


Aarseth's approach emphasizes the experience of the texts (not necessarily a hermeneutics); he views text as phenomena rather than as a string of signifiers (20), and he reads cybertexts across their aesthetics, their constructions, and their uses. The cybertextual perspective is especially useful because they merge paper and digital texts into a cohesive analytic-descriptive framework.

Aarseth explains his tentative "textonomy" in terms of scriptons, textons, and a traversal function. Scriptons are strings of signs (information) "as they appear to readers"; textons are strings of signs "as they exist in the text"; and the traversal function is "the mechanism by which scriptons are revealed or generated from textons and presented to the user of the text" (62). Built on these neologisms, Aarseth's seven-term typology includes the following modes of traversal (together, their variables make possible 576 unique combinations or "media positions" (64):

  1. Dynamics: the fixity, variability, or unavailability of scriptons;
  2. Determinability: A determinate text has the same scriptons each time; the scriptons adjacent to any other scripton vary in an indeterminate text;
  3. Transiency: The passage of time triggers the appearance of scriptons in a transient text (alt. intransient);
  4. Perspective: If the user has a character in the world, the perspective is personal (alt. impersonal);
  5. Access: If all scriptons are accessible at all times, as in a codex, the access is random (alt. controlled);
  6. Linking: Explicit, conditional, none;
  7. User Functions: explorative (forking), configurative (scriptons are created or chosen), interpretive (hermeneutic), textonic (able to write or program--extend or change text) (63-64).

Nonlinear text: "An object of verbal communication that is not simply one fixed sequence of words may differ from reading to reading because of the shape, conventions, or mechanisms of the text" (41).
Text: "Any object with the primary function to relay verbal information" (62).

Key terms: feedback loop (1), mechanical organization (1), reading (1-2), linearity (3), cybertext (5, 17), forking paths (5), unicursal and bivia (5-6), linear, maze, net (6), footnote (7), database (10), hypertext (12, 77), textonomy (15), textology (15), theoretical restraint (18), technological determinism (19), hermeneutics (20), computer semiotics (26), artificial life (AL) (29), emergence (30), permanence/transience (30), dual materiality (40), nonlinear text (41), nonlinear/multilinear (43), linear paradigm (46), RB tmesis and skipping (47), interactivity (48), cyborg aesthetics (51), Analytica (60), text (62), scriptons and textons (62), reader (74), network and link (83), anamorphosis (180), metamorphosis (178).

"The concept of cybertext focuses on the mechanical organization of the text, by positing the intricacies of the medium as an integral part of the literary exchange" (1).

"In a cybertext, however, the distinction [between play and performance] is crucial--and rather different; when you read from a cybertext, you are constantly reminded of inaccessible strategies and paths not taken, voices not heard" (3).

"The cybertext reader is a player, a gambler; the cybertext is a game-world or world-game; it is possible to explore, get lost, and discover secret paths in these texts, not metaphorically, but through the topological structures of the textual machinery" (4).

"Cybertext is a perspective on all forms of textuality, a way to expand the scope of literary studies to include phenomena that today are perceived as outside of, or marginalized by, the field of literature--or even in opposition to it, for (as I make clear later) purely extraneous reasons" (18).

"The various effects produced by cybertextual machines are not easily described by these textological epistemes [philological, phenomenological, structural, semiotic, and poststructural], if they can be described at all. I might achieve something by trying each one, but since all of them so obviously conceive the material, historical, and textual artifact as a syntagmatic chain of signifiers and little else, that approach would most likely prove fruitless and desultory, and it would almost certainly not illuminate the idiomatic aspects of ergodic texts" (24).

"The crucial issue here [in Aarseth's discussion of computer semiotics] is how to view systems that feature what is known as emergent behavior, systems that are complex structures evolving unpredictably from an initial set of simple elements" (29).

"When the relationship between surface sign and user is all that matters, the unique dual materiality of the cybernetic sign process is disregarded. Without an understanding of this duality, however, analyses of communication phenomena involving cybernetic sign production become superficial and incomplete" (40).

"To construct a fundamental dichotomy between linear and nonlinear types of media is therefore dangerous; it produces blind spots even as it creates new insights" (47).

"The word interactive operates textually rather than analytically, as it connotes various vague ideas of computer screens, user freedom, and personalized media, while denoting nothing" (48).

On cyborg: "[Manfred] Clynes constructed the term from the words cybernetic organism and used it to describe the new symbiotic entity that results from the alliance between humans and technology in a closed, artificial environment such as a space capsule" (53).

"When I fire a virtual laser gun in a computer game such as Space Invader, where, and what, am I?" (162). ^In "The Death (and Politics) of the Reader."

"Even if we can no longer use the word author in a meaningful way (after all, today's complex media productions are seldom, if ever, run by a single 'man behind the curtain'), it would be irresponsible to assume that this position has simply gone away, leaving a vacuum to be filled by the audience" (165).

"The ergodic work of art is one that in a material sense includes the rules for its own use, a work that has certain requirements built in that automatically distinguishes between successful and unsuccessful users" (179).

"The idea of the new is always ambiguous, and if the use of these neologisms seems contradictory and self-defeating in a study that seeks to demonstrate the ideological forces behind similar neologisms (interactive fiction, hypertext, etc.), my only defense is that I try to make my concepts less dichotomic and more analytic than their alternatives" (182).

Related sources:
Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975.
Weiner, Norbert. Cybernetics; or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. New York: Technology Press, 1948.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yancey, "Made Not Only in Words"

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. "Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key." CCC 56.2 (2004): 297-328.

Yancey repeatedly points out to the 2004 CCCC audience in San Antonio that "we have a moment" primed for composition in a new key. This new composition involved expanded notions of writing brought about with rapidly changing digital technologies. Yancey's pastiche text celebrates contributions from past chairs while establishing composition in a new key relative to four aspects or considerations:

1. Writing outside of school; electracy as a legitimate third literacy;
2. Disciplinary background; FYC as raison de etre;
3. Programmatic change (new curriculum, renewed WAC, writing majors);
4. Curricular control and assessment.

Yancey explains that the new model of composition is anchored by the circulation of writing, the canons of rhetoric (which are co-operating, not discrete), and the deicity of technology (312). She also notes that much of what came about conceptually with process has gone unquestioned and that we should wonder why writing for teacher continues to prevail.

"At this moment, we need to focus on three changes: Develop a new curriculum; revisit and revise our writing-across-the-curriculum efforts; and develop a major in composition and rhetoric" (308).

"Never before has the proliferation of writings outside the academy so counterpointed the compositions inside. Never before have the technologies of writing contributed so quickly to the creation of new genres" (298).

"And I repeat: like the members of the newly developed reading public, the members of the writing public have learned--in this case, to write, to think together, to organize, and to act within these forums--largely without instruction and, more to the point here, largely without our instruction" (301).

"Relevant to literacy specifically, we can record other tremors, specifically those associated with the screen, and in that focus, they return us to questions around what it means to write" (304).

"What should be the future shape of composition? Questioning the role of technology in composition programs--shall we teach print, digital, composition, communication, or all of the above?--continues to confounds us" (306).

"Thinking in terms of circulation, in other words, enables students to understand the epistemology, the conventions, and the integrity of different fields and their genres" (313).

"This new composition includes rhetoric and is about literacy. New composition includes the literacy of print: it adds on to it and brings the notions of practice and activity and circulation and media and screen and networking to our conceptions of process. It will require a new expertise of us as it does of our students. And ultimately, new composition may require a new site for learning for all of us" (320).

"These are structural changes--global, educational, technological. Like seismic tremors, these signal a re-formation in process, and because we exist on the borders of our own tectonic plates--rhetoric, composition and communication, process, activity, service and social justice--we are at the very center of those tremors. (321)

Terms: "reading circles" (300), "writing circles" (301), digital morphing (307d), transfer (315), deicity (318).

Related sources:
McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. 1964. Cambridge: MIT P, 1994.
Prior, Paul, and Jody Shipka. "Chronotopic Laminations: Tracing the Contours of Literate Activity." Writing Selves, Writing Societies: Research from Activity Perspectives. Ed. Charles Bazerman and David Russell. Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse, and Mind, Culture, and Activity, 180--238. 1 June 2004 <>.
Trimbur, John. "Composition and the Circulation of Writing." CCC 52.2 (2000): 188--219.

Selfe, "Technology and Literacy"

Selfe, Cynthia L. "Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention." CCC 50.3 (1999): 411-436.

Selfe wages an argument about uptake, attitude, and attention toward technology in the field of compositions studies. She opens with characterizations of boredom and avoidance, suggesting that many in the field presume technology to be antithetical to the humanist project of composition studies. Selfe warns of the "perils of not paying attention," citing statistics about the ubiquity and tendential force of technologies (70% of jobs with a BA will require familiarity with computers, etc.).

The largest portion of Selfe's talk is concerned with the 1996 Clinton-Gore administration report called Getting America's Children Ready for the Twenty-First Century, which committed to unprecedented expenditures on technology in educational settings (amounts disproportionately high when compared to spending on more conventional literacy initiatives). Selfe's contention: we haven't paid attention to it (481). Furthermore, she finds it disconcerting that, as of 1999, there were no published statements on technological literacies from MLA, NCTE, CCCC, or IRA. Of course, technology literacy initiatives don't necessarily change the conditions of access interfering with literacy education.

Selfe goes on to support her claim that literacy is always political (424). Clinton-Gore commitments to technology spending are directly tied to larger motivations for keeping an advantageous position in the expanding global economy, which increasingly depends on such technologies (Gore: the Global Information Infrastructure is a "metaphor for functioning democracy"). Boost in education, then, are part of a complex "economic and political agenda."

Compositionists must pay attention across scales, both to the larger forces of technology change, and also to local sites and situated knowledge. She calls this change in scales "attention to action," and it involves "paying critical attention" to a long list of sites and activities: curriculum committees, standards documents, and assessment programs; professional organizations; scholarship and research; all levels of classrooms and courses; computer-based communication facilities; school systems; school board elections, pre-service and in-service ed programs and curricula; libraries, community centers and other non-traditional public places.

To wrap up, Selfe notes that humanists and scientists both have much to gain from more critical attention to technology in these multiple sites.

"Given this situation [insights from CCCC colleagues], however, I find it compellingly unfortunate that the one topic serving as a focus for my own professional involvement--that of computer technology and its use in teaching composition--seems to be the single subject best guaranteed to inspire glazed eyes and complete indifference in that portion of the CCCC membership which does not immediately sink into snooze mode" (412).

"Allowing ourselves the luxury of ignoring technology, however, is not only misguided at the end of the 20th century, it is dangerously shortsighted" (414).

"As composition teachers, deciding whether or not to use technology in our classes is simply not the point--we have to pay attention to technology" (415).

"By paying critical attention to lessons about technology, we can re-learn important lessons about literacy" (419).

"In other words, the poorer you are and the less educated you are in this country--both of which conditions are correlated with race--the less likely you are to have access to computers and to high-paying, high-tech jobs in the American workplace" (421).

"Thus, the national project to expand technological literacy has not served to reduce illiteracy--or the persistent social problems that exacerbate illiteracy" (423).

"A situated knowledges-approach to paying attention also honors a multiplicity of responses to technological literacy" (430).

Terms: persistence of print (413), "pay attention" (413), Bordieu's "doxa" (415), educational policy (416), myth of literacy and large-scale literacy projects (419), illiteracy (428), Haraway's coyote way of knowing (429), local knowledges (430)

Related sources:
Bordieu, Pierre. Outline of a Theory of Practice. New York: Cambridge UP, 1977.
Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley; U of California P, 1985.
Latour, Bruno. Aramis or the Love of Technology. Trans. C. Porter. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1996.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lloyd-Jones, "A View from the Center"

Lloyd-Jones, Richard. "A View from the Center." CCC 29.1 (1978): 24-29.

"A View from the Center" was delivered by Lloyd-Jones as the first annual chairs address at the 1976 CCCC in Kansas City. Lloyd-Jones attempts both to characterize the field's status and assert its legitimacy while also accounting for who we are. He begins by referring to a commitment to language as the primary trait of composition studies. From there, he sets up and knocks down a series of metaphors more or less suitable for describing the deep structure of composition studies: political, foundational (keeping with the conference's theme, "What's REALLY basic?"), architectural, and anatomical/skeletal.

Resonant with his title, the model of centrality Lloyd-Jones chooses is one of the rural telephone operator, Mrs. Peterson who is, without being celebrated for it, highly connected and also highly knowledgeable about the inner workings--discourses, relationships, activities--of the locale. To run with the comparison just a bit, the invocation of Mrs. Peterson could be framed as the following question tied to rhetoric, expertise/authority/legitimacy/respectability and involvement: how will compositionists perform their centrality, both in the academy and beyond?

Other points:

"In an age of quantification, allegiance to the metaphor is subversive, because it upsets the deductive electronic gadgets we have elected to be our masters" (45).

"The metaphor, with its dogged insistence on outright nonsense, simply puts the machine to sleep. Only a human mind can find wisdom in absurdity, and that is how we know we are not machines" (45).

"Metaphor crafting is the ethical badge of membership in our guild" (46).

"We know, as the computer does not, that if we say our love is a rose, we are not just confessing to some botanical perversion" (46).

"One metaphor lies, but several in concert lead" (47).

"We are of more than one mind about what really is the deep structure [of the field]" (48).

"I don't want to see the view from the center to be the view along a political line, but rather the view from the middle of the universe" (49).

"Anyway, we do not expect to know everything; we want to master the spaces between everything" (49).

"Keeping up with new work is getting harder all of the time" (50).

"But if we do not try to be in the center of all knowledge, to report the view from the center of how disciplines interact, we deserve our present basic position, that is, our traditional place in the damp cellar of the house of the intellect" (50).

Faigley, "Literacy after the Revolution"

Faigley, Lester. "Literacy after the Revolution." CCC 48.1 (1997): 30-43.

In this CCCC chair's address from 1996, Lester Faigley speaks to the moment of the mid-1990's as a stark contrast to the moments (involving social conditions) of the 1960s and 70s that gave rise to composition studies.  Sizing up composition against the historical moment in which it was more "favored," Faigley points out the discipline's changing status. More to the point, Faigley is concerned with two counterpart revolutions: a revolution of the rich and a digital revolution. Both revolutions are interlaced, and they have major implications for composition studies.  The first concerns a changing political economy and related issues of a redistribution of wealth, layoffs, economic depression, trends toward a global economy (300-301), downsizing, and trust on the "invisible hand of the unregulated market" (302). 

With the second revolution, Faigley's talk becomes anticipatory, predicting the coming of the Internet as a force to have a major impact on higher education.  He names the "new literacy" of digital communications technologies, and notes that students often already know these technologies well beyond the scope of our limited encounters with them in our composition curricula (he gives a nod to the curriculum at Texas): "I do not foresee colleges and universities remaining unaffected by these developments for long" (306).  Faigley also says we should reserve judgment about the Internet being good or bad, and we should recognize the overlap of online communications and "significant public issues" (303). He is especially concerned about the Internet's role in social movements (307), and he builds toward the realities of limited access (307).

Throughout, Faigley invokes metaphors related to water: wave, rip tide, "swimming against the current" (302), tides. Given the new literacies involved with technological change, he mentions the possible decline of the essay (308). The outlook for composition is favorable, Faigley says, because "we are not tied to narrow disciplinary turf" (309), "we can cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries" (309), and "the need for what we teach will only increase" (309).  But he follows with a set of concerns in these three questions:

To end the address, he invokes Berlin's Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures and also echoes the network concepts in Lloyd-Jones by reiterating the importance of working together as opposed to working along.

"Most disappointing, the discipline's success has not influenced institutions to improve the working conditions of many teachers of writing" (300).

"I'm going to talk today about how larger forces of change affect how we see ourselves and what we do. These changes are of such a magnitude that they have been labeled revolutions--one a technological transformation called the digital revolution and the other an economic, social, and political transformation called the revolution of the rich." (300).

"Today no one is calling for taxes to ameliorate poverty on money earned by speculation. Instead government is identified with bureaucracy, inefficiency, and waste" (301).

"The revolution of the rich has been facilitated by another related revolution--the digital revolution of electronic communications technologies" (302).

"But as personal computers become enormously powerful in memory and speed, they began to challenge the unproblematic relationship between familiar pedagogy and new technology" (303).

"The ingenious solution was to flatten communications hierarchy, making every node equivalent so that the loss of any one node would not collapse the system" (304).

"We as teachers have little control over who gains access to higher education and even less control over who gains access to the Internet" (307).

Related sources:
Berlin, James A. Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures. Urbana: NCTE, 1996.
Birkets, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.
Hairston, Maxine C. "Breaking Our Bonds and Reaffirming Our Connections." CCC 36 (1985): 272-82.

Saturday, September 9, 2006

Trimbur, "Composition and the Circulation of Writing"

Trimbur, John. "Composition and the Circulation of Writing." CCC 52.2 (2000): 188-219.

Trimbur makes his purposes clear before working through a somewhat long and complicated argument about renewing attention to circulation and thereby recuperating the classical canon of delivery in the context of composition studies. The problem is that delivery has dwindled into a given; it has been quietly domesticated into prevalent notions of the composition classroom as an uncomplicated middle-class space. In an effort to restore delivery, Trimbur calls for heightened consideration of (and emphasis on) the material circulation of writing. Delivery, he explains, isn't merely technical, but it is also political and ethical (190).

Trimbur sets out to accomplish the following:

  1. redefine delivery because it has been neglected by compositionists;
  2. account for neo-Marxist cultural studies curricula that emphasize working with "different forms and products";
  3. draw on Marx to look at how circulation materializes "contradictory social relations and processes";
  4. and discuss writing assignments that attend explicitly to matters of imbalance between use value and exchange value.

In questioning the prominent invocations of cultural studies in composition studies, Trimbur suggests, drawing on Marx and commodity as a "category," the entanglement of use value and exchange value. Each are inseparable from modes of production which implicate traces of production in the things themselves. Composition should make this focal in considerations of texts that circulate publicly or, that is, public writing.

"To anticipate the main line of thought, I argue that neglecting delivery has led writing teachers to equate the activity of composing with writing itself and to miss altogether the complex delivery systems through
which writing circulates." (189)

"Imagining cultural forms and products circulating through a continuous cycle of relatively autonomous but interlocked moments has some important consequences" (197).

On cultural studies curricula: "In other words, in the hope of fortifying student resistance to the dominant culture, such assignments actually smuggled in and restored unwittingly the close text-based readings of the specialist critic as the privileged practice of the writing classroom--the old story of explaining and having views" (198).

"Here he designates the commodity as the "first category in which bourgeois wealth presents itself " (881) and, in effect, provides a name for what circulates through the circuit of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption as well as the theoretical starting point for Capital" (207).

"The process of production determines--and distributes--a hierarchy of knowledge and information that is tied to the cultural authorization of expertise, professionalism, and respectability" (210).

"If anything, this wish for such a transformation [switch to public writing], although surely understandable and well-intentioned, amounts nevertheless to what I've already mentioned as the 'one-sided' view of production that Marx critiques--the fallacy that by changing the manner of writing, one can somehow solve the problem of circulation" (212).

"What I am trying to do is amplify the students' sense of what constitutes the production of writing by tracing its circulation in order to raise questions about how professional expertise is articulated to the social formation, how it undergoes rhetorical transformations (or "passages of form"), and how it might produce not only individual careers but also socially useful knowledge" (214).

"The aim of education should be practical but not in the service of capitalist utility" (216).

Terms: in loco parentis (193), "real world" writing (195), microethnography (199), "new revisionists" (201), Marx's linear model of circulation (205), commodity (206), public intellectual (212), "passage of forms" (repeated)

Related sources:
Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen, 1979.

Hall, Stuart. "Encoding/Decoding." Culture, Media, Language. Ed. Stuart Hall et al. London: Hutchinson, 1980. 128--38.
Marx, Karl. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. Trans. and Foreword Martin Nicolau. New York: Penguin, 1973.

Trimbur, "Essayist Literacy and the Rhetoric of Deproduction"

Trimbur, John. "Essayist Literacy and the Rhetoric of Deproduction." Rhetoric Review 9.1 (1990): 72-86.

Trimbur works through an indictment of the "monological regime of silence and facticity" implicit (albeit with paradoxes and contradictions) in essayist literacy (72). Consider the difference between literacy studies' framing of essayist literacy (text as "self-sufficient vehicle of communication, a non-indexical account that supplies the contexts necessary for interpretation within the text itself" (73)) and that of composition studies (essayist text involving a "self-revelatory stance, flexible style, and conversational tone" (72)). The former, Trimbur explains, manifests (infests?) schooling through textbooks and consequently sustains a prevailing mythology tying the essay to natural modes of communication which make use of direct, factual language rather than figurative or abstract representations.

Trimbur historicizes the (causal?) precedents of the banality of essayist prose in its presumed rhetorical vacancy. The ubiquity of essayist literacy has ideological implications reproduced through systems of schooling. Trimbur introduces what he terms a rhetoric of deproduction, which anticipates that essayist literacy inheres an arhetoricity: the text is merely to be decoded (treated as authoritative; read in school for comprehension only); traces of authorship and persuasive effects are removed.

"Our students read essayist prose, that is, in an undifferentiated way, much as they would read a newspaper or their textbook in a sociology or microbiology course, for comprehension, to extract meaning and information" (72).

"My argument is that the ideal text of essayist literacy results not from inherent or 'natural' properties of literacy per se but from the fact that essayist literacy positions readers and writers to treat written texts as if they were transparent reflections of the natural order of things" (75).

"Text, as Olson defines it in opposition to utterance, is monological; It has the capacity to speak for itself" (77).

"In other words, the rise of essayist literacy involves the historical struggle for a cognitive order to replace the personalism of traditional authority with a new method of verification based upon empirical evidence" (79).

"The discourse of essayist literacy thus codifies the apparent artlessness of the plain style into a systematic concealment of the social processes of producing and using texts. Texts appear to stand alone and to speak for themselves because they have been, as it were, deproductionized" (81).

"The transformation of statements into fact-like entities in contemporary scientific discourse employs and extends the rhetoric of deproduction we saw at work earlier in the formation of essayist literacy" (82).

"Like the scientific essay, textbooks result from a larger set of historical pressures to create a public sphere of universal reason and civic discourse" (83).

"These gestures [giving quizzes and referring to the text], moreover, are disciplinary in character: They connect our students' reading of texts to the teacher's gaze and in subtle ways reinforce the culture of silence in the classroom by positing a moment of semantic closure when students comprehend what the text means and there is nothing further to be said" (85).

* Enlightenment "natural order of things" (73), ideal text of essayist literacy as given (74), frictionless prose (80),

Related sources:
Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Harper, 1972.
Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Fact. London: Sage, 1979.
Olson, David R. "From Utterance to Text: The Bias of Language in Speaking and Writing." Harvard Educational Review 47 (1977): 257-81.

Friday, September 8, 2006

Rice, "Writing About Cool"

Rice, Jeff. "Writing About Cool: Teaching Hypertexts as Juxtaposition." Computers and Composition. 20 (2003) 221-236.

Rice refers to two courses he taught at UF called "Writing about Cool" to present a pedagogy of cool, rooted in composition, hypertext, cultural studies, and juxtaposition. The courses traces cool through McLuhan, Baraka and Robert Farris Thompson; the pedagogical model advocates juxtaposition as an electrate strategy for the production of hypertext (a making/doing project rather than interpreting or coming to awareness/appreciation). Using the locus of a single moment, 1963, Rice puts Berlin, Miller and Faigley in conversation and considers the significance of the '63 CCCC in L.A. relative to cultural studies in composition, including Kitzhaber's reservations about the writing machine's mechanistic orientation. He also refers to Landow on students' writing from scraps using juxtaposition (26).

The pedagogical approach, then, is combinatory, drawing together cultural studies, hypertext and juxtaposition. Their combination is demonstrated in the pursuit of cool writing. It is located in a particular moment and proceeds, in the courses Rice explains, by considering cultural forces and by contrasting the idyllic and iconic set against the turbulent and detached (230). Mindful of two cools (one technological, the other social), students in the courses develop online handbooks of cool (how to write cool, not how to be cool).

Terms: Ulmer's chorography (226), Nelson's hypertext (228)

"In addition, these sites [Netscape, Yahoo, etc.] proposed cool as long listings of out-of-the-ordinary web sites because of either design or content. Usually, the more bizarre or eclectic, the cooler the site" (222).

"The lesson of corporate usage of cool, then, it is a rhetorical one. The pedagogical challenge is to resituate the popular application of cool as an electronic and cultural phenomenon (TV and Web usage) into a curriculum that teaches electronic rhetorical strategies" (223).

"The attempt by composition studies to include cultural studies in its curriculum often concentrated on the questions or representation, ideology, and power" (225).

"What this brief survey of the field tells me, then, is that while cultural studies and hypertext have been thought of as interconnected, and while hypertext and juxtaposition have been considered interrelated, there still exists a need to bring all of these items together" (226).

"Engelbart's writing machine resembled McLuhan's cool mosaic, a technologically shaped writing system where disciplines juxtapose with one another" (228).

"The icon motivates a form of discourse determined by juxtaposition. Celebrity images become appropriated and reentered into cultural expression by way of unlikely arrangements" (230).

"The writer of the handbook [Ars], then, acted as a compiler. Any original writing found itself lost amid quoted texts" (231).

"Borrowing from McLuhan's 1963 musings on cool, Baudrillard deemed current discourse cool because of its emphasis on commutation rather than signification. In cool discourse, Baudrillard claimed, 'signs are exchanged against each other rather than against the real' (7). (233)"

"With cool writing, the notion that the computer-networked classroom is a place for looking outward to cyberspace and its threatening, challenging, different ways of expression for purposes of evaluation and
analysis becomes instead the idea that we are already in such a place and that we bring to those situations cultural events, transformations, and strategies. (234)

Related sources:
Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2002.
Faigley, Lester. Fragments of Rationality. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1992.
McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1962.

Redd, "Dolla Outa Fifteen Cent"

Redd, Teresa, M. "'Trying To Make A Dolla Outa Fifteen Cent': Teaching Composition with the Internet at an HBCU." Computers and Composition 20 (2003) 359-373.

Redd begins with an account of the ongoing economic struggles of HBCUs and the impact of such funding shortfalls on technological access. The article introduces a technology profile of Howard University; Redd, a professor of English who teaches composition and leads a WAC initiative, tells of the role of computers in Howard's writing courses, underscores the realities of the digital divide with statistical support (363), and finally turns to pedagogical resourcefulness or, that is, how to "make a dolla out of fifteen cent."

Computers first appeared in Howard's composition program in 1990. Soon thereafter, Redd taught in a wired classroom, but it was only because she was invited by the engineering program to teach in a blended curriculum. Much of the fanfare about technological improvements reflect changes in disciplines other than English. Because of ongoing access problems, teachers tend to ask students to partake in "low-level cognitive activities" (365).

Redd's pedagogical response involves doing "culture work": creating "safe houses" for African American English, engaging in intercultural collaboration via email (students from Howard working with students from Montana State), and "publishing Afrocentric material on the Web" (365). To conclude the article, Redd refers to the HBCU Technology Assessment Study, which warns of the continuing risk of a broadening digital divide.

Terms: digital divide (360), wireless umbrella (361), Howard Legends web sites (369).

"Twenty years ago when Computers and Composition first went to press, there were no computers for composition at Howard University" (359).

"To finance this high level of technology, Howard has assumed a higher level of debt. But by investing in technology, we have leapt ahead of practically every HBCU, most of which depend upon relatively slow T-1 lines (NAFEO, 2000), instead of high-speed T-3 connections like ours" (360).

"The shortage of wired classrooms is typical at HBCUs." (361).

"Contrary to what current theories would have predicted, both the Spelman and Howard students were not interested in 'freeing' themselves from race within the colorless space of the Internet but in situating 'their cyborg selves within an African American discursive tradition' and making 'their racial identity visible to a networked diasporic community' (p. 236)" (369).

Related sources:
Johnson, Steven. Interface Culture. San Francisco: Harper Edge, 1997.
Pratt, Mary Louise. "Arts of the Contact Zone. Professing in the Contact Zone. Ed. Janice Wolff. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2002: 1-18.
Selfe, Cynthia, and Richard Selfe, Jr. "The Politics of the Interface." CCC 45 (1994): 480--504.

Carlton, "Comp as a Postdisciplinary Formation"

Carlton, Susan Brown. "Composition as a Postdisciplinary Formation." Rhetoric Review 14.1 (1995) 78-87.

Carlton levels a complicated argument about whether or not composition ought to be framed as a discipline. She begins with North's concerns about a preponderance of lore and multiple, contending methods from The Making of Knowledge in Composition, and she echoes North's "ambivalence" about conferring disciplinary status on composition studies. Perhaps, Carlton suggests, a postdisciplinary characterization is more appropriate, given that postdisciplinary practitioners "reproduce the complex features representative of disciplines" and they "generate material disciplinary apparatuses that make representation possible" (79) even while they "think and act beyond the limits of the traditional discipline" (79).

Carlton considers the rise of doctoral programs in composition (a turn commonly viewed a synonymous with professionalization and credentialing, which also render permanent a laboring underclass of contingent faculty). Especially with the production of composition studies (a kind of institutional "power play"), we must continue to be concerned with how we represent disciplinary activity (both textual and extratextual) in such a way that accounts for "a complex set of cultural practices" (79).

Included here is a recap of a disagreement between Janice Lauer and Patricia Harkin at the '91 CCCC in Boston over the status of lore as a legitimate form of disciplinary knowledge (reread this section). Carlton prefers a postdisciplinary stance (an appropriation of the "post" logics figured in postructural currents) over the antidisciplinary stance. Finally, the article argues that we must expand on programmatic and curricular gains and resist compromising lore or favoring a monolithic methodological orientation to gain disciplinary status.

Terms: "postdisciplinary" (78)

"Many of us in composition studies oscillate among these three attitudes of ambivalence, celebration, and hostility; but I believe that ambivalence is the most productive stance, as it acknowledges the complexity of composition studies' relationship to the disciplinary apparatus" (78).

"Without denigrating our recent epistemological and ideological ventures, we can still claim that their continued transformative power is limited by the extent to which we are able to make good decisions now about how to structure the current institutional spaces we inhabit and how to construct additional institutional spaces for ourselves" (80).

"I agree with Rankin that if a type of knowledge or relationship is to flourish within the university beyond a single classroom or a small, local community of practitioners, it must be coded in a way that makes it congruent with contemporary ideas of what knowledge can be" (82).

"A rhizomatic structure runs counter to the prevailing norms of disciplinarity. It constitutes a material, extratextual critique and alternative to a university norm" (82).

"Why a teleconference? By using new technology, the practitioners represent their discussion as 'cutting edge' knowledge. By using expensive technology, the practitioner conference acquires 'value.' These appeals to disciplinary, university codes of authority allow a postdisciplinary practice to be smuggled in under the very gaze of the disciplinarians" (83).

"Instead, we need a critical mass of compositionists in tenured positions, not a few isolated and outnumbered representatives, if we are going to expand the spaces for cultural critique and democratic action" (84).

Related sources:
Bourdieu, Pierre. An Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977.
Lauer, Janice. "Rhetoric and Composition: A Rhizome." CCC Convention. Boston, 22 Mar. 1991.
Winterowd, W. Ross. Contemporary Rhetoric: A Conceptual Background with Readings. New York: Harcourt, 1975.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

LeFevre, Invention as a Social Act

LeFevre, Karen Burke. Invention as a Social Act. Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Ser. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Invention as a Social Act is a landmark book on rhetorical invention. Lefevre introduces "a more adequate terminology" for rhetorical invention, complicating commonplace associations between the "generation of ideas" and the Platonic view of invention as inside-out, wrought from a transcendent interiority moving toward pure forms. Lefevre is clear about individualism having a proper place, but she contends that it is "overdone" and that the solitary, inspired inventor (rel. to Emersonian self-reliance; seed metaphor; and invention as private episode) is inadequate for its neglect of environmental factors constitutive of thought and language.

Lefevre sets up contrastive terms early on: narrow-broad, rhetorical-general, and reflective-dynamic (5). Reflective invention relates to copy theory; dynamic invention relates to inquiry and the creation of something new. She explains why composition studies, in the 19th and 20th centuries, favored the Platonic view: the influence of literary studies (15), Romantic figure of the inspired writer (17); and capitalism and individualism (19). In an effort to complicate the Platonic view, she proposes a continuum running across four views on invention (we might consider these as scalar): Platonic perspective, internal dialogic perspective, collaborative perspective, and social collective perspective.

George Herbert Mead on invention as collaboration: gesture, attribution or interpretation, and response or adjustive reaction (62). Before the final chapter (implications), Lefevre works through an extended consideration of the relation between thought and language.

Limitations of the Platonic view:

Terms: Bateson on skin and boundedness (29), Tillie Olsen's "leech-writers" (30), dialectical process (35), deep temporal structures (41d), Aristotle and social context (45), Moffett's categories of discourse (reflection, conversation, correspondence, publication) (48), systems of invention (50)*, daimonion (56), idealogue v. dialogue (56), Sullivan's "supervisory patterns" (57), tagmemic invention (Young, Becker, Pike) (58), Elbow's "safe audience" (61), Lasswell's resonance and vibration (65), copy theory (95), Piaget's "autistic thought" (102), Vygotsky on "knot" (118) and "cloud" (119), Lasswell "ecology of innovation" (126), Gage on "stasis" (138).

"This study argues that rhetorical invention is better understood as a social act, in which an individual who is at the same time a social being interacts in a distinctive way with society and culture to create something" (1).

"Invention becomes explicitly social when writers involve other people as collaborators, or as reviewers whose comments aid invention, or as 'resonators' who nourish the development of ideas" (2).

"More particularly, composition theory and pedagogy in nineteenth and twentieth century America have been founded on a Platonic view of invention, one which assumes that the individual possesses innate knowledge or mental structures that are the chief source of invention" (11).

"To understand rhetorical invention, it is useful to restore this double meaning of 'action' and think of the act of invention as having two parts: the initiation of the inventive act and the reception or execution of it" (38).

"[Laswell's] 'clustering' of creative thinkers has led some to conclude that creativity is not merely a chance manifestation of biological or psychological factors, but is subject to environmental influence" (66).

"Applying this continuum to existing inventional theories allows us to see that composition has favored Platonic and internal dialogic views of invention, and that while the field has begun to acknowledge some collaborative aspects of invention, it has neglected others and has virtually ignored a collective view" (94).

Related sources
Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine, 1972.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1980.
Lasswell, Harold D. "The Social Setting of Creativity." In Creativity and Its Cultivation. Ed. Harold H. Anderson, 203-21. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959.

Monday, September 4, 2006

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

Hawisher, Gail E., Cynthia L. Selfe, Paul LeBlanc, and Charles Moran. Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History. New Directions in Computers and Composition Ser. Norwoord, N.J.: Ablex, 1996.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related sources
Cooper, Marilyn. "The Ecology of Writing." College English 48 (1986): 364-375.
Emig, Janet. "Writing as a Mode of Learning." CCC 28 (1977): 122-127.
Nold, Ellen. "Fear and Trembling: The Humanist Approaches the Computer." CCC 26 (1975): 269-273.

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Vielstimmig, "Petals on a Wet Black Bough"

Vielstimmig, Myka. "Petals on a Wet Black Bough: Textuality, Collaboration, and the New Essay." Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, 1999. 89-114.

Spooner and Yancey perform a collagist convergence in "Petals on a Wet Black Bough." They are chiefly concerned with the new essayism proliferated in the associational cut/paste practices of writing the screen. They experiment with collaborative personae (hence the fused author-figure). The conventions of academic exposition, normative conceptions of coherence, and the rise of associative intelligence in the midst of hypertext are chief among their concerns. Ultimately, they ask when and how teachers will be prepared to admit new/net essayism into the schoolroom and, as well, how assessment will keep pace.

Vielstimmig (German for many voiced) mentions the Emersonian self-reliant spirit that infuses much American education.

Three maxims: Assessment has to fit pedagogy (110). Pedagogy has to fit textuality (110). Can changes in pedagogy not be far behind? (111): "If what we're going to value is the essay proper--whether it's Bartholomae's or Elbow's--then by all means, let's turn the Internet off" (110).

"The new essay seems to have its own logic: intuitive, associative, emergent, dialogic, multiple--one grounded in working together and in re/presenting that working together" (90).

"This is not an argument against The Essay or against 'print classic' or conventional logic. It is an argument toward another kind of essay: a text that accommodates narrative and exposition and pattern, all three" (91).

"Speak for yourself, pal" (92).

"Ironically, both Spellmeyer's and Prince's purpose in reminding us of the essay's history is to restore it to its prior position: as a place for exploration not governed by the scholastic" (93).

"In some critiques of 'experimental' academic works (like this one?), there's a fundamental question about what counts as coherence, cohesion, and other interpretive conventions" (99).

"It is disappointing, though, how much influence is moving the other direction: that is, too many online essays merely reproduce offline textual conventions" (102). ^Solid ties to scholastic-reductive blogging ventures.

"Associational thinking may be another, more concrete and synthesizing, intelligence altogether" (108).

Terms: essay as a confinement (92), "rhetoricity of coherence" (101), Turkle's "aesthetics of simulation" (105), Venn diagram (to establish difference and relationship) (108)

Related Sources
Kirsch, Gesa. "Multi-Vocal Texts and Interpretive Responsibility." College English 59 (1997): 191-201.
Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. "Dialectics of Coherence." College English 47 (1985): 12-30.
Wittig, Rob. Invisible Rendezvous: Connection and Collaboration in the New Landscape of Electronic Writing. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan UP, 1994.

Moran, "Computers and Composition 1983-2002"

Moran, Charles. "Computers and Composition 1983-2002: What We Have Hoped For.'" Computers and Composition. 20 (2003): 343-358.

Charlie Moran, writing from the perspective of an insider, synthesizes twenty years of Computers and Composition (1983-2002) scholarship by identifying trends in what was hoped for. Addressing participant's in Barton's discourses of technology and as teachers, Moran contends that the journal reflects a particular series of hopes for the implications of computer technology on the teaching of writing. Early hopes, Moran explains, focused on the elimination of drudgery ("copy-editing, revising, and retyping" (346) to "responding to student writing" (346)) and on technology-prompted improvements in the quality of student writing (for basic writers, as well). As the journal matured, the hoped-for thing shifted to improved professional status in an effort to "become more established, more secure in our research, tenure, and promotion" (351).

More recent hopes, according to Moran, reflect a shift from looking at technologies to looking through them (Lanham's distinction). Along these lines, Moran accounts for the improved material quality of the journal (352) and also increasing consideration of egalitarian and social justice concerns--manifestations of critical pedagogy--reflected in the journal.

"Computers and Composition 1983-2002" proceeds by broad-strokes synthesis and the generalization of thematic patterns in the scholarship appearing in Computers and Composition. To some extent, the essay is bibliographic; in it, Moran reduces numerous article-length works to single sentences while accounting for overarching, persistent themes.

"So what is it that we, in the field of computers and writing, have hoped for?" (344).

"I argue in this article that in the pages of Computers and Composition, we have been critics, but we have been planners and designers too, working for change in the spaces presented to us by technological change" (344).

Terms: "cultural hybridity" (353)

Related Sources
Haas, Christina. Writing Technology. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996
Lanham, Richard. The Electronic Word. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1993.
Selfe, Cynthia. Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-first Century. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

Brooke, "Making Room, Writing Hypertext."

Brooke, Collin Gifford. "Making Room, Writing Hypertext." JAC 19.2 (Spring 1999): 253-68.

With hypertext, the canon of arrangement risks fading into invention; this results from the presumption that audiences have greater agency when navigating through a hypertext, which, in turn, suggests that arrangement is comparatively inconsequential.  Brooke, however, seeks to correct this misnomer by registering an affront to the oversimple division that pits hypertext's liberatory and open-ended qualities opposite print's convention of linearity.  The canon of arrangement, that is, isn't doomed by the variability of multiple paths so long as we understand that arrangement, given its correlation to cycle (Bernstein) and pattern, intervenes between print and hypertext, each characterized at their structural extremes (containerism and free-form, respectively). With cycle and pattern as the hypertextual logics of arrangement, the problem of disorientation is less extreme and we need not abandon arrangement in "an electronic text-space" (261).


"Although I am contending that there is a space-element intrinsic to all discourse, it is important to note that this element is shaped in significant ways by the technological specificity of a given discourse" (255).

"Insofar as arrangement remains a canon in a rhetoric of hypertext, then, its influence is subordinated to other canons rendered largely irrelevant to the writer in an electronic environment" (257).

"Bolter doesn't push his discussion of hyperbaton far enough because it leaves hypertext dependent upon the values of print texts that are violated by electronic writing" (257).

"We hesitate to embrace more technical hypertexts because to do so would be to embrace the values that those texts represent for us: mechanical efficiency, speed, functionality, and transparency" (258).

"Hypertext, however, presents us with a different relationship between discourse and space, and it does so by reintroducing the visual into the verbal field" (258).

"If we hold onto the notion that hypertext is defined according to its violation of print standards, and arrangement (via print's reliance on linearity) is the canon perhaps most responsible for those standards, then it may seem reasonable to allow that canon to atrophy in an electronic text-space" (261).

"The very presence of something called the 'disorientation problem' in hypertext studies, then, points to the possibility that hypertext may disrupt that homogeneity, that it may enable discursive spaces different from the abstract containerism implied by print" (261).

"The containerism of print technology is an example of a constructed social and discursive space where the moments have become so coherent that their coincidence seems logical and even natural" (262).

"To put it in the terms of this essay, we need to invent forms that lie somewhere in between the containers that print has encouraged and the paralyzing freedom of an infinitely open space" (263).

"One advantage of embracing such a re-orientation of arrangement [in cycle and pattern] is that is allows us to more fully explain some of the most important claims that hypertext theory has advanced" (264).

"Arrangement must instead be infused with the idea that its products need not be permanent, or closed, in order to provide the type of meaning that will orient readers" (265).

"Placing our emphasis on the patterned yet provisional qualities of arrangement might be one way that we can make room for hypertext in our disciplinary conversation" (265).

Terms: Joyce's "alternative organizational structures" (257), Bolter's "hyperbaton" (257), hypertext as Quintilian's "confused heap" (257), "disorientation problem" (258), containerism and container metaphor (260), social space (262), Bernstein on "the Cycle" (264)

Related Sources
Bernstein, Mark. "Cycle." Patterns of Hypertext. (1 October 1998).
Janangelo, Joseph. "Joseph Cornell and the Artistry of Composing Persuasive Hypertexts." CCC 49 (1998): 24-43.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Trans. Donald Nicholson Smith. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1997.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Selfe and Hawisher, Literate Lives in the Information Age

Selfe, Cynthia L., and Gail E. Hawisher. Literate Lives in the Information Age. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004.

Selfe and Hawisher incorporate 20 case studies, selected from more than 350 interviews, as the literacy narratives that substantiate their study of the acquisition of technological literacies over the past 25 years. Following ethnographic methodologies (interviews, observations, subject-agency), Literate Lives in the Information Age historicizes and thematizes the as-told accounts of the 20 subjects who are also often positioned as co-authors of individual chapters. The project, according to Selfe and Hawisher, was inspired by Brandt's talk on oral histories work at the 1998 Watson Conference. Drawing heavily on Brandt and Giddens, the book emphasizes the social and cultural factors affecting the formation of technological literacies, from race, class, gender, and ethnicity to family attitudes, mobility (relocation), and locale. The project concludes by highlighting the following eight themes:

  1. "Literacy exists within a complex cultural ecology of social, historical, and economic effects. Within this cultural ecology, literacies have life spans" (212).
  2. "Although a complex set of factors has affected the acquisition of digital literacy from 1978 to 2003, race, ethnicity, and class too often assume key roles. Because they are linked with other social formations at numerous levels, and because their effects are often multiplied and magnified by these linkages, rage, ethnicity, and class are often capable of exerting a greater force than other factors" (216).
  3. "Gender can often assume a key role in the acquisition of digital literacy, especially when articulated with other social, cultural, and material factors" (219).
  4. "Within a cultural ecology, people exert their own powerful agency in, around, and through digital literacy, even though unintended consequences always accompany their actions" (221).
  5. "Schools, workplaces, communities, and homes are the four primary gateways through which those living in the United States have gained access to digital literacy in the decades since the invention and successful marketing of the personal computer" (223).
  6. "Access to computers is not a monodimensional social formation. It is necessary but not sufficient for the acquisition and development of digital literacy. The specific conditions of access have a substantial effect on the acquisition of digital literacy" (227).
  7. "Some families share a relatively coherent set of literacy values and practices--and digital literacy values and practices--and spread these valued among their members. Information about, and support of, electronic literacy can flow both upstream, from younger to older, and downstream, from older to younger members of a family" (229).
  8. "Faculty members, school administrators, educational policymakers, and parents need to recognize the importance of the digital literacies that young people are developing, as well as the increasingly complex global contexts within which these self-sponsored literacies function. We need to expand our national understanding beyond the narrow bounds of print and beyond the alphabetic" (232).

"The increasing presence of personal computers in homes, workplaces, communities, and schools has brought about dramatic changes in the ways people across the world create and respond to information" (1).

"[W]e can understand literacy as a set of practices and values only when we properly situate our studies within the context of a particular historical period, a particular cultural milieu, and d a specific cluster of material conditions" (5).

"The book is organized into seven chapters that follow the 20 participants in their efforts to acquire varying degrees of technological literacy, along with this introduction and a conclusion sandwiching the case studies" (24).

Terms: "cultural ecology" (5), "technological gateways" (84), "conditions of access" (84), emerging and fading literacies (54), Giddens' "duality of structure" (60)

Related sources
Brandt, Deborah. Literacy in American Lives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2001.
Giddens, Anthony. Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure and Contradiction in Social Analysis. Berkeley: U of California P, 1979.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Hesse, "Saving a Place for Essayistic Literacy"

Hesse, Doug. "Saving a Place for Essayistic Literacy." Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, 1999. 34-48.

Considering then-formidable digital avenues, such as home pages and listservs, Hesse issues a preservationist argument for the essay. The provisional, self-reflective, scrap-collecting models of essayism, though historically abundant, have yielded to "essay" as an institutional staple--a commonplace for "writing practices characterized by texts of a certain length, complexity, and expected integrity" (34). Hesse proceeds along two stases, definition and value (i.e., what is an essay or what is essayism? how valuable is it in light of shifting writing practices online?).

Hesse points specifically to anti-essayistic traces in Bolter (Writing Space) and Lanham (The Electronic Word). Bolter, Hesse contends, focuses his study of hypertext too much on full-text hypertexts, like Jocye's "Afternoon" (40). "Bolter and Lanham imagined a reading and writing world of glosses, in which readers interactively modified and constructed texts by direct reference. In fact, the Web evolves by accretion, not substitution or critique" (40).

"Within the academy the term 'essay' has evolved into a generic term for all works of prose nonfiction short enough to be read in a single sitting. But the genre's history and the qualities of its defining texts make clear that essays are a specific kind of nonfiction, one defined in opposition to more formal and explicitly conventional genres--the scientific article or report, for example, or the history, or the philosophical argument" (36).

"The rhetoric of the essay depends on consoling the reader that the world can be made abundantly complex and strange and yet still be shown as yielding to ordering, if not order" (37).

"Some of the very qualities associated with literacy online--specifically, movement and exploration in a method more provisional and contextual than methodical--have been true of the essay since its inception" (40).

"There is an important value to reading and writing extended, connected texts whose authors manage the double pulls of complexity and order, producing works that convey their status as products of a certain experiential and intellectual nexus, not as objective truth" (47).

^Clearly written before the popularization of weblogs (41d).

Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola, "Blinded by the Letter"

Wysocki, Anne, and Johndan Johnson-Eilola. "Blinded by the Letter: Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?" Passions, Pedagogies, and 21st Century Technologies. Eds. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia L. Selfe. Urbana, Ill.: NCTE, 1999. 349-368.

Literacy is storied in a host of distinctive ways, yet as a singular term, it plays so loosely and is so heralded that it becomes a god-term of sorts. Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola begin with two questions: 1. "What are we likely to carry with us when we ask that our relationship with all technologies should be like that we have with the technology of printed words?" and 2. "What other possibilities might we use for expressing our relationships with and within technologies?" (350). These lines of inquiry could be characterized as residuum and openings or as inertia and acceleration. Basically, the article alleges (a probability) that "literacy," given it's prevailing connotations to print text, infects non-print "literacies," constraining them conceptually and practically by way of strong alphabetic-linear associations: "When we speak of 'literacy' as though it were a basic, neutral, context-less set of skills, the words keep us hoping--in the face of lives and arguments to the contrary--that there could be an easy cure for economic and social and political pain, that only a lack of literacy keeps people poor or oppressed" (355).

"Literacy" won't do. We need more models or metaphors to account more precisely for the "wide range of skills and procedures and practices," (360) the differentiated dynamics involving discourse, rhetoric, and technology.

"But. When we speak of the relationship we hope to establish--for ourselves and our students--with newer technologies, do we want to carry forward all these particular attachments and meanings and possibilities?" (360).

"When everything is all at once, what do we do?" (365). ^ We reintroduce Barthes' punctum in its temporal sense.

"No single term--such as 'literacy'--can support the weight of the shifting, contingent activities we have been describing" (366).

"With the notion of connection, in articulation, comes the notion of potential disconnection. Literacy here shifts away from receiving a self to the necessary act of continual remaking, of understanding the 'unity' of an object (social, political, intellectual) and simultaneously seeing that that unity is contingent, supported by the efforts of the writer/reader and the cultures in which they live" (367).

"If the first bundle that comes with 'literacy' is the promise of social, political, and economic improvement, it is because the second bundle is the book, which covers who we are and what we might be and the institutions in which we act" (359).

"When we discuss 'technological literacy' or 'computer literacy' or '[fill in the blank] literacy,' we cannot pull 'literacy' away from the two bundles of meanings and implications we have described" (359-60).

Terms: "bundle of stories" (350), "technological literacy" (352), Graff's "literacy myth" (353)

Related sources:
Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994.
Hall, Stuart. "Ideology and Communication Theory." Rethinking Communication: Vol. 1. Paradigm Issues. Eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Newbury Park: Sage, 1989.
Illich, Ivan. A B C: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1988.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us

Gee, James Paul. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

What Video Games Have To Teach Us delivers an insightful and positive pronouncement of what teachers (and everyone, really) ought to understand about gaming; Gee advocates, with resoundingly smart support, a thoughtful take on video gaming as an activity far more complex and meaningful than most off-handed--"waste of time"--skeptics would ever consider. Games and gaming activity reverberate with thirty-six education principles; Gee anchors each chapter with a handful of principles to tie video gaming in with careful theoretical insights related to New Literacy Studies, situated cognition and connectionism (8). He blends anecdotes from first-hand experience and interview/observation data gathered by ethnographic methods to introduce the many conceptual hooks linking video games and literacy learning. Specifically, Gee articulates the ways in which games function as a precursor domain for more advanced activities (c.2), as a playground for mingling virtual, real and projective identities (c.3), as a demonstration of situated learning and distributed cognition (c.4), as a platform for explicit and tacit learning modes (c.5), as an amalgamation of cultural models (c.6), and as a forum for social connection and interaction (c.7).

Many of Gee's scenarios about education and the applicability of video gaming principles focus on the sciences (physics and biology). His prose involves very little citation; in other words, the book isn't referentially dense. Instead, he includes, densely written and in small print, bibliographic notes at the end of each chapter. What Video Games Have To Teach Us is highly structured; its outline is distinguishable at any point and there are several mini-taxonomies, clusters of terms introduced to give dimension to a concept. For instance, regarding expertise, Gee suggests three premises: value everyday (lifeworld) knowledge, the young are better at some things than the old, and "protect lifeworld domains from the assaults of specialists" (39).

Gee also introduces a learning cycle evident in gaming that ought to be celebrated in formal educational settings: prope, hypothesize, reprobe, rethink (90). Despite its processual regularity, the sequence, according to Gee is generalizable across video gaming and science education.

"Games, of course, reflect the culture we live in--a culture we can change" (11). ^Cultural change, however, happens incrementally, and Gee might have been more explicit in this project about the degree to which playing games or designing games manifests as a culture-changing force.

"By semiotic domain I mean any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities (e.g., oral or written language, images, equations, symbols, sounds, gestures, graphs, artifacts, etc.)" (18).

"Three things, then, are involved in active learning: experiencing the world in new ways, forming new affiliations, and preparation for future learning" (23).

"Meaning, then, is both situation and domain specific" (25).

"Because I want us to think about the fact that any semiotic domain, whether it is first-person shooter games or theoretical linguistics, that domain, internally and externally, was and is designed by someone" (32). ^No mention of agency or rhetoric in this discussion of design. In places, design feels static or a bit deterministic in the context of gaming.

"But for critical learning, the learner must be able consciously to attend to, reflect on, critique, and manipulate those design grammars at a metalevel" (40).

"However, all deep learning--that is, active , critical learning--is inextricably caught up with identify in a variety of different ways" (59).

"The argument is that just as language builds abstractions on the basis of concrete images from embodied experience of a material world, so, too, does human learning and thinking" (76).

"The appreciative system is where affect and cognition merge and come together" (97).

"In playing video games, hard is not bad and easy is not good" (165).

"So learning here is social, distributed, and part and parcel of a network composed of people, tools, technologies, and companies all interconnected together" (177).

"I am claiming that elites can use anything--canonical literature, the Bible, biology, or any other sort of text--to attempt to dupe people by trying to force them to read it in the elite's way" (204).

Terms: New Literacy Studies (8), situated cognition (8), connectionism (8), multimodal (14), semiotic domains (17), problem of content (20), affinity group (27), design grammars (30), lifeworld domain (36), design space (40), precursor domain (47), practice effect (67), masterful performance (70), mind as network (92), appreciative systems (96), transfer (124), regime of competence (133), cultural models (143)

Related sources:
Aronson, E. The Jigsaw Classroom. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1978.
Barton, D. Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.
Churchland, Paul. A Neurocomputational Perspective. Cambridge, Mass.: Bradford/MIT Press, 1989.
Wertsch, James. Mind As Action. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Rice, "The 1963 Composition Revolution"

Rice, Jeff . "The 1963 Composition Revolution Will Not be Televised, Computed, or Demonstrated by Any Other Means of Technology." Composition Studies 33.1 (2005): 55-73.

Composition's grand narrative which cites, across multiple sources, 1963 as the watershed moment for the field--a "revolutionary" resurgence in legitimacy anchored with the CCCC convention in Los Angeles, marked differentiations between composition and communications, and the reintegration of classical rhetoric as an influential force. Rice depicts the year, 1963, as a "moment of confusion," a moment when the "paperdigm" settled ever more fixedly into the work of teaching writing at the expense of nearby theoretical developments merging writing and culture. 1963: a missed opportunity for comp. Basically, Rice revisits the moment to ask, "What if McLuhan had been taken seriously by scholars in the then-emerging, then-revolutionary field of composition studies?" This essay introduces McLuhan as composition theorist--accounts for McLuhan's valuable perspectives on how education and, specifically, writing, will change, must change. With the rejection of communication studies in the early 60's, so too was McLuhan's work rejected, a triumph of word over image and media, and hence, composition studies as, more often than not, tipped toward a constrained, purpose-driven, testing-plagued, rationalistic project relatively unmoved by shifts in writing technologies since the 1960s.

McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy asks, ""What will be the new configurations of mechanisms and of literacy as these older forms of perception and judgment are interpenetrated by the new electric age?" Why doesn't this question enter into the discussions of composition?

"I want to consider how McLuhan's focus on media as writing has not been fully understood as relevant to Composition Studies, and I want to question why it hasn't. In other words, this essay will explore the unmentioned media side of the field's grand narrative by revisiting those influential moments in 1963 that Composition Studies draws upon for influence and those it doesn't as well."

"Echoing what he conceived as the nature of electronic media production, McLuhan chose a different path than these writers; he abandoned traditional scholarly rhetoric as well as Aristotelian logic in favor of a collage of quotations interspliced with commentary, puns, and allusions."

"What makes McLuhan's presence in 1963 writing theory relevant is precisely his lack of interest in technology as pure science (or for assessment purposes) and his promotion of technology as rhetoric."

"McLuhan's position is that the linear, hierarchal methods which are conducive to print and which support rational, ordered thinking must yield to an electronic world where ordered thought no longer plays the same role in communication."

"Juxtaposition assumes that difference cannot be repeated easily because the bringing together of unlike texts, ideas, or images produces different results depending on the material used. Such is the basis of Ted Nelson's notion of hypertext, an idea he, too, devised in 1963."

Related sources:
McLuhan, Marshall. The Gutenberg Galaxy. Toronto: U of Toronto, 1962.
North, Stephen. The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field. Upper Montclair: Boynton, 1987.
Trimbur, John, and Diana George. "The Communication Battle or Whatever Happened to The '4th C?'" CCC 50 (1999): 682-98.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Miller, Textual Carnivals

Miller, Susan. Textual Carnivals: The Politics of Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1991.

Susan Miller's award-winning "study" hinges on program-data gathered from an exhaustive national survey while following an extended metaphor, the medieval carnival, to account for the lowly, grotesque, and stigmatized conditions of composition studies relative to literary studies in English departments. The gist of Miller's work is that there are alternatives (even if they're limited to equal footing with literature or separatism). The "problematics of marginalization" (13) for composition, according to Miller, stem from a variety of sources, including its proximity to more powerful literary traditions that benefit from elevated cultural status: "An official history of English would preferably exclude the 'low,' along with any mention of anxieties about potential textual failure or even what we might call textual rehearsals" (21).

In the opening section, a short "story" of composition, Miller attributes comp's grim status to the invisibility of writing (20; relative to literary pursuits, teaching writing ranked low), the American-nationalistic rise of the literary that tipped toward "man of distinguished letters" myths rather than valuing populist ventures, and neoclassical continuity, which accounts for efforts to dignify composition studies by embroidering it with a tradition of classical rhetoric (comp as a continuation, a revival of the golden age of rhet; 35). Chapter two situates writing instruction in its more visible contexts, emphasizing its entanglement with the literary curriculum, its emphases on "mechanical correctness" akin to "cleanliness" (57), and tracing through textbooks and course descriptions (66) for patterns and tendencies.

Section two includes a chapter on the subject of composition, with "subject" doubly referring to students and body of knowledge, prevalent images of teachers (sad women in the basement) and the administrative considerations of money and management (bread and circuits). The final section considers the matter of reading evidence, of accepting as drearily representative of both composition's tradition and its downtrodden status (which certainly has improved in the fifteen years since Miller published TC).

Terms: "new narrative" (1), oscillation (3), magnitude of composition (5), "problematics of marginalization" (13), "subject" of composition (84), linguistic propriety (89), "paradigm" of process (94; 105), underlife (112), stigma and Goffman (128), "the rotating bottom" [syn. part-time faculty] (145), "hegemonic desires" ( 178)

"Process and product are, then, a politically diversionary pair, for they work together to help us avoid confronting the social and institutional consequences that a piece of writing may or may not have" (10).

"I have been arguing that composition was not established as a failed set of practices or a diminution and debasement of classical rhetoric, but as a consciously selected menu to test students' knowledge of graphic conventions, to certify their propriety, and to socialize them into good academic manners" (66).

"Extrapolating from Stallybrass and White, we can see that process research after Shaughnessy has turned up yet another ambivalently transgressive aspect of the carnivalesque. It has, that is, assured the intellectual placement of composition outside the recognized, incorporated 'city' that it originally completed and has thereby assured that the field will be identified with foreign methodological languages whose origins are uncertain and whose purposes and desires are consequently suspect" (117).

"One of the chief characteristics of composition, at least of composition perceived as teaching, has been that it fills the time that others take to build theories" (121).

Other considerations: magnitude of composition (five million involved as teachers or students in 1991; 165,000 sections nationwide); ill-suitedness of process "paradigm" as a singular justification for composition studies and advanced training (riffs on NWP, 119); matters of women and professionalization "Sad Women" chapter; Writing (technologies): 27-28, 107, 114.

Sirc, "Virtual Urbanism"

Sirc, Geoffrey. "Virtual Urbanism." Computers and Composition 18 (2001) 11-19.

Sirc's piece is fueled by textbooks found in a "retiring colleague's garbage" (11). Identifying the virtual academic as a name for "official composition," Sirc develops what he calls a counterpoint, virtual urbanism, which has been around for at least as long as the dry, contrived prose too commonly belabored in FYC curricula. Virtual urbanism, according to Sirc, involves "a different textuality, one in which actual humans, with needs, fears, desires, memories, drift through the important spaces of their lives, encountering other humans similarly engaged in the ongoing mystery of existence" (12). Sirc offers the hacienda as a locus for the drift-n-sift logics passions that match with virtual urbanism. Next, Ghostface's lyrics provide one example of virtual urbanism; "Apollo Kids" presents a "piled-up series of scenes in search of passion" (13).

Terms: Benjamin on Baudelaire: "metaphysics of the provocateur" (12), urban arcades (14), "encounter-possibilities" (15), epediascope (15)

"This little snippet [from The Freshman and His World] has become emblematic to me, standing for all of official composition, all of what I hear offered as the preferred classroom genre, the aim of our pedagogy, this weird sort of textual species I'd like to now name the virtual academic. By this I mean a textuality whose form and content fuse together in perfect synergy: stilted academic prose as the ideal medium to represent this image of university pomposity" (12).

"My larger point: powerful, alternative formal possibilities are now key genres of public discourse, and kids understand them, and Composition Studies could care less" (14).

"Virtual urbanism, then, is the search for that hacienda" (12).
"The hacienda must be built" (19).

"Macrorie (1997) told an audience of compositionists they could best learn to teach writing by studying the speech patterns in the televised accounts given by people who have lived through tornadoes. This is virtual urbanity: a belief in people's natural language patterns" (14).

"Hacker is a functionalist, a rationalist architect. Her goal is to keep the communicative avenues regular, clearly marked. There is no foot-traffic worried about here, no thought for the discursive flaneur who would loiter and explore strange, attractive nooks" (15).

"The issue for the writing teacher as virtual urbanist, then, is building in encounter-possibilities; to do that we need to pile on, not clear out" (15).

"An inviting compositional space must allow enough of these ambient unities to explore, and one way, I think, is through infilling the space with a lot of pleasure-zone texts that readers want to poke around in: make the curriculum a more colorful, human-scaled street-scene" (17).

Related sources:
Benjamin, Walter. Charles Baudelaire, A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism. London: Verso, 1973.
Benjamin, Walter. The Arcades Project. Cambridge: Bellknap Press/Harvard UP, 1999.
Sadler, Simon. The Situationist City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Selber, Multiliteracies for a Digital Age

Selber, Stuart A. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.

Selber develops a three-part framework while extending a "detailed investigation into the nature of computer literacy programs in higher education" (3). His motive is remedial, motivated by a problem-solution approach to many of the striking inadequacies in computer literacy programs, which tend to be either slap-dash or highly instrumental in their approaches. Selber begins by opening up a some of the givens and myths related to computer technologies: computers are all-powerful (panacea), access and equality remain issues (hypercritical), production and efficiency imperatives drive the dehumanizing industrial-mechanistic engine (cautionary distance).

Selber seeks to keep the three categories open and dynamic--"suggestive rather than constraining," but he is more direct about the implications of this framework elsewhere: "Students who are not adequately exposed to all three literacy categories will find it difficult to participate fully and meaningfully in technological activities" (24).

Again, his framework divides into three terms:

1. Functional: not as bad as you might at first think
Functional computer literacies are necessary; they involve educational goals, social conventions, specialized discourses, management activities, and technological impasses (31). Functional literacy involves a metaphor of computers as tools (35).
Skepticism about functional/instrumental approaches to technology remain, in part, due to the arhetorical associations of functionalism.

2. Critical
Unlike functional approaches, which posit technological neutrality, critical approaches blend constructivism (75) and critical literacy (consensus as "an exercise of power") (83).
Critical literacy involves a metaphor of computers as cultural artifacts (86).
Critical literacies correlate to the following heuristics: design cultures (106), use contexts (111), institutional forces (117), and popular representations (technical and ethical) (125).

3. Rhetorical: "Overall, this chapter insists that students who are rhetorically literate will recognize the persuasive dimensions of human-computer interfaces and the deliberative and reflective aspects of interface design, all of which is not a purely technical endeavor but a form of social action" (140).
Rhetorical literacy involves a metaphor of hypertextual media (166). Rhetorically literate students will recognize the following aspects of interface design: persuasion, deliberation, reflection, and social action (139).

Selber ends with a respectful call for change, one that holds in high regard existing research while also proposing strategies for action toward multiliteracy programs. He introduces a nested model (Bronfenbrenner-like in its concentricity) to account for the following orders: institutional-departmental-curricular-pedagogical-technical (185).

Terms: "postcritical stance" (8), computer competency requirements (20), "theory and practice" (26), heuristic (27), instrumentalism (38), declarative and procedural knowledge (43), primary and secondary discourses (97), Pfaffenberger's technological regularization (102), adjustment, and reconstitution (104), captology (the study of computers as persuasive technologies) (146), nodes (172), open/closed systems (190).

"Although much of the discussion is conceptual in nature, it provides a framework within which teachers of writing and communication can develop comprehensive programs that draw together functional, critical, and rhetorical concerns in the service of social action and change" (xii).

"In the context of computer literacy, for example, computers will be understood primarily in instrumental terms--as systems for supporting status quo, relatively hierarchical student-teacher relationships, or for automating repetitive and routine tasks, or for making difficult texts and concepts ostensibly more interesting to study" (9).

"In one way of thinking, the tool metaphor is useful for discussions of agency because it can still help instill a sense of control in a world increasingly permeated by technology" (40).

"In terms of production contexts, the artifact metaphor encourages an attention to the political, social, and even psychological assumptions embodied in computers as well as any unintended consequences of their designs" (86).

"Imagined in artifactual terms, computers can be defamiliarized as inherently cultural in both origin and consumption. Their affordances disclose psychological and social preferences crafted in the interpretive communities in which competing perspectives eventually decompose to singularly approved designs" (95).

"But this [tool] metaphor also restricts teachers because its neutral dimensions insist that teachers do not need to know about the design issues associated with computing infrastructures, which are considered to be the domain of impartial technologists" (123). ^Is there a corollary in the preference of the artifact metaphor that, in turn, takes as insignificant the functional knowledge of computing?

"Reflection strategies for interface design have been classified under the rubric of usability, but reflection as a conceptual category shifts the focus from the product (Is the interface usable?) to the process (Is the designer reflective?) in useful ways" (160).

Related sources
Nardi, Bonnie, and Vicki O'Day. Information Ecologies: Using Technology with Heart. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999.
Pfaffenberger, Bryan. "Technological Dramas." Science, Technology, and Human Values 17 (1992): 282-312.
Zuboff, Shoshana. In the Age of the Smart Machine. New York: Basic, 1988.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Berlin, Rhetoric and Reality

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1987.

Berlin begins by framing three epistemological orientations in twentieth century rhetoric: objectivist, subjectivist and transactional. In an effort to characterize trends in the teaching of writing and rhetoric from 1900-1985, Berlin further subdivides each category. Objectivist orientations to reality, best reflected in current-traditional pedagogies as well as "behaviorist, semanticist, and linguistic rhetorics," presumes a realm of irrefutable truth and assumes a positivistic attitude toward language as that which reports, more or less precisely, on a stable, concrete reality. Subjective orientations to reality emphasize the interiority of mind and the individualist construction of a relationship to the real which extends beyond but is not necessarily influenced by the material world. The emphasis in subjective rhetorics is on original metaphor, journaling, and supportive forms of collaboration; this orientation blends, as well, with the genteel, the solitary genius, depth psychology (as well as Freud), and romantic reverence for solitary inspiration: "The student can discover the truth, but the truth cannot be taught; the student can learn to write, but writing cannot be taught" (13). The third and final orientation is transactional. Transactional rhetorics divide into classical (truth emerges from a discourse community interacting, not necessarily in agreement), cognitive (mind formation in stages through interactions with the environment), and epistemic (experience and language involve rhetoric in all human activity). Each category is explained in detail in the opening chapter and again at the end.

Each chapter accounts for an (arbitrary?) era in the twentieth century, and along the way, Berlin reads the three rhetorical orientations against tendencies in English education given various moments, scenes, figures and programs. To begin, for example, he accounts for the rise of the poetic and literary at the expense of rhetoric, which was "petrified in a possitivistic configuration" (25).

From 1900-1920, there was a strong resistance to "Uniform Reading Lists"; NCTE was founded to organize resist the domination of the curriculum by such lists (33). There were three major approaches to teaching writing, and each accords to one of the broader categories designated above: current-traditional rhetoric (36), rhetoric of liberal culture (43), and rhetoric of public discourse (46).


Berlin closes with a bibliographic gloss of what was happening in the mid-1980's. He mentions that the three major categories--objectivist, subjectivist, and transactional--apply less neatly to the formations (a disunity) in the field of rhetoric and composition in the mid-late 1980's.

Epistemic rhetoric: "All experiences, even the scientific and logical, are grounded in language, and language determines their content and structure. And just as language structures our responses to social and political issues, language structures our response to the material world. Rhetoric thus becomes implicated in all human behavior" (16).

Objective rhetoric: "Semanticist rhetoric focuses on the distortions that are introduced in communication through the misuse of language" (10). "Disagreement has always to do with faulty observation, faulty language, or both, and never is due to the problematic or contingent nature of truth" (11).

"This thumbnail sketch shows that a number of powerful groups of academic literary critics have divided discourse into two separate and unequal categories: the privileged poetic statement and the impoverished rhetorical statement, the one art and the other 'mere' science" (29).

"To many faculty [1900-1920], the freshman writing course had come to stand for all of the possibilities of rhetoric" (55).

"The distinguishing characteristic of the epistemic view, explains Leff, is 'that rhetoric is a serious philosophical subject that involves not only the transmission, but also the generation of knowledge' (75)" (165).

Terms: New Criticism (28), rhetoric-poetic relationship (26), Uniform Reading Lists (33), progressive education (58), general education movement (92)

Related sources:
Kinneavy, James L. A Theory of Discourse. New York: Norton, 1971.
Ohmann, Richard. "In Lieu of a New Rhetoric." CE 26 (1964): 17-22.
Winterowd, W. Ross. Rhetoric: A Synthesis. New York: Holt, 1968.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Emig, "The Tacit Tradition"

Emig, Janet. "The Tacit Tradition: The Inevitability of a Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Writing Research." (1977). The Web of Meaning. Dixie Goswami and Maureen Butler, eds. Upper Montclair, N.J.: Boynton/Cook, 1983. 145-156.

Preconditions to disciplinarity: 1. agreement in esteemed scholars attached to seminal works (an active in-group: Graves, King, Kinneavy, Britton, Miller, Moffett, Nystrand, Rouse, and Emig); 2. shared sensibilities about the important questions and the aims of composition studies in a very general sense; 3. agreement that comp develops theory from at least a pre-paradigmatic position (147). From these preconditions, Emig continues her roster-building project by listing and detailing the influences of three "ancestors": Thomas Kuhn (148), George Kelly (149), and John Dewey (149). Emig's tacit tradition consists of nine influential, out-group members: Kuhn, Kelly, Dewey, Michael Polanyi, Susanne Langer, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, A.R. Luria, and Eric Lenneberg. She proceed to cite each figure and then account for the ways their work has contributed to the pre-paradigmatic state of composition studies. Before explaining their commonalities, Emig adds three more neuroscientists (Brenda Milner, J.Z. Young, and Sir John Eccles), for a total of twelve influential figures.

All of the figures are transactionalists, according to Emig, in that, following Rosenblatt, they perceive "the learner/writer [to be] an active construer of meaning in her transactions with experience" (153). Further, all are generous "in their allowances of not only what can be legitimately known, but also of what modes of knowing the knower can deploy" (154). They also "believe, by definition, in the centrality of processes" (154).

Emig then presents three reasons why a multidisciplinary approach to writing is inevitable: 1. the scholars of our tacit tradition are "multidisciplinarians" (155), 2. "powerful and beautiful explanations for how and why people write reside in many disciplines" (155), and 3. our group/community has a predilection to play Elbow's believing game before the doubting game (155). This applies to the following beliefs:

"that almost all persons can write and want to write;
that not writing or not wanting to write is unnatural;
that, if either occurs, something major has been subverted in a mind, in a life;
that as teachers and researchers we must try to help make writing natural again, and necessary" (155).

"Since paradigms themselves are tacit, we become aware of them contrastively, as when we meet persons who comfortably inhabit another" (148).

"Kelly's metaphor is that we are all scientists seeking prediction, predictive value in events and experiences" (149).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bolter, Writing Space

Bolter, J. David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. 2nd Ed. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001.

Hypertext can do many things which print cannot. Bolter advances this premise in Writing Space, accounting for the implications of digital and networked text on print traditions; imagetext, ratios between word and image, and picture writing; books, encyclopedias, and libraries; reader navigation and academic dialogue (publishing); interactive fiction and literary experimentation; poststructural theoretical orientations, senses of coherent/fragmented self and mind, and culture at-large.

Writing Spaces belongs in a class with Hayles' Writing Machines and Johnson's Interface Culture. Bolter foregrounds much of the discussion of the force of hypertext on writing activity (activity leaning into academic projects and literary pieces) with the idea of remediation: the existence of the old in the new. Bolter accounts for the remediation of print through extensive historical accounts, relating a progression from scrolls to the codex to mass-produced books. It might be worthwhile to consider this approach in light of what Johnson does with adaptation and exaptation--variations on inertial and accelerative forces in the culture of print.


Key phrases: late age of print (48), hyperbaton (counter-expectation; surprise) (129), mind as hypertext (197), modes of representation (7), hypermediacy (25), ekphrasis (56), picture writing (58)

"What is happening is a readjustment of the ratio between text and image in the various forms of print (books, magazines, newspapers, billboards), and the refashioning of prose itself in an attempt to both rival and to incorporate the visual image" (48).

"What the reader does metaphorically in the encyclopedia, he or she can do literally in the library--move into and through a textual space" (91).

"If linear and hierarchical structures dominate current writing, our cultural construction of electronic writing is now adding a third: the network as a visible and operative structure" (106).

"For Borges literature is exhausted because it is committed to a conclusive ending, to a single storyline and denouement. To renew literature one would have to write multiply, in a way that embraced possibilities rather than closed them off" (147).

"Electronic hypertext, however, seems to realize the metaphor of reader response, as the reader participates in the making of the text as a sequence of words" (173).

Related sources
Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Garden of Forking Paths." 1962. Ficciones. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1984.
Kurzweil, Ray. "The Future of Libraries." Cyberreader. Vitanza.
Landow, George P. Hypertext 2.0. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

Hiatt, "The Feminine Style"

Hiatt, Mary P. "The Feminine Style: Theory and Fact." 1978. On Writing Research: The Braddock Essays 1975-1998. Ed. Lisa Ede. New York: Bedford St. Martin's, 1999. 77-83.

Hiatt's 1979 Braddock essay begins with a question about pattern and style in large batches of text: Is mass style observable? Hiatt pursues this question using empirical and computational methods (involving punch cards) to analyze one hundred books; fifty by women and fifty by men. A 200-word sample was pulled, at random, from each book in an effort to analyze "common characteristics in the writing of certain groups" (77). Given that language about style is problematic (often ambiguous, grounded by the lifespan of terms), Hiatt sought a more reliable set of measures for isolating data from which she might ascertain gendered stylistic differences in the sampled prose.

Hiatt proceeds with a report on the findings from her statistically-based discourse analysis of the samples. This is an early example of computer-based discourse analysis, and despite its literary leanings, the project demonstrates an impressive range of analytics in light of the available processes. Conclusion: " There is, in other words, clear evidence of a feminine style and sound justification for the theory of group style" (82).

"If one is attempting to discern stylistic differences between two sets of 100,000 words each, one can, of course, try to read all these words and note the occurrence of such stylistic matters as sentence-length and complexity, inserts, types of modifications, and so on. One can try to do this, but no one should. The human mind is often an inaccurate perceiver, and errors inevitably occur. A mechanical mind is not accurate. Hence, the only objective and accurate way to deal with such a vast amount of text is to use a computer" (78).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hayles, Writing Machines

Hayles, N. Katherine. Writing Machines. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002.

Hayles combines personal anecdotes, theoretical lines of inquiry into materiality and the embodiment of literary texts, and related analytical applications concerning the materials-based signifying practices involved in Lexia to Perplexia, A Humament, and House of Leaves. The gist, if I can be so hasty in reducing Writing Machines to something tidy, is that while digital texts have foregrounded materiality, books too have a long and complicated involvement with production, material signification (as much simulation as representation?), and the mechanisms of inscription. Hayles emphasizes a "sense of the material" (10); she accounts for coming to this sense through art books, talks in front of audiences that we skeptical that her vocabulary was too literary (40), visits to the MOMA, and involvement in courses where students built techno-literary installments as projects.

Hayles asks, "Why have we not heard more about the material?" (19). Writing Machines winds toward a response (texts have bodies), even if much of it is grounded in literary analysis. That is, Hayles gives readings of the pre-digital-though-digitally-styled bookworks listed above. She opens with definitions of three considerations related to media and materiality: 1. material metaphor (22), 2. technotexts (25), and 3. media-specific analysis (29).

A few of the more salient points here:

Key terms: inscription technologies (24), textnotexts (25), cybertext (39), "poken" (85), screnic (30), layered topographies (77), minifestos (58), mindbody (74).

See also Phillips and mapping (Humament globes), p. 98d.

"The physical attributes constituting any artifact are potentially infinite; in a digital computer, for example, they include polymers used to fabricate the case, the rare earth elements used to make the phosphors in the CRT screen, the palladium used for the power cord prongs, and so forth. From this infinite array a technotext will select a few to foreground and work into its thematic concerns. Materiality thus emerges from interactions between physical properties and a work's artistic strategies" (33).

"Amidst these complexities, what is clearly established is not the superiority of code to flesh but metaphoric networks that map electronic writing onto fluid bodies. Lexia to Perplexia intervenes at beginnings and boundaries to tell new stories about how texts and bodies entwine. The shift in materiality that Lexia to Perplexia instantiates creates new connections between screen and eye, cursor and hand, computer coding and natural language, space in front of the screen and behind it. Scary and exhilarating, these connections perform human subjects who cannot be thought without the intelligent machines that produce us even as we produce them" (63).

"The implication for studies of technology and literature is that the materiality of inscription thoroughly interpenetrates the represented world. Even when technology does not appear as a theme, it is woven into the fictional world through the processes that produce the literary work as a material artifact" (130).

Related sources
Drucker, Johanna. Otherspace: Martian Typography. Atlanta: Nexus, 1992.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2003.
Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Johnson, Interface Culture

Johnson, Steve Berlin. Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Communicate. San Francisco: Harper Edge, 1997.

Johnson's Interface Culture is a masterful, easy-to-read mix of history and simplified interface theory. He leads with an acknowledgement that his project mingles "technical explanations, historical narratives, and cultural analogies" (9). In the introduction, "Bitmapping," Johnson recounts Doug Engelbart's 1968 demonstration of an interface: a three-dimensional screen on information space. Interfaces ultimately make digital code (sequences of zeros and ones) comprehensible. Filtering is inevitably part of this process. Furthermore, according to Johnson, Engelbart's significant contribution was the notion of "direct manipulation" (20). Direct manipulation introduces a degree of control over the information environment. Users are able to modify the information using QWERTY keyboards and the mouse (21). Engelbart's contribution was to frame as possible the realm of information space, out of which a language emerged for the instruments and processes related to information space: "cyberspace, surfing, navigating, webs, desktops, windows, dragging, dropping, point-and-clicking" (24). Johnson ends the first chapter by accounting for the different tie between medium and message (the interface's variation on broadcast media).

Johnson's middle chapters each account for an aspect of the interface: desktop, windows, links, text, agent.

Desktop (42): follows the logic of the pile. Desktop is a metaphor for the interface. Other attempts failed because the metaphors ran too close to simulation (metaphor/simulation are dichotomies in the final chapter). Steven Jobs coined the desktop metaphor and profited mightily. The desktop evolved into an icon-laden scene with some permanent additions: trash can, etc. "Instead of being a medium for shut-ins and introverts, the digital computer turns out to be the first major technology of the twentieth century that brings strangers closer together, rather than pushing them farther apart" (64). Rem: The Palace, chess matches, first-person shooters (72).

Windows: Johnson defines the two epochs in the history of interface design as "pre-windows and post-Windows" (76). The appeal of Windows is the ability it offers the user to switch between open apps, particular because there is a premium on display space (81). "Of all the basic building-block metaphors in the rhetoric of interface, the window has evolved the least over the past twenty years" (85). Johnson included an interesting discussion of Darwin's exaptation: "novel, unexpected applications of these new traits" (91), counterpart to adaptations. Frames are exaptations, according to Johnson. End: overview of battled for the browser market, with WSJ promoting IE. "The browser is a metaform, a mediator, a filter" (102).

Links: The fourth chapter is an overview of hypertext. Begins with the insufficiency of the surfing metaphor for web-based activity. It was ported, problematically, from channel-surfing to describe activity on the web. The difference, "A Web surfer clicks on a link because she's interested" (109). Johnson reads hypertext tendencies through Dickens, Vennevar Bush's Memex with "trails of interest" (116), and the stylized linking practices at Suck, where rather than an "extended reading" set of links, they used links with individual words to introduce variability and surprise--an excess of word-level paths (emph units of discourse, rel. page and Trimbur).

Text: Here, Johnson accounts for the tension between word and image in the GUI. He says the image triumphs, but the word is still vital both for content and command. The word processor, Johnson writes, has changed writing: "But for me, the most intriguing side effect of the word processor lies in the changed relationship between a sentence in its conceptual form and its physical tranlation onto the page or the screen" (143). He details how he has learned to write differently with a computer--a common process that seems to be described in such detail only rarely. In the last half of the chapter, he accounts for Don Foster's semantic forensics (153) with Shakespeare and the exciting possibilities for a computational-semantic wherewithal in searching and associative apps (View, V-Twin).

Agents: Johnson explores the accumulative intelligence of "intelligent agents": digital personalities (human-machine hybrids) that aggregate tendencies and report in return on probable preferences. Intelligent-agent technology has taken off since Johnson wrote in 1997. His examples range from Ask Jeeves (the knowing butler) to Firefly (196) to Telescript (a remote-programming model). But a number of other recent examples--Amazon, Netflix, HSS--extend this set of issues. "We will migrate from the stultifying but stable system of mass media to themore anarchic realm of cultural feedback loops" (199). With intelligent agents we find increasing "indirect manipulation" (anticipatory intelligences based upon habit). Johnson also gets at the problem of gaming the database (baiting the agent, we might say).

Final chapter: "Infinity Imagined." Johnson identifies a series of interface dichotomies: Spatial Depth vs. Psychological Depth (217), Society vs. the Individual (221), Mainstream vs. the Avant-garde (224), One interface or Many (227), Metaphor vs. Simulation (231), Fragmentation vs. Synthesis (235): "What, then , are the blind spts of our own age? We have already encountered a few: the tyranny of image over the text, the limitations of the desktop metaphor, the potential chaos of intelligent agents. But there is a more fundamental--and for that reason more difficult to perceive--blind spot in the high-tech imagination, and it has to do with the general region of experience that the interface is felt to occupy" (212). (Also, Myst, Sonic the Hedgehog)

Terms: "memory palaces" (12), symbolic systems (15), "direct manipulation" (20), "platform agnostic" (100), "links of association" (112), "DOS complex" (150), "logophobia" (150), "word inventory" (154), high-information words (162), "semantic interface" (171), "design orthodoxy" (223), "conceptual turbulence" (238)

"In Englebart's day, of course, computers weren't terribly skilled in the art of representation: the lingua franca of modern computing had been a bewildering, obscure mix of binary code and abbreviated commands, data loaded in clumsily with punch cards, and output to typewritten pages" (13).

"But here's the rub: these new organisms [in the larger cultural ecology] don't tell stories. They riff, annotate, dismantle, dissect, sample" (26).

"We are fixated with the image not because we have lost faith in reality, but because images now have an enormous impact on reality, to the extent that the older image-reality opposition doesn't really work anymore" (30). ^This is an intriguing claim. When did this happen?

"There's something thrilling about that new open-endedness [of hypertext], but also something profoundly lonely" (126).

"The graphic interface revolution has changed all that: we now intuitively understand that visual metaphors--all those blinking icons and desktop patterns and pull-down menus--have an important, and cognitive function" (149).

"In these climates, all manner of metaforms appear: condensers, satirists, interpreters, samplers, translators" (32).

Related sources:
Bush, Vennevar. "As We May Think." Atlantic Monthly. 1954.
Dolnick, Edward. "The Ghost's Vocabulary." Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 1991.
Foster, Donald W. Author Unknown. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ohmann, English in America

Ohmann, Richard M. English in America. 1976. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996.

Ohmann offers a cross-section of the discipline writ large, the profession, and institutional pressures bearing on English Studies in 1976.  English in America might be read as a series of standalone essays; their integration is loose and casual.  Ohmann's primary ambition with the series of essays is to articulate a politically-inflected variety of English Studies as an afront to formalist, structuralist and New Critical trends in the field.  Throughout the book and more pointedly at the very end, Ohmann expresses his strong preference for the political dimensions of English Studies.

EIA was reprinted in 1995.  This turn alone raises questions about the ways projects get recycled or revisited for something like a twenty-year anniversary.  Ohmann adds a new preface and conclusion, but the bulk of the project matches its former version from 1976.  The "radical view" mentioned in the subtitle, "A Radical View of the Profession," is probably a whole lot less radical in 2006 (even 1995) than it was taken to be in 1976.  In the intro to the 1995 edition, Ohmann lists a few of the events since the first edition that have transformed (or influenced, at the least) English studies: vocational education, literacy crisis (1975), back to basics, excellence (1983), and cultural conservatism.

Ohmann, in accounting for the state of working in English, ca. 1965, leads with distinctions between the humanities and the sciences.  He also emphasizes teaching, noting that the cultural aspirations and professional aspirations are "somewhat at odds" (17).

Because Ohmann contends that "English classrooms are the front line of culture," he urges a politically infused curriculum the leads to "unmasking," empowerment, and a service to society. After his introduction, he gives readings of the constraining force of MLA (re: Vietnam and radicalism in leadership), AP English testing ("Be docile" (56).), and the ideology-free myth of New Critical or related objective approaches to close reading (to what degree is English studies a cultural engine (status quo) rather than a countercultural engine?).

The latter sections include a chapter by Wallace Douglas in which he gives a reading of Edward Tyrell Channing as a way to make sense of the emergence of modern composition studies (as Channing's lectures signal "a nearly final stage in the long devolution of classical rhetoric" (99).  Chapter six covers "Freshman Composition and Administered Thought."  It's basically a reading of the role of textbooks in promulgating what Sirc would call "bread only" composition. 

In chapter ten, "Culture, Knowledge, and Machines," Ohmann presents a history of Taylorism and related forces of cultural mechanization that rival the mission and aims of English studies.

Keywords: "parlor socialism" (xv), "unmasking" (xvi), "legitimacy crisis" (xx), "Fordism" (xxxviii), "hegemonic confrontation" (xlviii), comp as "notoriously ineffective"(94), "technostructure" (272), "vanity of educators" (303)

Technology defined (ref. John McDermott): "systems of rationalized control over large groups of men, events, and machines by small groups of technically skilled men operating through organizational hierarchy" (49). Technology, or "technostructure" (the range of technological knowledge implicated in a complex process) is again addressed in chapter ten (272).

"The paradox resolves itself around the machine, of course: metaphorically speaking, the machine feeds on knowledge and puts out consumer goods. That is what technology means" (274).

"In spite of my appropriately skeptical unpacking of the social relations mystified by such terms as 'technology,' 'knowledge,' 'need,' and 'problem,' I sometimes reverted, myself, to the old mystifications" (xxv). Reflecting on the earlier edition, Ohmann acknowledges the problem of the life of terms.

"Within a profession, rituals and assumptions like those I examined in English in America reproduce its own hierarchies and proclaim the legitimacy--the objectivity--of its ranking and sifting" (xxvii).

"I imagine that composition will continue to grow in relation to literature, as a portion of our work, a process aided by the professionalization of comp during the past two decades.  But not just comp in a general way: I would expect our concrete labor to slide toward recognizably practical, vocational kinds of writing instruction, as it has been doing: witness the sharp increase of courses and programs in technical, business, and professional writing" (xliii).

"What an unsatisfactory state we have achieved, from the point of view I am urging upon you, when most of what we write drops quickly into a permanent non-circulating file, unassimilated, and even unread except by a corps of specialist colleagues and by unusually diligent committees on promotion and tenure" (13).

"What I wish to note here is simply how comfortable this ideology is for the professors who have risen to the height of their careers and who, therefore, occupy ideal positions for inculcating ideology in younger aspirants to these same heights; and how comfortable it is to maintain the reputations of their universities; and so confirm their own wealth and power" (37).

"In America we use technology and production to shut out social ills, and so to evade politics at whatever the cost" (80).  Here, Ohmann offers one of his overtly divisive stances toward what he calls technology and production.  ^What is the legacy or lifespan of this attitude?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vitanza, "Seeing in Third Sophistic Ways"

Vitanza, Victor. "Seeing in Third Sophistic Ways." Olson 164-176.

Vitanza introduces a third "seeing" to the seeing/not seeing dyad.  With it, he sets up a correlation between theory and seeing (etymologically, drawing on Gk. thea and also Williams' Keywords). From here, he accounts for the shortcomings of dialectics resulting from the faintness of the negatives (no longer can we test "the pagus of thought" and return from the "wild, savage border zone where the excluded thirds and their ways of seeing dwell" (166) to effect a more inclusive polis). Vitanza offers three Sophistic ways of seeing:

1. misrepresentative antidotes: counter to representative anecdotes (168)

2. dissoi-paralogoi: counter to dialectics--"against dialectic (of any kind), against didactic, and against dissoi-logoi by moving from one and two to an explosion of threes or 'some more' (excesses, dissoi-polylogoi)" (168).

3. theatricks: counter to pragmatics (168)

Third Sophistic seeing will keep theorEYEzation alive, will continue to mine the pagus.  Without it, theory stalls, potentiality is reduced, stifled, and we have a restricted economy (Modernism's scarcities?). Whatever beings (Agamben) "prefer not to be in the present reactionary community, prefer not to be complicit in employing the principle that excludes, prefer not to be in the coming community" (173).

Another point: Third Sophistic seeing is not the same as Victor Turner's "liminal space" (169).

"'Whatever beings' are not particular (i.e., species) or general (genus); instead, they are a set(less) of radical singularities (in the paralogic of the excluded Middle Ages, a.k.a. the manere [27])." (171).

"Whatever beings intuit that the principles of identity, non-contradiction, and excluded-middle (all the principles of negation informing re/invention) are the very principles that exclude, that disallow the thing with all its properties, that disallow radical singularities, themselves as such, in community" (173).

"Berger discusses 'seeing' as a matter of ideology and mystification" (165).

"I used to believe that it was possible after leaving the polis of systematic seeing to spend some paraproductive time in the pagus of thought--that wild, savage border zone where the excluded thirds and their ways of seeing dwell--and then when done to return, with insights, to the polis so as to make it more inclusive.  I still believe that such excursions are valuable, but they soon will be impossible" (166).

"What will de/form the coming community is without any notion of antithesis but only remainders. Whatevers!" (167).

"According to Agamben, in The Coming Community, the coming beings are 'whatever beings'" (170).

seeing, theory, theoreyezing, singularity, spectacle, thirds, binary, whatever, community, indifference, identity

Related sources:
Agamben, Giorgio. The Coming Community. Trans. Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1993.
Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969.
Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Trimbur, "Delivering the Message"

Trimbur, John. "Delivering the Message: Typography and the Materiality of Writing." Olson 188-202.

Trimbur opens with a lucid, concise account of the distinction between process and post-process movements.  "Process," he writes, becomes a given with the ubiquity of its foci: cognition, voice, conversation.  Post-process, rather than accepting as transparent the material orthodoxies operating implicitly alongside the design-lessness of the "Alphabetic Literacy Narrative," fronts materiality and so resurrects production and circulation key considerations in the activity of writing. 

In "The Materiality of Writing" section, Trimbur gives a thumbnail history of the "great Alphabetic Literacy Narrative" that elevates certain literacies at the expense of "'syllabic and logographic writing systems" while "banish[ing] pictographs and images to the status of illiteracy" (Faigley qtd. in Trimbur 190). It is not enough to regard writing as the making of meaning if we fail to take into account the material means of production and circulation. Trimbur, citing Kress, notes that we should prefer notions of literacy as built rather than acquired (191).

Trimbur recommends the study of typography as a means of attending again to the visual design of texts through layout, spacing patterns and typefaces.  In the middle section of the essay, he gives a brief overview of design studies and also emphasizes that 1. graphic designers and typographers have already begun to study design theory and history in ways that would be of interest to writing studies; and 2. we have yet to fully recognize the relevance of "design" to writing studies (194).

In the final section, "Typography in Theory and Practice," Trimbur keys on three ideas: 1. Narrativity of Letterforms (letterforms are meaningful, significant); 2. The Page as a Unit of Discourse (the page as a unit accounts for design patterns; elements in combination produce conglomerations of meaning); and 3. Division of Labor (designers and producers are now the same person; digital apparatuses have fused what once were more likely to be separate roles).

Claim: "My claim is that studying and teaching typography as the culturally salient means of producing writing can help locate composers in the labor process and thereby contribute to the larger post-process work of rematerializing literacy" (192).

"And yet, the moment writing theorists are starting to call 'post-process' must be seen not just as a repudiation of the process movement but also as an attempt to read into composition precisely the material conditions of the composer and the material pressures and limits of the composing process" (188).

"I argued a few years ago that essayist literacy--from the scientific prose of the Royal Society to the essay of the coffeehouse and also--emerged in the early modern period as a rhetoric of deproduction: a programmatic effort to reduce the figurative character of writing, minimize the need for interpretation, and thereby make the text more transparent ("Essayist")" (189).

"Accordingly, it should be no surprise that David Olson would want to make the essay into the culmination of alphabetic literacy precisely because it appears to transcend the visuality of writing by organizing the speech-sound abstractions of the alphabet into highly integrated grammatical and logical structures, forming self-sufficient, autonomous texts capable of speaking for themselves. The texts of essayist literacy, by Olson's account, appear to transmit meanings transparently, without reference to their mode and medium of production" (190).

"The problem is that, by and large, typography has been ghettoized in technical communication, where many compositionists think of it as a vocational skill" (192).

"Typography, on the other hand, calls attention to how the look of the page communicates meaning by treating text as a visual element that can be combined with images and other nonverbal forms to produce a unit of discourse" (197).

Related sources:
Benjamin, Walter. "The Author as Producer." 1934. Reflections: Essays, Aphorism, Autobiographical Writings. Ed. Peter Demetz. New York: Schocken, 1978. 220-238.
Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994.
Trumbur, John. "Essayist Literacy and the Rhetoric of Deproduction." Rhetoric Review 9 (1990): 72-86.

Olson, "The Death of Composition as an Intellectual Discipline"

Olson, Gary. "The Death of Composition as an Intellectual Discipline." Olson 23-31.

Olson begins with a glaring critique of the perceived split between high-theory elites who avoid "the problems of the classroom" and those who would see composition as centrally concerned with "self-reflection about the teaching of writing or about one's own (or one's students') writing practices" (23). Olson was invited to address RNF and offer a justification for theory.

"In that speech, I argued that if postmodern discourse has taught us anything, it is that 'rhetoric' is at the center of all knowledge making, even in the sciences. As a field devoted to how discourse works, composition, then, is perfectly situated to participate in the exciting cross-disciplinary investigations of the interrelations between epistemology and discourse. That is, I argued that while we all desire to learn more about the teaching of writing or about our own writing processes, these are not the only intellectual concerns we should have as a discipline" (24). Olson notes anti-intellectual associations with studying the teaching of writing, citing Phelps.

"Since that speech, I had thought that as a discipline, we had come to terms with our intellectual diversity" (24). Olson says he was mistaken, however, given currents against theory (and also against feminism) (25). He offers the example of Wendy Bishop's piece in CCC (51.1, 1999), "what will undoubtedly become known as 'the new theory wars'" (25). Olson gives a reading of Bishop, telling that she makes claims that nobody cares about good writing any longer (^read next to Fulkerson).

"No one seems to care about good writing and teaching, she claims; the teacher-writer is dismissed or used for target practice" (25).
Bishop criticizes Pratt; Olson takes issue with her characterization of Pratt's sentence as having "no clothes, no heart" (27). In this second section, "A Place to Stand?," Olson unravels Bishops stance, raising questions about why, in the name of "good teaching" it is acceptable to protect students from dense theoretical vocabulary when, ultimately, disciplinarity depends on specialization that includes shared terms (prewriting, freewriting, audience invoked) (28).

In the third section, "A Sense of History," Olson refutes the attacks on "rapid professionalism" or "careerism" (28), noting that "most 'scholars' make enormous sacrifices to produce their work, gladly devoting huge spans of time to their projects--not simply to further their careers but because they love the subject and are devoted to the discipline itself" (28). The fissure Bishop introduces, Olson writes, isn't so different from its precedents: the disagreements between cognitivists and expressivists in the 1970s.

"For twenty years, composition scholarship has developed as an interdisciplinary, 'intellectual' enterprise--and we are much the richer because of it" (30). Olson closes with an emphasis on respect for differences.

Related sources:
Bishop, Wendy. "Places to Stand: The Reflective Writer-Teacher-Writer in Composition." CCC 51.1 (1999): 9-31.
Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. Composition as a Human Science: Contributions to the Self-Understanding of a Discipline. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.

Selfe and Selfe, "Intellectual Work of Computers and Composition"

Selfe, Cynthia J. and Richard J. Selfe, Jr. "The Intellectual Work of Computers and Composition Studies." Olson 203-220.

According to Selfe and Selfe, four characteristics characterize intellectual work in computers and composition: grounding in language studies and social theory; a belief in social justice (204); commitment to school settings as sites where social change is produced (204); and "an understanding of technology and technological systems" as enacting change and resisting hegemony (204). Selfe and Selfe go on to describe computers and composition as infused with a pragmatic orientation; this piece has a tendency to frame computers and composition's intellectual work as a critical project or, that is, as a project anchored in critique (analysis, examination, etc.).

Though they admit it to be partial, the central portion of the essay focuses on three elements in computers and composition: educational issues (205), social/cultural issues (207), and representation and identity (210). Each section reads like a densely packed bibliographic essay with paragraph-long listings of books and articles that resonate with each focal area.

To conclude, they point out the cultural mythologies of technologies as monsters (211) and turn their emphasis to human beings; the final push is for humanities computing or technology studies cognizant of human agency in the proliferation of technologies. They end citing Giddens on the sociality of technology and the often "unanticipated consequences" and also with a reaffirmation of "continuing to pay attention to technology" (212).

"Technology is not fully constituted by machines. It is, instead, a set of articulated social formations--ideological, economic, political, cultural. And given this fact, the study of technologies must, at its heart, involve the study of the humans who design, make, and use these machines" (212).

^What's odd about this piece is that it is just nine pages of heavily referential prose (a dense bibliographic essay) followed by eight pages of citations--appr. 170 in all and many of which are never used in the piece. Does everything listed fit with the label of "intellectual work" (rel. to the distinctions in the early section of the book--Neel, Swearingen, Olson)?

Related sources:
Giddens, Anthony. The Constitution of Society: Outline of a Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.
Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Johndan Johnson-Eilola. "Blinded by the Letter: Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?" Hawisher and Selfe, Passions 349-68.

Swearingen, "R&C as a Coherent Intellectual Discipline"

Swearingen, C. Jan. "Rhetoric and Composition as a Coherent Intellectual Discipline." Olson 12-22. [A]

The creation of graduate programs in rhetoric and composition between 1975-1985 marked a sea change for the field; following this initial point, Swearingen notes several of the earliest conditions that enabled the firming up of the discipline: PRE/TEXT, RSQ, Young, Becker and Pike's work, an MLA division, JAC, Rhetoric Review, and so on: "It is impossible to estimate how crucial these developments have been to the redefinition of graduate programs and to reforms of rhetoric and composition courses in the undergraduate curriculum" (13). Overall, this piece lays out the theoretical terrain of English studies and the ties of rhetoric and composition to critical theory and sociolinguistics influences.

The remainder of Swearingen's article is divided into four sections:

A Developing Discipline (13): Situates rhetoric and composition in English studies; notes anti-theoretical moments or turns away from theory (comparison to lurching of a loon trying to get off the ground); new growth in doctoral programs and edited collections "attempt[ing] to define the conceptual, philosophical, and aesthetic bases for new composition theories" (14). "Various intellectual streams merged" in the scholarship (14).
"The shorter recent history of the hegemony of critical theory marks a point of attempted, or wished-for, conjunction, with both rhetoric and literature claiming a closer, earlier tie to high theory. The more theory is agreed upon, however tacitly, as the lingua fracta of citizenship, the more composition feels defined out; many compositionists once again feel themselves strangers in the land they have helped create--or in some cases emigrants by choice" (16).

Paradoxes of Postmodernism (16): Accounts for the peak of postmodernism in the late 1980s and the resurgence of "ludic reconstructionism" pursued by "feminists, compositionists, and proponents of ethnic diversity in language practices" (17). Suggests theory as a stressor for many compositionists (18).
"Many current studies of identity politics (and curricula based upon them) can be traced at some point to the knowledge-identity topos in postmodern rhetorical and composition theory" (17).

The Prospects of Foundationless Critique (18): New rhetorics are solidified in the field, along with Russian linguistics influences. Citizen-based models also take hold (Freire, Marx). The result of so many theories is a problem of incompatibility. Swearingen explains the nuances of each theory's inward instabilities and dissensus (on citizenship...good citizens vs. social change; on Bakhtin's "inner speech" and agency).

The Return to the (Socio)Linguistic Turn: (20): Lays out the paradox of language standards and variants of English, noting that "[t]he practical difficulties that have emerged out of anti-foundationalist social critique models affect the implementation of tolerance- and diversity-based language pedagogies" (21).
"It is not too early to observe an institutional consequence of strained relationships between rhetorical theory and composition practice" (21). [e.g., Brodkey and the curriculum fiasco at Texas]

The final point emphasizes a history that should lead to something better than the labor crisis we continue to face because of theoretically inclined faculty (tipping to rhetoric and critical theory) tend to distance themselves from writing programs.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Neel, "Reclaiming Our Theoretical Heritage"

Neel, Jasper. "Reclaiming Our Theoretical Heritage: A Big Fish Tale." Olson 3-11.

Neel complicates the theory and practice polarities; he argues, quite convincingly, that theory is not expendable. Advanced through analogies to whaling, the argument begins with an account of the Makah tribe's resumption of whaling practices in the Pacific Northwest in an effort to restore cultural heritage. Their whaling praxis was compromised and so they sought to restore it. Neel tests the limits of this decision, noting that countertheories were well in place "by the time such a practice could be demonstrated theoretically as socially desirable" (5).

From here, Neel works through multiple possible readings of the story of Jonah and the whale--the least probable of which is a literal reading. In other words, the perpetually re-cast, re-framed, re-interpreted allegory suggests the shifting enactments of theory.

Ultimately, this is an argument for "Reclaiming Theory." Neel contends that "Composition becomes mature, however, able to sustain itself, when it constantly scrutinizes its theoretical underpinnings" (9). He goes on, "It would be naive to retreat from theory, and it would be exceedingly selfish, because the only faculty who truly have the option of doing so already have tenure and have already passed through the process of finding a voice with which to speak" (10).

"Theory forces one to interrogate one's own position. Ignorance of theory usually permits one to remain unaware that one holds a position, one of many possible positions, a position that can change. Ignorance of theory blinds one to the knowledge that changing one's position changes what one sees and how one sees it" (11).

"And does it matter if the Native Americans re-create the whale hunt using modern technology? Radar and sonar to find the whales? Motorized boats to catch them? Harpoon canons that are much more accurate and have far greater range and power than harpoons thrown by hand?" (3).

"For the practitioner, Stanley Fish's old T-shirt with the question, Sure it works in practice but will it work in theory? is an ironic description, not an in-joke" (3).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Foster, "What Are We Talking About...Composition"

Foster, David. "What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Composition?" JAC 8 (1988): 30-40.

Foster sets up a tension between scientistic and humanistic approaches to composition by giving a reading of three seminal texts: Beach and Bridwell's New Directions in Composition (1984), Hillocks's Research on Written Composition (1986), and North's The Making of Knowledge in Composition (1987). He is foremost concerned with composition's status as a discipline, and he builds toward a provocative conclusion (what will we refuse to know?) by working through each of these books and suggesting the implications of an approach to composition that depends too narrowly on empirical research, on models of mind and process that do little to account for context, and on the limits of replication as a reliability indicator in scientific research (34). Empirical exclusivity is problematic, Foster contends, because it renders codependent theoretical development and empirical evidence (34). Humanistic approached to composition, on the contrary, "flouris[h] through dialectic, in which one mode of thinking draws life [energy!] in response to all other modes of thought, none ever permanently 'disproved' or abandoned" (35).

In an affirmation of humanistic models, Foster mentions Bitzer's triad, recent research on audience, and Fish and Blech's work on "interpretive communities" (36). Furthermore, Foster notes the trap of dualistic thinking [killer dichotomies?]: "The scientific and humanistic ways of knowing can carry equal power for the knower, provided he or she understands the different processes of knowledge upon which each depends. We know some things as humanists, some things as scientists, and we can accommodate each way of knowing into our total field of awareness--so that we can prevent ourselves from being trapped into dualistic either-or thinking" (37).

Foster's final criticism of Hillocks centers on Hillocks' conclusion that there is relatively little research on audience. Foster contends that Hillocks consideration of other research is heavily qualified by a narrow set of brackets, brackets neglecting to include a number of audience studies on the basis of methodology. This is the final argument before Foster's compelling conclusion: "To refuse this invitation to an intellectual pluralism, to settle in its place for a single perspective, is to invite the punishment we all hated in grade school: having to write the same sentence one hundred times. In this case, it would be 'I will not know. I will not know. I will not know...' (38).

"Each study also conveys a sense of the dynamic, changing nature of 'composition,' a feeling that it is enlarging its boundaries faster than its mapmakers can chart" (31).

"The assumption informing both books [Beach and Bridwell; Hillocks] is this: composition is an empirically verifiable field of knowledge which, under the right conditions, can grow through hypothesis and experiment toward a truer picture of what teachers must know to nurture literacy" (32).

"Applied to composition, this powerful idea [natural laws] requires us to believe that beneath the activities collectively called 'writing' are inherent laws which, when discovered, will permit us to understand, predict, and even control such activities" (33).

"But can scientific knowledge be a real foundation for teaching discourse?" (34).

"Indeed, we must turn to North's thorough, deliberate anatomizing of all the major modes of inquiry in composition to get anything like a satisfying picture of the competing ideologies in current composition study" (35).

Related sources:
Beach, Richard, and Lillian S. Bridwell, eds. New Directions in Composition Research: Perspectives in Writing Research. New York: Guilford, 1984.
Connors, Robert J. "Composition Studies and Science." College English 45 (1983): 1-20.
Cooper, Marilyn. "The Ecology of Writing." College English 48 (1986): 364-75.
Hillocks, George, Jr. Research on Written Composition: New Directions for Teaching. Urbana: NCRE-ERIC, 1986.
North, Stephen. The Making of Knowledge in Composition: Portrait of an Emerging Field. Upper Montclair, NY: Boynton, 1987.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Turkle, "Identity Crisis"

Turkle, Sherry. "Identity Crisis." Vitanza 57-76.

Turkle begins by suggesting that metaphors for pshychoanalysis predominate in every era.  Fluidity and stability contend, increasingly, in the high tides of postmodernism.  Turkle examines the implications of MUDs and other online domains for identity play: "Online switches among personae seem quite natural. Indeed, for [Emily Martin], they are a kind of practice. Martin would call them practicums" (58). Citing Gergen, Tukle invokes his phrase, a "pastiche of personalities" to describe identificatory play and experimentation (^liken to tourism in Nakamura).  Generally, she gets at the tension between unity and inner pluralism or inner multiplicity--differences that are primarily metaphoric (and these metaphors are amplified by material technologies and language).

"I am not limited in the number of links I can create" (61).

"At one extreme, the unitary self maintains its oneness by repressing all that does not fit.  Thus censored, the illegitimate parts of the self are not accessible" (63). Turkle's insight here is fairly balanced, and her perspective magnifies the limitations of both perspectives, while still acknowledging that, good or bad, online technologies make play possible.

"We are encouraged to think of ourselves as fluid, emergent, decentralized, multiplicitous, flexible, and ever in process" (67). Or, on the other hand, as...mannequins?

"Emergent or not, when reduced to our most basic elements, we are made up, mind and body, of information" (69). ^Provocative claim. Turkle goes on to explain why it's complicated, controversial.

"As we stand on the boundary between the real and the virtual, our experience recalls what the anthropologist Victor Turner terms a liminal moment, a moment of passage when new cultural symbols and meanings can emerge. Liminal moments are times of tension, extreme reactions, and great opportunity" (71).

"pastiche of personalities" - Gergen (59), "languages of the self" - Gergen (60), "continuum of dissociation" - Hacking (63), inner diversity (64), "liminal moment" - Turner (71)

Related sources:
Gergen, Kenneth. The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. New York: Basic Books, 1991.
Dennett, Daniel C. Consciousness Explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.
Hayles, N. Katherine. Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell UP, 1990.

Rheinghold, "Smart Mobs"

Rheinghold, Howard. "Smart Mobs: The Power of the Mobile Many." Vitanza 89-120.

"Smart mobs are an unpredictable but at least partially describable emergent property that I see surfacing as more people use mobile telephones, more chips communicate with each other, more computers know where they are located, more technology becomes wearable, more people start using these new media to invent new forms of sex, commerce, entertainment, communion, and, as always, conflict" (115).

An virtual enthusiast, Rheingold covers a range of issues related to wireless, handheld and portable devices (wearable computing) while considering the potentials of digitally enabled collectivity. His examples are primarily political and popular press (news items). He recounts the power struggle of Philippine President Joseph Estrada and the impact of "smart mobs" in toppling the regime. Because cellular phones are so inexpensive, the citizen (peer-to-peer) journalism they enable is potentially a major force in social and political change. Rheinghold the technical infrastructure as "a social instrument" (93).

"Examples later in this chapter demonstrate that smart mobs engaging in either violent or nonviolent netwar represent only a few of the many possible varieties of smart mob.[...] Networks include nodes and links, use many possible paths to distribute information from any link to any other, and are self-regulated through flat governance hierarchies and distributed power" (96). Rheingold goes on to clarify--is this a given yet?--that networks and networking technologies are neither inherently good nor inherently bad (97).

Rheingold's discussion of "personal awareness devices" is very interesting--related to "reputation systems" (98) and GPS. Basically, the locative devices enable real-time social positioning notifications. ^I still find it fascinating that such devices might be used to observe patterns at an academic conference, such as the CCCC.

"What if smart mobs could empower entire populations to engage in peer-to-peer journalism?" (101).

"'Mobile ad hoc social network' is a longer, more technical term than 'smart mob.' Both terms describe the new social form made possible by the combination of computation, communication, reputation, and location awareness. The mobile aspect is already self-evident to urbanites who see the early effects of mobile phones and SMS" (103).

"The research is as much behavioral as it is computational, beginning with simple experiments matching properties of mobile computing with the needs of social networks" (104).

"Trust means a distributed reputation system" (106).

"The coordinated movements of schools and flocks is a dynamically shifting aggregation of individual decisions" (110).

"Oscillation is one of the standard and simplest emergent phenomena" (111). ^ Connect this with Lanham in Economics of Attention?

Terms: Goffman's "interaction order" (105), "epidemics of cooperation" (108), "synchronization of brain processes" (111),

Related sources:
Ball, Philip. Critical Mass. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2004.
Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, N.J.: Doubleday, 1959.
Granovetter, Mark. "Threshold Models of Collective Behavior, " American Journal of Sociology. 83.6 (1978): 1420-1443.
Huberman, Bernardo. "The Social Mind." Origins of the Human Brain. Jean-Pierre Changeuz and Jean Chavaillon, eds. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995: 250.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Nakamura, "Race In/For Cyberspace"

Nakamura, Lisa. "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet." Vitanza 141-154.

Nakamura's critical account focuses centrally on identity tourism and racial passing.  She reads these issues through a series of events or happenings: 1. the "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" cartoon; 2. the matter of character (distinct from person--this is not clarified by Nakamura, but it comes up in Frith and Barthes on "voice"); 3. the exoticization of space and theatricality of trying on characters; 4. nationalistic framings of cyberspace as subject to a "space race" (149); and 5. a failed petition in LambdaMOO on hate-crime (150).  The petition failed because detractors contended that race was a willed disclosure; nobody was forced to disclose race. The absence of race then, as is central to Nakamura's set of concerns, becomes a default position.  LambaMOO, in fact, doesn't even have an option for designating one's race, and when racially suggestive names appeared in the MOO, they were perceived, according to her research, as divisive or contrarian. 

^Consider the timing of this article relative to graphical web browsers.  How does the visual web complicate this?  And how, too, read alongside matters of person and character in voice (increasingly a disembodied voice) add a layer to the problem of "writing" oneself into the MOO?  Is the person/character problem for voice the same as the identity tourism problem for text-based online forums?

"Role-playing sites on the Internet such as LambdaMOO offer their participants programming features such as the ability to physically 'set' one's gender, race, and physical appearance, through which they can, indeed are required to, project a version of the self which is inherently theatrical" (143).

"The borders and frontiers of cyberspace which had previously seemed so amorphous take on a keen sharpness when the enunciation of racial otherness is put into play as performance" (144).

"Identity tourism in cyberspaces like LambdaMOO functions as a fascinating example of the promise of high technology to enhance travel opportunities by redefining what constitutes travel--logging on to a phantasmatic space where one can appropriate exotic identities means that one need never cross a physical border or even leave one's armchair to go on vacation" (148).

"Performing alternative versions of self and race jams the ideology-machine, and facilitates a desirable opening up of what Judith Butler calls 'the difficult future terrain of community'" (153).

Relates sources:
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993.
Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community. New York: Harper-Perennial, 1993.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Barton, "Interpreting the Discourses of Technology"

Barton, Ellen L. "Interpreting the Discourses of Technology." Literacy and Computers: The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Cynthia Selfe and Susan Hiligoss, eds. Research and Scholarship in Composition Ser. New York: MLA, 1994. 56-75.

Barton is chiefly concerned with two discourses of technology: the first, enthusiastic, euphoric, celebratory, and triumphalist, tends to correspond to teaching (look what we can do!); the other, an antidominant discourse of technology, corresponds to a "skeptical interpretation" most often theorized and politicized. 

Dominant: "the substance is based on an unquestioned assumption that progress in technology brings a variety of benefits to individuals and society" (57).  Assumptions that go along with this are that technology is here to stay and that the benefits are for everyone.  This stance or discourse also contends that the educational system must prepare technology users (58).
Antidominant:  "exists as a minority voice, critiquing the assumption that technology always brings progress and pointing out some of its less desirable consequences" (60). Baron attributes this stance--reading it through Rorty and Pratt--to the "cultural Left." 

"Critics of the cultural Left, in contrast [to cultural literacy orientations], present an antidominant discourse, arguing that the integration of technology most often functions to maintain existing lines of power and authority" (65).  This connects with the problem of literacy as either a.) an indoctrination to status quo (which does little to destabilize power structures) or b.) a critical project motivated by making explicit inequities perpetuated (often unwittingly) by the dominant discourse of technology.

"Slatin's article ["Reading Hypertext"] reflects a common theme in the dominant discourse of technology, that of the creation of new and potentially significant products, products that may, in this case, assist theorists in understanding the associative process of reading and help teachers in developing mature student readers and writers" (67).

"In sum, even this brief review of the literature shows a clear association between pedagogical research describing the use of computers in the teaching of writing and the dominant discourse, which assumes the advantages of technology in education" (69). Here, Barton leads up to the conclusion that much of the scholarship in Computers and Writing enfolds the antidominant discourse into the dominant discourse, blending (perhaps infelicitously) the two forces with the edge going to enthusiasts--or those who, at the very least, grant that techonology literacy is good.

"As I argued earlier, much of the research in computers and writing that adopts the antidominant discourse actually merges into the dominant discourse in its explicit or implicit focus on pedagogical goals. But research in computers and writing more closely reflects the key ideas of the antidominant discourse when it exposes the unequal distribution of resources across groups using technology in literacy education" (74). This is a succinct statement of the both-and bind facing C&W researchers in 1994.  What followed?  Is technology still reducible to dominant and antidominant discourses? Is this more than a killer dichotomy (the antidominant skepticism putting the brakes on productive uses of technology, for better or worse)? 

Related sources
Lanham, Richard. "The Extraordinary Convergence: Democracy, Technology, Theory, and the University Curriculum." Gless and Smith 27-50.
Slatin, John M. "Reading Hypertext: Order and Coherence in a New Medium." College English 52 (1990): 870-83.
Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979.

Costanzo, "Reading, Writing and Thinking in an Age of Electronic Literacy"

Costanzo, William. "Reading, Writing and Thinking in an Age of Electronic Literacy." Literacy and Computers: The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Cynthia Selfe and Susan Hiligoss, eds. Research and Scholarship in Composition Ser. New York: MLA, 1994. 11-21.

In this overview, Costanzo provides a snapshot of C&W concerns and vocabulary in 1994.  He acknowledges the changes in the "tools of literacy" and the related shifts in the "nature of texts."  Centrally, the computer screen is the focal site of this change.  Costanzo refers to Haas' notion of the challenge in electronic prose related to "getting a sense of the text" (12) and reports that the distinctions for how hand and eye work with electronic texts has bearing on literacy.  Shifts from linear reading to hypertext also apply here. 

According to Costanzo, theories of reading have tipped in favor of Frank Smith's Understanding Reading and comprehension rather than Jean Chall's Learning to Read and decoding (12). Basically, computers introduce new factors affecting how we read; he mentions Selfe's concept of "layered literacy" here and also acknowledges a more complex visuality and related design considerations bearing on reading and writing activities.  Before wrapping up with three chapter summaries, Costanzo works through the areas related to response and collaboration--the network dimensions of computing (though he doesn't call it this): interactive fiction (16), enactive models for writing processes (17), and communal contexts/intertextuality (keeping with Vygotsky and Bakhtin) (17). He also introduces, briefly, Ong's secondary orality and matters of representation related to desktop publishing (democratization of tools) and access (19).

Electronic versus Printed Texts
Reading and Writing Electronic Texts
The Look of the Text
A Sense of Response
Historical Perspectives
Questions of Representation

"Whereas textbooks may describe the processes and teachers may give demonstrations, computers serve as enactive models" (17).

Related sources:
Haas, Christina. "Composing in Technological Contexts: A Study of Note-Making." Written Communication 7 (1990): 512-547.
Haas, Christina. "Does the Medium Make a Difference?: Two Studies of Writing with Pen and Paper and with Computers." Human-Computer Interaction 4 (1989): 149-169.
Smith, Frank. Understanding Reading. New York: Holt, 1971.

Smith, "Hypertextual Thinking"

Smith, Catherine F. "Hypertextual Thinking." Literacy and Computers: The Complications of Teaching and Learning with Technology. Cynthia Selfe and Susan Hiligoss, eds. Research and Scholarship in Composition Ser. New York: MLA, 1994. 264-281.

Smith seeks to develop an understanding of hypertext as having a figural relationship to cognitive form and structure.  She draws on Susanne Langer (Living Form) and Walter Kintsch (Cognitive Architecture) to suggest models of thinking as they overlap with "human capabilities for designing a conscious intellectual quest" (280). The intellectual experience of hypertext--hypertextual thinking--Smith contends, might move us toward "reidentifications of literate thinking, especially those that realign literacy's relation to textuality" (280).

Smith opens with a riff on Bolter's correlation of mind as a network of signs.  She questions this.  Is it?  Something seems to be lacking in the metaphor.  Smith's focus in the chapter is what she calls "the pragmatics of making meaning," and the discussion proceeds through distinctions between thick and thin cognition.  "I am asking whether hypertext systems might be designed and used to support the 'thicker' kinds of knowing" (265).

Hypertext is an "intellectual experience" in addition to a "textual experience related to reading and writing" (266). This approach puts pressure on what it means to read and write hypertext as meaning-making activities or, in Langer's terms, acts.

In her discussion of cognitive architecture, drawing on Kintsch, Smith considers structures of expectation and the problem of getting lost in a "spaghetti" of hyperspace (275).  Other factors include relevance (a teleological turn here) and quest.  ^It's not clear in places whether the quest is ordered according to a network topography or something more grid-like (274b).

Implications for teaching focuses on heuristics (280): "In Langer's view of acts of thinking, objects are saturated by their relations, grounded in a context; most important, they are motivated by a particular situation" (279).

The Issue: Making Meaning
Hypertext: The Original Paradigm and Its Limitations
An Alternative View: Hypertext as Living Form and as Cognitive Architecture
Living Form
Cognitive Architecture
Implications for Teaching and Learning
Hypertextual Thinking and Orality

"Nodes and links are the defining capabilities of hypertext" (267).

"'Living form' is Langer's characterization for continuous vital process or organic connectivity, both within a single form of existence and across forms of existence" (270). Smith explains how Langer's philosophy of mind--keyed by 1.) dynamic architecture, 2.) origination and effect in a situation, and 3.) formative principles of individuation and involvement--inform "a different notion of hypertext" (271).

"Through ambience, an act gathers relationships with other acts.  The possibilities are so varied as to blue distinctions between kinds of existence, e.g. between organic and inorganic existence" (271).

"This constructed output--the initial text base--is an associative network, with propositions as nodes and associations as links" (273). [Return]

"My primary aim here, however, is not to specify the technical implementation but to bring into view a fresh concept of hypertext. As Mark Frisse notes, 'How people conceptualize hypertext will affect how they design indexes and information retrieval methods for those systems'" (276).

Terms: mental representation (272), structures of expectation (273), activation vector (274), hypertextual thinking (280)

Related sources:
Kintsch, Walter, and Teun A. van Dijk. "Toward a Model of Text Comprehension and Production." Psychological Review 85 (1978): 363-94.
Langer, Susanne K. Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art. New York: Scribner's, 1953.
Langer, Susanne K. Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1967.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto"

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

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

The essay is organized into the following sections:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New London Group, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macrorie, Uptaught

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inman, Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related sources:
Haraway, Donna. "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century." Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991. 149-181.
Hawisher, Gail E. and Cynthia L. Selfe, Paul LeBlanc and Charles Moran. Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History. New Directions in Computers and Composition Ser. Norwoord, N.J.: Ablex, 1996.
Hayles, Katherine N. How We Became Posthuman : Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. Chicago: Chicago Press, 1999.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Lauer, "Composition Studies: Dappled Discpline"

Lauer, Janice. "Composition Studies: Dappled Discipline." Rhetoric Review 3.1 (1984): 20-28.

Lauer deals with the disciplinary of composition studies in this piece. She is particularly concerned with qualities of the discipline that should inform the planning of graduate programs in composition studies. Briefly she acknowledges pioneers of the field who, in the 1960s, balanced teaching responsibilities with the problems of how best to pursue training (of themselves and others). This led to deeper investigations of the nature of writing and, as well, how best to teach it. Lauer notes that not only did these early scholars in composition studies seek answers to early theoretical questions about teaching, they also too risks in venturing into other disciplinary areas to inform their questions. Lauer goes on to explain that the interdisciplinary theoretical influences were complemented by an early commitment to multimodality in methods (ranging from linguistic and hermeneutical work to empirical studies and so on). Compositionists recognized early on the value in a wide range of methods to get at answers to the persistent questions that concerned them.

To account for the stages of the field's development, Lauer relied on Habermas's levels for consensus: everyday communication, warrant-testing, warrant-establishing, self-reflection on the nature, function, and purpose of knowledge itself (^apply this to C&W). Notably, two audiences also enter into consideration: 1.) the epistemic court of experts and 2.) the general population. She adds a third audience: teachers of writing who are not informed about scholarship and who do not contribute to it. Lauer contends that one problem with the emergence of the field is that arguments are made to the wrong audiences (textbooks contribute to this problem) (24).

Lauer calls multimodality a "mixed blessing" (25). It tends to be unkind for newcomers, requiring them to become acquainted with a wide range of methods and theoretical orientations. Modes also recruit interested specialists which leads, in turn, to "narrower and narrower circles" (25). [Close to Fulkerson's concern.] Multimodality does, however, "cultivate a fruitful reciprocity among modes. On the other hand, it becomes very difficult to keep fresh with work in other fields. Returning the questions of disciplinarity and training to graduate programs, Lauer notes Winterowd's contention that "English studies as a whole are responsible for literacy." (27).

"At its deepest level, a discipline has a special set of phenomena to study, a characteristic mode or modes of inquiry, its own history of development, its theoretical ancestors and assumptions, its evolving body of knowledge, and its own epistemic courts by which knowledge gains that status" (20). ^Consider matching these criteria up with Phelps in "Domain of Composition."

"From the start, then, this field has been marked by its multimodality and use of starting points from a variety of disciplines, all marshaled to investigate a unique set of pressing problems" (22).

"Composition studies suffers from this problem which is exacerbated by some of its journals which, for historical reasons, have build readerships too diverse to warrant argumentative exchange at the cutting edge of the field" (24). ^This applies to listservs, too, no?

"The field sustains itself through a lifeline connected to the composition classroom where many of its problems for research are generated and to which its theory returns for implementation and testing" (28).

Terms: "epistemic court" (22), "presuppositions of consensus" (23), tone of composition studies (27), bibliographic starting points (20)

Related sources:
Habermas, "Theories of Truth," trans. Richard Grabau.
Kinneavy, James. A Theory of Discourse. New York: Norton, 1980.
Young, Becker, and Pike. Rhetoric: Discovery and Change. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Selfe and Selfe, "The Politics of the Interface"

Selfe, Cindy, and Richard J. Selfe, Jr. " The Politics of the Interface: Power and Its Exercise in Electronic Contact Zones." CCC 45.4 (1994): 480-503.

Selfe and Selfe set out to establish the political dimensions of the computer interface and to recommend practical action steps for teachers of English. The adopt two prevailing metaphors: "mapping" from Denis Wood's The Power of Maps (1992) and "contact zones" from Mary Louise Pratt's "Arts of the Contact Zones" (1991). After opening with a brief anecdote representative of racism at the Mexican border, Selfe and Selfe correlate computers and interfaces specifically to a kind of borderland infused with "the effects of domination and colonialism" (2). To understand interfaces as "complex political landscapes" (2), we must first recognize them as educational spaces (ideologically imbued; as consequential in what they reveal as what they conceal or fail to display) and then we must read them critically as maps of 1.) capitalism and class privilege (desktop, white pointer hand, default icons); 2.) discursive privilege (Standard English in spellchecker and OSes, devaluation of linguistic diversity, ASCII limitations); 3.) rationalism and lagocentric privilege (hierarchical; formal, propositional logic). The critique doesn't seem to account for trends toward customizable web browsers (this, evidence of the times in which it was written). It also seems oriented toward single-user interface encounters that are not networked beyond a hardware/infrastructural connotation of the term. In answer to the third point of criticism, they recommend the figure of the bricoleur as one who makes do and re-shuffles materials following intuition more than hierarchical schemes.

As for practical action steps, Selfe and Selfe contend that we must begin with recognizing these borders (the design orientations and political infused-ness of the interface) and also that we "need to teach students and ourselves useful strategies of crossing--and demystifying--these borders" (10). Specifically, they recommend 1.) becoming critics as well as users (never mere users); 2.) contributing to technology design (especially for faculty who are experts in computers and composition); and 3.) involving interfaces as texts (subject to critique and revision) in the composition classroom. To a degree, this becomes a critical reading project, but it's not clear that students in 1994 would have had the means to create interfaces themselves (in other words, there's little here about designing interfaces as a composition project, although designing culturally just icons is mentioned (13)).

I. Computers as Learning Environments: History and Motivation
II. Mapping the Interface of Computers as Educational Space
III. Interfaces as Maps of Capitalism and Class Privilege
IV. Interfaces as Maps of Discursive Privilege
V. Interfaces as Maps of Rationalism and Lagocentric Privilege
VI. What to Do?
VII. Becoming Technology Critics as Well as Technology Users
VIII. Contributing to Technology Design
IX. Re-Conceiving the Map of the Interface
X. Toward Critical Readings of Interfaces

"Indeed, from the work of computers and composition specialists, it is clear that computers, like other complex technologies, are articulated in many ways with a range of existing cultural forces and with a variety of projects in our education system, projects that run the gamut from liberatory to oppressive" (2).

"If we hope to get English composition teachers to recognize how our use of computers achieves both great good and great evil--often at the same time, as Joseph Weizenbaum points out--we have to educate them to be technology critics as well as technology users" (3).

"In effect, interfaces are cultural maps of computer systems, and as Denis Wood points out, such maps are never ideologically innocent or inert" (4).

"The interface does not, for example, represent the world in terms of a kitchen counter top, a mechanics workbench, or a fast-food restaurant--each of which would constitute the virtual world in different terms according to the valued and orientations of, respectively, women in the home, skilled laborers, or the rapidly increasing numbers of employees in the fast-food industry" (5).

Related sources:
de Certau, Michel. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Randall. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
Faigley, Lester. Fragments of Rationality. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1992.
Feenberg, Andrew. Critical Theory of Technology. New York: Oxford UP, 1991.
Ohmann, Richard. "Literacy, Technology, Monopoly Capitalism." College English 47 (1985): 675-689.
Virilio, Paul. Speed and Politics. Trans. Mark Polizzotti. New York: Semiotext(e), 1987.
Wood, Denis. The Power of Maps. New York, NY: Guilford, 1992.

Phelps, "The Domain of Composition"

Phelps, Louise Wetherbee. "The Domain of Composition." Rhetoric Review 4 (1986): 182-95.

Phelps frames the field of composition studies by identifying its domain, a term she uses both as "a scene of action" and also "a space one controls." Tracing through each of these senses of "domain," Phelps accounts for the field in 1986 by moving through three sections: I. Core; II. Margins; and, III. Vision. A disciplinary domain, according to Phelps, has these elements: "a group of inquirers, a characteristic attitude toward phenomena, the objects of inquiry themselves, the means of inquiry, its purposes, and scenic factors" (2). Because written discourse is central to our work, compositionists themselves become entangled with their research; teaching, after all, depends upon symbolic action not only as an object of study, but as a kind of activity. Phelps acknowledges the uses of "performance" to describe what happens when reading writing texts; she explains the tension between naturalistic views of language view it as best left to its own developmental trajectories and, on the other hand, school-directed approaches to literacy education that adopt "skill" as a way to account for the "indeterminate and fluctuating" competencies that range between experts and non-experts. She also points out that "some of the linguistic, cognitive, and social knowledge needed to coordinate [reading and writing] activities must be studied consciously before it can become tacit in use" (7). In discussing the margins or borders of composition studies with other disciplines, Phelps calls for "syntopical research" (15). The core of composition studies as she accounts for it here is oriented "to symbolic interaction and from development" (14).

"My object is to push outward from the expanding conceptual core of the domain, defined in terms of symbolic action, to its margins, where composition encounters other disciplines and recognizes its own limits" (2).

"[Shoptalk] offers a vocabulary of distinctions among such concepts as technique, skill, strategy, tactics, craft, art, know-how, and knowledge" (8).

"Recent research has submitted this idea [production w/o consideration of reading or consumption] of writing to a critique and moves toward integrating the writer's composing act into a more comprehensive notion of written discourse as a complex social process by which discoursers co-construct meaning" (3).

"That is to say, written discourse as symbolic action can only be understood ecologically, in terms of its rich interactions among acts, meanings, and reality, rather than by a reduction of its texture to ideal elements and rules" (4).

"event psychology" (17), "natural attitude" (6), "personal development" (9), "keyed" (Goffman) (13), "literacy as a power to act in the world" (10), "a network of primary discourse acts" (13)

Related sources:
Burke, Language as Symbolic Action, UCalifornia Press, 1968.
Vygotsky, Thought and Language. Alex Kozulin, ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1986.

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Barthes, "The Death of the Author"

Barthes, Roland. "The Death of the Author." Image-Music-Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. 142-148.

Barthes advances several important (now "given") theoretical maneuvers in defining writing as "performative," in destabilizing the role of intentionality in reading, and in involving the reader as an equal (if unknowable) participant in the text's performance. Skeptics will counter that Barthes comes on too strong, that he means that the author gives up all control to the reader. But this is simply a theoretical project meant to relax and thereby introduce a degree of play in the taken-by-some-to-be-exactable relationship between authorship and the (meaningful) life of a text in its multiple, unpredictable performances. I take Barthes to be urging us to regard the reader as a legitimate participant in textuality and meaning, thereby opening a space for interpretation to contend with meaning rendered absolute or rigidified by the nod of the author (as an increasingly celebrated figure).

"Thus is revealed the total existence of writing: a text is made of multiple writings, drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue, parody, contestation, but there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader, not, as was hiterto said, the author" (148). This changes the presumed controls, introducing the aliveness of a text and its terms as involving trajectories that we cannot always easily anticipate or constrain, though this doesn't necessarily mean that as writers, we shouldn't try, within reason, to do so or to make what we do readable.

"Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile" (147). If the project of classical literary criticism was to stake out a superior (that is, intention-matching) reading, Barthes instead argues for something more democratic, participatory and reader-centered. This also matches with Barthes antithesis; he "refus[es] to assign a 'secret,' ultimate meaning, to the text" (147).

"The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture" (146). A variation of intertextuality and a theory of writing as a tissue-like aggregation of various, contending fibers.

"For him, for us too, it is language which speaks, not the author; to write is, through a prerequisite impersonality (not at all to be confused with the castrating objectivity of the realist novelist), to reach that point where only language acts, 'performs' and not 'me'" (143).

"Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing" (142). ^Consider this alongside Ong's notion of distance and also Barthes' mention of "distancing" (145).

"Linguistically, the author is never more than the instance writing, just as I is nothing other than the instance saying I: language knows a 'subject', not a 'person', and this subject, empty outside of the very enunciation which defines it, suffices to make language 'hold together', suffices, that is to say, to exhaust it" (145).

Banks, Race, Rhetoric, and Technology

Banks, Adam J. Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006.

"The questions remain, hauntingly: Is it possible to make this nation a just one for Black people? Is it worth the struggle? Can technologies really be used to serve liberatory ends, or is that hope just another pipe dream calling us upon our awakening to resist! resist! resist! the shiny boxes we're all sold and the promise they once held?" (xi). This books questions immix technology (primarily defined here in the instrumental sense, as an apparatus or material component with central issues of justice and access for African Americans. It keeps fresh issues of the bi-directional look running throughout African American struggle, the Racial Ravine (43) and the Digital Divide (as an aspect of the Ravine), the possibility of uplift and empowerment through technologies (Black Planet as site for collectivity, African American design principles for technologies and spaces of use, and the rhetorical techne of Martin King and Malcolm X as technologies in themselves).

Banks gives us seven chapters:

I. Introduction: Looking for Unity in the Midst of Madness: Access as the ONE in African American Rhetoric and Technology Studies

"The overall argument I make is this: rather than answer either/or questions about whether technological advancement and dependence leads to utopia or dystopia, whether technologies overdetermine or have minimal effects on a society's development, or whether people (especially those who have been systematically excluded from both the society and its technologies) should embrace or avoid those technologies, African American history as reflected through its rhetorical production shows a group of people who consistently refused to settle for the limiting parameters set by either/or binaries" [rel: bricoleur] (2). Also: move beyond individual exemplars (2), refusal of "postmodern hype" (3), "post-everything navel-gazers" (4), "unities are not absolute" (5). Here, Banks pushes away from certain theoretical orientations while later preferring a set of three axes: practice, theory and pedagogy. ^"theory"?

"There are many reasons for centralizing access in this way, but it comes down to this: more than mere artifacts, technologies are the spaces and processes that determine whether any group of people is able to tell its own stories on its own terms, whether people are able to agitate and advocate for policies that advances its interests, and whether that group of people has any hope of enjoying equal social, political, and economic relations" (10). ^Connect this to writing and agency, as with Baron's account of writing as a technology with dependencies on instruments and treatments of those instruments that might be improvised or tactical rather than orthodox.

II. Oakland, the Word, and the Divide: How We All Missed the Moment
This chapter reads technology issues alongside the ebonics debate. Banks surveys articles on access in computers and writing from Selfe (15), Moran (15), Porter (16). Grabill (20), Romano (20), and Blair (20).

"All technologies come packaged with a set of politics: if those technologies are not inherently political, the conditions in which they are created and in which they circulate into a society are political and influence their uses in that society (Winner, 1996), and those politics can profoundly change the spaces in which messages are created, receive, and used" (23).

III. Martin, Malcolm, and a Black Digital Ethos
IV. Taking Black Technology Use Seriously: African American Discursive Traditions in the Digital Underground
V. Rewriting Racist Code: The Black Jeremiad as Countertechnology in Critical Race Theory
VI. Through This Hell into Freedom: Black Architects, Slave Quilters and an African American Rhetoric of Design
VII. A Digital Jeremiad in Search of Higher Ground: Transforming Technologies, Transforming a Nation

Related sources
Heidegger, M. (1986). The question concerning technology and other essays. New York: Harper.
Mitchell, W. J. (1995). City of Bits. Campbridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Winner, L. (1986). The Whale and the Reactor. Chicago: U. of Chicago.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Dias et al., "Distributed Cognition at Work"

Dias, Patrick, Aviva Freedman, Peter Medway, and Anthony Pare. "Distributed Cognition at Work." Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll, and Rose 199-208.

Dias et al. (reprinted here from Worlds Apart) briefly introduce the concept of distributed cognition, which recognizes "that 'people appear to think in conjunction or partnership with others and with the help of culturally provided tools and implements'" (199). The authors lead with a comparison of Hutchins' research on the complexly coordinated efforts involved in navigating a ship; Dias et al. compare ship navigation to the work of managing economic policy done by the Bank of Canada (BOC). A brief few pages of theorization (drawing on Lave, Hutchings and Engestrom) sets up a protracted analysis of the activities at the BOC. Unlike the ship, however, which is eased by routines, the cognitive load for workers at the BOC requires "extended pieces of reasoning" (201d). Their research focuses on genre, which seem to align with Miller's "social action" model: "It is through complex webs of discursive interactions and, in particular, genres that the cognition of the BOC is accomplished distributively" (202).

"Hutchings points out that the maps used in navigation look more like coordinate charts in geometry rather than like amps in an atlas; this is true as well of the mathematical models and graphs guiding the progress of the BOC" (200). This gets at the role of images, of maps, and the distinction between geometries and geographies (like Moretti).

^See "thought styles": "the recurrence of certain lexical phrases (which represent categories of experience) and argumentative warrants" (203c). The idea of recurrent and shared categories of experience rings of folksonomy somewhat. Folksonomy, in this arrangement, becomes a feature of the organization and its genre-based activities, which include introducing "alternative scenarios" (203c) and "decision making" (204b).

"It is a commonplace at the BOC that what is expected in writing (and in oral presentations based on written analysis) is more than elevator economics: that is, this went up and this went down. There must always be interpretation, analysis, comparison with forecasts, and possibly suggestions for revision to these forecasts" (206d).
"All in all, then, the BOC thinks and distributes its cognition through sets of genres, each with its expected form" (207c).
"Of particular interest to our work is the role of verbal discourse in the distribution of cognition--especially in the form of sets of interweaving genres that are not just the media and shaping agents for the interpretation but also the sites for both social sharing and communal creation as well as the sites for identifying and negotiating internal contradictions" (208d).

Related sources
Cole and Engestrom. 1993. "A Socio-cultural approach to distributed cognition. In G. Solomon (Ed.), Distributed Cognitions (1-46). Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Hutchings, Edward. 1993. "Learning to Navigate." In S. Chaiklin and J. Lave (Eds.), Understanding Practice: Perspectives on Activity and Context (pp. 35-63). Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Latour, Bruno and Woolgar, S. 1986. Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts. 2nd Ed. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Baron, "From Pencils to Pixels"

Barron, Dennis. "From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technologies." Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll, and Rose 70-84.

Baron's article, first printed in Selfe and Hawisher's Passions, Pedagogies, includes several figures representative of the points he makes related to a genealogy of writing instruments, from Sumerian reeds to pencils to computers.  "From Pencils to Pixels" is, in one sense, a historical piece concerned with identifying the impact of new and emerging technologies on writing activity.  That is, the pencil, even though it wasn't initially designed for writing (instead, it was designed to mark lines for measurement) became the most ubiquitous writing instrument ever.  Baron takes a moderate stance after he announces at the outset that we must be cautious about hyperbolic predictions for the future of computers (an indicator of 1999, perhaps). 

Summary statement: "My contention in this essay is a modest one: the computer is simply the latest step in a long line of writing technologies. In many ways its development parallels that of the pencil---hence my title--though the computer seems more complex and is undoubtedly more expensive" (72).

Like Ong, Baron makes the case for writing as a technology, too, but rather than considering the ways that writing (or the possibility of writing) restructures thought, he is foremost concerned with comparing the rise of the computer with the development of the pencil. 

"New communication technologies, if they catch on, go through a number of strikingly similar stages. After their invention, their speed depends on accessibility, function, and authentication" (71).  Baron dwells on these three features, framing the computers mostly in functional terms or, that is, as an instrument or apparatus rather than as material and epistemological force implicated in a complex network or ecology.  This is, of course, necessary given his comparison with the pencil, which he treats likewise. 

Judging by the amount of space he devotes to it, Baron is concerned most of all with authentication, ranging from issues of validity (forgery, for instance) to related strands of privacy (78), corruption (81), security (81), fraud (80), and integrity (81).  This also connects with concerns about error (82) and tranclusivity (81) or the problem of multiple versions of a document, problems tracking changes, methods for verifying dates of production, and so on.

"But technology has a trailing edge as well as a down side, and studying how computers are put to use raises serious issues in the politics of work and mechanisms of social control" (83).

Related sources:
Bolter, Jay. Source unnamed. (74b)
Marvin, Carolyn. 1988. When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking about Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford UP.
Petroski, Henry. 1990. The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. New York: Knopf.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Ong, "Writing Is a Technology that Restructures Thought"

Ong, Walter J. "Writing Is a Technology that Restructures Thought." Cushman, Kintgen, Kroll, and Rose 19-31.

Writing systematically changes thought. Ong supports this premise by revisiting Plato's Phaedrus, by distinguishing oral, literate and high-literate (technological) cultures, and by listing fourteen points indicative of the effects of writing:
1. Separation of the known from the knower (and the promotion of objectivity) (24)
2. Separation of interpretation from data (25)
3. Distancing of word from sound (25)
4. Time/space distancing of interlocutor and recipient (25)
5. Separates word from the "plenum of existence" (26)
6. Enables the enforcement of verbal precision (26)
7. Separates past from present (26)
8. Separates administration from other social activities (26)
9. Separates logic from rhetoric (27)
10. Separates academic learning from wisdom (27)
11. Divides society by splitting verbal communication into high and low (27)
12. Vocabularizes grapholects versus dialects (28)
13. Permits abstraction (28)
14. Separates being from time (28)

Plato's Socrates' complaints against writing: artificiality, permanence of untruths (once published...), and dissolution of memory (21).

"Print and electronics continue with new intensification and radical transformations the diaeretic programme initially set in motion by writing. They separate knower from known more spectacularly than writing does" (29).

"For all states of the word--oral, chirographic, typographic, electronic--impose their own confusions, which cannot be radically eliminated but only controlled by reflection" (30).

"Human knowledge demands both proximity and distance, and these two are related to one another dialectically. Proximity perceptions feed distancing analyses, and vice versa, creating a more manageable intimacy" (31).

"Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness, and never more than when they affect the word" (23).

"Although we take writing so much for granted as to forget that it is a technology, writing is in a way the most drastic of the three technologies of the word. It initiated what printing and electronics only continued, the physical reduction of dynamic sound to quiescent space, the separation of the word form the living present, where alone real, spoken words exist" (22).

Terms: high-technology cultures (19), chirographically (19), evenescence (of orality) (20), plenum of existence (26b), homeostatic (26d), diglossia (27c)

Related Sources:
Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy. 1982.
Luria, A. Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. 1976.
Plato's Phaedrus, particularly Socrates on writing.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grabill, "The Written City"

Grabill, Jeffrey T. "The Written City: Urban Planning, Computer Networks, and Civic Literacies." Bruce McComiskey and Cynthia Ryan, eds. City Comp: Identities, Spaces, Practices. Albany: SUNY Press, 2003. 128-140.

Grabill looks at the ways cities are written through policy and data structures. Specifically, he considers the role of local citizens in Mechanicsville, Ga., and the rhetorical power inherent in the transformation of data about a place and prospective developments as it gets converted into and recirculated as information. What Grabill calls "the rhetorical turn in urban planning" is significant for the way it values the tacit knowledge of "non-expert" citizens. The chapter is also written in media res or, that is, before the community planning initiative was completed.

Overview statement: "This chapter is an exploration of how cities are written, how they can be written by citizens, and how the writing of a city can be the context for a writing class" (128).

"[Because civic life will become increasingly mediated by technologies] it piques the imagination to consider what computer-mediated civic life might look like, but it also should cause us to conside more mundane implications" (138c). The mundane implications are small involvements with uncertain outomes.

Related sources:
Short, John Rennie, The Urban Order: An Introduction to Cities, Culture, and Power.
Johnson, Robert, User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory of Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts.
Sawicki and Craig, "The Democratizatoin of Data: Bridging the Gap for Community Groups." APA Journal 62 (1996): 512-23.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Porter, Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing

Porter, James E. Rhetorical Ethics and Internetworked Writing. Greenwich, Conn.: Ablex, 1998.

"Rhetoric is a technology--and there is no neutral technology because all technologies are always already invested with a category bias; they are alywas socially and culturally situated (as Awtill indeed admits), constructed out of specific historical circumstances and reflecting the biases of that context" (67).