Next: Disciplinary Facebook

I’m intrigued by the Facebook’s expansion beyond colleges, as reported

Like any social networking app, the euphoria surrounding it is offset (too often
in extremes) by abuses, missteps, skepticism, and lags in the adaptation of
institutional policies to respond to the activity at the site. Yet recent
shift–ten corporations signing on–gets at the spreading recognition of the
value of social networking apps beyond mere friend-making, beyond
"poking" strangers as a casual gesture of interest. Prepared to engage social
networking as something more than trivial?

I’ll watch with interest as more reactions to the latest expansion crop up.
And those reactions will vary, of course, from
jeering to the more serious.
The announcement brings me all the way back to the earliest
announcements of
the Facebook
in 2004. If they’re expanding to workplaces, maybe it
won’t be long before leadership in the discipline starts weighing the
possibilities of the Facebook for an entire field, such as composition and
rhetoric. Granted, it wouldn’t be perfect, but the way I see it, it’d be a
marked improvement on the existing means for building and locating profiles,
tracing interests through those who’ve written on such things, and so on.
Imagine a use of Facebook with a professional orientation whereby disciplinary
bibliographies, institutional affiliations (and histories), and linked tags for
research and interests. I know it’s a wild, data-based fantasy, and it
would require us to see Facebook as more than forum for delinquency, but here’s
hoping. What, maybe five or ten years from now?

Nodes from Class

Here’s a Cmap
of the development of modern composition studies, roughly
reproduced from notes on the board during Tuesday’s
712. I went
back and snapped a digital photo of the
chalkboard yesterday
(preserved from the day before with a "Please do not erase"). Then, to
develop the Cmap, I inserted the
photograph as a temporary background to approximate the spatial arrangement of
links and nodes. After that, I quick-shopped a
to emphasize the past few decades as phases of disciplinary
development (fluctuation, upheaval, etc.). And finally, I shifted around a
few of the nodes, repositioned other stuff, tinkered with color schemes and sent
off a draft for future–ongoing–revisions. The map of complandia?
Certainly not; not in any perfected, exhaustive or territory-analog kind of way. But one map of complandia. Next I need to
figure out how to set up Cmaps on a server for collaborative map-making.
I’ll argue that this model holds promise for 1.) mapping complex histories; 2.)
exploring incongruous accounts of disciplinary formation, extradisciplinary developments
running through those formations, and sub-disciplinary peaks and valleys (rising
and falling, trends, etc.); and 3.) charting disciplinary mythologies and
imaginaries through the idiosyncrasies of individual and group
percept-cartography (granted, I don’t know that there is such a thing as
"percept-cartography"; I’m making that part up on the fly). Although this
map came together during a single class session, it could be updated, for pretty much any course, let’s say, over several weeks, possibly accounting for emerging ties and
emerging locative criteria/rationale as the course unfolds.

In Search Of

We capped our discussions of Smit’s The End of Composition Studies
(2004) and
Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s In Search of Eloquence (2004) in 712 this afternoon.
Smit opens for us with six chapters leading down the skeptic’s
infinite regress into complandia’s hopeless abyss before turning to his
recommendations for reform. His plans for a refurbished curriculum aren’t
as despairing as his account of the impossibility of teaching writing. No
screeching demons, no ravenous hellhounds. In fact, the curriculum pretty well matches with
Writing Across the Curriculum efforts. Smit turns out to be a proponent
of a first-year course called "Introduction to Writing as a Social Practice"
(185). Upper division instructors would share responsibility for teaching the
course; "They must," Smit contends, "be part of a broad university-wide program
that introduces all novice writers ‘slowly but steadily and systematically’ to
new genres and social contexts, a program that encourages students to develop
their ‘structural, rhetorical, stylistic facility’ over time (Rose 112)" (188).
The second tier of Smit’s curriculum involves discipline-specific courses
emphasizing writing, and the third tier involves "writing outside the classroom"
(190). I’m sure I’ll sound glib in characterizing it so flatly, but much
of it sounds, well, familiar enough. A more radical turn, however, comes
in Smit’s proposal for graduate training:

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I Will Not Know

Close to five this afternoon, I was waiting for a ride home from D., and I
had a few minutes to pass in my office. I’d already booted down the laptop
and stowed it in my backpack. I didn’t have the gusto to continue readings (for
next week already) from the two seminars I had today, and I was feeling somewhat
blaze after a full day on campus overflowing with six hours of intense
discussion. So I straightened up one of my office shelves and got to
leafing through a few odd journals casually handed off to me by a colleague last
year. There were five or six yellowed issues of Composition Studies
and JAC; I fixed on JAC 8 (1988), specifically David Foster’s
"What Are We Talking About
When We Talk About Composition?"
, which ends

As informed readers and deliberately inclusive thinkers, we
must be the measure of our discipline. Science cannot claim ascendancy in any
area of human knowledge, particularly in that complex blend of
knowledge-streams we call composition. We must be wary of those who,
uncomfortable with the ambiguities of discourse and complacent with the
quantitative, empirical perspective, would have us assume that perspective
alone. As informed readers, we must juggle and juxtapose the claims of
different modes of inquiry, recognizing what each contributes and what each
lacks. To ref use 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…"

Stimulating find, I thought, and then I started to wonder
whether what we are talking about when we talk about composition in 2006 is so
radically remade from what we were talking about when we talked about
composition in 1988. And then my ride was waiting.

The End of Composition Studies; The Start of…

In some ways, it’s like the Blockbuster video ad campaign from a year
ago–The End of Late Fees; The Start of More. The title of David Smit’s The
End of Composition Studies
invokes an endism that one might take to suggest
to the demise of the discipline of writing studies. In Advanced Philosophy
and Theory of Composition, we’re looking at the first half of Smit’s book for
tomorrow afternoon (also looking at two chapters from Cosgrove and Barta-Smith’s
In Search of Eloquence, which, fingers crossed, will arrive in the mail
later this afternoon). Smit’s forthright early on about playing double
entendre with "end," both as a variation of "teleology" or "aim" and also as
"termination" or "cessation." I’ve been reading with a stronger sense of
the first connotation (teleology/aim) because 1.) people still write and 2.)
writing is sufficiently complex to warrant the continuation of its study,
define it however you will
. And actually, that’s one of Smit’s chief
complaints. He finds that those who would self-identify with the field of
rhetcomp have yet to agree on what writing even is, much less how to best to
teach it given the institutional constraints of fifteen weeks (more or less in
some places, but the bugbear of layering writing rhythms with institutional
timeframes is what I’m thinking about) and wildly divergent positions on what
ought to constitute writing practices and curriculum in the first place.

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Bibliometrics JACing

I got caught up reading the
Moretti Event
over at The Valve, but I still have a minute to post a few notes about something
I was thinking about earlier today.  I read the introduction to David
Smit’s The End of Composition Studies yesterday; there, he has this to
say about the ideological dissymmetry among compositionists, divergences
characteristic of the field at-large:

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Frappring the Consortium

Before the break, I spent part of an afternoon mapping all of the programs from the Composition and
Rhetoric Consortium web site
Frappr, then copying/pasting the
associated informational bits and URLs.  Once finished:
a Frappr of the Comp/Rhet
.  Sing sweet confessions, it was a fit of uninhibited geekiness,
motivated in part by my recollection that, when I decided to apply to doctoral
programs, I didn’t have a simple way to single out the programs proximate to the
Great Lakes–closest to where we ultimately hoped to move after KC. 
Of course, the map stands the chance of amplifying other
(surprising-insightful?) qualities of the consortium’s East-leaning geography.
It’s possible that I’ve missed a program or two.  If you spot one, please
let me know.  I’ll add it (as long as its affiliation is undisputed).

Beyond that, there’s another practical motivation: I’d been meaning to give
Frappr a whirl (initially, I was thinking a collective

project with a DL course).  It’s free and relatively easy.  The groups
systematically associated  with the CR Consortium seem a bit off. 
The Crochet Dude and
Dr. Vino? Uh…if you insist. 
Also, the system wants to remain open for others to add themselves. It would be
nice if there was a moderator feature for sifting new member additions (the
moderator is able to delete membrs and comments, fwiw, but anyone can add…I
Also, the data and profiles are somewhat constrained.  It’s not
possible–yet–to reorganize the listing of members.  They can be sorted by
location, but you’ll see that Syracuse is listed at the top.  I can’t
change that (well, right, maybe I wouldn’t if I could, but still).

My hunch is that another mapping option (Google Maps EZ or a Google Maps API hack)
would be better suited for the CR Consortium.  And although Frappr does an
okay job of making available what I’d hoped to, I just might tinker with
switching the map to a different system in the months ahead–especially if the
geography course I’m taking encourages experimentation with Google Maps/Google

Addressing Addresses Addressed

Below the fold you’ll find a map-like project I’ve been working on for a
little while today.  It’s a spread of the CCCC addresses since Lloyd-Jones
in 1977 with pop-ups including the details about each chair’s address (notice:

Roen’s upcoming collection
).  If the corresponding text of the talk has
been run through parsing and posting at CCC
, you’ll find a link to it from the map. 

Why this?  Why now?  For one thing I wanted to get back in and
tinker around with Google Maps EZ
I used it
when it first came about, but there have been a few changes, including an
expanded range of options for coloring and labeling the markers. The
markers work with single characters; I’ve color-specified the placemarkers by
decade, then used a number to show the year of the convention and talk. It
leaves something to be desired, but it’s good enough for now. Ultimately,
I’d like to see two-digit markers; probably ought to look into how to do that
myself.  On the other hand, I probably should finish up grading.
And on the other other hand, I probably ought to turn off Judge Mathis
and stop playing Sudoku.

To add just a bit more rationale for this/now, I’m taking a course in
geography in the spring called Seminar in Cartography: Web Mapping and
. I don’t have much formal training in geography; the course
welcomes students from across the disciplines, and it will be the only course
outside of CCR that I’ll take during this program of study.  I don’t
have all the details about the GEO course yet, but we’ll be looking at a book called
Mapping Hacks
hacking and writing a few maps of our own. And because, at my geekiest, I’m keen on
mapping disciplinarity (among other stuff, imaginaries, etc., as well…might
even argue that disciplinarity is an imaginary, and that it’s too vast and
complex to know totally, so we map away). Yeah, well, that’s why this/now.
I’d say more, but I have to walk over to a chiropractic appt. (neck’s still
killing me), then catch up with D. for a ride to Ph.’s game.

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Expected-value Navigation

Researchers at UMass-Amherst

this week that they’ve derived an algorithm useful for explaining
the "six degrees" phenomenon in social networks (and related activity
systems) (via). 

The social network exploited by Travers and Milgram isn’t a
straightforward, evenly patterned web. For one thing, network topology is only
known locally—individuals starting with the letter did not know the target
individual—and the network is decentralized—it didn’t use a formal hub such as
the post office. If navigating such a network is to succeed—and tasks such as
searching peer-to-peer file sharing systems or the navigating the Web by
jumping from link to link do just that—there must be parts of the underlying
structure that successfully guide the search, argue Jensen and Şimşek.

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