"Virtual Urbanism." Computers and Composition 18 (2001)
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),
"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,