That Question

So-so: that’s how it’s gone preparing for writing an answer Thursday morning
to the exam question I’ve had since this past Thursday. Just so-so.
Throughout most of the day on Saturday, I was thinking about matching select
chapters from Heskett’s Toothpicks & Logos (which is built into the
question) with a few of the ecology pieces on my reading list. I’d match
the chapter on communications with Cooper’s "Ecology of Writing" and the chapter
on systems with Spinuzzi’s stuff on tracing genres and the evolution of ALAS.
But what about the chapter on objects?


Today, I started with re-reading Heskett and making notes on the parts I
I will use in the answer. Then I re-read parts of Spinuzzi, including
his C&C article on metaphor and genre ecologies. Then I walked Yoki and started
thinking more and more about Cooper, Syverson, and Nardi and O’Day. The
question, which is generously wide open for the most part, invites me to not
only describe how the concept or framework of ecology is used by
particular people but also why it is used. How does it function
for them? There’s hope; I have a few things to say about this.

Next: re-read Cooper. Reading that essay, I keyed on the way she
distinguishes ecology from context. Context, a concept she identifies
through Burke’s pentad, is insufficient to explain systemic causality.
Perhaps this limitation results, in part, from tandem pairings (agent::scene) of
the master terms rather than three and fours (agent::scene::agency::act).
To account for the complementarity of design and ecology, then, I
want to explain that, while basically dynamic or alive, each of them involves a
2+ orchestration of dramatisms as their unit imbroglio of
. This is, for now, a suggestion that design favors agent and
ecology favors scene, while, significantly, each also reconciles with the
technological imperatives that have amplified agency. From here, the
answer will work through broad characterizations of Syverson, Nardi and O’Day,
Fuller, and Spinuzzi both to further explore the pairing of design and ecology
and to characterize ecological methods as they span across these four projects.
Finally, the value in design and ecologies for comp/rhet scholars falls in with
Latour’s discussion of hybrids in WHNBM, with keeping the Gordian knot
tied rather than falling into the trap of localism vs. globalism or
methodological purification. I forgot to mention: at the outset I’ll lead with a
brief gloss about design as a concept that fans writing out well beyond
minimalist alphanumeric rows (re: George in "From Analysis to Design" and Sirc,
in "Box-logic": "student as passionate designer").

You think it’s rough? Fine. No argument here. I have until Thursday morning
to get it polished (where’d I pack away that pebble tumbling kit?). And then I
have three hours to pour it, keystroke by keystroke, into this crude mold. My
plan also includes another one-hour sprint during which I’ll write through as
much of this as I can, probably Tuesday.

Almost forgot! I can find the places where Burke talks about the five master
terms using a metaphor of fingers (bound to hand and tendons) and sun spots
(temporarily structured layers of lava), but I swear I remember reading
something about the pentadic set as the multiply intersected shimmers of water
left in the wake of a passing boat. Could’ve been from a class session. I’ll pay
ten cents for leads on this one.